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