Launching Bread & Circuses

Further to my NatCon update post below, the cat is out of the bag that the reason I’m attending the launch of Felicity Dowker’s debut collection, Bread & Circuses, other than because she’s a very good friend of mine, is because I have the honour of actually launching the book. And that might be the longest opening sentence to a blog post I’ve ever written.

It really is an honour to launch this book and I just got myself a real, actual copy of the thing in the post this morning. Lookit, it’s lovely:

So Sunday 4 until 5pm in the Drummond Room at Continuum 8. Be there!

(I better work on my speech…)


Continuum 8, 2012 NatCon – my timetable

I can’t believe it’s only a week till Natcon. Time is flying at a furious rate this year. But I’m very excited because I’ll get to hang out with some great mates, soak up the whole con vibe, take part in and enjoy some excellent panels and, of course, drink. The program this year looks fantastic. Here’s where I’ll be:

Workshop: Write The Fight Right Friday 14:00 until Friday 16:00, Drummond Room

This is my workshop about writing good fight scenes. Seems like people are still enjoying it and I’m happy to run it as often as people want it.

I Flunked Physics: Hard Science Versus Accessible Science-Fiction Friday 17:00 until Friday 18:00, Faraday Room

Closed time-like curves? Light cones? Multi-dimensional manifolds? Or just reverse the polarity and beam us up? How important is accurate science in your science-fiction?

New Faiths For New Worlds Saturday 10:00 until Saturday 11:00, Lincoln Room

Love it or hate it, religion plays a huge role in our society. When creating a new society from scratch, what part will religion play? How do you create a convincing set of beliefs, and what are the pitfalls you need to avoid?

The Future Is Now Saturday 14:00 until Saturday 15:00, Pelham Room

eBooks, iDevices, apps etc are changing how we write and read. What’s out there, what’s worth using, and is all this technology a help or a hindrance? And where to from here?

What’s It Worth? Sunday 11:00 until Sunday 12:00, Faraday Room

The eBook industry is on the rise, but for many consumers price is a sticking point. Why do we undervalue eBooks? What are the potential consequences for books and authors if the mindset continues? In short, what’s it worth?

Readings Sunday 14:00 until Sunday 15:00, Faraday Room

14.00 Kelly Link
14.15 Jenny Blackford
14.30 Tansy Rayner Roberts
14.45 Alan Baxter

Bread & Circuses by Felicity Dowker, book launch, Sunday 16.00 until 17.00, Drummond Room

And that’s only the things I’m actually taking part in. There’s so much more good stuff on the agenda. These things might change a bit, as there are always hiccups along the way. Watch the official site and LiveCon for last minute details. For the rest of the time I’ll be milling about the con, attending panels and catching up with friends. By which I mean, I’ll be in the bar. Come and say hi.


State Library of Queensland Young Writers Award 2012

Are you a budding writer?

Are you aged 18 to 25 and live in Queensland? Enter your short story of 2,500 words or less in the State Library of Queensland Young Writers Award 2012 and you could win $2,000 and career launching opportunities.

Submissions close 13 July.

The competition

The judging panel will select the winner of the Young Writers Award 2012, the first runner up and four highly commended entries.

The judging panel consists of The Courier Mail Arts Editor Nathaneal Cooper, Brisbane Writers Festival Director Jane O’Hara, author Sue Gough, and novelist and former Young Writers Award winner Alasdair Duncan.


The Young Writers Award winner, first runner-up and four highly commended entries each receive prize packs.

Prizes include: 


Hop to it! All entry details here.

EWF Presentation: On responding to reviews and social media etiquette

This past weekend I had the honour of presenting at the Emerging Writers’ Festival, down in Melbourne. As ever, it was an inspiring and entertaining weekend, and it continues on for the next week. All the details here.

The panel I was involved with was all about Post Publication; what to do and what to expect after you’ve got that elusive first publication. I spoke a bit about how to respond (or not) to criticism of your work and a little bit about social media etiquette. As ever when I present, I strayed a bit from the script. I learned long ago that I’m not much good at sticking to the presentation I write and I tend to get distracted and freestyle my way to the end. But I think I pretty much covered all the stuff I’d planned to talk about.

I thought it might be worthwhile to post my presentation here, as a recap for those at the festival and as something hopefully useful for everyone else. Bear in mind that this isn’t an actual article, but more a series of points as reference for verbal delivery, so it’ll be a bit choppy. I’ve tidied it up a bit into a more coherent (I hope) blog post. I hope you find it interesting.

EWF 2012 Presentation

I’m going to talk about making the right noises. Or, more importantly, not making the wrong noises.

So you’re published and you should be very proud of yourself for many reasons, not least of which being that you had the guts to put your work out there in the public eye.

Where it will be judged.

Where you will be judged.

So what are you going to do about that?


That, at least, is your default position.

If you think about saying something in response to someone’s critique of your work, stop and think. Double think. Do you want what you say to be out there forever, and forever gilding your career. Because it will be. Even if you delete it, it’s cached. And people will have shared it.

It’s a given these days that if you’re published in any form, it behoves you and your publisher if you have a social media presence.

