Jax Poetry Festival on the horizon; birder visiting tomorrow (WS 0416)






Writing News for the Sunshine State & the Solar System

http://www.northfloridawriters.org Editor: Howard Denson

April 2016




Find the key emotion; this may be all you need know to find your short story.


F. Scott Fitzgerald


In this issue:


Stuff (and links) from hither and yon



Suggestions regarding future and procedures of North Florida Writers

Quarterly NFW meeting delayed until May 14; speaker will be Author Concierge Maria Connor

Prize-winning workshop to start new series of classes

Jacksonville Poetry Festival and Art Walk slated April 6

Nearer, by God, to ‘the’ – Howard Denson

Indie author to discuss ‘defaults’ for fiction on April 16

BookMark welcomes bird expert tomorrow

FWA news from Vic DiGenti

Writers Born This Month

REGULAR POSTINGS: Keep up with the NFW on our Facebook page. . .Meetings of NFW and Other Groups. . .Useful Links. . .Need someone to critique a manuscript?. . .The Write Staff






Click on the links below to read each article.


The (Still) Mysterious

Death of Edgar Allan Poe


Was Edgar Allan Poe killed from a beating? From carbon monoxide poisoning? From alcohol withdrawal? Here are the top nine theories from Natasha Geiling. Chris Semtner, curator of the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia, says, "Maybe it’s fitting that since he invented the detective story, he left us with a real-life mystery."



Don’t Call It

St. Patty’s Day

 Joseph Lawler has been exasperated by the spelling and grammar on Facebook, Twitter, and the internet in general, but he really got his knickers in a twist when he read posts that referred to “St. Patty’s Day.” It’s wrong, wrong, wrong, and he explains why.http://www.realclearreligion.org/articles/2012/03/17/dont_call_it_st_pattys_day.html


Life Lessons

from the

Brontë Sisters


Catherine Lowell writes in The Daily Beast that the enduring fiction by the three Bronte sisters tells us that authors do not have to lead exciting lives to be great. As the Brontes prove, it’s the inner life that counts.http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/03/19/life-lessons-from-the-bronte-sisters.html

 Joseph Brodsky,

Darker and Brighter

 Cynthia Haven writes that a spellbinding new biography rescues the poet from sentimentality and kitsch.  http://www.thenation.com/article/joseph-brodsky-darker-and-brighter/


New and noteworthy books

Each week USA TODAY’s Jocelyn McClurg scopes out the hottest books on sale. They include “Celebrate” by Lauren Conrad, “Journey to Munich” by Jacqueline Winspear, “Lust & Wonder” by Augusten Burroughsm “Kings of Queens: Life Beyond Baseball with the ’86 Mets” by Erik Sherman, and “Cold Barrel Zero” by Matthew Quirk. To find out what each is about, go to http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/books/2016/03/27/new-and-noteworthy-books/82073188/

Tolstoy’s Reading List:

Essential Books for

Each Stage of Life


Maria Popava permits us to pick her brain about what to do even if we can never “finish” great literature. She says we have to begin somewhere. Leo Tolstoy had some books that should be read at each stage of life. Just for starters, Tolstoy thought that a boy should read “Tales from a Thousand and One Nights.” Click here to check out other suggestions:  https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/09/30/leo-tolstoy-reading-list/?utm_content=buffer3d2ac&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer


Emma Smith on

The Best Plays of Shakespeare


In the first of a series marking the 400th year since the playwright’s death, Five Books asks Beatrice Wolford to interview Shakespearean scholar Emma Smith about her five favorite plays. They discuss “Macbeth,” “Measure for Measure,” “Twelfth Night,” “Pericles,” and “Richard II.” The plays involving Hamlet, a merchant of Venice and a money-lender, and an elderly king with three daughters are apparently all chopped liver. http://fivebooks.com/interview/emma-smith-on-the-best-plays-of-shakespeare/


Don’t lose your

head over this


We have good news and bad news. The good news is that the reputation of William Shakespeare is going strong after 400 years. But the bad news? Some vandal or thief has ripped off the Bard’s skull.http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/25/theater/alas-poor-william-shakespeare-where-does-his-skull-rest.html?em_pos=small&emc=edit_cu_20160330&nl=theater-update&nl_art=7&nlid=71675107&ref=headline&te=1&_r=0






Some suggested reforms have come in concerning the North Florida Writers (NFW), and they will soon be posted on the NFW Facebook page for further discussion.


