Posts Tagged 'conventions'

My Can-Con 2016 Schedule


The schedule for Can-Con 2016 has been posted and it’s amazing. There is everything here for fans of science fiction, horror and fantasy. Plus science panels, pitch sessions, agent sessions, and more. Please take a look at the panel descriptions.

If you’ve never been to a convention but have thought about it, but felt it might be too much for you, please read my post about why conventions are safe spaces for the shy or introverted. If you feel this way, please check out Can-Con. Registration information is online. It will make you feel at home and introduce you to an entire community you didn’t know was out there.

For me, I will be busy! Here’s my schedule, subject to last-minute changes.


7:00 – 8:00: So This Is Your First Con!
Zenith Room
I’ll be joining Lisa Toohey, Ryan McFadden, and Brandon Crilly (m). I will try to bring some humour and sage wisdom to this panel.

9:00 – whenever: Bundoran Press party
Tavern ConSuite
I’ll be reading from my story “Innocence Prolonged, And Overcome” from the new anthology Lazarus Risen. What happens in a town where everyone will live forever? Well, it’s not good. Nope, not good at all.


11:00 – 12:00: Reading from But It’s Not The End And Other Lies
Guildhall ConSuite
Join me doing a reading from my upcoming collection But It’s Not The End And Other Lies (ChiZine Publications) about what makes us human and what makes us monsters. Joining me in this time slot is fellow CZP author Ian Rogers reading from Every House is Haunted and ‘Nathan Burgoine reading from Triad Blood.

5:00 – 6:00: Can The Exorcist Work in the Modern World?
Twilight Room

I’ll be moderating a panel with Timothy Carter, Madeline Ashby, Mike Rimar and Ranylt Richildis. Since The Exorcist works on the idea that the Devil is real, that must mean God is real. And Jesus. And the Bible. In a secular world, does being scared by The Exorcist mean we must accept Christianity? We’ll discuss.

9:00 – whenever: ChiZine Publications party
Tavern ConSuite
This is the party to be at. Meet the leading voices in horror and dark fiction. And there will be booze.


12:00 – 1:00: Not All Antagonists Are Created Equal
Sunset Room

I’ll be moderating a panel with Julie Czerneda, Erik Scott de Bie, Gregory A. Wilson and Nina Munteanu where I propose there are three types of antogonist—villains, monsters and forces of nature. We’ll slug it out, talking to both fellow authors and fans. Bring ideas about your favourite antagonist.

1:00 – 2:00: Horror is Domestic
Sunset Room
I’ll be with Suzanne Church, Sean Moreland, Ryan McFadden and Sandra Kasturi. This is an important concept in horror—horror is some external, corrupting force invading the family unit. Is this essential or is it bullshit? We’ll figure it out.


How to Be a Good Moderator for Panel Discussions at Conventions

I’ve been told I’m a good moderator for panel discussions at conventions. Recently, I was asked to mentor someone moderating her first panel. I had intended to just outline a few ideas, but it turned into something much larger. Below are the thoughts that I shared, which I hope can prepare you to moderate a panel at a convention. While this was written for SF/F/H conventions, it can be used by anyone moderating any kind of panel.

These are just my thoughts, so your mileage may vary.

What is your role as the moderator?

A moderator is accountable to the audience. You are not there to serve the ego of panelists.

This is your role. Who gets to talk and who doesn’t.

The audience is attending your panel (yup, its yours) to hear a good discussion on a topic they’re interested in. You must deliver that. This means not letting:

  • One person dominate the conversation,
  • One point of view dominate the conversation, and
  • Some jackass in the audience dominate the conversation (more on this point below).

You are a traffic cop; the panelists provide the discussion. You make sure everyone gets their say while keeping the audience in check. Even if you have a world-renowned expert on the panel, the others deserve their share of the time.

You should be positive, fun and enthusiastic. It is your role to keep the energy up.

How much do you participate?

The moderator is not a panelist. You need to remain neutral and keep the conversation going.

This means keeping your opinions on a topic in check. (There is a special ring of hell for moderators who use their role to advance their own agenda.) You might think X, but Y and Z are also options that audience members might want to hear about. You must get X, Y and Z on the table.

