Subject: Tolar, WF Contests, and New Planets (Write Stuff 0806)
Date: Mon, 31 Jul 2006 13:30:14 -0400

The Electronic Write Stuff

Writing News for the Sunshine State & the Solar System

             North Florida Writers * August 2006

In this issue:

Nate Tolar to Speak about "Writing for Readers" at 1 p.m. Aug. 8

Writers' Festival Contests Seek Entries for Novels, Plays, Stories, and Poems

"Novel in a Day" Workshop Set Aug. 5 and 9

Straight on Until a New Planet -- Joy V. Smith

Letter: Another Mencken Quote

Wrong Stuff from the New Yorker

Quote from a Writer's Quill -- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Writers Born in August -- James Baldwin, P.D. James, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Sir Walter Scott, and many others

Calendar of Events

NEXT ISSUE:  More from Joy V. Smith and Patricia Rogers reports on Harlan Ellison and SF


Novelist and voracious reader Nate Tolar will speak to the North Florida Writers meeting about "Writing for Readers." The meeting will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Webb Westconnett Library (at the corner of 103rd Street and Harlow) 

Tolar's first novel, Searching for Ellie, dealt with a young man falling in love with a girl in a painting. He begins a search for year even though she had lived a century before. In Shadrack he uses his postal experience to lay out the story of a young protagonist who is being framed at a trial conducted by the post office bureaucracy. 

Critiquing will take place after the speaker's talk.



The Florida First Coast Writers Festival contests are accepting entries for novels, short fiction, plays, and poetry.

NOVELS ($39 each entry; deadline Oct. 2): Novel entries in the Josiah W. Bancroft Sr. Novel Contest have no minimum or maximum length, and the writer may leave his or her name on the manuscript. The contest wants the first 100 or so pages. The final-round judges will be novelists Lenore Hart (Ordinary Springs and Waterwoman) and David Poyer (The Gulf, Thunder on the Mountain).

Recent winners of top prizes have included Brian Jay Corrigan (The Poet of Loch Ness, published by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's) and Steve Berry (The Third Secret, a New York Times best-seller published by Ballantine).
SHORT FICTION ($15 each entry; deadline Nov. 1): Each short story in the Page Edwards Short Fiction Contest should be no longer than 6,000 words. One copy should have the authors name, address, phone number, and any e-mail address; the other copy should only have the text and the title. There is no limit to the number of stories that may be submitted, but the contest officials suggest each entrant submit his or her best entries. The final-round judge is Sohrab Homi Fracis, an Iowa Short Fiction Collection winner for Ticket to Minto.

PLAYS ($29 each entry; deadline Nov. 1): The Festival is also sponsoring its third annual contests for full-length plays (usually at least two acts or enough for an evening's entertainment). The entrant should submit the entire play. The winning entry will at least have a staged reading during the 2008 Festival as "An Evening of Entertainment."

POETRY ($7 each entry, three for $18; deadline Dec. 1): The Festival has two poetry contests: 

The Douglas Freels Poetry Contest will focus on the traditional themes of poetry (love, rejection, death, etc.).

The Robert Grimes "Good Earth" Poetry Contest will spotlight poetry involving ecology, love of nature, etc.

In either poetry category, each entry should be no longer than 30 lines and each entry should be printed on one sheet of paper. One version should have the poets name, address, phone number, and e-mail address (if available), while no identification should be on the other version. Again, there is no limit on the number of poems that may be submitted, but the contest officials recommend that an entrant select his or her three or four best poems. 

POSTAGE & RETURN/NON-RETURN OF MANUSCRIPTS: Entries in all contests will NOT be returned, so entrants should not submit their only copies. 

PRIZES: In poetry, identical amounts will be given to the winners of the Douglas Freels and Robert Grimes prizes: first prize, a $150; second, $125; third, $100; in short fiction, first prize, $250; second, $150; third, $100. The first-place novel winner will receive $500, with the second- and third-place winners receiving $200 and $100 respectively.

All entry checks or money orders should be made out to "First Coast Writers' Festival" and mailed to Writers' Festival Contests, FCCJ North, 4501 Capper Rd., Jacksonville, FL 32218, care of Dr. Dana Thomas.

In all categories, entries should be original and unpublished. 

The Festival's website ( will instruct entrants about how to do the "bio" sheets for all contests and the logline and narrative summary for the novel contest. 

In addition, visual or graphic artists will find information there about the Writers' Festival poster contest (deadline Oct. 1; first place, $200).


Novelists Terri Ridgell and Vic DiGenti will be the facilitators for a "Novel in a Day Workshop," which is designed to pack a year's worth of learning into a day-long interactive session filled with practical advice and solid instruction. 

The workshop is designed for both beginning writers and more advanced pros who are looking for new insights,. It should provide writers with the tools needed to craft their own novel--a novel that will grab a reader's attention and keep him or her turning the pages.

