Thursday, December 13, 2007

Lighthouse Book Awards Competition

The last six weeks have disappeared faster than my receding hairline. Days after last month's 6th annual FWA Conference weekend, I traveled to San Francisco for the Cat Writer's Association conference (yes, Virginia, there is a Cat Writer's Association). Shortly after returning home, I enjoyed a little medical procedure that put me out of commission for a few days.
All of this, along with my natural tendency for procrastination, delayed this new posting. But here it is, and just in time to announce the 2nd Annual Lighthouse Book Awards Competition.

Like last year's successful competition, this one is open to all writers with unpublished manuscripts in the following categories: Mysteries/Suspense/Thrillers, Fiction-General, Young Adult, and Science Fiction/Fantasy.
Once again, the finalists in each category will be judged by acqusition editors from major publishing houses. Please note that the contest deadline is January 25. For the contest rules and the entry form, go to Or email me and I'll send them to you:
One of last year's winners was asked to send his entire novel to the acquiring editor. This could happen to you, but first you must enter. We will be announcing the winners at our regional 1-day conference on May 17, 2008. Look for more information in the future. And many thanks to Judy Connolly for agreeing to be the Contest Coordinator.

Here's a quick look at other items of interest for area authors:
  • Speaking of contests, congratulations again to our NE Florida FWA members who were winners in the Royal Palm Literary Competition—Scott Benyacko, Betsy Lee, Jean Osborn, Nancy Quatrano, Hank & Jan Racer, and Deborah Thompson.
  • And while we're in the contest mode, you should know that the First Coast Writers Festival contest deadlines have been extended. January 7 is the new deadline for each contest except the Literary Spa Memoir Contest, which has been extended to February 3. Go to for details.
  • Hats off to the Ancient City Chapter for a successful inaugural program presented with the Friends of the St. Johns County Main Library. The Writer's Journey: Where Ideas Come From—was the first of three panel discussions with area authors. There were about 45 people in attendance. The next one focuses on romance writing and is scheduled for February. The last one in March will spotlight mystery authors.
  • A free poetry reading with free refreshments is being held Monday, December 17 at 7PM at the Haskell Center in the Plaza Cafe, 111 Riverside Avenue, to mark the release of the First Coast Regional Poetry Anthology. This is a project of North Florida Writers and Hidden Owl Books.
  • Mystery writer June Weltman announces the start of her "Writing Mysteries for Children & Teens" class will start again at Mandarin High School on January 24. The class costs $45 and you can learn more at
  • I've heard from several people that they have not been receiving FWA's quarterly magazine, The Florida Writer. If that's the case with any of you, please contact editor Sammy Smith and let him know. You may write him at Sammy is also looking for feedback for his Reader Response column, as well as submissions for future issues. This is a good way to get published.
  • Shara Smock is updating the listing of member websites on the FWA site. If you're a member and want your website listed, send the URL to Shara at
  • SleuthFest 2008 is scheduled for February 28 - March 2nd at the Deerfield Beach Hilton. A must conference for mystery and crime writers, this year's key speakers are Lee Childs, author of the Jack Reacher thrillers, and Dr. Doug Lyle, forensic expert and author of the award-winning Murder & Mayhem: A Doctor Answers Medical & Forensic Questions for Mystery Writers. Also in attendance will be bestselling author Heather Graham.
  • Kudos to Robyn Gioia for her promotional coup. Her book, America's Real First Thanksgiving, was spotlighted in a USA Today feature last month.
  • The next Much Ado About Books festival is scheduled for Saturday, April 26. Noted author Carl Hiassen will be the keynote speaker, and I've heard that mega-popular children's author R.L. Stine (Goosebumps series) will also be there.

Upcoming FWA Chapter Meetings

  • Ancient City Chapter – Saturday, December 15 at 10AM at St. Augustine's Main Library. Proving once again that everyone else is too busy to speak in December, I'll be giving my world-famous presentation on writing effective scenes. "Let's Make a Scene," together tomorrow. This will be followed by holiday cheer and an open mic time.
  • Amelia Island Chapter – Tuesday, December 18 at 6PM at the Florida House Inn. Maggie de Vries is looking for input from Nassau County writers as to what kinds of programs/speakers they'd like to see in 2008. So go and make your wishes known or contact Maggie at
  • Ponte Vedra Chapter – There will be no meeting this month, but get ready for a new season of excellent programs in the New Year. We'll start off on January 26 with website designer Cheryl Alldredge talking about — what else? — designing websites for writers.
  • River City Writers Chapter (formerly the Central Jax Chapter) — Tuesday, January 8 at 7PM at the SE Branch Library. Lynn Thompson will be discussing memoir writing and co-authoring.

That about does it for this posting. Here's wishing everyone the happiest of holiday seasons for you and yours.


Victor DiGenti, FWA Regional Director

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Busy Season

The last two months of the year are usually associated with holidays, family gatherings, and travel. For the published author, it's also a good time to be selling your books since everyone knows books make wonderful holiday gifts. Personally, I call these two months the busy season because there's so much devouring our time we might not have time for ourselves.

Because of "the busy season," the FWA Ponte Vedra Writers Group will be on hiatus in November. I'll be at the FWA Conference this weekend, and traveling much of the rest of the month. Because of my travels and the holidays, our regular 4th Saturday meeting is cancelled. I encourage you to attend one of the other FWA meetings in the area and take advantage of some of the other many happenings listed below. Let's get right to it:
  • FWA Annual Conference, November 8-11 at Walt Disney World's Coronado Springs Resort. This year's conference is jam-packed with outstanding workshops and speakers. Usually, NE Florida FWA members take home more than their share of honors from the Royal Palm Literary Awards Competition. I'll report on the conference in my next blog posting.
  • The St. George Writers Retreat has put out a last call to register for the week-long writers retreat, November 12-16, with YA author Adrian Fogelin. The in-residence event is for women only and held in a large home on St. George Island. Call Perky Granger, 352-463-3089 for details or go to
  • The Central Jax Writers Group meets on the second Tuesday of the month, November 13, at 7PM at the Southeast Branch Public Library is located at 10599 Deerwood Park Blvd, on the southwest corner of J. T. Butler and Gate Parkway. This month, Jacksonville children's author June Weltman will discuss "Clues to Writing Mysteries for Children and Young Adults." Weltman is the author of Mystery of the Missing Candlestick, a young adult mystery. Contact Judy Connolly for details –
  • The Ancient City Writers Group meets on the 3rd Saturday of the month, November 17, at St. Augustine's Main Library at 10AM. This month's speaker is Karen Harvey, who has been writing about St. Augustine for a quarter century. Karen's latest book is Daring Daughters: St. Augustine's Feisty Females, and she'll be speaking on “Fashioning Fact into Fiction.” Critique groups follow the speaker. Contact Jeff Swesky–
  • The Amelia Island Writers Group meets on the third Tuesday of each month at 6PM at the Florida House Inn. They won't be having a speaker this month, but interim group leader Maggie de Vries reports she will present a list of potential speakers and topics to the group. So if you live in Nassau County, this is the time to make your interests known. Maggies' email is
  • Ponte Vedra Writers Group - As I reported at the top of this post, this month's meeting is cancelled due to the FWA Conference, the Thanksgiving holiday, and my own travels. I'll be in San Francisco on the 4th weekend as one of the presenters at the annual Cat Writers Association Conference. I urge you to attend either the Anicent City meeting or one of the others. For information on all the Writers Groups, you can always go to the FWA website and click on the Regions link then scroll to North Eastern FL.
  • I have the large room at the PV Library reserved for December 22, our usual meeting date, but haven't booked a speaker due to the holiday season. I'm considering hosting a social for area FWA members and others who attend our meetings if there's enough interest. I thought also we might hold a mini-book sale. Stealing an idea from the Ancient City chapter, I thought if everyone brought a couple of gently-used or new books from their libraries, we could sell them for $1 each giving us lots of bargains and last-minute gifts. The proceeds would go into our chapter treasury to be used for monthly expenses. Before I do too much work on this, please let me know if you'd like to be part of a December 22 social event. The other option is to cancel the December meeting as well.
  • Acclaimed Florida author Mary Anna Evans will discuss her latest archaeological mystery, Effigies, as part of the Ponte Vedra Friends of the Library program, Book Talk Cafe, on Tuesday, November 13 at 10:30 a.m. It's free and open to the public.
  • The Pasco County New Port Richey Writers Group, led by Dahris Clair, has a nifty online E-Zine that's open for submissions from any of the the state's writers. You can check out The Infinite Writer at BTW, Dahris is so organized she already has the April 6 one-day conference schedule completed. More on that later.
  • Put this date in your calendar - Saturday, May 17, 2008. That's the date of the 2nd Annual NE Florida One-Day Conference. This year's will be held at the PGA Tour Senior Community Center in Palm Valley. It's a larger facility than the library which will allow more people to attend. You may recall that last year we had to cut off the enrollment at 75 people.
  • In conjunction with the conference, we will again be conducting the Lighthouse Book Awards for unpublished manuscripts. We're starting earlier than last year and will announce the winners at the May 17 conference. Central Jax Group Leader Judy Connolly has agreed to helm the contest. The deadline is January 18, but look for details in the near future.
  • The Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) is meeting on Saturday, November 17 from 1-3, at the Southeast Regional Library. FWA members Hank and Jan Racer, will discuss their first year with a published book, a picture book called Marky The Barking Bullfrog. For more information, contact Janet Walter at
  • Speaking of deadlines, two of them are rapidly approaching. First, The Florida Times-Union Holiday Short Story Contest deadline is November 16 and it's open to both adults and young writers. This year they provide the start of the story and it’s up to you to finish it. For more information: . The St. Augustine Record has their own holiday short story contest called Twelve Stories of Christmas. Entries should be about the holidays, directed to children and uplifting in the spirit of the season. This is a short-short story since it's limited to 500 words. Entries must be postmarked by November 24 and mailed to Anne Heymen, The St. Augustine Record, POB 1630, St. Augustine, FL 32085 or emailed to Good luck.
  • Author Lydia Filzin who write historical novels as Lydia Hawke reports that a movie has been made from her book, Firetrail, and it will be screened at the Orange Park Community Theatre on Friday, November 30 at 7PM, as well as December 1 at 7PM and December 2 at 3PM. Admission is $5.
  • The Ancient City Chapter and the Friends of the Library-St. Johns County Main Library are hosting the first in a series of programs on Saturday, December 1 from 1PM to 3PM. I will moderate a panel discussion titled A Writer’s Journey—Where Ideas Come From. Former WG Leader Randy Cribbs will introduce the five panelists–Dr. Allen Bohl, Back Porch Swing, Karen Harvey, Daring Daughters: St. Augustine's Feisty Females, Jay Humphreys, Uncle Sam's, Nancy Quatrano, Crime Scene: New Jersey, and Jim Mast, Bloody Sunset in St. Augustine. The authors will sell and autograph their books after the discussion with the library receiving part of the proceeds.

