· Writing News for the Sunshine State & the Solar System

· * May 2011

· Editor: Howard Denson


In This Issue:


NFW to Critique at May Meeting at Willowbranch

Congratulations Go to Four Shantyboat Writers, Says Harlin

Laura Duksta Kicks Off Book Festival

Historic Preservation Commission Honors Fletcher and “Remembering Jax”

Amelia Island Book Festival Seeks Authors for 2012

The Wrong Stuff

Stuff from Hither and Yon

Stuff from a Writer's Quill – Robert Graves

Meetings of NFW and Other Groups

Useful Links

The Write Staff

Membership Form

Writers Born This Month


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The North Florida Writers will critique manuscripts at the Saturday, May 14, meeting at Willowbranch library. President Stewart Neal said the meeting will start at 2 p.m.


The critique process has people other than the author of respective works read aloud the submissions (up to 10 double-spaced pages of prose, and reasonable amounts of poetry or lyrics). Authors may not defend their work, but they should listen to the words and rhythms of their creations. 


This will be the group’s third meeting at Willowbranch. Long-time residents have probably driven past this library at 2875 Park St., Jax 32205, but, if you are unfamiliar with the Riverside part of town, you may wish to go to and use MapQuest to find the easiest route there. The WB phone is 904.381.8490.


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The director of the Shantyboat Writers Groups Lynn Skapyak Harlin says some gold stars are in order for several aspiring writers. Nancy Purcell's essay "On Not Writing" is in this month's edition of “Talking Writing.” In it she says: "Writing gives breath to my feelings and legs to my memories. It releases what has been held captive in my mind and lets it loose on the page."


Ms. Harlin also congratulates these writers who all have poems in this issue of WritingRaw Poetry: This is the second poem for Tonn Pastore, the third poem for Carolee Bertisch, and the first for Rose Grier. 


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Bestselling children's author Laura Duksta will kick off the Spring Book Festival at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 5, at Neptune Beach’s The Book Mark (220 First St., Neptune Beach 32266). Duksta is the author of "I Love You More." Like this earlier book, "You are a Gift to the World" is a "flip book" format, meaning it starts from either side and can be read to the middle and then flipped for another complete story.


Owner Rona Brinlee says Duksta reminds us of the many ways that life itself is a continuous unwrapping of magical moments. When you flip the book over, it shows how many of the biggest gifts are provided to us by the very planet we call home.


Laura Duksta believes that when people know they are loved, anything is possible. Laura lost all her hair to a condition called Alopecia Areata at the age of eleven. It took her many years to learn to love herself and allow others to love her.


For more information, call the bookstore at 904-241-9026 or e-mail it at


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Dorothy K. Fletcher, a columnist featured monthly in “The Mandarin Sun,” a section of “The Florida Times-Union, will be honored by the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission on May 5.


Along with several others, she will be honored at a ceremony at the Jacksonville Main Library Auditorium. Her award is for her book “Remembering Jacksonville: By the Wayside” (History Press) and for her column “By the Wayside.


Ms. Fletcher, who retired in 2007 after 35 years teaching English in the public school system, fills her retirement by writing, traveling, and spending time with her family. For more about her, go to


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If you want to be an author, editor, or agent speaking at the 2012 Amelia Island Book Festival, you will need to send in your submission by June 30. Next year’s Festival will be Feb. 17-18.


For more information, go to the AIBF website at and click on “Author Submissions.”


Check the website for AIBF’s new office location. In addition, AIBF is looking for some office equipment if you have some to donate.


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AP National Writer Hillel Italie, “Historians question White House presidential bios”:


The essays from George Washington through Kennedy that appear online were written by Frank Freidel, a Harvard University scholar and biographer of Franklin Delano Roosevelt who died in 1993.


W.S. SAYS: For a couple of seconds, the reader is asking, “Is he saying that FDR died in 1993? No way.” Two or three solutions suggest themselves, but the simplest is to put a period after “Roosevelt” and have a separate sentence saying “Freidel died in 1993.”




Tuan C. Nguyen, “New electric car may signal the end of the road for gas guzzlers” (Smart Planet):


In-wheel motor technology has also been hampered by the fact that the additional “unsprung weight” of the motor, which can’t be supported by a car’s standard suspension system, tends to have an adverse affect on road handling.