But if there are only two other panelists, you might need to interject, but be clear that what you are saying is your opinion, and then jump back into your (neutral) moderator role.

If there are three panelists, you might be involved.

If there are four or more panelists, you are the traffic cop. There are enough opinions in play.

How To Prepare

Do a little research on your panelists. Know who they are. You don’t need to do exhaustive research; reading their bios on the convention website is often enough.

Have at least 5 questions prepared to ask the panel. Have them be open-ended, not questions someone can answer with “Yes” or “Five years.” Five questions should be enough to fill the panel (assuming it is an hour long).

Begin with introductions

I always begin panels by asking panelists to introduce themselves and then relate themselves to the topic. So something like “Tell us why you wanted to be on this panel” or “What interests you about this topic”. This helps let you know where they stand on the issue. In other words, are they “X”, “Y” or “Z”.

It also might give you fodder for more questions. Sometimes a panelist might say something in an offhanded way that sparks a whole new discussion.

Asking panelists to introduce themselves also lets you get a sense for their personalities—shy, soft-spoken, axe to grind.

Encourage panelists to speak

Let’s face it, we are a community of introverts. Some people might need to be coaxed to speak. If you have an audience member who has been silent, invite them to share an opinion. It could be that they have nothing to say, but make sure you give them the chance. “Jen, we haven’t heard from you. Any thoughts?”

Take notes during the panel

Take notes during the panel. They could give you ideas to keep the conversation going.

Take notes so you have ideas to keep the conversation going.

This is key. People will say something off the cuff, but it could be a great segue into another topic to discuss. Someone might mention something during their introduction you didn’t know which you can delve into later. “Wanda, earlier you said a zombie and vampire are the same basic monster, but what about the master vampire who retains her/his identity as an undead creature?” “Piotr, did your time in the army affect your writing?”

Keep the conversation on topic… Or don’t

Remember the audience is there to hear about the topic. If you are discussing Dr. Who, and you realize somehow the last 5 minutes have been about water on Mars, bring it back on topic. And you can just say “OK, to get back to Dr. Who” and chuckle as you say it. That is, unless the audience is into this new topic—leaning forward, asking questions, etc. In which case, you have to decide whether to let the discussion follow its course or bring it back on topic.

20 minute lull

When I first began moderating, I begin to worry at the 20 minute mark because I felt we weren’t going to make it through the full hour. If this happens, don’t panic—this happens. I don’t know why, but it does. I think that’s when the initial energy begins to fade. But then someone will say something, and you all will hit your second wind. And, you can always turn to the audience.

And if the panel runs out of gas early, admit it. Thank everyone and end the panel early.

Manage the audience

I’ve saved this topic for last because the audience will be your biggest challenge. There will always be someone who thinks they are on the panel and won’t shut up. So how do you to deal?

First, when starting the panel explain that the panel will talk for about 20 minutes or so, and then you’ll take questions. And be clear: To ask a question, put your hand up.

If someone just starts talking, cut them off (“Sorry, let’s hear her out” or “Hang out, I want to hear from the panel. We’ll take question is a bit.”) and go back to the panel. And remind people when you will be taking questions and how to ask.

As people put their hand up, acknowledge them. Even if a panelist is talking and/or you are not ready for their question, make eye contact with the audience member and give a nod or small wave to let them know you see them.

When you call on someone, be clear: “This gentleman in the Spider-Man hat.” “Yes, Poison Ivy at the back.” “Lady in the front row knitting me a scarf. It’s for me, right?”

If various people have their hands up, set up your order: “I’m going first to the gentleman with the beard at the back, then over to this lady with the stuffed TARDIS and then over to the Flash t-shirt.”

Vary who gets to speak. There will be one person with their hand up all the time. Make sure others are heard. Say things like “Yes, in the Sailor Moon boots, we haven’t heard from you yet” or to the person who keeps asking question “I see you have your hand up first, but let’s go over here. We haven’t heard from her yet.”

You'll probably want questions from the audience, but beware of someone who never gets around to asking their question.

