The Electronic Write Stuff
|The Electronic Write Stuff
Writing News for the Sunshine State & the Solar System
North Florida Writers * November 2005
In this issue (click, or scroll, to go there):
In this issue:
The Lemonade Factor -- Tom Lane
Death of an Old Friend -- Howard Denson
Writers Born in November
Quote from a Writer's Quill -- Stephen Spender
Calendar of Events
WRITERS' FESTIVAL CONTESTS SEEK ENTRIES
FOR NOVELS, POEMS, STORIES, AND PLAYS
The Writers* Festival contests are accepting entries for poetry, stories, and novels, with the deadlines for novels being Dec. 1 and other categories Jan. 3.
NOVELS ($40 each entry): Novel entries have no minimum or maximum length, and the writer may leave his or her name on the manuscript. Entrants will need to include a "bio" page and contact information, a TV Guide-style one- or two-sentence summary, and a chapter-by-chapter summary. The contest wants the entire manuscript. The final-round judges will be novelists Lenore Hart and David Poyer.
Recent winners of top prizes have included Brian Jay Corrigan of Dahlonega, Ga. (The Poet of Loch Ness, published by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's) and Steve Berry of St. Marys, Ga. (The Third Secret, a New York Times best-seller published by Ballantine).
All entry checks or money orders should be made out to "Writers" and mailed to Contests, FCCJ North, 4501 Capper Rd., Jacksonville, FL 32218.
POETRY ($5 each entry): The Festival has two poetry contests: the Douglas Freels Poetry Prize and the Robert Grimes "Good Earth" Poetry Prize. Poetry in the Freels category will focus on the traditional themes of poetry (love, rejection, death, etc.), while the "Good Earth" category will focus on poetry involving ecology, love of nature, etc.
In either poetry category, each entry should be no longer than 30 lines and each entry should be printed on one sheet of paper. One version should have the poet*s name, address, phone number, and e-mail address (if available), while no identification should be on the other version. There is no limit on the number of poems that may be submitted, but the contest officials recommend that an entrant select his or her three or four best poems.
SHORT FICTION ($10 each entry)--Each short story should be no longer than 6,000 words. One copy should have the author*s name, address, phone number, and any e-mail address; the other copy should only have the text and the title. Again, there is no limit to the number of stories that may be submitted, but the contest officials suggest each entrant submit his or her best entries. The final-round judge is Sohrab Homi Fracis, an Iowa Short Fiction Collection winner for Ticket to Minto.
PLAYS ($20 each entry): The Festival is also sponsoring its second annual full-length play contest (usually at least two acts or enough for an evening's entertainment. The winning entry will at least have a staged reading. Entrants should include biographical and information.
POSTAGE & RETURN/NON-RETURN OF MANUSCRIPTS: Entries in the poetry and short fiction contests will NOT be returned, so entrants should not submit their only copies. Adequate first-class postage should be included for novels so that these may be returned.
PRIZES: In poetry, identical amounts will be given to the winners of the Douglas Freels and Robert Grimes prizes: first prize, a $110; second, $75; third, $60; in short fiction, first prize, $200; second, $100; third, $100. The first-prize novel winner will receive$500, with the second- and third-place winners receiving $200 and $100 respectively.
In all categories, entries should be original and unpublished.
THE LEMONADE FACTOR
By TOM LANE
In his Enchiridion, Epictetus writes that the mastered life includes having the ability to derive advantage from adversity. Or to put it with image over erudition, having the ability to make lemonade from life's lemons.
For writers, life's lemons often come in the form of rejection slips. The only lemonade, and a poor quality one at that, derivable from rejection slip lemons, is found in using their reverse sides for scrap paper.
But most writers get some rejection slips with handwritten comments. >From these comments, both the good, and the bad, writers may derive advantage, greater than a free supply of scrap paper.
Good comments may bring writers encouragement and uplifts, but there's a downside to be guarded against. Editors aren't always sincere when assessing manuscripts. They may see nothing but promise in a writer's work, and still write positive comments about it that aren't true. Their intent is to encourage, but, in effect, they mislead.
There are other editors who may be blinded to a work's faults because of a strong interest in its subject matter, and still others, who may exaggerate a work's strengths because they write themselves, and identify with the "struggling writer."
Writers must be alert when dealing with positive criticism of their work. Other editors, reviewing the same work, should make like comments about it, and there shouldn't be any contradictions. If there are contradictions, and there's no repetition of the positive comments, the criticism is suspect. An increase in positive criticism without a rise in acceptances makes that criticism equally suspect.
