Writing News for the Sunshine State & the Solar System * March 2009

Editor: Howard Denson



and use the terms in the subject line.


In This Issue:

DiGenti to Speak to NFW on March 14

And Then I Invented “USA Today” – Howard Denson

From Vic Digenti of Florida Writers' Assn.

Promoting Your Book at JacketFlap

Award-Winning Author Jeanne Gowen Dennis to Speak on March 12

“It Was Never About A Hot Dog And A Coke®!” Wins First Place In South East Region In Reader Views Annual Literary Awards

Quote from a Writer's Quill – Lady Mary Wortley Montague

Writers Born This Month – Robert Ellison, Dr. Seuss, Douglas Adams, Flannery O’Connor, and many others.




Let’s face it, we have short attention spans. If the author doesn’t catch and hold the reader’s attention with the first line, first paragraph and first page, they might look for another book. Vic DiGenti, the award-winning author of the Windrusher series, leads us through a fast-paced, upbeat session looking at the keys to Great Beginnings, and tells us why it’s so important to grab the reader in the beginning. Bring copies of your own first page for feedback from the group.

The novelist will speak at the March 14 meeting of the North Florida Writers. The meeting will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday in the meeting room of the Webb Wesconnett Library (corner of 103rd Street and Harlow Boulevard).




Okay, technically the headline is incorrect. I didn’t create “USA Today,” but, during the “hot metal” days, 16 years before that publication was born, I realized that it would be feasible to have a national newspaper. I wasn’t thinking in terms of pages being copied via satellites and sent to Podunk, Poughkeepsie, or Palatka.

As a flunky extraordinaire on the copy desk, I might pick up a page mock-up and story to be edited. Pages back then generally had eight columns; later, most papers went to a six-column format. Each page was about 24 inches tall. (Quick digression about a linguistic curiosity: The mock-ups were called “dummies” in Pensacola and Tallahassee but “diagrams” in Birmingham.)

Often Coca-Cola, Sears, or Chevrolet might have an ad that took up most of a page, but not all. It might be a six (column) x 20 (inches), a 6x20. That produced an upside-down “L” of open space: room for some small stories down the left column and another story that could have been stretched across the top (or one story with enough copy to take up all of the space).

(Are you following? If you get lost on a digression, I’m not turning around the Scion Toaster-Car to go back and get you.)

Since that ad and one good-sized story could take up the whole space, it occurred to me that an entire newspaper could largely be done in Juan Particular City and the pages could be sent out to Other Particular Towns and Cities. This was before desktop programs on computers, so I looked at the photo wire that curled out photographs on tannish-pink pages that were ready to be duplicated. It was only a hop, skip, and a hokey-poky to realize that the entire page could be sent out.

Certain pages could have had blank spots for the masthead and a few local stories, but essentially it was ready to publish. I was thinking, by golly, I could do it.

Sixteen years later, “USA Today” accomplished my dream, minus the spots for local stories.

We need a movie montage here: The issues roll off the press, and we see mastheads change as some papers merge, and then many doors are shuttered as hundreds of papers give up the ghost. Finally less than a decade after the change in the millennium, we see articles and columns exploring “The Death of the American Newspaper,” “News, Yes, But No Paper,” and “Power Shift in the Media.”

Some newspapers that aren’t closing outright are going strictly online. Each paper developed a website a few years ago and worked hard to attract visitors/readers to justify higher prices for these online ads. “The Christian Science Monitor” is mainly online. Other papers are offering websites and maybe two or three paper publications a week.

One columnist whistled by the graveyard by consoling his editorial room fellows that, with the paper format phasing out, the reporters, editors, and columnists could focus again on Our Real Business, the News. Besides blaming the cost overruns on the printers and their unions, he fussed about the cost of the trucking business associated with print. All of those salaries going to non-journalists could be re-directed toward paying more to the writers, editors, and other cockeyed optimists.

He really did not take the ancillary business angle far enough. Depending on the size of a newspaper, the Paper might have a series of small corporations (with interlocking boards) handling different functions. Trucks would be handled by The Daily Planet Transport Co. The Daily Planet Publishing Co. would use the presses, composing room, and page plate equipment to print other papers (student newspapers or evening newspapers, pamphlets, or even books. The Daily Planet Arts Series, Inc. might exist because the paper’s advertising bureau decided to increase its revenue by sponsoring events and selling tickets instead of just hawking movies, concerts, and performances.

