Flat Arthur

Flat Arthur Visits HNS 2013

Ever hear of Flat Stanley? He’s a character in a children’s story who accidentally gets flattened when a cork board falls on him. He then takes advantage of his two-dimentional-ness to slide underneath doors and go places no one else can.

In 1994, a man named Dale Hubert thought it would be fun if children created their own Flat Stanleys and mailed them to friends and family all over the world. The receiving families would “host” the Stanleys, showing them around town and keeping a journal about the places they’d gone. When the “visit” was over, the receiving family would mail the Stanleys back to their owners, along with the journals. Children could learn about other places in the world in an authentic, non-textbook sort of way. And thus the Flat Stanley Project was born.

I thought it would be entertaining to have a Flat Stanley for the historically-minded, one to take with me on my (admittedly few) travels. Since I’m writing a Regency-era novel, I wanted a prominent, recognizable figure from that time period. It also made sense to continue the theme and use a person who had traveled extensively during his or her lifetime. I settled on Sir Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, who I was familiar with…and who would look good on camera 🙂

Duke of Wellington 1814

I cut him out and pasted him to some sturdy cardboard to help him survive his journeys. Then I packed him in my suitcase and took him to the Historical Novel Society’s 2013 Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida.

We spent most of our time at the hotel, the beautiful Renaissance Vinoy. Photo credit goes to Margaret Rodenberg, who stepped in with her camera when mine threw a tantrum. Thanks Margaret!

Flat Arthur HNS sign

His Grace was also kind enough to come with me to my Blue Pencil Cafe appointment, where I had the first two pages of my WIP critiqued by the lovely Kris Waldherr. He was supposed to give us privacy, but I think he was eavesdropping–listening for his own name, perhaps?


I did not take him with me to David Blixt‘s sword fighting workshop, mostly because I didn’t want to hear him prattle on about his own prowess. Or how my form was wrong. Or how the exit sign that I nearly decapitated never did anything to me. Since I ended up with a nice medieval broadsword rather than a rapier or smallsword (which he’d be more familiar with), His Grace probably wouldn’t have been too critical. But I think he enjoyed his quiet time in the hotel room. I certainly enjoyed the workshop!


We did take a walk together, though, on the last day of the conference, and talked over our experiences in this pretty little park across the street.


Sitting on a bench in the shade, I asked His Grace if he had enjoyed his stay in St. Petersburg. He told me it wasn’t bad–better than his last trip to Spain. But he wished we’d gotten out more, seen more of the town than just the hotel and the park.


Maybe you can help, my wonderful readers! Are you going to a conference or convention involving history or writing? Taking a trip to a historic place with the family? Researching for school, work, or pleasure? Perhaps you could make a Flat Arthur of your own, and take him with you 😀


HNS Costume Pageant: Party Like It’s 1599

…or in my case, like it’s 1813 🙂


I must make a confession to you this week: I would have been a miserable failure amongst the ton. I’m practically the definition of bluestocking, for one thing. I also have brown hair and freckles (skillfully covered by good powder in my profile pic). I’m descended from a long line of laborers, tradesmen, and those who work for a living.

And I have very little fashion sense.

I make a good effort in the classroom, because if I look foolish or frumpy my teenaged students will focus on my clothing instead of the lesson. I’m careful not to look ragged when I go out in public, too—mostly because I live in the same area as my students, but it’s also good practice for when I’m a huge, famous author 🙂

These last months, though, I’ve been focusing on Regency fashion. The Historical Novel Society is having their annual conference this coming weekend (which I’m attending), and one of their events is a costume pageant (which I absolutely had to participate in). But how does one put together a 200-year-old outfit in a tiny little town?

A lot of people dig up an old pattern, and put needle and thread to fabric. But my sewing skills are limited to reattaching buttons, so I hit the internet looking for costume shops. I found Matti’s Millinery and Costumes, a store run by a pair of ladies who do costume work for theater groups and reenactors. The have medieval and renaissance wear, Victorian and Edwardian pieces, and a big old section of Regency gear.

After some careful consideration, I settled on a beautiful copper-colored satin evening gown, with an embroidered net overdress (pictured in it’s entirety above, bodice detail below). It’s got the empire waist typical of the Regency, the long flowing skirt (no panniers or bustle to mar the smooth line—or make moving difficult). It’s not the white or pastel that a young miss would wear (because, let’s face it, at my age in that time period, I’d be firmly on the shelf).


Then, just as now, a lady’s ensemble wasn’t complete without a handbag, and the wonderful ladies at Matti’s made one for me out of material left over from the gown. It’s large enough to hold all my 21st Century things (camera, business cards, lip balm, medication, etc), but totally period appropriate.


I even hunted down a pair of gloves that weren’t made of stretchy nylon, or intended for wear by girls going to prom. I didn’t want white gloves, either—while rather ubiquitous, everything about my dress is shades of copper and tan, and I think white would have looked out of place. But I found this lovely pair of beige evening gloves from the early 1960s on e-bay. They arrived in rather appalling condition, but cleaned up nicely.


I’m not wearing period appropriate shoes (my black flats from Payless will have to do this time), nor am I wearing silk stockings (not in Florida in late June). So the only thing left is to figure out what to do with my hair. And here I’m stuck. My hair is too long (and frizzy in the humidity) to leave down, but it’s too short for an elaborate updo (see my profile picture). And I’ll have to be able to do it myself (eek!).