Usually, post conference feels more like information overload, which feels like a combination of excitement and dread. The Yay! I have just learnt so much, along with the Oh Shit! I know so little. Combined with a little bit of WTF just happened?
When I woke up on Sunday morning, there was a bit of the latter, but generally I just felt lonely (like donkey at the beginning of Shrek). And it was more than just being on the other side of the planet without my family. All my like-minded short story lovers, who had been my community for the past 5 days, were gone, scattered back across the globe, dispersed and diluted.
Still, I set off determined to enjoy my last day in Vienna, cycling down along the Danube. Lonely. Riding back into the city with all the tourists. Lonely. Wandering the museums. Lonely. Discovering fabulous painting and painters and stories. Lonely. Lonely. Lonely.
So I gave up. It was hot and unpleasant and I went back to the flat to veg out and wallow.
I cooked up all the left overs in the fridge, because the supermarkets were closed. Sat down and thought I might as well start to read the anthology. And it was great. Not just because the stories themselves were great, but because I could hear the voices in the stories. I could see the mannerisms, hear the tones, and the accents, of all the writers I had met. It was like being at the pub again, listening to them talk, but getting to know a different side of them.
I played Tan Mei Ching‘s fraught game of chasey. Rebekah Clarkson had me trying to use eyes 2 instead of eyes 1. And Ida Černe and her neighbour made me want to stay in my Viennese apartment building forever.
On a more structural note: Paul McVeigh‘s kick in the guts short-short reminded me of the power of one lone sentence. I thought I knew where Clark Blaise story was going, but then he took me somewhere else entirely (and it should be compulsory reading for all Australians, particularly in our current climate of intolerance). I need to ask Cameron Raynes how he did so much in such a short space of time, and made it seem so simply. And I hope I get to have another beer with Alan Weiss, because he left me with so many questions. And Andy Kissane‘s fabulous Chagall inspired story made me want to pull it (and his brain) apart, to find out how he achieved that brilliant pacing. Shit!
There were many other excellent stories in the book that I read later, but these were the few I took to bed with me that night.
My usual response to such work is to be inspired and, not just a little, intimidated. But these writer’s had welcomed me with open arms and I wanted to rise to the challenge. So that evening, I also wrote down my first new story idea. And, after that, they came thick and fast. In a week, I had filled a whole notebook and it feels like I am actually on to something. Like I know what it is I am trying to do and, more importantly, how to recognise when it is working.
Writing is lonely. And it is often confusing. But now, I have a new feeling when I read other people’s stories -Community.
And I promise my next posts will be less sappy.