Calgary Bound…virtually!


For nearly eight years, from 1979 to 1987, I worked as a reporter, columnist and entertainment critic, at the Calgary Herald, enjoying the experience of living in Calgary, Alberta.

My former employer, the Montreal Star, had just folded, and the Herald came to Montreal on a recruiting expedition. I was hired, and they paid for my move to Calgary.

When I arrived, Alberta was on the crest of an oil and gas boom. It was a modern-day gold rush, and adventurers had been heading for the province for several years to strike it rich. And it transformed the city of Calgary. Steel-and-glass skyscrapers in the downtown core stood as testaments to the prosperity of the oil and gas industry. The Herald was a fat newspaper, its pages bulging with ads, and it had the largest entertainment section I’d ever seen in a daily. Reporters got to travel…a lot. I reviewed the best restaurants in the city and around it. I attended a three-week dance critics’ workshop at Duke University in Durham, N.C., with Anna Kisselgoff, the New York Times’ dance critic. Management seemed to be open to any reasonable request.

Downtown Calgary.

It all ended a few years later when the world economic recession hit the oil and gas industry hard. The Alberta oil boom was over. The newspaper remained in good shape for some time, and I stayed on staff until an opportunity brought me back east.

Years have passed, the boom and bust cycle has continued, but I haven’t returned to Calgary. I had planned to visit this summer. It was about time. I wanted to show Ed, who has never been to Alberta, some of the province’s spectacular attractions. And I especially wanted to attend When Words Collide, the annual multi-genre literary festival that has been held in Calgary for the past 10 years. Then along came the COVID-19 pandemic and my plans, like those of just about everyone around the world, went up in a puff of smoke.

But those enterprising Albertans, forged by years of boom and bust, were not about to let a pandemic hold them down. WWC 2020 is going ahead this coming week, Friday Aug. 14 through Sunday Aug. 16—online. And what’s more, it’s FREE! You can attend the conference’s panel sessions from the comfort of your home, without travel and hotel costs. Register here to attend.

OOPS! Just learned that registration is NOT required to attend this year’s online festival! Just drop in next weekend, and click on the event you would like to attend. Event links will be posted in the online program just prior to the weekend. Most events will use the Zoom platform.

I’ll be on two WWC panels–please drop by:

  • The Long and Short of Crime, a discussion of short, long and novella-length crime fiction, and why we write it, with authors Jane Burfield, M.H. Callway, Lynne Murphy and Caro Soles. That panel will be held on Saturday Aug. 15 at 2 p.m. EST/ noon Mountain Time.
  • My second panel will be Meet the Mesdames of Mayhem, a chat with three other fabulous Mesdames of Mayhem; we’ll discuss why we came together and what we have achieved in doing so. With Donna Carrick, M.H. Callway and Madona Skaff—at 4 p.m. EST/ 2 p.m. Mountain Time on Saturday Aug. 15.

Several other Mesdames will be on other panels:

  • Jayne Barnard and Melodie Campbell on Plot vs. Character at 2 p.m. EST/ noon Mountain Time, Friday Aug. 14.
  • Lisa De Nikolits and Caro Soles on Can the Crossover fit the Crime? at noon EST/ 10 a.m. Mountain Time on Saturday Aug. 15.
  • Jayne Barnard on The Heroine’s Journey at 1 p.m. EST/ 11 a.m. Mountain Time on Sunday Aug. 16.
  • Jayne Barnard on From the Mean Streets to the Deadly Wilderness at 3 p.m. EST/ 1 p.m. Mountain Time on Sunday Aug. 16.
  • Jayne Barnard on Diversity in Speculative Fiction at 5 p.m. EXT/ 3 p.m. Mountain Time on Sunday Aug. 16.

And next year, there’ll be Calgary!

The Calgary Stampede.

About rosemarymccracken

Rosemary McCracken is a Toronto-based fiction writer.
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