I hope to see some of you at the FWA Conference this weekend. If not, enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday. That's it for now. I'll see you on the book shelves.


Victor DiGenti, FWA Regional Director

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Future is now!

The future is now may be a bit cliche, but nevertheless it still rings true. Being a champion procrastinator for most of my life, I know about putting things off and falling behind. Take this blog, for example. I had been updating it around the first of each month. But life got in the way, as it usually does, and here it is October 19 and I'm just getting around to a new posting.
Maybe I shouldn't worry about it so much. Recently I greeted an elderly gentleman in the locker room at the YMCA with a, "How's it going?" He told me life was good anytime you wake up on the green side of the grass. Something to keep in mind.
Still there are many opportunities to become better writers, and we shouldn't let them pass us by. For instance, if you haven't made plans to attend the FWA Annual Conference next month, don't put it off any longer. This will be a first-rate, legitimate writer's conference with exceptional speakers, editors and agents. Go to for all the details. And when you attend, you may be able to smooze with bigtime authors like Richard Paul Evans or William Nolan like I did with Claire Cook (Life's A Beach, Must Love Dogs) several weeks ago at the Amelia Island Book Festival. Here we are mugging for the camera and indulging in a bit of self-promotion at Books Plus in Fernandina Beach. Except for Mother Nature's liquid contributions, the AIBF was a good experience, and I'd recommend it to you for next year. But don't procrastinate any longer with the FWA Conference. Sign up today.
Your other opportunities are closer to home. We have four FWA chapters meeting regularly here in NE Florida. Each one offers you the chance to learn, to network, and to pick up ideas and tips that will serve you well as a writer. See below for highlights for October-November and for other items of interest to area writers.

News from NE Florida Writers Groups
Each meeting is open to the public and you don't have to be an FWA member to attend. If you find the meetings valuable, please think about joining forces with Florida's largest membership organization for writers. The annual dues are only $45. Again, go to for information.

Ancient City WG – Saturday, October 20 at 10AM at the Main Library in St. Augustine. Dr. Carl Horner is a Professor at Flagler College where he directs creative writing and teaches American poetry, drama and fiction. In addition to being published in academic and professional journals, Dr. Horner has recently published a work of fiction titled: A Hole In the Wind. He will be speaking about creating, constructing, and animating people in fiction books. Contact Jeff Swesky for more information:

Ponte Vedra WG – Saturday, October 27 at 10AM at the PV Library. "You're Putting Words in My Mouth" – And Chuck Day is paid to do it. Ghost writing and openly collaborating on book projects is part of the repertoire of our October speaker. Day has made his living from writing for more than 38 years. A one-time sports writer and editor of four magazines, Chuck has spent almost a decade in Ponte Vedra Beach writing, editing, reporting and speaking. His credits include The Making of the Super Bowl and Jacksonville Football History, plus scores of articles in the Ponte Vedra Recorder. In the past year he also helped former U.S. Labor Secretary and ace mediator W.J. Usery write his memoirs. Chuck will use his own words this month to tell us all about crafting words for others.
Central Jax WG – Meets Tuesday, November 13 at 6PM at the SE Branch Regional Library, 10599 Deerwood Park Blvd. Jacksonville children's author June Weltman will discuss "Clues to Writing Mysteries for Children and Young Adults." Weltman is the author of Mystery of the Missing Candlestick, a young adult mystery that features Miranda Manning, a 17-year-old detective who tracks thieves in St. Augustine. Contact Group Leader Judy Connolly, , for more details.
Amelia Island WG – Recently moved its meeting to Fernandina Beaches Florida House Inn on the third Tuesday of the month at 6PM. Maggie de Vries is acting as Group Leader for the next few months. You may contact her at
  • October 20 – The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Jacksonville will hold a discussion on publishing contracts, Saturday, 1 to 3 p.m. at the Southeast Regional Library, 10599 Deerwood Park Blvd. For more information:
  • October 31 – UNF Poetry Fix. Five years ago, a group of UNF students created a journal they called Fiction Fix. This year Fiction Fix becomes Poetry Fix. Anyone with a poem is invited to submit it. Editor Tim Gilmore is looking for poems from students and non-students, professors and people from all walks of life. Submissions should be sent as Word attachments to Thelma Young at
  • November 1 – Poetry and Short Fiction Contests Deadline. KALLIOPE, a journal of women's literature and art. This year marks Kalliope's twenty-ninth anniversary, which makes it one of the oldest women's literary journals in the U.S. For more information about this FCCJ sponsored publication and contest rules:
  • November 3 – Sisters in Crime,10:00 a.m. Saturday at the Southeast Regional Library, 10599 Deerwood Park Blvd. Brothers and Sisters in crime will gather to learn about the ten dumbest things parolees have said or done.
  • Flagler College has announced their line-up for Writers in Residence for the remainder of 2007 and 2008. They include Meredith Walters, author of All You Have to do is Ask, winner of the 2006 Anhinga Prize for Poetry. She'll do a reading on Wednesday, November 7 at 7PM. New Jersey Poet Laureate Gerald Stern presents a craft lecture at 5PM on November 13 and a reading at 7PM on the 14th. All will be in the Gamache-Koger Room of the Ringhaver Student Center. Next year look for appearances by Dennis Lehane, Mark Jarmon, and Rick Campbell. Go to for details.
  • Jax Reads continues with several upcoming events focusing on Zora Neale Hurston’s classic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. “Jacksonville’s Connection to the Harlem Renaissance”, a lecture by Hope McMath, Director of Education at the Cummer Museum of Arts and Gardens:
    o Tuesday, October 23rd, 6:30 p.m., Mandarin Branch Library, 3330 Kori Road, Jacksonville, FL 32257, (904) 262-5201.
    o Tuesday, October 30th, 7:00 p.m., Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, 829 Riverside Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32204, (904) 356-6857.
    2. “Celebrate Zora!”, Jax Reads the Big Read 2007’s grand finale celebration, featuring music from Elite Band and Ritz Voices, a Hattitude Hat Gallery, literary discussions, and the return of acclaimed actor and Hurston authority Phyllis McEwen in Zora Live. Southern cuisine and dancing under the stars. For adults 21 years of age and over. Attendance is by RSVP -- call (904) 630-1420 to make reservations.
  • November 6 – Meet the Poets – The Southeast Branch of the Jacksonville Public
    Library will be hosting an evening of poetry reading and discussion from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. This program is in conjunction with Jacksonville Library’s systems’ poetry initiative funded by Poets House to promote and honor poetry and Poets in the Jacksonville community.
  • November 16 – Deadline for The Times-Union Holiday Short Story Contest. Open to adults and students, typed text, 1,000 words or less. This year they provide the start of the story; it’s up to you to finish it. For more information:

And when we start taking ourselves too seriously, remember the words of noted British philosopher Bertrand Russell,

"One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important."

