Returned from my trip to the Historical Novel Society conference last night (after a side-trip to visit at friend on the North Shore in MA).
The conference was excellent. There was a good mix of programming, networking time, and agent/editor meetings. The bookshop was great, and the author signing session was wonderful. My only quibble would be that they didn't have enough programming - I'd like to see another 2 or 3 sessions added (perhaps with less time between sessions).
Overall it was a great experience. One experience I'm tired of repeating came early: at breakfast on Saturday, one woman asked what I wrote, and I said, "I write magical realism with threads of history interwoven" (or something like that, significantly less cogent given my lack of sleep and caffeine) and when I said "magical realism" I could see in her eyes that she was already gone. I mean, this is a historical fiction conference, and STILL there is the genre (or interstitial?) hate. Oy.
Went to a session on "Fictionalizing the Already Famous" and "Finding the Story in History" which was very interesting, and also went to a panel by Bernard Cornwell on writing historical fiction. Lots of good stuff in both, and of course Bernard was very entertaining. And also, very out of the loop in terms of the industry. Someone asked how it is he's written 46 books in 32 years, and he basically said he writes from 5:30 to 5:30 every day with a break for lunch. Um. Bernie? Some of us actually have to work for a living. I'd love to see a panel on how published authors do it while still holding down a full time job.
I was very impressed by the agent/editor meetings. The set-up was MUCH more civilized than any other writer's conference I've been to. Rather than that speed dating BS, everyone got set appointments, and there were only 2 agents (or editors) per room, so it was much more personal and much easier to just chat. I got requests for partials for both of my novels, from both of the agents, so I count that as a very successful day spent.
All in all, the conference was very good. It wasn't focused on Here's How To Get Published, but more on the special challenges of writing historical fiction and topics of interest to history buffs. I think I'm spoiled for any other writer's conference now. The only drawback was the fact that there weren't as many sessions as I'd have liked, but the opportunities for networking and the agent meeting set-up alone were worth the money.
Next year's conference is in York, England. I'm saving my pennies now.