Flew into Sydney this morning to start our cruise. The sky
was still hazy, but nowhere near as bad as it was a week ago. Last week the harbour bridge was obscured
with thick, black smoke. This week you
can see the bridge, even though the sky still looks smoggy.
As a result, the setting sun was a beautiful
orange-yellow. Photos never do it
justice, but here’s what it looked like.
Sitting up so high on the ship, you can see how beautiful
some of the older architecture in Sydney is.
If you read this blog you’ll know that both Sherylyn and I
enjoy cruising. There’s something about being on the water that is magic. Not
having to cook or clean is nice, too.
I love New Zealand. We cruised there last year, and we’re
going back mid-year to WorldCon. We weren’t planning on going there again at
Christmas, we planned to cruise the Aegean, or reposition from Southampton or
Seattle to Sydney.
But the New Zealand cruise was cheap, and the time was good,
and we’re both really looking forward to it.
Last trip we did everything Lord of the Rings. This year
we‘re doing nature. Particularly nature of a volcanic origin, because here in
Australia our land is geologically stable, relatively speaking, and has been
for a long time. New Zealand, however, is on the Pacific Ring of Fire. Show me
some geysers and hot springs, please.
Anyway, we picked out a tour that’s going to take us into
the area we want. It has a three kilometre ‘moderate’ walk.
“I don’t think you realise how unfit I am,” I said to
Sherlyn, who goes to Zumba twice a week.
“You’re not that bad,” she said. “We used to walk a lot.”
That was a long time ago now, and I haven’t done any real
exercise for twelve months. Life right now is work, home, dinner, sleep, and
get up the next day and do it all over again. I don’t even take the stairs at
work any more as I have a dodgy knee.
Around the same time, my work had one of those get fit
initiatives where you join a team and count the number of steps you do each
“I’m in,” I said. It was perfect timing to get fit for the
I struggled. Not because I had to walk—although that was
hard—but because my dodgy knee decided to play up. It was agony.
It still is.
Sherylyn has ordered some walker’s sticks for me. If I take
some weight off the knee it helps (it would help even more if I lost some
weight) but I’m still not as fit or as fast as I’d like to be.
Hence I have decided to walk to New Zealand.
Not all the way, of course, because there’s so much to do on
board, but those of you who have been on ships might know that two prime
forward viewing areas of the ship are taken up by the beauty salon and the gym.
One thing I do enjoy on a ship is the treadmill. There’s the
ocean in front of you, and not much else. It’s a perfect place to dream.
All I want by the end of it is to be able to walk three
kilometres in reasonable time.
As for the knee, we’ll see how that is on the day.
Another GenreCon has been and gone. It was a lot of fun, with some stand-out sessions.
The conference was two weeks after Sherylyn and I ran an
editing session down here in Melbourne, and some sessions particularly made an
impact because I was still thinking about the course.
One session I want to talk about is the Shreader, where ten
brave souls submitted the first two pages of their manuscript to an author, an
agent and an editor, and they decided whether they’d read more or pass (shred).
It takes courage to put yourself out in public like that,
even when you’re a published author with an editor and an agent behind you. For
newbies, who don’t even have that experience behind them, it can be a raw
experience. It’s one I’d recommend,
however, if you think you can take it.
As newbie writers we put our work out there and want praise.
What we need, however, is constructive feedback. We also need the
ability to listen to that feedback, the thick skin that comes from experience
of being critiqued. It allows us to dissociate ourselves from the work being considered—mostly,
The Shreader is a harsh way to get this feedback, but it’s real
life, and if you can face something like the Shreader and get value out of it,
you’re levelling up as a writer. Good on you.
My two cents
The writing was good in all samples, but only four made it past
You got a hint of how different stories appeal to different people, with those on the stage who liked fantasy showing more interest in the fantasy offerings, and—I think it was the agent, who specialised in children’s and young adult fiction—showing more interest in a story that was likely to be young adult. I found this myself, as I listened. Whilst the samples were all well-written there was only that caught my interest enough to want to read more.
It’s like picking up books in a library. I borrow roughly one in ten of those I read the blurb on.
I would say that for me many of stories felt as if they started
too early. They also contained a lot of backstory. One of the things we touched
on in the course we ran two weeks earlier was infodumps, so I was still very
aware of how much backstory slows down the narrative, particularly in the first
few pages, where you’re trying to capture the reader’s attention.
Resonating with Theme
The other session was Rob Porteous’ Resonating with Theme.
In this session, Rob talked about his years of judging the
Aurealis awards. I’m working from memory here, because I didn’t write it down,
but Rob said that the stories he judged were mostly well written, and 80% of
them started off with a great idea. However, few of them carried through on the
promise of the story.
It came immediately after The Shreader, and the two sessions
seemed to cover a theme. Not Rob’s theme, which was about putting a theme into
your story, but a thread of how you can write well, and have great ideas but
still not be quite there.
When it is there, however, that’s when the magic happens.