11 June 2007

Con day two (or three?)

Sir Talkalot came with me to the con today -- his first experience of a con, and mine of taking a kid to a con. He was given very strict instructions about how he could and could not behave, and behaved generally very well. Having him with me did affect some choices in panel a little. When we first arrived it was a choice between writing horror stories and cover art. I probably would've gone to the first, but knew he'd be more interested in the second, so took him to see that (although it was already halfway through). After the first panel, caught up with Ellen and Steve, and finally Bren, who we had somehow missed all day yesterday.

(i) I hate my cover -- Isobelle Carmody talked about the main function of a cover is to make you pick a book up, and then about the importance of a blurb, and the difference between writing your own and having the publisher get someone to write it for you. Her tip is that a mixture of both works best. An audience member talked about how publishers often designed covers based on demographics, so a white horse on a fantasy cover was often geared towards a younger audience, whereas a dapple grey horse was for an older audience. He had some really interesting things to say. Isobelle talked about how publishers like fat spines because they can put more on them, and those books elbow others out of the way, but as a counterpoint how much harder it was to get a fat book translated because of the cost. That was an interesting point I had never considered.

(ii) Science fiction and fantasy in the school curriculum -- panelists talked about what was on the curriculum and the difficulty in getting kids to read SF, that they're just not interested in it, which surprised me! But they also talked about the fact that the only books on the curriculum were old books or not Aussie writers (eg Frankenstein had made it on because if it was written in the nineteenth century then it must be good, right?), and the trouble being that to get more more-modern SF on the lists you have to convince people at the very top, and the teachers, because the teachers ultimately decided what gets taught. I was also amazed to learn that most teachers hate teaching creative writing (because they don't know how to mark it) and that teaching creative writing is no longer being taught during their teacher training years. Some audience members, however, felt that it was about to make a comeback, with the Victorian curriculum about to change.

(iii) How to promote your book -- Ian Irvine talked about all he has done and gave the rather depressing bookseller stats in the US. The most interesting thing he said (and he had a lot of interesting things to say) was that the most important bit of promotional work you can do is promoting yourself to your publisher. Yes, an interesting point, and one that was driven home to me recently by a friend's experience in trying to promote her book.

(iv) The swordfighting panel -- always a highlight for me. I go all gooey when I see men wielding big swords. My students laugh when I tell them this. Or how rockets make me go gooey too. We came in in the second half of this panel -- though I really, really wanted to see it, I thought that I should do the promotion panel, which was just a half hour one. Some interesting points were on why female fantasy sword wielders are often portrayed incorrectly, and how bendable Viking swords were, and the importance of wrestling in swordfighting. Chris Barnes, one of my Clarion buddies, is always great value -- entertaining and informative. Every con needs panels on swordfighting!

(v) Approaching the craft -- a number of writers talked about where their ideas come from and how they develop them. Isobelle Carmody made some interesting points about the difference between short stories, which she sees as being quite circular, and novels, which she sees as more linear, and how in the short story the situation is more important. If I recall correctly, because I missed this part in my notetaking, she also talked about how a story often is chosen to illustrate an aspect of a situation, and a light bulb came on for me because this is how a lot of my short stories come into being, I think. A few of the panel talked about how rigid they have to be in their working hours -- something that always bears thinking about because it can just be far too easy to let time go.

(vi) Interview with Isobelle Carmody -- I'm sure she had plenty of great stuff to say, because she has been really inspirational, but I had hit the wall. I looked across and Bren, Ellen and Steve all seemed to be fighting to stay awake, which is no reflection at all on Isobelle, but rather on the heat and the fact that we were all feeling panelled out. Every year I hit a wall on the afternoon of day two, when I just can't take any more in. And here I was facing it down. My mind was wandering. My eyes growing heavy. But Isobelle spiced things up with a reading from a cat's POV, and Richard Harland (her interviewer for this session) read the parts of a couple of dogs. Both were excellent. Isobelle had so perfectly captured the cat's disdain in both her words and in her mannerisms. Fantastic reading that woke me right up.

There was really only one more session (or a choice of a couple, really) but that was it for us. Bren, Ellen, Sir Talkalot and I hit the bar, and then caught up with Claire McKenna and her partner. We all went out for a quick dinner, with a couple of others who are in Claire's film, and then back for the launch of the new Orb and the launch of Liminal Claire's film. Steve has the lead role and was great. Sir Talkalot and Princess Sleepyhead were both in it as extras (they looked so young!) and I had a very fleeting role along with Adam Browne, who's another great friend of mine. The film is still a work in progress so there were a few minor problems like colour inconsistencies and sound problems, but it was so much fun to watch. Must say I'm a bit worried about the jars of body parts labelled "Bren" and "Tracey" -- and those of many of my other friends. And that I can't see myself in any serious acting career. Ever. But it was fun to be a part of it -- I was in it because I'd dropped my kids off, and Claire needed a few extra extras, so thought I could do that. But it was interesting seeing all these people I know but hadn't known were in the film. Other SuperNOVArians had major roles, which was brilliant and Choofa's daughter was great. Afterwards, we went off to the bar to celebrate, and caught up with lots of people who I hadn't seen in a while, which is one of the brilliant parts of being at a con. And I must say I'm not a great fan of the maskobolo (or masked ball) that usually occupies one of the night, so having the film to watch instead was much more fun for me. Sir Talkalot and I caught the train home with Adam -- so that rounded off the night beautifully. Still didn't talk to as many people as I would've liked, but you can't do everything, and I feel like we did plenty today. One more day to go, so better get off to bed!


Sherryl said...

Thanks for the notes - hope you've got lots to share with me after the weekend is over (and you've recovered). You almost made me wish I'd gone, except for the fact that I've been asleep by 9pm the last 2 nights so I would've been snoring in the hot rooms at the con.

Anonymous said...

Good on you for posting, Tracey - only twenty minutes late - good effort!


Snail said...

Isobelle talked about how publishers like fat spines because they can put more on them, and those books elbow others out of the way, but as a counterpoint how much harder it was to get a fat book translated because of the cost.

I reckon gems like that are worth the price of admission!

Tracey said...

Yes, for me it was the one about revealing more or your world towards the end of a book. I love it when you do get a gem. As you point out, Snail, it really makes it all worthwhile.