As additional offerings for our conference attendees, the HNS board provided several Master Classes. These two- or three-hour workshops allowed attendees to hone in on a specific skill or area of interest under the tutelage of an expert in the field. Additional fees applied.


Melissa Danaczko and Cate Hart. Monday, June 21, 9-11am (CT). $50

Agents are often viewed as gatekeepers, and it’s true that most major trade publishers only accept submissions via agents. But what else are literary agents responsible for—and do you even need one? In this two-hour master class, agents Melissa Danaczko and Cate Hart will walk you through the role of a literary agent, as well as provide tips for how to target your queries and evaluate which agent could be the right fit for you. They’ll also discuss the marketplace for historical fiction, how to pitch your book so that it’s in conversation with current trends, and answer your other pressing questions about the publishing industry. 

Melissa Danaczko is an agent at the Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency. Before becoming an agent, she was Senior Editor with the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. As an editor, Melissa developed books that became New York Times bestsellers and received or were nominated for honors including The National Book Critics Circle Award, the Man Booker Prize, and the PEN/Bingham Prize. Melissa gravitates towards plot-driven novels with a fresh perspective, energetic writing, bold characters, and deep sense of place. In terms of historical fiction, Melissa loves a strong emotional core, but also has a taste for the dark and strange. It’s a big plus if the work taps into the cultural climate in some way, and she is particularly eager to represent more #ownvoices authors in this genre.

Cate Hart joined Harvey Klinger in 2019 after 5 years with another agency. Established in 1977 by its eponymous founder, Harvey Klinger, the agency has been among the leading literary agencies in adult and children’s books. Its interests cross many fields in fiction, nonfiction, and middle grade and young adult fiction by new and established authors. Cate specializes in historical, whether middle grade or young adult, women’s fiction and romance, and narrative nonfiction. She is particularly drawn to forgotten stories, especially from underrepresented voices. She is especially excited to see: fresh perspectives and voices in historical for MG and YA; women’s historical fiction beyond WWI and WWII; dual timelines; everything gothic; family sagas and buried secrets; historical romance and romcom outside of Regency period; and nonfiction history and biography.


Libbie Hawker. Monday, June 21, 2-5pm (CT); Tuesday, June 22, 9am-12pm (CT) and 6-9pm (CT). Each class limited to 25 attendees. $75

In this three-hour outlining master class, Libbie Hawker guides you through the entire process of outlining a novel, from loose idea to fully structured story arc ready to be written. Come with a general concept for your own novel, such as an idea, a historical figure, or an event, but clearly defined characters and storylines aren’t necessary. Libbie will show you how to construct a cohesive, compelling, tightly paced novel around a vague concept using the method set forth in her bestselling how-to book Take Off Your Pants! Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing. Have your laptop or notebook ready!


Libbie Hawker. Wednesday, June 23, 2-5pm (CT). $75

Is it possible to establish a full-time career as a historical novelist? What pitfalls and advantages do writers face? How has the genre changed in recent years, and how might it change in the near future? What’s the soundest strategy for ensuring one’s career remains as stable as possible in an industry characterized by drastic change? It’s time to slip off your writer hat and get used to wearing your business hat! Libbie Hawker has been a full-time historical novelist for the better part of a decade with bestselling self-published and traditionally published novels. In this three-hour master class, learn strategies for establishing and maintaining a historical fiction writing career, learn how to study the market and identify opportunities, and learn how to maximize your chances of success to take your career to the next level.

Libbie Hawker, who also writes under the pen names Olivia Hawker and Libbie Grant, is a bestselling author of historical and literary fiction. Her work has been translated into six languages; her most recent, One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow, was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award and the Willa Literary Award, and was among Amazon’s top 100 bestselling titles of the year in 2020. She lives in the San Juan Islands with her husband Paul and several naughty cats.


