MWF Lament

As you all no doubt know, the Melbourne Writers Festival is currently taking place in Melbourne — that would be Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; not Melbourne, Nova Scotia, Canada; or Melbourne, Derbyshire, UK; or even Melbourne, Izard County, Arkansas, USA. The festival is on, people other than me are attending interesting and informative sessions about writing, while I’m lamenting my non-attendance.

I missed out on last year’s festival because of its proximity to Aussiecon 4, the 68th World Science Fiction Convention (see my post, Aussiecon 4 Memories). I simply could not afford the time to attend both. But that wasn’t so bad, as my attendance at Aussiecon consoled me.

This year, I’m missing the festival as well… but with no consolation. This time around it’s a case of bad timing. Coming off a busy Children’s Book Week, I find myself struggling to get back on top of the writing that I wasn’t doing last week, especially all the promotional stuff I’m supposed to be getting ready for the imminent release of Gamers’ Challenge on 1 September. Then there is also the fact that I’m a stay-at-home dad as well as an author, and I passed off my youngest for much of last week, and I have to make arrangements to also get rid of her next week while I’m off doing a day-long school visit — so, I don’t feel like I can dump her this week as well.

Yes, I could probably find a little time off somewhere to go to one or two sessions. And I had been hoping to arrange that. But the sessions that interest me most are the ones that have the most inconvenient timing. Dammit! It’s not fair.

Even though I’m not there, I thought I’d mention a few of the sessions that I really wish I could be attending…

And that’s just a small selection.

I’m going to have to plan things a little bit better for next year. Maybe what I should be doing is pestering the organisers and trying to get myself onto the programme. If I’m on the programme, then I know I’ll arrange the time to actually be there. 🙂

Oh well… at least I shall not be completely festival-less this year. The Thousand Word Festival is coming up on 23-24 September and (halleluiah) I can actually make it to part of that. And I will be appearing in the writers’ area at the Armageddon Expo on 22-23 October.

If anyone who is attending the MWF would like to leave a comment and rub some salt into the wound by giving me some first-hand insight into what I’m missing, feel free to do so.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter… or, if you are at the MWF, follow them instead.

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Tweet Writer: The Cardboard Box For Adults

The best entertainment often comes from the simplest, most unlikely sources—just ask parents whose children derive hours of play from the empty cardboard box rather than the expensive toy that came in it.

For me, today’s surprise fun came courtesy of the Melbourne Writers Festival’s Tweet Writer website, which my sister phoned me all the way from Melbourne to point out.

The premise? You enter your Twitter account name and it analyses your tweets to create mock book covers, titles, artwork, and blurbs.

The outcome is a rotating 3D book cover with a title drawn from words contained in your tweets—yes, you will wonder what you wrote—as well as a logo or image to make a sort of headshot.

It’s a kind of virtual publishing meets comedy and is, quite simply, pure genius on a simple web page.

Tweet Writer does multiples, so hitting ‘republish’ on the right-hand side sends it back trawling to create a new book for you. Ah, the thrill of new and seemingly limitless combinations!

The best part is perhaps that it’s not confined to your own Twitter account. With only the correct account name required, you can enter anyone’s and determine what sorts of book titles they’d have.

I’m not overly active on Twitter (I’m yet to be convinced that it’s not boring and over-run by marketers), but from the few tweets I’ve made in the years I’ve had the account, mine included many Book Burglar-themed titles:

  • The Burglar of the End
  • The Unfairly of the Embracing
  • The Book of the Talk
  • The Reputation of the Edition
  • The Book of the Talking

Yes it’s a time-sapper. But it’s a fun time-sapper. One that is as much—if not more—fun than a cardboard box.

Festival Of The Book

Imperial BedroomsHighlighters and pens ready? Check. Reading positions selected? Check. Sleep caught up? Er, who needs sleep?

The launch today of the Brisbane Writers Festival program, coupled with the fact that the Byron Bay and Melbourne Writers Festivals’ programs are already out, means that we are officially entering the festivals of the book, writer, and reader.

Which means that I am madly highlighting, circling, and agonising over which sessions to attend when. And which session to attend when there is a clash, as there invariably regularly is at such high-calibre events.

For booklovers, be they readers or writers or both, writing festivals are akin to annual religious pilgrimages, with enlightenment found courtesy of the authors and panels.

The festivals are also likely to clean out our bank accounts, with book-buying fiends such as myself best frisked for our weapons-of-choice credit cards on the way through. Nothing short of confiscation or cutting up of credit cards will prevent me from (legitimately—I only steal from family) obtaining the books of the authors whose stories (and stories behind stories) the festival unveils.

This means, of course, that my mini mountain of un-read books doubles in size. But so too—if it’s at all possible—does my desire to take the phone off the hook, take the internet offline, and to hunker down and read.

American PsychoI’m excited every year by the festival line-ups, but this year I’m particularly stoked as two of my long-time favourite writers are heading down under. Bret Easton Ellis, he of the likes of American Psycho, Less Than Zero, and the freshly minted Imperial Bedrooms, which is currently in transit to me courtesy of this online bookstore (see, that credit card again—and the festivals haven’t even started) is making his first trip to Australia courtesy of the Byron Bay Writers Festival.

Meanwhile Joss Whedon, the genius behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer and more recently The Dollhouse, will be packing out the Melbourne Town Hall on the first night of the Melbourne Writers Festival. I say packing out because his session has already sold out—I missed out on a ticket, am completely gutted, and am very seriously wondering what Eliza Dusku’s Dollhouse character Echo would do to get herself in there were she me…

Regardless of whether I manage to make it in to see Whedon (thankfully I at least have a ticket for Easton Ellis), nothing quite matches the buzz I get from writers’ festivals. I’ll be blogging about the sessions I attend at each of them, kicking off with the cosy Byron Bay.

I have highlighters and pens ready to plan out the session logistics. I am testing out the best reading positions as I read authors’ back catalogues in preparation. Sadly the two former mean that the latter—catching up on or stockpiling sleep—is impossible. But when it comes to writers’ festivals, I’ll take the two out of three.