Romance? Tick. Fantasy? Tick. Crime? Tick. Horror? Tick. This year’s GenreCon festival has the full gamut of literary genres covered to please a myriad of readers and writers.

The festival is on at the State Library of Queensland from February 23 to 25 and this year’s theme is Brave. Bold. Genre. The event boasts a program of more than 20 panels, author appearances, workshops, Q&As and meet-the-publisher events.

It is organised by the Queensland Writers’ Centre and CEO Lori Jay Ellis says it is specifically designed to draw fans of speculative fiction together through their diversity.

“We include most major genres every year,” Ellis says. “This year we have a Miles Franklin long-lister Julie Janson and Queensland author Ben Hobson speaking on crime; genre mash-up lover Lara Pechercyzk and Only a Monster author Vanessa Len discussing paranormal romance. There are panels on graphic novels and many more, including publishers, editors and industry specialists.”

The keynote address will be delivered by multi-award winner Patrick Ness, who writes for children, teenagers and adults in addition to his extensive Hollywood scriptwriting work. The author of two novels and one short story collection for adults and 10 novels for young adults, Ness has twice been awarded the prestigious Carnegie Medal, Costa Children’s Book Award and Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize.

Appearing alongside internationally acclaimed Ness are Australian writers C.S Pacat, who found worldwide fame with her Captive Prince trilogy and queer graphic novel series, Fence; and Siang Lu, whose debut novel The Whitewash won the Glendower Award for Emerging Writers at the Queensland Literary Awards.

Pacat will appear on two panels – Writing the Villain, which explores what it takes for a writer to craft a villain readers will love to hate; and Master of Your Own Universe, which will explore the creation of vibrant sci-fi and fantasy realms within speculative fiction.

Liu, whose sophomore novel Ghost Cities is published in May, will teach Your First Year in Publishing, a workshop aimed at aspiring writers that draws on his experience as a debut author, in addition to industry data, and takes participants through each phase of the submission and publishing process.

Publicist Brendan Fredericks will draw on 20 years’ experience as a literary publicist for industry luminaries such as Angus & Robertson, Hachette and Bloomsbury for All Your Questions About PR; and Pantera Press’s Kate Cuthbert, Allen & Unwin’s Kate Whitfield and Alex Allen from Fremantle Press will discuss what readers are currently loving and publishers are commissioning in a session called Get The Lowdown.

Also playing a key role in proceedings will be Brisbane-based writer and academic Kim Wilkins. A recognised expert in storytelling, popular literature and the publishing industry, she teaches writing, publishing and 21st-century book culture at the University of Queensland and has published more than 30 mass-market novels spanning the romance, fantasy and horror genres.

Wilkins will join Ness, Gary Lonesborough, Cale Dietrich and Kate McCaffrey to discuss the increasingly blurred boundaries between the worlds of young adult, new adult and adult fiction in session Meet Me in the Grey Area as well as taking part in Campfires, Cobwebs and Corpses alongside Ellis, Rachel Amphlett and Kathy George in a discussion about three kinds of scary stories – crime narratives and gothic and horror tales.

For Wilkins, who has a long affiliation with the Queensland Writers’ Centre, participating in the annual GenreCon festival is something of a homecoming. She was the guest of honour at the very first event, back in 2012, and says that she loves the opportunity to talk about the fields in which she writes and researches with like-minded passionate readers and writers.

“Events like GenreCon are enormously valuable to writers as they allow connections and shared pleasures,” Wilkins says. “The old idea of writers as romantic artists who don’t need anybody is thoroughly disproven now. Art is something we do with each other, for each other, around each other.

“Yes, there are times when we need to be solitary and undistracted, but all the evidence suggests that sharing the pleasures of genre tropes, being with people who get your particular taste – whether it be elf-punk or prison planet erotica – is good for creators. It gives them confidence, new strategies, and expands their social connections. GenreCon and the like help writers flourish on every level.”

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