I recently went on my first cruise. It’s been a long time coming, but I was scared of the ocean (love to look at it, just don’t want to be on it) so the time had never been right, until I was offered the gig of being a Special Interest Speaker on a cruise, and I thought This is a year of firsts (see Game for a Change), why not!
I won’t bore you with my two-day-terror as we crossed a known rough patch of ocean (known to everyone but me, thankfully, or I may not have had the wherewithal to go) but would rather share the sparkly parts of the journey. Firstly:
Anyone who has ever been on a cruise will know what I mean. Cruise companies do food very, very well. There are multiple restaurants (bistro, a la carte, poolside, intimate cafe, gelateria, you name it) and most serve multiple styles of food. All whims catered to: Indian curries, wood-fired pizzas, sushi, tropical salads, roasts, the list goes on. Most are open all day, some half the night, and if that wasn’t good enough, there’s 24hr room service. As a vegetarian, I occasionally have to work hard to source a nutritious meal, but not on a cruise. Everyone is catered to. No one misses out, and gluttony is the order of the day. Then there was:
Beds turned down every evening with chocolates, afternoon hors d’oeuvres served to the stateroom, waiters everywhere looking to serve you, and on your weary way back on board after an exhausting excursion day, hot chocolate and warm towels to welcome you ‘home’.
Everywhere. Honestly. Everything from classical strings to reggae to soft rock spread out across the ship during the day, and at night, spectacular stage shows with world-class performances – either Broadway style shows, piano or violin recitals, big-name US comedians. You name it, they had it. Plus all the fun stuff people are apparently used to on cruises: bingo, bocce, ballroom dance classes, gambling, shopping.
My talks were part of the entertainment program, so instead of being ‘teaching workshops/talks’ as I’m used to presenting, they were to be infotainment. This meant fun and laughs sprinkled amid the info, which was a delight to plan and prepare, and even more fun to deliver. I presented 5 one-hour sessions over the course of the cruise on various topics related to writing, unlocking creativity, research and development of ideas, the power of story, using your own life to create stories and writing in different genres. My audience built over time and basically fell into two categories: Those who wanted some intellectual stimulation and were curious about how writers work. And those who wanted to write and were keen for tips. Of the latter group, many came up to me afterwards and said things like “Now that I’m retired I’ve finally got time to pursue my dream of writing a book, and thank you for inspiring me to get started!” So it was lovely to have been able to do that. Part of my career mission statement involves helping others achieve their dreams, so I was thrilled to have achieved that.
Was it a fabulous experience? Absolutely! I am so glad I went. Was it what I’d expected? No, not at all. It was way more glamorous, exciting and exhausting than I could ever have imagined. I took books with me to read and got none of that done. When I wasn’t on a ‘working’ day either presenting a session or chatting to people and socializing (also part of the job for Special Interest Speakers) I was on a shore excursion. The shore excursions were free time, and I got to do some amazing exploring, but all of that required energy and focus as well, so to be honest, there was very little downtime and by the end of the 12 days I was exhausted! Knowing what I know now, I’d probably pace myself better and have at least one day out of five relaxing on the ship (ignoring the port we’d docked at) and maybe having spa treatments or lying by the pool with a book. Napping. Napping would be good.
The extroverts among us would fare better, I think. I’m great at presenting, but being an introvert at heart, I need to crawl into my shell regularly to recoup, and I think that element of the trip was lacking. Next time I cruise, I’ll be more organized with pacing, and also checking out the route to make sure it’s smooth sailing all the way!
So that’s my story, now I’m curious about you. Have you cruised? What did you love about it? What would you do differently next time? I’d love to hear.