W.S. SAYS: This problem can be tricky. The weight of the motor AFFECTS road handling, but it has an adverse EFFECT. Simple rule: About 90-95 percent of the time, you will want “effect” if it’s a noun. If you are dealing with child care, psychology, etc., you will often use “affect” when referring to an emotional response.




Headline for article in


It's Hard to Make Predictions, Especially About the Future


W.S. SAYS: And what else do we predict other than the future?




Hugo Martin, “Hollywood like you’ve never seen it before” (“Los Angeles Times” syndicate):


The TMZ tour will change with each new celebrity scandal, but operators say it may include such spots as the nightclub where “Seinfeld’s” Michael Richards went on a racially tinged rant, the high-end department store were actress Winona Ryder was caught shoplifting and the courthouse where Lindsay Lohan is being prosecuted on a grand theft charge.


W.S. SAYS: The biggest problem is that the sentence contains 57 words, a dangerous length since some obvious problem might be hiding in the forest of words, such as “were” instead of “where.”




Deborah Hansen, “Big Meaningless Words Dominate Education Debate” (“The Jacksonville Observer”):


Let’s pretend for a minute. You know how we did when we were kids, and we hadn’t been reigned in, hadn’t been told to act our ages yet?



Of course, we don’t write those bulleted lists or fancy sentences ourselves. Other players of the game get that job, so they run to their computers and find words and phrases that say a little bit without saying much at all, like “key community stakeholders” or “global economy” or “building consensus.” These fancy words seem to impress lots of people, so the speechwriters used them a lot and hope no one asks what they really mean. Because no one is really sure. They just sound good.


W.S. SAYS: In the first example, if kids are acting like a bunch of wild horses, you rein them in.


In the second example, the writer is making a valid point. She is applying the excellent argument of George Orwell against meaningless words. Check out his “Politics and the English Language” at


Malcolm Cowley explored some of the same territory in his later essay, “Sociological Habit Patterns in Linguistic Transmogrification” ( ).


Despite making valid points, she undercuts herself by using the word “fancy.” The expressions are largely everyday words constituting buzz words. A “fancy” word would probably be “crepuscular” instead of “twilight.” Referring to “fancy” words in a speech or essay is dangerous anyway. Twenty percent or so of the audience may appreciate it, but another 20 percent may think the writer or speaker is speaking down to them.


Oh, and we spotted the fragment, but we’re in the giving mood today.




Matt Dixon, “State gave away hundreds of trees to put up billboards” (“Florida Times-Union”):


Each of the 105 Salter permits were for billboards in the western portion of the Panhandle.


W.S. SAYS: What’s the subject of the sentence? “Each” is, and it’s singular. That means the verb should also be singular, “was.” The sentence could have been tightened to “the 105 Salter permits were. . . .”




Andrew O’Hehir, “Pick of the Week: The Greatest War Film Ever Made” (


You could curate a dynamite film festival out of post-9/11 war movies, both documentaries and narrative features, starting with Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein's prescient "Gunner Palace" -- made in 2004, just as the Iraq conflict was going seriously south -- and moving forward through "The Situation" and "Iraq in Fragments" and "Battle for Haditha" and, of course, "The Hurt Locker" and last year's Oscar-nominated, you-are-there documentary "Restrepo."


W.S. SAYS: We only take three steps into this 68-word sentence before we encounter a problem. “Curate” is an unhappy choice, perhaps selected by an auto-correct program when the writer was trying to type “create.” “Curate” can be a verb as in “he wishes to curate a museum collection,” but it really doesn’t work even if the writer deliberately chose the word. Other problem: 68 words? Did the writer take English at Whazzamatta U?




Brett Arends, “IMF bombshell: Age of America nears end; China’s economy will surpass the U.S. in 2016” (MoneyWatch.Com):


According to the IMF forecast, whomever is elected U.S. president next year — Obama? Mitt Romney? Donald Trump? — will be the last to preside over the world’s largest economy.


