Last night I travelled up to Sydney as I’d been invited, along with Bill Congreve, to be a guest speaker at the NSW Society Of Editors meeting. The event started badly. As I live an hour and half’s drive from Sydney, I always try to combine any errands when I do go up there. So I left two hours early with a several things to do around town before the meeting.

I got twenty minutes up the road and the traffic on the freeway was standing still. After a little while it began to crawl. And it continued to crawl for two hours. Turns out, according to local radio, that a pedestrian was killed on the freeway and they shut it down, diverting us all through the suburbs. What the fuck a pedestrian was doing on the freeway I have no idea. Either it’s a very sad accident or a suicide. If it’s a suicide then the selfish bastard has a lot to answer for – not just causing hours of traffic mayhem, but making some poor driver live the rest of their life with the knowledge they’ve killed someone. But I’m speculating, so who knows what happened. It might turn out yet that local radio grabbed a story and ran with it when the truth is that a cat caused a dump truck to roll over and no one was hurt. Not even the cat. Who knows.

All of which is completely irrelevant. It basically destroyed the extra time I’d left for errands and a one and a half hour journey took three and half hours. Fortunately, even though no errands were run, I did make it just in time for the meeting. Where there were sandwiches, so things started looking up immediately.

They’d invited us to bring along some books to show and sell, which Bill took very seriously. It was like a trader’s table at a con. I’d only brought a handful of books with me and felt like quite the underachiever sitting next to Bill. Then again, Bill’s been a publisher and a writer for a lot longer than me, so no surprise he has more wares to hawk. Someone on Twitter posted this photo after the event. It looks a bit like I’m trying to establish who made a horrible smell and Bill’s top suspect is me.

I think it was probably Abigail Nathan that took the photo. Own up if you’re reading, Abi!

For the talk Bill and I had been asked to cover a lot of ground – speculative fiction in general, the nature of the Australian spec fic scene, the movement in digital publishing, particularly small press and genre publishers (given that Bill and I are both writers and publishers in the scene). We kept the talk casual and encouraged people there to ask questions along the way. I always prefer that kind of informal talk to a more fixed presentation followed by Q & A. Especially with two of us, both of whom can crap for hours about one tiny trivia detail about spec fic.

It was a very enjoyable evening. I think Bill and I did cover a fair amount of ground and while it seemed like we just waffled for an hour, people were coming up to us afterwards and claiming they’d enjoyed it and learned some stuff. So either we did an okay job or NSW editors are a very polite bunch. It’s probably a bit of both.

And they gave us wine, so that’s raised my appreciation for editors even more. As a writer you do learn to appreciate an editor. Early in my writing life I felt, as most writers probably do, that editors are out to homogenise your work, rip out your voice and exercise their own frustrated writer angst on someone else. As you go along this writing journey you soon come to realise that editors are usually very good at what they do, love what they do and invariably make a story better with their insight. Sitting in front of a room full of editors didn’t feel like being on the wrong side of the glass at the tiger enclosure at all. It was a nice place to be and everyone there was very friendly.

More power to the editors that make us writers look better than we actually are! I’d like to thank the Society for inviting me and Bill along.

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