I arrived in Sydney late on Friday evening after a full day’s work — a full week’s, really — ready for a weekend of fun, friends and celebration. This was my third Aurealis Awards, but the first time I’d been nominated, so I was pretty excited. Angela (aka Brain) had a barrowload of nominations this year too, and we’d both celebrated our birthdays last week, so we decided to splash out and treat ourselves to a swanky weekend at the Marriott in Circular Quay. What a brilliant decision on our parts, if I do say so myself. I took stacks of pictures of our lovely room, the awesome bedside reading lights, our decadent room service breakfasts, the incredible city view from our 21st-floor window… but you’ll have to imagine what it all looked like, unfortunately, since my computer and phone are currently not on speaking terms. Stoopid technology.
Saturday morning, we went for a walk down Pitt Street to window-shop. Well, I say window-shop, but instead it turned into a bit of a splurge… After showing incredible self-restraint by not going into Kinokuniya; and by not buying the beautiful dandelion paperweight that I really had no use for but was so so pretty I wanted it, precioussss; and by doing nothing but admiring the incredible antique jewellery calling out to me from every shop window (every one, I tells ya!) I happened to look across the mall we were in and see a papierie. ‘Let’s go there,’ I said, wiping the drool from my chin. It looked so much like a shop I remember visiting in Florence years ago in which all the most beautiful handmade leather books and journals were sold, all of which I had no hope in hell of affording at the time.
Long story short: we went to the shop, which just happened to be called Florentine and sold handmade leather books and journals (and what Laura Goodin so accurately dubbed ‘pen porn’)…. And after speaking to the sweet shop assistant for nearly a half hour, walked out with a birthday present for myself (pictured left), a couple of bookmarks, a handpainted card which is destined to be framed and hung on my study wall. It’s probably very good for my bank account that I don’t live in the same city as this shop!
Treasures in tow, we meandered over to Circular Quay for a bit of a wander. I’d only been to Sydney briefly before — an evening boat tour ten years ago; a couple of conferences at Sydney Uni — so I’d never had a chance to see the sights. The weather was perfect on Saturday, so the walk around The Rocks was filled with tourists and buskers and general hubbub. Angela played tour guide as I gaped and took photos, then we headed back to the hotel for some lunch. We’d gone back intending to laze for the afternoon, but instead wound up being quite productive: brainstormed more ideas and plots for Midnight and Moonshine and I may or may not have giggled and clapped my hands with glee as we plotted. We’re only three stories in, but already I love this world, these characters, these tales!
Then in typical Brains fashion, we primped and hair-straightened and bejewelled before heading to the Independent Theatre for the ceremony. Ubiquitous photographer extraordinaire Cat Sparks nabbed a bunch of excellent shots of the attendees before everyone melted (it was, ahem, a tad warm in the venue for one with Northern blood), and you can check out her Flickr stream here. The awards ceremony went off without a hitch: huge congratulations to Specfaction for all their hard work! Garth Nix was a charming MC, the theatre added the right amount of special to the occasion, and the slideshow (designed by Cat and, if I’m not mistaken, brought to life on the night by Rob Hood) was so well-designed — and so funny! — that it was a delight getting to see it in person. (Loved the dancing skeleton!!) Of course, the night got even more delightful when Angela’s The Girl With No Hands won for Best Collection, and then even more exciting when our ‘February Dragon’ tied with the lovely Thoraiya Dyer’s ‘Yowie’ for Best Fantasy Short Story! I was so shocked that I rambled something I hope resembled thankful sentiments and was back in my seat with a nice chunky award in my lap before I’d fully realised what had happened! Throughout it all we got Twitter updates c/o Alan Baxter, so we got to enjoy the ceremony live and online simultaneously which was a first for me. Man, it’s cool living in the future!
Most of you know the full list of winners by now, but here ’tis anyway:
Best Children’s Fiction(told primarily through pictures): The Boy and the Toy, Sonya Hartnett (writer) & Lucia Masciullo (illustrator)
Best Children’s Fiction (told primarily through words): The Keepers, Lian Tanner
Best Young Adult Novel: Guardian of the Dead, Karen Healey
Best Young Adult Short Story: “A Thousand Flowers”, Margo Lanagan
Best Illustrated Book / Graphic Novel: Changing Ways: Book 1, Justin RandallBest Horror Novel: Madigan Mine, Kirstyn McDermott
Best Horror Short Story: “The Fear”, Richard Harland
Best Anthology: Wings of Fire, Edited by Jonathan Strahan and Marianne S Jablon
Best Collection: The Girl With No Hands and other tales, Angela SlatterBest Fantasy Novel: Power and Majesty, Tansy Rayner Roberts
Best Fantasy Short Story: “The February Dragon”, Lisa L Hannett & Angela Slatter and “Yowie”, Thoraiya Dyer
Best Science Fiction Novel: Transformation Space, Marianne de Pierres
Best Science Fiction Short Story: “The Heart of a Mouse”, K.J. Bishop
Peter McNamara Convenors’ Award: Helen Merrick
Kris Hembury Encouragement Award: Jodi Cleghorn
Congratulations to all the winners!!
And thank you to all the judges!
Buoyed on adrenaline and waves of incredulity, I floated through the post-ceremony cocktail party. I quickly texted the good news to my family and friends (someone snapped a photo of the ‘texting corner’ as Kate Eltham, Angela, myself and a couple of other people huddled near the bar to send messages) and downed a couple glasses of champagne. Managed to catch up with a bunch of friends — and, happily, to congratulate many of them for their wins! — before we headed over to the after party at Ridges. By the time we got there, I could feel my voice going… It’s amazing what incessant squeeing can do to your vocal chords! As always, it’s so lovely to chat with Kirstyn (CONGRATS again, K!!), Jason, Rob and Kate; I got a chance to meet with Talie in 3D instead of just on FB, which was also a treat; and for the first time in, well, ever, I got a chance to chat with Tansy and to congratulate her on her Best Novel success. (Note: I’m reading Power and Majesty as we speak and really enjoying it!! Wondering how quickly I can get my hands on Book II…) Shared squeeeees with Angie Rega, Helen Merrick, Jason Fischer (and his lovely wife, Kate), Sean, and Cat before my voice up and left me — so Tehani snapped one post-melt shot of the Brains before we snuck away before midnight. And, as is our wont, we ordered late-night room service to cap off our Aurealis Awards weekend!
Angela’s flight left early on Sunday, but mine wasn’t until last night. We had one more morning of decadence (mmmm, French toast!) and then the Brains were separated once more. Once Angela was safely on her way to the airport, I strolled back down to Circular Quay and whiled the morning away walking. I headed over to the Art Gallery of NSW and spent hours delighting in the 19thC European and Australian paintings. Said hello to Rupert Bunny’s work, which I fell in love with last year when his exhibit came to the Art Gallery of SA; visited the pre-Raphaelites, which I do without fail any time I enter an art gallery; wandered to the contemporary Australian galleries to pay my respects to Nolan and Boyd and Gleeson; then traipsed downstairs only to find that the gallery had commissioned a new installation piece by Richard Long, which made me so very happy. I missed out on the Archibald Prize exhibit because the line was sooooooooo long and my feet were sooooooo sore, I decided to pass on it. From there, I took my time walking through the Domain and over to the Botanic Gardens, where I had lunch with a greedy miner bird. I spent the rest of the afternoon walking walking walking (in homage to Richard Long) and then caught a cab to the airport. Ensconced at my gate, I powered through 2/3 of Power and Majesty before dozing on the plane home.
Until next time, it’s back to reality.
Got to give my voice a chance to recover…