Historical Novel Society – How the NorCal Chapter arrived

Julie K. Rose

Julie K. Rose is author of the novels Oleanna and The Pilgrim Glass. Visit the NorCal chapter’s FB page here.


In June 2011, I was in a funk.

The Historical Novel Society North American conference was happening in San Diego, and I hadn’t been able to attend. The tweets and the Facebook updates and the blog posts were fantastic, but only served to make me envious.

And it made me want to get together with other historical fiction authors, to share a cup of coffee maybe, and talk about our shared love of history and writing. At the same time, another local HNS member, Mary Burns was thinking along similar lines (though I didn’t know it at the time).

The beautiful (literary themed) Hotel Rex in San Francisco, site of our first meeting.

So, instead of giving into my funk, I took action. I reached out to Georgine, the HNS membership lead, and she sent me a list of HNS member names in my area. Mary was also gathering emails, and eventually we agreed to combine lists and forces, and invited everyone to the Hotel Rex in San Francisco for our inaugural meeting in July 2011.

We now meet quarterly, and have had four meetings. Our three-hour meetings are falling into a pattern:

  • Introductions and member news
  • Presentation (our last meeting featured a Publicity and Promotion panel, and in January Gillian Bagwell gave us coaching on how to read in public)
  • Work-in-Progress readings.

The Work-in-Progress readings are quite popular—new and established authors provide excerpts ahead of time, and read from them at the meeting. Attendees provide feedback, and the author gets a chance to practice reading aloud. In recent meetings we’ve heard from some fantastic new writers, plus sneak peaks into new work by Cecelia Holland and Persia Woolley.

The beautiful Berkeley City Club, location for our January 2012 meeting.

Due to the size of our group, our meetings are held in rented meeting rooms, either in hotels or libraries, with a meeting fee paid by each member to cover the cost of the rental. Initially we included lunch in the meeting (and cost) but have found that a 1:00 p.m. start makes for a good afternoon of chat and a lower cost. Our volunteer committee of seven coordinates each meeting, including room rental and WIP readings.

We provide a survey to members after each meeting (using surveymonkey, which is free) to make sure we’re meeting their needs, as well as to coordinate the best date for our next meeting and uncover any topics that they’d like to see covered in future meetings.

Mary F. Burns

Our group covers all of northern California, which is approximately equivalent to New York and Pennsylvania combined, or the entirety of England. We have a list of about 50 members, but due to time (and distance) constraints, not everyone can make every meeting, so we generally have 25 attendees each time.

We have a Facebook page, where we can share news with each other between meetings, look for crit partners, and provide updates about upcoming meetings.

Julie K. Rose

The meetings have been a lot of fun. Personally, I’ve learned a lot from our presentations and panels, and from the feedback on the WIP readings. It’s a very supportive group, and it’s so wonderful to hear the latest news from our group. It’s great to spend time with like-minded people, and ensures we know some friendly faces when we attend the HNS London 2012 and HNS St Petersburg 2013 conferences.




If you are interested in joining us in NorCal, join our Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/180675515330164/


Posted by Richard Lee

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