You’ll probably want questions from the audience, but beware of someone who never gets around to asking their question.

Be prepared for someone who isn’t asking a question but making a statement. Or, it takes them 5 minutes of set up to get to their question. You don’t have time for that. If you sense someone is standing on their soapbox or is taking to long to ask a question, be direct: “I’m not hearing a question here” or “You need to get to your question because others have questions they’d like to ask.”

If you get the rude jackass who keeps interrupting, be direct. “Hang on, let’s hear from the panel” or “She wasn’t done speaking yet.” You might even need to go as far as saying “Excuse me, but you’ve been interrupting us. If you have a question or comment, please raise your hand.” The longer this person is allowed to interrupt, the more they will do it. So shut them down quickly.

Maybe you think this is being rude to an audience member, but remember (1) you are there for the entire audience, not just one person and (2) that one person is being very rude.

One of my proudest moments as a moderator was a woman who kept loudly interrupting the panel (and other audience members trying to ask a question). I tried to politely deflect her at first, but her behaviour persisted so I became more direct and told her to stop interrupting. So she raised her hand while someone was speaking, I nodded to let her know I saw her, but after five seconds of her hand in the air she screamed “FUCK YOU PEOPLE!” and stormed out. You might think it’s bad I pissed this person off so much, but her anger pales to the sum of the frustration of everyone else in the room. Her absence made the panel run smoother, fulfilling my obligation is to the audience as a whole.

Anything I missed?

If you have advice or suggestions for panel moderators, please put them in the comments below. I’d love to hear your feedback!

What You Should Bring with You to a Convention

Hello World Horror Convention 2013 attendees! In addition to the following, pack some sunscreen and bug spray. These aren’t needed for three days spent in a hotel, but it’s New Orleans! Be ready to get out there and see the city.Leave me a comment if you liked this post!

Having been to a lot of conventions recently, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned and what you should bring with you when travelling to a con.

Extra Change of Clothes – Everything: shirts, pants, underwear, socks. You never know if something might get spilled on you. Or, you spend the day running all over the hotel—to panels and the dealer’s room—and don’t want to wear funky clothes to a room party that night.

Phone/Tablet Charger – You grab your phone/tablet automatically, sure. But you’re going to be gone for a few days and if you’re tweeting, updating Facebook, looking for someplace to grab a bite, etc. you’re going to be out of juice quick. Do yourself a favour: Make a put a sticky note on your phone/tablet the night before to grab the charger, too. (Thanks to Farrell McGovern.)

Don’t laugh. In dry hotels, you’ll want one of these full of water next to your bed at night.

Big Plastic Cup – Think one of those extra-large cups from McDonald’s. The air in convention hotels is usually pretty dry and it’s easy to get dehydrated. And if you stay up late to party, you’ll want to have plenty of water before going to bed to guard against a hangover in the morning. Most hotels will give you tiny tumblers, so bring your own large cup to put by your bed. When packing, stuff some socks or a rolled up t-shirt in it to help prevent it from getting smooshed.

Aspirin and Antacid – Pretty much explains itself. Whether it’s a headache or sore feet, you’ll want pain relief. And after a few days of hotel food, you’ll need something to quiet that upset stomach.

Small Bottle of Hand Sanitizer – It’s not just your stomach that might come into contact with some stuff it doesn’t agree with. A convention is a weekend of shaking hands, touching doorknobs and elevator buttons that have been touched by thousands of others, and just about every other way of catching a germ. Considering conventions are full of young kids and a few people with “questionable” hygiene habits, frequent hand washing might not be in the cards as you run between panels. So pack a small bottle of hand santizer, keep it with you and use as needed. (Thanks to James Bambury)

Pen, Notepad and Highlighter – Yes, you can jot just about everything down in your phone, but nothing beats good old pen & paper. You’ll also want to mark what panels you want to see in the convention’s program booklet. And if you pass your favourite author and want her to sign your book, better have a pen ready.

Tote / Shoulder Bag / Backpack – At a convention, you’ll acquire a lot of stuff. Books in the dealers room, bookmarks, flyers, promotional items. Rather than carrying it around by hand, just tuck it away and empty it out back in your hotel room or when you get home.

