Literary Links

January/February 2002


Good News and Announcements

New Contest for Historical Writers--The Hearts Through History chapter of RWA proudly announces its first contest--Romance Through The Ages.  Exclusively for historical writers, this contest has categories divided by eras.  The top prize in each category will receive a critique.  The Legend is a special award that will be given for the most memorable hero.  For more information, see the Hearts Through History web site.

Chicago-North Fire & Ice Contest--Chicago-North RWA is sponsoring their 4th annual Fire & Ice Contest.  Enter your first chapter in one of three categories--Contemporary, Historical or Eclectic.  Top prize in each category is $50.  Acquiring editors will read finalist entries.  For more information, visit the Chicago-North web site.

The Golden Network Golden Pen Contest--The Golden Network Chapter of RWA is sponsoring its 5th annual Contest--The Golden Pen.  Enter the first 25 pages of your manuscript in one of four categories--Contemporary, Historical, Single Title/Romantic Suspense and Other.  Winners in each category will receive a gold pen engraved with their manuscript title, and a $25 cash prize.  Acquiring editors will judge the finalists. For more information, Contact Contest Coordinator, Liz Hunter, by e-mail at: 

Online Workshop--RWA's Hearts Through History Romance Writers Online Group takes pleasure in announcing their Third Workshop for the HHRW-Campus. Beginning January 17, 2002, study Point of View with Katy Cooper.  For more information, see the Hearts Through History web site.

New On Literary Liaisons

There are many new additions to Literary Liaisons. After reading about them below, check them out on the web site.




The British Inheritance: A Treasury of Historic Documents edited by Elizabeth Hallam and Andrew Prescott

Career Opportunities for Writers, 4th Edition by Rosemary Ellen Guiley and Janet Frick

The English Gentleman by Douglas Sutherland

From Book Signing to Best Seller by Jo Condrill and John B. Slack

Guerilla Marketing for Writers by Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman & Michael Larsen

The New Birth Order Book by Dr. Kevin Leman

Victorian Days: Discover the Past With Fun Projects, Games, Activities and Recipes by David C. King

Featured Title

The New Birth Order Book by Dr. Kevin Leman

The Video Library

Oliver Twist

Little Dorrit--Nobody's Fault (Part 1)

Little Dorrit--Little Dorrit's Story (Part 2)



RWA Chapters Online

Cactus Rose 

Gulf Coast Chapter 


Ohio Valley RWA 

Olympia RWA 

RWA New York City 



Researching the Romance


The British Inheritance: A Treasury of Historic Documents edited by Elizabeth Hallam and Andrew Prescott

Career Opportunities for Writers, 4th Edition by Rosemary Ellen Guiley and Janet Frick

The English Gentleman by Douglas Sutherland

From Book Signing to Best Seller by Jo Condrill and John B. Slack

Guerilla Marketing for Writers by Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman & Michael Larsen

The New Birth Order Book by Dr. Kevin Leman

Victorian Days: Discover the Past With Fun Projects, Games, Activities and Recipes by David C. King


Writers' Resources Online


Aspects of the Victorian Book  

The Growth and Impact of Railways  

Historic Maps  

Queen Victoria's Empire  

The Victorian Emporium  

Writer Wellness  



Feature Article 

Using Acting Techniques to Enrich Your Writing
by Michelle Hoppe

Do you often find yourself envisioning your book in your head?  Are you the sort of writer who closes her eyes to try and 'see' her characters on a stage, playing out their dialogue and actions?  If you have, have you also found yourself wondering afterward whether or not your sanity is still in tact?  Relax, you're not alone.  As I learned recently in a workshop given by fellow writers who are also actresses, acting and writing go hand-in-hand.  

Authors can use basic acting techniques in their writing to hone their skills.  For example, using the five senses sets the scene both on stage and on paper.  But because it is easier to see scenes on a screen, this presents a challenge for writers.  They must convey this same setting on paper and have it as visual as a movie production. 

All stage settings have a foreground and background. The foreground in a romance, however, is the relationship between the hero and heroine.  The background is what is going on around them.  Levels and direction in a scene will empower characters.  For example, someone facing the audience, or reader, has more power than someone turned at a 45-degree angle, just as that person has more power than someone at a 90-degree angle.  Use positioning for focus.

