A Little Sharpening

What’s in Mrs. Hale’s Receipt in the Million 1857?

622. The hone and razor-strop should be kept in good condition. The German hone is best: it should be frequently moistened with oil, and laid up in a place where it will not readily become dry: if it be rubbed with soap, instead of oil, previously to using, it will give additional keenness and fineneess to the edge of the razor.

Sharping Up Your Writing

I attended a wonderful inaugural writer’s conference this past weekend– the Chuckanut Writer’s Conference. Held in Bellingham WA, it was a partnership between Whatcom Community College and the best indie bookstore, Village Books. A stellar group of speakers were there: Tom Robbins, Jim Lynch, Gloria Burgess, Nancy Lou Canyon, Samuel Green, Dawn Groves, Alex Kuo , Nancy Rawles. and Priscilla Long.

Some of the great benefits of going to a writer’s conference is to hear great speakers, network with other writers and the takeaways you can get from sessions. It was especially fun to be at the beginning of something that had great promise and delivered. I enjoyed the powerful speakers and some of the sessions were good practice. I attended several led by poets just to add a little pizzazz to my work in progress and a great session by Priscilla Long on sentences.

Historical fiction writer Nancy Rawles got me excited as she talked about the historical research she did for My Jim. I connected with her on her joy of the hunt and the figuring out of how to put what you’ve found out into the story you are writing. One great tip was on dialogue. How much of voice of the character do you use in telling the story? In My Jim, she takes elements of Southern speech, dropping English conventions and tenses. Picking out phrases that are from the time period and using it with a certain character’s speech is one way to make a person sound like they are from the period, but not hard to read for modern readers. I just recently found the word, “jollification” in a 1858 newspaper I’ve been reading. I know which character’s going to use that.

She also talked about taking an “emotional risk to know about a period of time. Put yourself in the position of being uncomfortable.

Sparkling Up Your Sentences

Priscilla Long‘s session was packed. She talked about her survey of virtuosos writers she’s been reading for years and their writing habits. Some of her ideas about sentences:

  1. Study sentences. Find and collect models of sentences; how are they used and how do they work?
  2. Work with sound just as poets do
  3. Virtuoso writers use fragment sentences frequently
  4. They also use sentence that act or perform their meaning

Find out more at her website. And get out and sharpen up those sentences and writing.


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