The Electronic Write Stuff

 Writing News for the Sunshine State & the Solar System

North Florida Writers * Mar. 2007 * Editor:  Howard Denson


In this issue:

21st Annual Writers' Festival is This Weekend

The Conflict, Tension, and Resolution of Writing a Novel with Your Spouse – Christine Watt

Quote from a Writer's Quill – Robert Frost

NFW to Meet at 2 p.m. Saturday, Mar. 10

Reminder:  A Way to Help Stage Aurora

Writers Born This Month: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Douglas Adams, Philip Roth, Robert Frost, and many others

Calendar of Events



When the 21st annual Florida First Coast Writers’ Festival is held March 8–11, 2007, at the Jacksonville Public Library’s Main Library Conference Center, attendees will be able to get top-notch writing advice from Janet Bevan, Regina Brooks, Rick Campbell, Camille Cline, Brian Jay Corrigan, Carmen Deedy, Dana Kleiman Garfinkel, Diane Glancy, Lenore Hart, Ann Browning Masters, Bob Mayer, Marsha Mehran, Peter Meinke, Carol O'Dell, David Poyer, Peter Rubie, Sheila Ortiz Taylor, Patricia Waters, and Jessie Wise. The library located at 303 N. Laura St. in downtown Jacksonville, Florida.

The following is the schedule for the workshops (subject to changes due to the unexpected, of course):

Friday, March 9, 2007

Jacksonville Public Library’s Main Library Conference Center

8–9 a.m.  Registration and Coffee

9–10:15 a.m.      Concurrent Sessions A

10:30–11:45 a.m.  Concurrent Sessions B

noon–1:30 p.m.    Lunch

1:45–3 p.m. Concurrent Sessions C

3:15–4 p.m. Concurrent Sessions D

Boomtown Theatre – Go to the WF website for directions to Boomtown.

6–7 p.m.    Reception

7–8 p.m.    Dinner

8 p.m.      Reader’s Theatre Performance

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Jacksonville Public Library’s Main Library Conference Center

8–9 a.m. Registration and Coffee

9–10:15 a.m.      Concurrent Sessions E

10:30–11:45 a.m.  Concurrent Sessions F

noon–1:45 p.m.    Awards Lunch

2–3:15 p.m. Concurrent Sessions G

3:30–4:15 p.m.    Concurrent Sessions H

Dinner   Check with the registration desk for suggestions on where to go and what to do.  Write Stuff suggests:  See “Disney’s High School Musical” on the stage at FCCJ North Campus. 

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Jacksonville Public Library’s Main Library Conference Center

8–9 a.m.          Registration and Coffee

9–10:15 a.m.      Concurrent Sessions I

10:30–11:45 a.m.  Concurrent Sessions J

noon–1:30 p.m.    Lunch

Check the Festival webpage for information:

This Festival will offer a special master in fiction, to be conducted by novelists Dave Poyer and Lenore Hart. Attendance is limited to the first seven registrants.

For regular Festival Registration, go to the website and download the PDF registration form.  It can be faxed to Sara Turner at 904.713.4858, or mailed to: Writers’ Festival Registrations, 4501 Capper Road, Jacksonville, FL 32218, ATTN Sara Turner. Note: PDF files require Adobe Reader software. Download the free Adobe Reader from Adobe’s Web site.

The Festival also offer online registrations and payments through its secure server.

Essentially, a complete Festival package is $330.  Individual days (Friday and Saturday) are $110, with Sunday being $90.  The Friday evening banquet will be $55.

The conflict, tension, and resolution of writing a novel with your spouse


[EDITOR’S NOTE: Writing partners, from the Ellery Queen to others, have different approaches to collaboration.  The Queen teams would have one writer do an outline; another, the actual writing.  Others have a rule that, if one partner dislikes a word or phrase, it goes out automatically, no debate.  The team below has a different approach.]




My husband, Khosro Mahtaban, and I are currently rewriting our collaborative novel, COBRA'S BLESSING, which is based on his life as a Jewish boy in pre-revolutionary Iran and which won the Writers' Festival Novel Award in 2005.  A memoir would have been easier, but we missed the trend of total nobodies writing theirs and getting published.  For better or worse, richer or poorer, Khosro and I decided on a novel.


How the first drafts worked was this: He described something that happened to him, I wrote it down.  We did this for many, many months, rewriting memories, places, events, trying to capture exactly how the bakery on Shah Reza Street smelled, precisely how cold winter in Tehran feels, and just how the wail of the azankhoon from a distant mosque can reach into your heart and squeeze it even if you’re not a follower of Islam. 


I was the primary writer, Khosro the editor.  Getting inside the head of my protagonist was tough.  I’m not Iranian, I’ve never been to Iran, I’m not a Jew, and I’ve definitely never been a boy.  I’m from the north of England, raised Agnostic, and, whenever I write fiction, my female characters tend to be stronger than my male.  So in the current rewrite, Khosro is translating my English into Farsi, then back into English, which should ensure his voice comes through rather than mine.  


Minorities cannot help but absorb the mores of the land they inhabit.  While our protagonist is a Jew, he behaves, thinks, even looks and speaks like a Moslem.  I had to grasp this phenomenon before I could write from his point of view.  I was fascinated by the whole process of delving into layers upon layers of culture and history and research into the backstory of what was going on politically.  This jogged Khosro’s memory--painfully at times.