Other things to keep in mind while writing effective scenes: 

  • Talking heads are boring.  If characters are sitting at the beginning of a dialogue, make them stand at some point.  If standing already, move them around. 
  • Show how characters feel by their actions.  Body language (another whole workshop) plays a big part in setting the mood.  A standing person dominates the scene.
  • Acknowledge characters when they enter or exit a room, but don't linger on them.  Get them into or out of a scene quickly.  Half-moves are distracting to your audience.
  • Just as half-moves are distracting, so are two characters moving at the same time.  It takes away the focus from your main character and the reader gets confused.  Also, characters should move on their own lines, not other's, so the focus doesn't shift.
  • People have eye contact only ten percent of the time during a conversation.
  • Motivation (both internal and external) affects how a character moves.
  • Every scene needs a reason--what does the character want and why
  • A writer must create histories for characters even if it isn't all used in the book.  The more important a character, the more complex the history should be.

Some basic acting techniques which can be transferred to writing are:

  • You need physical action before psychological reason.  Listen, believe, be ready.
  • Physical actions should support psychological states.
  •   Use your personal emotional memory to convey emotion to the reader.
  • Go inside yourself to show emotions.
  • Use objects for their symbolic value.

One way to expand on these lessons is to take an improvisation class.  This can also help strengthen your writing, as well as help in other areas of your life.  It helps you come up with ideas, expand on ideas, and think on your feet.  It also helps with character development.  You can take obvious action one step further to the illogical to create interesting characters.

Some improvisation rules that will help strengthen your writing are:

  • Follow the follower--nobody should have focus on a scene.  Think how you can help your partner.
  • Don't say no!  Arguing gets you nowhere.  The idea is to add information to the scene, not end it.
  • Don't ask questions--it puts the burden on the other person.

To translate these rules into writing a romance, remember to have the hero/heroine focus on his/her partner, not himself.  Don't listen to the judgmental voice in your head. It will stifle you. Be in the moment and don't judge yourself or your characters.

Here are some Improvisation suggestions to use as writing exercises:

  • Select an adjective--what does it really mean?
  • Do an emotional switch in the middle of a scene.
  • Do the scene from a different point of view.
  • Rewind and replay--is this what you really want to show/see?
  • Yes, and ---.  Heighten the scene and move on.
  • Conduct a story.

Just as an actor focuses on his scene, a writer needs to focus on her writing.  A successful writer can't be thinking of other things or be distracted as emotion changes the perception of what the writer wants to do.

NOTE:  This workshop was given at a Chicago-North meeting by Ruth Kaufman and Kelly Garcia.  Credit for the content of this article goes to them.  Thank you.


Editor's Note

It is sometimes difficult for me to concentrate on putting together this newsletter immediately after the holidays.  But like any other commitment, such as writing, I do it if it needs to be done.  And perhaps those are the words we should all remember when life begins to intrude over the coming months--we do it if it needs to be done.  Too often, writing is low on the priority list.  There's always something else to do, like housework, homework with the children, family parties, cooking, etc.  Yet, our dream is to be published.  Will you get published by placing writing low on that list of things to do?  Certainly not.  The research will never get done, the book will never get written, queries will never go out.  There will always be something more important to do.  And yet, you are a writer.  A writer who wants to be published.  Is there really anything more important than writing, then?  No.  This year, promise yourself to make writing your priority.  Your goal is to be published.  Maybe not this year.  But you won't get there if you don't write.

---Michelle Hoppe

Q&A Column

Q:  I read your web site with interest. My question is "Is it impolite for young men/teenagers to wear caps/hats whilst in the company of others? And if so can you please tell me why, in order that I may relay the reason to them?" Thanking you in advance.