Spare Lanyard – Sometimes the convention lanyards are like Indiana Jones’ satchel they’re so sturdy. Sometimes they’re cheap-o. If you don’t want to carry a tote, then have your own lanyard that can carry pens, business cards and anything else you want to have on hand. (Thanks to Suzanne Church.)

Granola Bars or Other Easy to Transport Snacks – Conventions can mean long days. You might have panels you want to go to (or are a panelist on) from 10 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon. Since hotel restaurants are not known for fast service (and might even be closed between lunch and dinner!), grabbing a quick bite might not be possible. So if you’re carrying around that tote or backpack from above, stick in some granola bars. They’re small, won’t melt and easy to transport. (Thanks to K.W. Ramsey)

Cash – Whether it’s for tips at the bar, something in the dealers room or an unexpected cab ride, always have some extra cash. (And usually dealers rooms are cash-only.) Carry a mix of small and large bills. Hotels usually have safes in the rooms or behind the front desk, so leave whatever you don’t need locked up and carry a smaller amount.

Bathing Suit – The convention-going crowd are not usually big swimmers. If you’re looking to have some quiet time to yourself, head for the hotel’s pool. You might find a family or a group of fooling around, but if you find the pool empty it’s a great time to relax on your own.

Camera – If your phone doesn’t double as your camera, bring one. You never know what you might see and want to capture—your favorite author, a kiss-ass costume (or a Kick-Ass costume), a spontaneous moment with friends.

Your Own Alcohol – Whether you love a beer or a martini, scotch or Bloody Mary, you will pay through the nose at the hotel bar. So bring your own bottle. If you’re flying internationally, stop off at the Duty Free. Even if you don’t finish the bottle and can’t take it on the plane ride home, you’ll probably still be ahead. And, give what’s left to a new friend you’ve made!

Am I missing something? If there’s something you always bring to a convention with you, let me know in the comments section.

Article in Ottawa Horror

A quick note to point people to an article about me on the Ottawa Horror site.

I sat down with Lydia Peever (Nightface, Postmortem Press) a few days ago and had a great chat about writing, the horror genre, horror movies, conventions and all manner of things. This piece is a result of that chat. I’m really floored about what she says about me since it sounds like she’s describing the person I’m working towards becoming.

Maybe I’ve arrived.

If so, then I need to continue to work to improve myself.

OK, enough self-motivational talk. If you like the piece, please leave a note in their comments section to let them know you were there.

SFContario Schedule

I’ve received my schedule for SFContario, the SF convention taking place in Toronto, November 18-20 where the Aurora Awards will be presented.

Looks like Saturday, November 19 will be a busy day for me. I am on three panels plus an autograph sessions. I am hoping to also score a reading, but we’ll see.

Below is my schedule:


9PM – 11PM

AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review Party
Featuring me! (Thanks to Diane Lacey for the heads up!)


11 AM

Criticism and Critique: Critics in the 21st Century
Developments in social media and web 2.0 technology continue to blur the line between amateur and professional critics. As North American colleges and universities produce record numbers of graduates, the media consuming public is transforming itself into something that feels it ought to be included in larger critical conversations. Our panelists explore how professionals and amateurs work together to evaluate genre media.

Panelists: James Nicoll(M), John Scalzi, Matt Moore, Elizabeth Hirst


Cockpit: Rules of Engagement
An award winning indie short film written and directed by Jesse Griffith. Starring Ronny Cox (Deliverance, Robocop, Total Recall) Hellena Taylor (Bavonetta, Saboteur, Stargate Atlantis) and Karl Champley (Wasted Spaces, DIY to the Rescue) the film made its debut at Comicon as a proof of concept for a feature length screenplay. Both stories are set on the front lines of a war against an enemy that uses mind control and subversion to turn humanity against itself. After a premiere Canadian screening, this panel will explore the themes and motifs of the film as well as discussing the challenges of fast-paced story telling within the confines of a cerebral space opera format.

