Durham DarkLit Fest ’11 – Report from Oshawa

Where: Oshawa Public Libraries McLaughlin Branch
When: December 3, 2011

Colum and I were fortunate enough to be in attendance at the 2nd (hopefully annual) DarkLit Fest, which featured authors from Mystery/Crime, YA (mostly Paranormal) and of course, our beloved Horror genre. Hosted by the unflappable and endlessly smiling Joel A. Sutherland, this event brought together publishers, authors, aspiring authors and one agent. Before I continue, you all know that we here at DT pride ourselves on horror for all ages, thus we’ll only be discussing the Horror and YA events. No disrespect intended to anyone involved in the Mystery/Crime events, just not our thing.

We began the day with the first panel: Terrifying Tropes: The State of Today’s Horror-ific Literary Landscape. Moderated by Enter, Night author and former contributor to Fangoria, Michael Rowe, the dais was rounded out by Dreadfully Approved author and honorary Canadian Gregory Lamberson, Beneath The Surface scribe Simon Strantzas, DarkLit co-organizer and Undertow Publications head Michael Kelly, and author of Things Go Flying, Shari Lapena. Topics discussed included the proliferation of “prime time” monsters, where it was agreed that TV has sterilized zombies and vampires, and even went as far as to say that what’s out there (True Blood, Walking Dead, Twilight) aren’t horror but rather corporate machines that are using monsters as a brand. Other topics included the rise of the small press “renaissance”, indie/self publishing, Christian horror and my personal favourites: zombie and werewolf sex. The audience questions led us through topics like desensitizing, 9/11, the somewhat puritanical attitude of TV, sub genres and a healthy bashing of Stephanie Meyer. Quote of the panel goes to Greg Lamberson: “Team Edward doesn’t care if Twilight is horror.” Other than a bit too much focus on television and Twilight, the debate and insights were an impassioned start to our day. Wanna see for yourself, you know DT has you covered. Look below for the exclusive videos.

We were then treated to brief readings from Greg Lamberson, Shari Lapena, Simon Strantzas (not shown) and ChiZine Publications co-owner Sandra Kasturi. Greg and Simon read from new/upcoming works, while Shari and Sandra read from their existing bibliography. I have to admit that I listened more than I wrote, please watch the videos for the titles and descriptions.

The day rolled into the next panel, one that offered help and insight regardless of genre. Deal Or No Deal: How To Sell Your Writing to Publishers, Editors and Agents was moderated by Sandra Kasturi. Panelists included Burning Effigy Press founder/editor Monica S. Kuebler, Scholastic Canada’s Jennifer MacKinnon, Carolyn Forde from Westwood Creative Artists Literary Agency, and the other half of ChiZine Publications, Brett Alexander Savory. The discussions centralized on best practices of landing an agent or publisher, traditional vs self publishing, the real vs perceived downturn of traditional publishing, roles of agents, the importance of self-marketing, and the absolute worst things authors have done while trying to sell themselves. The audience questions ranged from ebook quality, even more advice about pitching a story and the supreme “don’ts” of pitch letters/sessions. It’s a three-way tie for quote of the panel: from Sandra, “You could get a great indie film, or you could get badger, badger, badger.” From Carolyn (regarding a visitor to her agency) “Turns out he was a mafia informant looking to shake us down.” From Brett (regarding an author he’d met at an event) “He fell in the trash. Not over the trash, in the trash.” I was glued to this one as these folks didn’t hold back, and each one was genuinely happy to help any newbie authors out (of which there were quite a few in the audience). You have to watch this panel if you’re at all interested in publishing. You can do that below.

The day flowed into more readings, this time from Monica S. Kuebler, R.J. Anderson, Erin Bow, Megan Crewe and Alyxandra Harvey. Once again, I listened intently as YA is something I haven’t been familiar with since I was a YA, please allow the videos below to bring you into the experience.

While the next panelists took the stage, Michael Kelly took the opportunity to announce World Fantasy Con would be coming to Richmond Hill (suburb of Toronto) next November. Go here for all the details.

Our panel coverage wrapped up with a discussion geared toward our Kinderscares and slightly “older-scares” crowd. Why YA, Eh? How to Write Books for Children and Teens with Cross-Over Appeal featured moderator and author of Plain Kate, Erin Bow, Ultraviolet scribe R.J. Anderson, Give Up The Ghost author Megan Crewe, The Drake Chronicles‘ writer Alyxandra Harvey and multi-award winning author Richard Scrimger. Topics included reasons for writing YA, issues that arise when characters are put into adult situations, how parents should broach reading with their kids, morals, and the elusive “how does a book cross-over?” The audience asked about books being challenged due to content, sub genres, the cyclical nature of genre popularity, and a hearty dose of gratuity to Harry Potter. Richard Scrimger easily wins quote of the panel with his quip: “Apparently, teaching kids about cougars is too difficult.” He wasn’t referring to the animal. Now you know that you need to watch this.

Wanna know why Richard has won multiple awards? Check out the video of his reading.

That concludes Dreadful Tales’ coverage of DarkLit Fest. A Dreadfully huge “thank you” to Joel A. Sutherland, Michael Kelly, and Ian Rogers for bringing the event to life, and for allowing us the exclusive video privileges. Thank you to all of the authors, publishers, editors, and agent for dedicating yourselves to this, we Dreadfully Salute you. Another huge thank you to Joseph Sansalone and the Oshawa Public Library for letting the creatures of the night invade during the day.

For more information about any of the authors, click their names to be taken to their website.

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