---M Halstead

A:   I'm not sure if you are referring to young men of today's time, or of the Victorian era? Here's a brief history of hats that may help answer your question.
In the early history of fashion in general, the hat denoted the importance of the wearer. In Europe, hats were worn by men from classical times onwards but were rare for women until the end of the 16th century. Men wore their hats indoors and in church until after 1660, a superfluous and inconvenient custom when periwigs became full-bottomed. Men then started to carry their hats under their arms indoors.
In the 1780s, with the return to smaller hair styles and wigs, men wore hats more often, though they never returned to the universal wearing of hats on all occasions. And never again did they keep their head covered indoors in the presence of ladies.
My references do not give a specific reason for this, but it most likely has to do simply with habit. 
When calling on visitors, a gentleman removed his hat and carried it with him, rather than place it somewhere out of his reach. This was in case he was not a welcome visitor and was asked to leave. He would have his hat with him.
Gentlemen continued to wear hats outdoors, and tipped them in the presence of ladies, but did not remove them.
So to answer your question, proper manners dictate that young men may wear hats in the presence of women while outdoors, but should remove them indoors. Sorry, but I can't give you a reason other than it grew out of custom from wearing large wigs--something today's youth may not comprehend fully. 

Michelle Hoppe
President, Literary Liaisons

Historical Calendar of Events


Warren G. Harding--U.S. President

King George V of Britain

Mrs. Patrick Campbell--English actress

Rudyard Kipling--English author

William Butler Yeats--Irish poet



Abraham Lincoln--U.S. President

Elizabeth Gaskell--English novelist

Pierre Joseph Proudhon--French political philosopher

Joseph Paxton--English architect

Lord Palmerston--British Prime Minister



Jefferson Davis appoint General Robert E. Lee General-in-Chief of Confederate Army.

Confederate States of America formally surrender at Appomattox.

Andrew Johnson succeeds Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States after Lincoln is assassinated April 14.

U.S. Civil War ends May 26 with the surrender of the last Confederate Army.

Lord John Russell succeeds Lord Palmerston as Prime Minister of Britain.

Leopold II succeeds his father, Leopold I, as King of Belgium.

The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolishes slavery.

Wellington becomes the capital of New Zealand.

War breaks out between Boers of Orange Free State and Basutos.

The commandant of the Confederate prison camp at Andersonville, Ga., is convicted of “murder, in violation of the laws and customs of war” and hanged November 10 in Washington’s Old Capitol Prison at the foot of Capitol Hill.

Jamaican blacks revolt in the Morant Bay area.  Governor Edward J. Eyre suppresses the insurrection and orders the execution of 450 natives,  flogs many more, and has 1,000 native homes burned. Eyre is censured and dismissed for his actions. 

Paraguay seizes a small Argentinian river port in April and a treaty signed at Buenos Aires May 1 creates a triple alliance (Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay) to oppose the Paraguayan dictator.

A British Locomotives on Highways Act (Red Flag Act) passed by Parliament requires that steam-powered carriages be preceded by men on foot carrying red flags. Stagecoach interests have obtained passage of the act.



The Arts

"Prisoners From the Front" by Winslow Homer

"Peace and Plenty" by George Innes

"Girl With Seagulls, Trouville" by Gustave Courbet


"Essays in Criticism" by Matthew Arnold

"Ecce Homo" by J.R. Seeley

"Sesame and Lilies" by John Ruskin


Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge

Strathmore by Ouida

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

The Belton Estate by Anthony Trolllope

"Poemes Suturniens" by Paul Verlaine

"Drum Taps" by Walt Whitman

"Atalanta in Calydon" by Algernon Charles Swinburne


"Society" by Thomas William Robertson in London


"Unfinished Symphony" by Schubert


"L'Africaine" by Meyerbeer (posthumously) in Paris

"Tristan and Isolde" by Wagner in Munich

Oratorio "The Legend of St. Elizabeth" by Franz Liszt at Budapest

Popular songs:

"Marching Through Georgia" by Henry Clay Work


Daily Life

Cornell University is founded.

Purdue University is founded.

University of Maine is founded at Orono.

University of Kentucky is founded at Lexington.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology is founded.

Lehigh University is founded at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute is founded at Worcester, Massachusetts.

The first woman professor, Maria Mitchell, is appointed as professor of astronomy at Vassar College.

The "San Francisco Examiner" and the "San Francisco Chronicle" are founded.

The "Nation" begins publication in New York

Yale University opens the first Department of Fine Arts in the United States.

A Baseball Convention, representing 91 baseball clubs, is held in New York.

W.G. Grace debuts as a cricketer in Gentlemen vs. Players.

English barrister John Macgregor pioneers canoeing as a sport.

The Queensbury Rules governing boxing are first outlined.

English racing’s Triple Crown goes to the French-bred horse Gladiateur which wins the Two Thousand Guineas, the Derby, and the St. Leger.

