“Don’t tell anyone,” my new friend whispered, “but I’ve been thinking about starting my own writing event.”
This was August, 2012. I had only known this firecracker of a woman for a few days, not counting a handful of Twitter exchanges. What did I really know about her?
“If anyone can pull it off, it’s you,” I replied.
I meant what I said. I believed it whole-heartedly in that moment, just as I do now.
Far from blind faith, what I had seen in the short time I had known Sandra Wickham was lightening in a jar. The words drive, dedication and passion seem too timid to describe her. Beyond that, and more importantly, I had witnessed her in the social mosh pit of a big science fiction and fantasy convention where things can get cliquey and political faster than you can say “highschool”. Not only did she rise above the fray, she was a life ring to nervous newbies like me. Her circle of friends was wide and the only criteria for inclusion was a genuine passion for all things nerdy and literary.
It helped to know that she had a history of running large events successfully, but organization skills and heart are not the same thing. Sandra definitely had heart and I knew that anything she poured that heart into could only be positive.
Flash forward to spring 2015 and I am in a small hotel room with a group of other excited volunteers stuffing bags for the first, sneak preview of the Creative Ink Festival, in Burnaby, BC.
In less than three years, the whispered dream had become a reality. As if I had ever doubted it wouldn’t? Pfft.
2016 was the first official year of the festival—a three-day event with all the star power you would expect. New York Times bestselling author Carrie Vaughn was the literary Guest of Honour, Hugo Award winning artist Galen Dara was the visual arts Guest of Honour, and multi-award winning author Robert J. Sawyer was the Keynote speaker. There were workshops, presentations, panel discussions, blue pencil sessions, a dealers room, and basically everything any veteran con-goer would hope for.
But there was one thing noticeably absent during that weekend: attitude.
Modeled after the highly successful When Words Collide, Creative Ink was designed more as co-op than entertainment, more brainstorm than ego, more meeting of the minds than networking opportunity. Everyone except for the Guests of Honour are there on their own dime, volunteering out of love for their art, and even the GoH’s aren’t above rolling up their sleeves and pitching in.
There is no shortage of cons, festivals, and workshops for writers and artists to choose from these days. Creative Ink is not the biggest or the glitziest but I’ll put my money on it being one of the friendliest. And that’s what won me over from that first whispered “what if?” to the day I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with a panel of warrior women I barely knew, sharing our many years as martial artists, writers and readers with an eager audience. There was no “us and them”, no cool kids, no tangible divide between panelists and audience members. Even Order of Canada member Robert J. Sawyer announced during his keynote speech, “I’m here to learn from you!”
It’s easy to get sucked into the prestige game—who has won more awards, sold more books, accumulated more social media followers? It’s easy to be intimidated by the heavy hitters, to question your own skills, and to forget that what matters above everything else is the art we love. The Creative Ink Festival is a reminder that we are all in this together. We all have something to teach and we all have something to learn.
In 2016 I was treated with kindness by friends and strangers alike, and all the talk I overheard was enthusiastic and positive. On the last day, more than one, “I can’t wait for next year!” echoed through the corridors of the Delta Burnaby Hotel and Conference Centre.
I will be back at Creative Ink Festival in 2017, ready to teach and ready to learn. Ready to see all my friends again, especially the ones I haven’t even met yet. Who knows, maybe that’s you?
About the Author:
Kristene Perron has been shot, stabbed, drowned, run over and thrown from a building. During her ten years as a professional stuntwoman, she learned all the interesting ways a person can get injured or die and then applied this unique education to her fiction. She is the co-author of the adventure science fiction series Warpworld, the 2010 winner of the Surrey International Writer’s Conference Storyteller Award, and a 2015 Writers of the Future finalist. Her friends wish she would stop talking about cats. http://www.warpworld.ca/