‘Fewer than’ vs. ‘less than’ (and other problems in English) – Gary Harper

Good news for indie author Walter Schenck

Fernandina Beach to host Island Tales Story Championship on Sept. 19

‘Happy Tapir’ journal seeks quality poems and b&w art for fall issue

FWA…to keep you up to date

Stuff from a Writer’s Quill — Samuel Beckett

Stuff from Hither and Yon

The Wrong Stuff – Howard Denson

Writers Born This Month

Meetings of NFW and Other Groups

Useful Links

Need someone to critique a manuscript?

The Write Staff


Nancy Beeler to tell NFW about ‘Wings of Mourning’ fiction collection on

Sept. 13 at VyStar










The NFW meets at the VyStar Credit Union (760 Riverside Ave., next to the Fuller Warren Bridge and Saturday’s Riverside Arts Market). The meeting, which is free and open to the public, will begin at noon and end before 3 p.m.





Parking: VyStar requests that NFW members and guests park on the side of the buildings to leave spaces for their regular customers.


The North Florida Writers will hear Nancy Beeler as she introduces her most recent book “Wings of Mourning,” a collection of short stories. The retired nurse will give tips about “A Prescription for Writers” at the Sept. 13 meeting. The meeting will be at the VyStar Credit Union at 760 Riverside Ave.(next to the Fuller Warren Bridge and Saturday’s Riverside Arts Market). The meeting, which is free and open to the public, will begin at noon and end before 3 p.m.


She graduated with a degree in nursing from the University of Nevada in 1972. Her first position was the director of nursing in a large nursing home. As she worked, she had many experiences that begged to be put down on paper. Most of her career centered on positions as the director of nursing. Later, she worked as a home health nurse, which ultimately led to her first upscale assisted living home for the elderly.


She learned that she had much to say as a result of her varied, full-spectrum immersion in nursing over the years. Her unique perspective on the living conditions of the elderly found its way into print. Her remarkable recall aided her in writing stories about her years of nursing, as well as detailed recollections from her childhood.


Born in East Tennessee, she loved to write as a child and became the editor of her high school newspaper. She lives with her husband of 57 years in Jacksonville, has five children, thirteen grandchildren, and six great grandchildren. She has written much about their travels throughout the world and the USA.


Her books include “The Maverick Caregiver” (which takes the reader on a journey into her own private hell, allowing the reader to share some of the experiences she lived while providing care to the elderly); “Mama, Are You Listening?” (which revolves around a little girl – a small Tennessee town, a host of colorful characters that tell her life story); and “Street Nurse / Roadrunner” (about her ten-year sojourn as a home health nurse as  it takes the reader on an unforgettable ride into the private lives of the poor, the elderly, and the terminally ill).


She has been nominated for CHARACTER OF THE MONTH with USA Television Network and she has a script agent in California. Besides being a member of the North Florida Writers, she is also a member of the Gulf Coast Writers Association, for which she has served as president, vice president, and press agent.

Her website: http://connellybooks.com/about_the_author.html


Critiques after the speaker


For the critiques, someone other than the author of respective works will read aloud the submissions (up to 20 double-spaced TYPED pages of prose, and reasonable amounts of poetry or lyrics). Authors may not defend their work, but they may attach questions they would like answered (e.g., “Is the scene on the beach convincing?”). Authors should listen to the words and rhythms of their creations.


Future meeting dates and locales:


Oct. 11 – noon, Riverside VyStar – Speaker: J. Diane Tribble

Nov. 8 noon, Riverside VyStar – Speaker: TBA

Dec. 13 – noon, Riverside VyStar – Speaker: TBA


The Gloria Sirens Take the Podium at Old City’s Other Words Literary Conference


The tenth annual Other Words Literary Conference kicks off on Thursday, Nov. 6, with an all-star group of writers, The Gloria Sirens.


