— Robert G Cook (@robgcook) November 1, 2015
Last weekend I had my first experience of GenreCon, a biennial, three-day conference for writers and writing professionals, held in Brisbane. GenreCon is an initiative of the Queensland Writers Centre and The Australian Writers Marketplace, but the brains and heart behind it belong to sci-fi and fantasy writer Peter Ball.
Peter used his opening remarks at GenreCon to emphasise the underlying philosophy behind the conference, namely, ‘Good things happen when writers talk to each other.’ In his post-GenreCon blog post, he shared what he called ‘the other half of that philosophy’, i.e. ‘Better things happen when writers help one another.’
From what I experienced, GenreCon totally lives up to that philosophy. Though ostensibly there a guest, one of two crime writers in residence, together with my friend Sulari Gentill, I went home feeling like I had two days of intensive and inspiring professional development.
I wanted to highlight two aspects of the weekend. First, I was blown away by the collegiality of the conference among both presenters and guests. In person and on social media, people were affirming and encouraging. Feedback on sessions was virtually instantaneous; and as a panellist, it was hugely helpful to know what resonated with the audience.
I was impressed and inspired by fellow headlining guests. Award-winning author and professional puppeteer Mary Robinette Kowal was gracious, generous and practical with her advice, not to mention hilarious; and I’ve dined out on having met someone who once played Oscar the Grouch’s right-hand on Sesame Street. CS Pacat‘s sartorial elegance was matched by the eloquence of her speech and her razor-sharp intellect. Marianne de Pierres whet my appetite for fem-punk, including her own WIP about time-travelling feminists aiming to change history in women’s favour. The immensely entertaining Kylie Scott mixed philosophy and romance, while Kaaron Warren provided riveting and generous insights into her creative process. Sulari Gentill was her usual erudite and entertaining self; I seem to take away new insights each time we meet.
And it hadn’t actually occurred to me until I saw this that we were an all-female ‘panel of awesome’!
The other thing I wanted to mention was the practicality of writers supporting writers. Peter Ball notes in his post-GenreCon wrap up:
Talent and hard work will get you a long way in writing, but there is often a staggering correlation between writers who are successful and writers who possess that innate understanding that helping those around them, possessing a generosity of spirit when it comes to their experience and knowledge, is an essential part of the writers toolbox. They’re the people who inspire a spirit of generosity in others, so that they’re [sic.] name comes to mind when someone like me says so, I’m looking for a person who can do X…
And Peter has written eloquently on the how-to of networking or, as he calls it, ‘helping out your peeps’.
I want to add the importance of recommending the work of other writers when asked — on a panel, in an interview, even in conversation. There was a moment at GenreCon when panellists were asked to recommend authors who wrote layered characters. Another question asked for examples of heartbreaking stories. In both cases, the panellists drew a blank. I’m not blaming them: it’s easy to get caught on the spot, especially when caffeine reserves are low! But I was reminded of the importance of putting thought into this in advance, coming prepared to events with a mental list of other writers to recommend.
Asked to name other authors who write layered characters, panellists hesitate. Why? Here’s the moment for shout out to fellow authors #GCoz
— Angela Savage (@angsavage) November 1, 2015
I suggested on the final panel that such a list focus on Australian writers and writers who are under-represented, though that’s obviously a matter of personal choice. But I do feel passionately about seizing opportunities when they arise to draw attention to writers whose work, for reasons that have nothing to do with merit, may fall beneath the radar.
End of rant.
Sincere thanks to Peter Ball and his splendid team for making GenreCon such a wonderful experience. I will be conspiring to make it a regular feature on my festival calendar.