During the last weekend in June, almost 450 historical novel enthusiasts gathered in Denver, Colorado, to discuss all things historical. Most were writers, some published, some not. All were avid readers of the genre. There were authors, editors, and agents. There were big names and unknowns and everyone was friendly and supportive. There was a book signing event with over 200 authors. There were keynote speeches by C.C. Humphreys, Karen Cushman (more on her later) and Diana Gabaldon. There was even a costume parade and a late night sex scene reading (although to be honest I did not stay awake for that).
One of the best parts of this particular conference was that it was dedicated to historical novels. We were not sharing the stage with the fantasy and science fiction writers. No one assumed that since we wrote historical fiction that necessarily meant romance (although there’s nothing wrong with that). Everyone understood the dangers of getting bogged down in the research phase, the temptation to put every fact you have learned into your manuscript regardless of narrative relevance. We spoke the same language and I loved it.
I made friends, fellow sojourners on this road. Here is a story that sums up my experience:
When it was time for me to have my agent pitch I found the room and waited for my appointment time. A lovely young lady sat beside me and we struck up a conversation. She told me of her first pitch appointment, how nervous she had been, and how a kind man had encouraged and calmed her, just as she proceeded to do for me. We wished each other luck and I went in to my appointment. Later on I saw her again and we compared notes on how our pitches had gone. (For the record, mine went well although the agent wasn’t interested; hers was more successful in that the agent expressed an interest in seeing some of the manuscript) She told me that shortly after her pitch she had ran into the man who had encouraged her and told him of our experience. Consider the torch passed, M.G.. I will one day encourage another writer making his or her first pitch and think of you.
And that is how it was. There was nothing but support and encouragement. I had a discussion with Gillian Bagwell about which of Bess of Hardwick’s husbands was her favorite. We agreed to disagree. I met another writer of Elizabethan England who lives in Austin. I made friends with people from Canada, New York, Brazil, etc. No one felt that they needed to keep their plots to themselves for fear of their ideas being stolen. It was a spirit of comradery that I had not expected and deeply enjoyed. I had found my peeps.
The question now is how do I keep the momentum going? It was a great “mountain top” experience. I felt like Peter at the transfiguration: “It’s good for us to be here! Let’s build shelters and stay!” But almost immediately it was time to come down and reintegrate into family and regular life. To take off the writer hat and put the mommy hat back on. I am grateful for the opportunity to be there, to soak it in and to try to take a little piece of it back into the real world.
But already I feel the glow fading, the challenges of writing or even reading while trying to break up fights, chauffeur my kids here and there, keep up with the laundry, and balance the family budget become greater and greater. Writing is the first thing that gets dropped. Every time.
How do I make it more of a priority? How do I put myself and my dreams first? Or at least second and third instead of last? It’s a work in progress. Just like my book.