The Electronic Write Stuff
Writing News for the Sunshine State & the Solar System (Mar. 2003)

17th Writers' Festival scheduled May 15-17

The 17th annual Florida First Coast Writers' Festival will feature novelists, freelancers, nonfiction writers, editors, and agents.  The three days of workshops will be held at the Sea Turtle Inn at Atlantic Beach.

 Speakers will include the following:

 -- Eddie Bell, performance poet
 -- Bill Belleville, environmental writer and filmmaker
 -- Peter Bowerman, freelance commercial writer
 -- Steve Brown, writer, former FBI agent, and private investigator
 -- Gary Buffone, psychologist and writer
 -- Marisa Carbone, TV reporter/writer
 -- Laura Parker Castoro, novelist
 -- S.V. Dáte, novelist
 -- John Finotti, writer
 -- Elizabeth Furdell, non-fiction writer
 -- Allison Glock, non-fiction writer
 -- Lenore Hart, poet, writer of fiction and horror
 -- Ad Hudler, novelist
 -- Ann Hyman, journalist and writer
 -- Cassandra King, novelist
 -- Amanda Lynch, freelance writer
 -- Doug Marlette, editorial cartoonist, cartoonist, and novelist
 -- Ray McNiece, poet, writer, performer
 -- Scott Morris, novelist
 -- Cricket Pechstein, agent
 -- Kathy Pories, fiction and nonfiction editor at Algonquin Books
 -- David Poyer, novelist
 -- Jacky Sach, literary agent, BookEnds, LLC
 -- Paul Sinor, novelist, author and screenwriter
 -- Les Standiford, novelist
 -- Judy Stough, memoir writing
 -- Gerhardt Thamm, novelist

 To register early, go to the Festival's website at or call 904.997-2669.

Twixt the cup and the lip


 I remain in favor of submitting work in general despite the fact that rejections are inevitable because more rejections help than hurt.

 There are probably more rejection slips printed than acceptance slips, and writers probably receive more of the former than they do of the latter. Newer writers tend to have less experience with acceptance slips. Some think that receiving one means that both publication and success are at hand. The idea of success being at hand after receiving a single acceptance slip is absurd, but thinking publication's near is not. In many cases it is, but not in every case--at least not publication as anticipated.

 That there's many a slip twixt the cup and the lip holds true for writers, especially the unconnected, who must begin their quest for publication, submitting to literary and small publication magazines often associated with colleges and universities.

 I once thrilled over an acceptance slip, decorated with the image of a girl in a dress, sitting on a porch swing, reading a book alongside her cat. The slip congratulated me. My work would appear in the September issue only four months away. I didn't know at the time that this acceptance slip was a vanisher. The senders of a vanisher, and their magazine, disappear before publishing their accepted work. Not an experienced submitter, I sent numerous inquiries, some via certified mail, but never a reply, and never another listing for this magazine in my updated submission sources.

 I went from the vanisher to the denial. Nobody disappears with a denial, but both magazine and editor deny accepting work. Still an inexperienced submitter, I again sent my inquiries, and even tracked this magazine to a book fair or two. Everyone at the exhibit tables denied knowing the whereabouts of the accepting editor, who was also the editor-in-chief, but told me that submissions were always welcome.

 After several okay acceptances, I encountered the accordion acceptance, and the mix-up. An accordion acceptance sings your praises by accepting your work, but the magazine folds before publishing it. A mix-up acceptance occurs when your name appears under someone else's work and vice versa. Less in the habit of chasing troubled acceptances, preferring instead to chase other magazines, which come into, and go out of existence with a fair degree of regularity, I was nevertheless moved to inquire. A curt reply accused me of having caused the mix-up through faulty submission habits.

 I was okay with my acceptances for a while until the let-down acceptance hit. The let-down is an acceptance, and publication by a magazine, that once received embarrasses rather than elevates. Many of the lesser known publications have little more than desire on their side. I don't enjoy thinking my work's above a publication, but it happens, and when it does, it's about as fulfilling as not being published at all.

 After a fair amount of okay acceptances, I met up with the perpetual acceptance wherein the editor believes you are going to live forever and/or that it doesn't matter if you croak before seeing your work in print. Now I send inquiries only to editors who have repeatedly published me, but a fourteen-month wait, and still no appearance of a one hundred and fifty word short-short story, made me make an exception. With my inquiry, I enclosed another copy of my short-short story.

 "No, we haven't lost it, and you didn't have to send another copy," the editor replied. "I just haven't found the right space for it. When I do, you'll get your copies, etc."

 Lastly, there's the rewrite acceptance. Here the editor wants you to rewrite the piece, or offers to do it for you. I often agree to minor changes, and to cutting material for space limitations. It doesn't matter who does the former, but only the writer should do the rewrite. Otherwise, your personality and style will be written out of the piece. I let an editor cut five hundred words from a fifteen hundred word work, and had trouble recognizing it in print.

 I don't know how common these flawed acceptances are in general, but anyone submitting a significant number of manuscripts, will suffer some frustration with their acceptances.

