The Electronic Write Stuff
Writing News for the Sunshine State & the Solar System

 The Electronic Write Stuff
Writing News for the Sunshine State & the Solar System
North Florida Writers * July 2005

APOLOGIES & PLEASE RE-SEND: If you attempted to be subscribed to the mailing list, to change your e-mail, to add a friend. . .or to unsubscribe, please re-send the information (if you receive this message, of course). The e-change list was on a 3.5” file that decided to go to disk-heaven (or hell). – Howard Denson, editor

In this issue:

June Weltman to Speak in July to NFW Members
Things I Wish Writers Didn't Tell Me -- Joyce Davidson
Quotes from a Writer's Quill -- Anna Held Audett
Book Review: "Who Waves the Baton" by Carolee Ackerson Bertisch -- Howard Denson
A Rant about "Greatest Ever" Articles -- Howard Denson
Writers Born in July
Calendar of Events


Speaking to the July 9 membership meeting of the North Florida Writers will be June Weltman, the author of Mystery of the Missing Candlestick, a young adult mystery novel set in St. Augustine, Fla. The book, which received Mayhaven Publishing's First Place Award for Children's Fiction, was published by Mayhaven in 2004.

The meeting will start at 2 p.m. in F128B, the auditorium conference room of Kent Campus of FCCJ (3939 Roosevelt Blvd., Jax 32205).

Mystery of the Missing Candlestick was recognized by the Florida Historical Society in April 2004 with a special award, the Journeys for the Junior Historian Book Award.

Ms. Weltman started her journalism career as a reporter with the Chicago Tribune and later covered the State Department and Congress as the foreign affairs writer for Congressional Quarterly. She worked in public affairs for U.S. government agencies, including serving as a writer and photographer on the Peace Corps staff, before turning to freelance writing and editing. Her articles have been published in newspapers and magazines throughout the United States. She has won many writing awards.

She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Illinois and a master's degree from Georgetown University. She has taught journalism classes at American

University and public relations at the University of North Florida.

She resides in Jacksonville, Fla., where she is working on a new mystery novel. She speaks frequently about mysteries and writing at schools, meetings, and conferences.

She may be reached at



I like advice. I really get motivated by it, but some ideas speakers offer tie me in knots instead of freeing me to write. Take clichés, for example. More than a few writers insist originality, crisp narrative and sparkling thought demand that I delete clichés. It's not easy. Familiar words hit the mark, knit ideas together, and tell it like it is. They're true blue and pack a wallop, and I'm not supposed to use them. Punching keys robs me of alternatives. How can I think of anything new with Dell's black frame staring at me?

That is the next killer proposal. Use a computer. Even bad grammar looks good when I type, but thoughts dance over my head out of reach. Besides, I can see all my sentences are the same length. Henry James should have had one.

Creative punctuation. Why get a degree in English? Why study writing at all? Use dashes for everything, they say. Count your horrid commas, they cry. If I have more than three on a page, I will go to maximum security?

I can't remember how many times I've heard, "Write an outline." And most advisers suggest longggggg outlines. When I compose a longgggggg outline, I don't want to write the book. I have finger cramps and carpel tunnel syndrome. I'd rather hang wallpaper in a hen house.

Marketing is a dirty word. Even if an agent or a publisher would publish my books (and they're getting to be numerous - books, not agents), their plans for me to face the public with a book I'm supposed to shove under prospective noses no longer appeals to me. And it's a good thing, because I might pay them to read my latest copy instead of charging for it.

There are people who will do just that -- read my manuscript for a fee, money, a tax write-off, if it is published. Somehow, that avenue is one I hate to travel on. A book doctor is not reading for enjoyment. He is not noticing the clever author's intrusion on page 798. He doesn't care the protagonist is modeled after my first boy friend in high school who is now arthritic and can't remember where he puts his walker. He would rather slash the word count, dash off a thousand comments, and inform me how bored any agent of the twenty-first century will view my archaic language, optimistic theme, flawless characters, and heavy prose.

