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

  In this issue:
Stuff (and links) from hither and yon

 Chomsky was right: We do have a ‘grammar’ in our head
* The 10 Best Books of 2015
* Instead of sobbing you write sentences
* George Saunders on story
* The poem the Pope wants you to read
Education novelist Edward M. Baldwin to speak to NFW on Jan. 9

Book of Birthdays of Writers and Selected Quotes being Assembled; Should You Be Included?

BookMark to host Chris Bohjalian on Wednesday

Clay Writers have sixth anniversary; meeting focuses on anthology
FWA news from Vic DiGenti

Amelia Island’s Writers by the Sea open year on Thursday, Jan. 21 by hearing poet Jean Vincennes
Writers Born This Month

 Keep up with the NFW on our Facebook page.

Useful tools for writers, poets, and playwrights.

Need someone to critique a manuscript?

The Write Staff

Click on the links below to read each article.
Chomsky was right:
We do have a ‘grammar’
 in our head
A team of neuroscientists has found new support linguist Noam Chomsky’s decades-old theory that we possess an ‘internal grammar’ that allows us to comprehend even nonsensical phrases. The research “posited that we can recognize a phrase such as ‘Colorless green ideas sleep furiously’ as both nonsensical and grammatically correct because we have an abstract knowledge base that allows us to make such distinctions even though the statistical relations between words are non-existent.”
The 10 Best Books of 2015
The New York Times has selected the ten best books of 2015, beginning with “The Door”
by Magda Szabo (translated by Len Rix). For the rest, click on
Why Writing Fiction is Hard
Fiction editor Beth Hill explores what must go right as a writer plows his way through his or her first novel. For example, the writing may be grammatical and clear, but, if it is mundane and tepid, an editor will not select it for publication.
Instead of sobbing you write sentences
Leslie Jamison’s interview with Charles D’Ambrosio first appeared in The New Yorker.
George Saunders on story
In a brief video, George Saunders explains how a story can move from “George is an asshole” to something more interesting and compelling.
The poem the Pope wants you to read
Most Americans are not able to get the full effect of Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” since we generally don’t read Italian. Even so, some fine translations have been made, including one by the late John Ciardi. Pope Francis highly recommends this masterpiece to those open to suggestions about what to read.
Edward M. Baldwin, America’s education novelist, will speak to the North Florida Writers on Saturday, Jan. 9. He is the author of the “Duval County books,” classroom dramas set in a fictitious Duval County school district. “Learnt,” his first Duval County novel, met with repeated praise from reviewers. “Victims of Shakespeare,” the next book in the series, was released in 2015, followed by “Teacher Deficit Disorder” and “Gun Point Average” respectively.
He also writes short stories with teachers, students, and parents being his primary audience. “Parent Plots, Teacher Tales & Student Stories” was recently published. As an English Education graduate of the University of North Florida, he has served as a high school English teacher and literacy coordinator. He has also helped people pursue their goals by serving as an adjunct professor for an adult education program, where he taught English and a “Strategies for Success” course.
He is an avid tennis player and believes that it is one of the most demanding sports on the planet, comparing it to the martial arts that he used to study diligently. He spends much of his time visiting public schools, coaching tennis, tutoring aspiring writers, and, of course, writing.
He is the editor of three blogs: Baldwin Memorable Moments, Tips to Treasure (Writing Tips for Writers), and Two Cents with Lint. He lives in Jacksonville with his wife, three children, and two cats. You can visit him at
Critiques after the speaker
For the critiques, someone other than the author of respective works will read aloud the submissions (up to 20 double-spaced TYPED pages of prose, and reasonable amounts of poetry or lyrics). Authors may not defend their work, but they may attach questions they would like answered (e.g., “Is the scene on the beach convincing?”). Authors should listen to the words and rhythms of their creations.
Parking: VyStar requests that NFW members and guests park on the side of the buildings to leave spaces in front for their regular customers.
Long-time readers of The Write Stuff newsletter are familiar with two of our features: “Writers Born This Month” and “Stuff from a Writer’s Quill.”
An imp from on high suggested that the two features should be combined (as much as possible) into a directory of birthdays of wordsmiths, plus three or more quotations per day.
Already added to the list are some birthdays of the faculty-speakers for the Writers’ Festival, perhaps dating back 20 years. Since that time, cautious Americans have focused on ID theft and may not want exact days, months, and years listed.
Writers may want to use “pen-birthdays.” For example, if someone were born on Jan. 1 in 1950, he or she might take his or her father’s day and month (May 17) and the year for one of the siblings (1973).
Born in January
Jan. 1-- Antoinette du Ligier de la Guard Deshoulieres (1638), Elkanah Settle (1648), Soame Jenyns (1704), Kristijonas Donelaitis (1714), Maria Edgeworth (1767), Arthur Hugh Clough (1819), Sándor Petőfi (1823), Ludovic Halévy (1834), James Frazer (1854), Aleko Konstantinov (1863), Charles Edward Montague (1867), Mariano Azuela (1873), E(dward) M(organ) Forster (1879), Ernest Jones (1879), Sholem Asch (1880), Carry van Bridges (1881), Federigo Tozzi (1883), Catherine Drinker Bowen (1897), Russ Bender (1910), Eliot Janeway (1913), François Bondy (1915), J(erome) D(avid) Salinger (1919), Roger Peacock (1920), Roberts Blossom (1924), Ernest R. Tidyman (1928), Joe Orton (1933), Peter Dormer (1949), Ashfaq Hussain (1951), Anwar Mansoor Mangrio (1973).
Writing comes more easily if you have something to say.-- Sholem Asch
Writing, I think, is not apart from living. Writing is a kind of double living. The writer experiences everything twice. Once in reality and once in that mirror which waits always before or behind. – Catherine Drinker Bowen
What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though. ― J.D. Salinger
