Elizabeth Jane Corbett

writing her way home

The inaugural HNSA conference – a subjective summary

I am not a duck-to-water conference goer – all those people, managing allergies, no time to read, or write, or even exercise. But when the date of inaugural Historical Novels Society of Australasia conference was announced, I booked a place without hesitation. I have been a member of the Historical Novels Society for years, have reviewed and written for their publications, chatted with members electronically, watched with envy as the U.S. and the UK members attended conferences. The event had my name written all over it.

Though, I do admit to grappling with a hurdy hurdy of emotions.

In the past, literary conferences were easy. I am a librarian. I am paid to read, review, and recommend books. However, in recent years, the situation has become more complex. The more I write, the closer I get to having a finished manuscript, the tension builds inside me. I listen to author’s talk about their writing process, wondering whether I can be as articulate. I hear publishers discussing other people’s work and find myself holding their comments up to a mirror in my head. All weekend, I swung like a pendulum between awe and inspiration. I came home, exhausted, philosophical and still trying-to-be-determined.

Here is a totally subjective summary of my impressions:

  • Entering a room filled with people most of whom you don’t know is never easy
  • I was glad I went with a friend
  • Especially when I realised how people in the room many had PhDs
  • And published novels
  • It felt great to be part of an inaugural event
  • My heart sunk when I heard how many words some authors write per day
  • And when they talked about dreams and mysterious voices guiding them
  • Some brave writers submitted the first 750 words of their novel for a public reading and assessment
  • It was gruelling – yes, gruelling and I wasn’t even one of them
  • I heard an industry professional say don’t bother submitting until you’ve written about thirteen novels
  • I heard some writers talk about struggling to find inspiration
  • I appreciated their honesty, the way they demystified the process
  • I listened to publishers talk about the influence of Big W
  • I knew publishing was driven by dollars
  • Still, it was a shock to the librarian inside me
  • I heard about new publishing models – a flux in the industry
  • I noticed agents and publishers are now accepting unsolicited manuscripts
  • I wondered how much Indie Publishing and small presses are driving these changes
  • I hope those changes will be lasting
  • The vibe from Panterra Press was so positive
  • I hope they and others will continue to grow and innovate
  • That I can get my manuscript the requisite standard
  • Although…thirteen novels? She said thirteen!
  • I might be dead by then
  • I reminded myself I won an international prize with my first ever short story
  • That I have had other work published
  • That my recent manuscript assessment was largely positive
  • I found myself itching to get home and continue with my revisions
  • Though, it’s gonna take time to banish the spectre of thirteen unpublished novels
  • And the marketing power of Big W



The Wild Wood – a review


Eden’s Garden – by Juliet Greenwood


  1. ‘You hear an industry professional say don’t bother submitting until you’ve written about thirteen novels.’

    I’m glad no-one said any such nonsense to Jane Austen!

    • ejcorbett@yahoo.com.au

      Yes, it was pretty devastating 🙁

      • Hi Elizabeth-Jane

        I enjoyed reading your blog – you summed up a lot of my feelings about the event, especially the post-conference swing between awe and inspiration.

        As for the thirteen novels, for what it’s worth, I know many an author who’s had their first novel accepted (including yours truly). All the best with yours!


        • ejcorbett@yahoo.com.au

          Thanks Marianne. I know it is possible. I am trying to focus on just making my manuscript as good as possible.

  2. Great to read your blog, I had many of the same feelings and impressions. What a fabulous weekend and so thought-provoking.

    • ejcorbett@yahoo.com.au

      Yes, it was great wasn’t it. I reckon having the venue and accomodation attached may have been more relaxing.

  3. They used to say flush the first 100,000 pages and then start writing. Today, it’s the opposite, they tell everyone they can be published on the internet and make millions. Mainly because there are thousands out there willing to make money helping you create your website, rework your manuscript, edit, format, and design a good cover. How many of them are published authors?
    I say write, edit, find friends to read and edit, rewrite and edit, and then publish. Just don’t spend money to be published. Paper with words all over it make great dresser drawer liners and creative wrapping paper. Nothing you write is a waste.

    • ejcorbett@yahoo.com.au

      No, it isn’t a waste and they say re-writing is part of the process. I find this re-assuring. Though, I can’t think how authors managed before word processors.

  4. I’m glad you came away with so many positive vibes, Elizabeth Jane. I have to say, when I was starting out, I never thought I’d ever find myself up on stage speaking to an audience – in fact I was so freaked out the first time I went and did a Toastmasters’ course (which was brilliant.) And that’s what happens; you take one step at a time and suddenly you realise just how far you’ve come. Don’t worry about the 13 novels thing (I’m hoping that was a throwaway line, actually!) Write with passion, turn out the very best story you can, and present it in the best possible way. Above all, have faith in yourself. And also take Janet’s advice on board – it’s very sound. Finally: good luck!

    • ejcorbett@yahoo.com.au

      I’m pretty sure it was a throw away line too. And said with a smile. However, I thought it would serve as a good ‘metaphor’ for how overwhelming the situation sometimes feels. I am writing, re-writing, workshopping and trying to keep faith. For me, personally, the latter is sometimes hard to muster. But that is nothing to do with the throw away line and everything to do with how I’m wired. 🙂

  5. I think people can only talk anecdotedly about what worked for them. 13 novels seems a very personal number. Also, does she mean 13 fully redrafted, completed, ready to submit novels, or just 13 drafts – if that is the case, with all that you’ve written, I don’t think you have to worry. 🙂 I don’t think it’s a case of 1 size fits all, anyway. Everyone is individual and everyone’s process is individual and you can only do what is right for you. Personally, I think you are pretty well ready to go, Liz – so don’t sweat the 13 books. 🙂

    • ejcorbett@yahoo.com.au

      No longer sweating now I’ve written about it. Name the demons – that’s my way of keeping them at bay. I should add that fear is the demon. Not the throw away line or the industry professional. 🙂

  6. Elizabeth, I’m so glad you enjoyed the conference. It was great to finally meet you! You entitled this blog post ‘subjective’. That’s exactly the case with those publishing professionals. You don’t need 13 books. You don’t need to restrict yourself to 100000 words, as one said, either. Don’t wait to be ‘discovered’. Go out and discover your readership. But only after you’ve ensured your book is professionally edited and presented. The Australian market place is tiny. There is a big wonderful world of historical fiction fans in the US and UK!

    • ejcorbett@yahoo.com.au

      Yes! It was great to meet you too. Thanks for putting in the time to organise the conference. Your publishing story is inspirational. Your comments about subjectivity also resonate. I’m not sure about US markets. But although my work in process is set in Colonial Australian, I expect its Welsh and English characters to give a broader appeal, as well as its more universal themes. Time will tell. We must tell the story we want to tell and do it well. 🙂

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