Thursday 21 March 2019

HNSA Conference 2019 - making a noise about historical fiction

Back in 2017, Gillian Polack interviewed me about my role as program director of the 2017 Historical Novel Society Australasia conference in Melbourne. Hard to believe that 2 years has passed. I'm excited to say we've now launched the program for our 3rd biennial conference in Sydney on 25-27 October, 2019  in partnership with Western Sydney University. Writing historical fiction is my passion, and making a noise about the genre through programming  is a very rewarding labour of love.

As Chair and program director of HNSA, here’s an overview of what's on offer at the conference instead of my regular monthly history post. Forgive me, I've been a little preoccupied of late:) And if you're keen to learn more about Australian historical fiction in general, you can read my state of play for the Historical Novel Review: Indigenous Origins, Colonialism and Diaspora.

What’s on offer at HNSA 2019
The HNSA committee  never thought we’d get this far - our 3rd biennial conference. We hope fans of the genre, both readers and writers alike, will gather as a community again –this time at historic Parramatta (the second oldest town in Australasia). There is a lot to celebrate at HNSA 2019!

Guest of Honour, Jackie French
HNSA 2019 Guest of Honour and Keynote Speaker
Jackie French is our Guest of Honour. Historian, ecologist, literacy advocate, and author of over 140 books for all age groups, she holds more than 60 awards in Australia and overseas. Our keynote speaker, New Zealand author and academic, Dr Paula Morris, will address our theme of History Repeats to explore whether historical fiction can engage readers who might not see the parallels between past and present. Our HNSA patron, Kate Forsyth will warmly open the conference.  Our theme will be explored further in a panel that ponders subtexts in historical novels with Winton Higgins, Michelle Aung Thin and Lucy Treloar (Learning from History). We also look forward to Marie Munkara talking about recovering the 'erased' history of First Nations people (Dispossession & Betrayal) due to shameful government policies and law that saw Indigenous children stolen from their parents. 

A treat for readers and writers
Our general stream is aimed at both readers and writers. We have over 60 esteemed authors discussing their books, inspiration, favourite history, personal journeys and thorny topics. On Saturday 26 October enjoy the insights of adaptable writers, Sophie Masson and Kelly Gardiner (The Versatile Writer); hear why Jane Caro and Ali Alizadeh are drawn to write about famous characters like Elizabeth I and Joan D'Arc (We Need to Talk about Bette and Joan); and explore the innocence, guilt and psychopathy of criminal protagonists with Janet Lee, Pip Smith and Catherine Jinks (The Criminal Mind).

On Sunday 27, October Nicole Alexander and Ella Carey explain the attraction of drawing on family legends (Personal Histories); and Kate Forsyth and Nastasha Lester travel back into France’s history (A French Affair). Alison Goodman, Anne Gracie and Anna Campbell will inspire us with Regency madness (George & Georgette) while Jock Serong, Rachel Leary and Stephanie Parkyn take us into the mind of characters who battle both internal fears and their environment (Survival of the Fittest). Meg Keneally and Gay Hendriksen will discuss the benefits of historical novelists and historians actively collaborating together (Walking Side by Side.) 

Kate Forsyth & Paula Morris
Honing your craft
Running parallel with our general stream is our second dealing with the craft and business of writing. On Saturday 26 October we kick off by delving into how to keep the sizzle factor in your historical romance series (Stoking the Flame) with Lizzi Tremayne, Renee Dahlia and Elizabeth Ellen Carter; and discover the hard work required to market your novel after your ‘book baby’ is born with author Lucinda Brant, publicist Debbie McInnes, and Berkelouws Books' Melanie Prosser (Connecting with Readers). Paula Morris, Isobel Blackthorn and Greg Johnston explain the challenges of imagining a dead person’s life (Respectful Research); while Jesse Blackadder, Rachel le Rossignol and Majella Cullinane discuss the value of writing degrees (It’s Academic).

