Schmoozing with a Smart Bitch and a vulgar amount of name-dropping

Up until last week, I had not attended a high tea since 2000. 12 years ago I had the good fortune to attend a high tea in the Queen’s Ballroom whilst journeying through the Whitsunday Islands along the North East coast of Australia on a leg of the millenium world cruise of the QE2, as one does. There were marvellous sandwiches, petit fours and loose leaf tea served in fine bone china teacups. It was all very very proper. A string quartet played while well-dressed couples danced to music from the early twentieth century when I was asked if I would like to dance and I found myself doing the cha-cha with a gentleman host beside the Queen’s bust.

This is a travelling highlight for me and I had not felt the need to go to another high tea as it would be a hard act to follow. But last week I finally attended one as Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches Trashy Books was attending along with a number of romance readers, writers and bloggers. It was a loud and raucous afternoon spent with some fabulous women and a lot of fun was had by all. Sarah Wendell was in Sydney as an international guest for the inaugural Genre Convention and I was fortunate enough to be asked to be on a panel discussion with Sarah. The panel was called Not Just a Narrator where, along with Sarah, speculative fiction author Kirstyn McDermott and Harlequin Escape managing editor Kate Cuthbert, we spoke about the many people who promote books and reading, on and offline, from authors, bloggers and librarians *cough* yours truly *cough*. I spoke about the collaborative work NSW librarians and the NSW Readers’ Advisory group are doing to promote readership in developing their monthly themes, facilitating a monthly twitterchat group and blogs Love2Read2012 for the National Year of Reading and next year’s readwatchplay. As the sole librarian speaking at the convention, and only my second non-library talk, I was eager to see how libraries fit into the broader reader, author and book industry discourse. In my opinion, the library aspect was well received and it intersected well with the blogger and author experiences being relayed by the rest of the panel. I think that we need more librarians being part of readers conventions, literary festivals and book fairs as there is a natural overlap for these industries.

The convention itself was fantastic. With a swathe of amazing Australian authors discussing their readership and their craft, the atmosphere was exciting. I heard several of the speakers discussing that we are in an era of writing abundance and it was evident with the number of aspiring, emergent and established authors present and the fabulous editors and publishers that enable their work to be distributed broadly. There were so many fabulous people I spoke with such as Anna Campbell, Shannon Curtis, Christina Brooke, Kat @bookthingo, Rosie @fangbooks, @Rudi_Bee, Kate Eltham, Peter Ball, Denise Rosetti, Bronwyn Parry, Nicky Strickland, Kylie Mason, Haylee and Lilia from Harlequin, Caitlyn Nicholas and many more (and my apologies if I didn’t mention you).

However, I cannot be blasé about Sarah Wendell. Sure, I’d be much cooler if I didn’t gush all over her on my blog. But I have never been a cool kid and I think Sarah was lovely and funny and so generous with her time despite her concerns for her family and friends in the wake of hurricane Sandy. Back in 2008, I gave a Romance 101 presentation at the NSW Readers’ Advisory annual seminar where I introduced the Smart Bitches blog (and a number of other romance literature resources) to over 140 librarians. So to find myself four years later, onstage speaking with Sarah has been a career highlight.

There was no Queen’s ballroom or Queen’s bust, there weren’t any views of the South Pacific or tropical islands and there were no gentlemen hosts or string quartets. But we did have Tim Tams and lamingtons, and there was snark and there was awesomesauce. And it ranks up there with my high seas high tea cha-cha.

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