GenreCon 2015

Late last year I attended GenreCon 2015, held this time in sunny Brisbane. Once again an excellent convention.

GenreCon is a convention for people in the writing game, rather than a fan convention. It focuses on all kinds of genre, but primarily crime, romance and speculative fiction, although I suspect any writer would get a lot out of the convention.

I certainly get a lot out of GenreCon. This is the third time I’ve been along, and each time I find it a recharging experience. It is great to hear from various interesting writers, editors and publishers, and get a sense of what is going on in the writing community more broadly. Because the focus of the convention is on the professional side of the business, it has a very different vibe to the various fan run speculative fiction conferences around the country. Obviously the sessions in the convention are all focused on different aspects of the writing craft, but this also impacts everything from the type of people who attend through to the conversations that go on in the breaks.

The administration of the convention is great. The registration process is smooth, and everything seemed to run seamlessly over the weekend. Being fully catered keeps everyone in the same place, which means you’re more likely to bump into people and have various discussions. The only small glitch for me this time was my own fault – I completely missed the email that came out asking people to register for some of the workshops. There were a couple I would have really liked to do (especially the workshop on editing/polishing your fiction by Angela Slatter), but by the time I arrived in Brisbane they were all booked out. So, tip for young players – always make sure you register for workshops well in advance!

I got a chance to catch up with quite a few people over the weekend, which was fantastic. Special shout out to Geneve, James and the gang, who entertained me through many breaks. Rivqa and the Sydney based crew were all doing some fantastic work – look forward to catching up more through the year. And there were quite a few speculative fiction authors who I’ve seen at other conventions (e.g. Tansy Rayner Roberts and Alan Baxter) who it was good to touch base with briefly. I always attend conventions thinking that I’m going to end up sitting in the corner by myself the whole time, and there always end up being so many interesting people to talk to!

I had one particularly interesting conversation with Carmen Jenner, a powerhouse indie author in the romance genre. Carmen had some fascinating insights into what makes indie authors successful, and I learnt a lot from our conversation. This illustrates to me the power of a convention that reaches to a broad range of genres – you can get a lot from the different perspectives out there.

All the sessions I attended had a lot of value, sometimes with specific advice, sometimes more general interest. I really enjoyed a plenary session that Kaaron Warren ran on some research she’d done as a part of a research fellowship she’d won in Canberra (intriguingly titled The Prime Minister and the Granny Killer).  The banquet was also a lot of fun, interesting conversation and Tansy Rayner Roberts did a great job interviewing the international guest of honour Mary Robinette Kowal (who even put on a puppet show)!

One observation was that in previous years there seemed to be greater representation from publishers, editors and agents on the various panels. This convention was much more focused on writers, and I missed the broader industry feel of the previous conventions.

So, an excellent conference all around. I returned to Sydney with a bit of a boost to my writing batteries. If you get a chance to attend any future GenreCons I highly recommend it – one of the best writing conferences in Australia.

Editors note 12/1/16: this article was supposed to publish on Sunday 10th January with the miracle of scheduling. The scheduling didn’t work! I promise to build in an appropriate checking process to the publishing schedule from now on.

GenreCon 2013 – a running post

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.

More later!

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.


So, anyone else going to GenreCon this weekend?

I’m heading up to sunny Brisbane this weekend to GenreCon. “What is GenreCon?” I hear you ask. And I quote from their website:

GenreCon is a three-day convention for Australian fans and professionals working within the fields of romance, mystery, science fiction, crime, fantasy, horror, thrillers, and more. One part party, one part celebration, one part professional development: GenreCon is the place to be if you’re an aspiring or established writer with a penchant for the types of fiction that get relegated to their own corner of the bookstore.

I believe they’ve just sold out of tickets, so last minute attendance is no longer possible. But if you happen to be also attending and you see me around, make sure you say hi. And if you’re reading this from Brisbane, please add comments suggesting fun things a heat intolerant southerner can get up to in your fair city.


GenreCon 2013 – now taking registrations

Regular readers might recall that I attended, and enjoyed very much, GenreCon 2012 late last year. Well, this year it is happening again. GenreCon Australia 2013 will be held in Brisbane in early October.

GenreCon is a more professionally oriented convention aimed more at writers, editors, publishers rather than fans. Last year’s program was excellent – filled with all manner of useful information and interesting speakers.

The organisers have just announced some initial details including the date (11 October through 13 October) and the two initial guests of honour, Chuck Wendig and Anita Heiss.

Registrations are now open and the first 50 will cost only $190. So if you are based in Brisbane or can get there, I highly recommend attending.

