GenreCon 2013 Roundup

Chris Andrews wearing a Pirate Bandanna

GenreCon BannerI spent the last weekend at GenreCon in sunny Brisbane. Brisbane is incredibly pleasant for such a big city – at least where I was staying at South Bank.

Clean and tidy, open and airy, they’ve put a lot of effort into making the riverfront appealing, including a rainforest walk, a free pool/beach, a massive open-air stage and a café and restaurant district.

GenreCon itself was held at the State Library, a modern building with a bookshop and café outside, and great facilities inside.

The event began with a cocktail party where I caught up with a bunch of friends including Mark and Luke Mercieca, Amanda Bridgeman, David Versace and Josh Melican, and met a whole heap more.

Dave Versace
David Versace channelling James Bond at the cocktail party.

I only wish it had gone on for twice as long.

We followed up the cocktail party with drinks at the official Con hotel, though I snuck off to bed a bit early as I didn’t want to risk a hangover.

Some people chose to risk it judging by the zombie stares and Twitter talk the next day.

Day 1 was full-on. It included:

  • fantastic keynote speakers
  • workshops
  • panels.

The highlight for me was the workshop on creating book trailers with Scott Baker.

Scott gave us lots of very useful information disguised as common-sense, straightforward guidelines, but in reality he made it clear that a professional-looking book trailer is really hard to pull together, and potentially quite expensive.

The other big highlight of the day was a great chat I had with the lovely Rochelle Fernandez from HarperVoyager.

Not being faced with the prospect of having to pitch a novel to her at any point, it was a relaxed, easy-going conversation. It felt like a catch-up with an old colleague.

People dressed up as pirates at the At the Cutlasses and Kimonos Banquet.
At the Cutlasses and Kimonos Banquet.

Saturday night featured the Cutlasses and Kimono’s Banquet, where Chuck Wendig’s speech: 25 Reasons Why Genre Is Awesome (or something to that effect), had the room in laughter and cheers. Brilliant speaker. He loves wombats of the steampunk variety, apparently.

He followed it up by answering 25 Questions, which produced just as many laughs.

The final day was the ‘interesting’ day.

It started with a ‘What the?’ moment.

I woke up well before the con started, and being slightly hung-over following the banquet and after-party, I figured I needed a little more sleep.

So I took it upon myself to roll over and get some.

At some point I started awake, and panicked. You would have too.

Scott Baker explaining information displayed on a slide.
Scott Baker explaining one of his slides.

There was less than ten minutes until the con started. I bolted for the shower, determined not to miss anything.

That was stupid, of course.

The hotel was a ten to fifteen minute walk from the con, and I still had to pack up and check out.

Regretfully, I decided to sacrifice the keynote speeches, get organised, and arrive late as if I’d intended to do so all along.

Naturally enough, being at a genre convention, I entered a Time Warp at that moment.

Time Warp you say? Seriously? Yeah, seriously.

Nothing else could possibly explain it, not even the fact that the room was fairly dark when I woke and my watch has hands but no numbers.

After checking out of the hotel, I was about halfway to the con when I decided to check my social media feeds on my phone.

My phone was clearly broken. The time read 6:56am. What the…?

I checked my watch. Same thing. I looked around. The streets were fairly quiet for what was supposed to be about 10am, and the sun oddly low in the sky.

Thanks to my own personal Time Warp, I’d been given the gift of several hours.

Stranger things have happened, like the time I fell ten metres and then swam to the edge of the pool without a single broken bone.

Ferris Wheel.
A photo I took on my early morning walk.

Taking the Time Warp in my stride, I did what every red-blooded Australian would do.

I picked up some coffee and banana bread, and went for a long walk along the river. I even took some photos on my phone.

I got to the library a good hour before the con started, too. Impressive, no? Just like I planned.

Despite that, I felt as if I’d already had a big day.

After downing another coffee I rested on a bench, my ‘Duff Beer’ hat over face, and nursed my Time Warp-muddled senses until Peter Ball let me in early (what a champion!).

Day two highlights: Lean Pub – a way to publish your work as a serial, or just publish them as an e-book. Looks pretty interesting. I’ll be playing with their site and maybe using it for a series of short stories and/or writing articles.

Chris Andrews wearing a Pirate Bandanna
Me at the Cutlasses and Kimono’s Banquet.

The other highlight was the Thinking Like a Pro panel with Valerie Parv, Keri Arthur and John Connolly. Always good to get the perspective of a pro.

