Which panel will you choose? It’s Academic, or Learning from History?

By Catherine T Wilson

If I were a rich woman, 

Yubby, dibby, dibby, dibby, dibby, dibby, dibby, dum. 

All day long I’d write, and write, and write, 

If I were a wealthy woman.

I wouldn’t have to work hard, 

Yubby, dibby, dibby…hey, wait a minute!* 

To write properly, of course I’d have to work hard! I’d have to practise my craft, hone it, take courses, practise some more, and naturally I’d be attending the HNSA Sydney 2019 conference in October with all those wonderful sessions they are holding. So when I read the program, I find myself thinking of Tevye, the poor beleaguered dairyman from Fiddler on the Roof as he contemplates his daughter’s marriage to Motel the tailor: 

“On the one hand, what kind of match would that be with a poor tailor..? On the other hand, he’s an honest worker … On the other hand, he has absolutely nothing… On the other hand, things could never get worse for him…”

Of course, we won’t be making major life decisions at HNSA 2019. But there are going to be choices. Lots of them.  Because apart from the two plenary sessions on Saturday morning and the First Pages Pitch Contest and session on Love Potions and Witchcraft at the conclusion of each day, there will be two parallel streams running throughout the weekend. One focusing on authors and their particular journey, the other concentrating on the craft of writing.

Over the next few weeks, HNSA will present two alternatives in each slot so you will have time to digest your choices. There will be no need to reserve your seats—all you will have to do is choose which session you wish to attend every hour. Ah, but there is the challenge! How will I choose? Oh, yubby, dibby, dibby, dibby, dum!

Take the Saturday, 3.00-3.50 time slot for example. On the one the one hand, there is: 

Kelly Gardiner, Winton Higgins, Michelle Aung Thin and Lucy Treloar

Stream 1 – Learning from History: subtexts in historical novels 

The saying goes ‘history repeats itself,’ but if we understood what led to some devasting events, could we actually stop some history from repeating itself? In the panel ‘Learning from History,’ Kelly Gardiner speaks with three authors; Sydney writer Winton Higgins, a senior social-science academic in genocide studies, as he examines the psyche behind the intimidation at the Nuremburg trials in his latest novel, Rule of Law; Michelle Aung Thin, who tackles the quest for liberation by a young woman with multicultural and colonial upbringing in The Monsoon Bride; and Lucy Treloar as she explores the Australian pioneer experience and the consequence of European settlement upon the indigenous in the Coorong region of Southern Australia in Salt Creek. Kelly Gardiner talks to these authors about why these subjects matter to writers and readers alike, and what we can learn from this history. 

Sound tempting? Yes, definitely! 

However, on the other hand, in the same time slot, we have a panel on:

Assoc. Professor Sarah Knox, Dr Jessie Blackadder, Dr Rachel le Rossignol, Majella Cullinane

Creative post-graduate writing degrees—the advantages of studying while you write.

In this panel, Associate Professor Sarah Knox will be discussing the benefits of combining the process of writing a novel while studying for a degree in creative writing which involves delving into the genre’s purpose, themes, and the interpretation of research. With her will be Dr Jesse Blackadder, critically acclaimed author of both adult and children’s fiction; Dr Rachel le Rossignol, author of an historical fantasy trilogy and a regular speaker at writing events; and Ph candidate, Majella Cullinane, who has two published poetry collections. Originally from Ireland, she now lives in New Zealand where she is currently short-listed for two awards. 

My dilemma may not be as profound as Tevye’s. But as I sit staring at the 3.30 Saturday timeslot, I find myself mouthing his words: 

“On the other hand,” it would be great to examine the psyches offered in stream one, especially as it relates so closely to the conference themes. “But on the other hand,” learning about the interpretation of research in stream two would be fantastic as I’ve often wondered how the combination of exegesis and the creative component of a post graduate study would work together… “Then, on the other hand…” 


And the voice in my head booms out in Tevye’s rich tones— not “tradition” but decisions!

*For those unfamiliar with the song, it is a take on ‘If I were a rich man’ from Fiddler on the Roof’ sung by Topol (Tevye)  

This panel spotlight was written by Catherine T Wilson who co-writes the Lions and Lilies series with Catherine A Wilson (not related). All four books in the series have won 1st place prizes in the Chatelaine/Chaucer Awards in the US. Last year The Traitor’s Noose won the Grand Prize Chaucer Award. Find out more at www.lionsandlilies.com

HNSA Sydney 2019

HNSA Sydney 2019 will be held on the weekend of 25-27 October 2019 at Western Sydney University Parramatta.

Once again, historical fiction writers and readers can gather for a three stream program on the weekend of 26-27 October including our extended Academic stream on Sunday 27 October. This time there’s also a Craft & Publishing program on Friday 25 October with craft workshops, masterclasses and manuscript assessments with top class tutors. Our Guest of Honour is Jackie French. Keynote speaker Paula Morris will address our theme: History Repeats.

Among the 60 acclaimed speakers are patrons Kate Forsyth and Sophie Masson, Catherine Jinks, Ali Alizadeh, Lucy Treloar, Pamela Hart, Nicole Alexander, Jane Caro, Alison Goodman, Kelly Gardiner, Michelle Aung Thin, Meg Keneally, Majella Cullinane and so many more.

Our signature First Pages Pitch Contest  returns with $200 prize money on offer. They’ll also be a sword fight or two with our Historical Re-enactments & Weapons display!

Enjoy a delicious meal at our conference dinner on Saturday 26 October where Anna Campbell will entertain us. You’ll also hear who’s won this year’s ARA HNSA Short Story Contest with a $500 prize, and the HNSA Colleen McCullough Residency.

Visit our website to purchase your early bird tickets now!

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