Category Archives: Events

Genrecon 2013: A Lifting Experience

GC logo 2013 smlI have just returned from another fabulous GenreCon, hosted by the Queensland Writers Centre in sweaty Brisbane. I had a fabulous time! It was enormous fun, but also encouraging, supportive, amazing and educational.

I met so many incredibly talented people doing so many brilliant and amazing things, and who were happy to hear me talk about my Kitty and Cadaver project too. I’m fired up about the possibilities inherent in unusual storytelling projects being undertaken by people like Sue Wright of Tiny Owl and Jodi Cleghorn’s Piper’s Reach epistolary story, which started as an online project and is now being prepared for submission to publishers.

I have been energised and engaged by the speakers on the podiums and the ones I met during meal breaks and at the banquet. I am excited for other people’s books and as much so for my own. Sharing a room with Lindy Cameron, my publisher, has resulted in us becoming better friends as well. I made new friends, deepened acquaintanceships, learned about writing about publishing, had it at least confirmed that some of my approaches are the right ones and generally steeped myself in the rich soil of fellowship with others in my profession.

Genrecon  (2)And I have so many new ideas! I’ll be meeting soon with someone to discuss a way to invite musicians to participate a little more in the world of Kitty and Cadaver. I have copious notes about creating a book trailer for future projects and some ideas of where I want to take that. I’ve joined the Romance Writers of Australia to learn how to become a better writer of romance and erotica, since I’m writing that these days (and enjoying it) and promptly came up with ideas for several new short and long stories. My main trouble now is finding the time to write. Or alternatively to sleep!

For those who follow my Twitter account (@daggyvamp), you’ll recognise the lame pun in the blog heading. For those who missed it, on the night of the Cutlasses and Kimonos banquet, a group of us got trapped in a lift for about twenty minutes.  One of our number, we discovered, was keenly claustrophobic, so there was a focus on staying calm and trying to help her. Apparently, we did this mostly by digging deep for our inner Laconic Aussie and tracking the whole experience on social media. We were all writers, so one or two folks tried to read books. The rest of us Tweeted and Facebooked, and fielded much so-called hilarity from friends who were not likewise trapped in a small, hot, humid lift.

GenreconAt one stage, I took a photo of everyone (and most of us were dressed as pirates) giving the wags the finger and posted it on Twitter. The primary target, a horror writer and heavy metal fan from NSW (you know who you are), pretty much just roared with laughter and declared us ‘hardcore’.

We emerged mostly unscathed, though crumpled. And let’s face it – we’re writers. You can bet at least half of us have already worked out how to use the incident in a novel.

So thank you to Peter Ball and Meg Vann and their team of ninjas for a Genrecon that provided communion with like-minded folks, an excellent program, opportunities to find new projects and partners, and even provide a platform for adventures in elevators!

The next Genrecon won’t be held until 2015, which makes many of us a little sad. On the other hand – there’s no reason we can’t have impromptu get-togethers in the between times. So, if any of you Genrecon folks are in Melbourne and would like to catch up for coffee, chat and mutual energy boosting, drop me a line! We’ll find a time and place to make like cartoon superheroes and combine our energies to encourage awesomeness in each other.

P.S. – Grammarly: 

I’ve been experimenting with an online tool called Grammarly (they promised me shinies if I did). It’s pretty neat. It helped me pick up some typos and check that when I vary considerably from correct grammar, the creative licence I employed really expresses what I wanted to say.  I could also run the text through a ‘Plagiarism’ algorithm, but mostly it just found I had quoted standard text from my own blog. It was more useful than I expected it to be, and I’ll use it again in future.  It could be handy for running manuscripts through before submissions.

And so, a little endorsement: “I use Grammarly’s plagiarism checker because with its Plagiarism algorithm I’ll at least know when I’m repeating myself.”

Clunes Booktown 2013

2013arrowlogoAfter my first Clunes Booktown Festival in 2012, reliving the experience in 2013 seemed a terrific idea, particularly as this time I’d be in the company of horror writers Jason Nahrung and Kirstyn McDermott, who had recently moved to Ballarat.

So off on adventures I went, meeting Jason at Wendouree train station and joining him, Kirstyn and Kirstyn’s mum Cornelia on the pleasant drive to the little booktown that could.