That's it for now. I'll see you on the book shelves.


Victor DiGenti

FWA Regional Director

Monday, September 03, 2007

Don't Fall Back

Today marks the unofficial passing of summer, a transition into fall. To be more precise, we now have only four months to complete our 2007 goals. I'm not quite there yet, but closing in on most of my goals. How about you? Do you have written goals? Are you completing a manuscript? Looking for freelance jobs? Sending out query letters? Creating a marketing plan? Whatever's on your plate, keep in mind the saleman's motto to Plan your work and work your plan. Don't despair if you've fallen behind because you still have four months until 2008 so make them count. And don't do like some cats I know and snooze away the day.
Fall is an exceptional time for writers with more conferences and writing opportunities. Those opportunities begin with our own monthly FWA Writers Group meetings and the upcoming annual conference in November. Look below for highlights of this month's WG meetings and other items of interest.

Remember you don't have to be a member to attend any of our meetings, but if you find them of interest and helpful, the speakers valuable, and most of all, if you keep coming back, then we expect you to join the other 150 FWA members in NE Florida. Membership is easy, only $45 per year with loads of benefits. Go to for details.
Central Jax WG - Meeting on Tuesday, September 11 at 6PM at the SE Regional Library, WG Leader Judy Connolly welcomes poet and author Bonny Barry Sanders. Bonny will provide insights into both of her writing worlds, discussing the process of submitting poetry to journals and magazines, as well as finding a publisher. She'll also talk about her recently published historical novel, Kiss Me Goodbye. Bonny is also the author of the Royal Palm Award-winning poetry collection, Touching Shadows. Contact Judy at for details.
Ancient City Writers Group - This large and active chapter meets at the Main Library in downtown St. Augustine on the 3rd Saturday of the month. Their next meeting is Saturday, September 15 at 10AM and will feature author Jay Humphreys. Since 1999, he has served as Communications Director for the St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau. Jay is also the author of Seasons of the Sea, a non-fiction book which became a hardcover bestseller, and Uncle Sam's, a WW II novel set in St. Augustine which received the 2005 best Adult Fiction Award from the Florida Publishers Association. He will address the problems writers encounter when moving from non-fiction to fiction. Contact Mike BonDurant,, for more information.
Amelia Island WG - Meets on the 3rd Tuesday of the month at 6PM at the Florida House Inn in Fernandina Beach. Jim Morgan leads this group and you may address questions to him at
Ponte Vedra WG - Our next meeting is Saturday, September 22 at 10AM at the Ponte Vedra Library. Non-fiction writres will find this meeting to be of particular interest since our speaker was formerly a Senior Editor with John Wiley & Sons, one of the leading business publishers in the world. He has edited exclusively in the non-fiction area. His national best sellers include Multiple Streams of Income by Robert Allen and both The Resume Kit and The Perfect Cover Letter by Richard Beatty. Mike will present an overview of all the steps involved in preparing your first book proposal and in turn submitting it to a publisher for consideration. Topics to be covered include types of book proposals, preparation, submission, contract negotiation and advances.

  • One more time: Don't forget to register for the 6th Annual FWA Conference, Nov. 9 - 11 at Walt Disney World's Coronado Springs Resort. NE Florida is the home for the largest number of FWA members so let's represent our region well. Go to for the conference schedule and to register.
  • September seems to be a good time for writer's conferences. Here are two happening simultaneously — It's a bitter little world, baby-at least it is at the Second Annual Florida Noir Festival. The festival, which celebrates the noir film and literature of the Sunshine State, will take place Saturday, Sept. 15, 2007 in Panama City, Florida at Gulf Coast Community College. The Festival will include noir script and novel competitions, panels, presentations, readings, and film screenings.
  • The Gulf Coast Writers & Storytellers Conference is the same day and place and will feature workshops, lectures and panel discussions. Go to for details.
  • The Amelia Island Book Festival, October 4 - 7, has added bestselling author Stuart Woods to its list of presenters. Woods will be the closing speaker on Sunday afternoon, joining Claire Cook (Must Love Dogs), and Tim Dorsey (Hurricane Punch) as featured authors. Saturday and Sunday sessions are free, except for lunch, and Just Write It, Friday's day-long series of writing workshops require a ticket. Friday afternoon's Books by the Beach Party at Sliders Restaurant is free and features many area authors. Go to for the complete schedule.
  • For more than 20 years, the First Coast Writers Festival was a fixture on the First Coast. But that may be a thing of the past. Produced by Florida Community College Jacksonville, festival organizers recently announced that due to statewide budget cuts the festival's budget has been eliminated. We share their disappointment and hope it returns in the future. In the meantime, Dr. Dana Thomas says they will continue to host the writing competitions. The contests cover most genres of writing– novels, short fiction, poetry, playwriting, and this year they've added memoirs. Check out the wedsite for deadlines and submission requirements,
  • The St. George Island Writers’ Retreat on St. George Island, Florida, is set for November 12-16. Adrian Fogelin, author of award-winning novels for young adults (she is also featured at the Amelia Island Book Festival), once again serves as author-in-residence at the Fiction Among Friends Writers’ Retreat, offering daily workshops on various aspects of writing, as well as private consultations with the writers who attend. Complete details about the retreat, rates and terms are available at, or by phoning Perky Granger at 518-623-9305.
  • The Jacksonville Public Library will kick off the 5th Jax Reads on Wednesday, September 5th, at 6:30 p.m. on the first floor of the Main Library with a dramatic performance by noted actress, Phyllis McEwen, in Zora Live!. This year's Jax Reads book, is Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston. The September 5 presentation is the first of a month-long series of lectures, book discussions and other activities in all Jacksonville branch libraries.
  • If you're attending the Riverside Arts Festival this coming weekend, September 8 & 9, look for The Writer's Tent featuring many area writers who will be talking about and signing their books. I'll be there on Saturday along with Randy Cribbs, Rita Malie, Terri Ridgell, John Robinson and Jane Wood. Sunday's authors include Andrew Bachman, Allen Bohl, Mary Kohnke, Rita Malie, Jim Morgan, Nancy Murray, and John Robinson.

Some writers hate to edit their perfect prose, which is why editors were invented. Here's what Ernest Hemingway had to say about editing, "The best books are those that leave out the most."

That's it for now. Keep writing, and I'll see you on the book shelves.


Victor DiGenti

FWA Regional Director

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Lighthouse Book Award Winners

It took nearly six months from start to finish, but the 1st Annual Lighthouse Book Awards competition is now history. Some thirty-five people gathered at the Ponte Vedra Library on Saturday, July 28 to learn the final results. While it may not have had the tradition and glamour of other awards ceremonies, we more than held our own. Recipients were surprised and appreciative, pictures were snapped, and everyone went home feeling a sense of achievement.
Here you see the smiling faces of the prize-winning authors. From left to right: Jeff Swesky, Honorable Mention – Fiction-General; Gertie Poole, Honorable Mention – Young Adult; John Holley, 3rd Place – Fiction-General; Jean Osborn, 2nd Place – Mystery/Suspense; Mary Kilgore, 3rd Place – Mystery/Suspense; Karen Harvey, 1st Place – Young Adult; William Barbour, 2nd Place – Fiction-General; David Pereda, 1st Place – Mystery/Suspense/Thriller.

Other winners not pictured include Leonard Emmel, 1st Place in the Fiction-General category, Bill Dougherty, 2nd Place, Young Adult, and Suki Litchfield, 3rd Place Young Adult. Congratulations to all our winners, and to everyone who submitted an entry. Remember each step gets you closer to your goal.

