Christopher M. Cevasco, Author


Historical Novel Society Conference Recap

As the weekend comes to a close, this year’s Historical Novel Society conference has now itself become a part of history. But like those bygone eras we love to read about in novels, the weekend was full of moments I’ll revisit in the months to come as a source of ongoing inspiration. And that’s perhaps the best part of these conferences–the way they always inspire and energize me to approach my vocation with renewed vigor. The mental wheels are spinning in overdrive right now, my brain filled with ideas about marketing and self-promotion, ways in which I can improve upon my agent querying technique, scenes and stories and books I want to write after listening to other writers talk about the challenges of plot and character development, historical truth versus compelling narrative, and the rewarding sense of accomplishment we all feel when those gordian knots are unravelled.

I could include in this conference report a blow-by-blow of all the fascinating panels I attended, but I know any such account wouldn’t really do the conference justice–the whole somehow managing to be far greater than the sum of its parts. I will note that I found both Harry Turtledove’s and Cecelia Holland’s respective keynote addresses incredibly enjoyable and (seemingly the theme of this post) inspiring. I should also mention what warm, friendly people they both are. And on a side note, Harry and I each managed to pack the same necktie to wear this weekend–one covered in images from the Bayeux Tapestry (only at a gathering like this could such a thing possibly happen).

I’ve now had my first face-to-face agent pitch meeting, which was not nearly as nerve-wracking as I’d expected it to be. In large part that’s because the agent in question, Jennifer Weltz, was so very reassuring in her demeanor and seemed genuinely enthused about historical fiction generally and our particular books individually (it was a group setting with six other authors around a conference table rather than a one-on-one meeting). In the end she didn’t feel my book was right for her as she doesn’t really represent any alternate history titles, but I still found the experience very helpful, and I know my future pitches (and even future written queries) will be stronger for her advice and insights.

It was really nice seeing so many folks again that I’d met at previous HNS conferences and meeting a great many new people and hearing about the fascinating times and places they’re writing about. I’m not even going to try to name them all, because among other things I know I’d never remember everybody and wouldn’t want to leave anybody out. But I’ll end up tagging many of them in the photos I took, which I’ll be posting on Facebook as soon as possible. There’ll be an even bigger set of my photos appearing soon on the HNS website, as I was also dubbed the semi-official conference photographer for the weekend. Stay tuned…

And what else is there to say? My inner kid-in-a-candy-store is very happy and my wallet very unhappy with all the new books I picked up at the conference bookshop. My Sunday night redeye flight back to the East Coast means I actually got to walk around San Diego on Sunday afternoon rather than the typical conference experience of seeing little more than the inside of the hotel–the city has a very nice harbor area, which will also feature in my photos. Oh yes, one more thing: you really haven’t lived until you’ve seen Diana Gabaldon, C.C. Humphreys, and Gillian Bagwell give a late-night dramatic reading of an oral sex scene. As C.W. Gortner commented the following morning, I too will never look at a microphone again in quite the same way…


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18 Responses »

  1. Very nice recap, Christopher, and I think your duplicate tie story was funny! A pleasure meeting you. Thanks for photo documenting the weekend!

  2. Really nice to meet you in person and best of luck with your writing. This is an excellent recap of the conference; so many great moments but that late night sex scene reading is truly one-of-a-kind!

  3. Thanks, Chris, for this and for the mention! Having Diana Gabaldon and Chris (C.C.) Humphreys read my scene with me was definitely a high point!

  4. Thanks for sharing your recap! That is so funny that you and Harry both had such a great, nerdy tie! I need a scarf like that…I hope to attend next year’s meet (in London?) as I’m planning a trip now. Good luck with your book.

    • Thanks, Alisha! You know, I forgot to mention that the next day, Cecelia Holland and I were each wearing Bayeux Tapestry themed T-shirts, hers in white, mine in black… Totally unplanned. Again–only at the HNS Conference! 🙂

  5. Your tie was pretty darn awesome.

    I’m having so much fun reading everyone’s conference recaps! I’m going to do it too, only my articles will keep going on all month. The conference was the only interesting thing I’ve done all year, so I’m going to make the experience stretch.

    I can’t wait to see your photos! I remember seeing you with your camera and wondering if you would post the photos on the HNS website, and I’m thrilled that you will.

    • Thanks, Teralyn! I’m enjoying the recaps too; I look forward to reading all of yours. I plan to post a smaller bunch of photos to my Facebook page by the end of the day, and then the entire batch should go up on the HNS site some time soon thereafter…

  6. The recap echoes my own ideas: head spinning; adrenalin running; confidence blooming; laughter (from memories) percolating; and pocketbook taking Alka-Seltzer. Having the esteemed masters of historical fiction all at the same place, all expressing their opinions in a humble and approachable manner was the BEST. I am proud to be part of HNS.

  7. I couldn’t agree with you more, Chris. This was my first HNS conference and it was unlike any writerly conference I have ever attended (and there have been many). There really is something special about historical fiction and writers of historical fiction, and it was absolutely evident last weekend. Like you, I’m still buzzing with all that renewed vigor 🙂
    Happy writing to you!

  8. Chris,

    I’m sorry I missed you and your tie at the conference. I too found Jennifer Weltz’s group session very educational and I loved all the keynotes, even the ones that contradicted each other (um, Saturday lunch and dinner…). Hope to meet you in London in 2012!


  9. Sorry I missed the conference, the tie(s) and heck, even the oral sex read while doing something highly questionable with a mic (I’m trying NOT to imagine). It sounds wonderful. Thanks for the tip on Jennifer, Chris. I have an alternative history story I might have subbed, but I guess I’ll go elsewhere now. ;D Good luck with yours!

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