Writing News for the Sunshine State & the Solar System
Editor: Howard Denson
August 2016


Criticism – however valid or intellectually engaging – tends to get in the way of a writer who has anything personal to say. A tightrope walker may require practice, but if he starts a theory of equilibrium he will lose grace (and probably fall off).


– J.R.R. Tolkien


In this issue:


Stuff (and links) from hither and yon


  1. In defense of Rudyard Kipling and ‘The Jungle Books’

  2. Stop. Using. Periods. Period.

  3. Interview with Fannie Flagg about WASP novel

  4. Ten rules for writing fiction

  5. How the Writer Listens: Svetlana Alexievich

  6. 1964 Playboy interview with Vladimir Nabokov

  7. Language Could Diagnose Parkinson’s, ALS and Schizophrenia before Lab Tests

  8. The Last Bookstore, Symbol of L.A.’s Literary Renaissance

  9. Virginia Woolf on How Our Illusions Keep Us Alive

  10. How Does the Language of Headlines Work? The Answer May Surprise You

  11. Former BBC head Mark Thompson on Trump, Orwell and what’s gone wrong with political language

  12. Why college kids are avoiding the study of literature

  13. Why most academics will always be bad writers

  14. John Hersey, the writer who let ‘Hiroshima’ speak for itself

  15. Paper or plastic? Why I hate handwritten sermon notes


Florida Heritage Book Festival Offers Writer’s Conference on Sept. 16

The NFW drops dues to $20, goes for six meetings a year in 2017

BookMark puts spotlight on the weirdness of Florida on Sept. 17

Jacksonville poet’s chapbook manuscript wins honors in Hopper competition

FWA blog for Northeast Florida

Clay Writers to meet Sept. 21 at Penney Farms Community Commons Room

Prize-winning workshop to start new series of classes

Writers by the Sea to hear Michael Regina discuss “How Art and Illustration Tell and Sell a Story”



REGULAR POSTINGS: Writers Born This Month . . . 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.


In defense of Rudyard Kipling

and ‘The Jungle Books’


Michael Dirda, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post, horrified an audience recently when he praised the writing of Rudyard Kipling, who forks lightning today for being “utterly beyond the pale, being at once racist, misogynist and imperialist.” Polling the audience, he discovered that the crowd only knew Kipling through the lens of Disney and other filmmakers. Dirda argued that Kipling was the finest short story writer in English in the 20th Century.


Stop. Using.




Jeff Guo is advising you NOT to use periods . . . at least in texting. If you text and use periods, you are signaling hostility, aggressiveness, etc. Of course, as he mentions, at one time in writing, there were no periods, commas, quotation marks, question marks, or apostrophes, not even any spaces. Thewriterjustwrotewhateverhehadtosayandthereaderstrivedtomakesenseofit.


Video interview

with Fannie Flagg

about WASP novel


A group was meeting at the café made famous by Fannie Flagg in “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Cafe,” and, when the author called for a recipe, she learned they were the women survivors from World War II who had flown planes that would be shipped to the male pilots. The WASP story grew into her novel, “All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion.” Ms. Flagg was born Patricia Neal, a name she couldn’t use on TV and film because it had been registered by the Academy Award-winning actress. She tells how she chose the name Fannie Flagg.


Ten rules

for writing



This article in the U.K.’s Guardian has collected the top ten rules for writing fiction from a bunch of writers, from Elmore Leonard to P. D. James. Frequent tips: Cut . . . write . . . shun adverbs . . . don’t drink and write.


How the Writer Listens:

Svetlana Alexievich


John Freeman interviews the Nobel Laureate, Svetlana Alexievich. Her books (which she calls novels) come from the words of real people, but she is not a Russian version of Studs Turkel.


1964 Playboy

interview with

Vladimir Nabokov


Interviewer Alvin Toffler asked Vladimir Nabokov, the author of “Lolita,” about the influence of Freud and got this response: “The ordeal itself is much too silly and disgusting to be contemplated even as a joke. Freudism and all it has tainted with its grotesque implications and methods, appear to me to be one of the vilest deceits practiced by people on themselves and on others. I reject it utterly, along with a few other medieval items still adored by the ignorant, the conventional, or the very sick.” (Minor point about the centerfold in Jan. 1964, if she was between 18 and 22 back then, she would be 70-75 today.)