David Pereda, winner of the Mystery/Suspense prize with his book, Who Killed Fidel Castr0?, drove from his home in Asheville, NC to be with us and claim his prize. This was the second award for Fidel. It was a finalist in the National Indie Excellence 2007 Book Awards. Best of luck to David and the other winners as they move toward publication.
News from the NE Florida Writers Groups

Central Jax WG - Meeting on Tuesday, August 14 at 6PM at the SE Regional Library, WG Leader Judy Connolly welcomes guest speaker Eileen Ann Brennan speaking on Point of View. Everyone is welcome. Contact Judy at for details.
Amelia Island WG - This group now meets on the 3rd Tuesday of the month at 6PM at the Florida House Inn Conference Room. Group Leader Jim Morgan has the details:

Ancient City WG - This robust group is under new management but still adhering to the motto of Writers Helping Writers. If you missed Sandra McDonald at the May 19 conference, here's your chance. Sandra will be presenting on Plot and other Essential Writing Ingredients at this month's meeting, Saturday, August 18 at 10AM at the downtown St. Augustine Library.

Ponte Vedra WG - The PV WG returns to its regular schedule at the PV Library meeting on the 4th Saturday of the month. This month, August 25 at 10AM, we welcome writer/editor Lynn Thompson who will speak on Editing for Continuity. In her talk, Lynn will illustrate how writers can track the characters, locations and other details in your book and reduce the time spent on rewriting. Lynn has her own writing and editing company and writes regularly for magazines and newsletters. She's also ghostwritten two books.

News You Can Use

  • FWA member Beth Davis reports she has been appointed the Moderator Coordinator for next year's Much Ado About Books festival. She's looking for input to take back to the Library Foundation committee. Contact Beth at if you have any ideas on how to improve the book festival or suggestions for session moderators.
  • Terri Ridgell is the new executive director of the Amelia Island Book Festival, The Nassau County Writers & Poets Society, in conjunction with the festival, is conducting a poetry contest for unpublished poems. There's a $5 per entry fee, but first prize is a $100 gift card. Length is limited to 500 words, and winners will be able to read their poems at the Books by the Beach Party at Sliders Seaside Grill on Friday, October 5th. Contact Belinda or Bob for more information at
  • Speaking of contests, I received an email from Anne Holt, president of the Tallahassee Writers Association, announcing they are now accepting submissions for their annual Seven Hills Contest for writers. Memoirs, short stories, and children's literature entries must be no more than 2,500 words. In the essay category, entries should be 1,000 words or less. Manuscripts must be postmarked by Sept. 30. Please see the TWA website ( for complete contest rules and entry fees.
  • Published authors looking for ways to promote their signing events might want to check out It's a way to find authors and events online. Authors can sign up and list all of their appearances and other events. Book Tour gives each author their own page with photo, bio and book information. You can sign up by going to this address In the interest of fair disclosure, note that using this referral link gives me credit for your signing. This is important since those authors with the most referrals can win a spot on the front page of If you want to see what it looks like, check out my page:
  • Don't forget to renew your FWA membership. This is especially important if you've entered the Royal Palm Literary Competition as you must be a current member to participate in the contest. Go to to renew. Also sign up for the 6th Annual FWA Conference if you haven't done so yet. And don't forget to register for one of the four-hour Signature Presentations on Friday morning, November 9. These sessions will give you new insights into genre, technique, creativity, and the professional side of publishing. For only $40.00, you can be part of one of these four special presentations: 1) How to Successfully Pitch Your Project, led by Janice Pieroni, which will benefit those trying to sell a completed project, or have a firm idea in mind. 2) Jamie Morris hosts a session about the Amherst Writing Method Workshop, which will teach you new ways to approach genre fiction. 3) Find Your Passion. Energize Your Story – Sandra Kischuk demonstrates how to focus your creative energies to help mold your work, and touches on how to incorporate real life experiences into your writing. And finally, 4) an exciting new presentation featuring the two keynote speakers - William F. Nolan (author of Logan's Run) and Richard Paul Evans (author of The Christmas Box). This will be your chance to find out how they succeeded in writing and marketing their best sellers.
  • Finally, we send our condolences to the family and friends of FWA member Cherie Blanton. Cherie, who lived on Amelia Island, passed away unexpectedly last month.

That's it for now. Keep writing, and I'll see you on the book shelves.


Victor DiGenti

FWA Regional Director

Saturday, June 30, 2007

"And oh the change is gonna do me good"

You probably remember Honky Cat, the old Elton John song where he sang,

They said get back honky cat
Better get back to the woods
Well I quit those days and my redneck ways
And oh the change is gonna do me good

I don't know about you, but I often have to remind myself that change is gonna do me good although I sometimes have a hard time believing it. Like the Serenity Prayer which asks for the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, we're reminded daily that life is all about change and we should learn to accept it.

All of that is preamble to a couple of changes affecting FWA members in our area and across the state. The first change comes from the nation's oldest city where WG Leader Randy Cribbs has built one of the largest and most succesful writers groups in FWA. The Ancient City WG meetings attract 25 to 30 local writers each and every month, and it's still growing. After more than a year as Group Leader, Randy has decided he'll pass the reins on to others after the July meeting. However, he promises he'll still be around to lend a helping hand. Committee members Dianne Ell, Mike BonDurant, Pat Behnke, Karen Harvey, Ann O'Roark, Nancy Quantrano, Jeff Swesky and Judy Weber are working to fill Randy's very large shoes.

Here you see Randy (on the left) during a break at the May 19 Conference speaking with Karen Harvey and Hank Racer. Randy probably didn't know what he was getting into when I asked him to lunch and told him I thought he should start a new FWA chapter in St. Augustine. But he accepted the challenge like the natural leader he is and ran with it, calling on his friend Peter Guinta to assist him.

FWA is stronger because of Randy and people like him--a perfect example of Writers helping Writers. Thanks so much for all your efforts during the past year or so. And thanks to Dianne, Mike and the other members of the Ancient City Chapter for your part in building this chapter. I know there are more great changes coming.
Change #2 isn't quite as dramatic. Jim Morgan, leader of the Amelia Island WG surveyed his group about finding a better time for their meeting. The consensus was to move to a weekday evening meeting rather than Saturday morning. So, in the future the folks up in Nassau County will meet on the third Tuesday of the month at 6PM. Jim is another natural leader, a former police and fire chief now using his skills to motivate writers. Thanks Jim.

Another change that will do us all good is happening at the FWA website, If you haven't checked it out lately, take a look and see what IT Committee chair and software engineer Dan Strohschein has done. While you're at it, register to participate in the forums. There are 13 different forums covering everything from the annual conference to many facets of the craft of writing. Got a question you need answered or just want to chat, FWA has the place for you.

Now back to our NE Florida Writers Groups. Here's what's happening in the torrid month of July.
  • Central Jax WG continues to meet on the 2nd Tuesday at 6PM at the SE Regional Library off Gate Parkway at Deerwood Park Blvd. Judy Connolly,, is the group leader and welcomes new writers. On Tuesday, July 10, the group will hear from novelist Sandra McDonald who will present, "Building Stories Like a House." Sandra was the hit of the May 19 Conference and if you missed her this is a good time to hear this exceptional speaker. Remember FWA members may attend any and all Writers Group meetings.
  • Jim Morgan's Amelia Island WG will meet at 6PM on July 17 as reported above, but they're looking for a new location. Not sure if they have a speaker or will do only critiques. Contact Jim at
  • Ancient City WG meets at 10AM at the Downtown Library in St. Augustine on Saturday, July 21. Their speaker for this month is Dr. Dick Rettig. For now you can still email Randy Cribbs with any questions,
  • Ponte Vedra WG normally meets on the 4th Saturday of the month at 10AM, but this month will be one of those changes I referred to. On Saturday, July 28 we'll meet at the PV Library as usual, but at 11AM instead of 10AM. And instead of our normal program, we're turning the meeting into an awards ceremony to announce the winners of the 1st Annual Lighthouse Book Awards. Contest chair Terri Ridgell and I will be making the grand announcements and acknowledging the winners and their achievement. We're inviting everyone to be there and help us celebrate and congratulate them. Here's the list again in case you've forgotten who the finalists are:

Mystery/Suspense/Thriller Who Killed Fidel Castro? - David Pereda Forty Percent Gray - Mary Kilgore
The Dachshund Caper – Jean Osborn (Honorable Mention - A Bone in Her Teeth - Ann McAllister Clark)

General Fiction Charley Gets His Halo - William Barbour Jess, A Confederate - Leonard Emmel War Drums of Afghanistan - John Holley (Honorable Mention - Such A Dreamer - Jeff Swesky)

Young Adult Wolf Girl - Suki Litchfield Shard of The Dark Star - Gertie Poole Run Away Home - Karen Harvey (Tie) Hidden Treasures - Bill Dougherty (Tie) (Honorable Mention -The Last Days of Camelot - Eugene Orlando)

