When asked how he came to collaborate with Garth Nix, Sean Williams was quick to point out that they’d read each other’s work.


Aside from their impressive encyclopedic knowledge (on everything from the oral traditions of our earliest ancestors to 1930’s comic books to genre fiction on the screen), what struck me most about yesterday’s Speculative Fiction Festival at the NSW Writers’ Centre was how familiar with each other’s work the panelists were.

‘We are all fans here,’ explained Festival Director Cat Sparks and as I watched the sell out crowd excitedly exchanging stories, I realised how wonderfully true this was.

Garth Nix, Cathy Craigie, Margo Lanagan, Rebecca-Anne Do Rozario and Thoraiya Dyer.

There was an incredibly positive buzz in every one of the sessions I attended and the authors were very generous about sharing their own, often rocky, roads to publication. In the final panel discussion, both publishers and authors alike answered ‘it depends’ so often, it became the theme song of the session. Although there was no easy answer to the ‘how do I best publish my work’ question, there was certainly some wonderful advice.

For those that couldn’t make it, here are some of the highlights from my day:

On the lack of diversity in Urban Fantasy:

On the tricky topic of what makes a book YA:

  • ‘Write the story and the age group will find it.’ Maria Lewis

On the topic of writing to market:

  • ‘Write what you believe in… and have a day job.’  Garth Nix

On research:

  • ‘No reading is a waste of time. Fill your head with stuff.’  Garth Nix

On becoming known as a ‘weird’ writer:

  • ‘I wanted to write bedtime stories for adults.’ Julie Koh.
  • ‘My kids will read my fiction one day and say WTF Mum?!’ Kaaron Warren

On how to be a successful author:

  • ‘I have ten commandments. The first two are: read a lot and write a lot.’ Sean Williams

On self publishing:

On publishing houses:

  • ‘Publishers can help you find the professionals suited to your work.’  Joel Naoum (Critical Mass)
  • ‘It’s important to find the right place for you.’ Alison Green (Pantera Press)
  • ‘Do your research. The inside covers of the books you like to read is a good place to start.’ Alison Green (Pantera Press)

On changing publishers:

  • ‘Yes, I have the old ones killed.’ Garth Nix


Happy reading and writing!