The Write Stuff
Writing News for the Sunshine State & the Solar System (Vol. IX: 12), December 2001
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Suncoast Conference to feature
Carl Hiaasen, Jane Smiley

When the 30th annual Florida Suncoast Writers' Conference takes place Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 7-9, attendees will get to hear Carl Hiaasen, Jane Smiley, Myla Goldberg, Alan Cheuse, and many others.

The conference is held at the St. Petersburg campus of the University of South Florida.  Early registration (through Jan. 25) will be $175, while registration after that will be $200.  Special rates of $160 are available for students, teachers, and those in the Lifelong Writers category.

For more information or to register by phone with a credit card, interested persons should call (813) 974-2403, ext. 507.

A three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, Hiaasen writes a column that appears three times a week in The Miami Herald.  He exposes local scandals and criticizes corruption in the state. Also a novelist, Hiaasen has written Sick Puppy, Double Whammy, and Tourist Season.

Smiley won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for her 1992 novel, A Thousand Acres, which has been made into a film starring Michele Pfieffer and Jessica Lange.  She is also the author of Moo, a satire of academia and society, along with The Age of Grief, The Greenlanders, Barn Blind, Duplicate Keys, and Ordinary Love & Good Will.

Goldberg is the author of the novel Bee Season, which revolves around the National Spelling Bee.  Her stories have appeared in Virgin Fiction, Eclectic Literary Forum, and American Writing.  She has also written an audio book, The Commemorative.

Cheuse is the author of three novels, two collections of short fiction, and the non-fiction book, Fall Out of Heaven.  He is also a regular contributor to National Public Radio's All Things Considered.

Kalliope editor publishes
her first poetry collection

Mary Sue Koeppel, editor of the women's literary magazine, Kalliope and a communications instructor at FCCJ's South Campus, has seen the publication of her first collection of poems.  The book is entitled In the Library of Silences: Poems of Loss (Rhiannon, $7).

An review lauded the collection for the poems' balance and "multitude of meanings that rise from clean, sharp, well-crafted images."

Other poems range from the whimsical to the "horrifying loss of family members by an accident."

Poetry reading set Dec. 6

Poets and writers are invited to read their work at  Minnie's 1341 (1341 University Blvd. N.) at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6.  Since seating will be limited, interested persons should confirm their space by calling Joan Cates (744-7660) or Lynn Skapyak (778-8000) or by e-mailing or

Penelope's Other Lesson


Several years ago, the editors of a number of news magazines got together to prove what most of us already knew:  Nudity sells.

Unconcerned with quality, each editor scribbled a chapter for a novel. No editor knew what another was writing. The chapters appeared together as a paperback novel entitled, Naked Came the Stranger by Penelope Ash. Its cover featured a nude, and it became a bestseller.

There is another less obvious lesson here:  Quality writing does not count in determining sales. That little was made of the horrific prose explains why today's literary fiction, more often vapid than sound, sells sufficiently to please its publishers. The publishers, conglomerate-owned, have money machines capable of promoting, distributing, and selling any type of writing they choose.

Books by and about the famous as well as those centering around well-known events top their lists as their profitability is assured.  Literary fiction is neglected.  Its limited appeal, and non-material concerns, make it an unlikely source of profit.

Not too long ago, an article in Poets & Writers asked young editors at major publishing houses how they selected manuscripts. The article put a positive spin on the publishers' neglect of literary fiction, calling it giving the editors, "greater freedom in their acquisitions."

The editors' remarks suggested that feel-good editing is the only editing going on at these houses re: literary fiction.

The editors admitted that they were getting paid "to publish what we love." Some comments: "Do I love this?. . .Does it speak to me?. . .Usually you know right away whether a manuscript is right for you."
That an occasional quality work like Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes still appears doesn't vindicate the editors. It just shows that, just as no one wins all the time, so no one fails all the time.

My reading of current literary fiction is limited almost exclusively to the highlights of new works published in magazines like Poets & Writers, and, as I wrote in an earlier essay, I find them instantly forgettable.
More reading isn't needed to justify my belief. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, you don't have to drink an entire cask of wine to determine it tastes like bilge water.

The interviews with these newer writers often shows them using expletives freely like barroom punks, and for communicating the most complex of life's situations, their collective vocabularies appear limited to four words: lot, hard, thing, and stuff.

Reading a lot of these new writers' stuff makes it hard for me to anticipate the elegance thing.
Another reason for the decline in quality prose is the politics of inclusion which dictates that all peoples, persuasions, and isms be equally represented at all times with none daring to excel. If all the potatoes in your sack haven't the same size and shape with an identical number of eyes, then they don't exist.

I read too in the Writers' Chronicle that many literate people now prefer genre fiction over the newer literary fiction. They find it reads closer to life, and often with characters more fully developed than its literary counterpart which tends to have dysfunctional characters who speak only to themselves, or who whine and rant against the usual suspects through diatribes both tedious and tiresome. I agree, and offer Tony Hillerman's Jim Chee, Navajo cop, as an example of a genre character more complex and real than most in the newer literary line.

