Writing News for the Sunshine State & the Solar System
We host distinguished guest speakers, and help each other with critiquing sessions. Past speakers have included Emily K. Michael,
Log into Facebook to start sharing and connecting with your friends, family, and people you know.

Editor: Howard Denson

February 2017


Writing is like praying, because you stop all other activities, descend into silence, and listen patiently to the depths of your soul, waiting for true words to come. When they do, you thank God because you know the words are a gift, and you write them down as honestly and cleanly as you can.

 —Helen Prejean C.S.J.

In this issue:


Stuff (and links) from hither and yon

Essential reading: nine experts on the books that inspired them
  1. A conversation with naval fiction writer David Poyer, author of Onslaught
  2. Baboons make vowel sounds similar to humans revealing the evolution of language, study finds
  3. Chomsky, Wolfe and me
  4. The long, steady decline of literary reading
  5. Cash for Words: A Brief History of Writing for Money
  6. What was the source of Krazy Kat’s comic genius?
  7. Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books
  8. Pronoun Sets New Self-Publishing Author Royalty Rate
  9. And How Are We Tonight, President Trump?
  10. The Image of a Writer
  11. The evolution of Batgirl over the past 50 years
  12. The strange history of compulsive book buying


Mar. 11 speaker for NFW will be Anne Payne, freestyle book organizer

Letters – Frank Green and Joyce Davidson

Bookmark Welcomes Lisa Gardner, Tim Dorsey, K.J. Howe, Trudy Nan Boyce, and Will Schwalbe

Amelia Writers to Hear Vic Digenti Speak about “The Writer’s Journey” on Feb. 16

FWA blog for Northeast Florida

Clay Writers to Get Tips on Travel Writing from Kathleen Walls


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.

 Essential reading: nine experts  on the books that inspired them

From film to philosophy, from music to history and economics, masters of their crafts pick the five books they could not live without. These experts include Alain de Botton, Helena Kennedy, Mark Kermode, Paul Morley, Steven Pinker, Olivia Laing, Noreena Hertz, David Olusoga, and Richard Mabey. The books may focus on myth, the sayings of Seneca, and filmmaking.


A conversation with naval fiction writer David Poyer, author of Onslaught

 It is not surprising that CIMSEC wanted to interview naval fiction writer David Poyer. The publication is put out by the Center for International Maritime Security. Poyer’s latest, ONSLAUGHT, is based on a war between the U.S. and China. Poyer explains that his books can’t be snatched from current headlines since it takes about two years for a book to go from writing to publication.

Baboons make vowel sounds similar to humans revealing the evolution of language, study finds

 Ian Johnston reports that researchers' analysis of the monkeys' grunts, barks, ‘wahoos’, ‘yaks’ and copulation calls could have major implications for the evolution of language. Johnston said, “It was thought that baboons, a type of monkey, lacked the right kind of larynx to make such a range of sounds. However an acoustical analysis of their grunts, barks, ‘wahoos’, ‘yaks’ and copulation calls found they were capable of remarkably human vocalisations.”

Chomsky, Wolfe and me

 Daniel Everett, author of DARK MATTER OF THE MIND: THE CULTURALLY ARTICULATED UNCONSCIOUS, writes, “I took on Noam Chomsky’s ideas about language and unleashed a decade of debate and ridicule. But is my argument wrong?”


The long, steady decline  of literary reading

 A report from the National Endowment in the Arts compares reading trends from 1982 to 2015. The rate when the studies began was 56.9 percent, but the 2015 results showed that 43.1 percent of adults read at least one work of literature in the previous year. That's the lowest percentage in any year since NEA surveys began tracking reading and arts participation. (The studies exclude required readings for students.)


Cash for words: a brief history of writing for money

 Should writers “give away” their words? Colin Dickey explores this issue in an excerpt from “Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living.” He notes that money taints everything, why not writing too? Much of the discussion in this section goes back to the Ancient Greeks (Simonides, Pindar, et al.). Elsewhere, the collection no doubt quotes Samuel Johnson: “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.”


What was the source of Krazy Kat’s comic genius?

Glen David Gold’s article in The Washington Post contains links to others’ books on George Herriman’s “Krazy Kat.” His jumping-off point is Michael Tisserand’s new biography “Krazy,” which examines Herriman’s subversive humor. Books will tell how T.S. Eliot, e.e. cummings, and others admired Herriman, and then they will note the influence on his artwork by the Armory Show, the Surrealists, etc. An interesting problem in his life is that Herriman, a Creole (like Jelly Roll Morton), was “passing” as white (with the cooperation of his newspaper colleagues who would call him “the Greek”).


Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books

In an interview a week before leaving office, President Obama talks with Michiko Kakutani about the roles of books in his life and in office, too. Obama, of course, is not the only reader to be president. The Library of Congress owes a great debt to books from Thomas Jefferson. Abraham Lincoln liked to read and was an excellent stylist. U. S. Grant still ranks as the best autobiographer of various presidents, and he was a voracious reader of novels during his time at West Point. Theodore Roosevelt was a prolific writer. Herbert Hoover wasn’t as busy as TR, but turned out much work. Harry Truman didn’t go to college, but read every book in his hometown library. John Kennedy won a Pulitzer for PROFILES IN COURAGE. Richard Nixon wrote extensively and used his writing to redeem himself with the public. Jimmy Carter is the only president who published a novel (a creditable one, too). It was unfairly said of Eisenhower that “If Zane Grey didn’t write it, Ike didn’t know it.”


For a comprehensive list of Obama’s unofficial book club, go to


Pronoun sets new self-publishing author royalty rate

 Calvin Reid notes in Publisher’s Weekly that Macmillan’s self-publishing subsidiary, Pronoun, has established some new author royalty rates for ebooks sold in Canada and the U.S.  Reid reports: “Beginning on January 17, authors publishing books via Pronoun can earn 70% of the list price as a royalty on books sold in the U.S. and Canada, priced at $9.99 or less, and can earn 65% of the list price for a book priced above $9.99. Previously, Pronoun authors selling books for less than $2.99 received a 35% royalty, similar to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program.


And how are we tonight, President Trump?

 Tired of political columns and diatribes? Well, relax, because Ann Marlowe is writing more about bad faith, political speech, and the intrusive “we,” particularly when used by servers in restaurants or valets for parking services. The writer does take a poke or two at statements by Obama, Trump, and others.


The image of a writer

 Randall Fuller, a professor at the University of Tulsa, uses as a springboard Michael Kearns’s WRITING FOR THE STREET, WRITING IN THE GARRET: MELVILLE, DICKINSON, AND PRIVATE PUBLICATION. He describes the book as a meditation on the way both authors imagined themselves as authors.


The evolution of Batgirl over the past 50 years

 Yes, your mama threw out your treasures, all of the D.C. (and Marvel) comics taking up space in the basement, but you will be able to reminisce the evolution of Batwoman and Batgirl over the past 60 or so years.


The strange history of compulsive book buying

 Lorraine Berry admits that she lives amid books and more books, especially those in the TBR stack (to be read). She describes the impact of Thomas Frognall Dibdin, an English cleric and bibliographer, who wrote Bibliomania, or Book Madness: A Bibliographical Romance, “a gentle satire of those he saw as afflicted with this ‘neurosis.’”





The North Florida Writers will not meet during February, but the Mar.11 meeting will feature Anne Payne, a writer and reviewer for The Florida Times-Union. The talk will be 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 p.m.

 She has been a regular book reviewer for The Times-Union since 2011. Her reviews are primarily of books in the literary fiction, memoir, crime fiction, and general nonfiction genres. Since 2007 she has been the organizer of the Jax Freestyle Book Club for Real Readers on The format, which she developed, is that each member who wants to attend chooses from a list of books around the month's topic. She curates the topics and lists, with member input. The intense exposure, from reviewing and leading the group, to new books from major publishers has given her insight into what works in the current market.


The URL for her book group is

 The meeting will also feature critiquing.

 Members have 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.


Value of short story form


The January newsletter’s quote made a valuable point when George R.R. Martin said, "I would also suggest that any aspiring writer begin with short stories. These days, I meet far too many young writers who try to start off with a novel right off, or a trilogy, or even a nine-book series. That’s like starting in at rock climbing by tackling Mt. Everest. Short stories help you learn your craft.”

As I emphasize to aspiring writers at the meetings of The Bard Society, the short story is the supreme art form with strict demands on tightness of the words with no word being able to be other than what and where it is. Writing a great short story is nearly impossible. Most readers don't know how or even like to read short stories. An apprentice or journeyman writer can write a hundred short stories and learn only a small amount about the craft and vision of Story. On the other hand, writing even that first bad novel will force the writer to learn (read "teach oneself") close to ninety percent of what is needed to write good fiction. The main reason for this is that in learning a craft the first thing that must be done is to get the mistakes out of the way, and the novel offers a lot more space to do so.

