Archive for June, 2011
I spent this past Thursday in Stratford, Ontario, with a trio of amazing artists: photographer and filmmaker
Scott did the cover art for Dakota, Or What’s a Heaven For. What a pleasure, and honor, to work with this team of professionals as we develop a book “trailer” for Dakota. I hope to have something to share by early August. David, Christina and Scott have collaborated on several projects. Take a look at some of their work
I first discovered Scott’s work a couple of summers ago when I was in Stratford to take in a couple of plays at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, and stopped for lunch at the restaurant Down the Street.
The interior walls were covered with theater posters done by Scott, and I was blown away by their precision and intelligence and flat-out beauty.
So it was fun to be back in Stratford once again, and to be working with these really fine artists.
C. W. Gortner forwarded this fun picture of the authors at the Historical Novel Society Conference who are represented by the Jean Naggar Literary Agency (JVNLA). Another author, Donna Cross, was in airport hell during most of the conference, so is not in this picture.
I can be a little slow on the uptake. For example, when I finished Dakota, Or What’s a Heaven For, which is set in late nineteenth-century Dakota Territory, and someone called it historical fiction, I was a little surprised. I hadn’t meant to be writing within a specific genre, but, as a matter of fact, if a novel begins 134 years ago, it is historical fiction. A historical novel may also be literary fiction. It may be a mystery, or a romance, or gay or lesbian fiction, or feminist fiction, or sci-fi, or horror, or a host of other things. It may be “serious” fiction–think Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall–or it may be “fluff” (I’ll let you choose an example).
But what I learned this weekend at the Historical Novel Society Conference, where I was on a panel on “Writing Gay Characters,” is that the best historical novelists have in common a passion for history, a scholarly dedication to historical accuracy, and (no surprise here) a good story to tell. And maybe this was just a particularly nice bunch of people, but I was struck by the consistent generosity (and absence of posturing) of the attendees, as well-known writers whose books live on the bestseller lists mingled with first-time novelists and not-yet-published writers, while agents and editors steadily listened to pitches and patiently answered questions.
I had great conversations with physicians and lawyers and academics and scientists and theologians and actors and musicians, all of whom were identifying this weekend as writers of historical fiction.
Better still, Jennifer Weltz of the Jean Naggar Literary Agency (JVNLA), was there as a keynote speaker and panel moderator and general introducer-of-interesting-persons, making me feel very lucky to be represented by this agency. A lunch at the beginning of the conference, hosted by Jennifer, gave me the opportunity to meet my fellow JVNLA authors,
I also had the chance to meet one of the conference’s guests of honor, Cecelia Holland, who had written a really great (boxed)
Finally, I’d just like to give a shout out to
With a day off between the book party in Richland, Washington, and the upcoming Historical Novel Society Conference in San Diego this weekend, Lance and Terri (my Washington hosts) and I headed into the Yakima Valley wine-producing region to taste some wines. Quite a range of quality (and really, it doesn’t take too many “tastes” to muddle the palate), but we had a great time, and ended up really enjoying a cabernet franc and a Bordeaux blend by Gamache Vintners.
It is always fascinating for me to visit a location from my past. I had forgotten how this area of southeastern Washington, with its treeless mini-mountains, is (for me) this weird combination of desolation and beauty. Even more than western North Dakota, this place makes me fantasize about being a cowboy (which, in my fantasies, is a gender-neutral concept, of course).
About 28 years ago, before I returned to school for my Ph.D. in English at the University of Massachusetts, I worked as a technical writer at Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratories in Richland, Washington. I met my partner, Valerie, in graduate school, and, in one of those odd coincidences that makes for a good story, she is the sister of the wife of one of my best buddies from my Richland days. Okay, so it’s not that great of a story…but it amuses the four of us, in-laws and out-laws.
So when my buddy, Lance, and his wife, Terri (Valerie’s sister), offered to host a book party for me at their home on the Yakima River, I was really pleased to be able to meet new readers and to see some old friends from back in the day. Terri is a serious gardener and the weather was gorgeous, so the setting was perfect:
Along with some old friends from my Battelle days there were several folks there with North Dakota and South Dakota connections, and lots of homesteading stories. One guest even had a picture with him of his homesteading grandmother on a (really good looking) horse. It was a fun crowd of avid readers. Good readers, good food, good wine, cold gin and tonics…perfect. Thanks, Lance and Terri!