GenreCon 2013: The Aftermath

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So I’ve been organising a con for the last few months, and now it’s over. GenreCon 2013 has been laid to rest, the attendees have all departed and flown back to their home cities, and my twitter feed is filled with people either thanking me for putting the con on or congratulating me on its success. Which means my life returns, more or less, to what passes for normal around these parts. A least until October 24th, when I fly to the UK to attend World Fantasy and get to experience the whole con thing from the attendee’s side.

The internet is slowly starting to fill with people posting con reports. Some of the ones that have crossed my path are here, here, and here. This is my report, which isn’t really a report, ’cause when you convene a conference, you don’t really get to see much.

Perhaps a more accurate thing to say is this is a series of vaguely coherent thoughts and feels I’ve had since the conference ended.

One

Holy fucking Jesus, that thing ate my life. I mean, there are many projects that are all-consuming, whether they’re work-related or writing-related, but this was like inviting Godzilla into your house to snack on all the available free time.

I am seriously fucking tired right now. But it’s a good kind of tired. I’m building up to some epic napping in the very near future.

Two

In a lot of ways, I’m one of the most visibly faces of GenreCon online, which means I get a lot of thanks and gratitude sent my way when the social medias start firing up (also, this year, an ungodly number of free drinks when I hit the bar; this caught me off guard).

All this gratitude is great for my ego and all, but it’s really not fair – for ten month of the year GenreCon is a conversation between me and my boss, Meg Vann, and for the most part those ten months are the fun part. Once the conference date draws near, however, a whole gang of people come on board to make things happen, and their jobs are actually a lot harder (and way less fun) than mine.

This means there’s a series of people who are getting nowhere near the love they deserve from the attendees, despite the fact they worked their fucking asses off to make the con happen. I spend a lot of time thanking these people for their work, but it never feels like enough, so I’ll do it once again:

To Meg, who helps keep the good ship GenreCon running and helps me steer the mighty beast;

To Aimee, who fucking rocks the on-the-ground admin and masters the logistics that would take me hours to untangle;

To Simon, who refuses to be flapped by anything and remains a quiet centre of calm amid the chaos;

To Sophie, who promoted the hell out of things and worked through a wicked flu to keep things running;

To Megan, who worked booze-free at all the events that had free booze, and thus made the ultimate sacrifice;

To Stacey, who wrangled transport and stepped up to fill the empty spots in the schedule whenever they needed filling (seriously, *have a lunch break*);

To Emily, who switched gears over and over on the weekend, and managed to line up an epic series of interviews amid all the backstage stuff.

To Lizz M., who stepped into the breach more times than I can count, thus earning the gratitude of me and the entire QWC contingent;

and to Lizz G., who walked into the chaos at the eleventh hour, and held her own admirably.

Seriously, all of you, thank you.

You seriously fucking rock, and none of you get the gratitude you deserve for your efforts through the GenreCon weekend.

Three

I said this last year, and I’ll stand by it: when you’re planning a con, the quality of your talent matters.

For the second year in a row, we were blessed with a truly outstanding list of guests. I can whole-heartedly recommend Chuck Wendig and John Connolly as potential guests to anyone planning a writing conference – they were both erudite, thoroughly engaging, and exceedingly fucking smart presenters who brought a great deal of knowledge to the table, and I think almost all the writers who engaged with them came away inspired and ready to double-down on their writing careers.

The same can be said of our Australian guests. We already knew Anne Gracie was going to be phenomenal (I’ve been a huge fan of her advice articles in the RWA newsletter, and pretty much anyone involved in the Romance Writers of Australia is a safe bet when it comes to being a con guest), and the same is true of both Alex Adsett (one of the rising stars among Australian literary agents) and Harlequin Escape editor Kate Cuthbert (we met her at GenreCon 2012 and immediately thought, yep, we’re definitely bringing her back).

Kathryn Fox was someone we’d tried to bring to the first GenreCon as a guest (we were thwarted by email problems), so it was great to see here in the thick of things this year, enjoying herself amid the other guests. John Birmingham remained a laconic, entertaining presence at the con and delivered an image I’ll be hard-pressed to forget during the final debate.

