Monday, December 01, 2008

Holiday Happenings

It's that hectic time of year. Family visits, parties, shopping. But writers can stay connected and keep the focus on their current writing projects by checking out the various FWA meetings in the area this month and coming months.

Also, now is the time to put the finishing touches on your manuscript for the 2009 Lighthouse Book Awards competition. Exact details will be forthcoming, but you have until late February to enter your unpublished manuscript in any of the four categories: Young Adult, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Fiction-General, or Science Fiction/Fantasy. Remember that the top three finalists in each category are judged by an acquiring editor for a traditional publishing house. Look for details soon.

Speaking of competitions, our NE Florida region collected a slew of awards at the FWA Conference RPLA Banquet on Saturday, November 15. Congratulations to the following award winners: Gertie Poole, Jim Morgan, Hank Racer, Linda Eadie, Michael Ray King, Muriel McKinley, Nancy Murray, William Hamel, Jennifer Swanson, Dickie Anderson, Helena Powell, and Vic DiGenti. 

And here's what's happening at our various FWA chapters here in the NE Florida region:
  • NE Florida's newest FWA Chapter is the First Coast Christian Writers led by Dr. Lorraine Haataia. They meet weekly on Thursday at 6:45 p.m. at Christ's Church at 6056 Greenland Road. This week's guest speaker is consultant Steve Waterhouse, author of The Team Selling Solution: Creating and Managing Teams That Win the Complex Sale. For more information about attending these meetings, please contact Lorraine at
  • Ancient City Writers – Because of the Christmas holiday, St. Augustine writers will meet on Saturday, December 6 instead of their normal meeting date of December 20. Starting at 10:15 a.m. at the Main Library in downtown St. Augustine, they will present a panel discussion on the topic of "Writing the Salable Novel." Panelists include Nancy Haddock, La Vida Vampire, William Kerr, author of six adventure/suspense novels, including his latest, Deadly Logic, and historical fiction author Arliss Ryan, The Kingsley House. Karen Harvey will moderate the panel which will be followed by a reception and book signing. Contact Jeff Swesky for information at
  • River City Writers welcome John Boles to their December 9 meeting to discuss character development for fiction and film projects. They meet from 7:00 to 8:45 p.m. at the SE Branch Library located at 10599 Deerwood Park Blvd. off Gate Parkway. For more information, go to
  • Amelia Island Writers meet next on Tuesday, December 16 at 6:00 p.m. at the Florida House Inn at 31 S. Fourth Street in Fernandina Beach. Novelist Cara Curtin will be the speaker. Cara co-authored Fernandina's Lost Island with the late David Tuttle. Contact chapter leader Maggie deVries at
  • Ponte Vedra Writers chapter normally meets on the fourth Saturday of the month at 10:30 a.m. at the Ponte Vedra Library. Except for this month when we're on holiday. January 24 we'll kick off another season of outstanding programs starting with Nancy Haddock speaking on "Writing for the Paranormal Market." In February, John Byrum, senior editor for University Press of Florida, will be the speaker, followed by Jon Gordon in March who will speak on building your platform. Look for more information later in the month. 
Enjoy the holidays and keep writing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Holidays are for writers

With October slipping away, November promises more than a blessed end to the longest presidential campaign in history, it also ushers in the start of the holiday season. Before you go crazy spending your share of the government bailout bounty (sorry, I lost my head), join me in reviewing goals made at the dawn of 2008. 

Did you complete your book, I asked myself? Yes and no is my answer. Did you send out query letters to agents and publishers? Oh boy, did I. Did you get published? Yep, Windrusher number 3 came bouncing out of the oven in August. Did you sign up for the FWA conference? You have to ask?

If you didn't reach all of your goals, don't despair as there are still two months left in the year. Keep working your plan and planning your work as the sales people like to say. 

FWA can certainly help keep you on track with motivating and educational meetings, and next month's big conference. This will be my last plug for the conference (or maybe not), but it's approaching fast so time is running out to register. There are dozens of outstanding workshops and presenters during the November 14 - 16 conference, including agents, editors and publishers. All of the Friday morning signature workshops are now included in the one fee, and, of course, there's the Royal Palm Literary Awards Banquet on Saturday night. Go to the FWA website for details. 

FWA chapters are springing up faster than I can keep up with them. Five new groups have come on line in the last six weeks, including groups in Crawfordville (near Tallahassee), Gainesville, Celebration, St. Lucie, and Ocala. The Ocala group is led by Lucy Beebe Tobias, author of 50 Great Walks in Florida, and a speaker at our Ponte Vedra Writers chapter several weeks ago. Good luck to all the new group leaders as they do their part as "Writers helping writers." I'm sure there will be more groups added soon since FWA continues to grow and prosper.

And speaking of FWA chapters, here's a rundown of what's on the horizon for November, although the holidays are having an impact on local meetings:

  • River City Writers meet on the second Tuesday of the month at 7:00 p.m. the SE Branch Library on Deerwood Park Blvd. However, there will be no meeting that night due to the room not being available that day. Look for them to resume on December 9 with creative writing instructor John Boles discussing character development. For information, contact group leader Darlene Myers at or visit their blog.
  • St. Augustine's Ancient City Writers chapter reprieves Sandra McDonald's talk on Implied Author/Implied Reader. Sandra spoke at the Ponte Vedra Writers group meeting last weekend on the same subject. If you missed her excellent presentation, this is your chance to catch it. Be there on Saturday, November 15 at 10:00 a.m. at St. Augustine's Main Library. In December, they'll meet on the 6th because of the Christmas holidays.   The special program includes a panel discussion and book sale. Contact Jeff Swesky at or visit the Ancient City Writers Blog.
  • To the north is the Amelia Island Writers Group, meeting on Tuesday, November 18 at 6:00 p.m. at Fernandina's Beach's Florida House Inn. Maggie deVries leads this group and she can be reached at
  • And to round out our regional meetings, my Ponte Vedra Writers group is going on a two month hiatus due to conflicts with the holidays. But we're coming back strong in the new year with some exceptional programs. Look for more information soon.
Here are some other writer's groups in the area for you to check out:
  • First Coast Christian Writers meet each Thursday at 6:45 p.m. in room 207 at Christ's Church on Greenland Road. Chapter President is Lorraine Haataia.
  • First Coast Romance Writers meet at 11:00 a.m. on the 2nd Saturday of the month at the West Regional Library on Chaffee Road. 
  • Florida Sisters in Crime has just changed their meeting date to the third Saturday of the month at 10:30 a.m. at the SE Regional Library.
  • North Florida Writers meets at 2:00 p.m. on the second Saturday of every month at the Webb Westconnett Library. 
  • Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) meets on the third Saturday  of each month from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at the SE Regional Library. Contact Janet Walter at
What else is going on in the area?
  • In case you didn't see it, The Florida Times-Union announced their annual Holiday Short Story Contest. The deadline is 4:00 p.m. Friday, November 21 and it needs to be no longer than 1,000 words. A new wrinkle this year is the "shoebox" format. All stories must incorporate the following words or phrases at least once within the body of the story: nog, wreath, mistletoe, blizzard, kazoo, gingerbread, family, Alabama, puppy, stocking, roller coaster and Kermit the Frog.  Sounds  like fun. Read all the details online at the TU's website.
  • And if you're into contests, check out Poets & Writers site for a comprehensive listing of contests for poets, novelists and short story writers. It also includes announcements of available grants and fellowships for writers. 
That's it for now. I'll leave you with these encouraging words from Mickey Spillane, the late, great writer of hard-boiled detective fiction:

"If you're a singer you lose your voice. A baseball player loses his arm. A writer gets more knowledge, and if he's good, the older he gets, the better he writes."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What's in it for me?

