The Electronic Write Stuff

Writing News for the Sunshine State & the Solar System (Oct. 2002)




Harriett Dodson, author of numerous papers on popular culture subjects, will speak to the North Florida Writers at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12, about Harriet Beecher Stowe's connection to Northeast Florida.

Ms. Stowe, a native of Connecticut, frequently visited the area and kept a house in what is now Mandarin.

President Abraham Lincoln referred to her as "the little lady who started with great big war," because of the popularity of her novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin.That work was serialized in magazines from June 1851 to April 1852, without making much of a stir.However, when two hardback volumes appeared in March 1852, the book sold a half-million copies within five years.Her work was translated into more than 20 foreign languages.

The work contributed to the popular culture such terms as "Uncle Tom" and "Simon Legree."

The speaker is a retired professor from FCCJ.



A one-woman show on Oct. 24 will bring back to life the Florida writer Zora Neale Hurston.The program will be from noon to 1 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in Fernandina Beach.

Ms. Hurston will be portrayed by Phyllis McEwen as the writer was in 1938.

Hurston, who was born in 1891 in Eatonville, became a novelist, folklorist, essayist, anthropologist, and autobiographer.After her death in 1960, her novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, became popular.The movie rights have been bought by Oprah Winfrey.

Brown bags are welcome, but lunch will be $7.50 for those who prefer to purchase their lunches.

Reservations are required of all participants, and the lunch reservations need to be prepaid by Oct. 21.Checks should be made payable to FCCJ and mailed to the Betty P. Cook Nassau Center, 760 William Burgess Blvd., Yulee, FL 32097.

The program is sponsored by the Nassau Women's Information Exchange (WIE), the Women's Center of FCCJ, the FCCJ Nassau Center, and the Nassau County Public Libraries.Ms. McEwen's performance is sponsored by the Florida Humanities Council.

For more information, call 904/548-4400.




The Irish scholar and poet, Eamon Grennan, will present a reading of his poems on Monday, Nov. 18, in the Little Theater of the Robinson Student Center at the University of North Florida.

More than 40 of his 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.

He received his Ph.D. in English from Harvard in 1973. He resides in the U.S., but visits Ireland regularly.He has taught at Vassar College since 1974.He has also taught at Columbia University, Villanova, New York U, and City University of New York.

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.




We're often curious about the reading habits (if any) of our fellow bipeds, so let me share with you the experiences and changes of someone who remembers books and radio, books and television, and books and TV, videos, CDs, and audio-tapes.

Old-fashioned, page-turning books have been with us for centuries, and, despite the advanced technologies that threaten to eradicate the book, the electronic marvels have limitations and serious failings for a reader soaking in a tub or relaxing in a hammock.

Experts frequently announce the end of "books as we know them," only to see books multiply at Books-A-Google.(You know their jingle:"Books-A-Google with their goo-goo-googly aisles.")

A historian will speak at length about preliterate cultures, when hunter-gatherers hunkered around the fire to hear Org tell how he single-handedly slew the wooly mammoth.Org knew how to improve a story, so he ended up killing five wooly mammoths, getting impaled on a tusk, but surviving to kill five more.By and by, Org's family put him in the ground at the advanced age of thirty-four and then repeated, and elaborated on, the great man's feats.

One day, a tribal elder of thirty-eight proclaimed, "Lo, we have invented the oral tradition," and the tribe saw that it was good.

Eventually, early folk came up with some whoppers about a warrior whose ship is blown off course, causing him to encounter a sorceress who turned his crew into pigs, and they told some other stretchers that you simply wouldn't believe.Since merchants had developed a system of keeping up with livestock and merchandise, and called it writing, some quill-dippers began to write down these tales.

One day, a tribal elder proclaimed, "Lo, we have invented Greek literature," and the tribe saw that it was good because it irritated their eighteen-year-olds and gave their pedagogues something to think about besides the quest for the good, the true, and the beautiful.

As the millennia unfolded, there were always people who did not know how to read.Oftentimes these thoughtless individuals had been born into poor families, who frequently lacked food, clothing, and adequate housing, much less books or scrolls.

However, even these individuals gravitated to taverns and such for a pint apiece, where, in the 1700s and 1800s, some chap sat with, say, a history by Thomas Carlyle--which he read aloud to the patrons.Again, we have a variation of the oral tradition.

When silent films came in, and then radio, the doom-sayers proclaimed, "Of course, this portends the end of the book."It didn't, of course.Tarzan fought stuffed lions on film, gave his cry of victory on radio, and continued to swing through the trees in book after book.Radio turned Dickens' "The Christmas Carol" into programs featuring Lionel Barrymore grousing at Bob Crachit.  Hollywood repeatedly filmed versions of "The Christmas Carol," and people continued to read Dickens in the original.Some radio stations simply had programs featuring someone reading, say, Mark Twain or Thackeray.And books survived.

Television repeated the history of radio, as Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Burns & Allen, and others tried out, and thrived in, the new medium.The new medium transformed into the new tedium as this great monster consumed material.And books survived.Cable came along and increased TV's appetite a hundred-fold, but, nonetheless, books survived.