 As I believe all rejections diminish us by proving that someone somewhere didn't think us as accomplished as we thought ourselves, so I believe too that all acceptances help, even those that frustrate, by proving, that someone somewhere did think us as accomplished as we thought ourselves.©

 Tom Lane is a freelancer from New York City.


[EDITOR'S NOTE:  This is Part 1 of a two-part series. Next month will focus on using websites and newsletters.]


   With today�s tight situation in the world of publishing, many of us writers have wearied of adding to our collection of rejection letters. Instead, we move on to the next step: self-publishing at least some of our own work.

 After publication, the major stumbling block for many authors is promoting that work. If you think you�d like to self publish, you will soon discover that in order to receive the publicity necessary for selling the book, you must work hard to promote it.

 For promotion, you need writing skills (which authors already have), speaking skills (which can be developed), and skill at analyzing your own work. The kind of analysis required here involves viewing your work from an outsider�s viewpoint, keeping in mind that members of the reading public look for something that fits in with the interests they have already developed, but they also want something unique, something nobody else knows about the subject.

 Begin by analyzing your book�s type, content, and theme, to look for connections you can make between your book and the rest of the world. This analysis is necessary whether your book is fiction or nonfiction.
 Once you have listed them, use these three aspects of your book to connect with groups already interested in them. An analysis of your book will provide you with lists of fields, subjects, and/or interest groups that can translate easily into the names of clubs and associations of people who will be interested to hear of your work.

 When your analysis is ready, it�s time to start research. Solicit your reference librarian�s help in finding the names and addresses of these clubs and associations. Use internet search engines as well. Check for listings of such groups in the magazines that their members might read. Watch for the names of local groups in your newspaper. Join some new clubs and associations that are closely related to your topic or subject, and find ways to get your work mentioned to members. Does the group publish a newsletter or journal? Does it bring in speakers?

 Contact these groups, enclosing a release that explains your work. Offer a free copy of the book wherever you think it might help convince members of the group that they need the book you can offer.

 Don�t forget your college and university alumni magazines, a rich source of possible contacts. Send releases regularly to their editors, releases that tell what you are publishing and the related activities you are engaging in.

 Some readers out there, as soon as they hear of your book, are going to write you and ask for more information about your work.

 Book promotion experts sometimes advise setting aside a hundred copies of your book as giveaways. I disagree with this number because it�s overly generous and even wasteful. I try to be very focused in selecting persons to receive free books. Those who get free copies from me tend to be people not only in a position from which they can influence the buying habits of others but also persons who have already expressed sincere admiration for my work and will certainly give it a good sendoff.

 Now look at your book from another angle, that of the writing and speaking actions you need to pursue in order to inform the public of your work. Work on the skills you need in order to take advantage of the way they can help you develop the audience for your book.

 Learn the art of writing releases. Put the uniqueness of your work into the first paragraph. Releases will go to local as well as national, maybe international, contacts. Particularly important is your local media.
Find out the name and e-mail address of the most appropriate person on your local newspaper, the person to whom you should direct all your local releases. Is there a city magazine as well? Check the yellow pages.

 Contact all the CRMs (Community Relations Managers) of your local bookstores, handing them a release with your book�s cover illustrated on it. Ask if they will be ordering copies of your book. Cultivate one particular bookstore in your neighborhood, and volunteer to come in and hand-sell books at times convenient to the CRM, who plans the store�s schedule for such functions.

 Taking a vacation? Write to the bookstore managers in the city you plan to visit, explaining that you are on a book tour and will be in town during a particular period. Volunteer to set up a time to come into the store and sell your book.

 Include a copy of your release. As soon as an autographing session is scheduled, send out brief announcements to the media:

 Martin Schmidt, author of three books, will appear in person at Bradley�s Bookstore on Princeton Boulevard March 17 at 3:00 P.M. to autograph copies of his latest, Fearful Frenzy, a thriller based in Patagonia in 1922. For more information, contact Bradley Barker at 555-8050.

 Cultivate your local librarian and the libraries in cities you plan to visit. Contribute a copy of your book, and volunteer to make a book presentation in the library�s auditorium.  Inexperienced authors sometimes wonder aloud to me: �How did you get all these engagements to speak and sign books?�

 Answer: �I asked.�

 Illustrative material is absolutely essential for live book presentations. Besides preparing picture boards, slides, and/or transparencies to use at book presentations, also have a blowup of the book cover made, to post at speaking sites. Kinko�s is one of the printing/copying companies that will make these for you.

 Think of �hooks� for your book that are related to the calendar. For example, I autograph my Austrian book at Oktoberfest. I sell my vegetarian cookbook on National Meatout Day. All bookstore owners like to have special promotions just before the Christmas holidays.

 Is your book a children�s book? Volunteer to read it at the children�s story hour in your local library, asking if you may also sell copies afterwards to any parents whose children show particular interest.

 Is your book a cookbook? Contact local food shops and cooking clubs, volunteering to speak about your book and distributing free samples. For my self-published vegetarian cookbook, I have spoken at many local health food stores, selling the book afterwards both to individuals and to the store.

