HNS 2013: for Writers, for Readers, for Florida Fun

Have you ever attended a writers’ conference? You should.

HNS logo

Ancient tribal societies organized gatherings, a chance for allied tribes to meet, share news, and celebrate tribal events. Writers’ conferences are analogues to tribal bonfires, a time when modern skalds and readers gather to meet and learn from one another.

I went to the Historical Novel Society’s 2011 conference as a lone-wolf historical novelist, and left a mystery writer with new friends who would soon become my critique group  – and also the pillars of this author’s writing world.

Could a conference really do all that?

It could, and it did, and it can for you too.

I arrived in San Diego for HNS 2011 excited to pitch my most recent historical manuscript and nervous about talking with other authors. The first afternoon in the bookstore, I met Erika Mailman, author of The Witch’s Trinity and Woman of Ill Fame (who will be speaking at a panel on Witchcraft in Fiction at HNS 2013). Erika broke through my shyness and made me feel not only welcome but a peer – even though she was published and I was not. Two years later, we’re friends who share coffee and breakfast regularly, as well as critiquing one another’s work – but for HNS’11, I would never have known her.

After Erika boosted my confidence, I attended pitch sessions with several editors. Although the manuscript I pitched was pure historical, I’d had an idea for a mystery series set in samurai Japan. Only an idea, however, so I kept it completely secret. By chance, one of the editors I met with asked – out of the blue – if I ever wrote mysteries.

I stammered out an assent, quickly qualified by the admission that I hadn’t actually written one, but I had this idea “for a ninja detective series.”

Write it, she said, it sounds fantastic.

That’s all the encouragement I needed. The Shinobi mysteries went from inspiration to certainty in an instant.

I spent the Saturday cocktail hour meeting a group of authors I chatted with on Twitter  before the conference. Heather Webb, Marci Jefferson, Sophie Perinot, Amanda Orr, Kris Waldherr, and Julianne Douglas were among the fabulous ladies I met and befriended that night. Like Erika, they didn’t seem to mind my nervousness or my slightly awkward ways – and when Heather founded a writing group a few weeks after the conference, she invited me to join (and I gladly accepted).

I went to HNS 2011 hoping to find an agent and sell my book. I didn’t do either – but the conference gave me something even better: it refocused my writing on historical mystery (where I belong!) and introduced me to friends I will have and love for the rest of my life.

Two years later, I’ll return – to HNS 2013 – as a panelist, with an agent and a debut novel 3 weeks from its hardback release.

In 2011 the HNS conference was very good to me … will 2013 be your year? Join me in Florida – let’s find out together!

5 thoughts on “HNS 2013: for Writers, for Readers, for Florida Fun

  • March 8, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Scary to think how different your life might be right now if you hadn’t come, Susan! So glad you did. 🙂

  • March 8, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    Eeeeeek! Got chills when you said you’re returning to the conference with an agent, as a panelist and with a book coming out in hardback in 3 weeks. WOW! Thanks for letting us share in your journey.

  • March 10, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    Susan, it’s so funny and wonderfully coincidental that we each blogged about each other today! I posted mine a few hours ago, did some of my classwork and then wandered to your blog to find such a sweet post. I’m SO GLAD WE MET!! And im delighted at the wonderful fact you are returning two years later with your book under your belt and about to hit the world a few weeks after HNS. What a difference a few years makes! xxxoooo!!!!!

    • March 12, 2013 at 9:40 pm

      Thanks Erika! That’s hilarious that we did that – and totally without even talking with one another today!! I’m so glad we met too – and even more glad you moved close by!

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