It came to pass that I came along and became a first-hand observer of audio-books.However, due to a broken tape-player in my car, I was slow to try out such tapes, but, with a different car, found them very familiar--like "Lux Radio Theatre" or at least like the handy reader in a pub.Although I haven't deserted books, I find these tapes have changed my "reading" habits (and caused me to desert radio sports and political talk shows with their endless cycle of two minutes of talk, then two minutes of commercials).

Besides checking to see the title and author of a book, I also check to see who is reading it.John Le Carré, for example, is an excellent reader and creates a world of different accents, from posh to Welsh or Scottish, to Russian or Middle Eastern.Patrick McNee ("John Steed" on "The Avengers"), Roger Rees ("Nicholas Nickleby"), and other British thespians bring superlative acting skills to the readings.If Donald Ogden Stiers (the pompous doctor on late "M.A.S.H."), Darren McGavin ("Night Stalker"), or Jean Smart ("Designing Women") is reading a novel, that alone will prompt me to give a writer a chance.

Although I'm a big fan of sea novels in the spirit of C. S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower series, I found Jack O'Brian's critically acclaimed sea novels about Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin irritating to read.However, when they are read by Tim Piggott-Smith, they can speed a voyage from Birmingham to Jacksonville.

However, if novels have unlikely premises or illogical scenes, you can flip over those flawed pages with a book, but, with an audio book, you may find it excruciating to listen to something that's just stupid, stupid, stupid.Although it's possible to fast-forward through a flawed section, it's easier to pop out the tape altogether.

Often abridged, audio-books may have problems of coherence.For example, you may hear, "Jerome rode off on Jupiter that afternoon. . . .After Jerome's funeral, they sent Jupiter to the knackers."You grumble about a major omission and growl even more if you discover the problem existed in the book version.

The audio-books reinforce the adage that established writers tell novices at workshops:Read your work aloud (or go to a writers' workshop where you listen to someone read your own work).If a sentence has a problem, reading it aloud may enable you to pinpoint the problem.

The audio-books will cause you to waste some gas, as you reach home while almost, but not quite, finished with the book on tape.Your family may see you pass the house once, then twice, as you circle your block to wrap up a tale.

No problem.

Org and Homer would understand.©



1--William Beckford (1760?), Ernest Haycox (1899), Tim O'Brien (1946); 2--Wallace Stevens (1870), Graham Greene (1904); 3--Fulke Greville Brooke (1554), George Bancroft (1800), Alain-Fournier (Henri Alban Fournier) (1886), Thomas Wolfe (1900), Gore Vidal (1925), James Herriot (1916), Judith Johnson Sherwin (1936); 4--Jeremias Gotthelf (Albert Bitzius) (1797), Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1837), Alvin Toffler (1928);

5--Louise Fitzhugh (1928), Peter Ackroyd (1949); 6--Bo Hjalmar Bergman (1869), Thor Heyerdahl (1914); 7--Helen McInnes (1907), Imamu Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) (1934), Thomas Keneally (1935); 8--José de Cadalso y Vázquez (1741), Philarète Chasles (1798); 9--Sir Richard Blackmore (1654), Edward William Bok (1863), Bruce Catton (1899); 

10--James Clavell (1924), Harold Pinter (1930); 11--Steen Steensen Blicher (1782), Elmore Leonard (1925); 13--Thomas Haynes Bayly (1797), Frank Gilroy (1925), Chris Carter (1957); 14--Katherine Mansfield (1888), E. E. Cummings (1894); 

15--Isabella Lucy Bell Bishop (1831), Friedrich Nietzsche (1844), P. G. Wodehouse (1881), Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. (1917), Mario Puzo (1920), Italo Calvino (1923); 16--Oscar Wilde (1854), Eugene O'Neill (1888); 17--Sir John Bowring (1792), Georg Büchner (1813), Yvor Winters (1900), Nathanael West (1903), Arthur Miller (1915), Jimmy Breslin (1930); 18--Henri Bergson (1859), Barry Gifford (1946), Ntozake Shange (1948), Terry McMillan (1951), Rick Moody (1961); 19--Sir Thomas Browne (1605), John LeCarre (1931);

20--Karl Theodorree (1808), Arthur Rimbaud (1854), Ellery Queen (1905), Art Buchwald (1925), Michael McClure (1932); 21--Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772), Ursula K. Le Guin (1929); 22--Ivan Bunin (1870), Doris Lessing (1919), Max Apple (1941); 23--Michael Crichton (1942); 24--Alban Butler (1710), Moss Hart (1904), Denise Levertov (1923); 

25--Benjamin Constant (1767), John Berryman (1914), Harold Brodkey (1930), Anne Tyler (1941); 26--Andrei Bely (Boris N. Bugary), (1880), Karin Maria Boye (1900), Beryl Markham (1902), Pat Conroy (1945); 27--Hester Chapone (1727), Dylan Thomas (1914), Sylvia Plath (1932), Fran Lebowitz (1950); 28--Nicholas Brady (1659), Pío Baroja (1872), Evelyn Waugh (1903), John Hollander (1929); 29--James Boswell (1740);

30--Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821), Ezra Pound (1885), Rudolfo Anaya (1937); 31--Christopher Anstey (1724), John Keats (1795), Dick Francis (1920).

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"Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank piece of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead."

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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., Oct. 12, 2 p.m., F128B: NFW Speaker: Harriet Dodson

Sat., Nov. 9, 2 p.m., F128B: NFW Speaker: Sohrab Fracis

Sat., Dec. 7, 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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