Gillian Bagwell. Monday, June 21, 6-8pm (CT). $50

In this two-hour master class, author and actress Gillian Bagwell draws on her extensive theater experience to teach writers how to create fully developed characters. Attendees should come with an idea for a character, and, through discussion and exercises, you will learn how to: put yourself in your characters’ skin, experiencing their sensory impressions and physical reactions; use point of view and narrative voice to deepen characterization and strengthen emotional connection with the reader; create a detailed imagining of the physical world of your story through your characters’ eyes; examine how motivations, circumstances, and inner and outer conflicts affect your characters; and write dialogue that illuminates character and relationships, puts readers in characters’ heads and hearts, gives a flavor of the period, and is believable as speech.

Gillian Bagwell’s historical novels feature vivid and lifelike characters and richly textured, compelling evocation of time and place. Before she turned to writing, she was an actress, director, and producer. She founded the Pasadena Shakespeare Company and produced thirty-seven shows over ten years. She’s found her acting experience helpful to her writing, and she’s presented classes and workshops at past HNS Conferences on writing effective historical dialogue, as well as on numerous other topics. Gillian is at work on her fourth novel, a Gothic thriller set in Scotland in 1845-1847 and 1901-1902. Please connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, BookBub, and her website,


Alma Katsu. Tuesday, June 22, 2-4pm (CT). $50

Conflict is the heart of every story. Conflict keeps the reader asking, “What happens next?” and keeps the reader turning the pages. You don’t need to resort to melodramatic tricks and clichés to create and sustain tension in your novel or short story. This expanded two-hour master class of Alma’s highly rated presentation at HNS Maryland will: define what conflict is (and isn’t); describe different kinds of conflict and how to layer them to create depth in your novel; and teach attendees how to analyze their own writing and provide concrete ways to apply these techniques to all kinds of writing, not just mysteries and thrillers.

Alma Katsu is the award-winning author of six novels, including historical horror (The Hunger and The Deep) and, most recently, Red Widow, her first spy thriller, drawn from a long career in intelligence. She is a graduate of the master’s writing program at Johns Hopkins University and earned her undergraduate degree in literature and writing from Brandeis University. She lives in the Washington DC area with her husband, musician Bruce Katsu. For more information, please visit her website at


Jane Friedman. Wednesday, June 23, 9am-12pm (CT). $75

Over the last decade, the publishing industry has undergone tremendous evolution due to the growth of online retail and digital book formats, as well as the power of any author to publish and distribute their work at the click of a button. In this three-hour master class, industry expert Jane Friedman discusses the most important service options available to independent authors, how to choose the best channels, formats, and distributors based on your target audience and genre, how to assess if you are well-suited to self-publishing, and what to expect when it comes to marketing your work. She’ll also help you decipher “hybrid” publishing arrangements now available alongside the key forms of self-publishing and e-publishing practiced today.

You’ll learn not just the foundational principles of self-publishing, but you’ll also gain expert insight into the changing industry landscape and how you can navigate your own path toward success. By the end of the session, you’ll have a game plan for getting your book to market in the most efficient and effective way based on your skills and target readership.

Jane Friedman has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in business strategy for authors and publishers. She’s the editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential industry newsletter for authors, and has previously worked for F+W Media and the Virginia Quarterly Review. In 2019, Jane was awarded Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World; her newsletter was awarded Media Outlet of the Year in 2020.

Jane’s newest book is The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press); Publishers Weekly said that it is “destined to become a staple reference book for writers and those interested in publishing careers.” Also, in collaboration with The Authors Guild, she wrote The Authors Guild Guide to Self-Publishing.

In addition to being a professor with The Great Courses, Jane maintains an award-winning blog for writers at; her expertise has been featured by The New York Times, The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, NPR, PBS, CBS, the National Press Club and many other outlets.

Jane has delivered keynotes and workshops on the digital era of authorship at worldwide industry events, including the Writer’s Digest annual conference, Stockholm Writers Festival, San Miguel Writers Conference, The Muse & The Marketplace, Frankfurt Book Fair, BookExpo America, and Digital Book World. She’s also served on grant panels for the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund, and has held positions as a professor of writing, media, and publishing at the University of Cincinnati and University of Virginia. In her spare time, Jane writes creative nonfiction, which has been included in the anthologies Every Father’s Daughter and Drinking Diaries. If you look hard enough, you can also find her embarrassing college poetry.

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