W.S. SAYS: It should be “whoever.” We have a clause acting as the subject of the sentence. Within the clause, the subject should be “whoever” because “who” is used in the subject (nominative) case. If that clause is used as a direct object or object of a preposition, it does not change: We will attack whoever is elected president; the office will go to whoever is elected. By itself, “whomever” would only be used if the sentence asked something like “the U.S. will elect whomever next year?”


Rule of thumb: When in doubt about whether to use “who” or “whom,” use “who.” About 90 percent of readers won’t notice a misuse of “who,” but maybe 70 percent will notice when “whom” is misused.




Bill Kaczor, “Bright Futures scholarships to dim for many” (Associated Press):


The Legislature is poised to cut the popular Bright Futures scholarship program, meaning thousands of college students and their parents will be paying higher costs or take out loans, seek other financial aid, get jobs or maybe even go on a low-cost diet.


W.S. SAYS: We have a parallel verb problem. As a forensic grammarian, we deduce that the writer chose to say “will be paying” and then perhaps answered the phone. When he returned to the sentence, perhaps he thought he had said “parents will pay.” As it is, progressives should have been used for “take,” “seek,” “get,” and “go.” An editor should have caught the error.




Robert Reich, “The Wageless Recovery” (Huffington Post):


The Street doesn't seem to understand that when most peoples' wages are dropping, additional dollars they spend on groceries and at the gas pump means fewer dollars they have left to spend in the rest of the economy.


W.S. SAYS: Common error in the past couple of years: putting the apostrophe after the “s” in “peoples’.” The word is already plural, so “people’s” would be correct. If the sentence were about different nationalities, as in Churchill’s “History of the English Speaking Peoples” (means Brits, Yanks, Canadians, Aussies, etc.), then the original usage would be correct.




David Germain, Associated Press review of the film “Fast Five”:


Any thwack from the inevitable Diesel-Johnson slug-fest might kill an ordinary human, but these characters basically are comic-book figures, so they’re able to wail the innards out of each other and come through with only a cosmetic bruise or two.


W.S. SAYS: The writer probably thought, “You whale the tar out of someone. No, that won’t do. Whale’s a big fish, okay, a big mammal. Ah, it must be wail.” No, you may wail if you are beaten, but that’s not the right word. The spelling should be “whale,” which is a variant of “wale.” And “The Oxford English Dictionary” says that word refers, in nautical terms, to “a plank running along the side of a wooden ship, thicker than the usual planking, and strengthening and protecting the hull,” then to “a ridge” or “horizontal band on a basket.” It’s related to the Old English “walu,” meaning “stripe” or “weal.” Hence, when a villainous captain hisses, “I’ll whale the daylights out of you,” he’s referring to the stripes, ridges, and welts the whipping will produce. Arrr!


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The Days

Of Yore


This website interviews writers and artists “about the years they had before they had money, fame, or roadmaps to success, and inspires you to find your own.” Among those interviewed are Alley II dance director Sylvia Waters, artist Tom Sanford, and writers and playwrights William Finnegan, Michael Shammell, Karen Hartman, Julia Alvarez, David Shields, Noah Hawley, Ben Marcus, and others.


10 Tips on How

To Write

Less Badly


Michael Munger of the Duke University political science department has written a sound article for “The Chronicle of Higher Education” on how to write better (or at least less badly).


15 Most Famous Cafes

in the Literary World


If you are traveling in Europe and eastern Russia, you need to know where to sip coffee and pastry as you try to capture the mood of what it might have been like for Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Kafka, and others.


50 Iconic Writers

Who Were

Repeatedly Rejected


From Dr. Seuss to J.K. Rowling, writers who are now very famous endured the persistent horror of Rejection.


Stumbling Block

For Creative Writing

Masters Programs


Writer’s block can be bad enough, but aspiring writers in master’s programs in creative writing may have a concern about the electronic storage of their “theses.” Will e-storage keep actual publishers away?


What about

The Top 40

Baaad Books?


The American Book Review devoted an issue to the top 40 bad books, and, of course, you will squeal at some of the entries. Can a bad book still be good? Are some academics just pushing English peas up their noses?


Amis on Hitchens:

'He's one of the most

terrifying rhetoricians

the world has seen'


Martin Amis hails the peerless intelligence and rhetorical ingenuity of his exceptional friend, , the very quotable Christopher Hitchens.


