What Not to Wear (HNSNA Conference Edition)

Conference Memories by Kate Hornstein –

As I looked towards my first live HNSNA Conference where I’d pitch my book and meet fellow writers, I studied this spring’s Texas weather: cool air one day, broiling heat the next. In addition, conference organizers warned us that the lovely River Walk Marriott offered meat locker-like cold. “Bring a sweater, long pants, maybe tights,” they wrote.

My post-pandemic wardrobe was “a lesson in sustainability” from my daughter’s cast-off shirts to 20-year-old dresses that I kept wearing, saying, “This is the last time.” Panicking, I called my relative Angie O’Riley. “You need linen layers” she answered. And so, I shopped.

Safe behind my Zoom screen in one of my new blouses on June 5, I was delighted to reconnect with HNS friends for Author Spotlights, Conversation Rooms, Cold Reads, and perhaps the biggest elephant in our room: “ChatGPT: Demon or Darling.”  We discussed how our new friend might help with tedious tasks, but was perhaps an enemy to writing. 

As predicted, it was in the 90s the day I arrived in Texas. That night, attendees met for informal dinners discussing diverse topics from Medieval England to JFK’s youth. I also discovered the air along The River Walk was ten degrees cooler. Later, in my climate-controlled hotel room, I was able to do my favorite writerly things: be alone, or Zoom into Conversation Rooms.

Thursday morning, I learned more about San Antonio on Dr. Vince Michael’s walking tour. All was nice and cool at 8, but by 9:30, things were heating up! Meanwhile, inside the hotel, HNSers sat huddled over laptops, perhaps hoping batteries would generate enough heat to focus. I threw a sweater on.

I was so happy to meet Libbie Grant that afternoon whose “How to Write a Bestseller” Master Class taught us about “Secret Prose Sauce” or invaluable items for editing. Libbie also gave an inspiring speech at the Opening Reception that evening where participants in amazing historical costumes made me forget my worries about dressing.

Following breakfast with a group of writers focused on the American Revolution Friday morning, I headed to Cozy Chats. At my first chat, I learned about working with genealogists. The Cozy Chat room? Not so cold, and you could walk outside on a balcony if you wanted to experience the 95-degree air! 

“Writing Desire” answered questions I’d long been embarrassed to ask. A bonus: Julie Gerstenblatt who writes about Quakers in Nantucket! Next, I listened in on a few Cold Reads, cold being the operative word.

At Blue Pencil Cafe, I met with my mentor and fellow writer of 17th-century literature, Kathryn Brewster Haueisen. Kathy helped me sort out how many “thees” I should use in my novel. I was pleased to have this one-to-one warm-up for my pitch to independent publishers. Wearing my new clothes later that day, I felt confident and well-dressed.

Have I mentioned Salon G, a meeting room that seemed to exist in a microclimate all its own? Located down a dark and chilly corridor, I entered the Salon to find double sweater-layered participants talking about “Fact, Fiction and Faith.” Braving the cold was worth it to have the chance to talk about folklore and history.

That evening, still clad in my dressy linen, I went on the private tour of the Alamo. Somehow, I imagined it would be…cool? Nope, it’s Texas. I took refuge in the shade of several ancient oak trees.

Saturday brought “State of the State: Publishing in All its Forms.” The experts were all of different minds about the future AI would bring. On to “Make Sure Your Website Wins Readers and Sells Books:” excellent. Pro tip: look at your website on mobile; it could be a mess!

At lunch, my hands wrapped around a cup of hot coffee for warmth, Jamie Ford’s speech convinced me that historical writers are the best speakers! 

Back to Salon G for “Writing Real History in a Fictional Narrative:” good advice which led me to my next session, “Libel, Slander and Defamation.” Yikes!

I was so cold by the end of the day that I left the fantastic Readers Festival to step out onto the River Walk, where it turned out a flotilla of drag queens were celebrating Pride in some pretty fabulous gowns.

The Closing Reception offered another exceptional speech by Lisa Wingate. I continued to meet so many great people at the Frivolities (some dressed in elegant evening attire), at the airport on the way back, and on my return flight, where clad in hybrid athleisurewear/business attire, I felt fortunate to return to a more temperate climate.

Vegas, baby in two years! Don’t be surprised if you see me in some slightly outdated linen…

Kate Bahlke Hornstein is a writer who splits her time between Manhattan, (where you can find her strolling to the gym in well-worn pajama bottoms) and Central Massachusetts (where she dons her 20-year-old parka from October to May.) She is working on a series of novels based on the experiences of her Quaker ancestors. You can visit her website and blog at www.katebahlkehornstein.com

1 thought on “What Not to Wear (HNSNA Conference Edition)”

  1. Pingback: The Quaker Woman’s Cookbook, or so it begins…with a pound cake - Kate Bahlke Hornstein

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