What else is happening of interest to writers?
  • If you missed Frank Green at last month's PV WG meeting, you missed a scholarly presentation on the structure of a story including the 5 "C's" -- Character, Conflict, Complications, Crisis, and Conclusion. Frank also gave us four of his Great Rules of Writing, which are: 1. There are no rules; 2. Thou shalt not bore the reader; 3. Thou shalt not confuse the reader; and 4. Thou shalt not get caught writing.
  • Janet Walter reports that she and other members of SCBWI have started a critique group for Middle Grade & Young Adult Novelists. Theyll be meeting at the Borders on Southside Blvd. They're not looking for beginning writers, however, but authors who have completed their novels and working to get them in shape for publication or submission to an agent or editor. Most of the group have written several novels already. If you're intereted and think you might fit into the group, contact Janet at
  • Member Pat Behnke reports she won two awards from the Florida Press Association for two of her columns published in Senior Times Magazine. Congratulations Pat.
  • If you're a thriller writer, you might want to attend ThrillerFest 2007. It's presented by the new Thriller Writers Association on July 12-15 in NYC. Not close to home, but packed with sessions by seemingly every bestselling thriller writer. Go to for details.
  • Speaking of conferences, don't forget to register for FWA's 6th Annual Conference coming November 9 - 11 to the Cornonado Springs Resort in Walt Disney World. The Early Bird Deadline of July 31 is fast approaching so don't miss out. You'll also be happy to know the deadline for the Royal Palm Literary Competition has been extended to August 1. Go to the FWA site for details and to register for the conference.

That's it for now folks and since this blog has been about change it's only fitting I leave you with this quote by none other than Pablo Picasso ~

“I am always doing that which I can not do, in order

that I may learn how to do it.”

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Looking back, looking ahead

“This has been the most outstanding writer’s conference I have ever attended.”

That statement from one of the conference evaluation forms sums up the feelings of many of the people attending the May 19 one-day conference, Shift Your Writing into High Gear.

A capacity crowd of 85 people enjoyed eight workshops, two refreshment breaks, lunch, a keynote address from bestselling author Steve Berry and the opportunity for one-on-one interviews with the presenters. The picture at right is from Camille Cline's packed workshop on Revising & Rewriting.

Steve Berry talked about his long road from struggling author to landing on the New York Times Bestseller List. About how he received 85 rejections with five different manuscripts before selling THE AMBER ROOM. His personal tale hit home and many people lined up to talk with Steve and purchase a copy of his latest international thriller, THE ALEXANDRIA LINK.

Many thanks to the hard-working volunteer committee who made this the most successful 1-day conference FWA has produced to date. Here they are again:
Your Conference Committee
Vic DiGenti, Chair
Dianne Ell, Co-chair
Terri Ridgell, Book Contest
Darlene Myers, Book Store and Photographer
Karen Harvey, Interviews
Alice Collins & Peter Guinta, Refreshments
Hank & Jan Racer, Lunch
Mary Kohnke & Hazel Piermatteo, Registration
Jim Morgan, Rita Malie & Margie Ann Sauls, Workshop Aides
Carol D. O’Dell & Randy Cribbs

Volunteers Jan Racer, left, and Alice Collins,
take a breather to pose for photographer Darlene Myers.

Our 1st Annual Lighthouse Book Awards was a major success as well with more than 90 entries in three different categories. We announced the finalists in each category to the delight of those entrants who were attending the conference. Here you see Terri Ridgell, the contest chair, providing details of the contest.

Finalists have been sent on for final ranking by these editors: Barbara Moore (Midnight Ink) for Mystery/Suspense/Thrillers, Julie Doughty (Dutton) for Fiction-General, and Andrew Karre (Flux) for Young Adult. The finalists in each category were:
Who Killed Fidel Castro? - David Pereda
Forty Percent Gray - Mary Kilgore
The Dachshund Caper – Jean Osborn
General Fiction
Charley Gets His Halo - William Barbour
Jess, A Confederate - Leonard Emmel
War Drums of Afghanistan - John Holley
Young Adult
Wolf Girl - Suki Litchfield
Shard of The Dark Star - Gertie Poole
Run Away Home - Karen Harvey (Tie)
Hidden Treasures - Bill Dougherty (Tie)
Note that there's a change from our earlier announcement of the finalists. We recently learned of a violation of one of the rules in that an entry had already been published. Jean Osborn's The Dachshund Caper moves into that position. We've also decided to award an Honorable Mention in each category since these three authors were within several points of the top finishers.
We're pleased to recognize the following Honorable Mention recipients:
Jeff Swesky in General Fiction for Such A Dreamer, Eugene Orlando for his Young Adult entry, The Last Days of Camelot, and Ann McAllister Clark in the Mystery category for her entry, A Bone in Her Teeth.
Congratualtions to all the finalists and Honorable Mention recipients. We will hold an awards ceremony later in the summer so stay tuned for that announcement.
The day before our conference, eighteen area authors participated in the 2nd annual Ponte Vedra Book Fair. During the afternoon, the authors sold their books and took part in a series of panel discussions. The Book Fair was sponsored by FWA and the Ponte Vedra Branch Library. In this scintillating panel, you see (left to right) Jessie Wise, Dante Amodeo, Allen Bohl, Sandra McDonald, and Vic DiGenti.

Even though our conference and contest are behind us, you should keep looking for opportunities to showcase your talents and improve your skills. Check these out:
  • Get an early start on the Florida First Coast Writers' Festival's annual contests as they're presently accepting entries for the Josiah W. Bancroft Sr. Novel Contest, the Page Edwards Short Fiction Contest, the Douglas Freels and the Robert Grimes "Good Earth" Poetry Contests and the Writers' Festival Playwriting Contest. Each has different guidelines, so go to for details.
  • Mystery Writers of America (MWA), and St. Martin's Minotaur have announced the first annual St. Martin's Minotaur/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition. This contest provides a previously unpublished writer an opportunity to launch his or her career with a major mystery imprint, St. Martin's Minotaur. The winner will receive a one-book, $10,000 contract. Follow this link for guidelines.
  • Do you write stories of intergenerational relationships? The Intergeneration Foundation has announced its 2nd Storytelling Contest which seeks to reinforce and recognize the power of storytelling as a way to connect generations. Whether fiction or non-fiction, the story should illustrate intergeneration needs, connections and understanding, and feature characters from at least two generations. Top prize is $500 and is open to all writers with no entry fee. There's a limit of 600 words. Go to for details.
  • Terri Ridgell is the new director of the retitled Amelia Island Book Festival, and she and her committee are making some exciting changes. AIBF is set for October 4-7, and they've already announced the scheduling of Claire Cook (MUST LOVE DOGS) and Tim Dorsey (HURRICANE PUNCH) as their first two featured authors. Look for details on their website,
  • And don't forget our own FWA Annual Conference scheduled for November 9-11 at Walt Disney World's Coronado Springs Resort. With more agents, editors and publishers, the conference offers three days of valuable workshops and presentations by authors and publishing professionals. Richard Paul Evans, author of THE CHRISTMAS BOX, THE CAROUSEL, and other bestselling novels, will be one of the two keynoters along with William F. Nolan, noted science-fiction author. Early registration ends on July 31 and the fee jumps from $199 to $229 so get your registration in soon. The complete schedule and details can be found here:

As always, help is close at hand in the form of one of the four Writers' Groups in the area. The Amelia Island WG meets on the first Saturday of the month at 10:00 a.m. although they are considering a change in day/time. The Central Jax WG meets on the second Tuesday of the month at the SE Regional Library at 6:00 p.m. They're taking a summer break in June but return on July 10 with SF novelist Sandra McDonald talking about Building Stories Like a House. The Ancient City WG meets on the 3rd Saturday of the month at 10:00 a.m. at the St. Augustine's downtown library. On the 16th of June author Carol Welsh speaks on Publishing and Promoting Your Book in the 21st Century. And on June 23rd at 10:00 a.m. at the Ponte Vedra WG, noted writing coach and editor Frank Green will discuss the Structure of a Story.

That's more than enough to keep you busy for the next month. Until next time, keep writing and rewriting.