 Find out about local book clubs from newspaper and magazine reports of their meetings. Literary groups are always looking for good speakers. They want �infotainment,� an entertaining and informative presentation of your book, illustrated with slides or transparencies or poster boards full of pictures.

 On these occasions, furnish plenty of well-written handouts. When I speak on my historical novel, The Sceptre, which has an Austrian background, I dramatize it by wearing an Austrian costume, and my handouts include Austrian recipes. Sometimes I am able to sell this book at ethnic celebrations.

 Send releases about your book and your work-related activities (your speeches and autographing sessions) to local radio and TV show hosts as well as to local newspapers. If you are willing to make media appearances, follow up your releases by phoning the show hosts about a week after sending a release, offering to speak about your book or give an interview.©

About the author

Dorothy Jane Mills, the author of 17 books, has also written under her former name of Dorothy Z. Seymour. The Labyrinth, sequel to her historical novel The Sceptre, will be published in spring of 2003. She has just signed a contract with a commercial publisher, McFarland, to write her memoirs under the working title My Life in Baseball, which will appear in 2004, at spring training time. She has been selected to appear in the new edition of Who�s Who. Her web sites are and

FROM A WRITER'S QUILL -- Henry Louis Mencken

"Criticism is prejudice made plausible."


The Write Staff:

JoAnn Harter Murray, President (
Carrol Wolverton, Vice President (
Nate Tolar, Secretary Howard Denson, Treasurer and newsletter editor (
Jean Mayo, Membership chair.(
Joyce Davidson, Public Relations (
Doris Cass, Hospitality

Presidents Emeritus:

Frank Green, Dan Murphy (, Howard Denson, Nate Tolar, Joyce Davidson, Margaret Gloag (, Richard Levine (, Bob Alexander

NEWSLETTER ADDRESS:  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, Microsoft Word, or RFT format.  We pay in copies to the contributors, with modest compensation for postage and copying.  We pay $5 for pieces of 500 to 599 words; $6, 600+; $7, 700+ words. For cartoons or art (in our print-version), we pay $5 each.  Writers and graphic artists retain all property rights in their work(s).

ISSN No. 1084 6875


 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. Be sure to allow time for the manuscript to reach Kent.

 Some dates to remember:

Wed., Mar. 5, 6:30 p.m., Book Mark (at Beaches): Diane Rooks, Spinning Gold Out of Straw (co-sponsored by NOW)

 Sat., Mar. 8, 2 p.m., F128B: NFW Speaker:  Caryn Suarez, Florida Writers

 Sat., Mar. 8, 2-5 p.m., Barnes & Noble Mandarin (11112 San Jose Blvd.:  Book signing:  Joel L. Young, award-winning poet and author of American Lyricon:  A Poet Sings of America (More information:   Misty James at 904/886-9904)

 Wed., Mar. 12, 7 p.m., Book Mark (at Beaches): Janis Owens, Schooling of Claybird Catts

 Sat., Mar. 15, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Jacksonville Art Council, Lynch Bldg. (11 Forsyth St.):  Book signing, Nate Tolar, The Keeping of Ellie

 Mon., Mar. 24, 7 p.m., Book Mark (at Beaches): Lynne Barrett, Birth:  A Literary Companion

 Sat., Mar. 29, 9 a.m., Book Mark (at Beaches):  coffee with Frank Gormley, Frank's Whales

 Sat., Apr. 5, 9 a.m., Book Mark (at Beaches):  coffee with Mary McLaughlin Updike, Among the Groves:  A Florida Childhood Remembered

 Fri., Apr. 11, 7:30 p.m., Book Mark (at Beaches):  UNF authors/students of Fiction Fix

 Sat., Apr. 12, 2 p.m., F128B: NFW Speaker:  Christine Lindblom, Florida Writers

 Thurs., Apr. 24, 7:30 p.m., Book Mark (at Beaches):  Dan Schafer, Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley

 Sat., May 10, 2 p.m., F128B: NFW Speaker:  John Boles of Jacksonville University, screenwriting

 Sat., June 14, 2 p.m., F128B: NFW Speaker:  Robert Kline of St. Augustine

 Sat., July 12, 2 p.m., F128B: NFW Speaker:  Bill Kerr of Jacksonville, novelist

 Sat., Aug. 9, 2 p.m., F128B: NFW Speaker: Dan Murr

 Sat., Sept. 13, 2 p.m., F128B: NFW Speaker:  Charles Feldstein of FCCJ South, poet

 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; plus many others.


 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.)

 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: __________________________________


 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).

 UNHELPFUL FEEDBACK:  As you listen to a manuscript, you may be tempted to say, "That's the stupidest piece I've ever heard."  Alas, you aren't being CONSTRUCTIVE.  If you simply do NOT like any, say, science-fiction, then you may not have anything helpful to say.  That is all right.  On the other hand, if you think that a piece was going along okay and then fell apart, you can help the author by saying, "I accepted the opening page, but, when the singing buffalo was introduced somewhere on page 2, the piece lost it for me."