Most Iranians view the world differently from how most westerners view it.  Forgiveness, kindness, many of those concepts I regard as virtues can be perceived as weaknesses throughout the Middle East, where to take revenge is generally considered honorable and manly.  I had to step through Alice’s looking-glass to become my protagonist.  On the other hand, while humor is often the last bit of a culture you get, Iranian humor is amazingly similar to ours; and I enjoyed sprinkling the manuscript with Iranian jokes--mainly politically incorrect, but that was life there and then. 


Iranian expressions are exotic, so we’re ‘Iranianising’ all metaphors in the current rewrite.  For example, I yell out of my home office (spare bedroom), “Do Iranians have an expression for ‘His face looked fit to curdle milk’?”  Silence while he thinks.  Then the disembodied voice yells back, “His face was like zahr-e-mar, snake venom.”  I love it and change the manuscript; writing the Farsi, then the English translation so the reader will know this is an authentic Iranian metaphor.  Sometimes there isn’t an equivalent, so I have to scratch a brilliant phrase in English that wouldn’t work in Farsi. 


The other day Khosro asked me, “What’s that mark on your face?” as he pointed at my lower lip.  I looked in the mirror, couldn’t see a thing.  “O, it’s just another wrinkle!” he said.  Before I could whack him upside-the-head with the wok, he added, “Don’t worry, it’s good that you’re getting old.”  Taking advantage of my never-before state of speechlessness, he explained, “Peer-shee, May you get old, is both compliment and blessing in Iran.  In fact, every time my grandmother saw me from being a tiny boy, the first thing she always said was, ‘Peer-shee.’”  What a lovely thing to wish for someone you care about.  A culture that on the whole worships youthful looks rather than wisdom could benefit from such philosophies.  



Quotes from a Writer’s Quill 

A poem. . .begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness.... It finds the thought and the thought finds the words.

--Robert Frost



 The North Florida Writers will meet at the Webb Westconnett Library at 2 p.m. Saturday, Mar. 10.  The library is located at the corner of 103rd Street and Harlow Boulevard.



Don't forget that Google has come up with a way for search engines to benefit various groups, and we’re suggesting that you bookmark GoodSearch so that, every time you need to search for something on the web, Stage Aurora Theatrical Company would receive something.  Go to GoodSearch and type in “Stage Aurora” for the group where it asks, “Who do you GoodSearch for?”

Stage Aurora presents plays, musicals, and other performances, with an emphasis on African-American themes.  For tickets to their next performance (“Miss Evers’ Boys”), go to this website:


Writers Born in March

1--Lytton Strachey (1880), Ralph Ellison (1914), Robert Lowell (1917), Howard Nemerov (1920), and Richard Wilbur (1921); 2--Janos Arany (1817), Theodor Seuss Geisel or Dr. Seuss (1904), Tom Wolfe (1932), and John Irving (1942); 3--Colonel Fred Burnaby (1842), Edward Thomas (1878) and James Merrill (1926); 4--James Ellroy (1948);

5--Frank Norris (1870); 6--Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806), Johan Bojer (1872), and Gabriel García Márques (1928); 7--Luther Burbank (1849) and Georges Perec (1936); 9--William Cobbett (1763), Vita Sackville-West (1892) and Mickey Spillane (1918);

10--Pedro Antonio de Alarcón (1833), John Rechy (1934); 11--Douglas Adams (1952); 12--Jack Kerouac (1922), John Clellon Holmes (1926), Edward Albee (1928), Randall Kenan (1963); 13--L. Ron Hubbard (1911); 14--Théodore de Banville (1823), Algernon Blackwood (1869);

15--Johann Jakob Breitinger (1701) and Paul Johann Ludwig von Heyse (1830); 16--G. A. Bredero (1585), Camilo Castelo Branco (1825), and Alice Hoffman (1952); 18--Wilfred Owen (1893) and John Updike (1932); 19--Philip Roth (1933);

20--Thomas Cooper (1805), Henry Ibsen (1828) and Louis Marie Émile Bertrand (1866); 24--Joel Barlow (1754), Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919), and Ian Hamilton (1938); 23--Sir Thomas Chapais (1858);

25--Alexander Ivanovich Herzen (1812), Flannery O'Connor (1925); 26--Edward Bellamy (1850), A. E. Housman (1859), Serafín Álvarez Quintero (1871), Robert Frost (1874), Joseph Campbell (1904), Tennessee Williams (1914), and Gregory Corso (1930); 27--Michael Bruce (1746), Budd Schulberg (1914), Denton Welch (1915), and Louis Simpson (1923); 28--William Byrd (1674), Alexandre Herculano de Carvalho e Araújo (1810), Nelson Algren (1909), Mario Vargas Llosa (1936), and Russell Banks (1940); 29--Alexander Chalmers (1759);

30--Paul Verlaine (1844) and Sean O'Casey (1880); 31--Octavio Paz (1914), John Fowles (1926), and John Jakes (1932).



 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 NFW. 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.

 If you want to check to see if your dues are current, contact the treasurer at Membership is $15 for students, $25 for individuals, and $40 for a family. (Make out checks to WRITERS.)

 Won't you join today?

 The following is an application. Mail your check to WRITERS, Box 21, FCCJ North, 4501 Capper Rd., Jacksonville, FL 32218.


 St. address___________________________________________

 Apt. No. _____________________________________________

 City ________________State _____ Zip _________________

 E-mail address(es) ___________________________________



 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).



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