The Electronic Write Stuff
Writing News for the Sunshine State & the Solar System (Nov. 2002)


 Sohrab Fracis, author of Ticket to Minto, will speak at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, to the North Florida Writers about his winning the prestigious University of Iowa Short Fiction prize.

 Fracis shows a contrast of life in America and in his native India.  He teaches creative writing and literature as an adjunct at the University of North Florida.

 He has spoken or given readings at Oktoberfest for Writers, the Florida First Coast Writers' Festival, and the Book Island Festival.

 During the year, Fracis was one of the 12 finalists in the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction with his collection entitled Ticket to Minto:  Stories of India and America.  Series editor Charles East gave special praise to his stories "Ancient Fire," "Flora Fountain," "Matters of Balance," and "The Mark Twain Overlook."

 He also won second prize for "Fire and Rain" in Katha: the Indian-American Fiction Contest.  The contest is sponsored by India Currents, the nation's leading Indian-American monthly.

 He also was awarded a State of Florida Individual Artist Fellowship for $5,000.  The non-matching fellowship grant supported his creative writing activities.

 Fracis won the novel contest for the Florida First Coast Writers' Festival in 1991 and is an editor for The State Street Review.

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 Technical volunteers are being sought for the Corbomite Showcase, which will be held Nov. 7-9 at 8 p.m. in the Little Theatre (Room 1700 of Bldg. 14) at the University of North Florida.  In addition, the UNF group is urging interested persons to participate in, or attend, other activities:

 --The 24-Hour Playwriting Contest will be Nov. 15-16. An entry fee of $20 will be charged for students and $30 for the general public.  The contest will feature a first place cash prize and the production of the winning play(s) in the Hasty Shorts One-Act Festival.

 --The group's Hasty Shorts One-Act Festival will be at a time to be announced in January. Auditions will be held later this semester to give the actors and techies a chance to prepare for Spring.

 --The Spring show, not yet chosen, will be Corbomite's largest production of the season. Past shows have included The Importance of Being Earnest and 1959 Pink Thunderbird.

 --The group will also put on Trekkin on the Green, a farce of the original Star Trek series.
 For more information, contract Leah May at

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 An unpublished young-adult manuscript won first runner up in the first annual competition of the Florida Writer's Association.  Jo Ann Harter Murray of Jacksonville received the good news about her novel Olo of the Mound Builders.

 When the FWA met Oct. 25-27 at Hilton Orlando, book submissions in all categories were read by three qualified non-Florida Writer members.  The books were divided into non-published manuscripts and published books.

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 Writers claim that there is no writing only rewriting.  You can find good books on how to revise and polish your work, but they are lengthy discussions, for the most part.  Reading one is similar to reading a novel.

 I have found that, if you take a single guideline and apply it throughout a written piece, you will have more success than if you keep changing sentences and words in the entire selection. The following quick fixes may be useful, especially for revising short stories.

 Write the entire piece at your own rate, but as quickly as possible.  Then, read it aloud.  Now, go back to the beginning and add.  Most critics say to polish your beginning.  Try tacking on a new paragraph or two and reveal what you left out the first time, such as what is the background, who is having trouble (there has to be trouble), what does he look like, what does it smell like, look like, feel like, sound like?  Get the picture?

 Skip the middle for a while.  Go to the ending.  Cut the ending.  If you find yourself explaining why some things happened, go to the middle.  Something has been left out.   Ah, action and dialogue.

 Pretend you are a movie director.  See the picture?  What is the protagonist doing?  List his actions.  What is the antagonist doing?  (If you don't have one, someone must be behind the nefarious crises in which the poor protagonist is embroiling himself).   Does the unfortunate hero make you cry?  Pretend, now, you are Aunt Tilly, who wouldn't cry if her favorite laying hen was run over by a steam-roller in front of her.   Write a scene to cause Aunt Tilly's tears.  What about making her laugh?  Maybe she's as sour as an undertaker at a pickle factory is, so what?  The internet is a treasury of funny stories.  Borrow an idea and change it to fit.   Shakespeare has humor in Macbeth, Hamlet, and King Lear.

 By now you have characters acting, revealing their characters, facing conflicts and resolving them.  Good. Give them words to say.  Be sure they have different voices.  Be sure they aren't all complete sentences.  Use a few grunts, Ahs, and Wells.  The dialogue must not only further the plot, but also give characters personalities, pasts, likes and dislikes.  In dialect give the reader a break.  Only aborigines can understand each other.