On Sunday 27 October, Robert Gott returns with Katherine Kovacic and Tessa Lunney to divulge how to weave a web of truth and lies in detective fiction (History & Mystery); Gillian Polack, Ilke Tampke and Pamela Hart ponder the individual challenges of researching different eras (The Things We Don’t Know); Belinda Castles, Robyn Cadwallader and Julian Leatherdale explore the nuances of point of view (I am a Camera); and  Tea Cooper, Emily Madden and Carla Caruso describe the mystery element in parallel narratives (Intertwining Lives Revealed). The skills required to create a strong and plausible female protagonist is revealed by Lauren Chater, Kirsty Murray and Elizabeth Jane Corbett (The Feminine Mystique); while Jesse Blackadder and Mira Robertson discuss the secret to scriptwriting (The Silver Screen). 

Finally, to round off the conference we decided to leave the bedroom door closed and summon some black magic. I'm looking forward to joining  Kate Forsyth and Kim Wilkins to conjure weird and wonderful superstitions and concoctions to keep readers spellbound in Love Potions and Witchcraft.

A fresh approach – Friday Craft & Publishing Program
At HNSA 2017, we held short workshops concurrently with the main program. Attendees were frustrated they were missing out on panels on the main program to attend these - spoiled for choice! As a result, the committee has decided to take a fresh approach in 2019. Instead of holding a round table at a Friday Opening Reception, we're conducting a Craft & Publishing program on Friday 25 October with practical workshops for writers, masterclasses, and manuscript assessments.

There’ll be a suite of 9 two hour workshops by top rate tutors offering insights and practical tips on various aspects of the writing craft, research, and sub-genres. Our wonderful team includes Kate Forsyth (Spice & Swashbuckle – Writing Romantic Historical Fiction), Sophie Masson (Writing Historical Fiction for Children and Young Adults), Alison Goodman (Writing Historical Fantasy), Robert Gott (Writing Crime Fiction), Pamela Hart (Making Research Work for You), Kelly Gardiner (Scrivener for Beginners), Rachel Franks (Trove for the Historical Novelist ), Paula Morris (Writing Family History) and Evan Shapiro (Self-Publishing Essentials).

Our popular 1:1 manuscripts assessments will also happen on the Friday – this year with Scholastic publisher Clare Hallifax, and agent Irina Dunn. And Gillian Polack is offering 1:1 masterclasses on writing and research instead of teaching small groups. 

Munkara, Masson, Serong, Alexander, Gott & Jinks
And the winner is….
Our signature First Pages Pitch Contest will be held on Saturday 26 October. This year we’re offering $200 in prize money.  So polish up your pitch and the first few paragraphs of your work-in-progress. Rachel Nightingale returns as our narrator with Clare Hallifax (Scholastic Australia), agent Margaret Connolly, and Michelle Lovi (Odyssey Press), acting as our judges. Every writer in the audience can benefit from hearing the critiques of experts on which words first attract a publisher’s attention. It’s entertaining for everyone else too. 

The ARA HNSA Short Story Contest also returns thanks to our generous sponsor, ARA, which  is donating $500 prize money. Our HNSA Conference patron, Sophie Masson, is our judge. 

An evening by the river
Our conference dinner on 26 October will be held at Sahra by the River, a restaurant nestled on the banks of the Parramatta River. Historical Romance author, Anna Campbell, will regale us with stories after Sophie Masson announces the winner of the ARA HNSA Short Story Contest.

En garde!
Fancy some sword play? Or curious to know how to wear armour or hold a longbow? Richard Halcomb from the Medieval Archery Society is joining us this year to provide hands-on advice on Medieval Arms and Armouring while Richard Cullinan from Stoccata School of Defence will give an Introduction to Historical Fencing. So indulge your inner Robin Hood or Arya Stark at our Historical Reenactments and Weapons demonstrations.

Challenging the genre
In our extended Academic stream on Sunday 27 October, we’ll bring together postgraduates, academics, and other interested scholars to consider the complexities of the genre of historical fiction and its readership. This will also be open to general admission for conference delegates. A Call for Papers is currently been made. 

Say hello
Thanks for letting me share my news. I know many of you live in the northern hemisphere, but I hope you might travel Downunder later this year. If you do, please say hello!

For more information about HNSA 2019, you can visit our 2019 Conference page and go from there. And if you're keen, you can buy tickets here.

Elisabeth Storrs is the author of the Tales of Ancient Rome, and co-founder of HNS Australasia. Learn more at her website.

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