Each corporation could raise its own fees just enough for the overall corporation to whine that it had to put nails in its pockets just to have something chinking down there. Like motion picture or television studios, they often could claim that, darn it all, they couldn’t pay James Garner a percentage of the net because “The Rockford Files” or “Maverick,” ah, never made a profit, no, really it didn’t.

What has caused such a calamity to come about?

1. Newspapers in America generally cranked up when some individual wanted to express a certain political view. Andrew Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson backed such enterprises provided their publication revealed what a scoundrel Jefferson or Hamilton was. If a man wanted influence, he opened a paper; often it wasn’t necessary to make a profit. To the truly wealthy, any money “lost” on their newspaper was strictly chump change. For example, Bill Buckley used family money to pay off the debts of “The National Review.” Conscience of a conservative was more valuable to him than coin of the realm.

2. Morbid obesity set in as newspapers tried to get larger and larger. A century ago, a daily issue might have a section of four, six, eight, ten, or twelve pages. In the last quarter of a century, a daily paper might weigh as much as a Sunday paper or a Thanksgiving paper, but, once the ads were discarded, what remained might be a paper with little heft.

3. Expanding the obesity, we have Rupert Murdoch swallowing newspapers across the continents. Murdoch, an ideologue, believes strongly in making a profit. Other large corporations unwisely merged willy-nilly with other papers (e.g., one corporation owning both the “Los Angeles Times” and “The Chicago Tribune”).

4. There’s a transition going on, since youths get most of their news from Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and the internet. The percentage of young readers will continue to decline. The internet emphasis has changed the way readers think, they argue.

5. “Civic pride” and the “edifice complex” have caused many newspapers to waste their resources. They want a grander building and sell or tear down the original building. They have spent their resources to have civic centers or ball fields named after their paper.

Even so, there are other points to consider:

1. Changes are always taking place. In the early 20th Century, the U.S. was plagued by the Penny Press, which survived on gossip, titillation, and fabrication. Papers survived despite the impact of movies, the news reels, television and TV news, and radio news, talk radio, and NPR.

2. Newspapers are still influential and can still be good investments, especially in smaller cities (whose daily newspapers usually have been bought up by “The New York Times,” Gannett, Morris, etc.). The internet is not going to cover Thomasville, Laramie, or Florence as well as the local newspaper. The papers serve a purpose. Decades ago, an irritated woman complained about small paper: “Oh, I don’t read it. All it has are weddings, obituaries, ads, and Little League stories.” Within a year, she came in to have articles printed about her daughter’s engagement, shower, and wedding. Then her husband died, and she took over his jewelry business and regularly placed ads. Oh, and her son won a trophy for his Little League team.

3. When major events occur, we don’t want to print out a page on the internet. We want a newspaper to put in our Major Events stack, with 72- to 96-point headlines announcing “War Ends,” “JFK Killed,” “Elvis Dies,” “Men Land on Moon,” etc. When the University of Florida won a national football championship, some Gators took the paper to a recently deceased friend’s grave and spread it out (metaphorically) for him to read. A computer monitor or a print-out fails to celebrate or bemoan great events.

4. We don’t want to read the exact same Associated Press story on Yahoo or AOL as we do in the newspaper, but different stories and perspective are available.

Some publishers are even toying with the notion of turning their newspapers into non-profit organizations. That would reduce taxes for them.

Regardless, here’s 100 to 1 bet that in a century, we will still have newspapers. If I’m right, spread a front page over my bone lot. If I’m wrong, take my dust to court.



As I sadly watch my 401K turn into a 201K, I have to get away and write or I'll go even crazier. So, I took some time today to pack a stimulus plan full of choice items into the March FWA Blog posting. Go to for all the news that fits. You won't be sorry.

Until next time, I'll see you in bankruptcy court.

• Mr. DiGenti, FWA Regional Director



Writers who want to promote their publications are encouraged to visit the website of JacketFlap at More than 200,000 people visit the site every month, and JacketFlap Videos will be a powerful tool in promoting books. In the coming weeks, I'll also be announcing a number of other exciting new features that writers may enjoy.

JacketFlap Videos is a central place where people can find book trailers, author interviews, book readings, and more. To get to JacketFlap Videos, click the new Book Videos link under the Books tab in the main navigation bar. Once you're in JacketFlap Videos, there are a number of ways to navigate through the videos. In the top of the left column, you can use the Find Videos search box to search the video description. This will let you search for videos about a certain subject (e.g. sports, romance, adventure) or a person that appears in the video (e.g. an author name). You can also use the search "in book title" option to search for videos about a specific book. Below that, you'll find a Videos By Category navigation menu where you can browse through videos by category (e.g. book trailers, interview, etc.). Similarly, the Videos by Book Ages navigation menu lets you browse videos about books for specific reading levels (e.g. Ages 4 - 8, Young Adult, etc.).

