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Musings on a sense of community in Aussie Con 4 & MWF, plus MWF Birthday Stories and THE WORST NEWS EVER TO HIT YA IN RECENT YEARS

So today I finally saw Michael Pryor at Aussie Con and he exclaimed my name and wrapped me up in a hug (is it just me or does everyone I see at lit events hug me? Maybe I am extra-huggable, as Shirley suggestedlol) (Also, don’t stop hugging me. I didn’t mean to comment that it was a bad thing; it’s just an observation. I like hugs. So keep hugging me!).

He also said he was making a point of trying to have some physical contact with everyone he mainly talks to via email, which I think is an excellent thing to do.

And I was so happy to see him too cuz I think the last time I saw him was at Kirsty’s launch for Vulture Gate.

As we chatted – only for a brief moment as a fan came up and I left Michael to sign her book – he commented that the atmosphere was different from The Melbourne Writers Festival.

And I agreed.

I don’t remember who said it, but I said to Michael that someone had mentioned that the barriers were down at Aussie Con.

As in, author’s aren’t on such the pedestal that they are on at MWF.

And I’m not explaining this very well, so let me try again.

At Aussie Con, authors walk freely around the convention like the punters. They come and watch session. They talk to you.

Michael said he was standing in the convention, just looking at the program, and three people came up to him, asking if he was lost or needed help or anything. THREE.

And I know that doesn’t happen at MWF as I stood in the one spot plenty of times trying to look casual (and probably failing), while secretly staring at some author.

Another thing at MWF: there are publicists everywhere. In the signing queue. Walking with the authors between venues. Escorting them to the green room. EVERYWHERE.

This, of course, puts up a further barrier between author and fan; whereas at Aussie Con all of that is removed.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

Me of all people put the authors up on a pedestal and act like a total fan-girl whenever I see one. Trust me, I do. Just ask Simmone Howell (biggest fan-girl ever!).

(Speaking of fan-girl, a huge WHAT THE HELL OMG moment – Shirley listing talking to me as one of her highlights of being in Melbourne?! Including all the awesome things she did/saw/panels she was on/meeting her publishers etc? OMG)

The thing is, it was kinda nice to have it this way around. It really created a sense of community. Intimacy. Closeness. Niceness.

I went to four sessions at Aussie Con today and let me tell you I was very impressed.

One of the ones I went to was on science fiction television and how it always seems to be cancelled after a few episodes.

The vibe in the room was like nothing else.

If there hadn’t been the speakers on the stage it would have just been like a bunch of mates, sitting in a pub, talking about television.

People were calling out comments and expressing their opinions left right and center. Yet it wasn’t annoying or disrespectful; it was adding to the conversation and the feel of community was wonderful.

Something else I noticed was in sessions, when people asked questions at the end, they weren’t the stock stand questions authors often get at places like MWF.

You know the type of questions:
“How do you get an agent?”
“How do you write a novel?”
“How long does it take to write a novel?”

It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. It was something else.

Another session I went to was on reviewing books. I was interested in going as I am a reviewer, and I wanted to hear how other reviewers approach reviewing.

Some notes:

  • One of the panelists theory about reviewing is to answer the question: is the book worth the money the reader will spend on it?
  • If you’ve reviewed more than one book, then you’ve started to build your own reviewer profile meaning that your readers will know your style and tastes
  • ‘Most of them [books] are self-published for a reason’ John Clune
  • Many books change between advanced copies and the final copy that hits stores; so plot points or errors that reviews mention might not be there in the end (FACT: Shirley and I discussed this very issue and I think from now on I’m going to state when I’ve got an ARC. Shirley said she had a similar issue where a reviewer had an ARC and commented in their review about something that was actually cut by the final published copy – yet the review still had this error mentioned)
  • There are two kinds of reviews: the ones that you read before you read the book, and the kind you read after you read the book
  • It reveals your lack of skill if you reveal spoilers
  • The point of reviewing is to introduce the book to potential readers and give them reasons to buy or not buy the book
  • You have to know that no matter how hard you try, you will bring your own baggage/thoughts/feelings/knowledge to the review
  • ‘Very few people do well with no rules’ – AMEN! They are talking about what sort of review is needed – more literary criticism or a plain review, but inclusive of word count, and what content is required. This is something I struggle with. What are authors and publishers looking for in a blog review? Do they want more craft items? Or how I identify with the book? And how long? I free-fall and muddle through, but I’d love to know.

