Monday, June 20, 2011

Leg #3: Sydney


It's been almost a month since my Australia/New Zealand trip, so to finally put my trip wrap-up post to bed, I'll try to just stick to the highlights of my third and final leg, Sydney.

I had been to Sydney once before, but had only spent one-and-a-half days there, a stop-over on my way back to the States after a wedding. I remember a half day of walking around the Opera House, and also a trip to the Sydney Zoo. This time, I knew I'd be seeing much more of the city as part of the Visiting International Publisher's (VIP) Program, and this time also had a few locals who had offered to take me out and show me around.

So, here are some of my highlights in photos:
my hotel the Sebel Hotel
the view from my hotel room. I felt like I was right on the water! (because I was.)
On the day I arrived (Sunday). Amanda Punter (Penguin UK) and I met Inkwell agent Catherine Drayton for lunch. Catherine and I generally have lunch whenever she's in NY, and the last time she came I mentioned that I wanted to go horseback riding in 2011, and for whatever reason, always thought of Australia as a good place to try it. As it turns out, Catherine used to be an avid rider. "I can take you horseback riding!" she said. And so, she did:
my first time on a real horse! This is Jerry.
Centennial Park
me and Jerry
It was a gorgeous day, perfect horseback riding weather. Thanks, Catherine!

After horseback riding was introductory cocktails with my fellow VIPs, followed by dinner. There were sixteen of us, and a great group: from Spain, Hungary, France, Norway, the Netherlands, Taiwan, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, and the US. It was especially nice that there were quite a few of us there who were primarily children's book editors. Apparently, in the past there were only one or two "token" children's book editors, but this year there were a good five of us who worked exclusively on children's and/or YA, including Patsy Aldana of Groundwood Books and Lynne Missen of Penguin, Canada. And three or four more who worked on both adult and children's books.

The next day, we were taken by our hosts on a three-hour boat tour (yes, the Gilligan's Island theme played in my head a few times) of the Harbour. Gorgeous. 

He's on a boat!

The tour ended at a pier where we embarked for our lunch hosted by my sister company Hachette Australia. I had never met any of my colleagues there, so it was nice to sit across from my counterpart Jon Appleton who was the Children's Publisher. After lunch I went to visit the offices. Here's Jon's office:
Note the CURIOUS GARDEN poster!

I also met with Publishing Director Fiona Hazard, and we chatted about some of the differences and similarities of the publishing process, including acquisitions.

That night, we gathered for the New South Wales Publishing Premiere's Literary Dinner where they were awarding the NSW Premiere's Literary Awards. The awards were held at the Sydney Opera House! Surreal.
The rest of the days were a blur of publishing meetings held in this room:
Meetings with Australian publishers, agents, and Rights directors, and panels on the English-speaking  markets and the translations markets. In addition to the lunch with Hachette, we were also hosted by separate meetings with Allyn & Unwin (where it was good to see another friendly and familiar face, Rights Director Angela Namoi who I also meet with regularly in the States) and Harper Collins.
the terrace at Allyn & Unwin's offices
Fatima Bhutto (who had also been in Auckland) was the keynote speaker of the Sydney Writers' Festival Opening Address. She talked about a "Nation on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" and because the death of Osama Bin Ladin was so fresh then, it was the focus of her talk. As an American in the audience, it felt like a punch in the stomach, as the whole time she spoke very critically not just of her own country of Pakistan, but of the U.S. It was a powerful speech, very eloquent, but not full of much hope--and I left the theater feeling like everything else was trivial.

But, as always, that feeling didn't last forever and we were off to the opening gala for food and drink to distract us further.

The spread at the Sydney Writers' Festival's opening gala included 15 dozen oysters:
I neglected to take any pictures, but during the Writers' Festival I appeared on a panel entitled "Marketing in the Age of Twitter": author Tristan Bancks and I discussed, well, Twitter. We talked about other things, of course, but I did feel that by the end of the panel that we had basically been talking about Twitter for an hour. But we received some positive feedback afterwards, so I hope it was interesting and helpful!

Basically, the week was a blur of meetings, meals, panels, drinks in the hotel lobby (lots of wine!), and Anthony Bourdain sightings (he was there for the festival, and staying at the same hotel--after the third sighting, the novelty wore off). I loved meeting children's and YA editors, authors, and specialists including Judith Ridge, Zoe Walton, Marisa Pintado, Kristina Schulz, and many more. Authors Garth Nix, Sean Williams, and Rives who had been in Auckland were also in Sydney and hanging around the hotel lobby. It was also great meeting my assistant Bethany's uncle, Ben Strout, who was the Executive Director of the Sydney Writers' Festival. This odd connection was purely coincidental, but fun nevertheless.
me with Ben Strout, Bethany's uncle!

On my second-to-last night in Sydney (but the last official night of the program) we were invited to the NSW Governor's Reception at the Government House. The Government house was, basically, a castle:
The Governor is a representative of Queen Elizabeth. We were advised to address her as "Your Excellency" upon our first meeting, and thereafter as "ma'am." She was a lovely woman and greeted everyone individually.
most of my fellow VIPs, taken on the grounds of the Government House

After dinner, we stopped by another Allyn & Unwin cocktail party, and then were off to dinner at a Chinese restaurant. It was the last night that most of the VIPs would be together, so we wanted to make the most of it.
As my fellow VIP, Hege Eikenes Randen of Norway put it afterwards, getting to know my fellow VIP participants was like attending summer camp. You're with a group of people for a week (longer for those of us who had been to Auckland the week prior), getting to know their personalities, forming friendships. Missing home, but not wanting the experience to end. We're talking about a possible reunion. In fact, my fellow NY editors and I plan on getting together in Brooklyn in a few weeks!

As many a night had ended prior, we decided to retire to our hotel lobby bar for one last hurrah.

The next morning, after breakfast at the hotel with Anthony Bourdain (okay, not actually with him, but two tables away from him), I embarked on my big Sydney adventure: the Harbour Bridge climb. This had been highly recommended to me by Elizabeth Eulberg, and this recommendation had been confirmed by several locals, so I figured it must be good. Oh, it was:

After the Bridge Climb, I was off to a neighborhood called Newtown to meet with author and SCBWI co-coordinator Christopher Cheng (who I had met in Hong Kong a few years ago). He showed me a bit of his neighborhood:
lots of beautiful murals

I spotted Patrick McDonnell's ME JANE in a bookstore!
And then we were off to meet a group of SCBWI members for a meet and greet--it was a lovely group, and we had a lively discussion. Afterwards, a smaller group of us had dinner. I ordered kangaroo! This was the second time I tried it--the first time had been at a buffet the last time I was in Australia, and I didn't really care for it, but this time I was in a nice restaurant, and was told that ten years ago, chefs didn't really know how to prepare kangaroo. So I gave it another try. It was quite good, actually, although I much prefer beef.
And we had to have dessert, of course! Passion fruit souffle!

And then, alas, my Southern Hemisphere adventures were over. It was a productive, rewarding, exhilarating, exhausting, and overall amazing trip. I hope it doesn't take me another ten years to return.

Special thanks of course to go to the VIP Program Committee and staff, Sophie Hamley, Nerrilee Weir, Madonna Duffy (who I never met, as she was on maternity leave), Katie Harford, and Annaliesse Monaro who took such wonderful care of all of us. And thanks especially to Nerrilee for nominating me for the program.

And now it's back to business as usual. I'm off to ALA this week--perhaps I'll see you there?

1 comment:

Naomi Canale said...

Your pictures of food always look SO good. And the Sebel Hotel, is so awesomely white everywhere. What a magical trip you had. Thanks for sharing!