The #Conflux 7 experience, Canberra 2011

What I learnt at Conflux 7: From Here to There

Some of our exceptionally supportive writing community (left to right, top to bottom) me with: Natalie Costa Bir, Tracey O'Hara, Patty Jansen, Jo Anderton, Alan Baxter, Kim Westwood and Jack Dann.

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.

Shared celebrations

Alan Baxter tweeting about Kaaron Warren and Jo Anderton's book launches.


From the very first book launch, where Angry Robot launched novels by Jo Anderton (Debris), Trent Jamieson (Roil) and Kaaron Warren (Slights, Walking the Tree, Mistification, Dead Sea Fruit)…


Me signing "Winds of Change" (I'm on the bottom left). Photo: Jodi Cleghorn


…to the CSFG launch of their 2011 short story anthology Winds of Change, which includes my space adventure story Trigger




Dawn Meredith reading from "The Anything Shop".


…through to launches by Dawn Meredith (The Anything Shop) and Gillian Polack (Five Historical Feasts)…

Author Nicole R Murphy launching books by Mary Victoria and Simon Haynes.


…by Mary Victoria (Oracle’s Fire) and Simon Haynes (Hal Junior: The Secret Signal) – the atmosphere was of genuine pride, in each other.

It was such a pleasure to be there.

Shared experience

Getting intimate: Natalie Costa Bir and Jack Dann.

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.

Smiles were inspired by Master of Ceremonies Jack Dann, who was accompanied by his talented wife Janeen Webb)


Me? I learnt some verbal jujitsu, how to write with dinosaurs, all about fantasy accoutrements, the great libraries of fantasy and dropping dead donkeys.

"Fantasy Accoutrements" Panel with KJ Taylor, Duncan Lay, Jo Anderton and Devin Jeyathurai.

"Great Libraries of Fantasy" panel with Leigh Blackmore, Kyla Ward, Gillian Polack and Lynn Triffitt.

"Drop the Dead Donkey" panel with David McDonald, Mik Bennett and Conor Bendle.

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.

"The Craft of Short Story Writing" panel with Kim Westwood, Kaaron Warren, Jack Dann, Helen Stubbs and Cat Sparks.

"Starting the Journey" panel with Duncan Lay, Jo Anderton, Natalie Costa Bir, Nicole Murphy and Erica Hayes.

“Publishing – What path should you take” panel with Natalie Costa Bir, Alan Baxter, Nicole Murphy and Cat Sparks.

"What does an editor do?" panel with Jack Dann, Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Abigail Nathan, Natalie Costa Bir, Nicole Sparks and Devin Jeyathurai.

One of the most important things I learnt was the importance of keeping erotica panels adults-only! Boy oh boy – Nicole R Murphy, Jane Virgo, Tracey O’Hara and Erica Hayes – boy oh boy!

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!

Shared fun

All aboard (left to right, top to bottom) me with: Laura E Goodin, Rowena Specht-Whyte & Tracey O'Hara, 'John', Kathleen Jennings, 'Laurie' & Helen Stubbs, Natalie Costa Bir, Alan Baxter & Rowena (again), Rowena (again), Rob Porteous, Natalie (again) & Abigail Nathan.


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!).


Thai for lunch (clockwise from left): Rowena Specht-Whyte, Lily Mulholland, Abigail Nathan, Alan Baxter, Kaaron Warren, Tracey O'Hara, Keri Arthur, Natalie Costa Bir, Me & Jodi Cleghorn.






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.

Chinese for dinner, top row from left: Cat Sparks, Kaaron Warren, Shauna O'Meara, Jodi Cleghorn, Peter Marz, Steve Cameron. Bottom row from left: Steve Cameron (again), David McDonald, Nick Tchan and me.


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.

Being presented my award by Jack Dann and Nicole R Murphy.



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 😀

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. Great wrap-up of Conflux7 Zena! Have cross-posted to my FB author page. Keep on writing!

  2. Pingback: Conflux, or how I survived my first con « Lily Mulholland, Writer

  3. Great post! I shared this on Twitter and LinkedIn. It really was a special event. I especially loved hearing Jack Dann speak. Hearing a similar New Yorker accent (like myself) was…refreshing 🙂

  4. Hi Zena, a pleasure to meet you! We had lots of fun at Conflux! Love your blog. cheers,

    • So much fun
      Can’t wait ’til the next one
      Thanks for stopping by
      Come again, don’t be shy!

      He he. Have you done any more book launches since Conflux? When’s the next one?

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