Language Could Diagnose

Parkinson's, ALS and

Schizophrenia before Lab Test


Anne Pycha writes in Scientific America that several recent studies reveal what you say—and how you say it—provide clues about such diseases as Parkinson’s, Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), and schizophrenia, even before laboratory tests can actually confirm the problems. The studies involved from 27 to 45 individuals, too small a sampling to make sweeping conclusions.


The Last Bookstore,

Symbol of L.A.’s

Literary Renaissance


Alexander Nazaryan is delighted with his discovery of The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles. Says he: “The Last Bookstore is a potent symbol of the resurgent literary fortunes of Los Angeles. It has also become one of the finest independent bookstores in the nation, rivaling acknowledged greats like the Elliott Bay Book Company (Seattle), Pegasus Books (Berkeley), Politics & Prose (where else but Washington, D.C.?), Tattered Cover (Denver), Greenlight (Brooklyn) and Three Lives & Company (Manhattan).”


Virginia Woolf

on How Our Illusions

Keep Us Alive


Maria Popova opens her essay on Virginia Woolf by quoting from the English author’s “Orlando”: “Life is a dream. ’Tis waking that kills us. He who robs us of our dreams robs us of our life.”


Ms. Popova says that “long before psychologists began exploring the curious cognitive mechanism of how our delusions keep us sane, even before the poet W.H. Auden contemplated the crucial difference between false and true enchantment, Virginia Woolf explored the powerful positive side of illusions in Orlando: A Biography—her groundbreaking 1928 novel, aptly considered ‘the longest and most charming love letter in literature,’ which gave us Woolf’s fiction-veiled insight into perennial truths about the elasticity of time, the fluidity of gender, and our propensity for self-doubt in creative work.”


How Does the Language

of Headlines Work?

The Answer May Surprise You


This article opens with some interesting heds, including “Headless Body Found in Topless Bar” (New York Post) and “Nature Sends Her Egrets” (San Jose Mercury). After tracing the history of the modern headline, the writer gets down to fussing about “clickbait”—heds or content designed to get the reader to continue clicking on subject matter.


Former BBC head Mark Thompson

on Trump, Orwell and what’s

gone wrong with political language


In London’s Daily Telegraph, Jonathon Green reviews Mark Thompson’s “Enough Said: What’s Gone Wrong with the Politics of Language?” Thompson, the former head of the British Broadcasting Company, is now the chief executive at The New York Times.


Green wishes Thompson’s book had included H. L. Mencken, who said this about U.S. President Warren G. Harding (a journalist and publisher, by the way):


“He writes the worst English that I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash.”


Why college kids

are avoiding

the study of literature


Every decade has its Cassandras predicting that society or an academic discipline is about to crash and burn. Martha Nussbaum’s “Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities” predicts doom if we don’t change our ways. A rebuttal is this essay by Gary Saul Morson in Commentary. He argues that students will stay away from courses that are poorly taught. He gives suggestions about what’s wrong and how to change the system.


Why most academics

will always be

bad writers


Freelancer Noah Berlatsky says, “Academics don’t need to be elitist, careerist, or corrupted by postmodernism to write badly. Most people, most of the time, write badly. Writing well is hard. Celebrate those who have mastered it, and have some sympathy for the rest of us, laboring for competence one keystroke at a time.


John Hersey, the writer

who let ‘Hiroshima’

speak for itself


The New Yorker looks back at one of the important pieces of journalism in the 20th Century: John Hersey’s “Hiroshima,” which the magazine published seventy years ago. Russell Shorto describes how Hersey read Thornton Wilder’s novel, “The Bridge over San Luis Rey,” and realized a similar approach could enable Hiroshima survivors to tell their own story without authorial intrusions.


Paper or plastic?

Why I hate

handwritten sermon notes


Rev. Clint Archer of Hillcrest Baptist Church explores the way that novelists and ministers produce their words. He says thriller author Jeffrey Archer writes in longhand, using up a half dozen ballpoint pens for each novel. Some ministers prefer to stick with cursive. Rev. Archer, however, finds there are several practical reasons for using a word processing program (PC or tablet) to save the sermons.






The Florida Heritage Book Festival wants writers to join them Friday, Sept. 16, at St. Augustine’s Flagler College for a day of workshops dedicated to the working writer committed to improving his or her craft through face-to-face guidance by writing professionals. The conference is designed to help all writers, whether they are veterans or emerging talent.


The Festival begins Sept. 15 and ends on Sept. 17.


On the day of the writers’ conference, two sessions will run concurrently in each time slot.


9- 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 16

Creating Characters Who Stand the Test of Time (Michael Morris) This workshop will focus on character development, capturing oral history and research for fiction, with an emphasis on the historical genre.


