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