"I want to learn more about how to be a better writer, but I'm not sure if these meetings will  help me."
The woman on the other end of the phone had called asking about attending our next FWA Chapter meeting after seeing a notice in the newspaper. She wanted to know more about FWA and "what was in it for her." I told her of the benefits of FWA, of the various chapter meetings throughout our region with stimulating speakers, of the networking and motivation the meetings provided. I told her of The Florida Writer magazine, of the annual conference and the mini-conferences and Lighthouse Book Awards. 
After five minutes of conversation, she decided that FWA sounded like what she was looking for to get her writerly juices flowing. And as I spoke, it reinforced to me the value of FWA and how much it has helped me personally in my writing career. If you feel the same way, I hope to see you at one of the meetings or at the November Conference in Lake Mary. Remember you have to be a member to attend the annual conference, so if it's time for you to renew, this is the time to do it. Go to the FWA website for details. 
Here's what's happening in our NE Florida Region:
  • Monday, October 13 at 6:30 p.m. – Bestselling international thriller author Steve Berry speaks at the Ponte Vedra Library as part of the FOL's Book Talk Cafe program. Steve will be discussing his latest thriller, The Venetian Betrayal, and give us a preview of his December release, The Charlemagne Pursuit. In The Venetian Betrayal, Cotton Malone, the former U.S. Justice Department agent turned rare book dealer, chases after a miraculous healing serum supposedly buried with the remains of Alexander the Great. Berry, who lives on the SE Georgia coast where he practiced law until very recently, has seen his last four books debut on The NY Times Bestseller list. He was recently a Guest of Honor at the Amelia Island Book Festival.
  • Tuesday, October 14 at 7:00 p.m. – River City Writers Chapter meets at the SE Branch Regional Library to hear from freelancer Kay Day who will talk about making a living with the nonfiction market. Again, thanks to Darlene Myers for assuming the leadership role with the River City Writers. Questions about the meetings, contact Dar at
  • Saturday, October 18 at 10:00 a.m. – Ancient City Writers monthly meeting at St. Augustine's downtown Main Library will host romantic suspense author Terri Ridgell, a familiar face on the First Coast. Terri has been director of the Amelia Island Book Festival for the past two years, and will have a timely topic for those of us attending the November Conference: Approaching an Editor or Agent. Terri will tell us how to take advantage of the few minutes you have to present yourself and your project in the best possible light.  
  • Tuesday, October 21 at 6:00 p.m. – The Amelia Island Writers Chapter holds their regular monthly meeting at the Florida House Inn's conference room  in the historic section of Fernandina Beach. For information, contact Maggie deVries at
  • Friday, October 24 at 7:30 p.m. – Sara Gruen, author of the bestseller Water for Elephants, will speak at the Sawgrass Marriott Resort. Water for Elephants  chronicles the life of Jacob Jankowski, a depression-era veterinarian who runs away and joins a third-rate traveling circus. The New York Times Book Review wrote, "With a showman's expert timing, Gruen saves a terrific revelation for the final pages, transforming a glimpse of Americana into an enchanting fairy tale." Gruen will be the guest of honor at a Patron's Reception at 6:00 p.m. and then speak at 7:30 p.m. on the 24th. Reception and presentations tickets are $60 for PV FOL members, $80 for non-members or $20 and $30 for the presentation only. They may be purchased at Seymour's Bookstore inside the Ponte Vedra Library or by calling 904-285-0073.
  • Saturday, October 25 at 10:30 a.m. – The Ponte Vedra Writers Chapter presents Sandra McDonald, heralded science-fiction author and writing instructor to speak about Implied Author/Implied Reader. Sandra says, "There are two characters that every writer must consider, whether working in fiction or non-fiction or poetry. How do you define the difference between them and work them to your best advantage." Sandra is the author of The Outback Stars and the sequel, The Stars Down Under. She's an accomplished writer, teacher and much in demand as a speaker on the craft of writing. If you attended any of  her workshops, either at writing conferences or at our FWA meetings, you won't want to miss her presentation. 
Other happenings of interest to area writers: 
  • Congratulations to Terri Wright and Susan Siegmund for a successful Amelia Island Book Festival. The Festival returned to the site of the Episcopal Church and attracted a large and enthusiastic crowd. The Author's Luncheon turned out to be a big success as well with speaker Louis Bayard. Congratulations also to Dickie Anderson who takes over as director of the festival.
  • North Florida Writers meet today at 2:00 p.m. at the Webb-Wesconnett Branch Library at the corner of 103rd and Harlow Blvd. The group will be critiquing manuscripts today.
  • The First Coast Christian Writers Group meets every Thursday at 6:45 p.m. at Christ's Church, 6045 Greenland Road, in room 204. Contact Lorraine Haataia at
  • The local chapter of SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators) has issued a December Picture Book Challenge to write a picture book to be started on December 1 and completed by December 31. Finished manuscripts may be sent to challenge coordinator Robyn Gioia at Janet Walter, the SCBWI Jacksonville coordinator and Robyn will sort the manuscripts and distribute them to critique groups. Their goal is to produce publishable picture books from the challenge. Contact either Robyn or Janet,, for more details.
  • Video book trailers are another weapon in the author's arsenal of promotion and marketing weapons. You can see them on author's websites or view hundreds of them on YouTube. They take many forms from talking heads to animation. In this act of BSP, Blatant Self-Promotion, I share with you my new trailer for Windrusher and the Trail of Fire. Check it out at YouTube and rate it if you're so inclined. Let me know what you think.
Until next time, keep writing.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

It's Almost Conference Time

One of the highlights of the year for all writers is the FWA Annual Conference, and this one promises to be one of the best yet. Celebrating our 7th anniversary, the conference has moved to the Lake Mary Marriott Resort, November 14 - 16. Packed with 33 workshops, panel discussions, signature events and the Royal Palm Literary Awards Banquet all for one very reasonable price, this is one conference not to be missed.

Fourteen experienced agents, publishers and writing mentors from all over the country will help fill-out three tracks on the craft writing, marketing and promotion, and getting published. 

Friday afternoon you may select from two of the following Signature Events:
  • Write a summary to make editors salivate for more
  • Developing your publicity "hook"
  • Jumpstart your publishing dreams
  • Think like an agent
  • Learn 8 little-known, no-cost secrets to book marketing
  • Flex your metaphor muscles
  • Discover Internet gold
And there's much more including the Friday evening welcome dinner, the keynote talk by Eliot Kleinberg, a grand silent auction, and a chance to win one of more than 60 door prizes. Call 1-899-380-7724 for hotel reservations, and go to
for all the details and to register. Remember you have to be an FWA member to attend, so hurry and renew your membership if you haven't done so already. You may do that online as well. Registration jumps to $299 on September 30, so register now and save a few bucks.

Congratulations to the hard-working committee that produced last weekend's successful Florida Heritage Book Festival. Nearly 100 people attended the Craft of Writing Work
shops on Friday to hear from 14 excellent presenters. Kudos to Dianne Ell and her committee for putting it all together. At the same time, dozens of authors descended upon St. Johns County schools for a day of author talks. The next day's events were just as impressive as more than 400 people came to listen to and question the 40 authors participating in panel discussions and book signings. 