The U.S. trotter Goldsmith Maid makes money at New Jersey harness tracks for her new owner Alden Goldsmith.

Edward Whymper climbs the Matterhorn.

Nottingham pawnbroker William Booth moves to London to organize the Christian Revival Association, renamed the Salvation Army in 1878.

The Ku Klux Klan is founded in Pulaski, Tennessee.

The London Metropolitan Fire Service is established.

The first train holdup occurs at North Bend, Ohio.

1700 people die when the side-wheeler steam packet "Sultana" explodes on the Mississippi River.

Wartime inflation has reduced the value of Confederate paper money to $1.70 per $100 and driven the gold value of the Union greenback to 46¢. 

New York’s City Bank obtains a federal charter and becomes National City Bank.

The Swedish Red Cross is founded at Stockholm, the Norwegian Red Cross at Oslo.

Cholera strikes Paris in September, and sulfur is burned to combat the “miasma” in the air that is held responsible despite John Snow’s observations at London in 1853. Louis Pasteur’s infant daughter Camille dies in the epidemic.

Chicago’s Crosby Opera House opens April 20.

Tony Pastor’s Opera House opens in New York August 14 at 201 Bowery under the management of Antonio Pastor.

The “carpetbaggers” who move into the South are so called with contempt by Southerners who say they can put all they own in the common hand luggage called carpetbags.



German mathematician Julius Plucker invents line geometry.

The Atlantic cable is completed.

John Wesley Hyatt invents the composition billiard ball, replacing ivory.

Joseph Lister initiates antiseptic surgery by using carbolic acid on a compound wound.

Pasteur succeeds in curing silkworm disease, saving the French silk industry.

Thaddeus Lowe invents an ice machine.

Gregor Mendel enunciates his Law of Heredity

The first oil pipeline in the United States is completed in Pennsylvania. 

The first carpet sweeper comes into use.

The first railroad sleeping cars, designed by George M. Pullman, appear in the U.S.

The Union Pacific Railroad that started at Omaha in 1863 reaches Kansas City.

The Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad has its beginnings. The “Katy” will extend from St. Louis via 3,000 miles of track through Missouri to Kansas City, San Antonio, Houston, and Galveston.  

The Southern Pacific Railroad is organized to link San Francisco with San Diego.

The Union Stockyards open in Chicago.

Deering, Milliken is founded at Portland, Me., by local fabric salesmen William Deering and Seth M. Milliken.

Andrew Carnegie enters the steel business with former blacksmith Andrew Klopman.

Boston City Hall is completed by architects Gridley J. Fox Bryan and Arthur Gilman.

An improved rotary press devised by Philadelphia inventor William A. Bullock draws on a continuous roll of paper and cuts the sheets before they are printed.

A high vacuum mercury pump created by German chemist Herman Johann Philips Sprengel will lead to development of the electric light bulb.

The Stetson “10-gallon” hat is created by Philadelphia hat maker John Batterson Stetson, whose high-crowned “Boss of the Plains” is a modified Mexican sombrero with a 4-inch crown, a 4-inch brim that can carry 10 “galions” (ribbons), and a leather strap hatband.  It sells for $5.

French-American milling engineer Edmund LeCroix revolutionizes flour milling at Northfield, Minn., adapting a French machine to develop a middlings purifier that improves the yield of endosperm wheat particles free of bran. This leads to the creation of “Patent” flour, where a newly patented process separates bran from granual middlings (farina).  

Anheuser-Busch has its beginnings at St. Louis where German-American brewer Adolphus Busch goes into business with his father-in-law Eberhard Anheuser. 

Del Monte Corp. has its beginnings in a California food brokerage firm founded by James K. Armsby whose company will become Oakland Preserving Co. in 1891, California Packing in 1916, and Del Monte in 1967—the leading U.S. packer of fruits and vegetables. 

Cans made of thinner steel come into general use and the rim round the top of each can will lead to the invention of the can opener.

Pratt & Whitney is founded at Hartford, Conn., by Vermont-born machinist Francis Asbury Pratt and Amos Whitney.

The Yale Lock is patented by Shelburne Falls, Mass., inventor Linus Yale, whose improved cylinder lock for the doors of houses and business establishments will be widely used.   

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