Victor DiGenti, FWA Regional Director

Monday, May 07, 2007

Counting Down to the Conference

Last month's Blog passed along the news that our Lighthouse Book Awards had surpassed critical mass, and we had to shut off entries. Our first one-day conference had a similar problem as we quickly reached our announced limit of 70 people. We even exceeded it, which means we'll be a little crowded, but we did want as many people as possible to enjoy the benefits of what has shaped up to be an oustanding event.
The May 19 writers' conference at the Ponte Vedra Branch Library will give area writers eight workshops with noted authors, an agent and an editor. They'll hear from our keynoter, Steve Berry, and learn who the finalists of the Lighthouse Book Awards competition are.
While the hours of the conference are listed as 9:30 to 5:00 p.m. (the library doesn't open its doors until 9:30) we're asking those who have signed up to arrive at 9:00 a.m. since we'll have a table outside to speed-up the registration process. This will help ensure we stay on schedule as we move through the day.
I want to thank our hard-working volunteer committee for helping to organize the conference. Hats off to:
Dianne Ell, Co-chair
Terri Ridgell, Book Contest
Darlene Myers, Book Store
Karen Harvey, Interviews
Alice Collins & Peter Guinta, Refreshments
Hank & Jan Racer, Lunch
Mary Kohnke & Hazel Piermatteo, Registration
Jim Morgan, Rita Malie & Margie Ann Sauls, Workshop Aides
Carol D. O’Dell & Randy Cribbs
We're sorry if you were unable to register, but we're already looking for a larger facility for next year. You can still attend the free Book Fair on Friday, May 18 from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Held in the Community Room of the Ponte Vedra Library, the Book Fair features 18 area authors and their books. Three of the authors recently participated in Much Ado About Books. Aside from selling and signing their books, the authors will also participate in panel discussions and answer any questions from the audience. Literary agent Susan Graham, who is part of Saturday's conference, will also be on hand to answer questions.

Writers' Group Meetings

Over the past few months, FWA was represented at both the First Coast Writers Festival and Much Ado About Books. We introduced over 100 people to FWA, and most of them were intrigued by the possibility of attending our monthly Writers' Group meetings and hearing from the array of experts who share their knowledge with us. For example, last Saturday, nearly 40 people crowded into the small meeting room at the PV Library to hear editor Emily Carmain talk about "the ten most common mistakes beginning writers make." If you missed her talk, here's her top ten list:

1. Not knowing when to stop writing. She used examples of writers giving her manuscripts running over 200,000 words.
2. Putting in every step of a character’s action. Too much information
3. Too much, too little, or phoney/ineffective dialogue
4. Overuse of names, particularly in dialogue
5. Over-explaining
6. Padding dialogue with uninteresting side-action
7. Use of same sentence structure over and over
8. Killing the reader with details and description
9. Repeating certain words or expressions
10. Not bothering to try to catch the little things

Coming up at our WG meetings this month:

Tuesday, May 8 at 6PM – The Central Jax WG meets at the SE Branch Library, and the guest speaker tomorrow evening is Lynn Coleman. Lynn has had 20 novels and novellas published and will be speaking on "Writing for the Christian Fiction Market." This is a hot market and a hot topic.

BTW, if any of you were preliminary judges for the book contest and you have not returned your manuscripts, I'll be at this meeting to pick them up. If you miss it, you'll have to mail them back to Terri Ridgell ASAP. Like the next day.

The Ancient City WG typically meets on the 3rd Saturday of the month at 10:00 a.m. at St. Augustine's main library, but since this is the same day as our conference they've elected to skip a month in order to attend the event.

Saturday, May 26 at 10AM – Back to the PV WG at the library for what promises to be a very tasty presentation with Belinda Hulin, the former food editor for the Florida Times-Union. Belinda is a freelancer now and she'll give us a presentation she's calling, "A Matter of Taste." In it, she'll talk about food writing, food trends and about how food references can be used to define character and add sensuality to both fiction and non-fiction. She told me she might even sweeten the pot, so to speak, with a few goodies. Put it on your calendar.

If you're in north Jacksonville or Nassau County, then you'll want to attend Jim Morgan's WG meetings, the Amelia Island WG, on the first Saturday of the month at 10AM at the Fernandina Beach Poilice Department.

That's all the time for now. Have to run and find a missing cat.

Until next time, keep writing,


Vic DiGenti FWA Regional Director

Friday, March 30, 2007

Spring Forth & Put Down Roots

Spring is the season for renewal, and for writers, spring provides inspiration to plow new fields, fertilize our imagination, and nurture our current projects into fruition. OK, one more seasonal growth allusion may lead me to the compost pile, but you get the picture. Writers can use all the motivation and inspiration we can get, and this is the perfect time for packing away past disappointments with the sweaters, and getting on with a new project.

Another way to find motivation is by attending the one-day conference, Shift Your Writing into High Gear, on Saturday, May 19 at the Ponte Vedra Library. Here is where you'll meet successful authors like Steve Berry, Lynn Sholes, Joe Moore, Sandra McDonald, and Carol D. O'Dell. You'll also hear outstanding presentations from screenwrter Sharon Cobb, editor Camille Cline, agent Susan Graham, and Flagler College Writing Professor, Dr. Darien Andreu — all designed to help you improve your craft and become more successful as an author.

The PV Library has been gracious enough to allow us to hold our conference there, but you should know it isn't the largest facility, and we're limiting the conference to the first 75 people who register. Early registration with reduced fees ends on April 30. You may want to sign up now if you haven't already and not be disappointed by waiting too long and learning it's been closed. For all the details and a registration form, go to my website,

Speaking of disappointments, there were many disappointed writers who waited too late to enter the Lighthouse Book Awards. Although the deadline was March 30, we had announced a maximum of 80 entries and reached that two days ago. Who knew we'd have such an outstanding response to a first year contest? Yes, Terri Ridgell, our contest coordinator, knew and didn't hesitate to tell me, "I told you so." Thanks to Terri for all her hard work on the contest, and to all of our preliminary judges who will now be doing the first evaluations.

Don't forget, we'll announce the finalists (and possibly the winners) at the May 19 conference.

There are lots of happenings for writers in our area and throughout the state, so check below to stay in touch.

Ponte Vedra Writers Group Meetings

I missed Teri Grimm's poetry presentation last week due to my travel schedule, but Judy Connolly filled in ably and reports Teri was outstanding. Our group meets on the fourth Saturday of each month at 10AM at the Ponte Vedra Beach Library located at 100 Library Boulevard. Here's what's coming up in April and the next few months.

April 28 at 10AM — The most common mistakes beginning writers make and how to avoid them. Editor Emily Carmain reviews the lengthy list of missteps she’s seen come across her desk and offers advice on how to fix them.

May 26 at 10AM — Writer/Editor/Freelancer Belinda Hulin will be speaking on a topic yet to be announced, but trust me Belinda knows what she's talking about.

June 23 at 10AM — The Structure of Story with Frank Green. Frank is an area legend having conducted weekly critique & editing sessions for the past 25 years. Few people know more about how successful stories are constructed. Don't miss this one.

Don’t forget the other FWA Writers Groups in the NE Florida region if you’re unable to attend ours, or just want more involvement in the writing life.

Amelia Island WG — Meets on the first Saturday of the month at 10AM at the Fernandina Beach Police Dept. on Lime Street under the tutelage of Dr. Jim Morgan. They've been conducting critique sessions lately, but check with Jim for details,

Central Jax WG — This Jacksonville group now meets at the Southeast Public Library, 10599 Deerwood Park Blvd, on the southwest corner of J. T. Butler and Gate Parkway. Led by Judy Connolly, the group has two monthly meetings, a speaker meeting on the second Tuesday of each month, 6:00-7:45 pm, and the other a critique group meeting usually on the fourth Thursday of each month from 4:00 to 7:45 pm, but in April will be meeting on the 19th due to a scheduling conflict with the library. April's speaker is Carol D. O'Dell, giving her excellent presentation, "Writing & Selling Your Memoir." Go to for more details on the Central Jax meetings.