Kathy Dvornick and her team of masochistic, sleep-deprived volunteers deserve a big thanks for launching what will surely become one of Florida's major book festivals. 
To the left is Jewell Kutzer in her persona of the Mayberry Mamma regaling an auditorium full of students at Fruit Cove Middle School. Jewell chaired the author selection committee this year. Again, congratulations to all the volunteers who contributed to making this such a big success. Authors are already lining up to be part of next year's festival. 

Here's more news for area authors:
  • Much thanks and appreciation to Judy Connolly for her outstanding service to FWA during the past two years she led the River City Writers. Because of the press of her teaching duties and the classes she's taking for another degree, Judy has stepped down from that position. Judy was invaluable as coordinator of the Lighthouse Book Awards this year, and we'll all miss her wise counsel and leadership. But fear not, Judy has already lined-up the perfect replacement in the person of Darlene Myers. Most of you probably know Darlene as she's been very active with FWA, assisting with the past two regional conferences, both as bookstore manager and event photographer. She assisted Judy with the Lighthouse Book Awards and also managed the book store for the Florida Heritage Book Festival. Aside from that, Dar (as her friends know her) was this year's president of the Jacksonville chapter of Sisters in Crime. Here's Dar with author Steve Berry at the 2007 conference at the Ponte Vedra Library. She's the one on the right. Judy and Darlene will co-cost the October meeting, so plan to attend and welcome Darlene. They meet on the second Tuesday of the month at 7:00 p.m. at the SE Branch Regional Library located off Gate Parkway. The October 14 meeting features a talk by freelancer Kay Day who will share her knowledge of the freelance and non-fiction markets.
  • The Ancient City Writers would normally meet this Saturday (third Saturday of the month) at the Main Library in downtown St. Augustine. But because of their heavy involvement in the Craft of Writing Workshops last weekend, they have decided to rest this weekend. For information on how to rest or future meetings, please contact Jeff Swesky at
  • The Ponte Vedra Writers Chapter will meet as planned next Saturday, September 27 at 10:30 a.m. at the Ponte Vedra Branch Library. We have a special treat as we welcome travel writer Lucy Beebe Tobias to regale us with tales of researching and writing her Florida travel book, 50 Great Walks in Florida. Lucy wore out two pair of shoes and covered 14,000 miles in writing her book for University Press of Florida. She'll share her research and writing secrets and tell more than a few tall tales in her show and tell talk, "The Writer as Road Warrior." An award-winning journalist who worked for the New York Times Regional Group for 23 years, Lucy is the Authentic Florida Expert for VISIT FLORIDA. She says she'll tell of "life lessons learned on the bumpy roads of Florida" where she took over 1,200 photos in ten months. 
  • The Amelia Island Writers Chapter meets at 6:00 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month at the Florida House Inn in downtown Fernandina Beach. Maggie deVries is the group leader and she may be reached at
  • And speaking of Amelia Island, the Amelia Island Book Festival swings out on October 3 - 4 with 35 authors including Steve Berry, Louis Bayard, and Laura Moriarty. The event is returning to the campus of St. Peter's Episcopal Church at the corner of A1A and Centre Street. Friday's activities include the Authors in the Schools and Rock n' Roll Readings at Wicked Davey's Fancy Saloon at 7:00 p.m. That's a free event as are the author sessions on Saturday. Go to Amelia Island Book Festival for details. 
  • Much Ado About Books is seeking a chair for the Children's Chapter for the 2009 event. This person will lead the planning committee to assist the children's book authors in setting up and running their booths. This means organizing a group of volunteers to help with each booth. If interested, contact Terry Algire at or Valerie Pickett at
  • Louisiana author Pamela Binnings Ewen will be swinging through our region promoting her new book, The Moon in the Mango Tree. Set during the Roaring 20s, the novel tells the story of a beautiful Philadelphia woman torn between love for her husband and her desire for a career in music. Based upon the true-life experiences of the author's grandmother, The Moon in the Mango Tree takes readers from the streets of Philadelphia to the jungles of Siam. Ewen will be speaking at the Ponte Vedra Library's Book Talk Cafe program this Monday, September 22 at 6:30 p.m. The author, by-the-way, is a former Houston attorney who happens to be part of a family of successful writers, including her cousin James Lee Burke, and Andre Dubus. Her talk is free and open to the public.
  • Finally, have you signed up for the new FWA Network yet? This is a new member-only social networking site similar to MySpace and Facebook, but for members of Florida Writers Association. It's feature-rich and allows members unprecedented opportunity to connect with one another and share news and views, while supporting each other and promoting your achievements. This is the place for that BSP (Blatant Self Promotion) and posting photos, forum discussions, and add friends to your personal page. There's a lot more, so if you're an FWA member you should take advantage of this new benefit by registering at the FWA Network.
That's it for now. We'll see you on the book shelves.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Time is the most precious coin

Some wise sage once reminded us that "Time is the most precious coin we have. Be careful not to let others spend it for you." I try to keep that in mind when I find myself being tugged in too many directions. If writing and getting published is on the top of your To Do List these days, then stay on track (and save those precious coins) by attending the Craft of Writing Workshop on Friday, September 12 at St. Augustine's lovely Casa Monica Hotel.
Dianne Ell and the Ancient City Chapter of FWA have done an outstanding job creating a full day of work shops for writers at all levels. September 12 is the first day of the new Florida Heritage Book Festival, and you should have it on your calendar as well as send in your registration before the limited slots are taken. There will be three tracks of workshops during the day: Crafting Your Stories; Getting Published; and The Business of Writing.
Among the 14 presenters are John Byram, Editor-in-Chief of the University Press of Florida,  and Mary Anna Evans, author 
of the award-winning Faye Longchamp archaeology mystery series (both pictured to left). Also joining them are entertainment law attorney
Carolyn Herman, and international thriller writer David Hagberg, (pictured on the right). The cost of the workshop is only $45 and it includes lunch with a keynote address by Gary Monroe, award-winning author and photographer. For complete details and registration, go to Florida Heritage Book Festival.

