The first ever OzMMmeet took off on the second weekend of October, 2013, in Sydney. The aim was to meet each other, share information and spread awareness of the M/M genre (as it has not yet taken off in Australasia like it has in other continents). And it all started with a comment to A.B. Gayle from Shaz that Sydney should have meetings the way Melbourne does (a group in Melbourne meet every two to three months for lunch).
Personally, I had a ball (an amazing time, for those who don’t know Aussie slang) the whole weekend. I think A.B. Gayle and her helpers did an amazing job. It was great to see so many people help. And being on Oxford Street, with its LGBTQ history, really added to the feel of the event. During the weekend we talked about everything from keeping your voice (including the Aus/NZ English) in a US market to self publishing and dealing with editors and publishers. And of course, we laughed, made contacts, and had fun. If you needed to find us, you just listened for the laughter.
Friday was registration and a general chat opportunity. Watching people drop in to register before they had the necessary nap due to travelling (or after), and the relaxed atmosphere as we put together the swag bags (I loved Toni Griffin’s stubbie/can holders, they were so Aussie!) and set up the room, was amazing. Friday evening, Barry Lowe led us through the history of Oxford Street and its changes throughout history, which I really appreciated—thank you, Barry! I hadn’t known that Oxford Street had such a long term association with the LGBTQ community and found it illuminating. After Barry led a guided walk down Oxford Street, we had a casual dinner supplied by the bar next door (they included gluten free!) which was delicious all ‘round, judging by the comments. I went old fashioned Aussie with GF Fish & Chips. 😉
When I arrived back at my hotel room, I checked out my swag. I got some pens (thank you A.B. Gayle, E E Montgomery, and N.J. Nielsen), a couple of magnets (just like the pens, I can always use those, so thank you, Toni Griffin and Jess Buffett), cards with some very interesting blurbs and, of course, book marks. By the end of the weekend, I’d also scored paperback copies of Red+Blue by A.B. Gayle, The Butterfly Hunter by Julie Bozza, and a signed out-of-print volume of Toni Griffin’s werewolves. Score!
The panels on Saturday were really informative, and I like to think we all got something out of it. I know I did, even though I’m an editor, not a writer/author (and we’re all readers). The debate Serena Yates and Susan Beck led about reviewing and the differences between professional and personal reviewing was fascinating, as was the discussion about finding the right publisher for each book. And being on a panel about the editing process was really interesting and a new experience. Susan Beck led a creative exercise about BDSM after lunch, with much laughter and a good time had by all.
I skipped the “Looking for Mr Right” event A.B. Gayle had organised at the Midnight Shift on Saturday night due to personal issues with clubs and strange people, but apparently it was a lot of fun. Nikita performed as Stevie Tricks (see photo to the right), and there were speeches from Barry Lowe, Matthew Lang, Byron Croft, Susan Beck, and a song from Matthew Lang (with gentle teasing for it the next day).
My favourite day has to be Sunday though, with its informal get together after breakfast as everyone recovered from the previous day’s events. It was relaxed, and even though we did separate into smaller groups in the courtyard of The Arts, enough of us moved around to give me a chance to talk to everybody (why, yes, I am a motor-mouth, especially about books 😉 ). I’m also a bit of a people watcher, and I got to see a bit of the ‘real’ side of people as they relaxed, having met everyone yesterday.
I did hop out briefly to grab a cuppa from one of my newest ‘favourite places’: the Ampersand café. It’s a café and used bookstore all in one! If you live nearby, it’s worth a gander. And they do gluten free too.
The long lunch at the Shamrock & Thistle, next door to The Arts, was really nice and continued the relaxing atmosphere. Afterwards, many of us took the afternoon off then met up the next day for a trip to the zoo. Although I’d visited the previous week with my sister, it was still a ball. Thank you to A.B. Gayle, N.J. Nielsen and her daughter, Shaz, Sheila and Toni Griffin for the wonderful company. 😉 Oh, and the bird show was amazing!