NFWers will examine sections of the bylaws that cover (a) dues, which have been suspended for several years, (b) the process for critiques, (c)


Members and potential members may post their recommendations on the FB page or email them to Howard Denson at hd3nson@hotmail.com or Richard A. Levine






The second quarterly meeting of the North Florida Writers, normally held in April, has been rescheduled for Saturday, May 14. The meeting will start at 2 p.m. and be held in the meeting room of the Riverside-Avondale Watson Realty branch (on the corner of Hershell and San Juan).

The speaker will be Maria Connor, author of “Do Less Write More.” She done presentations on the following topics:Everything You Wanted To Know About Working With An Author Assistant But Were Afraid To Ask, The Three Stages of Marketing: What You Should Be Doing When, and 30 Days, 30 Marketing Ideas. Her webpage is My Author Concierge at http://www.myauthorconcierge.com/.





A writing workshop on a shanty boat docked on the Trout River is beginning a new series of classes on Wednesday, April 13, according to freelance writer, poet and editor, Lynn Skapyak Harlin, leader of the workshop.


Shanty boat Writers Workshop is designed for beginning writers who would like to learn new techniques, or seasoned writers who would like to refresh these skills to improve their writing. Fiction and nonfiction writers are welcome. Topics include: Creating believable characters, Tips for Improving Dialogue, Elements of Plot, How 'Show rather than Tell' works toward clarity in all forms of writing and many other writing and submission tips.

Members of recent classes have won awards in the contests of the Florida First Coast Writers' Festival, Florida Writer's Association contests and other national awards. Their work has been published in AC PAPA Literary Magazine, Florida Speaks and many other publications.


The evening session meets every Wednesday from 6 to 9, and the cost of the workshop (limited to 8 students) will be $200 for six weeks.


Before attending a workshop all new workshop writers must write and submit an introductory essay according to workshop guidelines.


For more information on all sessions forming or to reserve a space, call Ms. Skapyak Harlin at 904.778.8000 or e-mail her at lyharlin@aol.com





Since April is National Poetry Month, Hope at Hand is hosting the Jacksonville Poetry Festival in conjunction with Art Walk in Downtown Jacksonville. The event will be Wednesday, April 6, at various locations.


Two events will be from 3 until 4:30 p.m. Yvette A. Hyater-Adams will facilitate a workshop at City Hall on “Your Life Story in Poetry Form,” while Jenn Wolfe will lead a discussion on “Write around the Corner” at the Museum of Contemporary Art.”


From 4 until 5 p.m., Nile Stanley focuses on the K-3 students with a workshop on “Creating Readers with Poetry” at City Hall. Lynn Skapyak Harlin will conduct a workshop on “Cinquain Poems” at Sweet Pete’s.


From 5 until 6 p.m., Lena Shaqareq’s workshop on “Versed in English” at City Hall will explore how poetry can be used to tackle second language errors. Also at City Hall, a workshop conducted by Connie Worthy will examine “What is Poetry Therapy?” At Magnificat Café, Anne-Marie Laine will give a reading of French poetry. Black on Black Rhyme will conduct a workshop at Da Real Ting Café on “Love Letter to the Past.”


From 6 to 7 p.m., Da Real Ting Café will be the venue for a Spanish poetry reading conducted by the staff of Ford K-8. An Italian poetry reading will be conducted by Gina Marie Anthony at a site to be determined. Andrea Collins-Roe will discuss “Portrait Poetry,” as she deciphers unobvious language at Super Foods and Brewery.


