Yesterday’s post was written pre-conference. Today, I’m writing from the other end, at home, on my couch, half-asleep and vaguely unsettled because my nerves are still dancing the GenreCon fandango.
I’m tempted to be all false modesty here, but every indication from twitter comments and in-person discussions seems to indicate that the conference was great.
We’ll send out feedback forms to all the attendees in a few days and we’ll no-doubt learn about the things we didn’t do so well, but the vast majority of the people seemed to have gotten a lot out of the conference. The comments on the program have been great, with guests and panellists just knocking it out of the park in session after session.
I sent out a lot of thanks in the closing ceremony of the conference. I’d like to do so again here, in shorter form: I get an awful lot of love for running GenreCon, largely because I’m the name at the bottom of the emails people get, but I cannot overstate the importance of the team of people who come together and make it happen.
From the writers and editors who are part of the program to the QWC staff who support all the logistics through to the team of volunteers – and I will stress, these guys killed it this weekend, stepping up to a little extra when we lost people to illness – it’s an incredible team effort and I feel enormously privileged to have worked with all of them and grateful for their efforts.
I also want to revisit a comment I made in my opening remarks at the conference. The theory behind GenreCon is simple:
GOOD THINGS HAPPEN WHEN WRITERS TALK TO EACH OTHER.
Now that the conference is over, I want to share the other half of that philosophy:
BETTER THINGS HAPPEN WHEN WRITERS HELP EACH OTHER.
I’ve talked, in the past, that this is what lies at the heart of the dreaded networking word – it’s got nothing to do with what other people can do for you, and everything to do with what you can do for other people.
This is right at the heart of GenreCon in many respects, at the very core of who we invite and why we invite them.
For example – Mary Robinette Kowal. She’s been on my wish-list for GenreCon guests since we started planning the 2012 conference, and it’s not just because she’s a fabulous author. I’d heard one of her guests spots on the Writing Excuses podcast talking about writing and puppetry back in 2009, long before she was a regular, and there was a combination of incredibly smart advice and generosity towards new writers (see, also, her debut author lessons series) that made her a great fit for the conference. I knew she’d be phenomenal and surprise everyone who wasn’t familiar with her work, and that’s exactly what she did.
CS Pacat? One of the guests at the 2013 conference emailed me halfway through last year and said, “have you come across The Captive Prince? It’s brilliant, and very smart,” which in turn meant I jumped at the chance when the opportunity came to have her as a guest. And lo, CS Pacat was brilliant and very smart (and, how I wish I’d found her essays on writing a little earlier).
Marianne De Pierres? If you’re a young Brisbane writer working in spec fic, you probably don’t know how big an impact Marianne has had on your career. She founded groups and programs to help writers that elevated everyone around her and continues to be a brilliant talent in her own right. I’d need to talk to some people to be sure, but I think you can probably trace the DNA of GenreCon back to projects she started.
The same is true of all out other guests, in one way or another: Kaaron Warren has been strongly involved in mentorship programs for the AHWA and workshops at conference after conference; Kylie Scott is one of the most passionate members of the Romance Writer community that I’ve ever encountered, and there are several people who attended the conference purely because of her generosity; and while my knowledge of the Australian crime genre is perhaps the weakest, both Sulari Gentil and Angela Savage came with a list of recommendations as long as my arm from crime writers whose opinions I value and trust (and, I will stress, they were right – they’re both brilliant).
Talent and hard work will get you a long way in writing, but there is often a staggering correlation between writers who are successful and writers who possess that innate understanding that helping those around them, possessing a generosity of spirit when it comes to their experience and knowledge, is an essential part of the writers toolbox. They’re the people who inspire a spirit of generosity in others, so that they’re name comes to mind when someone like me says so, I’m looking for a person who can do X…
Networking is really just another name for helping out your peeps.
And it doesn’t need to be big – it can start small and easy, particularly in this age of social media.
Look at the writers you met over the GenreCon weekend and ask yourself – who can I help? How? It may be sending a link to an interesting article or recommending a book. It may be introducing two people you’ve met via email, if you think they can help each other. It may be saying thank-you and following up on an unfinished conversation, oh, you were interested in this, so you might want to take a look at…
It may be recognising one GenreCon volunteers at a book launch or literary festival, then offering to buy them a beer for their hard work (because, trust me, these folks have the hustle and industry sense to get where they’re planning on going).
Networking is not about you, is what I’m saying. Give more than you get, and don’t give expecting to get – just trust in the process.
By the time the next GenreCon rolls around in 2017, you may be shocked by how many people are lining up to help you in return.