Finding Bigfoot & Developing Scenes (Joe Gisondi) The author of “Monster Trek: The Obsessive Search for Bigfoot” is also a professor of journalism who has traveled to eight locations across the country, trekking into swamps, mountains, state parks, and remote woods with people in search of bigfoot as well as fame, fortune, adventure, and shared camaraderie. This session will show attendees how to develop scenes before, during and after spending time in a locale through research, interviews and observations.


10-11 a.m. Friday, Sept. 16

How to Let the Necessity of Plot Guide Your Writing (John Dufresne)


Bookstores & Beyond: Marketing in the Age of Amazon (Brad and Darlyn Kuhn) Learn how to brand yourself and sell your work from two writers who make a living at it.


11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16


My Fictional Floridians: Point of View and Narrative Shape (Susanna Daniel)


Lunch & Keynote

An author’s choice of point of view not only helms a narrative, but determines how that narrative will be imagined by the reader and how it will make the reader feel. Susanna Daniel will discuss how point of view shapes character, structure, and language in each of her three novels, and how to access the most vivid, astute, and compelling point of view in your own work.


12:30-1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16 Book Signing for Susanna Daniel


1-2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16 Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer (Roy Peter Clark) Based upon a book by that title, Roy Peter Clark will reveal the secrets of the writing process, from nuts and bolts to special effects to blueprints for stories to useful habits. These tools are proven to spark an immediate improvement in your prose.


Crafting the Character Arc (Jennie Jarvis) Many writers think that, just because they have their basic structure in place, their stories are destined to succeed. The problem with many narratives, however, can often come in those places between the plot points. While many books on the craft of writing state that characters need to be three dimensional and change, a beginning writer isn’t always sure how to turn these rather conceptual ideas into something a bit more concrete. Jennie Jarvis will detail a step-by-step practical guide for beginning writers to use in order to ensure they create characters both dynamic and engaging.


2 – 3 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16

From Self-Published Author to Number One National Best Seller: The Art and Craft of Writing a Mystery Novel (Terrell Griffin)


Our American Lives: Fact/Fiction/Film and Craft (Cecilia Milanes)


Blending genres is a challenging endeavor that can provide both exhilarating freedom and productive foundations and forms. By revisiting home movies, writers may find inspiration for fiction, memoir, and poetry–sometimes all fruitfully inhabiting one piece.


3-4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16

The Writing Life: Habits, Attitude, Luck and Poems (Florida Poet Laureate Peter Meinke)

He will various poems “about” writing, talk about his writing habits, and describe his experiences during a long career.


Storybrain: What Recent Discoveries in Neuroscience Mean for Fiction Writers (John Henry Fleming) Thanks to recent scientific developments, we are getting a real-time look at how the brain responds to stories. The results are fascinating and surprising; what do they mean for fiction writers? How might our new understanding of the brain influence the craft of fiction? This session will teach new ways of thinking about one’s stories and gain craft advice to help the aspiring writer to create a vivid and meaningful experience in the minds of the readers.


4 -5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16 A Good Title is Not Hard to Find (Robin Lippincott)


The speaker has been a teacher of fiction writing for many years and concludes that a lot of writers aren’t very good at titling their work, and yet the significance of a compelling title that fits cannot be underestimated. This lecture will explore why titles are so important, and also some guidelines by which to avoid bad titles, as well as how to create effective and meaningful titles. Along the way, we’ll look at some good (and even great) examples, as well as some bad ones.


5 - 5:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16


Book Signings and The Literary Legend Reception: Honoring Elaine Lobl (E.L.) Konigsburg, the late American writer and illustrator of children’s books. The posthumous award will be accepted by her son Paul Konigsburg. Register for the reception at


Free to All Book Festival on Saturday, Sept. 17


The Florida Heritage Book Festival will offer a day of free author presentations on Saturday.. This year’s mix of bestselling authors from a range of genres will force tough decisions about which presentations to attend. Check out the festival schedule.


