RWA 2017 – The Beau Monde Mini-Conference

Wednesday was the special mini-conference sponsored by the Beau Monde chapter of RWA. It is an on-line group of nearly 350 writers who pool their knowledge of the Regency period. The wealth of research these people know is astounding. About 40 members attended the morning and afternoon workshops.

Although my current work-in-progress is set in the Georgian period, the Regency period could be technically termed Late Georgian. It’s the time period of Jane Austen, the War of 1812, and Napoleon. It is called the Regency because it covers the time that King George III went mad (crazy), and his son and heir had to take over the functions of king until his father died. The period was about 20 years.

My roommate Lesli Lent and I went down for breakfast. Quite by chance, we sat down next to Chloe Flowers, who is from the Northeast Ohio chapter. I’d first met her at the romance writers’ tea my sister had hostessed back in September. I had met a chapter mate of Chloe’s at the San Diego RWA conference. When my sister wanted to have a romance authors’ tea, I gave her the Ohio chaptermate’s name, and she contacted a few other authors to attend. Chloe was one of them. She still had the photos on her phone of the amazing purple rosette cake that my sister had baked and decorated.
I also met up with Pamela LaBud, who lives in Florida. We’d originally met when I lived in that state, and she’d been one of my roommates at a previous RWA conference. It’s always good to catch up.

The first workshop was about Georgian Dublin. This presenter was also a teacher, and she did a good job of making the topic interesting. My daughter and her husband had just celebrated their five year anniversary by traveling to Dublin. The teacher told about the oppressive laws the Protestants put in place over the Catholic majority. These penal laws were very strict, not allowing Catholics to own land, teach their children at home or even send them aboard for an education. Of course, voting or holding an office was absolutely forbidden.

Toward the end of herf talk, the teacher had us create a character based upon her research. We chose a name, a religion (could be more than just Protestant or Catholic), an occupation, and a class. She mentioned a historical housekeeper who is either a traitor to the British or a heroine to the Irish. Anne Devlin’s employer had escaped arrest by the British soldiers, so they tortured her to reveal his location. She kept saying she didn’t know. Whether she did or not was never revealed. She went to prison for several years before being eventually released.

When I created my workshop character, she was my foundation. I decided to make a distant poor relation to a Catholic aristocrat. Mary (Armagh) Drake had been educated at the nobleman’s home and then married. Her husband had died in the Irish cause during one of the uprisings Ireland always had. Now, she was the housekeeper to an Irish Protestant Member of Parliament, which gave her access to spy. She had to be educated to be able to read, and many Protestants had Catholic servants. Of course, the MP could either be the hero (conflict there!) or she could be feeding info to another Irish radical. I didn’t get any further in playing with this idea before time was up.

Of course, I learned many other cool facts that I hope some day to put into a historical blog post.

The next workshop taught us the language of the fan. This was right up my alley. In my current work, the heroine uses a fan at some social events. I need to go back into the story and make the gestures agree with what she’s meaning to convey. This kind of detail give a grounded authenticity to a historical novel. The photo below was taken by Elizabeth King-Baron and shows me modeling some of the fan language.

The lunch key note speaker was Catherine Lloyd/Kate Pearce. She has two names because she writes in two different genres. As a huge fan of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, she combined her love of cozy mysteries and the Regency time period to create a mystery series featuring a rector’s daughter (much younger than Miss Marple!) who is a sleuth solving murders in her small village. It was great to tell her how much I enjoy her stories.

The first afternoon workshop talked about creating the Regency feel in a book. It goes without saying that research has to be accurate, but how do you tell a story without worrying about footnoting facts and making the whole thing inaccessible to the modern reader? This presenter talked about word choices and using vocabulary that doesn’t use much modern or Regency slang. Make it easy for the reader to understand. Preserve some of the formality of the historical manners, but don’t introduce modern conventions. A man of the aristocratic class couldn’t talk to a woman of his class without someone else performing a formal introduction. The teacher talked about the cadence of sentences, which as a writer I found to be a very deep analysis of one of my tools.

The last workshop showed photos and video of Regency and Georgian sites that are still standing in London—including townhouses in Mayfair that would have been rented by families for the Season. These workshops presented lists of links, books and other sites where research could be obtained.

As soon as the mini-conference ended, I dashed for the two hour workshop on Strategic Planning in Indie Publishing. The two speakers presented their plan for succeeding well in self-publishing. The plan relies on you knowing how long it takes you to write a book. Their example was a 70,000 word story written in three months, not undoable for a full-time writer. Knowing this, they encourage the audience to come up with a series vision that can produce stories for 7 to 12 books. The plan requires more than a trilogy, which is what my current work is. I’ll put these up for sale and then have to consider their approach. Very informative, and they were willing to stay and answer any and all questions.

After that, I attended a one hour writing sprint session. I always like it when time for actual writing is included in a conference schedule. We’re writers. That’s what we do. In fact, I used that sprint time to draft this blog post. I couldn’t finish it because the day isn’t over, yet.

More Regency era fun to participate in coming up! For the first time, the Regency conference had an evening class on libations (drinks) of the Regency. We sat at round tables, while waiters brought shot glasses with a tablespoon of various alcoholic drinks. The presenter explained what each drink was, if it was appropriate for gentlemen or ladies, and its smuggling status. This exercise gave us the chance to see the colors of the drinks, and taste and smell them. Some of the gentlemen drinks were pretty strong.

After that final class came the annual Soiree. Some professional dancers performed dances from the period while we ate chicken fajitas for dinner.  Then we chatted and participated in the Silent Auction. I won a copy of Georgette Heyer’s Snowdrift. This book of her short stories included three previously unpublished ones. I look forward to savoring these.

Then it was time for bed after a long, full, and fun day.