What I learnt at Conflux 7: From Here to There
Looking back over the four-day writing festival that was this year’s Conflux, it might be quicker to list what I didn’t learn during my stay in Canberra. But I’m not a negative kind of person so, although it’ll take longer, I’ll stick with the positives.
Some of you might not know this (unless you were there and gathered from my constant state of exuberance), but Conflux 7 was the first time I’d been away from my family in ten years (sad, right?!). So, if I’m being honest, I’ll admit I felt a little anxious when Abigail Nathan (MD, Bothersome Words) and I set off for Canberra last Friday morning. But Abigail just smiled to herself when I mentioned this, knowing. And now I know too…
I’ve said it before, during my April post What Makes Australian Authors Tick?, that here in Australia we have the most supportive writing community. But, seriously, Conflux 7 represented the absolute epitome of this.
…to the CSFG launch of their 2011 short story anthology Winds of Change, which includes my space adventure story Trigger…
…through to launches by Dawn Meredith (The Anything Shop) and Gillian Polack (Five Historical Feasts)…
It was such a pleasure to be there.
Thanks to the Conflux 7 committee (chaired by Karen Herkes), multiple streams of programming (starting from 9am each day – yikes!!!) meant a constant choice of attending panel discussions, garden readings, intimate kaffeeklatsch, or highly personalised and moving speeches by the guests of honour: Natalie Costa Bir, Lewis Morley, Marilyn Pride and Kim Westwood.
Me? I learnt some verbal jujitsu, how to write with dinosaurs, all about fantasy accoutrements, the great libraries of fantasy and dropping dead donkeys.
There was advice on the craft of short story writing, writing for competitions, the publishing journey, which publishing path to choose and what editors do.
I also learnt that I get severely star-struck around editors high up in the publishing world. It’s understandable, I suppose, since they possess the power to make a writer’s dreams come true. Still, I know that those present when I met Harper Collins’ Stephanie Smith will never forget my reaction: with water streaming from my eyes, I had to hide behind a friend just to compose myself. As anyone who knows me can verify, I don’t get speechless very often. But even when I could speak to her again, all my voice could manage was a squeak. Nevermind, at least it entertained my friends!
This year’s banquet was aboard the Graf Zeppelin and our MC Jack Dann braved the dangerous swaying of the zeppelin to again bring smiles to us all, while Talie Helene regaled us with her beautiful singing and Gillian Polack’s historically-accurate menu filled our tummies (Gillian – that orange cake was divine, and I’ve put Hungarian paprika on my shopping list for recreating that perfect spice in our dinners!).
There were also an abundance of impromptu writery gatherings and I made so many new friends, I grew sad when the end of Conflux 7 drew near.
Luckily, however, as announced in the closing ceremony, Conflux 8 (Sept 2012: On the Beach) and Conflux 9 (Natcon, April 2013: Steam, angels, junk) are already being planned. Yippee!
Conflux 7 awards were then presented to: Kathleen Jennings, Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Crisetta Macleod, Margi Curtis, Shauna O’Meara, Jane Virgo and Marilyn Pride.
But to top it all, I came away with an award too, for a short story I’d written about someone making an extra special journey, From Here to There, leaving the safety that had once given them comfort, to face their fears. How apt.
Thank you Conflux 😀