Conflux 8 Round Up

(…or how I survived my first Con as participant by losing my car)

The Preamble

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I lost the carpark my car was parked in at the Canberra Centre the Friday night of Conflux and looking back it was the best thing that could possibly have happened.

In weather more befitting of penguins than humans, I walked through the middle of Canberra with my parking docket in one hand and my umbrella in the other, having left dinner early to ‘get in an early night’. I wandered lost round what seemed like block after block after block of identical shops, thwarted by locked doors, at later junctures there no shops and a bleak post-industrialism that appeared totally out of place in the centre of Canberra and at the end I was mocked by carparks that looked remarkably like the one across from where my car was parked, but weren’t.

After an hour of this I was cold, wet and ready to totally go to pieces. I started to believe someone was toying with me, shifting streets and urban landscapes just to get a rise out of me.

I had been worried all week about moving out of my comfort zone – but honestly, this was ridiculous! But I was determined to keep it together (even if I kept having flashes of ringing Alan Baxter to help me come find my car, through a torrent of tears and how that would make me feel better in the short term).

In the end, I turned a corner and there was the carpark I recognised, the dead end street and the ramp down into the carpark where my car was parked. And yes, when I went down into the bowels of the shopping centre, my car was gratefully exactly where I had parked it (unlike the bloody carpark!)

The Panels

After that… after the sinking awful fear of being stuck in the city, cold, wet, car-less, my family back in the hotel and me with a rapidly diminishing phone battery, stepping up to sit on my first panel was a breeze. After all, it was warm, I was dry, I had my favourite Galifrey t-shirt on, I knew which room I was due in and was sharing the panel with two of the loveliest and generous souls in spec-fic: Nicole Murphy and Tracey O’Hara. Oh, and on top of that, we were talking romance, sex and the apocalypse. And what a discussion it was!

Romance writers of the apocalypse
L-R Tracey O’Hara, Nicole R Murphy and moi
~Courtesy of Lily Mulholland

Then it was onto a lively discussion of trends in post-apocalyptic fiction with Cat Sparks (chair extraorindaire!), Gillian Pollack and Claire McKenna where I only had one moment of not knowing how the hell to answer one of Cat’s questions.

Sunday I was back to talk about indie publishing with Keith Stevenson (as chair), Keri Arthur, Simon Petrie and Bill Congreve. It was amazing to see just how wide and deep indie publishing is. One size fits all is definitely not a description of indie publishing here in Australia. To sit on a panel with the likes of Keith and Bill was a complete honour. For eMergent to be counted among the spec-fic small press here in Australia.

Which brings me to…

The Book Launch

This was only marginally less nerve wracking than losing the car. I say this for a number of reasons:

1. we were collectively launching five books in one hour – something everyone was pretty sure was a first.

2. And, we were largely playing it by ear with the brilliant Jack Dann leading as MC, huddled near the front counter throwing ideas on how to market, present and entertain on the ground, in the bookstore, minutes before we had to kick off.

3. And, we decided in our pre-launch pow wow with Jack Dann, that we’d each stand up and pitch our books to the audience in sixty seconds or less.

4. And, Smith’s just kept filling with people.

Jodi Cleghorn

Having already run through my 60 second pitch Jack asked me to go a second time while he found his running notes!
~ Photo courtesy of Cat Sparks via Flicker

Again, the nerves were unfounded. Jack makes it easy to play side kick to. His enthusiasm, humour and showmanship is infectious. I’m so very grateful to have had him launch FROM STAGE DOOR SHADOWS.

Jodi and Jack

Thank the goddesses for a prop to keep the shaking hands busy.
~ Photo courtesy of Cat Sparks via Flicker

Jack highlighted the unique nature of what we do (from the mission statement I’ve been developing – now found in the back of the books) and I was able to share how Literary Mix Tapes works and its focus on working with emerging writers. To my ears the audience response was thunderous and it was hard not to cry. Not only was the book launched by I publicly stepped out from beneath the rock I’ve been happily existing under.

Jodi CleghornAnd at the end I got to sit on a table and sign books!

Jodi and Greg

That’s the super talented Greg Mellor beside me.
~ Photo courtesty of Cat Sparks via Flickr

But the best bit of all, was I got to share it with my family. Both my Mr D’s were there to see the book launched, though the younger one was more interested in a book he found on the shelves at Smith’s.

Jodi & Dave

Dave and I post launch.
~Photo courtesy of Cat Sparks via Flickr

Reading Elyora

Sunday afternoon I sat next to Janeen Webb to do my first author reading. After the success of the panels and the book launch, and having run through the extract I’d chosen multiple times (including subjecting Tiggy and Stacey to it during our luncheon at the start of the holidays) I was reasonably confident in pulling off a reading without turning into a bumbling idiot. And honestly, sitting next to Janeen who had been helpful and supportive and encouraging from the first email, I felt I could do it.

