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Strictly Conferencing

Writing.ie | Guest Bloggers | Carry on Writing

Hazel Gaynor

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Prof Diana Wallace, Essie Fox, Kate Forsyth, Jessie Burton and Deborah Harkness talking about myth, fairytale and the unexplained

In 2012, I bravely attended my first writers’ conference. It was the Historical Novel Society (HNS) conference in London. I knew nobody, and I was mildly terrified (not least because I had booked a 10 minute pitch session with an editor from Random House).

I need not have worried.

The conference was fantastic. The people were so friendly (I am still in touch with many American friends I made and haven’t seen since). I met a group of lovely writers from Ireland – little did I know at the time that the HNS has an Irish branch, including members such as Particia O’Reilly, Diane Ascroft and June Considine. The panel sessions and workshops that weekend were so inspiring. You could have heard a pin drop during Philippa Gregory’s amazing keynote speech and I even enjoyed the dreaded pitch (especially since the editor was keen to see more).

So when the 2014 HNS conference came around, I didn’t hesitate at all. In fact, I offered to participate as a speaker, as well as a delegate.

HNS London 2014 was another excellent weekend where I met some amazing writers and made lots of new friends (and hopefully found some new readers too). I met writers I’d connected with only on social media. I met writers whose books I adore. I met writers whose books I cannot now wait to read. I met writers who share my fascination with cherry blossom trees and my love of everything Cath Kidston!

Me and Australian author, Kate Forsyth, author of Bitter Greens and The Wild Girl.
Me and Australian author, Kate Forsyth, author of Bitter Greens and The Wild Girl.

I always come away from conferences with a notebook full of inspirational quotes and ideas for future novels and this was no exception. With speakers including Deborah Harkness, Jessie Burton, Essie Fox, Carole Blake, Conn Igguldun, Kate Forsyth and so many, many more, the talent and experience was endless. I was also thrilled to run a workshop session with Ann Weisgarber, Orange prize nominated author of The Promise. We had a delicious 19th century historical supper in the wonderfully atmospheric Hardy’s restaurant in Marylebone and I had a great chat to the brilliant Emma Darwin (great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin).

To see my book included in the excellent display on the pop-up Waterstones stand was a real moment to savour (and I couldn’t help taking a photo!)

Waterstones pop-up bookshop

For anyone interested in, or writing, historical fiction this conference is a must. The 2015 conference will be in Denver, USA, but 2016 will return to the UK and I fully intend to be there.

This short video gives a great sense of the event – please take a minute to watch (brownie points for spotting me in there!)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1OV2hBwkvE&w=638&h=502]

Huge thanks to Richard Lee, Charlie Farrow, Jenny Barden and all the organisers for keeping us in the right place at the right time, and for always having a smile (or is that a grimace?!) on your face. Here’s to HNS2016!



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