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Monday, June 20, 2011

Historical Novel Society Conference 2011

Yesterday, at 7:34 p.m., I staggered home after a whirlwind weekend at the Historical Novel Society's 4th USA Conference, held in beautiful San Diego. What an event! For readers, writers, bloggers and anyone else who loves historical fiction, this was the place to be - two overstuffed days of panels, banquets, late-night sex scene readings, fight reenactments, and more chatter than a switchboard on meth.

I've attended two of the previous HNS conferences - Salt Lake City and Schaumburg - first as a self-published author seeking to sell my next manuscript and second as a first-time traditionally published novelist seeking to network. This time, I went as a speaker and as a writer, first and foremost, as well as to support my agent, Jennifer Weltz of the Jean V Naggar Literary Agency, and my St Martin's Press editor, Charlie Spicer. It's always great to socialize with people who work in publishing; unlike other jobs I've had, those in publishing by and large like to party. So, evidently, do historical fiction writers and aficionados. In between panels on everything from Fact vs Fiction to Are Marquee Names Necessary? the hotel facing the sparkling harbor crackled with energy and wine as writers exchanged ideas, business cards, advice, and stories. I would have had to stay five days to meet and talk to everyone I wanted to.

There were many memorable moments - Diana Gabaldon joyously reading a gay sex scene from her upcoming novel; C.C. Humphreys in blue velvet acting the role of the earl of Rochester in a risque enactment from Gillian Bagwell's Darling Strumpet; the generous advice and caution doled out by the editors during their panel; Kate Quinn's red leather stilettos; the lovely reader who brought me a postcard with a picture of a Catherine de Medici lily; gossiping with Allie of Hist-Fic Chick and Heather of Maiden's Court; Karleen Koen explaining how she gets around "inconvenient" facts - but it was Jennifer Weltz's rousing, all-encompassing keynote speech on building community that symbolized the entire nature of the occasion.

Community is what the Historical Novel Society is truly all about. There were no "stars" at this conference; rather, everyone was a star. From the unpublished writer pitching for the first time to an agent or editor; to the impossibly young and enthusiastic blogger to the veteran author with numerous titles under her belt, everyone was there to help, support, and encourage one another; to rally around a genre that in the past has suffered more than its share of denigration, and to rejoice in its current explosive popularity. Not that there weren't stars - oh, no! The roster was peppered with the brightest names in the business, jaw-droppingly so; but unlike other organizations, HNS has never been about celebrity or exclusiveness.

On the contrary. It's all about celebration.

The Historical Novel Society's next conference will be held in 2012 in London. I hope to see you there!

15 comments:

Pricilla said...

Sounds like it was a blast.
I am one jealous goat

Allison Macias said...

Wow. Sounds like you had a great time. I would have loved to have been there! Glad you enjoyed yourself!!

dolleygurl said...

I couldn't agree with these statements more! Such a great time was had by all!

Bernadette Pajer said...

Sounds great, Bill. I'll have to try to get there next year. One of the great aspects of books is that they really don't compete with each other. Everyone wants to find more books to love -- like Jello, there's always room for more! That's one reason why hanging out with writers and readers and publishing folks is so fun. That, and most of us are a bit crazy.

Sarah Johnson said...

Excellent post, Christopher - a great way of wrapping up the sentiments behind the conference. See you in London next year!

Bernadette Pajer said...

Christopher, sorry I called you Bill! I was reading several posts on the conference at once and got confused where I was. Told you writers are bit nuts! Anyway, thanks for the information on the conference, it sounds like a winner!

collison said...

Reading your post was almost as good as being there! Thanks for sharing the excitement. Hope to see you in London next year...

Marg said...

I don't think I will be in the UK in 2012, but I would love to get to a HNS event one of these days.

Looks like you had a fabulous time, and I would love to have met a lot of the authors you named, and probably some that you didn't as well!

alishamk said...

Thanks for the summary! Your mention of the community feel brought tears to this emerging writer's eyes. We all need the love.

Also, I am savoring Confessions of CDM. Thanks for your hard work and your dedication to your talent.

Patricia O'Sullivan said...

Christopher, you are so right about how HNS is not about celebrity but community. Jennifer Weltz said it, but before her speech we all felt it. San Diego is beautiful, but we could have met in a dank cave and still had a good experience.

DeAnna Cameron said...

Wonderful post! There were *so many* memorable moments, and one of mine was certainly having you sign my much-loved copy of The Tudor Secret. Thank you for taking the time... :-)

Susan said...

Great post! You've summed up wonderfully why the HNS conference is so special. It is a community. We all have something in common, our love for historical fiction. It makes all the rest easy.

C.W. Gortner said...

Thank you for your comments! It's so true, we could have met anywhere and found something to talk about. And I loved meeting many of you, as well as regret not having had the time to meet more. There wasn't enough time!

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

What a great post. I wholeheartedly agree! It was wonderful to finally get to meet you, to sit on a panel with you, and to have my copy of The Tudor Secret signed.

Teralyn Rose Pilgrim said...

Thanks for posting this! It's so much fun to read what other people thought of the event. This was my first conference, and I was stunned. I had no idea I would get to actually talk to so many published authors, and amazing unpublished ones, too. You're right; there was an amazing sense of community.