 Turn attention to the language.  Use spell-check.  When words are correct, hit "Edit."  Search for any.  You'll find some and many, also.  Change them.  Also, change that, one, and thing.  If you aren't satisfied with stopping there, check out like and as, there, some, and all other short words you fell in love with somewhere in your career (e.g., is, are, was, were).

 Did your writing tighten?  Sprinkle a few, good lines of imagery, but as Poke McHenry says, "No cliches."  Your writing must not be a bare stick, but it must have leaves and, great day, blossoms.

 Finally, don't do as many of us do, and put the story in a drawer.  Send it out or print it yourself. Let it breathe on its own in a magazine, a contest, a collection, a newspaper or a newsletter.  If you see the copy and like the end result, you can tackle a more demanding rewrite next time.©

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 I'm a number one fan of audio-books [in response to "'Newer' Way of Reading," September '02 issue].  My snotty Brit friends sniff at me and say, "How American," which mystifies me.  My snotty American friends also sniff and say, "That's not reading," which similarly mystifies me.

 I'm on a computer all day, so an audio-book is a godsend for my sore eyes.  And as [the article says], those glorious voices!  (I even took a voiceover class and wrote to the producers, but they kindly informed me I had to be a known actor.  Hrmph.  Maybe I'll spring for the expense to produce my own demo tape and dazzle them with my accents--my Scottish "Beans, beans are good for your heart" brings down the house.)

 Another plug for audio-books is to the insomniac and women-of-a-certain-age-suffering-sleep- disturbances.  There's nothing like plugging in the Walkman as night slithers into day around 3 a.m. when lots of us wake up in a panic about God knows what--especially if it's a mystery and you have to rewind to find the clue you remember hearing last but clearly fell asleep before the tape got to the end.  I usually catch one more sentence before I'm gone again.  (I frequently have to renew the audio-book by the bed.)

 They're also brill when you're doing boring old housework or languishing in a bubblebath.  I have several on the go at the same time--kitchen, bedroom, bathroom.  I am even contemplating buying a waterproof Walkman so I can listen to audio-books while swimming (which I do a lot of)--these contraptions do exist but are s-o-o-o expensive.  (Bad enough I don't always rewind the last tape of my audio-book or the ones that turn out to be rubbish and the librarian clicks her teeth at me, can you imagine if I return them chlorine-damaged?)

 Just thought I'd put in my two-cents' worth:  Let's hear it for audio-books and less of the snottiness.

Christine Watt
Ex-Brit in Oregon

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 The Irish Studies program at the University of North Florida will feature a poetry reading by Eamon Grennan at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18, in the Little Theater of the Robinson Student Center.

 Director Richard Bizot said more than 40 of Grennan's poems have appeared in The New Yorker since 1985.  He has published ten books of his own poetry, a volume of his translations of poems by the Italian Leopardi, along with a volume of criticism, Facing the Music:  Irish Poetry in the 20th Century.

 His first book of poems, Wildly for Days, appeared in 1983, while his most recent book, Still Life with Waterfall, came out in 2001 in Ireland and in 2002 in the U.S.

 The poet has received awards from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation.

 He also won the Pushcart Prizes in 1996, 2000, and 2001.

 For more information, call 904/620-2273 or e-mail the director at

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 Aspiring writers often help to build a reputation or portfolio by entering contests.  Sometimes a respectable finish is enough to boost attention for a short story, poem, or novel.

 The contest deadline for the novel contest of the Florida First Coast Writers' Festival will be Dec.2, 2002.  Any original and unpublished novel manuscript, regardless of genre, may be entered.  There is a $30 entry fee for each manuscript (check made out to WRITERS), with first through third prizes of $500, $200, and $100 respectively.

 Short fiction ($10 entry fee for each ms.) will have a deadline of Jan. 2.  The check should be made out to FCCJ FOUNDATION.

 In poetry, two contests have a Jan. 2 deadline, with the Douglas Freels contest focusing on traditional poetry topics and the Robert Grimes contest focusing on ecology and nature.  There is a $5 entry fee (checks made out to FCCJ FOUNDATION).

 Only disposable mss. should be submitted in all categories.

 Entries should be sent to Contests, FCCJ North, 4501 Capper Rd., Jacksonville, FL 32218.

 For complete contest information, go to the Festival homepage at


 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 (Eugène 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), Eugène 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).

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FROM A WRITER'S QUILL -- Flannery O'Connor

"There's many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher."

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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?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
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 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., Nov. 9, 2 p.m., F128B: NFW Speaker: Sohrab Fracis
Sat., Dec. 14, 2 p.m., F128B: NFW Speaker: Patti Levine Brown
Sat., Jan. 11, 2 p.m., F128B: NFW Speaker: Bill Reynolds

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 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: __________________________________

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 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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