The 2021 Historical Novel Society Conference is over, and the Paper Lantern Writers have barely had time to take a breath. The conference was virtual this year, and offered 80 panels, presentations, and cozy chats, plus master classes, author spotlights, book clubs, conversation rooms, and social events. PLW presented three panels and participated in another one. In this post, we’d like to share our experiences with you. (Click on the title links to see the video intro to the panels. If you registered for the conference, you can see the whole recorded session on the conference site.)
SETTING THE SCENE: Exploring Settings Through Genres ~ Paper Lantern authors C. V. Lee, Edie Cay, and Lynn Downey prepared a detailed analysis of how setting functions in different historical fiction genres. Exploring its effects on family saga, romance, mystery, and westerns, the panelists emphasized that setting can enhance every aspect of the story, from the political climate to the characters’ state of mind. It also amplifies everything, including emotions, plot, resolution, and reader satisfaction.
C.V. Lee says, “The four of us (Ana Brazil, Edie Cay, Lynn Downey, and I) spent a lot of time preparing our presentation, Setting the Scene~Exploring Historical Fiction Through Genre. It was disappointing when the technology failed and our panel could not be livestreamed. We powered through and recorded the presentation which was then made available for viewing the following day for HNS conference attendees. Edie Cay and I took questions in a conversation room, which gave us a chance to show how much we love our time period and what we write. Despite the snafu, I, a soon-to-be-published author, was honored to participate on a panel and work with such a great group to build our own take on how setting should work to add depth to the narrative in each of our genres; discussing the universal, and how to make your story unique, a tale that could only be told in that time and place.”
FINDING WOMEN’S VOICES in Ancestor Stories ~ Historical Fiction writers often tell family stories. They are so intrigued by their ancestors’ trials and triumphs, that they’re inspired to turn a handful of anecdotes into a full-blown novel. Most recorded histories, though, are incomplete. The women’s voices are usually missing. Paper Lantern Writers Linda Ulleseit, Kathryn Pritchett, and Lynn Downey talked about research techniques to fill in those gaps, how to give a family story universal appeal, challenges of fictionalizing an ancestor story, ensuring historical accuracy, and finding a readership for your family story in nonfiction.
Lynn says, “Working with Linda and Kathryn on the Finding Women’s Voices in Ancestor Stories panel was so much fun. The best part was how much I learned from both of them about using family in fiction. The questions posed by the conference attendees were really eye-opening, and one query about the challenges of using the “voice” of a real ancestor (and Linda and Kathryn’s answers) will be helpful to me with one of the characters in my forthcoming novel, Dude or Die. This was my first HSN conference, but it won’t be my last!”
STARTING AN AUTHOR COLLECTIVE ~ Linda, Edie, and Kathryn spoke about Author Collectives: what they are and how to start one of your own. Ana was scheduled to be part of the panel but had to drop out due to a family emergency. We showed how Paper Lantern Writers set up our collective, what specific activities we participate in now, how we make decisions, and how we invited in new members to expand our community and our reach. We also shared where we succeeded and where we didn’t.
Linda says, “I love talking about our collective because I believe we’ve done very well in almost two years. The questions asked by attendees showed a lot of interest and appreciation for the idea of a marketing collective, and for Paper Lantern Writers specifically. I felt like a rock star!”
RESPECTING ROMANCE ~ Edie says, “The Respecting Romance panel was an absolute blast. With fellow romance authors Jeannie Lin, Syrie James, and Emily EK Murdoch, we discussed everything from distribution to writing love scenes. While we had prepared slides ahead of time as prompts, we were able to have a true discussion amongst ourselves that seemed to spark discussion in the chat box below as well! The questions we received were fantastic, and helped make for great energy and great answers. I can only hope that it was as wonderful people watching as it was to participate. Also, anyone who watches and looks at that chat will have quite the list of titles to explore.”
Linda Ulleseit writes award-winning heritage fiction set in the United States. She is a member of Historical Novel Society, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and Women Writing the West as well as a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers. Get in touch with her on Instagram (lulleseit) and Facebook (Linda Ulleseit or SHINE with Paper Lantern Writers).