Yesterday (or two days ago, as I see it is now past midnight) I went to a writer friend's 40th birthday party. Sarah is one of my Clarion buddies, though I knew her well before we braved the Queensland heat and humidity for six weeks (hmm, I started to write months there -- what does that say about the whole experience?) of SF writers bootcamp. Still, I got to know her a whole lot better like there, and we all came away from the experience as family. Strange what sweating together will do together.
Birthdays are always a great chance to catch up with people, of course, and I hopped along with Ellen and Lita. A few people had flown down from Sydney, which I must say impresses the hell out of me. I've never gone this far for a party -- a wedding (my brother's) yes, but not a birthday, and in fact when my brother turned 40, I didn't even score an invite! Not that I would have gone up for it -- there's something about living in a family that procludes spending that kind of money on your own social life. Perhaps it's me being unselfish (all money to the family), or perhaps it's me being selfish (I wouldn't spend this money for a friend's birthday) -- I don't know. But for me it was great to catch up with the Sydneysiders, and to acknowledge how great it was for them to come down.
Of course, stick a whole lot of writers and editors in a room and what do they talk about? Their writing. Is there anything else? Well, as it happens, there is, and Lita, Ellen, Kirstyn, Alex and I got talking about the mechanics of sword-fighting, with Alex offering to give Ellen and I a sword-fighting lesson in his back yard. I got the distinct feeling he was going to belt the crap out of us, but nevermind. Of course, I still remember the swordfighting lesson I had in the ever-gentle hands of another Clarion bud, Chris, who took his sword out and scanned the boys' faces, wanting to know who wanted to volunteer to be his sparring partner. And I was sitting on my hands, thinking, pick me, pick me, oooh, pick me, pick me, and then was most surprised when none of the boys leapt up. And so I did. And I know that if Ellen had been there, she would've done the same. (And she used to fence -- something I didn't know. One of the teachers at my school was an Olympic fencer, and one of my students this year was fencing in the World Championships.) Of course, none of the boys were writing the type of fantasy that Ellen and I are writing. And research is everything. (And how many sentences can you start with "and" anyway. A lot it seems! Especially, when no-one but me gets to edit my blog. Oh, and, and, and, and -- I do love that word.) I still remember my nighttime walk in the dark in the waters at Wilson's Prom to check whether my character could navigate the beach by the depth of water on his ankles, and was very happy to find out that yes it could be done. This is my favourite type of research -- when I get to go out and actually experience something. It's why I tried the aphrodisiac spice at the last con. Why I'm not sorry I've eaten bulls' testicles in Morocco (though admittedly I didn't know what they were till after I had eaten them -- and don't they have a particularly strange texture!).
What a rambly post. But isn't that just the beauty of blogs! This one has been very stream of consciousness -- very much free writing, and while I could edit it for coherence, perhaps it better reflects my thought processes left this way.
But, back to the original topic: it's great too to sit down and have a quiet one-on-one with people and catch up with where they're at, listen to their recent epiphanies on writing and life in general, catch up with goss on other people whom I've missed. Attending things like this (and like the Melbourne Writers Festival, which I confess I've missed completely this year) are important to make me feel like part of a writing community.