I’m exceedingly sorry I missed Peter Armstrong’s presentation about serial publication, which my boss has been raving about for several months (and the implementation of his Lean Pub platform seemed to impress our digital team at work).

Four

If the quality of our invited talent wasn’t enough, GenreCon really thrived on the backs of over ninety writers, editors, and agents who volunteered their time to participate in this year’s program. In the end we could use only half that number (limited time, limited space), but it meant we could represent a great deal of diversity in terms of the genres and experience levels presented.

A whole bunch of people came to GenreCon and rocked it, for no other reason than because they wanted to contribute to the development of emerging Australian writers and help forge the kind of community that makes exists to help everyone.

Seriously, all of you, you fucking rock.

Five

The statistical odds of me attempting to write a romance novel is significantly higher than it was this time last year.

Six

It probably won’t be a good romance novel, but I want to make the attempt.

Seven

When you work a project like GenreCon, you get to see a whole lot of genre-snobbery up close. It happened a few times in the lead-up, whether it was in the abstract (people posting me articles about the difference between genre and lit-fic) or the specific (people making disparaging marks about genre writing in general). That shit, it royally pisses me off, to the point where my blood pressure spikes. In my world, if you want to write, you’ve earned all the respect you need to earn for your ambitions to respected. What you want to write doesn’t factor into things.

The reverse of this – genre writers getting snarky at the lit crowd – doesn’t happen in quite the same way, but it does happen, and it’s a thing I generally try to avoid programming stuff that’ll provoke that kind of snark when we put together the con program. For one thing, I like big L literature as much as I like genre fiction. For another thing, a whole bunch of the peeps I mentioned up in point two? Lit writers. REALLY FUCKING GOOD lit writers. I don’t want them to feel disrespected when they’re giving up sixteen hours of their life to make something run.

Mostly, we get that right.

This year, on occasions, we got that wrong, and it made me a little sad. I get where a lot of the anger towards literature comes from (I’ve felt it myself, in the past, and will no doubt feel it again), but the truth is writers are writers, and the vast majority of writers will find common ground if given half the opportunity to do so.

Eight

The next big GenreCon isn’t until 2015 and I’ve got a whole lot of complex feelings about that. Mostly, though, I’m happy we’re taking a break next year.

Don’t get me wrong, I love running the con, but if I’m being really honest with myself, I have to admit that this year has damn-near wiped me out when it comes to work stuff. I don’t have a good filter when it comes to doing things I’m passionate about, and that means it’s extraordinarily hard for me to come home and switch off when running a con. I may be employed four days a week, but I think about it twenty-four seven (and largely work that often well).

But it isn’t just the all-consuming nature of the work that makes me happy about the every-two-years plan.

It’s the fact that it’ll give us the time to do things better. It’ll let us plan the next conference and give it some more shape, rather than just resting on the things that have let us get to this point. GenreCon grew fast – we had about 70% more attendees this year than the first time we ran things – and sticking with that kind of roller-coaster doesn’t leave a lot of time for thinking things out.

24 months may seem like a long wait, but I’m already looking at ways that the extra time allows us to try some things that are completely kick-ass. We can take a look at all the things we’re doing right, all the things that are going wrong, and really take the time to deliver a quality experience.

And honestly, for me, 2015 will be here before I know it, and I’m already sweating the details of what the conference is going to look like…

  3 comments for “GenreCon 2013: The Aftermath

  1. 18/10/2013 at 12:20 PM

    Thanks a lot for Point Two. It's easy to fall into the trap of just considering you as the face of GC, since you're the guy I actually know; it's good to be made aware of all the people who put their all into the weekend and everything that came before it. You folks – all of you – are heroes.

    And thanks too for Point Seven. One of the few negative elements of the con was hearing a few people perpetuate the awful us-vs-them mindset about literary fiction. I'm glad that that's not GC's own stance. Maybe combatting that attitude can be something future cons address, even if only tangentially.

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