Wednesday 7 September 2016

Why Help at a Writers' Conference? #HNSOxford16

The Ashmolean Museum
Last weekend, I went to the Historical Novel Society Conference in Oxford. I’ve been on the committee for almost two years as publicity officer, and have managed the HNS Twitter account and Facebook Page since August 2014. There were a lot of big name authors with Melvyn Bragg, Fay Weldon, Kate Williams, Christopher Gortner, and Tracy Chevalier; amongst many others. Then there were industry leaders, who included Carole Blake, David Headley, Nick Sayers, Simon Taylor, Jane Johnson. Congratulations to Carol McGrath and Jenny Barden for putting together a fantastic programme. The website is here with more info, although I expect that at some point it will be replaced with one for the next conference.

Usually I write up events like this one, with points from some of the main talks (see my post from last time), but at this conference, I was tweeting during talks I attended; plus helping out with front desk, pitches, and other stuff. My notes aren’t as detailed as they could be, so I'm including links to write-ups and posts inspired by the weekend here instead, adding new ones as I see them. I tweeted from some of the main talks @histnovsoc using #HNSOxford16 (click to see everything under this hashtag), and Elaine Powell tweeted from some of the workshops. The main talks will be on the HNS YouTube channel at some stage.

A few posts written so far:

Some of the wonderful commitee members, and volunteers when we packed goody bags
What made this conference for me was working behind the scenes in the run up, and during the conference with some special, and talented people. The camaraderie reminded me of when I used to help out behind the scenes at school for musicals and plays, everyone pulling together to make it happen, working as a team, with lots of laughs and support for each other. Everyone on the committee wanted it to go well, and did their very best to make that happen. Take a look at the wonderful committee here on the website (which again, will disappear at some stage).

Writing can be lonely, and it’s unusual to meet writers in everyday life (especially those who write in the same genre or same era), unless you join a group or go to a class, and make a writing friend locally. Being surrounded by people who love doing what you are doing (or trying to do!), by those at the same stage as you, by those who do it so very well, who are international bestsellers; and by industry leaders who know what they’re talking about when it comes to what sells, and what doesn’t; what the current market trends are, and what’s expected; that’s quite a privilege.

I met so many writers, most who I know online already, some who I’ve followed for years, and interacted with or noticed because I read their blogs and/or books. Some committee members have become firm friends and I'll always know them, and continue to support them with their projects-Alison Morton, who helped me with the publicity, and who was my neighbour at St Anne's (a skilled tea-maker), gets a special mention here!

This summer's beach read
My highlight of the weekend was spending time with Tracy Chevalier between her talk (which was brilliant, and witty), and the HistFictionist Challenge. Tracy couldn’t get a signal on her phone as the conference took place in a basement, so we went upstairs and once she’d managed to do what she needed to do, we chatted about this and that, the book world, how the weekend had gone, who’d been there, and where delegates had come from. It was surreal, and during our whole conversation, I was thinking, ‘am I really sitting here chatting to my favourite author, the woman who wrote the book I read on the beach this summer?’ 

I handed the HNS social media over to Elaine Powell on Monday (5 Sept), and when I mentioned this on my Facebook profile, I was overwhelmed by all the lovely comments. Thank you to everyone for your support, and especially to HNS Chairman, Richard Lee for the opportunity. 

Now is the time (to quote Melvyn Bragg!) to focus on building my neetsmarketing clients, and to write-I really do want to be published one day, and must now get it done. I had a positive pitch session at the conference, and I’m feeling inspired due to the feedback, and our conversation about what would sell.

Me and rock of a friend, Liz Cooper at the gala dinner

So, if you want to get to know writers, and those in the industry better, to raise your profile, to have a bit of a laugh (referring especially to the goody bags here...): I’d say it’s worth getting involved in an event like the HNS conference. But next time, I may just turn up and absorb the talks, we’ll see!
I took some time off from neetsmarketing over the summer to go to Italy (see my latest neetswriter blog post), and to spend time with family. But now I’m back ‘in the office’, and there are two places left on my next Social Media Course for Writers, 8 October in London. Find out more via my website here, and email me at anitajchapman at gmail dot com to book. Added 14 Sept 2016: this course is now fully booked, but I may run one in spring 2017, subject to demand. Email me at the above address to be added to the distribution list.