What should the quote be about? Generally on some aspect of the writing process, creativity, or attitudes toward life. Avoid any quotes about, say, the cute ferocity of Fluffy, your pet; plugs for your books/reviews; political remarks divorced from your writing. When will the directory be available? Probably early in 2016. The project is already adding to the 1,100 quotes laid out for the 366 days.
The final project will be available in paperback on for $10-15. At times, the e-version may even be free.
The BookMark at Neptune Beach has already scheduled Chris Bohjalian, author of “The Guest Room,” to appear at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 6, according to owner Rona Brinlee.
Ms. Brinlee says “The Guest Room” is a spellbinding tale of a party gone horribly wrong: two men lie dead in a suburban living room, two women are on the run from the police, and a marriage is ripping apart at the seams.
When Richard Chapman offers to host his younger brother's bachelor party, he expects a certain amount of debauchery. What he does not expect is this: bacchanalian drunkenness, a dangerously intimate moment in his guest room, and two naked women stabbing and killing their Russian bodyguards. In the aftermath, Richard's life falls apart, and the women from the guest room is being hunted by the police who want to question her and gangsters who want to kill her.
“The Guest Room” is a captivating, chilling story about shame and scandal from the bestselling author of "Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands", "The Sandcastle Girls", and "Midwives", among others. Chris Bohjalian's work has been translated into more than 30 languages, and three of his novels have become movies. He lives in Vermont with his wife and daughter.
Tim Dorsey will sign copies of “Coconut Cowboy” at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 5. 
The BookMark is located at 220 First St., Neptune Beach, Fla. 32266.
For more information: Contact Ms. Brinlee at 904.241.9026 or
Join the Clay County Writers for our sixth anniversary as a Florida Writers’ Assn. group in Clay County.  We will meet from 6:15 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20, at the Orange Park Public Library, Meeting Room (2054 Plainfield Ave., off Kingsley Ave., behind the Dairy Queen). Meetings are free and open to all.
Our focus will be “Embedded in Clay: An Anthology in the Making.” Join us for a conversation about our anthology-in-progress, followed by a brief writing exercise.
·        Learn more about Clay County stories and local writers.
·        Discover how you can get involved with this exciting project.
·        Add tips and tools to upgrade your writing skills.
You don’t have to be an author to participate in this program to share local stories with residents across the community and inspire others to write.
We’ve all got a story. What’s yours?
We’ll also do a focusing exercise for 2016. We’ll help you turn ideas into smart goals with do-able steps to move your projects forward in the coming year. Bring your mindmap, to-do list, or fragments of your fondest dreams. We’ll provide the rest.
Clay County Writers is sponsored by Florida Writers Association ( Monthly meetings focus on the art, craft, and business of writing. Some meetings offer presentations by author-speakers. Other meetings include practical exercises to help writers sharpen their skills, give and receive feedback, and leave with practical suggestions to improve their work.
To learn more, check out the group on Facebook at “Clay County Writers” or visit: 
Dr. Maureen Jung facilitates this conversation and exercise. A writer, editor, and workshop leader for 30+ years, she has trained thousands of adults to write with greater skill, confidence, and power. A Fellow of the South Coast Writing Project, part of the National Writing Project, she has delivered workshops and presentations for scores of organizations, including: Florida Heritage Book Festival, Network for a Healthy California, John Muir Center for Regional Studies, Western History Assn., and Florida State University Retirees Assn.
January is a time for resolutions for the New Year, of course, and naturally aspiring writers may feel guilty about not writing enough (or at all) or even attending workshops of writing groups. We can’t fix 2015, but 2016 is new territory. You will want to attend one of the area FWA meetings. Most of the details can be found in this month’s FWA NE Florida Blog post freshly published monthly.
Read it before heading breaking any resolutions. Click here to visit the post.
Best of luck in this New Year,
-- Vic DiGenti, FWA Regional Director. Websites:
The Writers by the Sea group of Amelia Island kicks off its 2016 schedule with a talk by poet-novelist Jean Vincennes at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21, at the Amelia Island Museum of History (Third St., near Downtown Fernandina Beach). The group will begin with introductions and announcements before the speaker’s presentation at 6:30, according to group leader
Nadine Vaughan, Ph.D. (
“John” Vincennes talk will be A Poetry Primer. It will encourage writers to explore how they might express their lyrical selves through the genre of poetry. Vincennes will compare poetry to other writing genres, such as novels, screenplays, and short stories; he will examine the primary tools available to the poet and discuss how to select a topic for your poems. In a year when poetry promises to take on a new importance in Nassau County, this is a meeting you don't want to miss. Better yet, there is no charge to attend. For last minute details and descriptions of our meetings in 2015, please check out our FaceBook  page at:
Vincennes writes poetry, general fiction, and historical fiction.  His five published works include the following:  Amelia's Songs, Fringe Fiction, Cop Stories, A Dog's Life, and of course, Poetry.  To learn more about the author or to purchase his books, visit
he New York Time

Follow the link below to find where often sane and sensible writers (and editors) have stumbled in their writing:
The second edition of a paperback collection, “The Wrong Stuff: Findings of a Forensic Grammarian,” is available online at and Barnes & Nobel’s website. Go to
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.
Looking for your favorite writer? Hit “find” at the website and type in your favorite’s name. Keep scrolling to find writers born in other months.
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).
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 (; Joseph Kaval (; and 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.

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