Angela Sunde, Gold Coast, Helen Lacey, Katherine Howell, Kylie Chan, librarians, library, literati, literati 2012, Marianne de Pierres, Nicky Strickland, Queenie Chan, readers, rock star writers, Rowena Cory Daniells, Stephen M Irwin, Surfers Paradise, Tiana Templeman, Trent Jamieson, Watermark, writers, writers festival
Okay, some poetic licence there, but I am a fantasy author so I get to embellish. Nothing made up about the glamour of Surfers Paradise, however, and the Gold Coast City Council’s Literati writing festival 2012 ran as smoothly as the surf rolling up onto the pristine white beaches a block from the hotel where the authors were housed, the gorgeous Watermark. This is the view from my window past the iconic Q1 building:
Friday started with me up at 3:30am for the drive down the coast. I arrived over-caffeinated around midday, checking in to the Watermark to hang out my frock and dust off my heels before continuing to the bottom end of the Gold Coast for the afternoon masterclass I was tutoring on “Structural Editing” at the Elanora Library. It was a busy and exciting afternoon of pulling apart 14 authors plots and putting them back together again. I love the revelations that writers experience through this process but I’m well aware it’s unnerving to discover that your draft novel needs more re-writing than you’d thought it would! Still, the guys were very receptive to suggestions.
I finished up right on 4:30pm and instead of hanging around to chat (which I usually do) I raced out the door to drive back to the hotel so I’d have time to frock up for the evening’s Literary Feast which was to be held at the beautiful Gold Coast Arts Centre. After meeting in the foyer of the hotel, the glammed-up authors were bussed to the venue and then had cocktails together so we could meet those we’d be on panels with the next day. After that we were lined up in a dark corridor (bit spooky and some giggling at that point) waiting for our names to be called out…
On the other side of the corridor sat tables of waiting diners. Each author was ‘auctioned’ to a table of literary patrons for entree, main and dessert courses so once we found our places we were able to charm and chat with readers, librarians and friends of the library, all eager for the Literary Feast.
I met some awesome people, chatted to school and council librarians about their jobs, talked to readers about the way ebooks are changing publishing options for authors, and had the pleasure of introducing our representative Harlequin author Helen Lacey to the president of the Gold Coast Friends of the Library (the sponsors of the dinner) who was a huge romance fan! It was a great night.
The next morning I was up bright and early because the four masterclass tutors were on the first panel of the day at the Literati venue, the Robina Community Centre:
Left to right: Trent Jamieson, moi, Angela Sunde and Tiana Templeman. We all gave a short precis of what we’d taught the previous day, then took questions from the floor, and had some interesting discussion on how our private lives have influenced our writing, as well as how you should structure a novel to make it comfortable to read and yet unique and reflective of your own ‘voice’. I love listening to other writers describe their process so this was a particularly satisfying panel for me.
The local Gold Coast ABC radio station FM 91.7 was broadcasting from Literati and I was interviewed after my panel, which was a lot of fun. I managed to fit in some funny anecdotes (which is always a win) and really enjoyed the process:
Following the interview I managed to snag a bit of time off in the green room and had a lovely relaxed chat with Trent Jamieson (left, below) about his Death Works series which I’ve just bought book three of (and adored #1 and #2), and Stephen M. Irwin (who has such a cool website) and who also shares the same agent I do, the beautiful and talented Selwa Anthony.
Then when we’d caught our breath it was time to scoot outside and take our places at the signing table (below) where I got to speak to readers about my books and also to some writers who wanted help with their unpublished novels (keeping my author and manuscript developer hats both to hand).
There was time to catch up with other presenters after the signing session was over, so I snagged a ‘spec fic’ photo opportunity (below) when Marianne de Pierres, Kylie Chan and Nicky Strickland were all in the one spot with me:
It was also a pleasure to reconnect with fantasy author Rowena Cory Daniells (left, below) and my good mate Harlequin author Helen Lacey, so I had to get a ‘members of Romance Writers of Australia‘ photo of the three of us:
By this point everyone was getting a bit ragged, and with way too much caffeine and too little sleep under my belt it was time to leave before Evil Louise could make an appearance (assuming my lap-top smashing alter-ego exists). Now all I have are my lanyard and happy memories:
It was an awesome weekend of luxury, fun, insight, shiny red heels, spectacular creme brulee and deep-and-meaningful conversations – one of my favourite festivals on the Literary Calendar. I’m back home catching my breath and catching up on emails because in only a fortnight I’ll be zipping off to Melbourne for Continuum8, the national science fiction and fantasy convention. Am seriously looking forward to seeing who’s at the bar at that Con!