 Frank Green, Bard Society, Jacksonville, Florida


On de Vere and Shakespeare



The January newsletter’s Hither and Yon section had a link to a story about the identity of the author of the plays attributed to William Shakespeare.

I traveled to Stratford years ago, and I questioned the authorship then from what I heard and saw. I was thrilled to learn so many authors have pursued this. Almost any book about de Vere gives compelling evidence, especially Mark Anderson's thoughtful study. I should hope the sleuth has more evidence than a family crest because de Vere's family crest was much older and had spears on it--Shakspear. I am convinced, and many notable authors over the years are sure that Will Shakespeare, the actor, had no qualifications to write the sonnets or the plays. 

Joyce Davidson, Green Cove Springs, Florida



  Owner Rona Brinlee says The BookMark (220 1st St., Neptune Beach 32266) will host such writers as Lisa Gardner, Tim Dorsey, K. J. Howe, Trudy Nan Boyce, and Will Schwalbe during February and March.

Lisa Gardner, RIGHT BEHIND YOU (Dutton Books), Thursday, Feb. 2, 7 p.m.

Bestseller Lisa Gardner's edge-of-your-seat thriller brings back law-enforcement couple last seen in SAY GOODBYE.  Quincy, a retired FBI agent, and Conner, an investigative consultant for the Bakersville County sheriff's department, have been fostering 13-year-old Sharlah for three years and want to adopt her. When Sharlah's brother is caught on a security camera shooting a clerk and a customer to death in a gas station, Quincy and Conner work on protecting Sharlah and locating her brother. Devilishly clever twists propel Gardner's tale of family bonds fractured, mended, and sometimes destroyed.

 Tim Dorsey, CLOWNFISH BLUES (William Morrow), Friday, Feb. 3, 7 p.m.

 If you're loud and proud Floridian Serge A. Storms, how do you follow up your very own remake of Easy Rider? You shoot your own "episodes" of your favorite classic television show, Route 66!  With Coleman riding shotgun, Serge is rolling down the highway of his dreams in a vintage silver convertible Corvette just like the snazzy car Martin Milner drove. It doesn't matter that the actual Route 66 didn't pass through Florida, for Serge discovers that a dozen episodes near the series end were filmed (really!) in his beloved home state. So for Serge and the always toked and stoked Coleman, the Sunshine State is all the road you need to get your kicks.

 But their adventure traveling the byways of the Sunshine State's underbelly is about to take a detour. Someone is trying to tilt the odds in the state lottery amidst a conga line of huge jackpots spinning off more chaos than any hurricane season. With this much at stake, of course every shady character wants in. With Serge and Coleman involved, you know mayhem will ensue.


K. J. Howe, THE FREEDOM BROKER (Quercus Books), Saturday, Feb. 11, 7 p.m. (with bestselling author Steve Berry)

Kidnap and rescue expert Thea Paris has suffered from survivor's guilt ever since her brother, Nikos, was kidnapped 20 years earlier at age 12, despite his safe return. In the present day, the stakes get personal again when Thea's wealthy father, Christos, is kidnapped on his 60th birthday from his yacht.  A powerful oil baron about to make the deal of a lifetime, Christos has certainly made his share of enemies. Thea expects a ransom demand, but instead a series of foreboding messages in Latin come to her father's phone. With no way to know whether her father is still alive, or who's behind the kidnapping, Thea must fight the clock, her own secrets, and those of her closest family members in order to find the truth. Lee Child calls Howe's debut "razor sharp and full of you-are-there authenticity—a superb thriller."


Trudy Nan Boyce, OLD BONES (G. P. Putnam's Sons), Wednesday, March 1, 7 p.m.

 In her second Detective Sarah Alt novel, former Atlanta police officer Boyce presents a vivid, unflinching view of police work in a southern setting in which disturbing legacies can come to haunt native residents. Atlanta PD Detective Sarah Alt, known as Salt, is smart, compassionate, and dedicated to the people she serves.  Then she hits a bad patch. She's sent to a shrink to determine her fitness for duty; she and her colleagues are pulled off cases to do riot control after eleven Spelman coeds are shot during a night vigil; and she's warned that pursuing a particular lead in a murder case will put her career at risk. At the same time, she's trying to figure out how to make a permanent relationship work with fellow detective Bernard Wills, with two homes, three dogs, and five sheep between them, not to mention a department policy that would require one of them to transfer out of the homicide unit.