GenreCon 2012 – Sydney (2nd – 4th November 2012)

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to attend the inaugural GenreCon in Sydney. This is only the second convention I’ve attended, the first being this years SF National Convention Continuum 8 (see my earlier series of blog posts for a blow by blow description of my fun and games). There was a remarkably different tone in this event, which was aimed at writing professionals (writers, editors, publishers, book sellers etc). The fan elements of Continuum gave a good community feel, but I must admit that at my stage of writing I think that the GenreCon program was probably better suited to my needs.

The program for GenreCon can be found here.

Unfortunately work kept me away from the opening night drinks on Friday 2nd November and late night panel discussion, although I’m told they went well. I showed up bright and shiny on the Saturday morning. The conference “kit” included a free book (always a good way to start off the morning) and before I knew it I was sitting in the main room waiting for the first keynote speech of the day.

Meg Vann (incoming CEO of the Queensland Writer’s Centre) opened proceedings with an upbeat description of the state of genre fiction and the process by which GenreCon had come together. She was extremely energetic. I personally would have needed a much stronger cup of tea to match those energy levels after my 2 hour public transport trip to reach the wilds of Parramatta. She turned over to Kate Eltham (the outgoing CEO of the QWC) who made some thoughtful comments on the state of the industry, including the concept that the current changes in markets more reflect the move from manuscript scarcity to plenty, rather than any particular technology issue.

The opening address was followed by a community showcase by the Romance Writers of Australia. While I don’t write in the romance genre, I have heard a lot of good things about the professional nature of the RWA. The talk certainly bore this out, it is clear that they provide their members with significant support. It is a shame that the broader speculative fiction genre doesn’t have a similar professional association (I did join the Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Association, but it seems to have vanished without a trace, and my joining fee with it).

Following morning tea, I attended a workshop entitled Kicking Off Your Writing Career by Peter M Ball (one of the conference organisers and a well known speculative fiction author) and Alex Adsett, a copyright and writing contract specialist. This was an excellent session, worth the conference price of admission by itself. Ball spoke articulately about the need to think of your writing career as a business, applying some of the planning techniques that I’m familiar with from my day job into the writing game. It was very thought provoking.

I enjoy my day job, and my goals with writing have never been to quit and have writing as my only profession. However, I have had the impression previously that if you’re not aiming to be a full time writer, some people feel you are not taking your writing seriously enough. Ball’s talk was an excellent antidote to that kind of thinking. His own goals were clearly articulated and combined his desire to seriously experiment with genre forms with the idea that writing would only ever be a part time gig for him (by design). Very interesting.

Adsett’s part of the session focused on copyright and various tips and traps for young players that come from assigning rights for your work. It was a very thought provoking discussion. Sadly I’ve not needed to delve into the wonderful world of writing contracts, but it did make me reflect on the kinds of things I’ll need to keep in mind if my work ever does move to that stage.

After this session we moved through to lunch. I might pause at this point and say this GenreCon was much more like the kind of conferences I would normally attend for work than Continuum 8 was. The morning tea/lunch/afternoon tea breaks were communal – by providing food in a common area it pushed people to mingle more. I found it easier to chat to people than at Continuum 8, perhaps a feature of the conference being relatively new and incorporating quite a few different genres (i.e. less “pre-established” groups of people). I’m still not entirely comfortable breaking into conversations, but the conference felt much more designed to encourage you to talk to new people.

So as a result of this communal eating arrangement I shared lunch with the writing power-couple Jason Nahrung and Kirstyn McDermott, as well as new acquaintance Chris McMahon. Jason and Kirstyn both have books coming out early next year through the relatively new publisher Xoum and it was exciting to hear about their engagement in the marketing and publishing of their books. I’m eagerly waiting to read both books (Blood and Dust by Jason and Perfections by Kirstyn). In conversation with Chris I realised that I had read and enjoyed some of his short fiction, most recently his story in the excellent anthology Anywhere But Earth edited by Keith Stevenson. A very enjoyable lunch where I had less to contribute, but had an excellent time listening.

In the afternoon there were three streams of panel discussions running. First up I attended What Writers Get Wrong chaired by Aimee Lindorff and featuring Simon Higgins, PM Newton and Charlotte Nash Stewart. The discussion focused on medical and crime related fiction (not my usual writing), but it was good to hear people with expertise talking about where fiction writing diverges (jarringly) from reality. Everyone always has problems with how their occupation is depicted in stories. What I took away from the discussion was that the amount of research required to give your work verisimilitude when dealing with modern occupations is large and perhaps beyond my attention span. I may have to stick with genres that allow me to make up occupations.