Some of the topics to be covered include elements of plot and structure, creating characters that sizzle, secrets of good dialogue, deciphering Point of View, tips for self-editing, and crafting strong beginnings, middles and ends.

Ms. Ridgell and DiGenti say attendees should expect an up-beat and fast-paced workshop. 

Ms. Ridgell's novel, Operation Stiletto, won the RTR (Road to Romance) 2005 Reviewers Choice Award. She moved into the suspense genre with her 2006 Echelon Press release of Fractured Souls and will follow that up with the second in the series, Deadly Inheritance due out in May of 2007. She is a member of Novelists Inc., Sisters in Crime, Florida Writers Association, Amelia Writers Group, Romance Writers of America, RWA Mystery and Suspense Kiss of Death, and Washington Romance Writers. She is the current president of First Coast Romance Writers.

DiGenti has written two acclaimed adventure/fantasy novels,Windrusher, and Windrusher and the Cave of Tho-hoth, both by Ocean Publishing. Both books have won top awards for fiction from the Florida Writers Association and the Cat Writers Association. In addition, Windrusher and the Cave of Tho-hoth was a finalist in the 2005 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Contest. He is a regional director and board member of Florida Writers Association, a member of Florida Sisters in Crime, and the Cat Writer's Association. He is now completing his first mystery/suspense novel.

Attendees will be able to choose from two dates and two different locations. The first workshop will be held Saturday, Aug. 5, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Jacksonville's new Downtown Library. The second workshop will be Wednesday, Aug. 9, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Ponte Vedra Beach (contact the facilitators for the specific location).

Those who enroll before July 21 will save $15 (a 15% discount). Cost for the full-day workshop after July 21 will be $100 per person (includes lunch and workbook). "Each workshop is limited to 15 people," say the facilitators, "so don't delay in making your reservations." For more information or to reserve a seat, contact Ms. Ridgell at or DiGenti at



EDITOR'S NOTE: Earlier versions of this article appeared in Working Writer and The Idea Boutique. 

I love SF, and some of my favorite stories are about other worlds, including Andre Norton's Witch World stories, Anne McCaffrey's Pern series, Keith Laumer's Retief series, and C. J. Cherryh's Chanur series.

I usually start out with a story and then fit in the background--planet and culture, though some of my stories are set completely on Earth. While my main characters are usually Americans in stories set on Earth, elsewhere I often give Terrans backgrounds of other countries and cultures to make them more interesting. 

Some planets are simple, with little description of the moon(s), wildlife, etc. (I don't want to worry about tides or how things evolved).

I spent more time inventing planets like Snakebite inHidebound, a story which also included the hero's planet (one even nastier than Snakebite so that the humanoids evolved physical protection); I made this planet interdicted. 

The planet in Velvet of Swords (more nasty flora and fauna as the result of genetic engineering) was colonized by humans and aliens, with the humans recreating old Terran cultures. 

Other interesting planets are found in What Price a Friendly Freep to explain the aliens; Pretty Pink Planet and Hot Yellow Planet, which was begun, as I recall, as an experiment in writing a series story with similar titles (I had fun with the colors in Pretty Pink Planet, and I love the cover art created for it in an audiobook anthology); and Royal Guardians (I think this is an alternate universe). 

Time/space portals from Terra to other planets or time machines to other times are fun too. There are books (see Writer's Digest Book Club listings) and websites, such as Patricia Wrede's Worldbuilder Questions (on world-building): 

I haven't spent much time there, but I've discussed various ideas on AOL writing boards, where writers often ask for input when trying to solve a story problem. I asked about missiles and subs in the Zap Gun folder (SF/Fantasy board), where we also discussed Keith Laumer's Bolo (super tanks) series.

For some stories, I had to create maps to keep track of where my characters are running amuck and of directions and distances. 

If you're writing a story about Mars or the moon, however, you can use NASA maps, available in books, on websites, or even as posters. There are also Mars and moon globes. 

Nowadays, there's a lot less invention in stories set there. So, you can find the blocks for building your world in the far corners of the universe of the mind, but for decorating and landscaping, you may want to research other planets and other cultures (I think the Celtic culture is way over-used in fantasy), found in fiction and non-fiction books; then you put your own twist on a planet, an animal, or an intelligent being. And don't hesitate to use a tentacled alien; they're not passé if you can add something new. 

Ms. Smith's house book, Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook, is available online from and Barnes & Noble. Her short stories are available online and in anthologies, including Kings of the Night II, Magistria: The Realm of the Sorcerer, and Scoundrels & Rascals.Sugar Time, an audiobook, is available from Project Pulp.


DEAR EDITOR: After reading your piece about sanity and politics in political writing, I thought you might be interested to know that H.L. Mencken is also credited for this prescient quote from July 1920: 

"The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre -- the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. 