There is also a FREE anthology available at Smashwords and ARe, Blokes in Love, with stories from A.B. Gayle, Meredith Shayne, Jess Buffett, Pelaam, N.J. Nielsen, and a newcomer, Susan Beck. I loved it, but I may be biased since I edited it.
Australasians interested in the M/M genre have some difficulty getting together in large numbers due to the vast, sparsely populated land mass we live on. This makes an Australasian Gay Romance Meet all the more important, as we often wouldn’t meet up any other way. I love our small bi-monthly lunches in Melbourne, but it was amazing to be able to meet so many others who used the same lingo as I did and understood what I meant when I said “Not happy, Jan!” (See the advert that made this saying a part of the Aussie culture).
Attendance was great, and included Serena Yates from the UK, and Pelaam and Meredith Shayne from New Zealand, as well as quite a few authors from all over Oz (Australia). I asked some of the participants to share their experiences of the weekend with you, which I’ve inserted below.
Matthew Lang (Aussie author):
“For me, OzmmMeet was a chance to meet people, chat and, as crass as it sounds, network to some degree. I loved finding people who I could talk to and who understood the joys and terrors of writing and publishing. It’s inspiring to hear of other people’s successes and how they’ve achieved what they’ve achieved.
I got involved in organising the event because I had the time and I wanted to make sure we all got something great out of the weekend, which meant that we needed to sort out the program side of things. I had time, and I was going to be up early, so I volunteered. It also gave me an excuse to be a nosy person and chat to as many people as I could. I also elected to take over the Saturday night event because I have experience in events and theatre and understood tech speak and venue speak which AB wasn’t very familiar with.”
Matthew Lang’s latest release, The Secret of Talmor Manor, is available from MLR Press.
Susan Beck (Aussie author):
“I enjoyed the weekend because I could be me for a few days. As a mum of young kids, I don’t get to let the real me out very often. It was fun being able to talk, laugh and listen to people who shared an interest, kink, sense of humour with me. I also like to think that I made some new friends and strengthened other friendships. I may have discovered a love of public speaking too. lol”
Susan Beck’s debut story, Weekend at Lennox, was published in Blokes in Love.
N.R. Walker (Aussie author):
“Personally it was very daunting for me to attend (I really do struggle with meeting people and crowds) and I almost didn’t show. But everyone was lovely and it was great to be able to talk all things m/m when it’s not something I can do with many people in my RL. The organization behind the scenes must have been horrendous and I think AB and crew did a FABULOUS job. 🙂 ”
N.R. Walker’s latest release, Breaking Point, is available from Totally Bound.
Meredith Shayne (Kiwi author):
“I agree with those who said that the highlight was meeting everyone and finding out how lovely they all were. I also liked being able to fully be myself and talk about the genre that I really love with people who would understand. Even though the internet means there’s fewer barriers to interacting with people all around the world, I do think that the sensibilities and experiences of Aussies and Kiwis are, to varying degrees, different to the rest of the world, and it was nice to be able to celebrate that. But what came across to me most strongly was how much we all loved books – author or not, when people got into discussions about books, you could tell that they loved them. That’s why readers should attend. That and the fact that every time I went near where everyone was gathering, all I could hear was people laughing. 🙂 ”
Meredith Shayne’s latest release, Whitewater, is available from Dreamspinner Press.
N.J. Nielsen (Aussie author):
“Even though we were few there were some awesome authors here and I got to fan-girl & stalk a lot easier.(I swear it’s not as bad as it sounds). … My personal highlights of the weekend were meeting everyone (putting faces to names) and finding it so easy to chat with like minded people, & the outing to the Zoo (minus the spiders).
We need a Meet for Australasia because we have some awesome damn authors here and we need for the rest of the world to see that as well. … I got involved in the pre planning because it sounded like fun and a damn good idea to have something like this in our own backyard.
Readers should book tickets for next year’s Meet because it’s a more intimate setting to meet and talk without a gazillion other things going on, and basically it’s fun…”
N.J Nielsen’s latest release, Family Connections, is available from Silver Publishing.