Ancient City WG — Meets on the third Saturday of the month, also at 10am, at the Main St. Augustine Library downtown. Dr. Allen Bohl will speak about his journey from college athletic director to author, and his book, Back Porch Swing. The group will not meet in May, attending the FWA Conference at the PV Library instead. Randy Cribbs and Peter Guinta lead the group, and Randy may be reached at

More items of interest to writers:

  • Authors Connie Mae Fowler, Les Standiford, and Janis Owens will be at the Flagler College Auditorium on Saturday, April 14 from 2:00 to 5pm as part of Flagler's Writers in Residence Program. There will be an interactive presentation followed by a book signing.
  • Much Ado About Books is set for April 21 at the Prime Osborn Convention Center. The book and author festival benefits the Jacksonville Public Library and features over ten New York Times Bestselling authors. Among them will be the keynote panel at the luncheon featuring Sandra Brown, Brad Meltzer, and Adriana Trigiani. For a list of the other authors speaking this year go to Panels are free, but the luncheon tickets cost $40. FWA will have a table in the exhibition hall, so look for us as we introduce FWA to new authors and promote the upcoming conference.
  • SleuthFest, the excellent mystery & crime writers conference produced by Florida MWA, is the same weekend as MAAB. It's moved from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami Beach this year, and features keynotes by bestselling author Linda Fairstein and Law and Order producer/writer, Rene Balcer.
  • Entries are now being accepted for the 27th annual Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition, created to recognize and encourage the efforts of writers who have not yet achieved major-market success. Writers will compete for a $1,000 firstprize, $500 second prize, and $500 third prize in this internationally acclaimedcompetition. Several honorable mentions are also awarded each year. Stories in all genres of fiction are welcome. Maximum length is 3,000 words, andwriters retain all rights to their work. The final deadline is May 15, 2007;winners will be announced at the end of July. For complete guidelines, please visit
  • The Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) meets on the third Saturday of each month from 1:00 to 3pm at the Southeast Regional Library on Deerwood Park Boulevard. Except April since it will be the same day as MAAB. In May, Robyn Gioia talks about her new book, America's First Real Thanksgiving.

Thanks to Judy Connolly for assembling the following events:

  • April 7 — Jane Austen Society of North America (North Florida Regional Chapter) holds their monthly Book Meeting to discuss Jane Austen in Boca by Paula Marantz-Cohen at Liz's Tea Room (Neptune Beach). For more information:
  • April 14 — North Florida Writers Group monthly meeting at the Webb Westconnett Library, 2 p.m., 6887 103rd St., Jacksonville, Florida.
  • April 14 — First Coast Romance Writers monthly meeting: 11:00am - 12:30pm How to Write Sparkling Dialogue That SINGS! with Karen Hawkins; 1:30 – 2:30pm General Meeting; 2:30 – 4:00pm Designing Characters That Are Worth Taking To Bed with Karen Hawkins, West Regional Library, 1425 Chaffee Road. For more details:

And finally, if you've been holding your breath waiting to see what the new Harry Potter cover art looks like, breathe deeply and see the Publishers Weekly article:

Until next time,


Vic DiGenti
FWA Regional Director

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Exciting new opportunities for NE Florida writers

Albert Einstein once said "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." If you've been writing and querying and not getting anywhere, then it's time for a change. We're excited about two new events that will help writers in our area to work smarter and better understand what writers and editors are looking for. The first is a new fiction competition for unpublished novels. We call it the Lighthouse Book Awards, and it's open to all writers who wish to submit in these three categories:

1. Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
2. Fiction-General
3. Young Adult

Instead of giving the winners another plaque to dust, the three finalists in each category will have their work reviewed and judged by acquisition editors for major publishing houses in each of the genre areas. This is huge! Unless a writer has an agent, it’s virtually impossible to have your manuscript reviewed by an acquiring editor at the larger traditional publishers, but if your work passes muster with the preliminary judges, it will be sent on to the editors.

The deadline for entry is Friday, March 30, and I've posted the contest rules and entry form on my website along with information on the upcoming one-day conference. Here's the link to the contest rules: The finalists will be announced at a one-day conference on Saturday, May 19 at the Ponte Vedra Library.

New York Times bestselling author Steve Berry will give the keynote talk at the luncheon and also present a workshop on research, backstory, and great beginnings. His new book, The Alexandria Link, debuted at #4 on the NY Times list.

Titled Shift Your Writing into High Gear, the conference runs from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm and covers a variety of subjects from screenwriting to plot development, from writing short stories to tips on revision. Early-bird registration through April 30 is only $40 for FWA members and $60 for non-members. After April 30, the conference fee increases to $50 for FWA members and $75 for non-members. Ten minute one-on-one appointments are also available with any of the presenters, except Steve Berry, for $20 per session. The fee includes a box lunch, morning and afternoon refreshments, and an invitation to the May 18 Book Fair. The Book Fair will feature author panels, question and answer sessions , and book signings.

Advance conference registration is requested, and the registration form may be downloaded from the FWA website, Be patient if the form isn't on the FWA site for a few days as we're a bit ahead of the curve here. For more about the conference, the complete schedule, and information on the presenters, go to

Ponte Vedra Writers Group Meetings
Now let's move on to our Writers' Group meetings. Our group meets on the fourth Saturday of each month at 10AM at the Ponte Vedra Beach Library located at 100 Library Boulevard. Here's what's coming up this Saturday and the next few months.
Saturday, February 24 at 10AM — Look Who’s Talking
One of the hardest things for new fiction writers to master is point of view–the perspective from which a scene is written. Multi-published author Eileen Ann Brennan will explore the various perspectives of point of view in an entertaining and interactive workshop at this month’s meeting. Eileen will discuss the types of POV and their uses, providing illustrations of the differences between first, second and third person POV. She lives with her husband, daughter and, occasionally, her son who is away at school , and writes about sexy heroes, sassy heroines, and scintillating plots.
March 24 at 10AM — Turning your life experiences into poetry
In a change from my last Blog, award-winning poet Teri Grimm will be with us in March rather than April. She will discuss how to turn those moving moments from our life into effective poetry.
April 28 at 10AM — The most common mistakes beginning writers make and how to avoid them
Editor Emily Carmain reviews the lengthy list of missteps she’s seen come across her desk and offers advice on how to fix them.

Don’t forget the other FWA Writers Groups in the NE Florida region if you’re unable to attend ours, or just want more involvement in the writing life.
Central Jax WG — This Jacksonville group has changed the site of their meetings to the Southeast Public Library, 10599 Deerwood Park Blvd, on the southwest corner of J. T. Butler and Gate Parkway. Led by Judy Connolly, the group has two monthly meetings, one with speakers meeting on the second Tuesday of each month, 6:30-8:45 pm, and the other a critique group meeting on the fourth Thursday of each month. Terri Ridgell will conduct a workshop on March 13 on the subject of Writing Strong, Intelligent Heroines. For complete information on the Central Jax WG, go to
Amelia Island WG — Meets on the first Saturday of the month at 10AM at the Fernandina Beach Police Dept. on Lime Street. Contact Jim Morgan, ( for details. Ancient City WG — Meets on the third Saturday of the month, also at 10AM, at the St. Augustine Library. Randy Cribbs and Peter Guinta lead the group, and Randy may be reached at Due to a conflict this month, I was unable to attend this meeting and deliver my talk on Great Beginnings. However, Randy has been kind enough to give me a second chance and I'll be there for the March 17 meeting.

More items of interest to writers:

  • Last month I wrote that I wanted your success stories and other items of interest to FWA members and area writers. Annette Simon emailed to let me know her picture book for young mimics, Mocking Birdies, was recently named a 2006 ABC Best Book for Children by the Association of Booksellers for Children. Published by Simply Read Books, it was a finalist for the 2006 Writers' League of Texas Teddy (Children's) Award, and also a pick for the American Institute of Graphic Arts' 50 Books/50 Covers exhibit. Congratulations, Annette.
  • Nancy Murray also called to let me know her children's book, Gullah, The Nawleans Cat Meets Katrina, will be published in March. Nancy is donating a portion of the profits from her sales to Katrina relief programs. Interestingly enough, the artist she selected to create the many watercolor images for the book is from Pascagoula, MS and now living in a FEMA trailer.
  • Speaking of Hurricane Katrina, the Disaster News Network (, a 24/7 Web news service, is seeking "engaging writer/photographers with a passion for human-interest reporting." They're looking for freelance journalists to conduct interviews by phone and in the field -- along with photography -- if you are available to travel. To be considered, you'll need a degree in journalism or communications, at least one year of professional experience on a daily newspaper or news service, and have clips they can review online. Send your resume and at least five online examples of your work to: or fax them at (410) 884-7353.
  • As announced last month, the 21st Annual Florida’s First Coast Writer’s Festival has a new home. It’s moved to the Jacksonville Public Library’s main branch at 303 Laura Street, and is scheduled for March 9 – 11. FYI, David Poyer and Lenore Hart will be conducting a special three hour master class in fiction on Friday, March 9, from 9:00 am to noon. Winners of the various contests will be announced at Saturday's luncheon. A number of the finalists and winners are from our area, including Rick Maloy, winner of the short story division and a member of my critique group. Congratulations to Rick.
  • Much Ado About Books has posted their author schedule for the April 21st event at the Prime Osborn Convention Center. This heralded book festival benefits the Jacksonville Public Library and features over ten New York Times Bestselling authors. Among them will be the keynote panel at the luncheon featuring Sandra Brown, Brad Meltzer, and Adriana Trigiani. Panels are free, but the luncheon tickets cost $40.
  • James Redfield, author of The Celestine Prophecy , will present and discuss the St. Augustine-filmed version of his book on Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 7:00 p.m. in the Flagler College Auditorium. It's part of Flagler's spring Writer-in-Residence program. For more information, go to
  • MargieAnn Sauls, president of the Jacksonville branch of Sisters in Crime, reports that Florida mystery authors Christine Kling, Wreckers' Key, and Bob Morris, Bermuda Schwartz, will be signing books at the Bookmark in Atlantic Beach on Saturday, March 10 at 7:00 pm.
  • The deadline for the Writecorner Press Poetry Prize is right around the corner, Feb. 28 postmark, but if you have something ready to go, send 2 copies of unpublished poems, 40 lines max, any style or theme. Type author’s name, address, phone, e-mail (optional) on top of one copy only. The second copy, without identification, will be used in judging. Send short bio. Entry fee: $5 first poem, $3 each additional. Mail to: Writecorner Press, PO Box 140310, Gainesville, FL 32614.
  • And last but not least, don't forget that national bestselling author Sue Monk Kidd will be in Jacksonville for a reception and lecture on Thursday, March 8 at UNF's Lazarra Theatre. Kidd's acclaimed novel, The Secret Life of Bees, sold more than 4.5 million copies and stayed on the NY Times Best Seller list for two years. For ticket information, call 904-285-0073 or go to
Until next time,