In introductory computer classes, a reference is sometimes made to the GIGO rule. GIGO stands for "garbage in, garbage out." It's to remind students that sophisticated computer ware alone cannot elevate paltry input. Let the feel-good editors take note. GIGO applies too in publishing. Regardless of the costly hardback cover, the elaborate book jacket, and the allegedly prestigious logo, if garbage is all that goes into it, then garbage is all that's going to come out.

Festival extends novel deadline

The novel contest deadline has been extended to Jan. 2, according to the Florida First Coast Writers' Festival.  That date will also be the deadlines for the contests in poetry and stories.

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.  Each category has a $5 entry fee per poem.

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.

 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.  Each story will have a $10 entry fee.

Novel entries may be of any genre.  There is no minimum or maximum length, and the writer may leave his or her name on the manuscript.  The contest wants the entire manuscript.  It will not need a synopsis of the story.

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.

Checks or money orders for entry fees should be made out to WRITERS and  all entries should be mailed to Contests, FCCJ North Campus, Box 21, 4501 Capper Rd., Jacksonville, FL 32218.
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; in novels, first prize, $500 combined prize from North Florida Writers and Writers' Festival; second, $200 from WF; third, $100, from WF.

All entries should be original and unpublished.

For more information, consult the Festival's homepage at

Middleburg poet sings praises of America

A revised and updated collection of American poetry is being published by  Author Joel L. Young's American Lyricon, A Poet Sings of America recently won a Clara award.

Young has been inspired by John Wayne's classic recitation,"America, Why I Love Her," Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA," John Cougar Mellencamp's Heartland ballad, "Little Pink Houses," along with traditional themes from "The Star Spangled Banner" to "America the Beautiful."

  Young outlines his experiences from Appalachia to the Rockies. His influences range from the Florida boondocks to the streets of New York. He writes of the people, music, ideals, and struggles this country has faced since the 1600s to the new millennia.

"I wanted to tell a story of America through poetry," Young said. "From the landing of the Mayflower to present day, I wanted to present a lexicon of music, land, and the people in harmony and the struggles they've faced."

Author Geri Ahearn writes of American Lyricon, "I strongly recommend that an audience of young adults as well as the older generation would find this book delightful to the soul."

Want to travel, write, and take courses?

If you want to combine writing, travel, and education, then you need to check out the study-travel tours scheduled this summer by FCCJ to London-Stratford, Italy, and China.

Writers will get a chance to see Michelangelo�s Sistine Chapel ceiling, Parliament and Big Ben, or 7,000 ancient terracotta soldiers.

On the Italy tour (May 16-26), students will first see Rome and then travel north through Pompeii, Florence, Sorrento, Assisi, to Venice.  Students will visit St. Peter�s Cathedral, the Colosseum, Florence�s Palazzo Vecchio and the Piazza Della Signoria.  Travel cost will be $2,300, with an initial deposit of $95 being due when the application is made, with $400 being due 30 days later and $1,805 by Feb. 5.

The Italy tour students would take any two of these courses:  Art Appreciation (ARH 1000), Drawing I (ART 1300C), Painting I (ART 1301), Painting II (ART 2510C), or Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies (ART 2808C).  These would be taught by Professors Ron Wetherell (904/696-2013) or Eleanor Allen (

A London-to-Stratford tour (May 22-June 6) will focus on British theater, film, and TV, plus the famous landmarks and museums of Britain�s capital.  Students will see classic plays in the New Globe Theatre, the National Theatre, and newer productions at the popular West End theatres.  They will visit the British Broadcasting Corporation�s complex and London�s equivalent of Hollywood.  A trip to London will also feature the National Gallery, the British Museum, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul�s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, and other sites.  A side-trip is planned to Stratford-upon-Avon to see Shakespeare�s home, burial spot, Anne Hathaway�s house, and a production of a play at the Stratford Theatre.  Travel cost will be $2,510, with $50 due with the application; $675 by Jan. 15; $950, by Feb. 28; and the remaining $875 by April 1.

The London tour students would take any two of these courses:  Humanities Forum:  British Culture (HUM 2021), Humanities:  Mainstream of Cultures (HUM 2236), Theatre Appreciation (THE 2000), or Fundamentals of Speech Communications (SPC 2600), taught by Professors Claude J. Smith Jr. (904/646-2338; or Howard Denson (

The 12-day China trip (June 24-July 5) will explore the legendary Silk Road.  The trip will begin in Beijing and then take students to Urumqi (capital of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous region), Turpan, Liuyuang, Dunhuang, Jiayuguan, Lanzhou, Xian, and Hong Kong.  Students will visit the city in the world farthest removed from any ocean, a glacier lake 5,800 feet above sea level, a depression 150 meters below sea level, and the Mogao Caves, a complex of 492 grottoes, some dating back to 366 AD.  In Xian, students will visit the underground Army of Terra-Cotta Warriors of Qin Shi Huangdi, the first emperor of China.