Their blog’s mission statement says it best—they are committed to galvanizing “women wordsmiths and other artists together in person, in print, online, and across all time and space.” The Gloria Sirens fearlessly push the boundaries through literary exploration of the seven deadly sins. They provide a platform for women to share their unique voices and experiences.


The Thursday night readings will feature seven of the nine contributing artists, including the following Sirens:

--Julia Connolly has been a travel writer for USA Today and an editor for Tampa Bay Monthly, the Newport Navalog, and a half-dozen corporate publications.

--Susan Lilley is a poet and nonfiction writer who lives and teaches in central Florida. Her work appears in Poet Lore, The Southern Review, Drunken Boat, The Florida Review, CALYX, Sweet Slipstream, Pithead Chapel, and other journals.

--Tiffany Razzano serves as an editor with Tampa Bay Newspapers, a group of weekly newspapers, and a blog editor for Creative Loafing, focusing on LGBT issues, events, and arts/entertainment.

--Katherine Riegel is the author of two books of poetry What the Mouth Was Made For, and Castaway, and a book about mindfulness and self-empowerment, The Manifesto. Her poems and essays have appeared in a variety of journals including Brevity, Crazyhorse, and The Rumpus.

--Lisa Lanser Rose, the founder of The Gloria Sirens, wrote the memoir For the Love of a Dog and the novel Body Sharers. Her debut novel the Body Sharers placed among the finalists for the PEN/Hemmingway Foundation Award for best first novel, The Washington Prize for Fiction, and the AWP Intro award.

--Gianna Russo is the author of the full-length poetry collection Moonflower, and two chapbooks, Blue Slumber and The Companion of Joy. She is the founding editor of YellowJacket Press, currently Florida’s only publisher of poetry chapbooks.

--Leslie Salas teaches English Composition and Creative Writing at Full Sail University. She serves as the assistant editor for The Florida Review, and the graphic narrative editor for Sweet. Her work has appeared in Burrow Press’s 15 Views Volume II: Corridor, The Southeast Review, and others. – Florida Literacy Arts Coalition


To register online for the Nov. 6-8 conference at Flagler College in St. Augustine, go to http://www.floridarts.org/other-words-conference/2014-conference-registration/



‘Fewer than’ vs. ‘less than’ (and other problems in English)





ABOUT THE WRITER: Gary Harper is a retired master gunnery sergeant of the U.S. Marines living on Okinawa. He received a B.A. in mathematics from the University of California in San Diego courtesy of the Marine Corps.  He says, “I have always been an avid reader, so I can write fairly well, and prefer precision in speech. I tend to be fussy about correct English (if there is such a thing as correct English, sometimes I'm not so sure).” He is fluent in Japanese and the local language (often mistakenly called a dialect). He says, “While there is no precise definition of dialect, Okinawan is as different from Japanese as Italian is from French.”



While reading the paperback collection “The Wrong Stuff: Findings of a Forensic Grammarian,” I noted that the author Howard Denson had a particular dislike for the incorrect use of "fewer than" or "less than."  It's not a distinction to which I pay a lot of attention; I doubt if I have ever used the phrase "fewer than" in a lifetime of writing.  But, for whatever reason, when he objected to the phrase "less than two weeks," I suddenly took notice, going so far as to send him a missive noting that "less than two weeks" is, in fact, semantically correct.


While I have great faith in my ability to determine correct English by eye or ear, without resorting to the jungle of rules and exceptions that are called English Grammar, I decided to look this up, since after all, Denson is both a teacher and a working editor.  So I pulled out “Fowler's Modern English Usage” and found that Fowler's agreed (mistakenly, of course), with Denson.  Fowler's article on the subject stated that, if the noun to be modified is plural, then it may be counted discretely and "fewer than" is correct.  However, the article also stated that there are idiomatic expressions using "less than" with plural nouns which have become so ingrained in English, that they may be considered exceptions to the rule.  This, however, is correct only up to a point.


