Blue Pencil Café

UPDATE 6/23/19: The 2019 Historical Novel Society Conference is now past. Our next conference will be in 2021. If you would like to see what the last conference’s Blue Pencil Cafe entailed, please look at the description below.

What: Private 15-minute one-on-one mentoring sessions between established, published authors and aspiring writers.


Blue Pencil Café Coordinator: HNS2019 Coordinator is Aimie K. Runyan

  • What she does: matches mentees with mentors in their area of interest and expertise. In 2019, Blue Pencil Mentors will have no more than 3 mentees assigned to them.

Blue Pencil Café Mentors: established, working, published authors.

  • What they do:
    • Prior to the conference: read and mark up the first 10 pages of a manuscript that has been submitted to them before the conference begins. Mentors should critique the pages submitted guiding the mentee toward the strongest work the mentee can produce and resist the temptation to compare the mentee’s pages (favorably or unfavorably) to those of any other author (living or dead), or to their own.
    • Onsite during the conference mentoring session: tactfully but honestly review, critique, and offer editorial suggestions to their mentees during the respective one-on-one meetings scheduled during the conference.
    • Reminder for Mentors: While a mentee’s style, voice, or choice of material may not ordinarily be an individual mentor’s cup of tea, it is the mentor’s role to help the mentee brew the finest cup of “Mentee Tea” possible, offering guidance on how the mentee can shape his/her own voice, narrative structure, characters, etc., in the pages provided. To that end, mentors will be given the chance to note their preferences and areas of expertise to help create the most beneficial pairing for the mentee and enjoyable experience for the mentor.

Blue Pencil Café Mentees: authors new to the craft of historical fiction, whether they come to it from another form of writing (nonfiction, journalism, etc.) or are exploring the craft for the first time.

  • What they do:
    • Prior to the conference: Submit the first 10 pages of a manuscript to the BPC coordinator who forwards it to the designated mentor.
      • Manuscripts must follow the industry standard formatting:
        • 12 point Times New Roman font
        • Double spaced
        • 1” margins on all sides
        • .5” Indentation for new paragraphs
        • 5’x11” Standard Letter paper settings
        • Any manuscript that does not meet the formatting criteria will be declined and the participant will not be paired with a mentor. Revisions/resubmissions will not be accepted.
      • Onsite during the conference mentoring session: Attend their one-on-one mentoring session and gracefully accept feedback.

Guidelines for Mentors/Mentees:

  • Mentors and mentees will sign up to participate in the Blue Pencil Café when they register for the conference. Their names will be forwarded to the BPC coordinator who will subsequently contact them.
  • Mentors will:
    • read and review their mentees’ first 10 pages prior to the HNS2019 conference and
    • arrive at the conference with the pages marked, or having made notes about them.
  • Mentees will:
    • be respectful of the time before and during the conference that their mentor has taken to review the submitted work;
    • understand that their time with their mentor at the conference is limited to their BPC critique session.
    • please refrain from buttonholing their mentors in the hallways, at the conference cocktail parties and dinners, etc., with additional questions about their manuscripts.
  • For everyone: please arrive on time to your appointments and be mindful of professional courtesy.


  • 1 room at the Conference hotel dedicated solely to Blue Pencil mentoring sessions
  • 6 two-top tables in the room allow for 6 mentor/mentee pairs to meet for 15-minute sessions
  • 4 sessions can be scheduled at each table per hour
  • 7 hours (4 on Friday 6/21; 3 on Saturday 6/22) set aside for mentoring sessions

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