Panelists: Adam Shaftoe(M), J M Frey, Matt Moore


Social Media and how to use it
Writers know the internet, but not all writers take advantage of its full potential. With the emergence of social media potential readers are just a click away. What is social media about and how can it help you? What should you do and what are the pitfalls to avoid?

Panelists: Karen Dales(M), Suzanne Church, Jonathon Crowe, Matt Moore, Brett Savory


Autograph Session
With Julie Czerneda and Robert Charles Wilson

AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review will also be hosting a party, but I’m not sure yet on the timing.

More to come as I learn it.

Ad Astra ’10

Had a great, but exhausting, time at Ad Astra this weekend.


Arrived around 5:30 and got settled in, wandering the lobby and meeting friends I’d not seen since WorldCon in August or Ad Astra ’09.

I kicked off the con at 8, moderating the “Critiquing Groups” panel with old friends David Nickle and Suzanne Church and new friends Megan Crewe and Lorne Kates. This group was a lot of fun, with each panellists bringing a slightly different take on and experience with critiquing groups.

At 10, I moderated the “Grassroots on Virtual Soil” panel about using online tools to market yourself and make connections as a writer with Justine Lewkowicz, Cathy Palmer-Lister and CZP author Douglas Smith. Though it started a little slow (thankfully, I had an agenda to keep us going), we quickly picked up steam, covering different tools and tactics one can use online, and we ran about 10 minutes long—thankfully we were the last panel so no one came to kick us out.

I then retired to the Green Room, where a good chunk of the CZP family had taken over part of the room and stayed up to much too late.


The 11 o’clock ChiZine Publications Panel felt a lot earlier than it was, but it was the first time CZP staff and authors have come together in such a large group. Representing CZP was:

  • Brett Alexander Savory
  • Sandra Kasturi
  • Gemma Files
  • David Nickle
  • Claude Lalumière
  • Douglas Smith
  • Helen Marshall
  • Laura Marshall
  • Erik Mohr
  • And yours truly

With Bob Boyczuk out in the audience.

After lunch with friends, I went for a swim with my wife and was then off to the 3 o’clock panel for The East Block Irregulars (Hayden Trenholm, Derek Kunsken, Elizabeth Westbrook-Trenholm, Marie Bilodeau, Peter Atwood and me). It felt a bit self-indulgent, but the EBI has been a strong and effective critiquing group and I think the audience learned a lot from how we’ve run ourselves.

After flaking out for a bit and supper with Doug Smith, the CZP Launch Party started at 7 with readings from David Nickle, Claude Lalumière, Gemma Files and Douglas Smith. I went up to the bar to grab a drink, but ran into the East Block Irregulars and stayed with them for a bit before heading back up to the Green Room, where again I stayed later than I should. But, I got to talk to some people I hadn’t had the chance to like Michael Rowe, Gemma Files and Michael Kelly.


I passed the morning in the dealer’s room with Brett Savory, making rude jokes and talking about next steps for CZP (which are not mutually exclusive topics!). At noon, I moderated the “Writing & Time Management” panel with Suzanne Church, Sephera Giron, Eileen Bell and Michael Rowe. This panel, which I had pictured as being about “trying writing while waiting for the laundry to finish in the dryer” or “Set deadlines and stick to them” quickly evolved to something else: The idea that writers do have the time, but the internal critic tells them “This is a waste” and “You’re no good.” It’s hard to capture, but the panellist really got at the heart of what it means to be a writer. You have to want it and be willing to sacrifice other things. If you can do that, writers will find the time. Otherwise, if you don’t truly want to be a writer, you will keep making excuses.

The “Publicity – The Good, The Bad and the Bonkers” panel with Kelley Armstrong, Peter Watts and Carolyn Clink was a bit more upbeat, trading amusing stories of publicity gone wrong and publicity gone right.

When that panel wrapped up, I said some quick good-byes and was back on the road to Ottawa, where I managed to get some much-needed rest.

Upcoming Appearances

Limestone Genre Expo – Guest
May 26 – 27, 2017
Holiday Inn Waterfront
Kingston, ON
Can*Con 2018 – Special Guest
Oct. 12 – 14, 2017
Sheraton Ottawa Hotel
Ottawa, ON

Where Else to Find Me

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