Subject: NFW: On Private Eyes and the 20th Writers' Festival
Date: Mon, 6 Feb 2006 14:38:10 -0500

                       The Electronic Write Stuff


                    Writing News for the Sunshine State & the Solar System

                             North Florida Writers * February 2006


In this issue:


Private Eye to Address North Florida Writers Feb. 11

Writers' Festival to Celebrate its 20th Anniversary at Radisson on Riverwalk Mar.30 - Apr. 2

When Does Nonfiction Cross the Line into Lies, Prevarication, Fiction? -- Howard Denson

Online Critiques for Active Members

Quote from a Writer's Quill -- W. Somerset Maugham

Writers Born in February

Calendar of Events




Stephen K. Brown, a private investigator, will speak to the North Florida Writers at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, at Crispers (corner of Roosevelt Blvd. and St. Johns Ave., just a little south of Kent Campus).


He is the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Private Investigation (Alpha Books).  He began his investigative career as a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and served for 11 years in Phoenix, Chicago, and San Juan, Puerto Rico.


He has been operating his own private eye agency for over 20 years.  His agency handles pre-employment background checks, complicated white-collar crime thefts, murders disguised as suicides, and the return of parentally abducted children from foreign countries.


Brown has published articles in Gambling Times and has been mentioned professionally in several newspapers and magazines, including Business Week.  He has appeared on radio and TV stations in Northeast Florida and on such national shows as Hard Copy and 60 Minutes (with Mike Wallace).


He has spoken to the Harriette Austin Writers Conference at the University of Georgia and at the Amelia Book Island Festival.




The Florida First Coast Writers' Festival will celebrate its 20th anniversary from Mar. 30 to Apr. 2, with its annual workshops being held Friday and Saturday at the Radisson on the Riverwalk.


For registration information, click on .


Sixteen speakers have been confirmed so far:


Bill Belleville, an award-winning writer and documentary filmmaker from Sanford, has written over a thousand magazine articles and essays and four books.  He has scripted seven films.  His latest book is Losing It All to Sprawl:  How Progress Ate My Cracker Landscape.


Steve Berry's fourth novel, The Templar Legacy, is seeking to join the three previous ones on best-seller lists.  Berry lives in St. Marys, Ga., where he serves on the Camden County Board of Commissioners.


Jackie Estrada is editor and co-publisher of the Supernatural Law series of graphic novels from Exhibit A Press.  She has also edited Comics:  Between the Panels, a coffeetable book by Mike Richardson and Steve Duin.  She also manages the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards (the "Oscars" of the industry).


Lenore Hart has recently published Ordinary Springs, a coming of age novel set in the 1960s.  Her first book was Waterwoman, a Barnes & Noble Discover novel, as well as being a selection for Literary Guild and BookSpan.  She also writes children's books.


Joan Hecht's first novel, The Journey of the Lost Boys, received first place in the education category at the 2005 Promoting Outstanding Authors (POW) Awards.  She has established a non-profit foundation that assists the Lost Boys of Sudan with their medical and educational needs.


Terry Kay spent 14 years writing for the Decatur-DeKalb News and the Atlanta Journal before going into public relations.  During those years, he completed three novels.  His latest novel is The Valley of Light.


Photographer John Moran focuses on natural Florida and tries to capture what Ponce de Leon and early travelers might have seen in this New World paradise.  His Journal of Light: The Visual Diary of a Florida Nature Photographer was published by the University Press of Florida.


Gary Mormino, a full professor at the University of South Florida, has been involved in several historical projects, including Immigrants on the Hill:  Italian-Americans in St. Louis, 1882-1985.  He co-edited Spanish Pathways in Florida, 1492-1992 (Pineapple P).


Andra Olenik is editor of fiction and nonfiction in the New York office of Algonquin Books.  She has worked with such authors as Cynthia Thayer (A Brief Lunacy), Nina Solomon (Single Wife), and Andrea Barnet (All-Night Party:  The Women of Bohemian Greenwich Village and Harlem).


Anne Petty is the author of three books of literary criticism, including Dragons of Fantasy, Tolkien in the Land of Heroes (a finalist in the Mythopoeic Society Inklings Award for Tolkien Studies), One Ring to Bind Them All:  Tolkien's Mythology.  She has also written two novels and is working on a series of dark fantasy novels for Simon & Shuster.


Novelist David Poyer, a one-time Jacksonville resident, created the novel contest for the Writers' Festival.  His most recent book is The Command, about the coming of women to the surface navel.  He has 25 books to his credit.  He is now retired from the Navy Reserve and lives in Franktown, Va.


