GenreCon 2012 recap – Like high school camp but without the curfew

GenreCon 2012 recap – Like high school camp but without the curfew

Some highlights from GenreCon 2012 at The Rydges, Parramatta. (Skip to the end if you want the bullet points.)

2012 GenreCon - genrecon.com.au
Source: GenreCon website

First, the disclaimer: I couldn’t be there for the entire weekend of GenreCon. And in hindsight I regret this so much, particularly that I missed out on a discussion of tentacle porn at the Friday night panel hosted by Rosie Courtney from Fangtastic Fiction, as well as some impromptu dancing by some Very Important Publishing People and a Debut Author Who Shall Not Be Named. In this day and age, for that not to be on YouTube is an utter travesty.

Anyway, I arrived just before the Pistols and Parasols Banquet, whereupon I claimed the best unreserved table and put my bag on the seat offering a free copy of Seven Night In A Rogue’s Bed by Anna Campbell. The banquet was a chance for me to catch up, reconnect and meet with book folk. I met Sarah Fairhall, commissioning editor for Destiny Romance, and we had a great chat about the imprint. Most of the attendees were writers or people who work in publishing, but as they’re all readers, too, I felt in very good company.

GenreCon - Kate, the masked editor
Kate, the masked editor
(Photo: Kat Mayo)

Kim Wilkins was the banquet MC and she did a fantastic job. I mean, I was really impressed. The format was a lot more informal that the conference dinners I’ve been to—it helped that this was not doubling up as an awards ceremony—but Kim was polished and witty and just delightful, really. She interviewed Escape Publishing acquisitions editor Kate Cuthbert—whose costume was fab, by the way—and Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

Sarah also did a ‘live cover snark’ of Australian-themed covers, and if you think you’ve seen hideous covers, I think she went all out for GenreCon. Here are the best of the best (these are all safe for work, but there are worse things than NSFW covers—trust me):

Fang Tango by Astrid CooperExecutive Koala (DVD)Pride and Platypus: Mr Darcy's Dreadful Secret by Jane Austen and Vera Nazarian

(And because some/many of you are perverse, I’ve linked the images to Amazon. Go on, I dare you!) An additional note to any authors who are thinking of writing about koala shifters: the chlamydia might be a deal breaker.

On Sunday, I attended the Author Platform 101 workshop with Sarah Wendell, which was so oversubscribed that extra chairs had to be brought in to the room—and even then people were standing. For the most part, the content was not new to me, so I was more interested in observing the audience’s reactions to the presentation. From what I saw and heard, I think perhaps more workshops like this are needed at writer conferences. There was a question asked around the use of multiple pseudonyms, which was particularly interesting. Sarah basically said that the only time it would really make sense is for authors who write erotica and young adult fiction. Otherwise, readers are smart enough to figure it out.

After lunch, I listed to the Not Just A Narrator panel moderated by Kate and featuring Sarah, librarian Vassiliki Veros and horror writer Kristyn McDermott. The discussion was less structured but the questions from the audience led to some very interesting topics. Brisbane Writers’ Festival director Kate Eltham asked how festivals might attract online communities, and another audience member had an anecdote about being told off by a random stranger at the Sydney Writers’ Festival for using her phone as she was live tweeting the session. Someone ranked the major festivals in order of snobbiness and Sydney was at the top of the list. This surprised me not at all.

The second afternoon session I attended was called Three Stages of the Writer’s Career. It was chaired by Kate Eltham and featured three authors at different stages of their careers: debut author Daniel O’Malley, romantic suspense author Helene Young, who has had a number of books published, and established author Joe Abercrombie. Helene didn’t get to speak as much as the two male authors, which was a shame. I said it on Twitter and I’ll say it again here: Daniel O’Malley is gold as a panellist. He was funny and self-deprecating and he said wonderful things like: ‘You want to become a habit rather than just a delight.’ (This was to do with trying to figure out what to write next.) Joe Abercrombie was also witty, very humble and so very cool.

I also had a chance to chat with various people over the weekend. Some items of interest for romance readers and authors:

  • The number of pitches was…not high
  • Destiny and Escape are desperate for great historical romances
  • Vassiliki quoted a statistic that libraries outnumber Maccas outlets in NSW.
  • All the writers festivals in major cities are now headed by women. Keep an eye on the Brisbane Writers’ Festival. It might not happen in 2013 (the program is pretty much done) but everything I heard from festival director Kate Eltham points to a genre-friendly, social media savvy future. We had a discussion around potential guest authors—all I can say is that she’s very ambitious and that’s good for romance readers!—and she seemed very keen to bridge the divide between literary festivals and online communities.
  • At the Author Platform 101 workshop, Christina Brooke tried to talk about the pseudonym issue from the publishing side, but the discussion moved on. If I understood correctly, what she was trying to say is that if an author publishes a couple of books with a publisher and the sales weren’t exceptional, then a new publisher might prefer not to be associated with that pseudonym. So of course I wonder if that’s what happened with her Christine Wells pseudonym. Whatever the case, as a reader I still think it’s unnecessary unless the first pseudonym attracted negative, career-limiting criticism. Name changes lead to reader confusion. (Or maybe it’s just me.)
  • Helene Young mentioned that her third book wasn’t picked up by her first publisher (Hachette); when she moved to Penguin, they picked up the third book in her loosely connected series and it’ll be out next year. Given that both of her Hachette books, Border Watch/Wings of Fear and Shattered Sky, won the ARRA Readers Award and the R*BY Award for their respective years*, I have to wonder if the way Australian publishers are essentially redefining romantic suspense is working out for authors. (For the non-romance readers: romantic suspense is usually heavier on the romance than the books published by Australian publishers.) *It should be noted that she had already changed publishers by the time the awards for Shattered Sky were announced.

I missed the great debate between plotters and pantsers, but if you were on Twitter you’d have heard how funny and boisterous the debaters were, and I think this was the perfect note on which to end the conference. The fact that it was only a small event added to the intimate, joyful atmosphere because attendees had lots of opportunities to meet new people and actually remember them.

Thanks to the conference organisers, Meg Vann and Peter Ball, and the Queensland Writers’ Centre for putting together a great program. GenreCon will be on again next year in Brisbane. I know many writers will have already started saving up for it!

Photos from the Pistols and Parasols Banquet are up on our Flickr page.

4 comments

  1. Kat says:

    Marg, I’d say there’s a good chance it’ll be in Melbourne. Also, look out for the Melbourne Writers’ Festival—maybe not next year, but the year after when Lisa Dempster has a chance to stamp her mark on the program.

What do you think?