Coming up later this month for FWA Chapters:
  • Ancient City Chapter – Saturday, August 16 at 10:00 a.m. at St. Augustine's Main Library. FWA member Nancy Quatrano talks about Writing for Credit and Money. This workshop is designed to provide practical instruction on how to write for both credit (building your resume) and money while strengthening your writing skills.
  • Ponte Vedra Chapter – Saturday, August 23 at 10:30 a.m. at the Ponte Vedra Branch Library. Nancy Haddock is riding the wave of popularity of paranormal romances with her bestselling debut novel, La Vida Vampire. The mystical and mythical are red hot in today's market these days, and Nancy says the possibilities are limitless. Join Nancy as she discusses the array of paranormal markets, what editors are looking for, and how to add a dash of the supernatural flavor to break into the market. 
In other news:
  • Don't forget to register for the 7th Annual FWA Conference, November 14-16 at the Lake Mary Marriott. You also have to be a member to attend the conference, so now is the time to renew that membership, and climb abroad for a fantastic 3-day event. Here's what you get — Three days of outstanding workshops and presentations, 24 book industry experts, agents, editor and publishers,  plus the Royal Palm Literary Awards Banquet. The conference also offers networking opportunities, professional exhibits, a silent auction to promote literacy throughout Florida, and a bookstore. FWA is now 800 strong and you'll be sure to take away much more value than the cost of the registration. For details and a registration form, go to the FWA website.
  • And while we're talking events for writers, the Florida Heritage Book Festival includes the Literary Legends Awards dinner this Saturday at the World Golf Village Conference Center. Join us at 6:00 p.m. as we honor Jack Hunter, Stetson Kennedy and Patrick Smith. Then before September 12, you'll want to register for the Craft of Writing Workshop as detailed above. That evening, you're invited to the Meet the Authors Reception at the Markland House on the Flagler College Campus. Many of the authors will be there for this meet and greet of the literary elite. The cost is $25 and includes drinks and hors d'oeuvres. Call Marie Cashat at 904-940-0890 for reservations. On Saturday, September 13, the festival continues with a full day of author talks, panel discussions, book signings,children's activities and more. Among the noted Florida authors are NY Times Bestseller, Heather Graham, plus Les Standiford, Cassandra King, Robert McComber, Bob Morris, Janis Owens and dozens more. It's all free except for the Keynote Authors Luncheon where you'll enjoy the fine food of the Casa Monica Hotel plus hear from Heather Graham and Les Standiford.  Again, click here for details. 
  • June Weltman will be teaching two 8-week adult education classes on Writing Mysteries for Children & Teens this fall. June is the author of Mystery of the Missing Candlestick, which is set in St. Augustine. The classes are at Mandarin High, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. starting September 11. Registration will be held from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the school on August 26, 27 and 28. Call Kathy Cook at 904-260-3911, Ext. 207 for information or visit
  • Fall is the time for book festivals on the First Coast, and after visiting the Florida Heritage Book Festival, head north for the Amelia Island Book Festival on Saturday, October 4. The festival moves back to St. Peters campus with a full day of presentations, panel discussions and book signings featuring authors like Steve Berry, Louis Bayard and Laura Moriarty,plus 22 more authors.  Click on Amelia Island Book Festival for full details.

Until next time, keep writing and I'll see you at the Florida Heritage Book Festival.

Monday, July 07, 2008

No Summer Doldrums, Please

As if we needed any extra distractions, summer brings with it reams-full of sizzling reasons to get away from your home office, away from your computer, away from your writing. Try to resist whenever possible. Because summer is also a great time to rework your plan for the rest of the year, find motivation to keep writing, and complete any projects you've been putting off. I actually used an approaching anniversary to write a short story I'd been thinking about for a while and presented it to the dear wife the morning of our anniversary. She seemed to appreciate the effort I'd made, but wondered where the diamond earrings were.
You won't have to dig for long to find value in the FWA area chapter meetings, which continue without a vacation during the summer months. So let's get right to the important dates.
  • River City Writers Chapter brings back the always effervescent Terri Ridgell offering The Perfect Pitch, an interactive workshop on how best to pitch your fiction or non-fiction work to an editor or agent. Terri, by-the-way, is the director of the upcoming Amelia Island Book Festival, October 3 - 5, and the author of a number of suspense romances. Go to Amelia Island Book Festival for more details. The River City Writers, led by Judy Connolly,, meets tonight, Tuesday, July 8 at 7:00 p.m. at the SE Regional Library at 10599 Deerwood Park Blvd.
  • The Amelia Island Chapter meets on Tuesday, July 15 at 6:00 p.m. at the Florida House Inn, 31 S. Fourth Street in Fernandina Beach. Chapter leader Maggie DeVries,, will have G. W. Reynolds as guest speaker this month. Bill is the author of the Jetty Man series, as well as owner of High Pitched Hum Publishing.
  • The Ancient City Writers meet on the third Saturday of each month at St. Augustine's main library at 10:00 a.m.  If you've lost your calendar, that's July 19. Those of you scratching your heads trying to figure out how to handle the many marketing tasks it takes to launch a new book should attend this month's meeting to hear my presentation of Book Promotion 101, which will take you along the meandering marketing path where I'll point out which obstacles to avoid and which roads lead to more consistent sales. Here's a picture of a young author listening to my last presentation. Actually, that's my new granddaughter Alessa reacting to one of her grandfather's jokes. Everyone's a critic.
  • And the final FWA meeting offering this month takes place at the Ponte Vedra Library on Saturday, July 26 at 10:30 a.m. The Ponte Vedra Chapter offers a timely subject for those of you wondering if you should publish your own book and what's involved. We'll reveal the mysteries of independent publishing with a panel of three independent publishers from the area—Jeannine Auth, author of Emmy's Question, Frances Keiser, author of the Pelican Pete series, and Jewel Kutzer, author of Memories of Mayberry and Mayberry Mamma's Food for the Body and Soul. Each has established themself as a successful publisher of their own books, and will share with you everything necessary to do the same in a presentation they're calling, Look Before You Leap! What You Don't Know Can Hurt You. Come armed with your questions.
Let's see what else is happening in the writing world.
  • Writing contests offer new (and old) authors the opportunity to have their work published in a wide variety of publications. You know about short stories, and short-shorts, and maybe you've tried your hand at Flash Fiction, but here's a chance to stretch yourself with an extreme 7-line contest. That's right, 7 lines. Opium Magazine offers a $1,000 prize and publication in Opium 7 on October 6 for the best work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry in 7 lines or less. Deadline is July 23rd and there's $10 fee. Click on Opium Contest for more details. 
  • Short story writers have an opportunity to make a little bread while making the reader smile in the new SmileVino Writing Contest by wine maker SmileVino. In 1,500 words, make the judge smile with a story about a woman who makes a difference, and you may be the winner of the $500 top prize. Deadline is August 5. 
  • Crime writer Marshall Frank will speak at the PV Library on Monday, July 21 at 6:30 p.m. Marshall is a former Miami-Dade police captain who turned his real-life cases into crime novels, but he'll be discussing his new autobiography, From Violins to Violence, at the library's monthly Book Talk Cafe program. In his fascinating biography, he bares all about transitioning from classical violinist, dancer and stepson of a Miami Beach mobster to becoming one of Miami-Dade County's premier homicide detectives. 
  • First Coast Romance Writers meets on the second Saturday of the month at the Jacksonville West Regional Library. On Saturday, July 12 at 11:00 a.m. the speaker will be Tracy Montoya discussing the differences in the way men and women talk. First Coast Romance Writers. Watch your mouth.
  • The next meeting of the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators) is Saturday, July 19 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at the SE Branch Library.  Three speakers will cover the various age groups— picture book, middle grade and YA. For details, contact Janet Walter at
  • Don't forget the deadline for entering the Royal Palm Literary Competition is August 1. In past years, writers from NE Florida have taken home many top prizes, so let's keep up the tradition.  You'll also want to make your reservations for the 7th Annual FWA Conference, November 14 - 16 in Lake Mary, FL. Do it before July 31 and save $50. Go to Florida Writers Association for conference and competition details.
  • The First Annual Literary Legends Awards is scheduled for Saturday, August 16 at World Golf Village Convention Center. A component of the new Florida Heritage Book Festival, the dinner and ceremony will feature Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning as a speaker and honor Jack Hunter, Stetson Kennedy, and Patrick Smith. Tickets for the event are $50. Call 940-0194 for reservations or information.
  • Jeannine Auth's book, Emmy's Question, Morningtide Press, is a winner in the Childrens/Juvenile Fiction category for the 2008 Indie Next Generation Book Awards. The winners and finalists were announced at the recent Book Expo America in Los Angeles.
  • To Maggie de Vries for publication of her historical romance, Amelia's Secrets, AuthorHouse. 
Send me news of your awards, achievements, new books, etc.

