RN, writer, artist, blogger, 1D fangirl extraordinaire. Twitter: @unrealismbooks |…
On a cloudy day in October, New York City saw a wave of orange take over its Central Park west area. Excited chatter, discussions about books, and a forum called Wattpad was suddenly all the rage in this upscale area, and to those out of the know, it may have seemed odd.
But for those who had been waiting for this day for months, it couldn’t have been better. Thanks to the tireless and thanks-isnt-enough efforts of Kelly Anne Blount and Vic James, the first ever North American Wattcon event took place October 1 in New York City to an enthusiastic and appreciative crowd. The orange landscapes versions of celebrities were out in full force, with the likes of Ali Novak, Kelly Anne Blount, Vic James, Lindsey Summers, the Wattpad 4 and more causing eyes to widened and squees to be heard (not just from me, Rebecca!).
Kelly and Vic turned a lovely church venue into a place where people who had been friends for years, but never met, finally had the chance to come face to face. For those who had admired and adored the work of these incredible authors to finally meet their idols. In one instance I watched a star struck young girl, excited and shaking, tell the beautiful Rebecca Sky ‘You are why I came here.’ I felt the love from my little hiding place a few rows away, and that meeting was the epitome of this day.
Now, as promised in my lead ups to the event, I am going to try to cover as much information for those who were unable to attend as I can. My stubby little fingers took notes madly on my phone, and while I have no doubt I missed more than I caught, I hope this gives you and insight into the incredible day that this truly was.
We start off with the first panel, simply entitled ‘How to be Awesome on Wattpad’. Of course, the panelists featured know all about how to accomplish the awesomeness on the forum, with Kelly (@kellyanneblount), Ariana (@cold_lady19), Jordan (@XxSkater2Girl16xX), Rachel (@knightsrachel) and Leah (@LDCrichton). Feel free to take a moment to squee, because I know I did. The panel reviewed how each of them found their success on the site, and no two stories were alike. Ariana, known for her astronomically popular My Wattpad Love, admitted that even her mother didn’t believe she had such success, while Rachels grandfather refused to believe her even when shown the site. But the panel basics was how to increase your own exposure and popularity on the site, and there were no better people to ask. Tips were basic, but things that many writers don’t necessarily do. The biggest tip? Be grateful! Response to as many comments as you can, because the people reading took the time to comment, and having the interaction and connection to their favorite writers is part of the beauty of Wattpad. Jordan stated that she sets aside a few hours several times a week to respond to every comment she can, and if you know her popularity, this is quite a feat! But she does it, because she appreciates every single comment. Another tip? Use the tags! This will help readers find your story. If you write paranormal romance, and put your story in paranormal, make sure to tag romance as well to ensure both genres are covered when people search for new material to read. And remember the importance of your cover and introduction blurb. These are your first chances to catch readers, and make them want to read more. A ‘hook’ is helpful, getting them drawn in, and then making them never want to leave. And of course a beautiful cover…but it doesn’t have to be done professionally. Be true to your story. Check out other covers for ideas, and see what catches your own eye. During the question period at the end of the panel, one attendee asked Ariana if we could expect a follow up to My Wattpad Love…I can happily report that yes, and epilogue is in the works! *squee*
Lunch break sent the orange wave into Manhattan, and the poor Dunkin Donuts on the adjacent corner probably didn’t know what hit it. I had the opportunity to try Papa Johns pizza for the first time, and fangirled as Lindsey, Jordan, Rachel, Gavin and Ali walked in not long after. I have to am proud I contained my squee, even when Lindsey gave me a little shoulder rub (carrying a camera and huge purse is hard work, people!) And of course I managed to ruin some game about clothes pegs on butts when I pointed out Jordan was sporting a little peg from her shirt. *sigh*
We returned with full bellies to panel 3, Industry Insiders, which found Lindsey Summers (@donotmicrowave), Taran Matharu (@taranmatharu), Adam from Turner productions, Viv (@adam_and_jane), Aron from Wattpad Studios (@aronishere), Annette from Sourcebooks and Ali (@fallzswimmer) taking the stage. The purpose of this panel was to bridge the gap from Wattpad to other ventures that writing can take us, and how some of these influential writers managed to navigate that journey. Of course, no two were the same. Taran tells his story of hitting a million reads in four months, being approached for interviews, and then the querying route of traditional writers. While Viv was scouted from her Wattpad account by a literary agent who was looking for new talent. Every panelist can attest that no two experiences will be the same, as no two writers are the same. Do not compare yourself or your journey to that of Ali, or Lindsey, because you are not them. But that does not mean you cannot have the same success. Adam pointed out that the glory of Wattpad is the fresh take and new ideas that Hollywood doesn’t seem to have. Traditional Hollywood has a filter, and this isn’t present on Wattpad. There are no limits, no boundaries, and the writers have