Well, Conflux9 is done and dusted and I thought maybe I should blog about the experience before I start forgetting things.
It was the first time I’d been to anything even like a writers’ conference and definitely the first time I’d stayed at the same hotel. Once I’d checked in, then found the conference registration desk and registered, I loitered in the foyer along with other attendees, making new friends and gradually letting people find me who I knew online, mostly from Twitter. It helped my Twitter avatar was a real pic of me, which was not entirely deliberate.
That first evening also had the panel I was on. I’d seen how panels worked at events run by the NSW Writers’ Centre, so I knew how they worked: they’re basically a conversation in front of an audience. My panel was about Life Transitions In Fiction, although the full title was longer. I can speak to how story is important for turning children into adults, which was why I volunteered. Other members on the panel were interested in how birth and death are depicted in speculative fiction. It turned out I didn’t really need the notes I’d prepared and in fact used almost none of them! Jack Dann was utterly captivating telling stories of the Sioux and how they do initiation, but Jodi Cleghorn and Helen Stubbs were no less interesting, too. I’d like to think we provided an interesting panel. I would have also liked it to have been later, as it was only by the second afternoon that I felt properly part of the conference.
It was also the second day that Patty Jansen finally found me. Patty was the person who first invited me to Conflux all those months ago and I’m stoked we had several good conversations about writing and life as a writer.
It was on the second day that I remembered how to live-tweet panels. This involves tweeting pithy grabs during the panel, suitably tagged. I’m glad I didn’t have any of my followers complain about me periodically flooding their feeds with my tweets, but one thing I did quickly notice is that it gained me a lot of new followers! I think I estimated at least 30 people from the conference followed my Twitter account over the four days, almost all of which I then followed back. This also meant that after it was all over, some of us could keep talking to each other even as people were making their way home. It kind of made the conference last just that little bit longer, in a way.
There are many things I learnt, and it would be boring and tedious to try to list them all here. But one of the things that really stands out is just how non-elitist the writing community is. Everyone is willing to give a hand to those alongside them and coming up behind them. Writers seem to love it when people want to know what they know and also like hearing how differently you approach the same problems. In fact, it was all as much a conference of ideas as writing, because writing – and especially speculative fiction writing – needs ideas more than perhaps almost any other genre. And putting ideas together breeds other ideas. Fact.
We also had a lot of fun. There were numerous opportunities to dress up as little or as much as you wanted – the theme was steampunk, after all. But the panels were often times for not just seriously interesting discussion, but seriously funny discussion, too.
I am so glad I went.