Sounding the retreat

Kangaroo at Eumarella Shores

Writing’s a solitary occupation, and it’s easy to lose sight of things when you’re the scribbling phantom locked away in the skull cave. It’s worth sticking your head out once in a while, not only to check in with the society you’re writing about, but to remind yourself that you’re not alone. All those poison pygmy darts — the doubts, the fears, the cliches that just won’t leave your prose alone — aren’t yours alone, and it’s refreshing to hear others going through the same trials.

Which is partly why I’ve just spent a month on the road, road-tripping with writerly pals from Adelaide to Melbourne in time for Worldcon, then flying north to my former home country for my Edge writers group annual retreat, and dipping by Sydney on the way home to schmooze with my stablemates at our agent’s annual seminar and banquet.

Hanging out with writers is fun. It bolsters confidence and stokes ambition, whether over evening meals or at convention panels.

Our retreat this year was at Eumarella Shores (pictures here), an amazing bushland retreat on the bank of a gorgeous lake, where our group was spread amongst some of the best cottages I’ve ever stayed in, convening for superbly catered lunch and dinner and group critique sessions (check out my piece on how to organise your own writing retreat). Sadly, both my beloved and I were suffering plague this year, so the wordage wasn’t great, but the camaraderie was priceless, especially with energetic and insightful mentors such as Rob Shearman and Jack Dann in attendance, and Sean Williams in the mix to boot.

It’s hard to come back to the cave after such shoulder rubbing, but here I am, still flu-addled and looking for words, clinging to the energy of my fellows — successes were marked at Sydney’s shindig, and they proved more than anything the value of perseverance and industry. Write, write, write! But don’t forget to take time to share the love!

Brisbane Madigan Mine signing

kirstyn reading from Scenes from the Second Storey at Aussiecon 4
Kirstyn and I will be at Brisbane’s Pulp Fiction in Edward St from noon on Wednesday (Sept 15) where she will be signing Madigan Mine. She also has stories in the anthologies Macabre and Scenes from the Second Storey, both launched at this month’s Aussiecon4 (the World Science Fiction Convention). Please do pop in to say hello if you are able :)

Aussiecon4 highs and lows, Voyager blasts off

Cherie, Kylie, Lindy and Amanda keep me company at the signing desk - a kaffee klatsch without the kaffee!

Aussiecon4, the 2010 Worldcon, is over, and I’m home snuffling and coughing with a dose of persistent pre-Worldcon flu, feeling totally knackered but yet energised as well.

This was my first Worldcon and it was thoroughly enjoyable, even with the flu.
Downsides were:

  • Sean Williams being too ill to attend.
  • Ellen Datlow having to leave early due to sickness in the family — all the more poignant for her Hugo win.
  • The Christchurch earthquake was also worrying, a relief that there were no casualties. The Kiwis are bidding to host Worldcon in 2020.
  • Not catching *anything* involving China Mieville.

The program was massive, spread across ground floor auditoriums and an array of rooms on the second floor of the convention and exhibition centre, and it just wasn’t possible to attend everything of interest, nor report everything here. What I did catch was generally informative and at times downright inspiring. I particularly enjoyed hearing Peter Brett (The Painted Man) speak of his “survivor’s guilt” after having his novel picked up while pals were still striving to get theirs on the shelf. I also took heart from Will Elliott’s passion and Fiona Macintosh’s work ethic.

I was chuffed to have people I didn’t know attend my reading and that, despite my hoarse flu voice, they stayed to the end, and was very grateful indeed to have company at the signing desk while the most engaging guest of honour Kim Stanley Robinson made the day for a very long line of fans indeed. His self-interview, complete with coat on-and-off, was a delight. Kyla Ward, who organised the horror stream in which I took part, proved exceptional as an organiser — she also masterminded the horror ball that I sadly failed to attend, though I heard gushing reports. I also really enjoyed talking vampires with a bunch of clued up and inquisitive teenagers and talking taboos with Richard Harland, Deborah Biancotti and Catherynne Valente.

UK writer Robert Shearman performed a most entertaining reading of a rather poignant story about a boy and his love of love songs, and Kirstyn’s reading of her story from the Scenes from the Second Storey collection (launched at the con) also drew a pleasing response.

The Hugo awards (full list of winners here) also proved an enjoyable affair, running smoothly and not overlong, with a feeling of camaraderie rather than competition, and absolutely nil ego. MC Garth Nix was, as always, personable and engaging. Lovely to see, amongst others, Aussie artist and con guest of honour Shaun Tan recognised, and to see the splendid movie Moon score a gong.

My appreciation for George RR Martin has also been cemented thanks to his wit and delightful chuckle. (Do read his Fevre Dream if you haven’t already: one of the best vampire books evah!)

At the end of the day, after the launches (yay Angela Slatter and Kaaron Warren’s double launch, complete with publisher Russell Farr in a kilt doing the honours; and the massive collection of Aussie horror in Macabre, amongst others) and parties and panels and awards (some well-earned Ditmars were given out — the full list is here), it was the people who made the convention, and it was amazing bumping into so many friends from throughout Australia and overseas.

Let’s do it again — but not till I’ve had a nap!

There are some pictures at my flickr site.

Voyager going global

Voyager’s 15th birthday party held in conjunction with Aussiecon prompted this (annotated) announcement of a new global (or is that Orbital?) approach to marketing its genre fiction:

“Eos Books, a US imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, will be rebranded as Harper Voyager, joining together with the celebrated Voyager imprints in Australia/New Zealand and the UK. The move is anticipated to create a global genre-fiction powerhouse.
“This move enables us to offer authors a strong global publishing platform when signing with HarperCollins – whether the acquiring editor is in New York, Sydney, or London,’ said Brian Murray, president and chief executive officer of HarperCollins Worldwide.
“Two authors, Karen Azinger and David Wellington (writing as David Chandler), have recently been signed and are expected to publish with Harper Voyager and Voyager for a worldwide debut. The Eos imprint will officially change to Harper Voyager starting with the January 2011 hardcover, trade, mass market, e-book, and audio publications.
“The Voyager/Harper Voyager editorial leaders are: executive editor Diana Gill in the US; editorial director Emma Coode in the UK (working with publishing director Jane Johnson); and associate publisher Stephanie Smith in Australia.”

Exciting and interesting stuff with an apparent focus on breaking down the regional publishing territories, or at least making more effort to spread product globally. It’ll be interesting to see the impact this has.