After that, I went to another panel about writing your first novel.

Fantasy author Juliet Marillier had the following advice:
Empathy – walk in your character’s shoes
Passion – write what you feel passionate about
Imagination – so your novel isn’t like the 300000 other manuscripts on the slush pile
Craft – without good craft you won’t be an author: practice!

More writing advice:

  1. Start the book
  2. Finish the book
  3. Know when the edits are enough and let go of your baby!
  4. Be polite. The publishing industry is small. VERY small. Everyone talks!
  5. Don’t get too hung up on one thing; just write
  6. Blank page remedy: take a line from another author’s work, and use that as a starting point. Once you have a paragraph/page/however long, go back, delete the line and re-write

After I left Aussie Con, I went to The Melbourne Writers Festival because I was going to one of the last sessions:

25 Years of MWF: Birthday Stories

Join familiar festival faces as they discuss 25 years of the Melbourne Writers Festival, sharing scandals and successes, triumphs and tribulations, and looking forward to 25 more years of literary shenanigans.

Steve Grimwade (MWF Director) showed the picture he drew this morning in a session with China Mieville

It was really interesting and fascinating to listen to the stories told by Steve, Rosemary Cameron (former MWF director (Yeah, she’s the one who busted me in the kitchen at MWF HQ last year about writing about MWF on my blog!) and the Managing Director of Readings who started MWF, Mark RubboMWF was a place to ‘showcase the talen [of authors]‘.
Some other notes:
  • One of the only winter writing festivals in the world
  • General feelings is the Fed Square as a venue is less intimate that the Malthouse was
  • Everyone wants the new books and the new authors, thus why most of the guests have recently released a novel. On the same token, those authors who aren’t on the publicity trail don’t want to come! They want to stay home and write! (For me, this seems CRAZY as I would drop everything to appear at MWF. But maybe I’ll feel differently with a few books up my sleeve…) (I also like how flippantly I said that, as if that could happen!) (maybe one day… *dreams* *hopes*)
  • One success story from MWF was an author from America who was running a masterclass and was so impressed with the quality of stories the writers had written he took them back to America and published them in an anthology!
  • MWF has to re-define itself due to The Wheeler Centre. The Wheeler Centre offers a similar program as MWF, yet: Wheeler Centre is free and all year round
  • Umbrella events make (the admittedly control-freak) Steve nervous as he can’t control the quality of the event, and he wants to make sure all events labelled MWF are of high quality

A sad, sad day for MWF as it was its last!

I felt it quite appropriate that I ended MWF hearing all the stories.

I shall be posting my MWf wrap-up tomorrow so stay tuned!

And now, quickly before I go, here is THE WORST NEWS TO HIT YA IN RECENT YEARS.

Julia Lawrinson, acclaimed YA author, has announced on her blog that her YA WIP will most likely be her last YA!

Julia says,
It seems to me as if I’ve been writing this novel [the YA WIP] forever, and one of the things to come out of my editorial meeting was the decision to push back (to coin a phrase) the publication date to early 2012 (as my publisher said, it’s not exactly a stocking filler :)). The pressure of day job means that I can’t do the book justice otherwise, so I am both a bit sad and relieved to have some more time. And I think that unless something extraordinary happens (like Lotto), this will be my last YA novel, as I can’t continue to try to write such complicated, long work amidst the rest of my life: I have run out of steam, and have got to the point where effort far outstrips rewards. I am satisfied with the YA novels I’ve produced, and now need to be realistic about what is possible, given all the other constraints I have. So I want to go out with a bang – and to do it right.

This is, of course, outrageous, and I urge everyone to leave comments of support as to why Julia should continue.

I do, however, understand why she is feeling this way but I can’t bare a world without more Julia YA…

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