Monday, May 24, 2010

SWF Post Mortem. And Other Stuff...

Okay, so I'm back from the Sydney Writer's Festival. Got home at about 5.30 last night, after a relatively cruisey drive down from Sydney. Despite my best intentions of blogging every day of the festival, I didn't manage it after the first couple. Sorry. (Oddly, the rapid decline in my blogging co-incided with the arrival in Sydney of Imogen, Toby, and my parents. Co-incidence? I'll let you decide.)

It was a great week, though. Next year I want to go just to play, not work. Although the good thing about my job is that if I do go up just to play, then it'll still count as work. Woot!

There were a lot of highlights, following on from the fantastic schools days with their huge crowds.

Early Thursday morning I walked around the harbour to the state library, soaking up a really peaceful sunrise, including this view across to the opera house:

One of the things I do really miss living in Canberra are the sounds and smells of the ocean, and last thursday morning I had them in abundance - made for a great start to the day. At the state library, I ran a masterclass on Young Adult writing, which was attended by a really great group of people, ranging from editors right through to actual 'young adults' themselves. Everyone there was very switched on, keen to involve themselves in some wide ranging discussion and debate, and really open to new ideas and perspectives, which made for a relaxing and engaging morning.

Thursday afternoon saw me drive out to the airport in the pouring rain, to pick up my family, and then back in to the city though peak hour traffic. This was somewhat less relaxing than my walk that morning, but we got there in the end, which is the important bit.

My friday gig had, unfortunately, been cancelled at the last minute, which did at least free up the day for me to go to Taronga Park with the family. Despite pouring rain for a good chunk of the afternoon, this was a lot of fun.

Saturday afternoon I met with some young writers over at the Australian Maritime Museum and, along with fellow authors Jaclyn Moriarty, Susanne Gervay and William Kostakis spent a pleasant couple of hours discussing the various ins and outs of the writing world. Hopefully we'll be able to do this again later in the year, for a more extended workshop.

Sunday morning started with the surreal experience of a fire alarm, and having to evacuate the hotel in our pyjamas (well, technically I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt at that point). Outside it was raining. Neither Imogen nor myself was wearing shoes. On the bright side, it was a false alarm and we didn't have to hang around for too long. On the brighter side, Toby drew great delight from pointing at the firetruck and making truck noises.

Later that day I met up with Brian Faulkner, and we headed across for our panel session on 'Writing Science Fiction for Teens'. This was a lot of fun. One of the highlights of the festival for me was being introduced to both Brian, and to his writing. He's a fantastic science fiction writer, with a solid understanding of both the craft of writing, and also the science behind his stories. He's also a very funny bloke to hang out with. Our panel session was very enjoyable, with several very thought provoking questions. In a few days, when I'm getting back on top of my marking pile, I'm planning to post a longer blog just about this particular panel and some of the discussion.

After that it was loading up the car, getting out of town, and hitting the road. And this morning, back to reality - I arrived at the office, all fired up to get right down to work. Would have done so, too, except for the fact that my office door looked like this:

This, naturally, led to a slight productivity drop while the incident reports were filled out (I didn't do it. Various theories include thieves, vandals, disgruntled ex-students, and a very big mouse...) By this afternoon, however, all was repaired and it's back to business as usual.

So, that's the abridged (get it - Bridge? Sydney Harbour... oh, never mind...) version. All in all, a fantastic week, and one I hope to repeat some time down the track.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sydney Writer's Festival Day One

Hi Everyone!

One day down, just a few more to go. In an hour or so I'm off to the festival opening night function, where I expect to mix and mingle with the Literary and cultural elite of Australia. This is assuming that I can dry out the one pair of decent shoes that I bought with me in time. They're currently propped on the counter of the bathroom here, with a similarly-propped hotel hair dryer giving them the treatment. Of course, if I do manage to get them suitably dry, then they'll probably be two sizes too small, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

So, as predicted, I was awake for a couple of hours in the middle of the night last night, nervous tension being a terrible thing, and all. But I decided not to bore you all with another blog post because:

a) I didn't really have much more to say, apart from "slept for five hours, then woke up" and
b) That would have involved getting out of bed to retrieve the computer.

But I have things to report now, though. Even apart from my soggy footwear, though that's pretty significant, if you ask me.

Had a good day. Presented at the first of the two schools days, along with some great writers; John and Boori kicked things off, and as always were brilliant; just the right combination of humour, reflection, seriousness and confrontation to really get the kids thinking. Then Melina did a really interesting session, talking in her lovely unassuming way about each of her books, and giving a fascinating insight into one writer's process. One of the things I love about events like these is listening to the vast array of different styles and ideas that various authors use: it really re-enforces the fact that in the writing world There Are No Rules (deliberate capitals, there, because it's an Important Message).

After Melina it was lunchtime, and then my turn. By this point, I was pretty wound up. Did I mention that the day was held in the Sydney Theatre? It's big. And imposing. And pretty damn scary. From the stage it's like standing in front of a wall of people.

Once I got out under the lights, though, I had a blast. The audience was great; really switched on and receptive, and I had a fun time telling a few stories and discussing my Darklands books. Then I gave a truly nasty introduction to Charlie Higson ("Just wait until the next guy comes on, he writes comedy so he's really funny!") and got off the stage. Luckily, Charlie was able to live up to expectations, talked about Zombies and Vampires, and everyone left the theatre on a high. All in all, a fun day.

