Monday, 1 October 2012

A celebration of writers and writing

Two images stick in my mind as the Saturday night banquet at the Historical Novel Society came to a climax (I use the word advisedly). The first was Bernard Cornwell's Flashman-like leer as he read the male part of a steamy sex scene written by Gillian Bagwell and narrated by Diana Gabaldon. The second was the look of pure joy on HNS founder Richard Lee's face when he realised the gift handed over by peerless conference organiser Jenny Barden was a beautiful sword made of Toledo steel.

Those two moments summed up the whole weekend for me. Wholehearted commitment from everyone from the biggest names to the complete unknown, and the pleasure of being part of a gathering of hundreds of people with the same interests, passions and inspiration. From the opening speech by best-selling novelist Philipa Gregory, an absolute tour de force on the art of historical fiction, to the fascinating peroration on the roots of the genre by Margaret George that kept everyone spellbound for close to an hour, the conference was a celebration of all that's good about writers and writing.

The two events I spoke at were characterised by the eloquence and passion of my fellow panelists and the enthusiasm of the audiences, whether it was the thirty who attended a workshop on making fight scenes authentic, with the aforementioned Mr C, Angus Donald and Russ Whitfield, or the three hundred who watched us tiptoe our way in tackety boots through the minefield of Brawn versus Heart, a debate on the alternative merits of romantic as opposed to adventure fiction (with special thanks to Chris CW Gortner for his handling of a tough panel). I was able to attend another three or four events and every one was unique.

I met lots of old friends, and many new ones, chatting about books, book people, and giving advice to fellow writers about getting published. I'm only sorry I didn't have time to attend the Sunday sessions, and my only regret was that I didn't get the chance to answer the question about why, as writers, we concentrate on extraordinary people rather than ordinary ones. Put simply, ordinary people aren't as interesting. If an ordinary person strays into one of my books I send in a troop of cavalry to burn down their village.


Jenny Barden said...

Many thanks for taking part in the Conference, Doug, and for appearing in the Brawn v Heart panel without trepidation in the face of my editor wearing lacy black stockings! (What's a barbarian horde after that!)

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

Great to meet you Doug and I endorse everything you said! Self and agent had to leave before the sex scenes reached their climax (!!!) and I was sorry not to see Richard receive his sword, but all the same, what a conference!