I didn't get to nearly as many panels and workshops as I'd have liked, as I was too busy getting people settled in / answering questions / whatever, but those that I did get to went very well, at least it seemed to me. My own panel ("the best new historical fiction: what to read and why") was slotted second on Saturday morning, and we nearly filled the room, despite being scheduled opposite Stephanie Cowell/Judith Lindbergh/Lyn Cote (in one room) and Irene Goodman (in the other). Two fellow librarians and I "booktalked" around 35 of our favorite historical novels from the last two years, telling the audience what they were about and why we enjoyed them; a slideshow of book covers accompanied the talk. We went in chronological order by the novels' settings, and finished exactly on time. I even got a few laughs, which was gratifying if occasionally surprising. I have the habit of unintentionally making double entendres, though if people thought I was being funny on purpose, I'll take credit for it.
I didn't make it to Chris Humphreys' panel first thing Saturday morning, or anything scheduled opposite for that matter, though apparently he did such a great job that his novels sold out at the bookseller room right afterward. He also had a huge line at the group book-signing that afternoon. Mary Sharratt's panel on "rewriting the role of women" was also a favorite, with all the panelists sharing their perspectives on writing about historical women, both fictional and real. And lots of people were taking notes during the "publishing continuum" panel run by Tamara Mazzei, Nancy Attwell, and Patricia Wynn during the final timeslot this morning at 10:30.
I didn't attend the "writing love scenes" panel, but I heard much laughter coming through the walls.
Note to self to stop making snarky comments about BEA in LA next year (only in relation to the weather, mind you, as I've never complained about the show itself), as there's a chance I'll end up going after all. It's fairly easy to convince me to go to book events.
Probably the best part of this conference was meeting so many people I've known only over email and/or this blog. Karen Mercury and I hung out at the Saturday evening dinner, I got to meet many authors, HNS members and reviewers for the first time, and I reconnected with other people I haven't seen since Salt Lake City. Since the conference was on the east coast, many HNS members from the UK and Europe made it over; I had some nice conversations with a historical fiction fan from Dublin, and a few others who were based in London. And, hey, I even sold seven books - and got to sign two of them. The Salt Lake City bookseller was convinced they wouldn't sell and only ordered three of them, which sold out immediately. This time, the bookseller (Blackwood and Brouwer out of Kinderhook, NY) ordered ten.
Mark didn't go to the conference per se, although he volunteered to chauffeur some of our guests of honor to/from the train station in Rensselaer. He picked up Irene Goodman on the 4pm train Friday from NYC and promptly got stuck in Albany rush-hour traffic on the way back to the Desmond, but I understand the people in the back seat (other conference goers also en route to the hotel) kept everyone entertained.
Oh, and the food at the Desmond was delicious - no "rubber chicken" or "rolled stuffed hamster" there (that's Mark's phrase to describe typical conference fare, normally chicken cordon bleu or some such). In her keynote, Diana Gabaldon mentioned it was the best food she'd ever had at a conference. I'll be curious to hear what other attendees thought, about this or any other aspect of the conference, pro or con. Any attendees reading this who didn't fill out a feedback form, my address is on the top if you want to mail it back to me, or just email me your thoughts if/when you get around to it. We really do take all comments/suggestions seriously, and we used a number of the ideas on the Salt Lake feedback sheets to plan the program for this one.
I came back from the conference energized, eager to start working again on v.2 of my book, though I'm sorry it'll be another two years until the next conference in North America. We'd do these conferences every year if they weren't so much work, and if we weren't obliged to rotate locales around the continent (which means choosing a new hotel). The good news is, though, that we've had many expressions of interest from people interested in helping with the next event, and after we decompress a little, we'll start evaluating our options. And maybe Mark and I will head to York (England) next April, where I understand the next HNS conference will be.
Conference photos forthcoming, eventually.
We're in Newington, Connecticut tonight and most of tomorrow, heading back to Indy and Charleston tomorrow night.