And thus, a small section of ELYORA came to life for a group of eager readers including multiple character voices. I remember looking up around page two and could see everyone sitting forward in their chairs and the last of my nerves dissolved and I let myself really enjoy it.

Janeen’s story was a cracker (I was very glad to have flipped and gone first!) As was Alan’s and Ian McHugh’s who followed Janeen and I. (Oh and did I mention how the first thing Alan said about his story, was that he’d decided after chatting to someone else not to read an extract but a stand alone story… and how I was grateful he said that after I’d read, not before!)

Thank You

Many thanks to Jane Virgo, Conflux 8’s convenor whose encouragement and support allowed me to keep saying yes to all the things she sent my way. Thank you to the Conflux 8 committee who worked hard to make everything run smoothly. Thanks to Jack Dann and Janeen Webb for their support and innovation. Final thanks to Alan Baxter who is an awesome wingman to have at one of these events and as always Lily Mulholland, who makes the trip worth while each year just for the joy of her company.

Counting down to next year now…

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CONFLUX 8: In For a Penny, In For a Pound

In for a penny, in for a pound, or how not to lose your head?

I’m typing this from my mother-in-law’s dining room table late Thursday evening, in the hope there will be a spare minute some time after we check in to our hotel Friday to connect and load this up.

We’re in transit from Brisbane to Canberra at the moment, in the middle of no-man’s land when it comes to an Internet connection and telephone reception for me.

If anything is going pear shaped at the moment, it is going that way without me. I can cross my fingers the books have arrived with Lily, the bookstore got my email and Jack Dann isn’t mad at me for leaving it to the last minute to send him through information about FROM STAGE DOOR SHADOWS.

What awaits me this weekend at Conflux is slowly sinking in (unlike last year where I was so bloody excited I couldn’t wait to leave Brisbane). I’ve been so busy finishing books, stressing about books making it to Canberra in time form the printer, doing a rewrite on my novella on a shoe string deadline and preparing for a holiday that I really haven’t had a chance until today to consider just how far I’m stepping outside of my comfort zone.

I often say I live under a rock and am pretty happy there, working, writing, living etc. And it is absolutely true. Like most writers I’m content not to have to ‘put myself out there.’ So to have agreed to sit on three panels, to read from my work, to be an author-in-resident AND do a physical book launch basically catapults me into the great unknown. It is to come out from under my rock and stand blinking in the bright sunlight hoping what happens next is full of juicy goodness.

But this must be done. Not just to move myself forward as a writer, but as an editor and a publisher. Part of me owes this to myself for the years of hard work I’ve put in. The other part of me owes this to the authors who work with me to get eMergent Publishing and it’s imprint out there.

And there is more of this awaiting me in the next six months. Conflux is the perfect place to be warming into this next part of my journey.

If Emma Newman can do, I tell myself, I can too. This is why you need awesome friends and role models to follow. And amazing convenors such as Jane Virgo who invite you to step up and tell you you’ll be fine. You’ll be great!

I just hope when I open my mouth something (semi-intelligent) comes out.

For those floating around Conflux who would like to if something semi-intelligent does issue forth you will find me in these places at these times:

Saturday

1-2pm
Romance Writers of the Apocalypse (with Nicole Murphy and Tracy O’Hara)

2-3pm
Trends in apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic writing (with Cat Sparks, Claire McKenna and Gillian Pollack)

7pm
Smith’s Alternative Bookstore to launch FROM STAGE DOOR SHADOWS – you’ll hopefully get to hear myself and Alan Baxter read.

Sunday

9am
Author-in-residence (this could easily be editor and or publisher in residence!)

10-11am
Independent publishing and speculative fiction (with Keri Arthur, Keith Stevenson, Bill Congreve and Simon Petrie)

2:15-3:15
Reading (I’m lucky enough to be paired up with Janeen Webb)

4:15-5:15
Kaffeeklatsch (with Adam Browne)

Just listing it all makes me feel kind of exhausted and terrified.

And then, for good measure, I’m speaking and reading at A Reader’s Heaven in Lithgow compliments of the hospitality and support of Paul Phillips on Tuesday morning starting at 9:45am. I hope someone pops in to say hello. It will be a nice trial run for being part of the Ironfest Book Festival in April next year.

The trip rounds off with dropping in on Adam – who I haven’t seen since April (and or since Piper’s Reach launched on the web). Will lunch-time be too early to crack open the chocolate port? Or is it ever too early to crack open chocolate port? Or more importantly, will Ella-Louise shut up long enough for me to collect my thoughts on any of the topics I’ll be speaking on tomorrow driving through to Canberra?