If writers carelessly embrace positive criticism, they risk distorting their writing reality to where they see nothing wrong with themselves, or their work. However, they should take some time to savor their positive comments. For most of us they will be rare.
A little self indulgence is indicated because positive comments both measure and reward effort. I recommend indulgence, resembling a night out that one might take after passing one exam, but with another on the horizon.
The horizon exam keeps the celebrant grounded in reality. For writers, it equates with the ever present thought they should have that regardless of past achievement, more serious work remains to be done, and soon.
Fortunately, for most of us, negative comments will also be rare. Most manuscripts are perused, and dismissed with form rejection slips. It's better to receive negative comments on a rejection slip than no comments at all. They prove that a reader reacted to a creative effort, and evoking reader reaction is in a big sense what creative writing's all about.
However, survival as a writer demands getting beyond the purely negative response.
Unlike positive criticism, with negative criticism, contradictions help, and repetition hurts. Deriving advantage from negative criticism is difficult because it attacks effort, and wounds the ego.
Like positive criticism, it's not always justified, but my experience writing, leads me to believe that it's warranted on some level in more cases than not.
Writers rewriting work with negative comments received on rejection slips should address those comments to practice writing for others. Too many of us write for ourselves, expecting our readers to make an effort to come on board.
Oscar Wilde's quip that the public should strive to become artistic, not the artist to become public is clever, but it's just a tongue-in-cheek witticism.
Creative writing works best when both writer and readers react through a work. The ability to communicate through an artistic medium like a story, poem, or novel, is what most serious writers live for.
It's the lemonade that in part comes from paying attention to handwritten comments received on rejection slips, especially the negative comments.
DEATH OF AN OLD FRIEND
By HOWARD DENSON
If I wanted to keep up with my childhood friends Alley Opp and the denizens of Gasoline Alley, I turned to one particular friend who expired during September: The Birmingham Post-Herald, a long-time Scripps Howard newspaper.
As a kid and a teen, I made a point of reading "The Coal Bin" column of Henry Vance because he was a good friend of my grandparents and attended their wedding on Apr. 2 in the second decade of the last century.
The P-H also had sports column by Bill Lumpkin, who survives and wrote a retrospective about his newspaper, as did Clarke Stallworth, who was city editor at the News when I was there as a general flunky and dogsbody.
I never worked for the P-H, but had a grandfather, a father, and a brother who worked in circulation or dispatch and did tasks for the morning P-H and the afternoon News. The Scripps Howard paper and the Newhouse afternoon paper had a peculiar arrangement, of sharing a building, resources for advertising and circulation, but having separate editorial and news departments.
Oddly enough, two Miami papers proposed a similar arrangement, but a federal judge nixed it because it might reek of monopolistic practices and discourage competition.
The P-H came out in the morning and the News in the evening until a few years ago, when the News demanded the morning spot. That pretty much sounded the death knell for the P-H, although I'm sure there were other factors. For example, copies of the P-H could be purchased at vending machines in towns 40 or 50 miles away, but, after the morning-evening flip-flop, you couldn't find the P-H, sometimes even in parts of Birmingham. Apparently the circulation dropped to 9,000 or so.
For a few years, the P-H and the News put out joint issues on Saturdays and some holidays, each issue with two editorial pages and two sets of comics. I guess a federal judge didn't step in because competition is apparently one thing in Miami and another in Birmingham.
Years ago, Jacksonville had two newspapers: the morning Times-Union and the afternoon Journal (the latter was never particularly good, although it had fine features written by Lloyd Brown and others).
By and by, the execs at the T-U and JJ combined the staffs and had reporters write their basic story for, say, the morning paper and then a different version for the afternoon paper. That was a grossly unsatisfactory experiment since readers invariably got the same story, slightly reworded. When the Journal was discontinued, I counted its death as a blessing.
However, the Jacksonville experiment drove home the value of having two different sets of reporters covering events. You could read both stories and find different information being emphasized, as two different minds sifted through the facts to lead off with.
First-tier cities in the United States still have two or more major newspapers, while second- or third-tier cities like Jacksonville and Birmingham limp along with just one paper. Those of a nostalgic bent may point out that in, say, 1910, many of the smaller cities had four or five daily newspapers.
True, they did, but those papers were smaller than today's forest-eradicators. A Thursday newspaper today is often a size that you formerly encountered only on Sunday or Thanksgiving, as the publisher gorges the paper with ad inserts.
(I digress on an odd cultural note: Prior to the combined issues, Birmingham had small Saturday papers and larger Monday papers; for years, the Jacksonville paper has been quite large on Saturday, but smaller on Monday. Undoubtedly, that's driven by ads and buying habits in regions.)