Rick Reichman is a former winner of America's Best Screenwriting Competition.  He has taught screenwriting classes to students at Georgetown University, American University, Tennessee State University, and the University of Virginia.  His first book is Formatting Your Screenplay.


Poet Reginald Shepherd, a native of New York City, recently published his fourth book of poems, Otherhood (U of Pittsburgh P).  His other books include Some Are Drowning, Angel, Interrupted, and Wrong.


Ginny Stibolt is a computer/webpage guru who founded Sky-Bolt Enterprises in 2001.


Cynthia Thayer wrote her first short story ten years ago and became hooked on writing when it was published in the Antigonish Review.  Her first novel was Strong for Potatoes, followed by A Certain Slant of Light and A Brief Lunacy.


Poet Sophie Wadsworth of Boston won the Jessie Bryce Niles Award with her book, Letters from Siberia.  Her poems have appeared in Sycamore Review, Meridian, Crab Orchard Review, Southwester, and Sanctuary.






We can still smell the big stink caused by James Frey conning Ballantine and Oprah Winfrey with his memoir about his rise from degradation to redemption in A Million Little Pieces.  Unfortunately his memoir turned out to be a compilation of stretchers.


Some critics were lambasting Oprah for being so gullible; however, most of the disapproval should go to Ballantine for being so inattentive. . .oh, and to Frey for his duplicity.


Even worse examples of literary larceny have occurred.  Clifford Irving, for example, created an "authorized" biography of Howard Hughes and received an advance of $765,000 from McGraw-Hill, only to have his bio in the sky nosedive into the earth when Hughes held a phone conference to denounce the book.  Irving, his wife, and a collaborator were convicted, and the feds locked up Irving for 14 months because of the hoax.


Germany's Stern magazine and one of our U.S. weekly news mags were conned to various degrees by a diary of Hitler that had been "discovered" by Gerd Heidemann.  Two respected historians, Hugh Trevor-Roper (connected with London's Sunday Times) and Gerhard Weinberg, gave hasty authentications to the manuscript, but, when other historians closely scrutinized the diary, they pronounced it a truly inept piece of forgery.


We will always have crooks trying to take to the cleaners Stern, the London papers, or Random House, but an interesting angle in the Frey squabble occurred when several critics said, "If you change one detail, you no longer have nonfiction."




I don't think that will hold up if you look at various memoirs or histories.


Edmund Morris had won a Pulitzer Prize for his fine biography of Theodore Roosevelt and later received a $3 million advance and unlimited access to Ronald Reagan. Fourteen years later, he came up with Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan (Random House).


Critics generally howled when they discovered that Morris had included himself in the biography as a contemporary of Reagan (who was much older).  The older Morris persona encountered Reagan at various stages of his life, while the younger persona was supposed to be an aspiring screenwriter in early Hollywood.


One New York Times' critic said the technique could be dangerous but "succeeds in this case," while another Times' critic complained that the book was "bizarre, irresponsible and monstrously self-absorbed."


So was it biography or fiction?


We are all familiar with the books (and TV series based on them) by James Herriot in All Creatures Great and Small.  It is presented as nonfiction and "true," but notice these problems:


First, British medical professionals can't use their real names if it is likely to stray into the territory of advertising, so the Yorkshire vet James Alfred Wight selected the name of a Scottish goalie Jim Herriot for his penname.  He renamed his brothers Donald and Brian and called them Siegfried and Tristan Farnon respectively.


Second, he was undoubtedly changing the names of most, if not all, of the characters in his practice and village.  That could be viewed as a step away from truth, but his books criticized several individuals' treatment of their animals, so it also let him avoid a suit for libel or another suit for invading his clients' privacy.


Third, if you are trying to render a 30- or 40-year career into a coherent narrative, you have to condense and combine.  For example, Farmers Jones, Smith, Brown, Green, and others may have had mildly interesting problems, each not worth elaborating on; however, if you combine them into the life of one character, say, a Farmer Hobbes, you may have an interesting narrative cycle.


Herriot generally explained his techniques in his introductions, so he intended no deception.


Florida papers have been generally defending Stetson Kennedy for his accounts of his infiltration of the Ku Klux Klan back in the 1940s.  Kennedy was combining some of his actions with those of a friend to produce a more interesting narrative just to attract the attention of the skittish American publishers back then.