The example Fowler chose was "in fifty words or less."  Now, this usage, or variations of it, is certainly in common use, is clear, and violates the plural rule, yet no editor or teacher in his/her right mind would call it incorrect.  (Whether editors or teachers of English grammar are ever in their right minds is another matter outside the scope of my article.)   I maintain that, when the noun modified is a term of measurement, and the thing being measured in indefinite in quantity, then, semantically, the plural takes "less than," and, in the last analysis, the purpose of all grammar is semantic clarity.


For example, in the initial example "less than two weeks," that  Denson, in agreement with Fowler, found offensive, only one week or zero weeks are fewer than two weeks, yet the time could easily be one week and six days, which is most definitely not fewer than two weeks but definitely less than two weeks.  Similarly, "less than five gallons" would be correct, as 4.996 gallons is certainly less than five gallons and is not fewer than five gallons.  


Now, if the distinction is to be maintained, it can get a bit complex.  For instance, "fewer than five buckets" would be correct, but with “buckets full,” “less than” is the only reasonable choice.  Worse, if we enter the strange world of statistics, where learned persons speak without shame of fractional livestock and buildings, decimal people and aircraft, the nouns which in our more mundane setting, indicate discrete, countable entities, now are only words of measurement for what must be viewed as uncountable realms of items.  In such a world, less than is our only logical choice.


And, as I considered this subject, I realized that while “many” is the opposite of “few,” there is no such word as "manyer" or “manier” (for which I shall be eternally grateful.)  Checking many synonym dictionaries, I saw that “fewer than” has no opposite!  Oh, I could say "many more than" or "a few more than", but in doing so I limit my statement, specifying the amount by which the number of items in one group exceeds the number in the other group.  But, if I want to simply say that the number of items in one group exceeds the number in another group, without specifying the amount by which one number exceeds the other, even vaguely, then I cannot without using words like “more” or “greater than,” which, without further modification, cannot differentiate between countable and uncountable quantities.


Now, if the sentence specifies what is to be compared (e.g., pencils, people, etc.), then it seems a bit redundant to further specify by using "fewer than" or "a number greater than." But, sometimes, once the countable item has been specified in an earlier sentence, we wish to cease referring directly to said item in every sentence thereafter, as in "Johnny has fewer than Timmy."  For the purpose of precision, we need to specify countable or uncountable items.  But we can only so specify for fewer items.  Sigh...  Short of coining a new word, which certainly will be ignored, there seems to be no solution.  So we are back to what should be obvious to every user of English: ENGLISH IS ILLOGICAL!


POST SCRIPT: Why do we say "a few" but not "a many" (but do say "a great many")?


EDITOR’S NOTE: Mr. Harper spotted some clear problems in the paperback “The Wrong Stuff,” particularly about Mount Fuji (which will be corrected in the next edition). 


A decrepit ‘Freud’ comes to St. Augustine in Wolverton novel

Carrol Wolverton’s latest book is “Freud in St. Augustine,” so the immediate question is this: Did the great psychologist actually visit the Old City?


Ms. Wolverton says, “I have no clue about Freud visiting St. Augustine, but I note that his philosophy is sometimes mentioned in connection with that of St. Augustine. In my novel, the protagonist, Bobby Marcos, calls the decrepit volunteer shrink ‘a real Freud in St. Augustine,’ hence the title.”


How has she been able to write knowingly about the homeless? “I worked for eight years as single parent counselor for the local tech center and was constantly amazed at the items and services donated to help low income women. A psychologist, now dead, spent countless unpaid hours working with our mutual population. My knowledge of the homeless comes from periodic volunteering in soup kitchens. If you travel away from the main tourist haunts and city limits, you rapidly enter trailer park living conditions, the source of my student population.”  