Need new books? Over 70 writers, publishers and book stores will be available at Saturday’s Festival Marketplace for hourly drawings, signings and readings.  Authors and vendors at the book festival will include the following:; Bobbie Hinman; Linda Caden, Open Spaces, Inc.; Monica P. DePaul; Bruce Buckingham; Ken Thomas; Edward R. Laden Sr, Lead Story; Marlaena Shannon, illustrator/author; Robert Denis Holewinski; George Encizo; St. Augustine Record; Nancy Tart; Carrie Fletcher, BookBones; Meeka Cook, The Dorm Doctor; Katelin Maloney, Drowning;


 Taylor and Seale Publishing; Christine McCully, BlackBeard, RedBeard, Pirates ‘n More; Andrew Jarvis; Jonathan Schork; Josie Dorlus, JDWELL Ministries; Happy Science; Christine Kanitsch McCully, visual artist/ creator; Samuel Joeckel; Darien Kay Terrell; Ed Wilks, Legacies & Memories; Friends of the Public Library; Patricia Plummer; Penny Wagner, Karl the Grateful Dog;


Rebekah Aman, Keepers of the Essence; John Saucer; Jamie Pearce, Historic Haunts; eTreasures Publishing, LLC;


Dr. Roger Smith, The 14th Colony; Sarah A. Younger, A Bend in the Straight and Narrow; John Hope; Brooke Stewart; TM Brown; Laura Francois, Reckless Perfection Series; Sherrich Monsher; Sharetherich, LLC;


Folio Weekly; Anna Kern; Joyce Crawford, The Adventures of Thelma Thistle; Elizabeth Raven, Matanzas Moon; Florida Falun Dafa Assn.


For information about the Book Festival at Flagler College on Saturday, go to


For registration information, including costs, go to





North Florida Writers members at the August quarterly meeting voted on two measures important to the organization:


First, they reinstated dues, but at a reduced rate of $20 a year (for all previous categories). The dues will begin with the 2017 calendar year.


Second, the NFW decided to go from quarterly meetings to six meetings a year beginning in 2017: January, March, May, July, September, and November.


For 2016, the last meeting will be Saturday, Nov. 12, in the meeting room of the Riverside-Avondale Watson Realty branch (on the corner of Herschel and San Juan). The meeting will start at 1 or 2 p.m. (to be confirmed later), depending on how late the realty office is office.


The November speaker will be Sohrab Homi Fracis, whose upcoming book is “Go Home,” a novel about pressures on immigrants during the Iranian hostage crisis.


The meeting will also feature critiquing.






Owner Rona Brinlee says The BookMark (220 1st St., Neptune Beach 32266) will learn from Craig Pittman how America’s weirdest state influences the rest of the U.S. In other months, the bookstore will host Jennifer Fosberry and Randy Wayne White.


Craig Pittman, “Oh, Florida! How America’s Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country” (St. Martin’s Press) Saturday, Sept. 17, 7 p.m.


Every place has its idiosyncrasies, but journalist Pittman (The Scent of Scandal) makes a strong case for Florida being the strangest state in the nation. He relates bizarre events with assorted characters from Florida’s current culture and modern history. Covering diverse topics such as politics, plastic surgery, civil rights, Scientology, sinkholes, and NASCAR, the author shares news reports and scandals representing the oddity that is Florida. (This book is also featured in the BookMark newsletter as Laura’s staff pick for this month.)

Jennifer Fosberry, “Isabella: Girl in Charge” (Sourcebooks), Saturday, Oct. 15, 10 a.m.


A big event has Isabella ready to leave home at the crack of dawn. But that’s a motion her parents are not likely to pass.  If her house is going to work like a democracy, Isabella knows what she has to do; call an assembly and campaign her way out the door! Inspired by women who trail-blazed their way onto the political map of America, Isabella celebrates the women who were first to hold their offices.


Randy Wayne White, “Seduced” (A Hannah Smith novel) (G.P. Putnam’s Sons) Sunday, Oct. 23, 7 p.m.


Five hundred years ago, Spanish conquistadors planted the first orange seeds in Florida, but now the whole industry is in trouble.  The only solution might be somehow, somewhere, to find samples of the original root stock. No one is better equipped to traverse the swamps and murky back country of Florida than Hannah Smith, a tall, strong Florida woman whose family roots go back generations. Once word leaks out of her quest, trouble begins. There are people who will kill to find a direct descendant of those first seeds.


For other information, go to the bookstore’s website at or email the store at; 904.241.9026.







In June, Jacksonville poet Emily K. Michael placed well in a chapbook contest offering The Hopper's Prize for Young Poets. The Hopper, the Vermont-based ecologically minded magazine, published one of her essays in April.


This contest called for a chapbook, a collection of 20-50 poems by a "young poet" (under 35) who had never published a collection before. Ms. Michael says, “So I shuffled and re-shuffled my poems, read them to myself, read them with friends, and sent them off.”