We had not been in Clunes more than fifteen minutes when Kirstyn displayed her secret superpower for the first time. She finds the best, most wonderful, most excellent books in the store – no matter how overcrowded or disorganised the bookshop. No matter if there are three thousand dull books and the prize is buried at the back of the shop, under fourteen boxes and a sleeping elderly cat that bites all who come near. Kirstyn. Will. Find. The. Perfect. Book. She ended the day with four or five gems, but this was her first – a book of fairytales illustrated with photographed book art.

clunes book

I am filled with envy. It’s a beautiful book.

But the day had its pleasures, even if Kirstyn pounced on all the gorgeous art books.


There was the lovely entry to the children’s areas, where readings took place on and off during the day.

IMG_2902And old fashioned story telling in the form of a Punch and Judy show.


And the unintentionally hilarious buckets of ‘Women’s Books’. I’ve never really understood the use of that term. Is there a hit squad that comes after men who read any of these books? And why haven’t they been hunting me down for reading… not these books. They do present a lovely vision in pastel colours I suppose.

clunes dogsSome attendees were not there for the books. Actually, a lot of people brought their dogs for the day. They must have all been bookish dogs, because they were very well behaved. So were most of the people, especially considering how very crowded the tents, shops and streets were.


One of my favourite little shops had shelves of books by Ethel Turner and Mary Grant Bruce, both staples of my childhood.

photo(5)That shop also had a whole section on beekeeping, which naturally made me think of Sherlock Holmes as well.

The festival this year covers even more ground than last year’s, with the basketball court behind the courthouse also filled with tents and literature. It’s fabulous but exhausting. After wandering around Clunes for several hours (and yes, I did find a book about music slang terms which I can use in my new rock-and-roll-saves-the-world-from-monsters project), we withdrew with aching feet and returned to Ballarat.


There I refreshed myself at the new Mitchell Harris Wine Bar. Besides stocking excellent local wines (including their own) and share plates, the rather cool venue has this beautiful art by street artist Vexta painted straight onto the distressed-industrial brickwork.


And from there, Tim and I dined perhaps a little too heartily at The Lane, which specialises in local produce. Above you see a lamb that died so that I might have deliciousness, and creamy, perfect cauliflower cheese that could have been a meal in itself. The Ballarat Wightwick Pinot Noir that accompanied my feasting went down rather well too.

Tomorrow I brave not the madding crowds of Day 2 of the Booktown Festival, but the knights errant (and possibly erroneous) of Ballarat’s newly reopened Kryal Castle. I hope to report soon on both jousting and a torture museum!

Disclosure: Narrelle travelled to Ballarat and Clunes and dined out courtesy of Ballarat Regional Tourism.

Genrecon: Help! My brain is full!

Well, it’s Saturday afternoon at Genrecon, and my brain is way too full. I need to jump up and down a bit, like packing flour into a container, to let the contents settle and make room for more.  Instead, I’m taking some time out to sit quietly, drink a hot beverage and update my blog. Outside I can see cloudy skies and a gusty wind having its salacious way with the fronds of a palm tree. Ah, Parramatta, you sexy beast, you.

Genrecon is a conference for writers of genre fiction, and Rydges Hotel in Parramatta is full of writers of romance, crime, fantasy, SF and horror (and a lot of other genres besides). It’s also full of editors, publishers (both large and small press) and agents.

So far I’ve attended panels on Writing Effective Fight Scenes conducted by writer and martial artist Simon Higgins, how to make a living as a writer in an era of the dwindling advance, and ways of approaching Villains, Monsters and Cads in your writing. Tomorrow I’m looking forward to panels on The Future of Agenting and The Three Stages of The Writers’s Career.I’ll also be participating in a debate about how approaching plot outlines – I’ll be speaking for the Plotters against the Pantsers (‘flying by the seat of your pants’).

Things I’ve learned so far?

