NFW to hear Author Concierge; other speakers in town (WS 0516
Writing News for the Sunshine State & the Solar System
Editor: Howard Denson
May 2016

I am more the inspirational type of speller. I work on hunches rather than mere facts, and the result is sometimes open to criticism by purists.
 — Robert Benchley
In this issue:
Stuff (and links) from hither and yon
May 14 speaker for the NFW will be Author Concierge Maria Connor; 2 p.m. Saturday at Avondale Watson Realty
Comedy writer to give insights to Writers by the Sea on May 19
Clay Writers to learn about strategies for writing nonfiction narratives
‘The Bridge Ladies” author to be at BookMark May 5
FWA news from Vic DiGenti
Friends and members give suggestions to update procedures for the North Florida Writers
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.
Awards affirm
highest values
of human spirit
Several authors and illustrators will be honored with the Christopher Awards for 2016. Most people won’t notice that illustrator/artist Barry Root won for the second time. Their attention will probably be on awards to Dolly Parton and others in the media. The Christopher Awards were created in 1949 to celebrate writers, producers, directors, authors and illustrators whose work “affirms the highest values of the human spirit.”
The reading habits
of ultra-successful
If you are sitting on your derriere reading most of the day, you can deflect criticism by pointing out that’s what billionaire Warren Buffett does. Many other successful people are voracious readers, as you will find at .
Shakespeare died a nobody,
then got famous by accident
On the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, Andrea Mays and James L. Swanson give praise to John Heminges and Henry Condell, two of Shakespeare’s friends, fellow actors and shareholders in the King’s Men theatrical company. The cultural heroes produced the First Folio and thus saved the Bard’s works. The authors point out, “He hadn’t even published his plays — during his lifetime they were considered ephemeral amusements, not serious literature.” The article doesn’t mention that copyright laws didn’t exist and plays weren’t generally published because another acting company would rip them off.
Lots of stabbings and 2 deaths
by pie: every death in
Shakespeare, in one chart
Dara Lind notices a pie-chart in London’s Telegraph about the exorbitant deaths in the plays of Shakespeare. The joke has been, if everyone dies at the end, it’s a tragedy; if everyone marries at the end, it’s a comedy. Deaths fall into these categories (and more): stabbed, drowned, snake-bite, grief, ripped apart by mob, and --
How Literature
Word Perfect
Josephine Livingstone reviews Matthew G. Kirschenbaum’s new book, “Track Changes,” which is a literary history of the early years of word processing, from the late 1960s through the mid-’80s. Writers are apt to steal their neighbors’ hubcaps unless there’s a provocative topic to occupy their minds. “To scribble and type vs. to keyboard” provides that distraction. Word processing can mean that a story or book is dashed off, looking letter perfect, but not ready for prime-time readers at all . . . or it can enable a writer to move text and monkey endlessly with the words.
North Florida Writers will hear Maria Connor a/k/a the Author Concierge Saturday, May 14. The meeting will start at 2 p.m. and be held in the meeting room of the Riverside-Avondale Watson Realty branch (on the corner of Herschel and San Juan).
Ms. Connor is the author of “Do Less Write More.” She has worked with more than 50 writers across multiple genres. Her guide provides authors with practical, experience-based tips and tools for finding, hiring and keeping an excellent assistant.
She has worked as a freelance writer, journalist and author in print and digital media for more than 10 years. Her publishing credits include daily and weekly newspapers, regional lifestyle magazines, national trade journals, academic texts, full- and novella-length fiction, e-zines, websites, marketing materials, brochures and newsletters.

Her marketing and editing skills include social media management, blogging, search engine optimization, proofreading, copyediting, editorial review, copy writing, book promotion, content creation, digital photography, e-publishing, graphic design, layout and AP style.
She has also worked as an administrative support professional, project coordinator, event planner and budget administrator in the medical, academic, publishing and non-profit sectors.