In the novel, Bobby Marcos was just fine growing up in Waycross near the Okefenokee Swamp in Southern Bible and twelve-gauge country. Everything was fine until he turned seventeen and strange things started happening. He couldn't concentrate and indescribable watcher eyes focused on him resulting in odd behaviors. The counselors put him in special ed classes when his grades plunged and told his parents that he needed help. Life only got worse when his mother died. What never left him was his love for nature and his appreciation for the natural swamp around him.


Bobby takes off in his mother's car, wrecks it, and runs off into the swamp. The Okefenokee welcomes him, but the infringing world does not. He encounters dead bodies, thieves, cheats, and a migrant camp from hell. Nobody believes him. He winds up in St. Augustine, where he flounders as much as before.


But there is help. Bad luck as far as he's concerned, the social worker for the St. Francis House homeless shelter happens to be from Waycross as well. Janey Waymire Goodson has her own, much wealthier story, and she is dedicated to helping others – unfortunately not herself. St. Francis House is its own storied self.


Good news for indie author Walter Schenck

Life can be frustrating for aspiring writers, indie authors, and newly established ones. (And, yes, even the authorial graybeards have their irritations.) Lately, however, Walter Schenck reports that “life has been something positive for me these in recent weeks.”


First, on July 25, he received a Publisher's Weekly book review on the “Birdcatcher.”


Next, he received a review on the same book on July 28 in BookLife and then had to celebrate when Publisher's Weekly presented him with a Featured Author's selection.


But things got even better. On Saturday, Aug. 9, the Florida Author's & Publisher's Association (FAPA ) presented him with the 2014 President's Award- Gold Medal for “Priests and Warriors.”  (Religion Category)


Schenck says it’s all the fault of the critique service once associated with the North Florida Writers, especially with editor/critiquer Rachel Stephenson, who he jokes “unleashed a monster.”


“The Birdcatcher” is a Vietnam war novel that uses the Tet of 1972 as its background: "a brilliantly existential experience…. Schenck’s descriptions of war are remarkable—exploding mortar rounds are likened to “Hell’s entrance gate” -— Kirkus Book Reviews, Nov. 15, 2013


"Schenck weaves an odyssey that is both startlingly unique and…has delivered a tantalizing and startlingly original work." — Publisher’s Weekly: July 25, 2014


"[P]owerful drama of the Vietnam War."  —  BookLife July 28, 2014 


Priests and Warriors  ---- 2014 FAPA Presidents Award - Gold Medal (Religion Category)

“A fictionalized epic about the Israelites’ entry into the ancient Middle East. . . .Schenck’s (World’s Greatest Artists, 2011, etc.) novel spans the biblical Exodus of the Israelites and their violent journey through Canaan (the modern day Middle East), offering an extensive story of war, alliances and divine intervention. With a particular focus on the Old Testament’s book of Joshua (or Yeshua), the book chronicles the Israelites’ difficult, albeit triumphant, journey under Yeshua’s leadership. It brings the harshness of ancient battles to life, with slashing swords and constant, unmerciful conflict. Although Yeshua’s people believe that they’re acting under the one and true God, their shortcomings under biblical law regularly result in their facing God’s wrath. Some Israelites insist that they should all return to Egypt, but as they conquer the polytheistic, frequently amoral tribes around them, the epic marches on. The story includes descriptions of famous biblical scenes, such as the conquering of Jericho, and not-so-famous ones, such as the defeat of the Amorite King Sihon, and does a good job of interweaving various Old Testament elements into a larger whole."  —  Kirkus Reviews Oct 13, 2013


Fernandina Beach to host Island Tales Story Championship on Sept. 19

You'll giggle, cheer and maybe even cry when six area storytellers compete for the coveted title, Island Tales Story Champion, Sept. 19, at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Fernandina Beach.


The stakes are high. Audience members at the Friends of the Library (FOL) fundraiser will vote with cash for their favorite stories. Proceeds will help purchase furniture and equipment for the bigger, better Fernandina Beach Library that will open next year.


