Saturday at SheKilda

It’s been a decade in the making, but Sisters in Crime has brought its second SheKilda crime convention to the good – and slightly nefarious – people of Melbourne. For two and a half days, women and men (but mostly women) are gathering at Rydges hotel in Carlton to discuss, disect and plot crime and crime writing.

On this Sunday morning, I am multi-tasking at a panel on Sidekicks and Duos, on the role of partners and helpers in crime fiction. Later today I’ll be exploring Crime Travel and something called Just the Facts, Ma’am. I can’t recall what that one’s about, so it’ll be fun to find out. That’s aside from all the other fascinating, concurrent panels I can’t attend without the assistance of Hermoine’s time turner.

Friday night’s cocktail part has already thrown me together with fabulous, smart, talented, wise and funny women who are generous with their time and advice. So clearly the convention has started as it means to continue.

Saturday morning’s plenary session introduced us to SheKilda’s three overseas guests. (SheKilda features a lot of guests – over 70 Australian writers!) Margie Orford (South Africa), Vanda Symon (New Zealand) and Shamini Flint (Singapore) all have different approaches that spring very much from the places they call home and widened my view of the world in a single one-hour session. Flint is also so charming and hilarious I’ve broken my No New Books embargo to pick up the first of her Inspector Singh series.

Actually, I’ve broken my No New Book embargo for six books so far, inspired by the women I’m meeting and hearing. I have had to construct a psychological time bubble around these books so that they have, in my head, been purchased before the new book embargo began. I have a lot of time bubbles of that nature, as witnessed by the still-growing pile of books in my book stash. (See, I still read paperbacks, even though I love my e-reader.)

I have bought The Trojan Dog by Dorothy Johnston, a crime novel set in Canberra. Dorothy spoke on a panel exploring how the panelists came to crime writing in the first place. I also bought Scarlet Stiletto: The Second Cut, a collection of previous winners of the Scarlet Stiletto awards. These are the crime writers of tomorrow and I want to see who to look out for. Karen Healey’s The Shattering was always on my list, after the marvellous Guardian of the Dead, and seeing her on a YA Crime panel reminded me to grab it quick.

Arabella Candellabra was co-written by a couple of terrific Sisters In Crime, Mandy Wrangles and Kylie Fox, and published by Lindy Cameron’s Clandestine Press, so how could I say no? Finally, after being on a panel with Tara Moss, and being utterly charmed by her intelligence, wit, thoughtfulness and general loveliness – and then learning her new book has vampires in it – naturally, I’ve picked up The Blood Countess.

This blog wasn’t supposed to be ‘What I bought at SheKilda’, but perhaps it best shows how inspired I am by this event. There are so many more books I am adding to my Kindle wish list because these writers all have a unique voice and a textured story to tell. I hear that they go through the same challenges, crises of confidence, oxygen-giving breakthroughs and joy of defeating the tyranny of the blank page that I do.

These shared experiences, leading to such different stories, remind me that persistance, imagination and hard work will see writers through some difficult times. They remind me, too, the important of mentoring and share your own experiences with others. No-one can write your book for you, but they can shine a light on the process. You can see that others have survived those trials of doubt, of stealing time from your other responsibilities and of the inevitable rejection slips.

So, my sisters (and brothers) in crime at SheKilda and in the writing world in general: thank you all for your blogs, your panels, your corridor conversations and your books.

I am looking forward to my Sunday. If you have time, you can slip on over to Rydges and get tickets to individual sessions too. Look up the program at www.shekilda.com.au

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The conference is over. Read some of my thoughts on the overall experience.