A variety of events or poetry displays will take place from 5 until 8 p.m., including Watercolors and Haiku (MOCA, Hope at Hand), Newsprint Poetry (Hemming Park, Hope at Hand), Jax Youth Poetry Slam (Library Café, Tonya Smart), Blackout Poetry (Chamblin’s Uptown, Stephanie Durham), Six-Word Memoirs (Hemming Park, Hope at Hand), Masking Tape Poems (Library Lobby, Hope at Hand), and Poetry Readings (Hemming Café, University of North Florida and Hope at Hand).


For more information, contact Steffani@HopeAtHand.org. or go to the website http://www.HopeAtHand.org.








It gives me a nice warm glow whenever Americans use a particular word from the Old Frisian tongue. Old Frisian comes from a language spoken in the western Germanic region (often in today’s area for Belgium), and it intermingled with English to produce some Anglo-Frisian words.


The word from Old Frisian that we use most often is the article “the,” and it and other words have figured in some major style wars.


When I was a flunky journalist, “the” featured in one of the style wars of the Sixties, and the struggle is probably still going on. At one time, we would write, or edit, copy that said, “The funeral service for Magnus P. ‘Bubba’ Parker, 75, will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Crankshaw Baptist Church, with Gustason and Mayhew Funeral Home officiating.”


News writing should be tight, so the word went out that the sentence could open simply with “Funeral service.” Then someone noted that a funeral is a service so “service” could be omitted: “The funeral for….” Another inspired tightener observed, “Hold the phone! We don’t need the ‘the’ and can just open with ‘Funeral for….” Things ratcheted up even more when the editing pencil slashed through “held.” Now the sentence said, “Funeral for…will be at 11 a.m.” Things were all right, God was in His Heaven, and we were tight with Jesus, Moses, and Noah Webster.


Except. . .


Someone noticed that “the service will be conducted by Rev. Jimmy-Bob-Sammy-Clyde Ferguson.” A frown indicated a serious omission: A “the” should go BEFORE the “Rev.” Someone argued (incorrectly, despite what traditionalists say) that “Rev.” or “Reverend” is not a title. It really is.


Stylebooks often make valid points about wordiness in our phrases: We climb a ladder and don’t need to say we climb up the ladder. We could climb down the ladder, but “descended” would almost work as well. With each redundancy edited out, we come nearer to the perfection of the simple declarative sentence.


Practically everyone in journalism and other types of serious writing will jump on “that.” Editors and writer should prefer “He said he would be on time” to “he said that he would be on time.”


I went through a long period of zapping each “that,” but eventually I backed off a little. First, some words appear in a sentence to help the cadence of the language. Our sentences are often iambic or perhaps trochaic (or mixtures of the two, with a smidgen of the anapest and dactylic). That means we may write or say, “I think that I will go to town to pay a parking fine,” which is mainly the weak-strong of iambics. A more serious problem can occur when a writer omits each “that” when a speaker has, say, three things to emphasize. With each “that” included, we easily follow the parallelism. When two or more of the “that’s” are scratched out, the reader may get lost.


Back in the 1800s, newspapers and magazines were far more verbose than they are today. In those times, citizens could tolerate a church sermon of one or two hours, a short story of 17,000 words, and dense paragraphs in newspapers that didn’t give readers a chance to come up for air. When the telegraph came in about mid-century, the newspapers were charged for each word from their out-of-town correspondents, so word count mattered. The telegraph also helped in the evolution of the inverted pyramid structure of most news stories: The reporter put the most important facts at the beginning, with each subsequent paragraph being of lesser importance. If the telegraph line went down, the receiving telegrapher may have gotten enough copy for the newspaper to use.