Competing for championship bragging rights are the following:


Arlene Filkoff, educator, actress and former Fernandina Beach Mayor; author and multi-talented theater pro,


Ron Kurtz; Amelia River Cruises captain;


Kevin McCarthy, yarn-spinner-in-chief;


Abel Rae, a farm and animal lover with storytelling deep “in her genes”; and


Yvette Thomas, founder of the North Side Storytellers League who peppers her tales with onomatopoeia sound effects.


Helping organize the event and serving as Master of Ceremonies will be Caren S. Neile, Ph.D., MFA, who teaches storytelling studies at Florida Atlantic University. She is able to participate thanks to a grant from the Florida Humanities Council and funds from the Florida Department of State, Division on Cultural Affairs. Dr. Neile has performed, lectured and written about storytelling throughout the U.S. and abroad, including as a Fulbright Senior Specialist in Jerusalem and Vienna.


Dee Torre, FOL campaign chair, says, "We're delighted to have such great participation and impressive talent in this first-ever event. Stories and libraries are such a natural fit." The Slam was suggested as a fundraiser for the library by FOL supporter, Jennifer Harrison, who has seen them in other parts of the world. "The idea quickly took off and we're now thinking it could grow into an annual event," Torre said.


The program will follow a ticketed reception at 5:30 p.m. with Island-themed delights from Lulu's, a generous wine pour by Wines by Steve, and a cash bar. The storytellers take to the stage at 7 p.m. to entertain you and earn your cash votes. Tickets for votes will be on sale the night of the event. 

 Advance tickets for the reception and Slam at $50 per person are for sale at the Fernandina Beach Library, 25 N. 4th St.; Amelia Island Museum of History, 233 S. 3rd St.; and on-line at fernandinaFOL.org (click on 'what's new,' 'events', then 'Donate Now').

 Co-sponsors are the Amelia Island Museum of History and the Florida Humanities Council. A limited number of free tickets for the program only (doors open at 6:45 p.m.) are available at the library.


For more information, contact Wilma Allen of the Friends of the Library at 904.491.0034.



‘Happy Tapir’ journal seeks quality poems and b&w art for fall issue

Jacksonville’s newest lit journal, Happy Tapir, is seeking quality poetry and b&w artwork for its premier issue, according to editor Johnny Masiulewicz. “A throwback to the traditional cut’n’paste lit zine, Happy Tapir will be in a standard chapbook format,” the editor says. The number of pages will depend both on monetary considerations and the amount of quality submissions. The number of copies printed will depend on production costs.


Work will be by primarily Jacksonville area creators, but submissions are welcome from anywhere.


For the present time Happy Tapir will be distributed free in Jacksonville through bookstores, libraries and other establishments which display free zines. Out of the general area it will be sold at stores that have consignment systems in place such as Quimby’s in Chicago and Newbury Comics in Boston (individuals are welcome to suggest additional bookstores). All sales monies will be used for the production and materials costs for future issues. Happy Tapir will consider offers from potential paying advertisers but will not be actively soliciting ads at this time. Donations of money and materials will always be accepted and will be acknowledged in the zine.


Happy Tapir would like serious poets to send in two good poems, each short enough to fit on one standard page. Whether this first issue uses one or both poems will depend on the amount and quality of the submissions. Avoid sending in anything dumb or trite. Pieces may be slightly edited for obvious problems and to weed out adult language that may make works inappropriate for high school involvement. Include a 2-3 sentence bio.


The cover and primary artwork will be done by Memphis-cum-Puerto Rico illustrator Debra Lynn Freas. Additional submitted artwork should be in b&w and be reproducible in a b&w printer. Photography work will probably not reproduce well. Artwork can be submitted electronically, but hard copy submissions may be requested if the desktop programs can’t handle a graphic.


Submissions will be accepted until the end of September. Production will take place through October aiming toward a November release. At that time Happy Tapir will look for a venue at which we can have a release event.   


All submissions should be sent to htapir@hotmail.com.