  • Historically, the deadliest ninjas were girls.
  • Adrenalin gives short bursts of power, but there’s a cost for it.
  • Even big, tough men can cry if they are unexpectedly punched in the face.
  • Anyone who is in writing to get rich is both hilarious and deluded. (Or JK Rowling.)
  • Almost all writers get income from something other than their writing. If they’re lucky, they get it through public speaking and workshops.
  • When creating villains, it’s a great idea to take something traditional and then approach it from a different perspective.
  • While the villain is the hero of his/her own story, the gothic anti-hero knows that they are the villain of their own story, and must overcome his/her own flaws.
  • (I think BBC Sherlock is may be a gothic antihero in this sense.)
  • Traditionally, female villains are either thwarted in love or trying to make their son Emporer. Surely there are other motivations out there.
  • Kim Wilkins feels there are not enough Vikings in literature. I find myself suddenly agreeing with her.

Other things I’ve gained, outside the panels, is that it’s wonderful to spend time swapping war stories and successes with fellow writers; that it’s encouraging and even necessary for your own motivation to hear people say they like what you do and to tell others how much you like their work too.

Writers generally work in such isolation that it’s a huge relief to talk to others about their writing habits, approaches that work (or not) for them, to see that others struggle, and others succeed, so you know you’re not alone and that success is possible.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from an industry conference for writers, but so far I’m finding it intensely stimulating, challenging, inspirational and reassuring. The Queensland Writers Centre has done a great job of organising guests, panels, workshops and an opportunity for writers to talk to agents. Bless them all!

(As an aside, I had the best street conversation ever on my walk to the venue today: some kids asked me if I’d seen a goat. Yes. A goat. Yes, I did ask twice, to check they meant ‘goat’ and not ‘coat’. Having ascertained that indeed, a goat was what they meant, I confessed that I had not seen one, but if I should, where should I direct the beast? “To the school” they said, pointing. As both a writer and as a human being, I was very disappointed not to see the goat between the school and the conference venue. I sincerely hope the horror, crime or thriller writers in attendance were not responsible for its disappearance. If the romance writers were involved, I definitely don’t want to know.)

Competition: The Girl Who Was on Fire

There were two writers who absolutely set me on fire in 2011. One of those was Suzanne Collins and her brilliant (and traumatising) trilogy The Hunger Games. The other was the fabulous Mary Borsellino, with The Devil’s Mixtape. Mary Borsellino sets me on fire every year, actually, although her work is much less widely known than Collins’s. (Her series The Wolf House has been rereleased, if you like your vampires and your punk rock simultaneously.)

Where these two wonderful little literary arsonists meet is in The Girl Who Was on Fire, a fabulous set of essays about themes and ideas in The Hunger Games books, including Your Heart is a Weapon the Size of Your Fist, by Borsellino.

I reviewed these essays last year. As I said at the time:

“Everything in this book either brings elements I was aware of into sharp focus or reveals new themes and interpretations to me. With each essay, though, I responded with variations of “Yes! Exactly! YES!”

Now I have (courtesy of Mary Borsellino) two copies of the collection to give away, plus a copy of the first book in the trilogy.

The trick with a Hunger Games-related competition, of course, is to think of a competition that is engaging but not too difficult, but which doesn’t cheapen the themes and ideas which I find so moving and thought-provoking. So – no Hunger Games recipes, no suggestions for what your last meal would be, nothing as obvious as that.

Instead, I would love for people to write to me to tell me who your favourite character was (in any of teh three books) and why. Did you love or hate them? Did they move you? Did a character change the way you thought about something, open your eyes to a new idea, or did they inspire you to try something new (like archery, or baking?)

So that’s it.


Write and tell me in 300 words or less which character from The Hunger Games made the most impact on you and why.

Email your replies to


The top entry will receive the Movie Edition of The Girl Who Was on Fire, which contains extra essays.

The second best entry will receive teh standard edition of The Girl Who Was on Fire.

The third best entry will get a copy of The Hunger Games


Conditions of entry:

It is a condition of entry that I may use your answer or part thereof (quoting you) in my blog, which will be online indefinitely. I’m happy to attach an alias to any quotes, but you need to let me know both your real name and preferred alias in your entry.

  • The competition will be open for two weeks, from Wednesday 4th July to Wednesday 18th July 2012.
  • I will select the winning entry that week and post the result, along with extracts from all entries, on Monday 23rd July 2012.