December 4th, 2011
I’ve been home for a week, so it’s time I got around to writing about my trip to Chicago. I had two spare days before the conference started, so spent them being a tourist (when I wasn’t trying to prop my eyes open from the effects of jet-lag).
Chicago is an unexpectedly beautiful city. People told me this before I went, and they were right. It is also VERY COLD! The wind that comes off the lake bites right through to your bones, and all you can do is put your head down and laugh with the shock of it. Consequently I spent quite a lot of time indoors, at museums, and at the 103-storey skydeck, where you can stand on glass and look straight down to the streets below. Made my stomach feel decidedly odd.
But there are also really nice parks and statues and old skyscrapers, and the whole thing was an odd mixture of familiar (because I’ve seen it all in film and on TV) and strange (because it was very different from Tasmania).
The El (elevated railway) adds a nice bit of steam-punk to the whole thing, with its noise and its rust and its clanking carriages. Overseas travel is of course really just an excuse for finding new and interesting ways of making an idiot of yourself, and the first time I travelled on the El it took four people – FOUR PEOPLE! – to show me the right way to put my ticket into the machine. (The way I was trying to do it made sense at the time, but perhaps I was a wee bit jet-lagged …)
The English teachers’ conference was huge – the Hilton swelled at the seams to accommodate thousands of teachers, professors, booksellers and authors. I spoke about creativity, visited a school, did a couple of signings (one at the Random House stall) and tried hard to understand people’s accents when I talked to them in the lift (this was mainly a problem with southerners). I met authors Jennifer Holm and Kirby Larson, who were both exceptionally nice, and we discovered that we share an American agent, Jill Grinberg. And of course I brought stacks of books home with me!
Now I’m settling back into normal life again, working on the new book, trying to see how much of it I can get written before Christmas (not nearly enough).
And here’s my quote of the week – or perhaps of the year. ‘Any writer who knows what he’s doing isn’t doing much.’ Nelson Algren