Send query letters. I don't write to my sister let alone a stranger in an office somewhere who claims he or she is overworked, fed up with my type of book, not taking on new clients, already sold a manuscript with my theme, expects me to network, pay for stamps, copies and donut breaks and will report in three years if there are not any more hurricanes this year.

The final no-no novice advice is to self-publish. Well, I did. The girl in the office was "learning" the trade, didn't know how to process illustrations, charged me for learning, mistakes and all, quit the company, company moved, took my disk with them, fired the office personnel, gave no forwarding address. I am left overbilled, without the original disk, but with a pile of books I will never push. I think I'll go out and buy a new set of paints. There must be a hobby I can enjoy. Watercolor sketch anyone? I'll show and not tell, yet.



WHO WAVES THE BATON? -- CAROLEE ACKERSON BERTISCH (Clifton, Fla.: Hedgehog P, 100 pp., $9.95)

A subtitle on the cover identifies this collection of poetry and prose as "musings about nature, marshmallow, and mountain ranges." The author is Carolee Ackerson Bertisch of Ponte Vedra Beach. Formerly she was the English facilitator and writing coordinator for the Rye Neck School District in Westchester County, N.Y.

In an introduction, poet Sharon Scholl says of the "bold" pieces that they "are personal and provocative; they amuse, charm, inform, and reveal."

The four parts of the collection include "Rhythms," "Modulations," "Motifs," and "Counterpoints. The poems, short stories, or articles have a notable quality. They are written without sentimentality or cliches.

Vermont figures in several poems and fine photographs (the latter by Gerald Bertisch). For example, "Common Ground" won the 1998 poetry prize for FCCJ North Campus' September Fest for Writers. The poem provide images of "A tender moment of faith / in the Common Ground Cafe, / Brattleboro, Vermont." The poem "In Vermont" describes the a trip to the "top of Cooper Hill / up to the rim of the world," including a "shaft of light beaming / through the window / in a Vermeer," the experience being more meaninful because she has "my grandchild's / hand in mine as we / travel down the road."

Her poems also paint a picture of New York, especially the post-9/11 experience; Montana and the American West; Tuscany; and other sites.

The title of the collection comes from "Lagoon Chorus," which describes how at dusk ". . .an invisible signal / goes out to all, / Raucous quacking / begins to mount, / reverberates when tree frogs / join the chorus." When there is suddenly total silence, the poet wonders, "Who waves the baton / out there?"

Running throughout the collection is an emphasis on family. Here a poet can run the risk of sentimentality or sappiness, if the topic is a happy one, or bitterness, if the poems are a way to retaliate against filial transgressors. Thankfully, Ms. Bertisch's pieces let us see her friends and relatives clearly.

Who Waves the Baton? is well worth reading. -- Howard Denson



One disadvantage of having reporters who are 22 to 28 years old is that they frequently produce some terribly naive and short-sighted pieces. (Oh, you ask, did I do the same when I was a reporter of that age? Absolutely not. The editors knew I was a devious smart-mouth and wouldn't even let me refer to Pismo Beach in a piece, lest the Pismo be vulgar usage for "Piss More." Good Lord, would I do something like that?)

Sometimes it's not a single reporter who's out of line: It's a poll asking who was the "greatest" in America history or the greatest in films or television.

One article asked who was the greatest ever child star, and they polled individuals who lacked the memory of sand-fleas. As No. 1, they came up with (get this now) Gary Coleman, who made the covers of TV Guide and ran for California during the recent California recall. I believe the Home Alone child actor came in second.

I would think that, regardless of the child star, you should consider (a) the length of time he or she was performing, (b) the degree of talent that the actor had, (c) the star's adult performing career, and (d) any additional meritorious service or contributions.

Okay, hop to it and add up the candidates using those criteria.

Still adding?

