Yesterday, as a guest of the Queensland Writers’ Centre, I flew to Brisbane to be a panelist as part of their One Book Many Brisbanes short story masterclass program. Fellow speakers were Overland editor Jeff Sparrow and writer Peter Ball. The audience were newbies; fresh faced and attentive. Tutors included hoary old pros Angela Slatter and Trent Jamieson.
I was invited to share my Cosmos fiction editorial insights. I think I did OK and I only got carded once for swearing. Jeff and Peter made some interesting observations about the literary end of the short story universe – I probably learnt as much from them as did the audience.
I admit to having to repress the urge to get up on the table and shout GO HOME EVERYONE! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO YOURSELVES? WRITING IS A VAMPYRIC CURSE THAT WILL SUCK THE HOURS FROM YOUR DAYS AND THE MARROW FROM YOUR BONES, etc but somehow I managed to remain composed, crack a few jokes and if anyone burst into tears it happened after I left the room with Trent and Peter in tow. The three of us adjourned to a noisy, upstairs tavern and were joined by fellow spec fic veteran Ben Payne. Copious beers (and cokes) were downed as we compared shrapnel wounds, battle scars and relived occasional glories of empires past.
Eventually I retired to my stylish and comfortable hotel room to sleep, only to be rudely awoken by my mobile phone alarm at 5 am instead of 6 because I forgot that Queensland doesn’t do daylight saving.
En route to the airport, my incredibly polite Indian cabbie told me he was studying aircraft maintenance. On workdays he gets up at 3 am to catch a bus and train into town to pick up the cab. He’s only got a few months to go and is hopeful of scoring a better job when he’s done.
In the Virgin Blue terminal my chubby-cheeked barista enthused about how he moved from some backwater country town (forgot the name of it) where he worked in Maccas, to Brisbane and his airport job. He’s about to start studying to be a pilot, something that has been his lifelong dream. His eyes were shining as he spoke. Behind him, through the glass, red-tailed planes taxied soundlessly along the tarmac.
Sometimes I forget that its not just creative types who saddle themselves with hefty aspirations. With the ten remaining minutes before boarding, I perused the Newsagent’s paperback stand and considered, pensively, if one day, maybe, a novel penned by me might share that shelf.