Publishers frequently like to whinge on about how difficult it is today to make a profit, even though even small-town newspapers are highly profitable and often owned by The New York Times, Scripps-Howard, Gannett, Newhouse, or other chains.
Every few months, you'll read some futurist pronouncing that paper news is passé and obsolete, because only the internet can deliver news fast. Such a futurist ignores that the regular newspapers own a majority of the online news sites. Some are free, but many others limit the viewing time unless you pay for an online subscription..
So, good-bye, Alley Oop and Gasoline Alley. I'll have to find you elsewhere.
QUOTE FROM A WRITER'S QUILL
. Great poetry is always written by somebody straining to go beyond what he can do.
. -- Stephen Spender
. WRITERS BORN IN NOVEMBER
. 1--Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux (1636), Christopher Brennan (1870), Stephen Crane (1871), Sholem Asch (1880), David Jones (1895), James Kilpatrick (1920); 2--Jules Amédée Barbey D'Aurevilly (1808), Shere Hite (1942); 3--Benvenuto Cellini (1500), William Cullen Bryan (1794); 4--Conte Aleardo Aleardi (1812), Will Rogers (1879), Ciro Alegría (1909);
5--John Brown (1715), James Beattie (1735), Sam Shepard (1943); 6--Colley Cibber (1671), James Jones (1921); 7--Mark Aleksandrovich Aldanov (1889), Albert Camus (1913); 8--Roger de Beauvoir (EugPne Auguste Roger de Bully) (1806), Margaret Mitchell (1900), Kazuo Ishiguto (1954); 9--Mark Akenside (1721), James Schyler (1923), Anne Sexton (1928), Carl Sagan (1934), Roger McGough (1937);
10--Jakob Cats (1577), José Hernádez (1834), Olaf Bull (1883), Vachel Lindsay (1879), Karl Shapiro (1913); 11--Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821), Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836), Winston Churchill, of U.S. (1871), Howard Fast (1914), Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (1922), Carlos Fuentes (1928); 13--Robert Louis Stevenson (1850); 14--Robert Smythe Hichens (1864), Jacob Abbott, P. J. O'Rourke (1955);
15--Marianne Moore (1915), J. G. Ballard (1930), Ted Berrigan (1934); 16--Chinua Achebe (1930); 17--Sigurd Wesley Christiansen (1891), Shelby Foote (1916); 18--Wyndham Lewis (1882), Margaret Atwood (1939); 19--Hjalmar Fredrik Elgerus Bergman (1883), Allen Tate (1899), Sharon Olds (1942);
20--Thomas Chatterton (1752), le doyen Bridel (Philippe Sirice Bridel) (1757), Alistair Cook (1908), Nadine Gordimer (1923), Don DeLillo (1936); 22--George Eliot (1819),ré Gide (1869), Endre Ady (1877), Richard Emil Braun (1934); 24--Dale Carnegie (1888), William F. Buckley Jr. (1925), Paul Blackburn (1926);
25--John Bigelow (1817); 26--William Cowper (1731), Mihály Babits (1883), EugPne Ionesco (1909), Charles Schultz (1922), David Poyer (1949); 27--Friedrich Rudolf Ludwig Canitz (1654), Bankim Chandra Chatterji (1838), James Agee (1909); 28--William Blake (1757), Carl Jonas Love Almqvist (1793), Dawn Powell (1897); 29--Louisa May Alcott (1832), Ludwig Anzengruber (1839), C. S. Lewis (1898), Madeleine L'Engle (1918), Kahil Gibran (1922), David Kirby (1944);
30--Jonathan Swift (1667), Mark Twain (1835), Sir Winston Churchill (1874).
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
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.
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.
"WE ASPIRE TO CREATE
The Write Staff
Carrol Wolverton, President (email@example.com)
Richard Levine, Vice President (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Joyce Davidson, Secretary (Davent2005@comcast.net)
Howard Denson, Treasurer and newsletter editor (email@example.com)
Joel Young, Public Relations (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Doris Cass, Hospitality (email@example.com)
Frank Green, Dan Murphy, Howard Denson,
Nate Tolar, Joyce Davidson,
Margaret Gloag (firstname.lastname@example.org),
Richard Levine, Bob Alexander, JoAnn Harter Murray
The Write Stuff
FCCJ Kent, Box 109
3939 Roosevelt Blvd.
Jacksonville, FL 32205
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.
MEMBERSHIP IN THE NFW
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 NFW.
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.
Apt. No. ______________________________________
City ________________State _____ Zip __________
E-mail address(es) ___________________________________
HOW DOES CRITIQUING WORK?
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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