Most importantly, you can submit your own videos for inclusion on JacketFlap! In order to submit a video to JacketFlap, it must already be uploaded somewhere else, such as YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Vimeo, Viddler, or a publisher's web site, like Scholastic, HarperCollins, etc. All you need to know is the URL of the page where the video is located. Please don't try to submit the full embed code that contains a bunch of HTML. The URL of the page should be all you need to submit your video.


The First Coast Christian Writers will hear Jeanne Gowen Dennis<>, an award-winning author, CLASS-certified speaker, vocal soloist, and BreakPoint Centurion. Her inspirational book, Running Barefoot on Holy Ground<>, embodies her passion for helping others grow in intimacy with the Creator. Jeanne has published eleven books<> for adults and children and has written for Focus on the Family periodicals, Campus Life,, DaySpring, and others. She has been interviewed on the HarvestShow and national and local radio. Speaking venues have included the National Church Library Association, Biola University, homeschool conferences, writers conferences, churches, schools, and bookstores. Jeanne has worked with adults and children of all ages for over 25 years as a wife, mother, grandmother, and veteran homeschooler.

The mission of First Coast Christian Writers is to support its members through improving writing skills with education and critiques, networking within the publishing industry, and holding each other accountable to achieve goals.

The group meet from 6:45-8:45 p.m. every Thursday in room 513 at Christ's Church, 6045 Greenland Rd., in Jacksonville, near the Avenues Mall at the intersection of I-95 and 9A South. Every meeting includes a speaker and writing critiques for any genre. Visitors 18 and older are always welcome. Dues are $1 per week.


“It was never about a hot dog and a Coke®!” by author Rodney L. Hurst, Sr. has been selected as the Winner in the Southeastern Regional Nonfiction Category for 2008 by Reader Views Annual Literary Awards – Reviewers Choice. The annual awards were established to honor writers who self-published or had their books published by a small press, university press, or independent book publisher.

“It was never about a hot dog and a Coke®!” is subtitled “A Personal Account of the 1960 Sit-in Demonstrations in Jacksonville, Florida and Ax Handle Saturday” and published by WingSpan Press. The memoir recounts the times, the mood, and high racial tension in Jacksonville during the civil rights movement. “I am again honored by the recognition of my book which simply sought to tell the true story of courage and personal sacrifice in the fight against racism in Jacksonville Florida during the late fifties and early sixties”, said Hurst.

“Reader Views reviews more than 2,000 books per year from budding authors who have worked hard to achieve their dream of being published,” Reader Views Managing Editor Irene Watson says. “Our Annual Literary Awards recognize the very best of these up-and-coming authors, all talented writers who we know have very promising writing careers ahead of them.”

The Reader Views Annual Literary Awards are granted in fiction and nonfiction categories, as well as regional, global and specialized sponsored categories. The entries are first read and judged by Reader Views reviewers, all avid readers with a wide range of experiences, considered experts in the respective fields. The second line judges make the final decision.

This is Hurst’s second award this month. Earlier this week, he won the Bronze Medal in the Florida Nonfiction category of the 2008 Florida Book Awards. It is the Eighth Award garnered by Hurst since “It was never about a hot dog and a Coke®!” was published in February of 2008.

“It was never about a hot dog and a Coke®!” is available in Jacksonville, Florida at Borders Book Store on Southside Blvd, the Book Tique in the Downtown Jacksonville Public Library on Laura St., San Marco Book Store, and online through the book’s web site,, (and most online book stores).


No entertainment cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting. – Lady Mary Wortley Montague



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).



Every Wednesday: 7:30 p.m.; BARD SOCIETY; Frank Green 234-8383; Email<>

Every Thursday, 6:45 p.m.; FIRST COAST CHRISTIAN WRITERS GROUP; Christ's Church, 6045 Greenland Rd, Rm 204, near I-95 & 9A; Email:<>

Second Saturday: 2 p.m.; NORTH FLORIDA WRITERS; Webb Wesconnett Library;<>



Membership is $15 for students, $25 for individuals, and $40 for a family. (Make out checks to WRITERS.) Mail your check to WRITERS, c/o Howard Denson, 1511 Pershing Rd., Jacksonville, FL 32205.

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