The second session of the afternoon was After the First Draft chaired by Irina Dunn and featuring Jodi Cleghorn, Sarah JH Fletcher and Bernadette Foley. This discussion focused on the rewriting portion of the writing experience, including the use of beta readers and how to keep an editor on side. There were some excellent suggestions for books to read to help make your work as polished as possible. I am getting close to the point where I’ll want to start seriously polishing some long and short fiction, so it was a timely discussion for me.

There were a lot of parallel sessions I would have loved to attend, as this was true of most of the GenreCon program.

Just before afternoon tea, the community showcase was for Conflux – the national speculative fiction convention for 2013. It was a great showcase which encouraged me to sign up for the convention, which is held in Canberra around Anzac Day next year.

After afternoon tea (where I caught up with Lynda R Young – a much more developed than me author who is excitingly on the edge of publishing in an anthology and has some advanced manuscripts just waiting to find a home), the last session of the day was the international author guest Joe Abercrombie in conversation with Jason Nahrung. I’ve read and enjoyed several of Abercrombie’s books, which I tend to think of as epic fantasy for adults – very gritty with flawed characters. I’ve drifted a little away from epic fantasy over the years, but Abercrombie’s work appeals in a way that shiny hero fantasy just doesn’t anymore. The interview was excellent – Jason had done his homework and kept the conversation moving smoothly. Abercrombie was funny and self deprecating and gave some interesting insight into his own writing journey as well as some good thoughts on what the modern writing and publishing scene looks like.

After the last session finished up, I stayed behind and had a great series of conversations. I don’t know that I added any stunning insights to any of these discussions, but is was fantastic listening to people in the industry talk and being able to ask questions. In particular I thought Jodi Cleghorn had some great thoughts on the current online writing community scene and how it could be improved. I hadn’t signed up for the banquet (always difficult to know whether to sign up for something like that when you could be sitting on your own in the corner) but there were a few people that similarly hadn’t booked in, so a group of us went for dinner at a local Indian restaurant. It was interesting and varied conversation, where I heard everything from the unorthodox way that Wollongong based author Alan Baxter used to prepare for rugby games in his youth through to the fact that author Martin Livings was launching his new collection Living with the Dead at the convention the next day. Good times.

Unfortunately, I had another event on Sunday which limited how much of the convention I could attend. I made it over for the first session of the day, a keynote talk by Curtis Brown agent Ginger Clark who was over from the US as the other international guest of the convention. It was a fascinating discussion about the state of the publishing industry in particular in the US, UK and Australia (a bit depressing at times, but still very interesting). I think if I was trying to make my writing a full time career it would have been even more depressing – things seem a bit dire at the moment. Clark also gave some insights into the changing role of the agent, the impact of the rise of self publishing, the changing nature of writing contracts and the difficulties of getting publishers to focus on mid list authors. She also spoke about the importance of understanding contracts and which rights you have sold or retained.

The community partner session before morning tea was by Sisters in Crime, which sounds like an extremely supportive and successful organisation made up primarily of women either writing or reading crime.

I had to leave after morning tea, so I missed the workshop (would have gone to Get Your Characters Moving with Karen Miller) and the afternoon panel discussions (absolutely spoiled for choice here – possibly would have attended Practical Worldbuilding and Text/Sub-Text but would have loved to attend several others as well). I also missed the Great Debate: Plotters vs Pansters which was by all account hilarious.

All in all this was an excellent convention. I understand they will run it again next year, this time in Brisbane. If I can at all make it up there I will be looking to attend (hopefully with some slightly more advanced writing under my belt next time!). If you attended I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments or any musings on conventions in general.

GenreCon attendance

GenreCon is a new convention being held in Sydney on the 3rd and 4th of November 2012 (with an opening night cocktail party on the evening of the 2nd November). According to their blurb “GenreCon is a three-day convention for Australian fans and professionals working within the fields of romance, mystery, science fiction, crime, fantasy, horror, thrillers, and more. One part party, one part celebration, one part professional development: GenreCon is the place to be if you’re an aspiring or established writer with a penchant for the types of fiction that get relegated to their own corner of the bookstore.

The program for the weekend has been released and makes for interesting reading. There is a strong professional focus, with sessions designed for writers, general industry awareness and the business of writing.

I’ll be attending at least on the 3rd (competing commitments will drag me away for most of the 4th). If you’re planning to attend let me know by commenting below or contacting me directly – would love to meet up with those of you attending face to face!

A convention covering speculative fiction that is actually based in Sydney – very exciting!


Of course, it turns out that there is another writing event on Saturday 3rd November, the Emerging Writers’ Festival Roadshow being run at the NSW Writers Centre.  Would have liked to attend both!