the knack for writing what is wanted now rather than those in the industry no maybe don’t have their finger on the pulse of the audiences desire. Aron pointed out that the ability to post a book chapter by chapter is so different than reading a completed novel, as it holds the reader for longer. It makes them wait, almost fanatically if you have read some of the comments from these authors readers, and creates more desire than traditional publication. How do you keep their attention? Lindsey likes to end on cliffhangers, which may make her audience respond with ‘DJKSJDFLSKDJ’ comments, but you know they will be coming back for more. And of course, these incredible writers had awesome tips and comments just like the other panelists…such as “Write what you love. Because if you don’t love it, your readers wont either,” from the lovely Ali. When the questions moved on to how to get published, Taran had a simple beginning step…FINISH! Finish your manuscript, then set it aside for a while. Work on something else, and clear your mind. Then come back, and edit. Revise. Have someone else read it, and get true feedback, even if it is harsh. Make sure your work is the best it can be, before you think about querying agents and publishers. If it is messy, they will look away. They have thousands of queries every day, so don’t give them a reason not to consider yours. Once you are ready and have your work in the best possible shape, do your research. Look at your favorite authors, genres, who is repped by who. If you wrote romance, don’t query a horror agent. You need to put this work in, because please remember the industry is smaller than it seems. You need to make a good first impression with every query. Moving on to audience questions, Ali was asked when she felt like an author. Surprisingly, despite her Wattpad success, she admits that it wasn’t until she was published that she truly felt like an author. Like most of us, we have been told to go to college and get a ‘real job’. That writing is a hobby, and not a career. And while most of us will not achieve the success of those on this panel, that doesn’t mean you don’t have talent, and shouldn’t pursue your dreams. Do it, because if you don’t, you will regret it. And life is a long time to live wondering what if…
Moving forward to the fourth panel, we were introduced to some of the incredible people behind the forum that brought us all together. Both in that room, and online from all over the world. The Ask Wattpad Anything panel with the amazing Gavin (@theorangutan), Suzanne, Caitlin (@caitlinohanlon), Alessandra (@alessandra) and Aron (@aronishere). As any panel with the hilarious Gavin will start, humor set it off as Wattpad user extraordinaire Talia (@taliaarcher) asked the first question, prompting praise from the enamored Gavin, and a round of applause from the audience that have fallen in love with this user. For those of you who haven’t met this young lady, I feel for you. She is the epitome of what the Wattpad community is, both in her talent and her desire to promote the platform. She knows everyone, loves everyone, and it only takes a moment to fall under her spell. Her question asked them what the best part of working for Wattpad was, which is something I am certain we all wanted to know. While Suzanne admits working remotely does not give her the thrill of HQ, the passion of the team and the drive of every member drew her to the forum after stints with Google and Youtube. Alessandra, admitted fangirl trash, loves the fact that Wattpad HQ staff are, before anything else, Wattpaders. They fangirl over updates, with ‘flailing arms’ when their favorite stories are updated. The discussions around the office are questionable at best, but since the variety of works on Wattpad are so broad, it is probably the one place you wont get judged for discussing undercover mermaid pandas in public. When discussing covers, they admit that they do get attention. But, another perk of the forum is you are never stuck with the same thing permanently. You can change it up, trial and error, and try new things all the time. One audience question was about features, and how to make that list. You can either submit through the form, or it was noted that staff are always on the lookout for amazing stories to promote. Of course, an inevitable question from the audience was will there be any more North American Wattcon events in the near future. The cat seemed out of the bag, as Toronto was mentioned (something I am coordinating along with the Toronto Wattpad Crew), and Kelly mentioned the possibility of a Los Angeles convention some time next year. Now, I need to add that neither are confirmed, and both are simply in the proposal stage. So don’t hold us to these, but we are working hard to bring you more amazing events like this! The final question (before the audience swarmed the stage for their chance to talk to these awesome HQers), was what stories were memorable to stood out to the team. An awesome, but very difficult, question to answer. Suzanne mentioned A Life Wasted, a tragic tail of an imprisoned man whose story is told through his daughter. Gavin, the sci fi guru, mentioned a story about Elvis married to Hitler, further proving you really can find anything on Wattpad. Alessandra went back on her flail train, and while she couldn’t decide (or say) the story that she remembered most, she did encourage any One Direction fans to ask her for recommendations, as she is self admitted obsessed. Caitlin has become obsessed with Blue Man Group fic, while Aron still avoids any form of horror and is contemplating therapy from some of the reads, and also conversations that he has overheard.