"The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron." - Faithful Reader

DEAR FAITHFUL: And in 1920, the U.S. elected Warren G. Harding, who, in presidential terms, was a 25-watt bulb. However, years ago, American Heritage magazine ran an article that said he was the writer of some salacious love letters which the Harding heirs refuse to make public.


>From a New Yorker article on Shaker furniture:

Shaker plans look less like something drawn up in an Enlightenment encyclopedia than like something sketched by a seer with an Etch A Sketch, lines spouting and kicking out at odd but angular angles.

WS SAYS: The sentence attempts to show contrast, but it stumbles over its own structure; in addition, with "angular angles," it offers a redundancy. Probably the writer wanted something in this spirit (though WRONG STUFF's offering still needs polishing): "The Shaker furniture takes a visitor back in time to the 1700s, and a craftsman might imagine that plans for a Shaker table or chair might resemble the fine-lined illustrations in encyclopedias of Diderot and his competitors. Instead, the craftsman is shocked to see a plan looking like it was produced with an Etch A Sketch toy, with lines sprouting and kicking out at odd and sharp angles." Okay, so WS's version is twice as long.


If you spot a blooper worthy of chronicling in "The Wrong Stuff," e-mail it to Let's try to stick with print publications or edited websites, as opposed to blogs.


Publishers are all cohorts of the devil; there must be a special hell for them somewhere.

-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


1--Herman Melville (1819) and Jim Carroll (1951); 2--Irving Babbitt (1865), James Baldwin (1924), and Isabel Allende (1942); 3--Rupert Brooke (1887), P. D. James (1920), Leon Uris (1924), and Diane Wakoski (1937); 4--Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792), Knut Hamsun (1859), and Robert Hayden (1913);

5--Michael Banim (1796) and Conrad Aiken (1889); 6--Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809), Paul Claudel (1868), and Diane di Prima (1934); 7--Garrison Keillor (1942); 8--Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1896) and Nina Berberova (1901); 9--Philip Larkin (1922);

11--Judah P. Benjamin (1811), Hugh MacDiarmid (C. M. Grieve) (1892), Louise Bogan (1897), Alex Haley (1921), and André Dubus (1936); 12--Katherine Lee Bates (1859), Jacinto Benavente y Martínez (1866), Mary Roberts Rinehart (1876), and Radclyffe Hall (1880); 14--Sir Walter Besant (1836), Danielle Steele (1947), and Gary Larson (1950);

15--Sir Walter Scott (1771), E. Nesbit (1858), Sri Aurobindo (1872), and Edna Ferber (1887); 16--William Maxwell (1908) and Charles Bukowski (1920); 17--Fredrika Bremer (1801), Wilfred Scawen Blunt (1840), Evan Connell (1924), John Hawkes (1925), V. S. Naipaul (1932); 18--Robert Williams Buchanan (1841), Ahad Haam (1856), and Alaine Robbe-Grillet (1922); 19--Pierre Jean de Béranger (1780), Maurice BarrPs (1862), Ogden Nash (1902), and James Gould Cozzens (1903);

20--Shaul Chernikhovski (1875), H. P. Lovecraft (1890) and Jacqueline Susanne (1921); 21--Robert Stone (1937); 22--John Hill Burton (1809), Dorothy Parker (1893), Ray Bradbury (1920), E. Annie Proulx (1935); 23--Edgar Lee Masters (1868) and J. V. Cunningham (1911); 24--Sir Max Beerbohm (1872), Jean Rhys (1890), Malcolm Cowley (1898), Jorge Luis Borges (1899), and A.S. Byatt (1936);

25--Baron Bunsen (1791), Henrik Hertz (1797/98), Brett Harte (1836), Frederick Forsyth (1938), and Martin Amis (1949); 26--Guillaume Apollinaire (1880), Christopher Isherwood (1904), Julio Cortázar (1914); 27--Theodore Dreiser (1871), Norah Lofts (1904), Desmond O'Grady (1935), Lary Crews (1946), and Jeanette Winterson (1959); 28--John Betjeman (1906), Roger Tory Peterson (1908), Robertson Davies (1913), Janet Frame (1924), and Rita Dove (1952); 29--Giambattista Casti (1724), Edward Carpenter (1844), and Thom Gunn (1929);

30--Mary Shelley (1797); 31--DuBose Heyward (1885), William Shawn (1907), and William Saroyan (1908).


Meetings of NFW are held at 2 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month. Check the website at for meeting locations.

Sat., Aug. 12, 2 p.m.

Sat., Sept. 9, 2 p.m.

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

Past speakers have included novelists Jack Hunter, David Poyer, Page Edwards, Ruth Coe Chambers, William Kerr, Tom Lashley, and Vic DiGenti; 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 (

Kathy Marsh, 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 North, Box 21

4501 Capper Rd.

Jacksonville, FL 32218

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. 


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.

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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