A Writing Weekend In Sydney #EWFSYD & #GCoz – Exquisite Exhaustion

You know when you’ve been to the gym, or you’ve gone for that extra long walk, and your muscles are throbbing? You’re exhausted, yet feel good for it? Well, that’s how my writery mind feels today. This is what my weekend entailed…

Friday night – GenreCon cocktail party

Main activity: catching up with familiar writing buddies and meeting new ones. Drinking champagne.

Saturday day – NSW Writers’ Centre: Emerging Writers’ Festival

Main activity: teaching a creative writing bootcamp I call ‘saturating wordage with vividness and voice’.

Sunday day – continued GenreCon festivities

Main activity: catching up with familiar writing buddies and meeting new ones. More champagne.

Did I see much of my family this weekend? Nah.

Did I do much writing? Nope.

But did I have a good weekend? H*ll yeah!

Writing is such an isolated profession… I’m sure that the vast majority of my friends can tell when they’re the only person I’ve spoken to all day! I do tend to let my chitchat out in one go.

A room full of writers at the Emerging Writers’ Festival, held at the NSW Writers’ Centre.

So when there’s a writing conference, festival or convention on nearby, I simply have to attend – if only for the sake of my friends! I don’t drive (yes, I know, my bad), so the travel was a little elongated for someone who actually lives in Sydney (12hours on public transport in total – what fun!). But it was so worth it.

Writers are lovely fascinating people, and I feel privileged to mingle among them.

Me teaching writers how to saturate their wordage with vividness and voice.


Plus, I got to teach some of my creative writing exercises to a workshop group full of enthusiastic writers AND one of them said afterwards:

“I learnt more in that hour than I have the whole festival!”

Thank you, Nick Dickinson. Given the awesome panels at the festival, your compliment was clearly an exaggeration. However, it was one I much appreciated.

For those who missed both the EWF and GenreCon, here are some highlights…

Sam Twyford-Moore introduces the panel (left to right): Mark Dapin, Jane Gleeson-White, Charlotte Wood & Lisa Dempster.

The ‘Seven Enviable Lines’ session with Charlotte Wood, Jane Gleeson-White and Mark Dapin was an inspirational start to the EWF. Writers were encouraged to follow their passions and not get put off by rejection, edit others and be edited, get organised, take days off, read off-genre, avoid cliché, decide to be confident but don’t live too much inside your brain and, perhaps most importantly, pay super!

There were a few discussions throughout the day about social media. Given that I’ll be teaching writers at the NSW Writers’ Centre all about social media next year (watch out for my ‘Social Media for Writers’ seminar), these discussions interested me greatly.

David Henley & Jennifer Wilson chatting about digital epublishing.

David Henley suggested in ‘Exploring the Digital Space’ that writers and readers were being distracted by interactivity. He values well-told stories, good solid content he doesn’t need to think too much about when reading. Whereas Jennifer Wilson argued that readers today live an interactive life, and writers should conceive interactive alternate plot lines for their epublications to give them greater complexity, and thus appeal to puzzle-craving brains.

Left to right: Tim Sinclair, Pip Smith & James Bradley discussing form.

Later, however, in the session on ‘What Shape Must It Take’, James Bradley called interactive forms within a novel format gimmicks, weird artificial add-ons that don’t work.

The session that attracted the biggest crowd, however, was ‘The Pitch’. Representatives from Harper Collins, Random House, Allen Unwin, Hachette and Eureka Street gave writers advice on how best to submit and also how not to submit.

A plethora of publishers advise aspiring authors!

The best ‘how to’ advice was from Michael at Eureka Street, who advised writers to include “a kind word for your editor” in covering letters.

The best ‘how not to’ advice was from Mel at Harper Collins, who assured writers that it really wasn’t a good idea to send your manuscript:

  • in an envelope filled with glitter, or
  • including reviews by your mum!

The hardest advice to hear was from Vanessa at Hachette, who reminded writers of one very real fact – some writers never get published.

Mingling writers, agents & publishers at GenreCon 2012.

Meanwhile, at GenreCon, panellists were grouped by topic, not by genre, which lead to multi-genre insight into the practice of writing and publishing.

Whether you’re a supporter of romance, crime, speculative fiction, or youth adult – there was something to learn and someone to idolise there.

Here are some photos to illustrate the point:

Fantasy author Joe Abercrombie and I.

Speculative fiction novelists Narelle Harris & Daniel O’Malley.

Writers, agents & publishers mingle again. Editors too!

Crime novelist P M Newton & I.

Fantasy novelist Tansy Rayner Roberts & Horror novelist Kirstyn McDermott.

Dark fantasy author Jason Nahrung and I.

The finale of the convention was also its highlight for me – the great plotters versus pantsers debate.

Plotter Kim Wilkins opened the debate, stating that writing should be planned with no less consideration than bridge building or brain surgery. Pantser Anna Campbell countered with sensual tales of Maximus Pantsus and horsey fun.

Kate Eltham MCs the great debate: plotters versus pantsers!

Plotter LA Larkin forewarned that pantsers often change their characters’ hair colour mid-novel. Whereas Pantser Lisa Heidke threw her notes over her shoulder to illustrate the thrill of spontaneity (then promptly lost her train of thought!).

Plotter Narelle Harris said that planning turned writing into magnificent creatures with backbone, whereas pantsing was akin to jellyfish. Pantser Daniel O’Malley claimed that planned writing doesn’t ring true, as life is unexpected – then he marched up to MC Kate Eltham and kissed her smack on the lips!

The audience clapped and cheered to decide the winning side of the debate, which we all decided was… genre fiction!

Thank you to all of the organisers for my awesome writing weekend in Sydney. My face is sore from smiling, but I wouldn’t have it any other way 🙂

PS. If you think you missed out and want to join in next time, GenreCon will be in Brisbane next year. In the meantime, hoards of writers, agents and publishers will be descending on Canberra in April for the Natcon/Conflux 9. Book up now!

Zena Shapter

I write from a castle in a flying city hidden by a thundercloud. #Ditmar Award-winning author. Movie buff. Traveller. Wine lover. Story nerd. Book Creator & Mentor. Founder & leader of the award-winning Northern Beaches Writers' Group / ZF Kingbolt.


  1. “Social butterfly” comes to mind!! You had a weekend like Puff Daddy accept there were no strippers!! Awesome write up. Sounds like you had a blast. Soo jealous!!

  2. Pingback: GenreCon 2012 Wrap-up — Speakeasy

  3. Nice wrap-up Zena. GenreCon was one of the best conventions I’ve attended, and I’m certainly looking forward to attending next year if I can make it to Queensland. I even made it into one of your photos too – the bar shot. Bit hard picking me out though. 🙂

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