Highlights of the Beau Monde mini-conference: meeting all the members I've followed on Twitter or through the chapter email loop (especially Rose Lerner and Susanna Fraser, who introduced the topic of a "Time Machine Free Pass" - my pick was Sir Richard Francis Burton, naturally) and learning to lose at loo. So...workshops. I'm going to type up some notes and impressions.
Popular Magazines of the Regency (Sandra Schwab)
Sandra Schwab is an academic and she has a proper academic approach to scholarship: thorough and precise. I miss the good old days sometimes, so I enjoyed this quite a bit.
The talk seemed to have two main points. The first was naming periodicals to which authors might turn when researching specific topics - The Lady's Companion or La Belle Assemblé for fashion info, for example.
The other was to sketch out the rise of periodicals that started with the Gentleman's Magazine in 1731 but exploded during the Regency, with over 4,000 new magazines launched between 1790 and 1832. The earliest magazines covered all bases; town and country; local and international news; politics and culture.
With time, magazines magazines began targeting specific audiences (women, for example) and subjects (sporting). The fact-based reporting of the early years gave way to more opinionated articles; snarky book reviews in Blackwood's, for example, resulted in an endless stream of libel suits.
Horse Sense Through History (Shannon Donnelly)
Shannon is a horse person & a chaptermate who's corrected several horse-related mistakes in my manuscripts in the past - my primary observation about horses is that everyone I know who's passionate about them has been severely injured as a result.
She covered basic horsemanship, breeds, markings, and carriage types. Meanwhile, Joanna Bourne kept interrupting with questions that began, "So if your heroine has been kidnapped..."
This was my first clue that the conference was going to be awesome.
Delilah Marvelle gave the luncheon keynote. I always love listening to authors talk about how they got published, or how they revived a flagging career, really any kind of from-the-trenches wisdom. No two are alike and Delilah Marvelle's was particularly harrowing. She ended up saying the thing that an aspiring writer most wants to hear: believe in yourself, write what you know is good.
I think romance as a genre can be deceptive; the titles and covers are so interchangeable, but the books themselves? Absolutely the opposite. I once heard James Scott Bell say that the secret to rising tension is to write to the climax, not the resolution of a novel; until you reach it, the writer's endpoint should be that moment of maximum peril. Writing toward a happy ending will only take you in the wrong direction.
I suspect that romance genre covers could teach a similar moral: don't write the novel that deserves a pastel-colored clinch cover; it will end up blander than most of the novels that end up sandwiched between them.
The last workshop of the day was...
How Clothes Worked (Isobel Carr)
Isobel took us through the nitty gritty of dressing and undressing during the Regency - how corsets laced (and unlaced), how garters tied, what shifts and nightgowns looked like.
The highlight of this talk? When she explained that Georgian corsets sculpted "baby's bottom" boobs, while Regency corsets engineered a "lift and separate". And when someone asked how realistic it is, in historicals, for a gentleman to expose a fully-clothed woman's breasts, her response was: "You push up a little bit, you tug down a little bit, you've got boob."
So, there you go. Totally realistic.
After the workshops came the literacy signing. Some 400 authors sat at booths, signing books and chatting with the public at large. I wandered up and down the aisles, looking for favorite authors, and discovered how rewarding it is to tell people that I think their books are great. It's really fun!
A special shoutout to Julie James, who agreed that the hero of my favorite book of hers, Just the Sexiest Man Alive, is appealing precisely because he's cocky and enjoys his fame, and Lauren Willig, who recommended Jennifer Lee Carrell's Interred With Their Bones so I could enjoy the pleasure of reading about the wanton destruction of Widener Library.
Last but not least, the Soirée. About half the attendees at the Beau Monde soirée showed up in costume, and a couple busted out rakish male alter-egos. I sat down at the card table and learned to play loo. Despite being a relatively simple game, I lost every round.