So, I’ll be keeping a running post of my experiences at GenreCon this weekend, just adding bits as the muse takes me (and time permits).
10/10/2013 – travel
I flew in last night (Thursday) and made my way to the hotel. Entirely predictably, they had lost my reservation so my first 1/2 hour was spent standing at the check in counter while a variety of people tried to work out what had went wrong. In the end they gave me an upgraded room for the convention price, so I can’t complain too much. My room looks out over the river, it is all very nice.
11/10/2013 – lunchtime
I attending the Grammar Crash Course workshop with Chris Lynch this morning after taking a nice walk along the river. The workshop was good – my command of the English language is OK, but I went to school at that period in the 70s and 80s where you didn’t actually have the rules of grammar drilled into you, so I don’t tend to get far past the “verbs are doing words” stage when asked to name the components of language. Refreshers are always welcome.
The workshop was good, lots of practical exercises designed to make you really think about language. Met some nice people too – all very pleasant.
Now eating lunch before going to officially “check in” to the convention (they didn’t have my name badge ready earlier). Then I have an afternoon of writing planned before going along to the opening ceremony later this evening.
11/10/2013 – opening ceremony
The opening ceremony was a great chance to catch up with some people I’ve met at previous conferences, as well as some new people. The formal part of the ceremony was short, but drinking and chatting continued late into the evening. A good start to the conference.
12/10/2013 – morning tea
After being a few minutes late to the first session (a plenary session titled The Power of Genre Fiction with keynote presentations by Kathryn Fox, John Birmingham and Anne Gracie) all talking about different aspects of community and genre fiction. I found Birmingham’s presentation resonated most with me (he was reflecting on his accidental fall into speculative fiction), but all three speakers had powerful personal experiences to draw on. I think I said this last year, but I remain impressed by the strong community and business savvy of the romance writing community. I wish the speculative fiction had a similarly coordinated arrangement!
Next was morning tea. I think GenreCon is very clever to build food into the mechanics of the convention. It keeps everyone together through the breaks and keeps a certain momentum to the convention. In fact I was having such interesting conversations that I was late leaving, only to find that the workshop I wanted to attend (on character arcs) was popular enough to be “sold out”. The other two workshops (essentially public speaking and book trailers) looked OK, but are far enough from my current development needs that I’ve decided to go and have a cup of tea at the cafe downstairs, add this entry to the blog and get some writing in.
12/10/2013 – afternoon
Afternoon sessions were very interesting. Great panel discussion titled Understanding Other Genres (and stealing the best bits) with Patrick O’Duffy, Sandy Curtis, Kate Cuthburt and Kim Wilkins. In depth discussion of cross over/hybrid stories and how they get marketed/classified. Seemed to be general agreement that “centre” of a genre gets you better sales, but that the centre is a moving target.
Followed by a panel called The Juggling Act with Chuck Wendig, Gracie McGregor and Lisa L. Hannett discussing the challenges of balancing the demands of writing with all other aspects of life. This panel, and a few other comments through the con, have given me a lot of food for thought re: my own writing schedule. I have not been prioritising writing as much as I’d like in the last 12 months – there have been a variety of work and family issues that have required more of my focus. But I would like to spend more time with my writing, and I think I’m going to need to make some more radical changes to my schedule if I’m going to achieve that.
Last for the afternoon was an interview with Irish crime writer John Connolly. I’m not really familiar with John’s work, but he is a very interesting speaker and had some great reflections on what it takes to be a full time writer. One of his strongest points was related to the need to finish everything you start, even if it is crap. This made me somewhat guilty about my novel manuscript was has lain unloved and only 2/3rds done at the bottom of my laptop for over a year now. I think it is about time I dragged it out into the light of day again.
12/10/2013 – evening
This year I went to the convention banquet, titled Cutlasses and Kimonos. I did not get dressed up, but there were many spectacular costumes to be seen on display (I was by far in the minority). Had a great evening chatting with some very cool and interesting people (hi Chris, Jess, Alison and Alexander), where much wine was consumed (included pirate raids launched on other tables as the alcohol supplies dwindled) and I heard about some great projects people are undertaking. It is inspiring to listen to great writers talk about their craft, I had a good time.
One of the international guests of honour, Chuck Wendig, did a very funny speech discussing 25 reasons why he loves genre fiction, and then there was an excellent Q&A with Wendig afterwards (including the best question I’ve heard in a long time – and I paraphrase: “Chuck, writers use a variety of tools in their craft. Which writer do you think is the biggest tool in the industry?”)
I did flag a little before everyone else though, so headed off to bed not long after the party moved downstairs to the bar.
13/10/2013 – morning
Day started with a great plenary session on the Future of Genre Fiction with Peter Armstrong, Alex Adsett and Anita Heiss. All three were very good. Armstrong gave some interesting historical context around the use of serialisation in publishing in the 1800s, and the opportunities that some of the recent changes in electronic publishing provided to revive the art. He was (minority) spruiking his own technology platform, but he kept the sales pitch to an absolute minimum and there was a lot of food for thought.
Adsett talked a lot about contracts and how conditions are changing in the industry. I went to her workshop on contracts which expanded on the theme, so more on that later.
Anita Heiss talked about her own journey and how she essentially created her own sub-genre (“Koori Chic Lit”). Very inspiring stuff.
Alex Adsett’s workshop on contracts and copyright was very informative. Some of the detail I’d seen last year at her presentation, however it was great to get a reminder and also see how things are solidifying in the digital publishing space. I remain impressed with Adsett – she obviously has a passion for genre and seems to be establishing herself as an agent to watch in our space. Great focus on things like reversion of rights clauses in contracts and going into contracts with your eyes open, even if you don’t feel in a position to negotiate. Seems like a good person to have in your corner.
13/10/2013 – afternoon
My last two panels for the convention were Thinking Like a Pro (Aimee Lindorf, John Connolly, Valerie Parv and Keri Arthur) and Uncommon Apprenticeships (Meg Vann, Lea Scott, Siboney Duff and Kim Wilkins). Both dealt with issues of how to approach the business of writing, including the participants journeys to publication. Thinking Like a Pro had three very well established authors who had made writing their full time job. Uncommon Apprenticeships panel members were not full time writers, but all very well established, and focused on different support mechanisms available to writers (grants etc) as well as individual journeys.
Once again I really enjoyed GenreCon. While spec fic conventions are great in a lot of ways, I don’t always come back recharged and re-enthused for my writing. The fan element of those events, while great, don’t generally inspire me to write. Both this and last year’s GenreCon, with their focus more on the professional side of the writing game, have recharged my batteries. I also find that I meet all kinds of really interesting people working on some really cool stuff, which is inspiring in itself.
I’m not sure when the next GenreCon will be, but I’ll be lining up to get my tickets pretty early.