Until next time, I'll see you on the book shelf.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

It's been a whirlwind month since my last posting taking me from Palm Valley where we held our second regional conference, to the urban landscape of Los Angeles for Book Expo America. Returning late last night, I'm not fully awake or unpacked, but I knew it was time to update this blog to let you know what was happening in the weeks ahead for NE Florida writers. 
Before we look ahead, let's look back at the very successful regional conference. Almost 100 people attended the day-long
event at THE PLAYERS Community Senior Center on May 17.  It started with Philip F. Deaver's (right) keynote address in the 
morning, and ended with a "superstar" critique panel of Steve Glassman, Jack McDevitt and Deaver providing valuable insights to first pages submitted by conference attendees. 
Eight outstanding workshops were presented throughout the day by McDevitt, Deaver, Glassman, Marshall Frank, Shannon Greenland, Amy Gorelick, Linn Random, and Pam and Mike Mueller. 
Additionally, Judy Connolly announced the winners of this year's Lighthouse Book Awards.
Congratulations again to the following winners:
First Place General Fiction — However Long the Night by David Pereda
Second Place — The Reckoning by Kristi Treadway
Third Place — Shadow Hunter by Kara Wills

First Place Young Adult — Reservation by Helen Cooney (right)
Second Place — Birdwatcher by Jean Osborn
Third Place — A Dear What? by Suzanne Rimmer

First Place Science Fiction — The Crystal Feather by Howard Johnson
Second Place — Clericals, Courtesans, and Superconductors by John Boyle
Third Place — The Book of the Dead by Annabelle Lentle

First Place Mystery/Suspense/Thriller — Make Old Bones by Leslie Talley (left)
Second Place — Unmarked Graves by John Miglis
Third Place — Bad Vibrations by Dan Anderson

Contests provide important feedback for writers as well as helping to launch your new books on a high note. If you're looking for another contest to enter, look no further than the upcoming FWA Royal Palm Literary Awards Competition. The awards banquet is always a big
 part of the annual FWA Conference. This year's, Chart Your Course, is scheduled for November 14 - 16 at the Lake Mary Marriott Resort just outside Orlando. If you're an FWA member you've already received a brochure outlining the schedule and including registration forms for the conference, competition and the bookstore. If you didn't receive one, I'll have some available at the Ponte Vedra Chapter meeting on June 28. Or go to for details.

And speaking of the chapter meetings, let's look ahead at what's planned at the various meetings this month.
  • River City Writers meets on Tuesday, June 10 at 7:00 p.m. at the Southeast Regional Library off Gate Parkway. Group leader Judy Connolly has asked me to speak about the Hero's Journey. If you write fantasy or just curious about the mystical connection found in so many of our books and films—from fairy tales to Lord of the Rings, from Star Wars to Harry Potter—then you might want to be there. Contact Judy at for more information.
  • Amelia Island Writers Group meets at 6:00 p.m. at the Florida House Inn Conference Center in Fernandina Beach. Contact Maggie de Vries at for more information.
  • Ancient City Writers meets on Saturday, June 21 at 10:00 A.M. at the Main Library in St. Augustine. Beth Mansbridge, freelance copy editor and proof reader, will address the most common editing problems facing writers of fiction and non-fiction. She'll also tell you how to make an excellent first impression with your query letters. Contact Jeff Swesky at for details.
  • Ponte Vedra Writers meets on Saturday, June 28 at 10:30 a.m. at the Ponte Vedra Library. This month, Paul May (right), author of young adult and middle grade novels and short fiction, will discuss Writing for Children. Paul will address a number of topics, including breaking into the field by building your reputation with articles and short stories, finding a unique voice, and point of view.  
In other happenings:
  • Ever feel like giving up? Margie Sauls will tell you to Never Give Up! at tomorrow's Sisters in Crime meeting, Saturday, June 7 at 10:30 a.m. at the SE Branch Library. Margie will share her experience with a NY agent. Contact Darlene Myers at
  • The Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) is meeting on Saturday, June 21 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at the SE Regional Library. Children's Librarian Keith Hayes will talk about what kids read today, what books librarians buy, and marketing to librarians. Contact Janet Walter at
  • The First Coast Christian Writers meets each Thursday evening at 6:45 p.m. in room 204 at Christ's Church at 6045 Greenland Road. Contact Lorraine Haataia at 
  • 12th Annual Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Writing the Region Workshop in Gainesville and Cross Creek. Go to 
  • Author (and Mayo gastroenterologist) Timothy Woodward will discuss his debut novel, Cadillac Orpheus, at the Ponte Vedra Library's Book Talk Cafe program on Monday, June 23 at 6:30 p.m. The program is free and open to the public.  
  • Have a short story about cats? Fireside Publications has a short story contest with a June 30 deadline. There's a 3,000 word limit. Go to for submission guidelines. 
And finally, congratulations to friends and area authors:
  • Pamela Bauer Mueller (one of the presenters at our recent conference and SE Georgia children's writer) has won several awards for her newest book, An Angry Drum Echoed, and is a finalist for Georgia Writer of the Year.
  • Jim Morgan is participating in the Memphis Film Festival this weekend. The festival will spotlight two American heroes, The Lone Ranger and Superman. Jim's new book, The Copper Indian, features a Native American NYC cop who models himself after the masked man.
  • St. Augustine-based author Al Bohl is the keynote speaker at the American Legion Boys State Conference in Tallahassee on June 27. 
  • Florida literary legends Jack Hunter, Patrick Smith and Stetson Kennedy will be the first recipients of the Literary Legend Awards presented by the Florida Heritage Book Festival at an awards dinner on Saturday, August 16 at the  World Golf Village Conference Center as part of the upcoming book festival, September 12-13 in St. Augustine. Go to for more information.
Until next time, keep writing and I'll see you on the book shelves.

Victor DiGenti
FWA Regional Director

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Come What May

Here we are in the middle of the merry month of May, only days away from the 2nd annual Regional Writers' Conference. In the midst of preparing for the conference, and the big Ponte Vedra Book Fair that precedes it, what would you consider to be one of the poorest choices I could make? How about buy a new computer. Not only that, but move from a PC, which I've used since right after stone tools were invented, to a Mac. But all is well now and here is the latest blog update just in time for all the excitement for area writers.