Pelaam (Kiwi author):
“I feel very isolated in NZ. I love my US friends dearly, they’re like family to me, but I rarely had contact with anyone close to home. I loved meeting other writers and readers. I can’t just pick up a phone and have a coffee and chat, which I’d love to do. Now I have friends in both NZ and just across the ditch I can FB/PM or email. I got a real boost hearing about keeping an Oz/Kiwi voice. I went away feeling positive and energised. For those who didn’t come, what would they get? An Australasian voice that can only gain strength. Writers get to hear other authors’ experiences, and readers’ perspectives. Readers get to meet authors, have a say, and meet other readers. They get time to be themselves and have fun in the company of like minded people. Everyone gets something from a meet like this. It was an amazing, fun time and as soon as I hear a confirmed date for Melbourne, I’ll be making my plans to come.”
Pelaam’s latest release, Wendigo, is available from Evernight Publishing.
Jess Buffett (Aussie author):
“As a reader, I loved the chance to meet a group of authors who don’t necessarily get to go to these types of events, being so far from the rest of the world. As a writer, I loved meeting like minded people. I got involved in the planning because this would be a chance to be a part of something like GRL. It was like nothing we have ever had before. And why should readers book tickets for next year? Because this is an opportunity you won’t get anywhere else in the southern hemisphere, and it’s worth it.”
Jess Buffett’s latest release, His Silent Mate, is available from Siren Publishing.
Isabelle Rowan (Aussie author)
It is so hard to pick out a highlight of the OzMeet because the entire weekend was a highlight to me! I loved the chance to meet other Oz/NZ authors – that is such a rare experience. We have so much in common, including language. Don’t laugh, I’m being serious! Our grammar and word use is quite different, so it was really interesting to chat about experiences with editors and what ‘Aussie-isms’ we can get away with.
The humour of the weekend was unbeatable! We laughed a lot and I think I learned a few things too! Hopefully we can make it an annual event – I am considering organising one for Melbourne next year, but will need help! *puppy dog eyes* If we can make it happen, please consider a trip to our hemisphere because we would love to have you all here.
Oh… and I got to see my books in a real book shop! *happy dance*
Mary (Aussie reviewer for Mrs. Condit and Friends):
“Personal highlight: Meeting everyone. I know it sounds clichéd but I just loved meeting all of you. It’s not often that you get to hang around in RL with people who get you. I loved it and thank you. I know some of you, like me, would have been really, really nervous and having second thoughts right up until you sat down for that first introduction session.
I loved the fact that almost from the moment we all got together it was soooo easy and just a joy to be there. I didn’t feel like an outsider at all the whole time.”
SueM (Aussie reader):
Although I couldn’t attend the entire meet due to family circumstances, highlights for me were: meeting some very talented authors and learning about how they created the books I love; meeting new friends and catching up with old, as it’s always more fun when it’s face to face; being able to share (in a very small way) my experiences in formatting and publishing for those interested in self-publishing; and just being able to talk with people who “got” me. Oh, and sharing in all the insane laughter. Although attending as a reader amidst a sea of authors, I never once felt excluded, and I did learn some things while having a lot of fun.
A final note: I can’t say it enough: I had a ball, and would encourage anyone thinking about it to turn up next time. I believe 2014—in Melbourne—is going to be more reader focused, but whatever the focus, if I can make future events, I will. A huge thank you to A.B. Gayle, not only for starting the ball rolling, but also for keeping it rolling and doing so much of the busy work.
Oh, and just in case you’re wondering who I am, my name is Alison Todd (or Todd-Mann) and I’ve been around for the last three and a half years as an editor, EIC, and Acquisitions Editor. I’m now back to being an editor—thank goodness!—(both freelance and for Silver Stream Press/Silver Publishing), with some reviewing for Top 2 Bottom Reviews on the side, and really love the slightly slower pace of not being management anymore. You can find me on LinkedIn if you’re curious about what I’ve done.