In the Yorkshire Dales vet environment, it would be like Herriot taking an incident that happened to Donald and saying that it happened to Jim Herriot, just to improve the narrative. Conversely, on the TV series, if Christopher Timothy (James) was under the weather one week, the script could be rewritten to assign his actions to Robert Hardy (Siegfried) or Peter Davison (Tristan).


Other changes are necessary to enable the reader to be able to follow a story.  Let's say your family has five or six Jims, Jimmys, and Jameses, plus Big Jim and Little Jim and Big Jimmy and Little Jimmy.  You may need to use the middle names of some cousins to help the reader keep on track.


Another insight (courtesy of V.S. Naipaul) is that people often lie when they write their (self-serving?) autobiographies, but the truth emerges (about their mindset) if they are attempting novels.  Sometimes an autobiographer might suffer from the same affliction as did Sinclair Lewis or Sherwood Anderson:  Whenever he tried to write about his life, he'd automatically stray into the realm of storytelling and fiction to make it more interesting or perhaps to avoid producing a drunkolog.


Oddly too, we have various "facts" that aren't true at all.  George Washington didn't cut down the cherry tree or throw a coin across the Potomac, but Parson Mason Locke Weems wrote that he did and most of us have those images in our minds.  The Battle of Bunker Hill was fought on nearby Breed's Hill, but the truth has yet to catch up with the actual fact.


So, what's a reader to do?  Seek out the writer who is attempting to capture truth, especially the poetically true, because that's apt to prevail.




If you are an active member of the North Florida Writers, you may wish to join our online critique group.  Active members can send their stories, poems, or chapters to, and the piece will be fixed up for previewing:  Copyright will be placed at the beginning and end of the piece to protect your work.  Some suggestion questions will be included.


If you are not an active member, but wish to participate, see the information later about joining.




I have never met an author who admitted that people did not buy his book because it was dull.

-- W. Somerset Maugham





1--James A. Herne (1840), Langston Hughes (1902), S. J. Perelman (1904), Muriel Spark (1918), Galway Kinnell (1927), Reynolds Price (1933); 2--James Joyce (1882), Ayn Rand (1905), and James Dickey (1923); 3--Abel Hermant (1862), Gertrude Stein (1874), Richard Yates (1926), Paul Auster (1947); 4--William Harrison Ainsworth (1805), E. J. Pratt (1883), Ugo Betti (1892), and Robert Coover (1932);


5--Margaret Millar (1915); 7--Charles Dickens (1812) and Sinclair Lewis (1885); 8--Samuel Butler (1612), Charles Jean François Hénault (1685), Jules Verne (1828), Kate Chopin (1851), Henry Roth (1906), Elizabeth Bishop (1911), Neal Cassady (1926); 9--George Ade (1866), Brendan Behan (1923) and Alice Walker (1944);


10--Charles Lamb (1775), Boris Pasternak (1890), Bertolt Brecht (1898); 11--Marie Joseph Chénier (1764), Lydia Maria Child (1802), Roy Fuller (1912), and Sidney Sheldon (1917); 12--Abraham Lincoln (1809), Alan Dugan (1923), and Judy Blume (1938); 13--Julius H. M. Busch (1821) and Georges Simenon (1903); 14--Richard Owen Cambridge (1717);


15--Johann Jakob Wilhelm Heinse (1746), Jens Immanuel Baggesen (1764), Joseph Hergesheimer (1880), and Matt Groening (1954); 16--Henry B. Adams (1838) and Richard Ford (1944); 17--Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer (1836), Margaret Truman (1924), and Ruth Rendell (1930); 18--Wallace Stegner (1909), A. R. Ammons (1926), Len Deighton (1929), Toni Morrison (1931), Andre Lorde (1934), Jean Auel (1936), and Lenore (Elisabeth Graves) Hart (1953); 19--Kay Boyle (1902), Carson McCullers (1917), and Amy Tan (1952);


20--William Carleton (1794), Pieter Cornelis Boutens (1870), and Georges Bernanos (1888); 21--Anaïs Nin (1903), Raymond Queneau (1903), W. H. Auden (1907), Erma Bombeck (1927), and Kevin Robinson (1951); 22--George Washington (1732), Sarah Adams (1805), Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892), Jane Bowles (1917), and Edward Gorey (1925); 23--Samuel Pepys (1633), W.E.B. Du Bois (1868), David Wright (1920), and Don L. Lee (1942); 24--Charles de Bernard (1804), Arrigo Boito (1842), Teófilo Braga (1843), and Daryl Hine (1936);


25--Frank G. Slaughter (1908) and Anthony Burgess (1917); 26--Victor Hugo (1802); 27--Johan van Heemskerk (1597), John Steinbeck (1902), Lawrence Durrell (1912), Irwin Shaw (1913), and Kenneth Koch (1925); 28--Stephen Spender (1909)




     Meetings of NFW are held at 2 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month.