Right now, you don’t have to have an online presence, but it benefits you enormously if you do. I would argue that before long a writer will have to have an online presence.

The reason we need that is primarily due to noise.

I’m loathe to use the often-touted term author platform, because I think that carries all kinds of unnecessary connotations, so I’m just going to refer to it from here on as “the presence”.

I’m a horror writer, among other things, so standing up here to talking a room full of people about The Presence amuses me.

There are various social areas of engagement: micro- and macro-arenas, if you like. This here, a room of people, is actually a micro-arena of social engagement.

You could conceivably interact with pretty much every one here over the course of a day or two, in small group conversations, the occasional one on one chat in a queue, perhaps an awkward, strangely polite few words beside each other at urinals or adjoining cubicles. It’s not intimate – well, the urinal thing might be, but overall, this event is not especially intimate, but it is micro.

This is where things have changed. This used to be the macro-arena. An event like this over several days or even weeks, used to be the biggest interaction a person could have. Not any more.

Now we have the internet.

Something like today, this event, has become a micro-arena because the mother of all macro-arenas now exists.

The thing about this relatively new super-macro-arena of social engagement is that it’s hectic. You want The Presence, your presence, to be there, because if you have your work out in the world, you need people to know about it and the internet is brilliant for that..

But getting noticed in that digital maelstrom is like trying to have a civilised chat at a heavy metal gig. And you need to make the right noise. Don’t be noticed for the wrong reasons.

There’s an old Chinese proverb – The empty vessel makes the most noise.

The usual example is a jar of beans. If there are only a few beans in it and you shake it around, it makes a huge racket.

Fill it to the brim with beans, shake it and it’s pretty much silent.

Of course, the point here is that you achieve through quality content – being a full jar – and you get noticed that way, rather than only having a few beans and shaking your jar as loudly as you can.

Sadly, the internet often favours those with few beans and a vigorous shaking arm.

We all have to play in that sandpit. And it can get pretty crappy in there.

While we’re busily filling our jar with beans and trying to make people notice it, all the other people out there will be judging us and our work.

And not everyone will like our stuff and through the unfiltered ease of the internet, they’ll tell us so.

I’m sure you’ve all seen someone immolate their career in a furnace of righteous outrage when they get a bad review, thereby getting noticed by making all the wrong noises. If you haven’t, you will now, because you’ll go looking for it. There’s plenty to choose from. (Edit: There’s a small one right here at The Word.)

And so, when you and your work are judged online:


Here’s a freebie for you. Got a notebook? Write this down. The only response you should ever give to anyone who reviews your work, if you give any response at all, is this:

Thank you very much for taking the time to read and review my work.

That’s it. Nothing else.

If they called you a talentless hack whose work should be used in high school as an example of how not to write, you respond:

Thank you very much for taking the time to read and review my work.

That’s if you respond at all. You don’t have to. You can simply let everyone else do the talking. Of course, if they’re nice to you, you can thank them for that, though again, you don’t have to.

But you must never respond negatively. Never try to defend your work or get drawn into an argument with someone over their review.

It’s their opinion and they’re entitled to it, even if they’re clearly a brain dead slug who wouldn’t recognise quality literature if it rolled them in salt.

Never get caught up in shitfights about opinion.

Engage with social media, use The Presence to draw attention to your stuff, but don’t always and only talk about your work. If you’re constantly on the hard sell, people will quickly tire of your used car salesman persona and ignore you. Talk about all kinds of stuff, engage and interact, but never negatively, and occasionally mention your work among all that.

If you try to present yourself as something you’re not, if you act like a dick, regardless of how good your work might be, people won’t want to work with you or read you.

It’s just like real life. Act online like you would face to face and you’re off to a pretty good start. Unless you actually are a dick, of course. There’s no help for you then.

My philosophy when it comes to social media engagement is four simple points, and I’ll wrap this up with them:

• Be yourself;
• Don’t be a dick;
• Promote the good stuff;
• Ignore the crap and the negative.

Keep working on filling your jar with beans and doing your best to make sure people know about it, without constantly beating them over the cyber-head with it.

Everything else takes care of itself.


Emerging Writers Festival reminder

This is a reminder repost:

The Emerging Writers’ Festival is coming around again from May 24 – June 3. You may remember that I went up to Brisbane last year and took part. I’ll be involved again, this time in Melbourne. It’s a brilliant event and well worth your time whether you’re new and emerging or an old hand at penmonkeying. I’m on a panel again, this time about what happens after you’re published:

Post-Publication, Saturday 3pm, 26th May
Congratulations – you’ve been published! Now what? Our writers share their experiences and advice on what awaits once your work is out in the world. With Ali Alizadeh, Alan Baxter, Emmett Stinson and Stella Young. Hosted by Sam Cooney.

But that panel alone is a tiny fraction of all the awesome stuff going on as part of EWF 2012. There’s loads of information here and a full program of events here.

So much good stuff. And you can keep up to speed on Twitter with the #ewf12 hashtag and by following @EmergingWriters. Be there!

And don’t forget that The Emerging Writer, a brilliant book, is also out now. Details here.