Newspapers often had idiosyncratic spelling styles. In the Sixties, they referred to “employe” instead of “employee.” The Birmingham Newsreporters and copy editors knew to find another expression if a women’s club was having “a Coke party.” The publisher wasn’t worrying about the coming linguistic dominance of cocaine but of folks buying Coca-Cola instead of the Royal Crown Cola whose stock he owned. In the Big Bend of Florida, then editor Malcolm Johnson and city editor Mike Beaudoin insisted that, if a Tallahassee Democratstory referred to the musical boxes in cafes, they should be called “jook” boxes because that term grew out of the patois of turpentine harvesters (most of them African American).


When The News ran “Dear Abby,” we had to change the Chicago syndicate’s spelling of “thru” and “altho” to the regular spellings. I believe the syndicate has since abandoned the spelling reform.


We find that Noah Webster was instrumental in ridding American English of such U.K. features as “-our” words (preferring “flavor,” “glamor,” and “honor”). If words ended in “-re,” Noah recommended “center” and “theater” instead. He wanted “tung” to refer to that big thing in our mouths, but Americans stuck out their tongues at that. The simplification movement continued in the 1870s (not to mention attempts even being made today) when the American Philological Society advocated such spellings as “ar,” “giv,” “hav,” “liv,” “tho,” “thru,” “gard,” “indefinit,” and “wisht.” “Catalog,” however, has caught on.


Although grammar-checking features with word processing programs are mainly a dangerous waste of time, especially for people who don’t know their grammar, the spell-checking features are affecting our spelling. It is surprising when major w.p. programs flag “freelance” as a misspelling. It causes some individuals to write “I have been a free lancer since 2004.” We could complain about auto-corrections of smart-phones, except these really aren’t writing instruments.


The spellcheckers do seem to flag (or autocorrect) many words that may have double consonants: “Travelling” may lose out to the single-lversion. Overall, this trend is moving in a positive direction.


Back to the “the” problem: Someone learning English as a second (or tenth) language may ask us native-born experts, “When do you put ‘the’ before a word?” Of course, we experts have probably never thought about it. We will say, “I am going downtown,” but “I don’t like what they are doing to the downtown.” One is a direction; the other, a specific site.


The Brits say, “He was taken to hospital,” whereas we have him taken to “the hospital.” The British actors generally do American accents better than our actors do British ones. Even so, a Brit may be portraying Chester Hawkins from Indiana, and the character will be chewing gum as he says, “Maylene babe, your brother has slipped on a bar of soap and has been taken to hospital.” The missing “the” signals a breakdown in the accent (although the scriptwriter may have been more at fault).


Let’s end with this: When you flip through a good dictionary and look up the origin of the word “lady,” you find it has gone through several transformations. In the original language, it was a compound referring to a “woman” and “kneads dough.”


Now, you supply the punchline.





An independent author, Howard Denson, will tell the Ponte Vedra Writers about “The Evolving Defaults of the Novel." The talk will be at10:30 a.m. Saturday, April 16, at the Ponte Vedra Library in the smaller PGA Tour meeting room.


The guest speaker is a writer, editor, blogger and former professor of English-Humanities at Florida State College. His eight books include novels (“Mowbray & the Sharks,” “Mowbray and the Baron,” “The Case of the Anniversary Libation”), fables (“A Quandary of Fibbles” and “Fibble-Fabbles”), and nonfiction (the Wild-Eyed Moderate series and “The Wrong Stuff: Findings of a Forensic Grammarian”).


Denson explains, "Just as computer programs have certain settings or defaults (i.e., rules that enable programs to work in a certain way) the writer has to discover what settings work for a novel, especially in the areas of Point of View, Voice, and the requirements of the narrative ethos."


To illustrate his points, he will discuss the defaults of the Roadrunner-Coyote cartoons.





The BookMark will be hosting New York Times bestselling author/illustrator David Sibley at 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 2. He will talk about and sign copies of his newly revised and updated "The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America."