Then a quick book signing, and a bite of lunch, and then I was interviewed for an online author's project run by the NSW department of Education. This was a bit of a new experience for me, as it involved a studio set up, lights, cameras, and having to stop and re-start every time a truck drove by. Then we got to go out and do cut aways of me walking in the rain beside the harbour, and looking pensively out over the water towards the Opera House. Hence the wet boots. Luckily the crew and director were fantastic, and the whole experience, which took about two and a half hours, was great fun. When it's all edited up and goes live in a few weeks, I'll link it in here.

Anyway, I'd better go and check the boots, which hopefully I can still lever my feet into, and then get dressed for the function. Tomorrow we're doing it all again at the Riverside Theatre in Paramatta, MC'd by the fantastic Judith Ridge, so if you're in the neighbourhood, make sure you drop by.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Later that day...

Well, I made it to Sydney. Even managed to do so with minimal problems courtesy of the Satnav. It only told me to turn right from the left hand lane on two occasions. If only I'd been in Melbourne, even that wouldn't have been a problem.

So here I am, in my hotel room, right on the harbour. And I mean right on the harbour:

That indistinct blur of lights on the water is the hotel. Sadly, my room isn't on the side with the lovely harbour view. Instead, I'm on the side with the lovely view of, well, not the harbour:

But still, it's a very nice bridge pylon. Big, too.

And just like always on the first night of these sort of things, I'm feeling a bit down in the dumps. Despite the lovely location, and the close proximity of lots of other writers, and the prospect of a few fantastic days at the writer's festival, I always get very flat my first couple of nights away from Min and Toby. Luckily this time round, it's only temporary; they're both coming up on Thursday afternoon, so we'll all have a bit of playtime. Almost as good - my folks are coming over from Perth, too, so by the weekend, it'll be all of us here in the harbour city.

So really, I'm not complaining.

In the meantime, I've got sessions tomorrow and wednesday for the writer's festival, along with some of my writing mates: John Danalis and Boori Prior are both presenting - I caught up with the two of them earlier this evening down in the lobby. Boori has shaved his hair off, and looks awesome. Speaking as someone who *really can't* shave his head (the last time I did so, when I was on the ship down to Antarctica, Imogen's first words to me on my return were "You look like an egg." She was right, too.) I have to admit to being slightly jealous. Boori also had the roughs of his new book with awesome illustrator Jan Ormerod with him, and so I got to stickybeak; it looks fantastic.

It's always great catching up with John Danalis, too. He illustrated The Girl In The Cave for me several years ago, and he and his wife Stella have been responsible for the design and layout of my last few books, including the gorgeous-looking Darklands trilogy and of course Into White Silence. John and Boori and I are all presenting at the festival 'schools days' tomorrow and wednesday, along with Melina Marchetta and Charlie Higson. And then my family arrive :)

Anyway, one of the few advantages of being alone in a hotel room is the opportunity to go to bed early, with the prospect of sleeping right through to the morning uninterrupted. Which, of course, means that I'll probably be awake at 3.00am.

If I am, I might even do another blog post. Catch up for the last couple of weeks, and all that.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Uhm... I'm still alive. But I'm leaving again.

Hi. Remember me? I'm the guy who set up this blog. Sometimes I even post stuff here.

You've probably guessed from the prolonged silence that I've been a bit busy. Frigging ludicrously busy, actually. And I had a cold for a while there, but you don't really want to know about that, do you? Just sounds like a bunch of excuses on my part, in any case.

So. What's up?

Off to the Sydney Writer's Festival in about an hour. I'll be honest *language warning here, kids* - I'm shitting myself about this one. It's kind of surreal, actually, looking through the programme and seeing names like Peter Carey, Thomas Keneally, Frank Moorhouse, Rupert Thompson and a bucketload of others. And mine. In really small print. The good thing is that I'm a very small blip on the cultural radar, so I can probably afford to panic slightly less, on the basis that nobody will really notice if I stuff up. I'm still really nervous, though.

Other than that, I've been buried in the usual end-of-semester stuff; trying to get caught up on my marking before I get behind on all my new marking, putting together the last lectures etc... and generally dealing with about a million other tiny bits and pieces.

The good news, though, is that soon this will all be behind me, and I'll have time to bury myself in a bit of actual writing and research. Actually, this last six months is probably the longest period in the last ten years that I've gone without doing any creative writing - just haven't had the time, mental space or energy. On the whole, I think it's probably been good for me; even though I'm a little concerned (read: paranoid) that the real reason I haven't done any proper writing is because I've 'lost it somehow', more predominant is the feeling that I just have to get back into it soon. I'm missing it a lot.

Before then, though, as mentioned earlier, it's the Sydney Writers Festival. This should be a fun week, once I'm there.

Before that, though, I have to actually get there. This involves driving, on my own, into central Sydney, finding my way through The Rocks, under the harbour bridge, and thence to the hotel. This in a car with the world's most stupid satnav system, which gives you instructions like.

"turn soon."

Gee. Helpful.

So, keep your fingers crossed for me. With a bit of luck, I'll be able to get online from the hotel, and will blog the festival in my spare time.

And in the meantime, I'm going out for a drive. I may be some time...


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