WANACon: The View from the Back of the Room

Widdershins MaskBut first … NEWS: Last year I was invited to do a guest post for the Clarion blog.

It’s up today. Writers Craft#112 You Have To Be There.

Clarion is a Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Workshop, and is a big deal in a SF writers Universe.

My invitation came about because I follow the Clarion blog, and I leave comments. The blog editor read my comments, followed the link to my blog, liked what she read, and invited me to do a Guest Post – Proof of the importance of comments (so long as it’s not drivel, or just a :D)

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Wana-Conference Logo

Rather than do a bit of an intro to WANA itself, (‘cos this is going to be a long post anyway) this is WANA … and this is what they’re about.

WANA stands for We Are Not Alone. (OK, I can’t help myself, I’m intro-ing) It’s a community of, and for writers, and this weekend they had their first on-line writers conference.

As is the way of these things, I discovered WANA via … erm … can’t remember exactly who, but it was by connecting to someone who was connected to someone who was in WANA. I looked around and liked what I saw, and joined.

Up until this Con, the only real engagement I had with WANA was to read (and comment) on Kristen Lamb’s blog. Kristen is the Driving Dynamic Diva behind the whole kit-n-kaboodle. When she announced WANACon, I checked my Paypal account (phew, just enough!) and signed up, with the attitude of, “ok – show me what you got”.

WANACon showed me!

Friday’s session started too early for me – 8am EST (5am for me – one of my friend’s favourite quips is that she gets up ‘at the crack of 9am’) so I missed the first three speakers, but from then on it was a full-on, flat-out, steep listening and learning curve.

The platform they used to deliver the lectures (for want of a better word) combined a live video feed with a real-time chat window. This enabled the audience to engage with the speaker and ask questions via a microphone as well as typing into the chatbox.

We could comment on what the speaker was saying via the chat, without interrupting their flow. It also allowed Jami, the moderator, to post any links (email addresses, URL’s, etc) the speaker mentioned, for us to access in real time.

The only downside of a platform this complex was bandwidth. The sound occasionally broke up and screens froze if there was a lot going on at once. All the sessions were recorded, so this was a momentary frustration.

Anything glitch-ier was swiftly resolved by Tech guy extraordinaire, Jay. (who is, I hope, enjoying a well earned rest) (I thought I had a link for him in my notes, but no. He is a tech wizard, and very approachable. If you have any web-y, tech-y issues, you could contact him through the WANA webpage I linked to earlier)

I want to comment on the gender makeup of the audience. On average each session had 20-25 participants, and I can recall there only being two men in the room at any given time. (apart from the presenters/speakers, 8 of which were women, and 4 men)

This reflects just how involved women are in every level of this writing profession of ours. And it’s truly a wonderful thing.

The conference brought home to me yet again, how fast the industry is changing, week by week, (sometimes it feels like hour by hour) and how, if we have any ambitions to make a living writing, we MUST keep up with these changes. Which is not to say we have to run around like chooks with our heads cut off and end up disappearing into the black hole of the eBook/social media revolution. Our first priority is, and must always be, to write.

But, we also need attend conferences like this one, where the focus is on presenting the latest up-to-date information by people who are practicing what they teach.

We must have a working understanding of the basics of publishing, marketing, social media, the whole nine yards … or at the very least, know where to get that information when we need it, which means keeping up-to-date lists, and/or engaging with people who keep those lists.

So … I sat at the back of the room, took notes, asked questions, made comments, and absorbed everything. I did get somewhat brain-dead by midday Sunday, but that’s the nature of engaging with this sort of intensity.

I watched the interplay of relationships between the other participants who knew each other outside of the conference.

I witnessed the respect these women, (and the men) had for each other, both personally and professionally. It made my little feminist heart proud, it did.

WANACon gave me a sense of hope that women like Kristen will be, and are, driving our industry forward in a way that is ethical and authentic.

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“I believe in communication; books communicate ideas and make bridges between people” Jeanette Winterson

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17 comments on “WANACon: The View from the Back of the Room

  1. Jami Gold says:

    Great post! Yes, you’re absolutely right that there’s a fundamental respect underlying the WANA idea. As cheesy as it sounds, I’m a true believer in what Kristen is doing. :)

    By the way, Jay can be reached at @JayTechDad on Twitter and he’s with TechSurgeons. :)

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  2. jamieayres says:

    Congrats!!! Leaving blog comments does lead to a huge batch of awesomesauce:-)

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    • Widdershins says:

      Thangyouverymuch! … I love that word – ‘awesomesauce’ It reminds me of the best bolognaise sauce I’ve ever made, or applesauce, or …

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  3. jannatwrites says:

    What a wonderful side effect of leaving comments! I can relate to your 5AM grogginess…I’m up to go to work by then but certainly not functional and prepared to listen :)

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  4. [...] Author Widdershins – WANACon The View From The Back of the Room [...]

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  5. C. C. Cedras says:

    I love this post SO MUCH! WANACon was an amazing experience and I’m very glad to have been in it with you.

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  6. If you have any questions after listening to the Twitter session recording (I was the 8am session), let me know. I’m happy to help!

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  7. clarbojahn says:

    Sounds like you got a whole lot of stuff from attending this conference. Thanks for sharing your highlights from it. I read Kristen’s books on WANA and they were marvelous. Her posts are usually too long for me to read though. :)

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    • Widdershins says:

      Kristin is organising another one for later on in the year … would be worth checking out!

      … Usually with long posts, I skim read and if anything catches my attention, I’ll take the time to read it through.

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  8. londonmabel says:

    Sounds interesting.

    (And that Horky is grumpy!)

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    • Widdershins says:

      I think I liked the multi-media experience the best. It was like Skype on steroids!

      That was the first snarky comment I’ve ever had on a guest blog. I don’t mind the typo catch, I’ve done it myself, but the rest was a little over the top!

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  9. Congrats on the guest blog, very nice!

    Being continentally challenged, these kinds of online conferences aren’t possible for me, but I enjoyed reading your summary. :)

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    • Widdershins says:

      Thanks Ruth … yeah, I don’t know what the time difference would be like there, but 8amEST translated to 5-o-clock in the morning for me. I would’ve only been asleep for two hours! … the good news is that everything gets recorded and I now have copies of the sessions I missed.

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