Maybe it's the swashbuckling allure of Hollywood or the sheer challenge of taking up arms against a foe, but fencing classes remain popular at the Bellingham Bay Fencing Association studio near downtown.
"Usually it's a blatant or secretly harbored love affair with sword," said Scott McEniry, an instructor at the studio.
Movies such as the "Star Wars" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" add to fencing's charm and popularity, McEniry said.
Fencing classes run on consecutive Tuesday evenings for two months. A class started Nov. 6, but McEniry said it would be easy to catch up by the second class.
There are classes for both youth and adults, at $175 for the course. The price includes all gear except gloves, which cost about $12.
McEniry said he also teaches private events for groups, such as Boy or Girl Scouts or a businesses interested in a team-building exercise. Such a three-hour demonstration features basic instruction, followed by games and fencing. Price is about $350, depending on the size of the group, he said.
"What this is is kind of an introduction to the sport, the basic moves," he said.
The fencing studio, the basement of building at 311 E. Holly St., just west of North Forest Street, has three "strips" where combatants are connected by an electronic tether that records a "touch" or sword strike, to a special vest.
Combatants get three minutes to score five touches, and the action is halted each time a score or a fault is made, McEniry said.
"They're usually pretty surprised at the pace of it and at the unusual muscles it uses," he said. "But they are delighted the first time they get to wield a weapon against somebody else."
Men and women do equally well at fencing, he said, because the sport evens the gender differences of size and strength.
"(Fencing) uses a lot of agility but mostly concentration," McEniry said. "The idea that you need a lot of speed and agility isn't always true. Old age and cunning does a wonderful job of equalizing that. Strength isn't always an issue."
For more information, go online to bellinghamfencing.com, or contact McEniry at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-510-6609.
There's less than a month left to submit entries in the annual writing contest that's part of Whatcom Reads! community reading and book-discussion program that features a different book every year.
This year's contest topic is "Loyalties," a key element of the 2013 Whatcom Reads! book, "Snow Falling on Cedars" by David Guterson, a murder mystery in which a Japanese-American is accused of killing a white man in the Puget Sound region after World War II.
Poetry, fiction and nonfiction works are acceptable, with an 800-word limit. One entry is allowed per person.
About 50 to 80 entries are the norm, said Paul Piper, a reference librarian with the Western Washington University Libraries, who's been among those working with the entries since the contest started three years ago.
"We prefer things that are personal, but we are not limiting entries to anything," Piper said. "My advice to someone who's never written before is to just jump in."
Piper said he enjoys the varied submissions, which range from published local writers to literary novices. He stressed that entries are judged in context, so that a young writer has the same chance as a seasoned professional.
Send entries to email@example.com. Include author's name, title of submission and word count in the email subject line. In the body of the email, include author's name, school if applicable, city of residence and phone number. Attach two Microsoft Word documents to the email: a 50-word author biography and the 800-word literary entry.
Deadline for submissions is midnight, Dec. 1. Winners will be notified in January, and the top submissions will be published in an anthology. Writers retain possession of their work, with the exception of one-time publication rights for the anthology.
For more information, go online to whatcomreads.org.
ROBERT MITTENDORF is a Herald copy editor and page designer. Suggest your ideas for local family-friendly events or day trips at 360-756-2805 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.