Blue Pencil Café: What’s in it for you?

#HNS2021 Conference Preview by Sandy Frykholm, Blue Pencil Café Coordinator –

I remember my first Blue Pencil Café experience a few years ago. The buzz of lively conversation filled the room as I peeked in, wondering which mentor was assigned to me—and eager to hear her feedback on my ten-page submission. As a developing writer, the chance to meet with a mentor filled me with a combination of enthusiasm and dread.

As it turned out, there was nothing to dread. My mentor commented thoughtfully on my writing, and we enjoyed a conversation about the historical locations and times we wrote about. I came away with ideas for strengthening my work.

Register for Blue Pencil Café

When you register for the HNS 2021 conference, you’ll have a chance to sign up for Blue Pencil Café, as either a mentor, if you are a published author, or as a mentee. This is just one of the ways HNS fosters the development of new writers in the historical fiction genre. BPC also enables published authors to provide personal mentoring to those still working toward publication.

On the registration form, you’ll be asked what time period your writing involves. When registration closes, I’ll be working hard to match—as best I can—mentors and mentees who write about the same era.

Opportunity on both sides of the table screen

Why sign up? For mentees, the guidance of a published author can move you toward publication, help you see where changes might be needed, and in general give you the encouragement of a more experienced writer. From a ten-page writing sample, your mentor may have ideas on voice, use of dialogue, scene-setting, and period-appropriate vocabulary. Don’t be afraid to ask questions—your mentor has volunteered to share their experience. Be aware, though, that questions about the bigger picture of your book—plot, character arc, overall structure—should be saved for someone who can read your full manuscript.

For mentors, this is an opportunity to give back, to reach out to another writer who’s trying to develop skills and write a better book. We will not assign more than three mentees per mentor. And someday a few years from now, you may see your mentee’s name on the shelf in a bookstore, and say, “I met this author once!”

Some nuts and bolts

After conference registration closes, I’ll be contacting mentees and mentors to submit a bit more information to facilitate the timing of meetings, which will be held via Zoom between June 21st and 23rd, and to collect ten-page writing samples from mentees. I expect to have mentor assignments made and writing samples distributed by June 1 to allow mentors time to review and make comments on them prior to the Zoom session. I (or another volunteer) will set up Zoom breakout rooms for the 20-minute meetings, send invitations, and monitor for technical issues to make sure meetings take place.

Further details are available on the HNS conference website. I look forward to working with many of you at HNS 2021!

Sandy Frykholm, Blue Pencil Café Coordinator

Sandy Frykholm is an avid reader of historical fiction, with two novels nearing completion. She recently published a memoir, The Drive in ’65, the story of a life-changing 22,000-mile road trip. She writes under the pen name Sandra Lynne Reed. Website:

2 thoughts on “Blue Pencil Café: What’s in it for you?”

  1. Sounds like an amazing opportunity! Thank for making such a match 🙂 I would like to meet a mentor and will look for more information on how to register for this session.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top