Students will take either Beginning Chinese I (CHI 1120), Beginning Chinese II (CHI 1121), Humanities of Asia (HUM 2410), or World Religions (REL 2300), taught by Professors Arthur Y. Chiang (904/384-3670; or Duane Dumbleton (904/381-3534;
Travel cost will be $2,800, with a $100 deposit due with the application, $400 due 30 days later, $1,000 due Jan. 15, and the $1,300 balance on Mar. 8.  Students may apply after Mar. 8 until the program is full.
Books and tuition will be extra for all tours, but roundtrip airfare, meals, lodging, and admittance fees are included.  Students will be responsible for visa application fees, travel insurance, airport taxes, expenses of a personal nature, special meals, and any extra excursions.

Dr. Brenda Simmons, Extended Studies director, should receive all inquiries, applications, and checks, payable to the appropriate account (include the student's Social Security number on the check).  Her address is FCCJ North Campus, 4501 Capper Rd., Jacksonville, FL 32218.  Credit card payments can be made by contacting her office at 904/766-4444.

More information about the study-travel program is available at the website:

Quote from a Writer's Quill

Writing is like walking in a deserted street.
Out of the dust in the street you make a mud pie.
--John Le Carre

Writers born in December

1--Rex Stout (1886) and Woody Allen (1935); 2--Robert Bloomfield (1766), Nikos Kazantzákis (1885), Jon Silkin (1930), and T. Coraghessan Boyle (1948); 3--Joseph Conrad (1857) and Hermann Heijermans (1864); 4--Jean Chapelain (1595), Frances Power Cobbe (1822), Samuel Butler (1835), Rainer Maria Rilke (1875) and Cornell Woodrich (1903);
5--Christina Rossetti (1830), Walt Disney (1901), Joan A. Williams (1925), Joan Dideon (1934), Hanif Kureishi (1954); 6--Elizabeth Carter (1717), Thomas Ingoldsby (Richard Harris Barham) (1788), Joyce Kilmer (1886), and Peter Handke (1942); 7--Paul Adam (1862), Joyce Cary (1888), and Wilma Cather (1873); 8--Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (1832), James Thurber (1894), Delmore Schwartz (1913), and James Tate (1943); 9--John Milton (1608);
10--William Plomer (1903); 11--Naguib Mahfouz (1911), Grace Paley (1922), Jim Harrison (1937), Tom McGuane (1939); 12--Gustave Flaubert (1821) and Arthur Brisbane (1864); 13--Heinrich Heine (1797), Drew Pearson (1896), Kenneth Patchen (1911), and James Wright (1927); 14--Nostradamus (1503) and Shirley Jackson (1916);
15--Maxwell Anderson (1888) and Muriel Rukeyser (1913); 16--Jane Austen (1775), Noel Coward (1899), Theodore Weiss (1916), Arthur C. Clarke (1917), and Philip K. Dick (1928); 17--John Almon (1737), Rose Terry Cook (1827), Ford Madox Ford (1873) and Erskine Caldwell (1903); 18--Saki (1870) and Steven Spielberg (1947); 19--Manuel Bretón de los Herreros (1796), Emily Dickinson (1830), Italo Svevo (1861) and Jean Genet (1910);
 20--Sandra Cisneros (1954); 21--Benjamin Disraeli (1804), James Lane Allen (1849), Albert Payson Terhune (1872), and Heinrich Böll (1917); 22--Charles Stuart Calverley (1831), Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869) and Kenneth Rexroth (1905); 23--Robert Bly (1926); 24--George Crabbe (1754) and Matthew Arnold (1822);
25--Lady Grizel Baillie (1665), Fernán Caballero (Cecilia Francisca Josefa de Arrom) (1796), Rod Serling (1924); 26--Dion Boucicault (1822?), René Bazin (1853), Henry Miller (1891), Jean Toomer (1894), and Steve Allen (1921); 27--François Hemsterhuis (1721) and Charles Olson (1910); 28--Manuel Puig (1932), Alasdair Gray (1934), and Theodore Dreiser (1945); 29--William Gaddis (1922) and Peter Meinke (1932);

30--Rudyard Kipling (1865), Paul Bowles (1910), and A. W. Purdy (1918); 31--G. A. Burger (1747), José Mariá de Heredia y Campuzano (1803), Frances Steloff (1887), and Patti Smith (1946).

"We aspire to create with words."

The Write Staff:

Bob Alexander , NFW President
2348 Herschel Ave. # 4
Jacksonville, FL 32204
(904. 387.3139)

JoAnn Harter Murray, Vice President
Margaret Gloag, Secretary

Howard Denson, Treasurer and Newsletter Editor

Carrol Wolverton and Doris Cass, Membership

PAST PRESIDENTS:  Frank Green, Dan Murphy, Howard Denson, Nate Tolar, Joyce Davidson, Margaret Gloag, Richard Levine

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?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

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).

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.

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.

You may also simply bring your ms. to any of these meetings:
Some dates to remember:

Sat., Dec. 8, 2 p.m., F128B, Kent Campus:  NFW meeting.

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 in the NFW brings several benefits:  subscription to a monthly newsletter, $5-a-day discounts to the mid-May workshops of the Florida First Coast Writers' Festival, and free admission to North Campus' Fall Fest for Writers.
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 "0100" next to your last name, your membership expired in that month.  You do not have to pay back dues to activate your members, so, if you last paid in 1992, 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: __________________________________

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).

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."


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