Now, time's up. Of course, the winner is Shirley Temple. She is No. 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 on any list. Her performing career lasted from the time she was three or four years old to the time she was a young woman. When television came along, all of her films were introduced to another generation and then another. As an adult, she became an ambassador under Republican administrations and served in various capacities with the United Nations.

Second and third in impact from the silent and early talkies were Jackie Coogan and Jackie Cooper. Even so, their work was eclipsed by a kid named Mickey Rooney, who perhaps is still performing in his 80s. His public service perhaps was lacking, unless you count his number of wives. Someone had to marry Ava Gardner.

Worthy of high marks on such a list are Roddy McDowell, a little girl named Elizabeth Taylor (what ever happened to her?), Margaret O'Sullivan (in the 1940s Little Women), Patty Duke (an Oscar winner for young Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker), Tatum O'Neal, and Jodie Foster.

Collectively, the Little Rascals have individuals who have stuck in our cultural consciousness, whether Spanky McFarland or the actors playing Alfalfa or Buckwheat.

If the Little Rascals aren't giants, they certainly contributed as much to comedy as, say, Gary Coleman.


What you have to do now is work. There's no right way to start.
-- Anna Held Audett


1--George Sand (1804), James M. Cain (1892), Jean Stafford (1915); 2--Hermann Hesse (1877); 3--Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860), Franz Kafka (1883), M.F.K. Fisher (1908), and Tom Stoppard (1937); 4--Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804), Ann Landers (1918), and Abigail Van Buren (1918); 6--Karl Gustaf Verner von Heidenstam (1859); 7--Robert Heinlein (1907); 9--Joseph Cowen (1831), Barbara Cartland (1901) and Oliver Sachs (1933);  10--Robert Chambers (1802), Marcel Proust (1871), and Alice Munro (1931); 11--Thomas Bowdler (1754), E. B. White (1899), and Harold Bloom (1930); 12--Edward Benlowes (1602), Henry David Thoreau (1817), and Pablo Neruda (1904); 13--Wole Soyinka (1934); 14--Irving Stone (1903), Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904), Woody Guthrie (1912), and Natalie Ginzburg (1916); 15--Robert Conquest (1917) and Iris Murdoch (1919); 16--Anita Brookner (1928); 17--Richard Carew (1555), William John Courthope (1842), Jakob Christoph Heer (1859), Samuel Joseph Agnon (1888), Erle Stanley Gardner (1889) and James Purdy (1923); 18--William Makepeace Thackeray (1811), S. I. Hayakawa (1906), and Margaret Laurence (1926); 19--Heinrich Christian Boie (1744), Herman Bahr (1863), E. P. Snow (1905), Joseph Hansen (1923), Dom Moraess (1938), and Jayne Anne Phillips (1952); 20--Connie McCarthy (1933); 21--Al-Bukhari (810), Frances Parkinson Keyes (1885), Hart Crane (1899), Ernest Hemingway (1899), A. D. Hope (1907), John Gardner (1933), Tess Gallagher (1943), and Buchi Emescheta (1944); 22--Stephen Vincent Benét (1898) and Tom Robbins (1936); 23--Raymond Chandler (1888); 24--John D. MacDonald (1916); 25--David Belasco (1853); 26--George Bernard Shaw (1856), Carl Jung (1875), Aldous Huxley (1894), and Robert Graves (1895); 27--Thomas Campbell (1777), Giosue Carducci (1835), Hilaire Belloc (1870), Joseph Mitchell (1908) and Bharati Mukherjee (1940); 28--Beatrix Potter (1866), Malcolm Lowry (1909), John Ashbery (1927), and William T. Vollmann (1959); 29--Booth Tarkington (1869), Don Marquis (1878), and Stanley Kunitz (1905);
30--Emily Brontë (1818), Oliver Optic (William Taylor Adam) (1822), Gaston Calmette (1858), Jean Jacques Bernard (1888), William Gass (1924), and Alexander Trocchi (1925); 31--Elizabeth Wurtzel (1967).