Her manuscript, “Natural Compliance,” won Honorable Mention (3rd place) in the contest. The Hopper wanted to profile her on their website and include a poem from the collection. Their profile features the poem "Kiwano."


Here is their profile on Ms. Michael and her collection.






September brings temporal competitions for writers, what with college and NFL football, so the writer needs to force time into the calendar to make sure the keyboard isn’t being neglected. If you want to confer inside with fellow writers, then go to the FWA blog and check out meetings of the River City Writers, the Clay County Writers, Writers by the Sea, the Ancient City Writers, and the Ponte Vedra Writers.


For more information, contact Vic DiGenti, FWA Regional Director, at or






The Clay County Writers will again leave the Clay County Library on Wednesday, Sept. 21, because of the election seasons, when the meeting rooms of public libraries are already booked for ballot training and early voting,. The group will meet instead at Penney Farms Community Commons Room. The meeting will start at 6 and last till 8 p.m.


Maureen Jung, group leader, will lead a discussion on “How to Write a Summary” and give a sneak preview of anthology stories.


Writers may wonder how to write summaries of their essays, stories, poems, and projects. She says, “Naturally, no single approach works for all writers. The methods may be as diverse as the number of writers you ask.”


Clay County Writers is sponsored by Florida Writers Association. Get the details on this statewide group: Monthly meetings focus on the art, craft, and business of writing. Some meetings offer presentations by author-speakers. Other meetings introduce practical exercises to help writers sharpen their skills, give and receive feedback, and leave with practical suggestions to improve their work.


For more information, contact Ms. Jung or go to the Facebook page at .





A writing workshop on a shanty boat docked on the Trout River is beginning a new series of classes on Oct. 5-Nov. 9, 2016, according to freelance writer and editor of Closet Books, 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 and other national awards.


The evening session meets every Wednesday from 6 to 9 p.m., 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







An illustrator-editor will speak to Amelia’s Writers by the Sea on Thursday, Sept. 15, when the group meets at 6 p.m. at the Amelia Island Museum of History (233 S. 3rd Street, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034).


Michael Regina will provide an artist’s approach to “How Art and Illustration Tell and Sell a Story.” The speaker is an award winning film editor, painter and illustrator, largely known for his portraits and comics work: His online graphic novel, From Death ‘til Now, has increased interest in his comics work.


Aside from developing his own projects, Regina has served as an assistant on the last two volumes of Scholastic's popular series, Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi. Regina received a BFA in Painting and Drawing at the University of North Florida and studied under several painting masters, including portrait artist Kyle Keith.


Regina’s comics work is represented by FinePrint Literary Management. http://


The event is free to all writers. For more information about Writers by the Sea, go to its FaceBook page at 





Cursively yours


Dear editor:


Thanks for sharing the update about cursive writing making a bit of a comeback! I know someone who wrote instructions for caring for some cats and dogs, and the caretakers couldn’t read her notes because they were in cursive. And don’t we still need signatures?


Joy V. Smith

author of “Strike Threeand other books


RIP “bi-monthly”


Dear readers:


If you have trouble remembering what exactly is meant by, say, “bi-weekly” or “semi-weekly,” you may have to look that up. I wanted to make certain that our article about NFW meetings every other month got it correctly. The rule of thumb for an editor or writer is “When in doubt, look it up.” Was it “bi-” or “semi-monthly”?


It turns out that three or four respected online dictionaries said “bi-monthly” can mean (wait for it) “meets every other month” OR “meets twice a month.” Alas, a perfectly good expression that once had a real meaning now has no useful meaning. If you use it, you are inviting confusion into your communications.


“Infer” and “imply” are still alive and have specific meanings, but the words are on life support and may become interchangeable. All will be lost when there’s an English handbook entitled “Learn ’Em Good Like Us Should.”


Howard Denson

Author of “The Wrong Stuff: Findings of a Forensic Grammarian” and other books





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.


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 at





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

To begin, click on:





If you have a finished manuscript that you want critiqued or proofread, then look for someone at


Check out their entries on the website to see if they suit your needs.


They include the following:


Robert Blade Writing & Editing (;

Frank Green of The Bard Society (;

JJ Grindstaff-Swathwood (;

Brad Hall (;

Lynn Skapyak Harlin (;

Joseph Kaval (;

Richard Levine (




President: Howard Denson (hd3nson@hotmail. com)

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

Secretary: Kathy Marsh (kathygmarsh@bellsouth. net)

Treasurer: Richard Levine (


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