Unfortunately I missed the final panel and The Great Debate as Qantas refused to hold my plane for me.

Okay, technically it’s their plane, but I’d hired a seat and paid for a wonderful dinner of three tiny biscuits and a microscopic tub of relish.

The lessons I took home from GenreCon were vastly superior and much more filling than the Qantas meal, and definitely worth the effort.

A big thank you to Meg Vann and Peter Ball and all the other Con Ninjas for putting on such a great, professional event. Cheers guys – rest up for a bit.

Read last year’s GenreCon roundup or check out some other reports from David Versace and J Michael Melican.

GenreCon 2012 – A Fantastic Convention

GenreCon banner

GenreCon Australia was one of the most enjoyable conventions I’ve ever attended. It was quite small as far as conventions go – and yet that was one of its strengths: it was a convention for writers, not fans. I’m also sure it will grow exponentially.

Upon arrival on the Friday afternoon I was greeted by Queensland Writers’ Centre CEO Meg Vann, who couldn’t have been more helpful or friendlier, and she even offered to introduce me about (as I was clearly there on my own). How great is that?

The cocktail party that night was one of those affairs that could have been awkward (being alone), so I sucked it up and said G’day a couple of blokes having a chat over a beer – and we got talking.

Me having a beer with Joe.Turns out that one of the guys I was chatting with was Joe Abercrombie. You know, bestselling fantasy author? Thank God I didn’t have a clue at the time – I’d never of had the guts to go up to him otherwise. Really. I tried to speak to Literary Agent Ginger Clark all weekend just to break the ice for my later pitch, and the closest I got was pointing her out to other people.

I have to say, Joe is bloody fantastic bloke. Casual, unassuming, all-round nice guy. He didn’t like XXXX beer though. Fair call – who wants to drink beer brewed by people who can’t even spell?

The next couple of days passed in a bit of a blur – workshops and panels on writing, mixed in with too much food and too little sleep.

The panels were pretty good. Ditto with the workshops, with Karen Miller’s a bit of a stand-out for me (she’s a very down-to-earth woman who knows her stuff). Karen had a couple of tips I’m sure to take advantage of.

The social highlight was the Pistols and Parisols banquet (though I’m still reeling that Joe Abercrombie actually came up to me on the Sunday and asked how my pitching session went).

Fantastic costumes at the banquet, and I met some more great people. I just wish I’d had the foresight to grab the camera or at least pull out my phone. I left fairly early – around 11pm or so – as I didn’t want to blow my pitching session with Ginger Clark the following day due to tiredness or a hangover.

Pfft! No chance of a hangover, but sleep eluded me for the second night running.

A fistful of coffees the next day got me going, and I was ready for my pitch late that afternoon.

Yeah, about that. I thought I was ready. Prepared, certainly. Ready? No.

All the preparation in the world can’t help you put on a good show when you get the sweats the instant you shake hands.

Yes – if I’d been a woman I’d have been ‘glowing’. Instead, it was more like that scene from Flying High… Epic fail.

After sitting down I managed to say I was pitching an epic fantasy, and that’s as far as I got in the ‘doing well’ stakes. Despite practicing my one-liner a thousand times, I couldn’t remember it.

Fortunately, I had it written down. Yay me!

So I tried to read it out. Tried really hard, too.

All I can say is that I don’t normally stammer. After a massive six words, Ginger interrupted me (for which I’m eternally grateful), and asked me: ‘Why isn’t this a YA instead of an epic fantasy?’ (My protagonist is a 16-year-old, which was about all I’d been able to stammer out.)

And this is where it pays to know your stuff. To be honest I hadn’t actually considered it, but I did know something about YA books.

My answer? ‘Because she’s 26 by then end of the second novel.”

She gave me a ‘fair enough’ look, and I moved on to stammering out the rest of the pitch.

Unble to read a single sentence without restarting it three times, I was pretty sure I’d blown it even after answering a couple of curly ones.

Yet, despite my dismal performance, she asked me to send the first fifty pages.

The moral of the story (as far as I can tell) is:

  1. I’m sane, and that appeared to have come across.
  2. I knew my stuff and was well prepared (despite my inability to articulate it coherently).
  3. (I suspect there was a 3, anyway) she felt sorry for me, but lets not go into that.

And that was GenreCon 2012 for me. Very seriously looking forward to GenreCon 2013.

See the photos.


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