Ms. Connor is a member of Romance Writers of America. She has been active in the romance fiction community for more than 15 years, volunteering at both the national and local level. Her first completed manuscript was a finalist in the 2011 Golden Heart contest and was released as Willing to Learn from Boroughs Publishing Group in February 2013
Her webpage is My Author Concierge at
An actor/playwright on his deathbed once replied to a friend giving condolences: “Dying is Easy. It’s comedy that’s hard.”
Another actor/beginning playwright, Doug McDowell, takes it a step further when he gives lessons from a beginning playwright to Amelia Island’s Writers by the Sea group on May 19: “Dying is Easy, Comedy is Hard, Writing is Harder.”
Doug McDowell is a huge theatre fan, an accomplished amateur actor, and an all-around supporter of the arts. Lately, he's tried his hand at writing plays, and things have become...well, interesting. In his presentation, Doug will share what he has learned about writing for the stage.
McDowell will be on stage this August at Amelia Community Theatre (ACT) in “These Two Couples Went to Italy.” He will also host this year's Friends of the Library Storytelling Slam in September.
Writer by the Sea will meet at the Amelia Island Museum of History (233 S. 3rd St. Downtown, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034). The meeting will start at 6 p.m., and the talk will be followed by small specialty groups
For updates, check this webpage:
Writers of novels and short stories have to deal with narratives, but writers of nonfiction, from memoirs to biographers, have equivalent problems. These will be discussed by Crista Pitchford, language arts teacher and author, on Wednesday, May 18, when she talks on “Strategies for Starting, Developing, and Ending a Nonfiction Narrative.”
The Clay County Writers meeting will begin at 6:15 p.m. in the meeting room at the Orange Park Library (2054 Plainfield Ave., off Kingsley Ave. behind the Dairy Queen).
Group leader Maureen Jung says, “For this mini-workshop, bring your story idea and come prepared to work. Though Christa will focus primarily on nonfiction, fiction writers will also benefit. Attend to get a crisper sense of how and where to work on your story.
Ms. Pitchford will discuss writing an engaging opening; creating an order of events and adding interesting details that move the story along and crafting a conclusion that leaves readers feeling satisfied.
She says, “Ideas grow like flowers in your mind. Water them, feed them, and watch them grow.
The speaker is a fifth-grade language arts teacher in the Clay County School District. Through teaching, she has learned and mastered a variety of writing strategies. She attended Eastern Michigan University (BS, Education 2006) and Grand Canyon University (MA, Reading Curriculum and Instruction). She has completed studies in Mediterranean history in Greece and studied Shakespeare in London. Her first book, “Letter from Dad” (2015), is a young adult novel.  She recently began blogging about her personal experiences:
Award winning author and editor Betsy Lerner will be at The BookMark on Thursday, May 5, at 7 p.m. to talk about and sign copies of her new memoir "The Bridge Ladies."
Owner Rona Brinlee says that for the past fifty years, Lerner's mother Roz has attended Bridge club with the same four women. When Roz needs her daughter's help to recover after surgery, the author finds out how little she knows about these women who have been a part of her life forever, including her own mother.
Over the course of two years, Lerner takes up Bridge and becomes a regular fixture at Monday Bridge Club. In learning to play, she comes to see it as a beautiful and complex game. There is also the task of learning to work with another and trying to see the bigger picture through the cards you've been dealt. Lerner begins to spend time with each of the ladies individually, and more time with her mother than she ever thought possible. What began as a project of friendly curiosity soon becomes a cherished ritual.
Betsy Lerner is also the author of "The Forest for the Trees" and "Food and Loathing." She received her MFA from Columbia University in Poetry and was the recipient of a Thomas Wolfe Poetry Prize, and Academy of American Poets Poetry Prize, and was one of PEN's Emerging Writers. After working for 15 years as an editor, she became an agent.
Ace Atkins, Robert B. Parker's Slow Burn (G. P. Putnam's Sons), Thursday, 
May 12, 7 p.m.
Boston PI Spenser is approached by firefighter Jack McGee, who's convinced that the apartment blaze that took the lives of five residents and two firefighters was arson.  Never reluctant to take on the world's troubles, Spenser makes the rounds, and in no time at all he's succeeded in antagonizing members of the police department, the arson squad, and the Sparks Association, whose members devote themselves to providing aid and comfort to Boston's firefighters. Edgar-nominated Atkins's takeover of the late Parker's iconic Spenser character has produced a string of New York Times bestsellers.
