Easter weekend, for me, was given over entirely to Contact2016. (I even sacrificed chocolate! Although, come to think of it, Sean Williams did come to the rescue on that front. Although he kept making me promise to give it to Squawk.)
Without hesitation, it was a fabulous con. The programming was engaging and interesting, being devoted less to the introductory "how do I write/get published?" level and far more to discussion of issues and themes and social commentary. Initially I had to pull out of all programming events, because I was unsure of Squawk-minding and my own internal resources and how the two would intersect — but even so I still managed to land myself on a panel at the last minute, and got to wax lyrical about the role of hard choices and how that intersected with racism/sexism in character redemption arcs.
I've now come home with a head buzzing with industry talk, some new friends, re-connections with established friends, a touch of con-lurgy, a veritable slab of post-con blues/introversion burnout, and, oh, that's right … two Aurealis Awards!
My story "The Miseducation of Mara Lys" — which is about classism and the privileges that will inevitably corrupt any social hierarchy, and what happens when merit encounters a "meritocracy" — won for Best Horror Novella and for Best YA Short Story.
Having every story in the collection as well as the collection itself be shortlisted in this year's awards (how is that even possible?! I still can't believe it!) was humbling to the point of incoherency. To be fully half the Best Horror Novella shortlist was made even better when Squawk turned to me, each time my name was read aloud, and said with the innocent wonder only 3yo's can muster, "That's you! You won!"
It's so fitting, then, that the story which did actually win was Mara Lys. The lengths to which the characters go, in order to win the chance to practice their art in peace, was born in no small part from the fevered imaginings of the mother of a newborn who wanted just one uninterrupted hour a week to write. And the monster of the tale, the famed wyrm… Well, that wouldn't be what it is, and the story wouldn't work, without its dandelion hair, sparse and fine and drifting on the wind … and wholly inspired by the follicles of my little gumnut baby.
It's also fitting that it should have been given to me in Brisbane — the city where, as a 2005 Clarion South student who'd never before met anyone who took writing seriously, let alone people who did it, let alone people who did it so successfully as to be lauded and awarded for their efforts, I attended my very first Aurealis Awards ceremony. And this year there I was, on a stage, with my week one Clarion South tutor and at least some of my Clarion South cellmates in the audience.
All in all, I simply couldn't be happier. (Especially since, at the rate I write, this win will have to last me and my self-doubts quite some time…)