Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the purpose of When Words Collide?
  2. What kind of format is When Words Collide?
  3. What kind of activities can I expect?
  4. How can the cost of attending When Words Collide be so low?
  5. What is the difference between Festival Guests and other speakers?
  6. Are free memberships available?
  7. Are day passes available?
  8. Will there be additional fees once I arrive?
  9. Why does the festival start at noon on Friday instead of earlier in the day?
  10. What is the sign-up book?
  11. What is a 50-minute workshop?
  12. What is the Blue Pencil Cafe?
  13. What is a Pitch Session?
  14. What is Live Action Slush?
  15. How do I get to the festival?
  16. I have a question about the festival that I did not find here. What do I do?

1. What is the purpose of When Words Collide?

When Words Collide exists to provide an opportunity for the literary community, from readers to writers to publishers, to gather and share information and inspiration. With the belief that different genres have more in common than they have differences, the festival includes content for all types of literature including Mainstream, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Mystery, Historical, Literary, and non-fiction.

2. What kind of format is When Words Collide?

When Words Collide is a 3-day festival (Friday noon - Sunday evening) held in a convention hotel. Meeting space is used for concurrent discussion panels, presentations, and workshops on a broad range of topics of interest to readers and writers. A book room, which is open to the public, hosts tables for publishers, book stores, and literary organizations. One low weekend membership fee grants access to all activities. There are no for-fee events (with the exception of a banquet if one is held).

3. What kind of activities can I expect?

The festival program includes items you may find at a professional writers conference, such as blue pencil cafe and pitch sessions, as well as items you may find at a readers festival, such as talks, readings, and autographs by best-selling authors. Most of the program items are panel discussions where four authors, editors, or other subject experts discuss the aspects of a topic such as how eBooks are impacting how authors write and readers read. Other popular activities include hands-on workshops, such as learning how people really lived in the Victorian era, or improving dialog in your writing; and Live Action Slush, where editors respond to manuscripts submitted by the audience.

4. How can the cost of attending When Words Collide be so low?

When Words Collide is not a writers' conference, where typically all speakers are contracted by the organization and compensated with speakers fees. The expenses for such conferences are relatively high, which in turn means high fees for those attending. While expensive to attend, such conferences are an excellent resource for serious writers.

So what are we? Our festival is based on a 'volunteer' convention model popular in the Science Fiction and Fantasy world that is designed to attract writers of all levels while being affordable enough to attract readers. This is accomplished by contracting a very small number of guest speakers, with attending professionals volunteering to participate in the remainder of the program. All speakers, including the festival guests, volunteer their time and expertise, graciously waiving speakers fees they may require at professional events. Expenses are further reduced by all organizers and staff also being volunteers. The registration fee charged to attend the festival covers the cost of meeting rooms, travel & accommodation of our festival guests, printing cost, and little else.

6. What is the difference between Festival Guests and other speakers?

The festival dedicates the lion's share of our budget each year to honour a few members of the literary community, typically one editor/publisher/agent and four or five authors, by paying their expenses to attend the festival such as travel, hotel accommodations, and meals. We rely on volunteer speakers from among attendees and the Calgary area to fill the remainder of the program. If you would like to volunteer to speak at the festival, please let us know.

7. Are free memberships available?

In keeping with our policy of making the festival accessible to the broader literary community by keeping registration fees low, we require all attendees to purchase a festival membership. The only exception are the official Festival Guests and approved members of the media who attend events for the purpose of reporting on them. Even the volunteers who organize the festival purchase memberships. Speakers who attend the festival must also purchase memberships. That said, speakers and volunteers who do not attend the festival outside of their presentations or volunteer work have no need to register. In short, we do not require people to register in order to speak or volunteer (though most do as they intend to attend the festival when they are not speaking or volunteering).

8. Are day passes available?

To minimize complexity and effort for our volunteers we do not offer day passes.

9. Will there be additional fees once I arrive?

The festival has no events that require additional fees. Weekend membership provides access to all day and evening events, including the Blue Pencil Cafe, Pitch sessions, and festival workshops. We cannot, however, guarantee that time slots for your preferred mentor will be available. We may have pre-festival workshops or a banquet, which are paid for separately, but these are sold separately and only prior to the festival.

10. Why does the festival start at 1 PM Friday instead of earlier in the day?

Many people attending the festival (around half) live outside of Calgary. The start time allows most of them to drive or fly in without having to stay at the hotel on the Thursday evening, thereby avoiding the cost of an additional hotel night.

11. What is the sign-up book?

Pitch sessions and Blue Pencil Cafe are one-on-one mentored events that run during the day on Saturday and Sunday in the Wedgewood Boardroom. A sign-up book is available near the registration desk starting at 12 PM Friday. Festival attendees may sign up for as many Saturday and Sunday items as they wish. On Friday and Saturday evening, festival staff will randomly fill the next day's events from those who signed up and post the list outside the Wedgewood Boardroom at 9 AM the next morning. Once a person has been assigned to an event, they will not be considered for later events unless there is space. Attendees may check with the volunteer outside the Wedgewood Boardroom during the day for openings due to cancellations or no-shows. Such openings will be assigned with no impact on other assignments that attendee may have.

13. What is a 50-minute workshop?

An expert will speak on a specific topic to a small audience, often in an interactive or hands-on way (bring pen & paper). Seats must be reserved in the sign-up book.

14. What is the Blue Pencil Cafe?

An opportunity to sit down with a mentor for 12 minutes to receive verbal feedback on a short sample of your writing. Bring the sample with you. (You do not need to send it in before-hand). Seats must be reserved in the sign-up book.

15. What is a Pitch Session?

A 5 minute opportunity to present your elevator pitch of your novel idea or completed manuscript to an editor or agent. If they like what they hear you may be asked to send them your query or manuscript. Or you may receive feedback on how to improve your pitch technique.

16. What is Live Action Slush?

One of our most popular events. Writers in the audience hand in the opening 2 pages of their novel manuscript at the start of the session. A designated reader will read randomly from the pile, withholding the author's name, while editors on the panel listen. If an editor hears something that would make them stop reading and reject the manuscript they put up their hand. Once all editors hands are raised or the end of the two pages is reached, the moderator asks the editors to comment. If the comments are positive they may ask the author to reveal her or himself. Regardless, the author and everyone in the room gains useful insights into the slush pile process and what to do or not do in their manuscripts.

17. How do I get to the festival?

This information is available under Preparation and Amenities.

18. I have a question about the festival that I did not find here. What do I do?

Email us at info@whenwordscollide.org and we will find you an answer.