Vic DiGenti
FWA Regional Director

Monday, January 15, 2007

Life is what happens...

“Life is what happens to us while we’re making other plans.”

I love that quote, supposedly said by Beatle John Lennon. We all know how Life can get in the way of our daily plans, whether our goal is to write 2,000 words a day or faithfully attend the FWA Writers Group meetings. Things happen to divert us from those plans. But this posting isn’t a sermon designed to make you feel guilty, instead it’s a celebration of successes and the many opportunities we should embrace while we have the chance.

Workshops and conferences are excellent ways to learn more about the craft and keep the batteries charged, and there are several listed below. Of course, since this is the FWA Ponte Vedra Blog Spot, I will tell you we have some outstanding programs lined up for the first quarter of the year. You’ll find a listing of those directly below this opening rant, but I’ll alert you to this month’s speaker right now: She’s screenwriter Sharon Cobb, and she’ll be telling us how to adapt our books into movies. Look for more details below, but mark your calendar for Saturday, January 27 at 10AM at the Ponte Vedra Beach Library.

I’m looking for success stories, so be sure to share with me (and I’ll share it with hundreds of others through this blog) your good news. Do you have a new book coming out? Have you won a competition? Heard of a great writer’s workshop or conference that might be of interest to us? Pass it along.

Here’s wishing you the best of success in the New Year.

Ponte Vedra Writers Group Meetings

Our group meets on the fourth Saturday of each month at 10AM at the Ponte Vedra Beach Library located at 100 Library Boulevard.

January 27 at 10AM — How to Adapt Your Book into a Movie
Many authors believe their book or manuscript would make a first-rate movie, but they have no idea how to go about adapting it into a screenplay. Seemingly, there are many more questions than answers for writers trying to break into this highly-competitive field. Screenwriter Sharon Cobb will answer many of those questions at this month’s meeting.
Among the many details of the screenwriting profession Ms. Cobb will share are what type books and manuscripts film producers are more
likely to purchase; which genres are most popular in Hollywood today; the differences between writing a book and a screenplay, and using the three-act structure for films.

Ms. Cobb was named as one of Script Magazine’s Top Ten New Hollywood Screenwriters to Watch and is featured in the documentary film, We, the Screenwriters. In addition, she has sold numerous scripts to independent producers and directors and is a co-producer of many of her projects. Among her screenwriting credits are Lighthouse Hill (2004), British comedy starring Jason Flemyng, On Hostile Ground (2000), action-adventure starring John Corbett, TBS, Just Write (1997), romantic comedy starring Jeremy Piven. She also wrote a novelization of Touched by An Angel for CBS which sold over 170,000 copies in bookstores throughout the country. Her new book False Confessions of a True Hollywood Screenwriter is out to New York book agents.

February 24 at 10AM — Look Who’s Talking
Join multi-published author Eileen Ann Brennan for an entertaining, interactive workshop on Point of View. Learn the types and uses of POV, how to identify and determine whose POV to use, and find out who those first and third persons really are.

March 24 at 10AM — The most common mistakes beginning writers make and how to avoid them
Editor Emily Carmain reviews the lengthy list of missteps she’s seen come across her des
and offers advice on how to fix them.

April 28 at 10AM — Turning your life experiences into poetry
April is Poetry Month and award-winning poet Teri Grimm discusses how to turn those moving moments from our life into effective poetry.

Don’t forget the other FWA Writers Groups in the NE Florida region if you’re unable to attend ours, or just want more involvement in the writing life. The next meeting of Central Jax WG is January 25 from 5:00-8:00 p.m. at the Balis Community Center, behind the San Marco Public Library. The featured speaker is Carolyn Herman, the Visiting Assistant Professor of Law at Florida Coastal School of Law, Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law, who will discuss signing book contracts with agents and publishers. Note that this is a special time for January only. For more information, check out WG Leader Judy Connolly’s blog at

The Amelia Island WG meets on the first Saturday of the month at 10AM at the Fernandina Beach Police Dept. on Lime Street. Contact Jim Morgan, ( for details.

The Ancient City WG meets on the third Saturday of the month, also at 10AM, at the St. Augustine Library. Randy Cribbs and Peter Guinta lead the group, and Randy may be reached at

More items of interest to writers:
  • Flagler College is presenting a Writers in Residence program this spring with noted authors Janice Daugharty, James Redfield, Connie May Fowler, Les Standiford, and Janis Owens. For details on their appearances, go to
  • Speaking of noted authors, national bestselling author Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid’s Chair, will appears at the UNF Fine Arts Center on Thursday, March 8. This is a special presentation by the Friends of the Library–Ponte Vedra Beach as part of their Major Author Program. A VIP Reception with Ms. Kidd is planned prior to her presentation at 7:30. For details, go to
  • The 21st Annual Florida’s First Coast Writer’s Festival has a new home. It’s moved to the Jacksonville Public Library’s main branch at 303 Laura Street, and is scheduled for March 9 – 11.
  • Mark your calendar for the very first NE Florida One-Day FWA Conference (better known by the catchy acronym, NEFODFWAC) on Saturday, May 19 at the Ponte Vedra Beach Library. Details will soon be hammered out by a crack team of conference planners. Look for more details in the near future.
  • Some bad news for the Orlando mini-conference, however. That February 24 event has been cancelled.
  • Children's mystery author June Weltman will teach a six-week workshop on Writing Children's Mysteries through Mandarin High School's Adult Community Education Program. The class will be held Thursdays from 7-8:30 p.m., starting Jan. 25, 2007.
  • Suspense writer Terri Ridgell and yours truly offer the next Novel in a Day Workshop this Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the downtown library. Spaces are still available. Go to for details.
  • Area author Robyn Gioia (formerly known as Robyn Leslie) announces her nonfiction middle grade book America's Real First Thanksgiving from Pineapple Press is coming out March 15. She’s available for talks.
  • If you’re a big-time thriller reader then you’ll want to sign up for the free ITW (International Thriller Writers) newsletter at One lucky registrant will win 150 thriller novels and three runner-up entrants will each receive a copy of the 2006 Thriller Anthology, edited by James Patterson.
  • Readers and writers of graphic novels might want to attend this year’s New York Comic Con, February 23 – 25 at the Javits Center in NYC. The Graphic Novels Conference will be held on the 23rd at the Comic Con, featuring panels of writers, artists, and publishers. Graphic novels were one of the fastest growing areas of publishing again in 2006, with the top selling manga series hitting new highs.
  • Did you know that according to the 2004, Nielsen Bookscan, which tracked the sales of 1.2 million books in the United States, that of that number only 25,000 books sold more than 5,000 copies? Fewer than 500 sold more than 100,000 copies, and only 10 books sold more than a million copies each. Gives us something to shoot towards.
  • Watch for the new and improved FWA publication, The Florida Writer, to come out next week. Editor Sammy Smith promises it won’t exactly be like landing on the moon, but a giant leap forward nonetheless.

That’s it until next time. Let me hear from you, and be sure to keep writing and making those plans, despite what Life may throw in your path.

I’m proud of myself for resisting the urge (until now) to crow a bit and say,

“How ‘bout them Gators?”


Victor DiGenti FWA Regional Director