William Finnegan, Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life (Penguin Books/paperback), Tuesday, May 17, 7 p.m.
A writer of rare subtlety and observational gifts, Finnegan explores every aspect of surfing--its mechanics and intoxicating thrills, its culture and arcane tribal codes in a way that should resonate with surfers and non-surfers alike. His descriptions of some of the world's most powerful and unforgiving waves are hauntingly beautiful. Finnegan displays an honesty that is evident throughout the book. 
Diana Abu-Jaber, Life Without a Recipe: A Memoir of Food and Family 
(W.W. Norton & Company), Thursday, May 19, 7 p.m.
This memoir by award-winning novelist Diana Abu-Jaber tells of the author being raised by two very different and influential figures: her Arab father, Bud, and her maternal grandmother, Grace. Each had different desires for Diana's life and competed for her attention through the food they created. Bud's forte were spicy meat dishes, and Grace excelled at sweet cakes and cookies. Abu-Jaber's will was to find her own "life recipe", and there was a good deal of trial and error as she worked this out. The book has Abu-Jaber's gifted writing and deft story-telling and reminds us that even with its unexpected turns, life can be a delectable creation.
Anton DiSclafani, The After Party (Riverhead Books), Thursday, June 2, 7 p.m.
DiSclafanias second novel, following "The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls" is an intriguing story about the complexities of female friendship and the intricate social hierarchy of Houston's oil elite in the 1950s. In a world focused on glamour and status, Joan Fortier has always been the center of attention, but no one loves her as much as her best friend, Cece. Friends since age five, Joan and Cece share a complicated past
Karen White, Flight Patterns (New American Library), Friday, June 10, 7 p.m.
New York Times bestselling author of The Sound of Glass tells the story of a woman coming home to the family she left behind and to the woman she always wanted to be. Georgia Chambers has spent her life sifting through other people's pasts while trying to forget her own. But then her work as an expert on fine china (especially Limoges) requires her to return to the one place she swore she'd never revisit. It's been thirteen years since Georgia left her family home on the coast of Florida. Nothing much has changed and encountering her estranged mother and sister leaves her rattled.
Mark Woods, Lassoing the Sun: A Year in America's National Parks (Thomas Dunne Books) Tuesday, June 14, 7 p.m.
Woods' most vivid childhood memories are set against a backdrop of mountains, woods, and fireflies in places like Redwood, Yosemite, and Grand Canyon national parks. As a "mid-life project," Mark decided to spend a year visiting the national parks. He planned to take his mother to a park she'd not yet visited and to re-create his childhood trips with his wife and daughter. But then his mother was diagnosed with cancer, given just months to live. Mark's plan for a book about the future of the national parks, grew into something more: Lassoing the Sun is a about family, the parks, the legacies we inherit and the ones we leave behind. Ms. Brinlee says, “We are excited to be part of the launch for this wonderful new book by Florida Times-Union columnist Mark Woods!“
May brings the summer months and, in theory, the time to sit back and relax. However, until the heat gets unbearable it may also torment those who labor at keyboards and legal pads jotting down their novels, memoirs, poems, or plays. They may take time out for meetings of the River City Writers, the Clay County Writers, Writers by the Sea, the Ancient City Writers, and the Ponte Vedra Writers.
Vic DiGenti
FWA Regional Director
Some suggested reforms have come in concerning the North Florida Writers (NFW), and they have been posted on the NFW Facebook page for further discussion.
NFWers will examine sections of the bylaws that cover (a) dues, which have been suspended for several years, (b) the process for critiques, (c) other areas that need to be updated.
Members and potential members posted their recommendations on the FB page or emailed them to Howard Denson at or Richard A. Levine at
Regarding the future of the NFW, emails stated, “It's not unusual for organizations to ebb and flow in membership and participation. . . I think the new meeting site will be a good move and a more central location. NFW is a special organization and before we pronounce her dead, maybe we can come up with a ‘revival’ plan at our May meeting. I look forward to seeing all who can attend.
Another email message argued:

1. Keep NFW as is but with a plan to develop it into a major regional organization. This would require a series of meetings with current members to brainstorm and forge a long-range plan including priorities.

2. Reinstate dues. These can be tiered (seniors, students, professional, etc. In addition, develop a plan to raise funding support from the community (ex. Bank of America, Weaver Foundation, etc. As the funding increases, develop plan to reinstate a significant writer’s festival. This would require reaching out to splinter groups and bringing them into the NFW circle.

3. Expand publicity to reach larger audiences (not just writers). Have bi-monthly readings from best sellers; invite interested readers (in addition to writers) to attend—build community support. Retired people, etc.

With regard to the critiqued readings, allow the author to read his or her own excerpt and then accept responses from the group. Encourage exchange of between the group and the author. Anyone serious about writing must be willing to accept constructive criticism or suggestions. This session should be moderated by the NFW moderator to ensure professional decorum.

The NFW can be the dynamic for Northeast Florida. Just takes commitment. Count me in, for one!
The NFW must examine its dues structure since we have gone for several years without charging dues.
Formerly, regular annual dues were $25 each, with $40 for a family and $15 for a student.
For years, the NFW contributed to or financed entirely the novel prizes of the Florida First Coast Writers’ Festival. When the college cancelled the annual festival, the NFW had a sizeable account but with few expenses except for speakers’ fees and annual renewals of...
CRITIQUES -- Since we have been discussing alternate ways to handle critiques, you may wish to comment on the various options:
* Traditionally, as we have done it, with someone reading aloud the writers' work to be followed by a verbal critique.
* The writers reading their own works aloud.
* A piece may be emailed out, or posted on Facebook (or a link on Facebook), to be read by people before the meeting and then discussed.
* A video or audio of the piece can be read aloud and posted online, followed by a critique.
* A piece may be read by the group during the meeting, followed by discussion.
* Or another manner requested by the writer and acceptable to the group.
In the past, the group has had pieces read by anyone except the actual author. The logic for the approach is that the reading may be the first time that the author has actually heard his or her own words. Moreover, the author is not permitted to defend or explain the work, with the logic being that a manuscript arrives at an editor’s desk with its own quality and interest speaking on its behalf.
One follower has spent time on the West Coast and gives this perspective:
I wanted to toss out a critique method I found very useful at a workshop in San Francisco.

One consideration is that once something is put online it is generally considered "published" by most publishers, so I think I'd avoid the Facebook route. [Online creative writing classes use closed groups or email, with each piece being critiqued labeled "copyright*copyright*copyright" at the beginning and end.]

That aside,

1. Ms is received ahead of time for close critique.

2. The author reads a short section during the meeting so critics can get a feel for what the author imagined his tone would be.

3. Critique is given.

4. Author says what he meant to do and asks questions of the critics.
The NFW must examine its dues structure since we have gone for several years without charging dues.
Formerly, regular annual dues were $25 each, with $40 for a family and $15 for a student.
For years, the NFW contributed to or financed entirely the novel prizes of the Florida First Coast Writers’ Festival. When the college cancelled the annual festival, the NFW had a sizeable account but with few expenses except for speakers’ fees and annual renewals of our web page. Since we had no expenses, we suspended the dues.
Now that the account has fallen to $1,000, we need to examine our dues structure. Some dues options:
* Restart payable dues, either at the current rate or a different one (e.g., $15 a year). Associated privileges or benefits would accrue only to paying members. Dues could be paid via online.
* Possible benefits could include discounts to businesses, the right to have a piece critiqued, t-shirts, discounts to conferences, depending on what could be arranged.
One Facebook response added these option:
* Pass the hat at meetings.
*Instead of an honorarium to guest speakers (where the dues have mostly been going), guarantee a minimum amount of book purchases of the speaker's work, with those books going to members who attend (a way to prompt attendance with no additional cost).
*Create and then associate with (not replace with) a NFW meet-up group.
A second response from a FB follower was this: “$15 a year sounds fair, if we get enough people to sign up.
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).
Writers, poets, and playwrights will find useful tools at
You may join us at any time on Facebook. Webmeister Richard Levine has changed the privacy setting of the NFW from Closed to Public. That way, you can check out our group at your leisure.

To begin, click on:

Later on, if you are in the process of simplifying your e-life and want to leave us, you may do so at any time by clicking 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 (; and Richard Levine (
President: Howard Denson (
Vice President: Joyce Davidson (
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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