Owner Rona Brinlee says, “Because we anticipate so much interest, we are holding this event at The Water Studio, located just behind The BookMark on Orange Street. We will also have areas of designated event parking available in the area.”


She recommends pre-ordering book(s) before the event. A potential reader may reserve one or more copies of "The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America" by calling the store 904.241.9026 or emailing the store at bkmark@bellsouth.net. Brinlee says, “When you purchase your book(s), you will receive a ticket to get your book(s) signed and will avoid waiting in extra lines the day of the event. The staff will be happy to help you either in the store or over the phone, and your book(s) will be waiting for you to pick up after 10 a.m. on March 29 or at the event.”


Sibley's latest guide is both compact and comprehensive. It features 650 bird species plus regional populations found east of the Rocky Mountains. Each entry has been updated to include the most current information. More than 600 updated maps are included as well.

Experts are calling this book "the indispensable resource for all birders seeking an authoritative guide to the birds of the East in a portable format they will want to carry into the field." David Allen Sibley is the author and illustrator of a series of successful guides to nature that bear his name, including the New York Times bestseller "The Sibley Guide to Birds." 


The BookMark is located at 220 First St., Neptune Beach, FL 32266.









I’ve successfully avoided the April Fool’s Day rush and updated the FWA Blog with a new post. As usual, you’ll find details of all the FWA meetings held here in NE Florida, along with news of other writer’s groups and upcoming events.


Click here to visit the blog and find out about meetings of the River City Writers, the Clay County Writers, Writers By the Sea, the Ancient City Writers, and the Ponte Vedra Writers.


In other news, St. Augustine’s Florida Heritage Book Festival has asked me to send out a special notice about their search for a new Executive Director. Jim Wilson is stepping down as Executive Director after the 2016 event in September. The board would like to find his replacement in the next few months to allow the new person to shadow Jim, and hit the ground running for next year. I’ve attached the “Help Wanted” ad providing information on the requirements for the position.


If you know of anyone who might be interested and has the requisite skills, please have them reply to me.




Vic DiGenti

FWA Regional Director






To check out the names of writers who were born this month, go to this website:



The list includes novelists, poets, playwrights, nonfiction authors, writers for the small and silver screen, and others.


Looking for your favorite writer? Hit “find” at the website and type in your favorite’s name. Keep scrolling to find writers born in other months.


If you see that we have omitted a writer, give us his or her name (and preferably a way to verify the belly-button day).




Writers, poets, and playwrights will find useful tools athttp://howarddenson.webs.com/usefullinksforwriters.htm





You may join us at any time on Facebook. Webmeister Richard Levine has changed the privacy setting of the NFW from Closed to Public. That way, you can check out our group at your leisure.

To begin, click on: 

Later on, if you are in the process of simplifying your e-life and want to leave us, you may do so at any time by clicking on







If you have a finished manuscript that you want critiqued or proofread, then look for someone at http://howarddenson.webs.com/potentialcritiquers.htmCheck out their entries on the website to see if they suit your needs. They include the following: Robert Blade Writing & Editing (rmblade@aol.com); Frank Green of The Bard Society (frankgrn@comcast.net); JJ Grindstaff-Swathwood(jgswathwood@gmail.com); Brad Hall (variablerush@gmail.com);Lynn Skapyak Harlin (Lyharlin@aol.com); Joseph Kaval(joseph.kaval@gmail.com); and Richard Levine.




President: Howard Denson (hd3nson@hotmail. com)

Vice President: Joyce Davidson (davent2010@comcast. net)

Secretary: Kathy Marsh (kathygmarsh@bellsouth. net)

Treasurer: Richard Levine (http://hiddenowl.com/Contact%20form.html).


Presidents Emeriti: Frank Green, Dan Murphy, Howard Denson, Nate Tolar, Joyce Davidson, Margaret Gloag, Richard Levine, Bob Alexander, JoAnn Harter Murray, Carrol Wolverton, Margie Sauls, Stewart Neal.