Conventions: Think Outside Your Genre

Leaguers, meet Amie Kaufman, an Australian-based writer coming out next year with her YA science fiction debut titled THESE BROKEN STARS.

I’ve just come home from the inaugural GenreCon, an Australian convention for “anyone who gets their own section in the bookstore”. I met authors of romance, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, crime, horror, thrillers and more. It changed the way I see conferences and conventions.

Writers, editors, agents and the occasional reader (without whom we are nothing!) attended discussion panels at GenreCon on everything from “writing adult themes” (that one ran late at night, after drinks!), to research, career tips, world building and so much more. Multi-award winning authors taught workshops on everything from writing effective fight scenes to author platform. Teams lined up for a hilarious Plotters vs Pantsers debate. Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books gave us some live cover snark and introduced us to the were-platypus. International guest of honor, author Joe Abercrombie, admitted he’s just like the rest of us—he would totally sleep with Mr. Darcy to get Pemberley.

While the Aussies were having a fantastic time at GenreCon, half my Twitter feed was in Toronto at the World Fantasy Convention. All year I watch friends head off to WorldCon (the world science fiction convention) or the RWA Conference, or recently (to my intense envy!) LeakyCon – that’s right, Harry Potter!

There are lots of reasons to go to these conferences and conventions. You can improve your craft, meet your heroes, network like crazy to find anything from a critique partner to an agent, hear all the news that’s too hot to print, and remind yourself that although writing can feel like a solo sport, it’s anything but. I go for all those reasons.

But at GenreCon, I found something a little different. I took a workshop with award-winning historical romance author Anna Campbell - on how to research historical fiction. Incredibly useful for the steampunk book I’m tinkering with, and the romance authors in the room came at the question of setting the scene from a different angle to my science fiction brain. I listened to Aussie horror author Martin Livings talk about the visceral thrill of a horrifying moment, and what draws a reader to pursue it. I look for these moments in my work, but Martin has more experience than I ever will in this genre, and he knows his craft. I listened to Sarah Wendell talk passionately (and hilariously) about why romance challenges those who criticize it, and the strength of plots that empower women—a lesson that can go far beyond the romance world. I attended a world building panel featuring a fantasy author, a crime writer and a regency romance author, and heard three distinct points of view. I chaired a panel on researching your world, and heard from a historical author, a science fiction author and a medical/crime author—again, they all brought wonderfully different perspectives to the same question. They challenged the way I thought.

It was fantastic and different to mix it up with authors of crime, romance and horror, none of which are familiar to me as a reader or an author. I saw ideas through a new lens, found new plans of attack for old problems, and drew a new kind of energy from the discussion.

You know what was the same, though? The fact that no matter what genre you’re talking about, the genre community rocks. Everyone I met was warm, inclusive and welcoming, whether they were talking to a guest of honor, or an aspiring writer.

In 2013, I challenge you to look outside the box for conferences and conventions in your area—try something that’s not of your genre, and see what you learn! I guarantee you’ll find a new angle on your work.

Amie is the co-author of THESE BROKEN STARS, a YA sci-fi novel coming in 2013 from Disney-Hyperion. You can find Amie at her blog, on Twitter or on Facebook. Amie lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her husband and rescue dog, and this week she's reading her first ever regency romance.


Precious said...

Love this post! :) Thank you - you just inspired me to write again.

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