This is going to be an exciting weekend at When Words Collide, the second annual Calgary Science Fiction Conference. One highlight will be the launch of Crossings, a new book by Alison Lohans.
Crossings is Book Two of the Passage Through Time series (Bundoran Press), carrying on the tale of 16-year-old Katie and her very special baby, Tyler. In Collapse of the Veil, Katie and Tyler fall through the branches of a willow into the future.
They discover a desolate time, without technology or the comforts of home. But the people welcome Tyler and his psychic abilities as their long-awaited savior — from an environmental disaster that begins now, in Katie’s time. In our time. Along with Katie’s friend Lorne, and a young Seer from the future named Iannik, Katie and Tyler must try to save our future, and our present.
One world, two very different times, three misfit teens and a baby. Alison Lohans’ spare and certain prose transports us into their journey, pitting love and hope against the coming apocalypse.
Crossings – Alison Lohans
And writing stories that involve the reader that deeply is her specialty. Alison grew up in Reedley, California, but she’s lived in Regina since 1976. I don’t often write reviews for writers I know, but I make an exception for Alison. After having more than 22 of her books published, as well as short fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, Alison’s biography still refers to her as a “determined writer.”
She has been the Writer-in-Residence at the Regina Public Library, and has taught several writing classes and workshops locally. I’m happy to say I’ve taken her children’s writing class twice, and I’m one of many local writers “making good” who call Alison a mentor and a colleague.
She’s also given hundreds of workshops and readings across the country. An Alison Lohans reading is well worth attending, as conference participants will discover in Calgary. Have you heard Alison, or read any of her books? What are you looking forward to at When Words Collide this year? Please leave a comment and let’s share ideas.
Toronto’s four-day MagNet conference covers every aspect of the magazine world, from writing to digital content to ad sales. This year, I joined 1,300 people attending MagNet 2012.
It was my fourth MagNet, and as always I heard new ideas and confirmed some best-practices I use in my writing business.
As a PWAC-Sask delegate, I presented the strategies I took away from MagNet 2012 in Regina two weeks ago, and last weekend in Lethbridge. Here’s my summary:
1. Trust your hunches. Many sessions used examples of stories rising from a journalist’s hunch or intuition, backed up by solid research.
2. Milk the data. In “Research in the Digital Age,” for example, Glen McGregor of the Ottawa Citizen talked about developing articles from data first, rather than interviews. This type of journalism can confirm the obvious, reveal the unexpected, and uncover stories even the subjects didn’t know were there. His many examples helped bring this session to life.
3. Consider the source. In “BS Detection,” our PWAC National president Craig Silverman of the Poynter Institute showed us many ways to check the information we see on Twitter, other social media, and websites, before we share it with others.
4. Go after the story. Presenter Bryan Segal of comScore Inc. used evidence and research in “Inside Data Intelligence” to prove Canadian viewers want relevant content that tells a story. In fact, content matters more than location on the page (rendering the old adage “above the fold” irrelevant.)
Sandra Phinney (M E Powell)
5. Change the frame. Travel writer Sandra Phinney‘s workshop covered everything from methods to markets, complete with a slide show of her award-winning photography. Her tips on framing, diagonals and S-curves were a great refresher.
6. Know your audience – or your client. Ace copywriter Ed Gandia offered more tips than I can count, but one especially resonated with me: “Get clear about your ideal client.” Knowing what type of client you want to work for will help you spend less time on the wrong prospects.
7. Strategize, experiment, and improvise. Panel members in the “Device Divide: Matching Content to Platform” said we’re in a learning curve again, as our devices and ways to access media change. Neil Morton of 2forCouples.com said we live in a fragmented universe, and should try everything from websites to apps to social media like Facebook and Twitter. Kunal Gupta of Polar Mobile said “Forget digital; focus on mobile.” He pointed to the growing trend toward using mobile devices for magazine content.
8. Expect the audience to socialize and share copies and content – because it’s easy now, said panelist Stephanie Jackson of Zinio. People want to buy one subscription and read it on three devices. They want to discover, share (pin, clip, bookmark, etc.), socialize (see what others read), and personalize (make and view personal collections).
9. Develop stories across more media, said presenters like Bilbo Poynter in “Modern Tactics for Investigative Online Journalism.” Publications want articles with sidebars, photos, fact boxes, original documents for readers to peruse, videos, audio podcasts, and clips – and they want it for the same per-word rate. (I think photos and additional material deserve extra fees. What do you think?)
10. Do it over again. As Sue Bowness called her (excellent) session on the history of magazines, “Everything old is new again.” Whether it’s on the web or on a hand-held device, people still want good stories well told, and we want to trust what we read. There’s even a trend back to long-form journalism for readers to savour at our leisure, on any device.
I got the feeling the pendulum is swinging back from “citizen journalism” to informed citizen readers searching for solid content. We want immediate facts in short attention-grabbing stories, but when we’re interested in the material, we also want to be able to examine documents and see the proof for ourselves.
It was an optimistic conference. Even last fall I’d have called this crazy, but for the first time in about 10 years, my income is based mainly on writing articles. What do you think? Are the times more positive for magazines and magazine writers? Please leave a comment, and let’s share ideas.