A.C. Grayling’s

Top 5 Non-Religious Books

On Living a Good Life


Nina Shen Rastoqi reviews The Good Book by British philosophy professor A.C. Grayling. She noted that he sifted through more than a thousand historical texts, by authors ranging from Abulfazi to Zhuxi, and wove them into a single, freestanding volume. Highlights: Aristotle, The Nichomachean Ethics, c. 322 B.C.E.; Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1776-1789; John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1869; Robin Lane Fox, The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible, 1993; Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth, 2009.


V.S. Naipaul’s

Advice To

Beginning Writers


In the India Uncut Blog, Amit Varma recalls some basic rules for beginning writers, given by Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul. Rule #1 for beginners is “Do not write long sentences. A sentence should not have more than ten or twelve words.”


How to

Think Like



Kenji Yoshino is spearheading a series called “How to Think Like Shakespeare” for Big Think. Also check out other essays on the Bard: “What Shakespeare Taught Me about Leadership,” “Computer Software Proves Shakespeare Co-Authored Plays,” “James Lipton’s Favorite Shakespeare Scene,” and others.!selected_item=4915


The George Saunders

Interview, Part 1


In this multi-part web-exclusive interview for BOMBlog, George Saunders and Patrick Dacey discuss the writing process, storytelling technique (“Any monkey in a story had better be a dead monkey”), and how the mind is like the trash compactor from Star Wars.


Ian McEwan on Books

That Have Helped

Shape His Novels


In “The Browser,” novelist Ian McEwan talks with Alec Ash about the books that have helped shape his own, from the biography of a scientific genius to a treatise on the end of time. He also discusses the importance of finding “mental freedom.”


A Pitfall

In Writing



In “Kassandra’s Kitchen,” the reader will find an essay about “A Pitfall in Writing Memoirs.” Is telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth always the best policy?


Is Cursive as Dead

As NYT says?

Not on your life


Brian Palmer counters a story in “The New York Times” which said cursive writing would disappear. In (at, Palmer says all alphabets have had formal versions as cursive ones. (Ironically, most Americans were taught the Palmer Method of cursive writing (



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Prose books are the show dogs I sell to support my cat. – Robert Graves




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BARD SOCIETY: Every Wednesday: 7 p.m.; Frank Green 234-8383; Email


FIRST COAST CHRISTIAN WRITERS GROUP: Every Thursday, 6:45 p.m. at Charles Webb-Wesconnett Library at the intersection of 103rd Street and Harlow Boulevard. Email: or,


FIRST COAST ROMANCE WRITERS: Second Saturday of each month; start time varies based on program; see website Chaffee Road Library; 1425 Chaffee Road South, Jacksonville. Info:


MANDARIN WRITERS WORKSHOP: Second and fourth Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. at S. Mandarin Library (corner of San Jose and Orange Picker Rd.). Larry Barnes at


NORTH FLORIDA WRITERS: Second Saturday: 2 p.m. at Willowbranch Library; 2875 Park Street


NORTHEAST FLORIDA CHAPTER OF FLORIDA WRITERS ASSN.: fourth Saturday of the month at 10:30 a.m. at the Ponte Vedra Library (between Jacksonville and St. Augustine). Vic DiGenti, FWA regional director. For more information, check or


SISTERS IN CRIME: First Saturday of each month: 10:30 a.m. at Southeast Regional Library, 10599 Deerwood Park Blvd., Jacksonville, FL 32256; Sherry Czerniejewski, president Email


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      THE ATAVIST (original nonfiction storytelling):




      BOOK COUNTRY (sponsored by Penguin Books):






      DAYS OF YORE (writers and artists’ struggles to succeed):


      HOW LANGUAGE WORKS (the cognitive science of linguistics from Indiana University):














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President: Stewart Neal (


Vice President: Richard Levine (


Secretary: Kathy Marsh (


Treasurer: Howard Denson (


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Membership is $15 for students, $25 for individuals, and $40 for a family. (Make out checks to WRITERS.) Mail your check to WRITERS, c/o Howard Denson, 1511 Pershing Rd., Jacksonville, FL 32205.


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