     You may receive feedback from specific individuals by mailing the manuscript and return postage to the above address.


Feb. 11 -- Steven K. Brown, private eye, at Crispers


Mar. 11 -- Critiques (Barnes & Noble, Mandarin)


     Past speakers have included novelists Jack Hunter, David Poyer, Page Edwards, Ruth Coe Chambers, William Kerr, Tom Lashley; poets, William Slaughter, Mary Baron, Mary Sue Koeppel,

Dorothy Fletcher, George Gilpatrick; columnists Vic Smith, Tom Ivines, and Robert Blade; editors Buford Brinlee and Nan Ramey; agent Debbie Fine; magazine editor Sara Summers; medical writers

Elizabeth Tate and Michael Pranzatelli; oral historian Robert Gentry; plus many others.





                             The Write Staff


Richard Levine, President (

Carrol Wolverton, Vice President (

Joyce Davidson, Secretary (

Howard Denson, Treasurer and newsletter editor (

Joel Young, Public Relations (

Doris Cass, Hospitality (


                         Presidents Emeritus: 

Frank Green, Dan Murphy, Howard Denson, Nate Tolar, Joyce Davidson, Margaret Gloag (, Richard Levine, Bob Alexander, Jo Ann Harter, Carrol Wolverton


Newsletter address

The Write Stuff

FCCJ Kent, Box 137

3939 Roosevelt Blvd.

Jacksonville, FL 32205


Homepage address

Homepage editor

Richard Levine


     Submissions to the newsletter should generally be about writing or publishing.  We pay in copies to the contributors, with modest compensation for postage and copying.


     We pay $5-10 for submissions accepted.


                          MEMBERSHIP IN THE NFW


     If you are writing a story or poem, you will need some expert feedback -- the sort that you will receive at a meeting of the North Florida Writers.

     You won't profit from automatic praise that a close friend or relative might give or jealous criticism from others who may feel threatened by your writing.

     The NFW specializes in CONSTRUCTIVE feedback that will enable your manuscript to stand on its own two feet and demand that it be accepted by an editor or agent.  Hence, you need the


     The North Florida Writers is a writer's best friend because we help members to rid manuscripts of defects and to identify when a work is exciting and captivating.

     Membership is $15 for students, $25 for individuals, and $40 for a family.  (Make out checks to WRITERS.)

     Is your membership current?  To find out, check the mailing label. If it says "0106" next to your last name, your membership expired in January 2006.  You do not have to pay back dues to

activate your members, so, if you last paid in 1998 or 2002, don't worry about the months you were inactive.

     Won't you join today?

     The following is an application. Mail your check to WRITERS, Box 109, FCCJ Kent, 3939 Roosevelt Blvd., Jacksonville, FL 32205.




St. address____________________________________


Apt. No. ______________________________________


City ________________State _____ Zip __________


E-mail address(es) ___________________________________


                        HOW DOES CRITIQUING WORK?


     When you attend a meeting of the North Florida Writers, you eventually discover that NO ONE has ever died while his or her manuscript was being read and critiqued.  You may be ready to

face the ordeal yourself. . .or, reading this, you may wonder what exactly takes place during a critiquing.

     First, you pitch your manuscript into a stack with others' works-in-progress.  Then one of the NFW members hands out each piece to volunteer readers, taking care NOT to give you back your

own manuscript to read.

     Second, as the reading begins, each author is instructed NOT to identify himself or herself and especially NOT to explain or defend the work.  The writer may never have heard the piece read aloud by another's voice, so the writer needs to focus on the sound of his or her sentences.

     Third, at the finish of each selection, the NFW members try to offer constructive advice about how to make the story better.

If a section was confusing or boring, that information may be helpful to the author.

     The NFW will listen to 10 pages (double-spaced) of prose (usually a short story or a chapter).




If you think a friend would enjoy THE ELECTRONIC WRITE STUFF, e-mail us his or her e-mail address. You will notice that THE WRITE STUFF is not filled with links designed to solicit checks for the sun, moon, stars, and comets and everything else in the universe. If your friend doesn't want us, then he or she will be able to Unsubscribe.




If you are simplifying your internet life and can no longer handle us, then hit reply and type in UNSUBSCRIBE.  If we inadvertently have you in the directory with two different e-mail addresses, let us know which one you want us to omit.