Whirlwind Sydney Weekend

It’s no secret that I’ve had a rough year. I was meant to have a manuscript written by now, but that didn’t happen. We were meant to have a solution on the shower situation, but it still hasn’t happened (at least it’s a lot closer now). I’m still having issues with my leg, I’m still trying to get even just to the level of health and fitness that I was at pre-leg calamity, and a bunch of other hard things have happened as well. So it was so nice to get away for the weekend for the RWA annual conference in Sydney.

I stayed at the ultra-plush Sofitel Wentworth, and was thrilled that there was a little book in my room with photos of when Charles and Diana stayed there (it was the last place that they publicly danced as a couple), the Queen went to a gala in the very ballroom I was in, Andrew and Fergie were there too, plus Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, and a whole bunch more. I loved all the chandeliers and beautiful flowers, and it’s gorgeous when hotels have grand pianos being played in the lobby. And it was beyond brilliant to finally have a long, luxurious bath in a marble bathroom (while eating chocolates, of course).

The conference was good – numbers were down, so it wasn’t quite as hectic as Adelaide was. I met some people and learned A LOT. I didn’t pitch this year, but I did completely embarrass myself by sitting next to a legendary writer who has sold millions of copies of her work and has won so many awards, and I asked her if it was her first conference and what genre she published in. She was gracious, but I was mortified to see her on stage two seconds later and I realized who she was. Luckily this seems to be a regular thing – one of the panelists recounted when she met a lovely woman in a conference buffet line and asked her whether she was published yet, and it turned out to be Nora Roberts.

The whole thing was pretty exhausting though. I’m looking forward to next year – it’ll be in Melbourne, which automatically makes things much cheaper, plus the theme is extremely conducive to me potentially wearing a mermaid tail to the cocktail party – may have to bring Nathan along to push me in a wheelchair, we’ll see!

Some photos:

 

A tiara for the cocktail party

On Monday, I had a little bit of time to kill before my flight home, so I wandered around Circular Quay. Sydney is not my favourite city by a long shot, but it’s kind of magical around the harbour. I went to an oyster bar right on the water with a view of the bridge, and sat in the sun for a long, grazing lunch. The water below was clear turquoise and teeming with little puffs of jellyfishes. I ate three different types of oysters and some delicious crab on toast (sounds really boring, let me elaborate: king crab with aioli, capers, pickled fennel and lemon on toasted ciabatta – fixed it, sounds loads fancier than ‘crab on toast’). Also try angasi oysters if you see them on a menu – they are a native mud oyster that I’d never tried before, and they were so good.

I had previously asked Nathan if he’d come up for the weekend with me (he didn’t want to because he likes Sydney even less), but that was the moment that I wished so much I could have shared with him. But there will be other times, I’m sure. And I think he secretly enjoyed having some time at home by himself to indulge in his secret bachelor behaviour (he did NOT buy a bucket of frozen pre-fried chicken from the supermarket this time, thank god).

Conference 2016

I did it! I survived my first conference – the Romance Writers of Australia annual conference. To go from the company of mostly only two small dogs to being surrounded by four hundred plus women was a bit of a leap, but it was worth it. I mostly attended the academic stream where I heard about things like femininity/masculinity, ageism, subversiveness, stereotypes and so on. In the non-academic component, I learned a lot about the state of genre publishing… which will be extremely interesting and useful in the next couple of years for me. The absolute standout, though, was an address by author Fiona McIntosh. She told hilarious stories, but she also trashed so many of the long held clichés I’d held about writing. It is an art, but it’s also a business, and you can’t just be creative or talented, you have to be savvy and strategic. It was exactly what I needed to hear, and now I’m busy making up my lists of writer/career goals for the short, medium and long term. Some are realistic, some are incredibly fanciful, but it was nice to hear from somebody who has been there, done that.

While I will never knock the amazing education in creative writing I’ve received so far at university, I sometimes feel like I know so much theory but not a great deal of practice. There is a definite split between what is literary and what is genre, how these two groups are perceived, what is considered valuable or not. Sometimes I feel like a sellout to be aspiring to eventually make money from my writing, but then some other times, I feel like literary writing and poetry can be subject to the exact same rules and trends and targeting that happens in genre fiction. There is snobbery in both worlds about the merits of the other, but I just feel like they don’t have to be so at odds with each other. It’s just complicated. I hope that I can eventually figure out a way to carve out a career that lets me straddle the divide and have my fingers in both pies, to be totally cliché. I want to write literary fiction that remembers that a good, engaging story is more memorable and emotionally satisfying than showing off how stylistic I can be; I want to write genre fiction that allows itself to stray from the plot to find real moments of beauty and intellectual clarity. Basically, I just want to write stuff that I would like to read.

Only a few people know this about me, but my main job right now is writing erotica and erotic romance under a pseudonym. None of what I have written is particularly polished, none of it is part of a strategic plan, and a lot of it has been experimentation to see what niche ‘sticks’, so to speak – hence not publicizing the pen name, to anybody. There has been freedom in this; knowing that nobody I know would be reading my work has taken pressure off and allowed me to be more risque than I would be otherwise. It has felt extremely good to be able to say that I have made money from writing – hell, it even took us to Bali the first time. But it’s time to get serious now, I really want to write something under my real name, something that I can proudly tell people about. So many of these women didn’t start until they were much older than me and still managed to build amazing careers, so I wonder how far I can go if I start now.

Long story short, I am very glad I went to the conference. There are always naysayers, in everything I do; people who would think that this whole writing thing, or even daring to travel interstate to a conference was just an exercise in self-indulgence. Just a ‘holiday’. But I learned so much, and I did made a few contacts. Even when there were people who I didn’t personally meet, I now have that point of reference where when I do meet them, I can say, “Oh, I saw you speak at RWA’s 2016 conference, your presentation was wonderful”. More than anything, it was nice to participate. I have spent so long following people on twitter and reading blogs, feeling like I was on the margins and not really a part of things. Now, even in the tiniest way, I am a part of it.

Plus, I did have some fun too!

stamford grand

The Stamford Grand was seriously one of the fanciest hotels I’ve ever stayed at. The foyer reminded me of the start of Beaches. Plus my room was huge! Best of all, it had a bathtub. Until our bathroom get renovated, we are bathtub-less in this house, and it seriously drives me to tears on cold winter days when I have a cold or end up caught in the rain.

love

It was like they knew we were coming or something…

bathrobe

cocktail party

Thursday night to Friday night transformation. I pinned my hair into something like a bob and borrowed a dress from Mum. Add some red lipstick and voila – instant glamour. The theme was cabaret but I wasn’t game enough for fishnets and frilly knickers (some were, and more power to them!) – next year’s theme has something to do with butterflies and being wild, so I might have to up my costume game for that one.

view 1

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Two views from the hotel. The beach at Glenelg was so picturesque – especially the way it was perfectly oriented to show off the sunset. And they had this giant heart sculpture on the foreshore – again, it’s like they knew we were coming!

heart

But best of all, I got to come home to this.

tongueouttuesday

Unluckily for me, I woke up on the Monday morning with a wicked sore throat, which quickly turned into a fever and a feeling like all my bones were broken. I have slept probably eighty percent of the hours that I have been home, somehow managed to lose an entire day to sleeping, and the doctor says I have the flu (the real flu, not just a dramatic cold). It’s Friday now and I finally feel a little better, but I know that even walking to the mailbox would require a panadol and a nap… but if I am stuck on the sofa wrapped in blankets, at least I can get some writing done!