HNS 2013 US Conference: Attendee Perspectives

by Christopher M. Cevasco, Audra Friend, Julie Rose & Marie Parsons

hns-north-american-conference-201321-23 June 2013  |  St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

It won’t have escaped your attention that HNS 2013 recently ended in St Petersburg, Florida.  A few attendees volunteered to offer their impressions of events.

Julie Rose writes: “I am a hard-core introvert. When I attended my first HNS conference (Albany 2007), I was a nervous wreck. I put on a good show (and had a good time!), but I was absolutely terrified. HNS2013 was different. I had ‘met’ so many other members through Facebook and Twitter in the last two years, I wasn’t at all nervous – I was catching up with old friends. Having that connection online was an instant icebreaker in person. Plus, I saw so many friendly faces from our HNS Northern California chapter throughout the weekend, it made me feel right at home.”

The camaraderie of the HNS community is clearly much appreciated and a key feature of every conference, as is echoed by Marie Antonia Parsons: “HNS 2013, my first such conference, was a delight. My three descriptive words for the conference are: Friendly, Challenging, Informative. It was so easy and comfortable to strike up conversations with ‘strangers,’ (i.e. people one did not already meet on social media) and nobody remained strangers for long.”

This struck Audra Friend, too, who comments, that “As a reader and first-time attendee, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but to my delight, the conference was a welcoming, enthusiastic space for readers and fans of historical fiction.”

Christopher Cevasco, who “has attended every North American conference since the first in Salt Lake City (and also my first UK conference last fall),” notes how “the event has grown into an absolutely essential gathering.” This year’s programming, he adds, “reflected the widest scope yet, with cutting edge panels on such topics as blogging and book trailers added to the usual array of talks and workshops on the craft and business of writing and the invaluable editor/agent pitch sessions.”

Marie seconds this, adding: “I felt particularly challenged by pitching my manuscript to an agent, and by the sword workshop. I cannot say I enjoyed the former, but it was worthwhile and I’m glad for the experience.  The sword workshop was a physical challenge, but I enjoyed it tremendously, for its discipline, focus, and sharing the fun with so many others. The panels provided tips, food for thought, and opportunities for much discussion.

I particularly enjoyed the panel about researching, something I personally tend to overdo.” I think we can all agree with that!

Julie also enjoyed the “fantastic and encouraging lunchtime keynote by Chris Gortner.” She, too, mentions the swordplay workshop, and notes, “it was amazing to hold those blades, and to really get a good sense for their heft, their uses, and to see the workshop leader David Blixt in action with them.” Other practical workshops were also a highlight, particularly “the Audiobook or Podcast session, which provided me real, practical advice on creating my own audiobook.”

Christopher noted that, “Arguably, one aspect which could be reasserted more strongly is programming appealing to non-writer readers of historical fiction, and enthusiastic conversations about doing so in 2015 have already been taking place online.” However, according to Audra, “even as a non-writer, the panels were fascinating, as they gave me insight into how my favorite authors wrestled with their craft.  (Actually, the access I had to my favorite writers was a highlight: at any time, I could approach someone whose book I adored, tell them that, and have a memory I will never forget.)”

All the contributors pay tribute to the organizers of HNS2013, as well as to “the incredible community of historical fiction readers and writers for a wonderful weekend!”

“The best moments,” writes Christopher, “occurred in the spaces between formal programming: conversations in the lobby that sparked ideas about writing and alerted me to new books and authors; sharing information over dinner about blogs and agents and review sites; listening to others speak passionately about their own favored periods of history and the stories they’ve found to tell… in short, the forging of friendships over our common love of history and fiction.”

Marie highly recommends attending at least one HNS conference and looks forward to the next one.

Christopher M. Cevasco (
Audra Friend (
Julie Rose (
Marie Parsons (


Published in Historical Novels Review  |  Issue 65, August 2013

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