True to form, the last day of Brisbane Writers Festival was absolutely packed with events. I only had half an hour between each session so it was always a mad dash for autographs, a bite to eat, and then off to the next location.
10am-11am: Shadowhunted – Ask Me Anything!
Cassandra Clare has built a complex world full of vampires, faeries, angels, warlocks, Downworlders and Shadowhunters. Today she’s fielding your questions. You’ve got her for an hour—ask her anything!
This session was a Cassandra Clare fan’s dream. It kicked off with a world-first reading from Lady Midnight, the first novel in the upcoming trilogy The Dark Artifices. When the floor was opened to the audience, questions were flying back and forth about Simon, the deaths of various characters, her writing process, and so much more.
Everyone wanted to know about the new Shadowhunters TV series. Cassandra didn’t have too much to say about it: she was consulted about the casting process for the main characters but the writing and the rest of the series is out of her hands. The series is probably going to be quite different from the source material, and it’s not necessarily going to adopt the one book per season method but it will hopefully be incredible nonetheless.
11.30am-12.30pm: South of Darkness
As an orphan in London in the late 1700s, 13-year-old Barnaby Fletch is conned into thinking there’s a paradise on the other side of the world. After surviving the terrors of a sea journey across the globe, he arrives in Botany Bay, a long way from paradise. South of Darkness is John Marsden’s first adult novel. He talks about writing, life and the sordid underbelly of our convict past.
I was totally mesmerised by John Marsden. He has such an easy way of talking that makes me feel completely at home, whether he’s talking about convicts, writing, or about the magic of reading the Harry Potter series to his youngest three stepsons. When discussing how YA fiction can comment on the world around us, he expressed an appreciation for The Hunger Games series and I quietly fangirled a little more.
After the session I got my Out of Print Library Card bag signed, as well as my well-worn copy of Tomorrow, When the War Began and he asked me about Cassandra Clare’s signature. He’s apparently never heard of The Mortal Instruments but was seriously impressed with the sheer volume of fans who flocked to the Festival to see her. I explained a bit about the series but it may have just been gibberish because I was still in ‘I’m having a conversation with John Marsden’ mode.
1pm-2pm: Editors & Publishers
Four industry experts discuss what it takes to make it in modern publishing. How has the model changed, is there even a slush pile to rise above these days? With more people reading than ever before, hear why it’s still such a tough nut to crack, and how to approach the process of getting published.
We actually only had two industry experts for this event—Rebecca Starford from Text Publishing, and Gavin Grant from Small Beer Press. They talked about the importance of voice, the dos and don’ts of the industry, and how independent bookstores are your friends and they aren’t actually dying out.
2.30pm-3.30pm: The Road Taken
When met by a fork in the road, do you follow Robert Frost down the one less travelled, or stick to more familiar paths? In this industry seminar, meet three writers who have each had very different journeys to publication. They will reflect on their own stories and successes, and offer advice to help you pave your own way. Featuring: Graeme Simsion, Oliver Mol, Eliza Henry-Jones
Graeme Simsion is always a joy to watch in panel mode. Even though I’d attended his session on The Rosie Effect, I’m not tired of hearing about how he went about writing The Rosie Project. Everyone on this panel was very methodical and goal-oriented when it came to being published.
Eliza Henry-Jones’s pragmatic approach to writing is incredible. As she said, you spend so much time and effort on writing your manuscript and the amount of time and effort that goes into writing a cover letter or a query letter is basically negligible so why not send it off to a publisher? Is it weird that that has just never occurred to me? I’ve always thought of query letters as these terrifying things and been worried about the day when I actually have to write one. I feel like a lot of people in the audience are in the same mindset as me, though, because there were quite a few noises of surprise and assent at that comment.
4pm-5pm: Ancient Myths, Modern Tales
Some of the greatest stories ever told are from so far back we no longer know if they are fact, fiction, or something far more mysterious. Join authors Sjón, Holly Black, and Kelly Link, who bend genres and borrow from myth, as they talk with Angela Slatter about the tales that continue to enchant and haunt us.
This was an awesome way to end the Brisbane Writers Festival; myths and folklore have always fascinated me. I haven’t read anything by Sjón but the way he spoke made me want to run out and buy everything he’s ever written. (Unfortunately, every one of his books had sold out at the event.) The panel’s first experiences with their favourite myths and folklore stories were hilarious and I particularly loved Sjón’s description of the terrifying Icelandic Christmas Cat.
I wanted to hear a bit more from Angela Slatter, who was moderating, because I recently read Black-Winged Angels, her collection of fairy tale retellings with feminist leanings, and it was incredible. This session reignited my fascination with changelings and now I can’t wait to read Holly Black’s The Darkest Part of the Forest, which I picked up at the LOVE YA! session on Saturday.
I’ve mentioned my Out of Print Library Card tote bag a couple of times but now I get to show you the completed project! I got a signature from every author I met at Brisbane Writers Festival to make an awesome library card for myself.
In case you can’t read some of those signatures, the list includes Emily Rodda, Holly Black, Graeme Simsion, Christine Bongers, Deb Fitzpatrick, Daniel Herborn, David Burton, Eliza Henry-Jones, and Cassandra Clare. On the reverse side are the signatures of Trent Jamieson, John Marsden, and Kelly Link.
And that’s a wrap! I’m really pleased with how the Library Card bag looks so far and I had a great time at the Brisbane Writers Festival. I met so many amazing people—authors and book bloggers alike—and I’m already getting excited for next year. Now it’s time to rest.