Another break took over, finding the stage swarmed with audience members wanting to discuss favorites and interact with the people behind the scenes of our fav site. There was squeeing, hug tackles, signings from Imagines authors, Kelly Anne and Vic, give aways, free books, and swag. Oh, the swag. My poor little suitcase gained 15lbs (granted, so did I thanks to the endless food choices of Manhattan…damn you, New York) with all the awesome things I was able to bring home with me from this event. Wattpad gave every attendee a Wattpad #NYCwattcon mug and t-shirt, there were bookmarks, books from Kelly, Vic, Ali and more. So many things that brought Wattpad from your phone or computer into real life. Tangible objects that connect you to the people and forum you love. I had armfuls, and I am not even ashamed.
Coming back for the final panel, My Wattpad Story, we learned of how various members got started on the site. Gavin (@gavinhetherington), Rita (@rskovach), Erin (@elatimer), Lindsey (@red_assassin), and Tim (@Tim) rounded out this panel, providing insight into the various ways people have come to the site. Of course, Gavin started things off hilariously, with his quest and finding of love that had the audience in stitches. A self published author, he joined Wattpad in 2014, and stated that everything he wanted to be as a writer was embodied in Wattpad. Quite the honor, I have to admit. He pointed out that everyones journey is different, and one of his favorite parts was the interaction with other writers. Rita, part of the upcoming Once Upon Now anthology, already had success under her belt through the XOXO After Dark contest to win a contract with Pocket Star. She didn’t even believe if when Anna Todd announced her name as the winner, and admitted that it took several meetings with editors before she realized she was actually having a full book, and not just a limited print of her winning short story. But, it was real, and we can all run out and grabby hands our copy of her upcoming The Last Resort in March of 2017. Erin, part of the incredible Wattpad 4, went through a lot of traditional rejection before posting her story on Wattpad to rave success. Meeting her three best friends, the other members of the Wattapd 4, is her greatest achievement, and cant thank them enough for keeping her going. She also has exciting news which she couldn’t share just yet, but keep your ears and eyes open! Lindseys introduction to Wattpad was hilariously different, after learning of ‘The Orangutan’ from her roommate. A bald man named after a hairy beast, she admits she thought him intimidating, but couldn’t have been more wrong. Now, she is an Ambassador, made great friends, and has an amazing support system in the forum. Finally, we reach Tim, who most of us probably already know. He learned of Wattpad at a writing conference, lead by the squad worthy Leah. Here, he learned of a forum for people to read your entire book for free. Of course, he went a little overboard, uploading his book in one, long, 80,000+ word chapter. Mic drop. After realizing formatting, he went back and fixed his snaffoo, and has since made a lifelong friend in Rita, as well as landed a job with Wattpad itself (after quite a bit of resume submitting and harassing of HR staff to the point where they knew him by name). Now, he loves being a part of the community that changed so many lives, finding new stories and watching careers take off. All because of Wattpad.
The day ended with final closing comments from our lovely hosts, and give aways that had everyone grabby handsing every time a ticket was pulled. Alas, I won nothing, but came away meeting some of the writers and readers I have loved for years, and I hope, lifelong friends. The experience of this convention is one I will cherish forever, as I know we all will our own Wattpad experiences.
The entire New York experience was incredible, and I cant wait to go back. Whether it is for a Wattpad event, general touristing, or my own writing career, the city that never sleeps left a mark on me (no, not literally, although I do have a mysterious bruise on my arm) and I cant wait to live this experience all over again. Please scroll the #NYCWattcon tag on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and more to check out posts and photos from attendees for everything that I was unable to include in this article.
Watch out for more from my experience at #NYCWattcon, with an exclusive interview line with some of your Wattpad favorites, as well as give aways where you can win signed…yes SIGNED…copies of Vic James upcoming Gilded Cage.
And I cant end this without a final and heart felt thank you to Kelly Anne Blount and Vic James for putting so much work into making this day possible for all of us. You brought together a community from around the world, into one small room in New York, and made it feel like home. And for that, we can never thank you enough.
Until next time, Wattpaders…
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RN, writer, artist, blogger, 1D fangirl extraordinaire. Twitter: @unrealismbooks | Wattpad: @kristimcm | Ask.fm: kristimcm