Meetings of NFW are held on the second Saturday of the month at 2 p.m. on the Kent Campus of Florida Community College of Jacksonville. We generally meet in F128B (auditorium conference room).

You may receive feedback from specific individuals by mailing the manuscript and return postage to the above address.

July 9: June Weltman, The Mystery of the Missing Candlestick

Aug. 13: Robert Fulton Jr., But You Know What I Mean!

Sept. 10: Critiques only

Oct. 8: Karen Harvey, Ghosts of St. Augustine

Nov. 12: Critiques only

Dec. 10: Lillian Brown, Banned in Boston

Past speakers have included novelists Jack Hunter, David Poyer, Page Edwards, Ruth Coe Chambers, William Kerr, Tom Lashley; poets, William Slaughter, Mary Baron, Mary Sue Koeppel,

Dorothy Fletcher, George Gilpatrick; columnists Vic Smith, Tom Ivines, and Robert Blade; editors Buford Brinlee and Nan Ramey; agent Debbie Fine; magazine editor Sara Summers; medical writers

Elizabeth Tate and Michael Pranzatelli; oral historian Robert Gentry; plus many others.



The Write Staff

Carrol Wolverton, President (

Richard Levine, Vice President (

Joyce Davidson, Secretary (

Howard Denson, Treasurer and newsletter editor (

Joel Young, Public Relations (

Doris Cass, Hospitality (

Presidents Emeritus:

Frank Green, Dan Murphy, Howard Denson,

Nate Tolar, Joyce Davidson,

Margaret Gloag (,

Richard Levine, Bob Alexander, JoAnn Harter Murray

Newsletter address

The Write Stuff

FCCJ Kent, Box 109

3939 Roosevelt Blvd.

Jacksonville, FL 32205

Homepage addresses

Submissions to the newsletter should generally be about writing or publishing. If possible, please submit mss. on IBM diskette in either WordPerfect, Word, or RTF format.

We pay in copies to the contributors, with modest compensation for postage and copying.

We pay $5 for pieces of 500-599 words.


If you are writing a story or poem, you will need some expert feedback -- the sort that you will receive at a meeting of the North Florida Writers.

You won't profit from automatic praise that a close friend or relative might give or jealous criticism from others who may feel threatened by your writing.

The NFW specializes in CONSTRUCTIVE feedback that will enable your manuscript to stand on its own two feet and demand that it be accepted by an editor or agent. Hence, you need the


The North Florida Writers is a writer's best friend because we help members to rid manuscripts of defects and to identify when a work is exciting and captivating.

Membership is $15 for students, $25 for individuals, and $40 for a family. (Make out checks to WRITERS.)

Is your membership current? To find out, check the mailing label. If it says "0104" next to your last name, your membership expired in January 2004. You do not have to pay back dues to

activate your members, so, if you last paid in 1992 or 2002, don't worry about the months you were inactive.

Won't you join today?

The following is an application. Mail your check to WRITERS, Box 109, FCCJ Kent, 3939 Roosevelt Blvd., Jacksonville, FL 32205.


St. address____________________________________

Apt. No. ______________________________________

City ________________State _____ Zip __________

E-mail address(es) ___________________________________


When you attend a meeting of the North Florida Writers, you eventually discover that NO ONE has ever died while his or her manuscript was being read and critiqued. You may be ready to

face the ordeal yourself. . .or, reading this, you may wonder what exactly takes place during a critiquing.

First, you pitch your manuscript into a stack with others' works-in-progress. Then one of the NFW members hands out each piece to volunteer readers, taking care NOT to give you back your

own manuscript to read.

Second, as the reading begins, each author is instructed NOT to identify himself or herself and especially NOT to explain or defend the work. The writer may never have heard the piece read aloud by another's voice, so the writer needs to focus on the sound of his or her sentences.

Third, at the finish of each selection, the NFW members try to offer constructive advice about how to make the story better. If a section was confusing or boring, that information may be helpful to the author.

The NFW will listen to 10 pages (double-spaced) of prose (usually a short story or a chapter).


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