Will Schwalbe, BOOKS FOR THE LIVING (Knopf), Friday, March 3, 7 p.m.

 Reading, Schwalbe writes, is one of the few things you do alone that makes you feel less alone. This publishing executive and author of the best-selling memoir The End of Your Life Book Club also states, I've always believed that everything you need to know you can find in a book. Crime fiction, he suggests, can teach us a lot about trust. Orwell's 1984 prompts Schwalbe to observe that books offer shelter from the tyranny of digital bombardment and endless connectivity, coaxing us to slow down, savor, and ponder. This is the theme of The Importance of Living (1937) by Lin Yutang, a long-forgotten philosophical work that serves as the touchstone for Schwalbe's tribute to the endless bounty of reading. Each chapter about a beloved book--Stuart Little, David Copperfield, Song of Solomon, Bird by Bird--is a finely crafted, generously candid, and affecting personal essay.  In this warmly engaging, enlightening, and stirring memoir-in-books and literary celebration, Schwalbe reminds us that reading isn't just a strike against narrowness, mind control, and domination; it's one of the world's greatest joys.

 Also coming ... Troylyn Ball (Pure Heart: A Spirited Tale of Grace, Grit, and Whiskey) ... Brad Parks (Say Nothing) ... Tricia Booker (The Place of Peace and Crickets) ... Greg Iles (Mississippi Blood) and more!


Story Time with Miss Pat, Saturday March 11, 9 a.m.

 Unfortunately, we're going to miss our monthly Story Time in February.  We encourage you to read to each other.  We will resume our regularly scheduled time on the second Saturday of the month in March.



 “The Writer’s Journey” will be discussed by novelist Vic DiGenti at the Writers by the Sea meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16, in the Amelia Island Museum of History (233 S. 3rd Street, Downtown Fernandina Beach, FL).

 According to DiGenti, in writing the story of our lives - biography or memoir - think of our lives as a meandering river with a starting and ending point. Each major turning point is a stepping-stone amidst waters that bubble and boil around it. Each stone marks an important life-changing event.

 DiGenti's career in broadcasting and special events turned to his first love — writing - after he produced the Jacksonville Jazz Festival for eight years. His three traditionally published, award-winning Windrusher novels preceded his leap into the hard-boiled mystery/suspense field. Using the pen name Parker Francis, Vic wrote three novels in the Quint Mitchell Mystery series and a short story collection Ghostly Whispers, Secret Voices.

 Lately, he’s worked as a ghostwriter and biographer. Vic serves as Executive Vice President for the Florida Writers Association, FWA’s Regional Director for NE Florida, and group leader of the Ponte Vedra Writers, and Faculty Chair for the 2017 FWA Conference. Check the Face Book Page - Writers by the Sea - Amelia Island - for up-to-date details.



 Groundhog’s Day was a minor event for February, but, when the Harold Ramis film of the same name came along, it became a new day: a parable for us to relive a day until we get it right. For an aspiring writer, that means putting the right words on paper. When the Sonny and Cher number on the radio-clock wakes us up again, we know we have to revise our day’s output. To do this and get insights, you may need to confer with fellow writers., You may 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 hear Kathleen Walls, journalist, travel writer, and publisher, speak on “Travel Writing” at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 15, in the meeting room of the Orange Park Public Library (2054 Plainfield Ave., Orange Park, behind the Dairy Queen on Kingsley Ave.).

 To seek more information, call (904) 298-5714 or use this email address,

 Ms. Walls says, “Travel writing is not all glamor and glitz. It’s hard work, but so rewarding.” A travel writer since 1992, Woodall’s Southern RV published her first article on RVing at River Junction. She will discuss:

 She also posts a warning, “Travel writing is like gambling it’s addictive. If you are just doing it for the money, don’t.”

 Today Kathleen publishes and writes for American Roads and Global Highways. Her travel books include GEORGIA’S GHOSTLY GETAWAYS, FINDING FLORIDA’S PHANTOMS, HOSTS WITH GHOSTS, and the WILD ABOUT FLORIDA series. Her articles have appeared in Georgia Magazine, and Country Music People (London, England). She’s a member of International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association and North American Journalists Association.

 Learn more at:,

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

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



.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 (;




 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