You won't lack for excellent events in the coming weeks. Here are some of the happenings in our area.
  • 3rd Annual Ponte Vedra Book Fair - Nineteen regional authors will share their books and talk about their personal journeys to publication at the Ponte Vedra Library on Friday, May 16 from 1:00 to 4:30 p.m. Seven of the authors were recently featured at Much Ado About Books, and they'll sell and sign their books as well as participate in panel discussions. The authors include Jeannine Auth, Lynn Coleman, Kay Day, Victor DiGenti, RenĂ© Fix, Rodney Hurst, Sr., Lora Inman, Mary Kohnke, Rita Malie, Pamela Bauer Mueller, Carol D. O'Dell, Arliss Ryan, Hank & Jan Racer, Diane Till, David Tuttle  Cara Curtin, Michael Wiley, and Jane Wood. The Book Fair is presented by FWA and the Friends of the Library. It's free and refreshments will be served.
  • 2nd Annual Regional Writers' Conference - If you've been reading my past blogs and attending any of the area FWA chapter meetings then you already know all about the conference. It's this Saturday, May 17, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at THE PLAYERS Community Senior Center in Ponte Vedra Beach. Eighty-plus people are already registered, but if you're just learning about it you can go to to read all the details. Check-in and registration begins at 8:00 a.m. 
  • Book Talk Cafe with Lucy Beebe Tobias - We're back at the Ponte Vedra Library Monday, May 19 at 6:30 p.m. with Gainesville author and gad-about, Lucy Beebe Tobias. Lucy is the author of 50 Great Walks in Florida (University Press of Florida), and she'll take us on a photographic tour of the Sunshine State. So put on your walking shoes and come down and meet Lucy.
 FWA Regional Chapter Meetings
  • Ancient City Chapter has no meeting this month as it's on the same day as the Writers' Conference. Next month's meeting will be on Saturday, June 21 at 10:00 a.m. at the Main Library in downtown St. Augustine. Freelance copy editor and proof reader Beth Mansbridge will offer editing tips.
  • Come to beautiful downtown Fernandina Beach for the next meeting of the Amelia Island Chapter, Tuesday, May 20 at 6:00 p.m. at the Florida House Inn's Conference Center at the corner of Ash and 4th Streets. I'll be filling in for group leader Maggie de Vries who is vacationing in Holland. She also tapped me to be the program speaker and I'll be talking about a fact of life for every published author -- book promotion. I've titled it Book Promotion 101 and we'll look at what every new author needs to do to launch their book successfully, including marketing plans, promotion kits, book signings, collateral materials, mailing lists, and media interviews.
  • Michael Hamilton returns to the Ponte Vedra Chapter on Saturday, May 24 at 10:30 a.m. at the Ponte Vedra Library. Note the new time because of the revised St. Johns County library hours. The library now opens at 10:00 a.m. instead of 9:30, and we'll move our meeting to 10:30 a.m. to give us time to brew the coffee. Mike is a former senior editor with John Wiley & Sons, one of the world's leading business publishers. He'll be advising us on how to get our first non-fiction book published. Among the areas he'll cover are preparing a book proposal, contract negotiation, advances, and contacting agents. 
There's much more going on in the wonderful world of writing, but that's all the time I have. Hope to see you at either Friday's Ponte Vedra Book Fair or Saturday's conference.

See you on the book shelf,

Victor DiGenti
FWA Regional Director

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Even More Conference News

If there's a constant in this life it's change. We're faced with change on a daily basis. Sometimes we're happy to see it, other times change rocks our life.
Nothing so drastic as that, but change has come to the May 17 conference in the form of switching out one of the presenters. Unfortunately, Teri Youmans Grimm has had a family conflict and is unable to do her poetry workshop. But as they say, when one door closes, another springs open. We've been very fortunate to recruit Amy Gorelick to take her place. Amy is the Senior Acquistions Editor for the University Press of Florida (UPF). Amy specializes in non-fiction and will provide practical advice on how to catch the eye of an editor and get your book published.
UPF is not part of the University of Florida as some may think, but is the official publisher for the State University System. UPF has published over 2,500 volumes since its inception in 1945 and currently releases nearly 100 new titles each year. Many of the finest books covering Florida history, the environment and culture have been published by UPF.
If you've been wavering about whether to register for the conference or not, now you have a powerful new incentive — the opportunity to hear and speak with a Senior Acquistions Editor at a major press. Another incentive is the approaching deadline for early registration. Remember after April 30, the conference fee increases to $55 for FWA members and $75 for non-members. Go to for all the details including a conference schedule, a list of the presenters and that all-important registration form.

And in other news:
  • FWA will have a table at this month's Much Ado About Books. The literary conference attracts hundreds of readers and writers to hear presentations and panel discussions by such noted authors as Carl Hiassen, Steve Berry, Betsy Carter, William Dietrich, Martin Dyckman, Tim Dorsey, and many more. We'll be located in the Grand Foyer where authors will be signing books giving us maximum exposure. I'll be there most of the day, taking time off to moderate one of the panels, but I could use a little help if anyone is planning to attend and can spare an hour. Basically, we will be using this opportunity to promote the May 17 conference and tell people about FWA. Let me know if you can help.
  • The Ponte Vedra Library is having a Book Fair on Friday, May 16 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. You'll have the opportunity to meet nearly 20 regional authors including Rodney Hurst, Lora Inman, Diane Till, Hank & Jan Racer, Jane Wood—all of whom will be at MAAB this year. Also joining them are Kay Day, Michael Wiley, Arliss Ryan, Pamela Bauer-Mueller, RenĂ© Fix, Jeannine Auth, Carol D. O'Dell, and others. The event is free and open to the public and co-sponsored by the PV Friends of the Library and FWA. I'm told light snacks will also be on hand. Authors will be autographing their books and participating in panel discussions throughout the afternoon. Get there early and grab a cookie before they disappear.
  • Speaking of Michael Wiley, the much-traveled mystery author has another gig this month. Wiley participated in the Ancient City Chapter's Mystery Panel last month as well as spoke about writing the first page at last month's Ponte Vedra Chapter meeting. This time he'll be discussing his debut novel, The Last Striptease, a private eye thriller set in Chicago, at the PV Library's Book Talk Cafe program on Monday, April 21 at 6:30 p.m. The Last Striptease won the Private Eye Writers of America and St. Martin's Press prize for best first private eye novel in 2006.
  • Carol D. O'Dell, author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir (Kunati Publishing) is presenting a pair of workshops. The first will be a Query, Synopsis, and Logline Workshop scheduled for May 24 at Mega Bite Coffee Shop in Fernandina Beach. The cost is $85. The other workshop covers proposal writing and is set for June 14, also at Mega Bite. Contact Carol for details at
  • The Royal Palm Literary Award contest is now open for entries. There have been many welcome changes in this year's competition including a new chairman, Terri DuLong, a new evaluation form and a pledge that all evaluations will be returned by the Sunday following the November conference. Go to for all the details.
  • Noted writing coach Lynn Skapyak Harlin is launching another one of her Shanty Boat Workshops for beginning writers starting May 7. The 6-week course costs $100. Follow-up with Lynn at
  • Mystery lovers will love Mystery Florida, June 6-7 at the Lido Beach Resort near Sarasota. The gathering is limited to only 100 people who will have a chance to hear Michael Connolly and rub elbows with Tim Dorsey, James O. Born, Blaize Clement, Bob Morris, Jonathon King, James Swain, and David Hagberg, among others. Find out more at
  • First Coast Christian Writers continue to meet weekly on Thursday evenings from 6:45 – 8:45 p.m. Room 204 at Christ’s Church, 6045 Greenland Road (I-95 and 9A). Visitors are always welcome. For more information:
  • The Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) is meeting on Saturday, April 19 from 1-3, at the Southeast Regional Library, 10599 Deerwood Park Blvd. (904) 996-0325. Young adult author and Newberry Honor recipient, Audrey Couloumbis, will discuss the life of a working writer. For more information, contact Janet Walter at
  • Hettie Jones on The Beat Poets 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 6 at the Jacksonville Public Library Main Library, 303 N. Laura Street, Jacksonville. For information and other events call (904) 630-2665 or visit: or
  • First Coast Romance Writers meet on the second Saturday of the month at the West Regional Library: 1425 Chaffee Road. 11:00 a.m. On May 10, Elizabeth Sinclair aka Marge Smith, will discuss "GMC" (Goal/Motivation/Conflict). Marge has written numerous novels for Kensington and Harlequin American and won the National Readers Choice Award in 2006.
  • Every Wednesday: 7:30 p.m.; Bard Society critique group run by Frank Green for the past 25 years. Call 234-8383.
  • Orange Park Writers meet on the first Friday at 7:00 p.m. at the Orange Park Library; Email:

FWA Regional Chapter Meetings

  • Amelia Island Chapter meets on the third Tuesday of the month at 6:00 p.m. at The Florida House Inn, located at 31 South 4th Street in Fernandina Beach. At the April 22
    meeting, they'll hear from editor Beth Mansbridge. She's worked on many books in both the fiction and non-fiction fields and will address the editing questions authors face while writing their short story or book and she will offer tips to become a better self-editor. Contact group leader Maggie Carter-de Vries:
  • The Ancient City Chapter meets on the third Saturday of the month at the St. Augustine Main Library at 1960 N. Ponce de Leon Blvd. This Saturday's meeting at 10:00 a.m. will not have a speaker, but will devote the entire meeting to critiques. If you wish to participate, please contact Mike BonDurant at
  • Ponte Vedra Beach Chapter meeting on Saturday, April 26 is cancelled and everyone is encouraged to attend Much Ado About Books at the Prime Osborn Convention Center. Next month's meeting is on May 24, and the speaker is TBA.
  • River City Writers meet on the second Tuesday of the month at the Southeast Regional Library, 10599 Deerwood Park Blvd. from 7:00-8:45 p.m. The May 13 meeting has been cancelled due to that week's regional conference. Everyone is encouraged to attend the June 10th meeting for a discussion of the hero's journey in literature by Vic DiGenti.

That's it for now. See you on the book shelves,

Victor DiGenti, FWA Regional Director

Friday, March 07, 2008

Are You Ready to Conference?

To paraphrase a memorable line from the movie, The Graduate, "I just have one word for you — conference."

Okay, maybe it's not as memorable a word as "plastics," but conference still has a nice ring to it. Especially when you see the line-up for this year's 1-day conference scheduled for Saturday, May 17 at The Players Community Senior Center in Ponte Vedra Beach. We're calling it Swing for the stars–Be the best writer you can be since The Players Community Senior Center was paid for in large part by a grant from The PGA Tour. But more than that it's a call to all writers to open themselves to the possibilities available when we prepare for success.

And success is what we have in mind with workshops covering everything from avoiding common blunders that many new writers make to finding innovative ways to market your books.

In the morning, you'll hear a keynote address from award-winning short-story author Philip F. Deaver. Deaver is Writer-in-Residence at Rollins College. He's the 13th winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction and has held fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts and Bread Loaf. Later in the day, he'll talk about how to identify the story hiding inside each of us in a workshop entitled, "Three Hours to the Story of Your Dreams."
At lunch, Jack McDevitt will take the mic to tell us, "Emerson's right: Learn to Believe in Yourself and You Can Do Anything." An acclaimed science-fiction author, McDevitt is a former English teacher, naval officer, Philadelphia taxi driver, customs officer, and motivational trainer. His work has been on the final Nebula ballot ten of the last eleven years. In a later session he'll give a talk I wish I'd heard years ago: "How To Guarantee Rejection: Common Blunders by New Writers."
For those of you thinking of dipping your toe into independent publishing waters, Pamela Bauer Mueller and her husband Mike will share their secrets of success. Our final session will be a general one as we read submitted first pages and hear on-the-spot constructive criticism by a trio of talented authors.

But that's not all. If you're among the crowd, you'll be the first to hear us announce the winners of this year's Lighthouse Book Awards Competition. You don't have to be present to win, but recognition is so much better received in person.

Go to for all the details including a conference schedule, a list of the presenters and that all-important registration form. Remember we were forced to close registrations early last year because we had more people than we could handle. The deadline for early registration is April 30 so don't delay in sending in your registration.

Now let's look at what our NE Florida FWA Chapters have to offer this month.
  • River City Writers meet on the second Tuesday of the month, March 11 at 7PM at the SE Branch Library. This month's speaker is award-winning writer, producer, director, editor, and actor John Boles who will offer insights on Screenwriting for television and the cinema. John is a popular workshop presenter and has led an independent Screenwriting Workshop Group for the past five years that has nurtured more than a dozen talented screenwriters. Contact group leader Judy Connolly at for more information.
  • Ancient City Writers meet on Saturday, March 15 at 10AM at the St. Augustine Main Library with an intriguing topic for new novelists. Author and marketing coach Rik Feeney challenges you to write your book in 60 days. If you are struggling, he'll provide you with the tools needed to complete it within 60 days. He will show how to use the "Top Ten Writing System" to break a book down into byte-sized chunks that are easy to accomplish, and depending on the determination and desire can help you write a book within sixty days or less. Note that the 60 day-deadline ends the same day as our May 17 conference and we'd love to acknowledge who has actually completed the minimum 65,000-word novel. If you're interested, go listen to Rik, and register with Jeff Swesky at
  • Amelia Island Writers meet on the third Tuesday of the month, March 18 at 6PM at the Florida House Inn in Fernandina Beach. Novelist Terri Ridgell will discuss one of the key rules of fiction writing — "Show don't tell." Terri is also the executive director of the Amelia Island Book Festival, coming October 3 - 5. Contact group leader Maggie de Vries for more details at
  • Ponte Vedra Writers meet the fourth Saturday of the month, March 22, at 10AM at the Ponte Vedra Library. Michael Wiley, author of The Last Striptease (winner of the Private Eye Writers of America/St. Martin's Press Best First Private Eye Novel prize), will talk about writing first chapters and about how how first chapters can open the minds and checkbooks of agents, publishers, and readers -- or close them. Note that there will not be a meeting of the Ponte Vedra Writers next month because it falls on the same day as Much Ado About Books. FWA will have a table there and I'll be looking for a few volunteers to help staff it.

Other happenings of note:

  • Florida Writers Association is sponsoring the 2008 Royal Palm Literary Awards and is seeking judges in all genres and categories. You may read as much or as little as you like. Rubrics are provided to assist you in scoring and postage will be provided to return the work and scores. If you’re a writer or an avid reader and would like to help, please contact Terri DuLong at 352-543-0807 or
  • The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) is meeting on Saturday, March 15 from 1-3, at the Southeast Regional Library. Robyn Gioia, a reviewer for The School Library Journal, and an award-winning author of a nationally recognized and controversial book America's Real First Thanksgiving will speak. For more information, check the website at or contact Janet Walter at
  • Back in St. Augustine, the Ancient City Writers present another in their Writer's Journey series in cooperation with the Friends of the Library. This one is called "Murder They Wrote" and focuses on—what else?—mystery writers. Panelists Mary Anna Evans (Effigies) detective is an archeologist, Rene Fix (Informed Consent) writes legal thrillers about an attorney, Michael Wiley’s (The Last Striptease) is a private investigator, and June Weltman’s is a teenage sleuth in The Mystery of the Missing Candlestick will talk about their detectives, the crimes and clues they create that make for exciting novels. Take a clue and mark your calendar for Sunday, March 30 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. at the main downtown library at 1960 N. Ponce De Leon Blvd. They will be signing their books following the discussion and a portion of the proceeds benefits the FOL.
  • Speaking of author June Weltman, she will teach an eight-week workshop on “Writing Mysteries for Children and Teens” through the University of North Florida’s new LEARN Jacksonville program starting Wednesday, April 2, 2008 from 7:00-9:00 p.m. in the University Center Building. The class is open to beginning and experienced writers ages 18 and older. It covers the development of character, plot and setting. Students are invited to bring manuscripts in progress. For more information or to register, call 620-4255 or visit:
  • Progress is being made for the launch of the newest book festival in NE Florida. The Florida Heritage Book Festival, September 12 & 13, will celebrate Florida authors or those who write about Florida. Friday's first edition features a writer's workshop at the Casa Monica Hotel in St. Augustine, following by a Meet the Authors Reception that evening at the Markland House on the Flagler College Campus. Saturday's schedule will feature author presentations, panel discussions, poetry readings and children's events. Although the website is not yet complete, check out details on A fundraising dinner is planned for Thursday, March 20 at Amici's Italian Restuarant in St. Augustine. Tickets are $25 each. If you'd like to attend and support the festival, please contact Marie Cashat at
  • First Coast Christian Writers meet weekly on Thursday evenings from 6:45 – 8:45 p.m. Room 204 at Christ’s Church, 6045 Greenland Road (I-95 and 9A). Visitors are always welcome. For more information:
  • As mentioned before, Much Ado About Books falls on the same day as our April Ponte Vedra Writers Group meeting. We'll cancel that meeting and encourage everyone to attend MAAB. Along with Carl Hiassen and R.L. Stine (who appears on Friday for a special Young Writers presentation) are Steve Berry, The Venetian Betrayal, Random House, Tim Dorsey, Atomic Lobster, Harper Collins, Deborah Johnson, The Air Between Us, Harper Collins, William Dietrich, The Rosetta Key, Harper Collins, and Rody Johnson, The Rise and Fall of Dodgertown, University Press Florida. Again, please let me know if you can hang out at the FWA table for an hour or two as we spread the word about FWA here in NE Florida.
  • Sisters in Crime meets at 10:00 a.m. on the first Saturday of the month at the Southeast Regional Library, 10599 Deerwood Park Blvd. Brothers and Sisters in crime gather to gain insight into criminal elements useful for their mystery writings. The Writers' Critique Group meets immediately following the monthly meeting at 12:00. Contact President Darlene Myers,, for more information.
  • The deadline for submissions to the 2008 Amelia Island Book Festival has been extended to the end of this month. For an author to be considered, the festival must receive a copy of a book, author bio and suggestions or proposals for a talk or workshop. More details are on the Submit a Book page at
  • First Coast Romance Writers meet on the second Saturday of the month at the West Regional Library: 1425 Chaffee Road. 11:00 a.m. For more information:
  • Rodney Hurst, author of It Was Never Just about Coffee and a Coke, will speak to the FCCJ North academic community at 11 a.m. Mar. 19 in Room E-235. At 2 p.m. Saturday, Apr. 12, he will speak to the North Florida Writers at the Webb Wesconnett Library (103rd St. and Harlow Blvd.). The public is invited to attend both events. When he was eleven years old, Rodney accepted the invitation of his American History teacher Rutledge Pearson to join the Jacksonville Youth Council NAACP. The book recounts the events leading up to and the fallout from the bloody events of Aug. 27, 1960, in downtown Jacksonville when black youth who had been staging sit-in demonstrations at downtown lunch counters were set upon by 200 whites wielding ax handles and baseball bats.
  • Douglas Anderson School of the Arts is hosting its annual Writers’ Festival on March 15, 2008. This all-day celebration of writing will include hands-on workshops and an evening reading by former Poet Laureate Billy Collins. Other daytime workshops include award winning poet and writer Diane Glancey (American Book Award, the Minnesota Book Award in Poetry, the Native American Prose Award and a Sundance Screenwriting Fellowship), playwright Jackie Reingold (currently on the writing staff for Law and Order), journalist Anne Driscoll (People Magazine contributor), young poet Billy Merrell (who at 22 was the youngest author to be published by the PUSH imprint of Scholastic for Talking in the Dark), writer/performer Al Letson (one of three national finalists currently in contention for NPR’s new programming slot), and a host of other writers and publishers who have agreed to participate. For more information:
  • First Coast Romance Writers, a chapter of the Romance Writers of America, is hosting the 15th annual Southern Lights Writers Conference Mar. 28-30 in Jacksonville at the Marriott at Southpoint. Editor/agent appointments will be available with representatives from Berkley, St. Martin's Press, Ellora's Cave/Cerridwen Press, the Highlands Press, the Axelrod Agency, the Knight Agency and Caren Johnson Literary Agency.
    New York Times best-selling author Suzanne Brockmann is the keynote speaker on Saturday, March 29. For more information, go to
  • Praised for the moving quality of his prose, Jacksonville novelist Charles Martin discusses his fifth literary novel, Chasing Fireflies–A Novel of Discovery at the Ponte Vedra Library's Book Talk Cafe program, Monday, March 24 at 6:30 p.m. The program is free and open to the public.

That's all for now. I'll leave you with this final word from SF master Ray Bradbury,

"We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out."

See you on the book shelves,


Victor DiGenti
FWA Regional Director

Friday, February 08, 2008

Write something every day

Last year I was surprised when we received over 90 submissions for our first Lighthouse Book Awards Competition. This year I'm flabbergasted. We ended up with 120 entries stuffing coordinator Judy Connolly's mail box (thankfully, not all at once). Judy reports that we received entries from all over the map. All of them are now residing with our preliminary judges—a huge THANK YOU to all who "volunteered" to be a judge this year—and the finalists will be sent on to the acquistion editors sometime next month. Of course, the big announcement of the winners will be made during the May 17 conference at the Players Senior Community Center in Ponte Vedra Beach. It's actually in Palm Valley, but PVB has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

Mark your calendars for that date as you'll want to be there to not only hear first-hand who the winning authors are, but enjoy a first rate writer's conference. We already have several speakers lined up including award-winning science fiction author Jack McDevitt. More on the conference schedule in my next posting.

There's so much going on of interest to writers that you could go from one meeting to another, one conference to another, and never have to write a word. But all things in moderation. And while you may have sympathy with the writer's strike (thank goodness, there were more LOST episodes in the can for the new season to begin), don't go on a strike of your own. Remember what Gore Vidal said, "Write something every day, even if it's a suicide note." Pick and choose how you spend those precious moments of each day, but keep writing.

This Month's FWA Chapter Meetings
  • River City Writers meet on the second Tuesday of the month, February 12 at 7PM at the SE Branch Library. This month's speaker is acclaimed poet Teri Youmans Grimm. A recipient of a Nebraska Arts Council Fellowship, Teri received her MFA from Vermont College and was a former instructor in the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Teri mined her family memories and southern ancestry to create a highly-acclaimed collection of poems entitled Dirt Eaters, which has been called "a mystical journey back through her ancestry." Contact Judy Connolly for more information –

  • Ancient City Writers meet on Saturday, February 16 at 10AM at the St. Augustine Main Library. Join Elizabeth Sinclair as she discusses a story's Inciting Incident, the proper hook and the story question that will keep editors, agents and readers turning your pages. Elizabeth sold her first romance to Silhouette Intimate Moments in 1993. Since then her books have sold in 17 countries and been translated into 7 languages. For more details contact Jeff Swesky at

  • Amelia Island Writers meet on the third Tuesday of the month, February 19 at 6PM at the Florida House Inn in Fernandina Beach. Novelist Terri Ridgell will discuss one of the key rules of fiction writing — "Show don't tell." Terri is also the executive director of the Amelia Island Book Festival, coming October 3 - 5. There are more changes in the works for this growing festival. See the announcements below for a more on AIBF. Contact Maggie de Vries for more details at

  • Ponte Vedra Writers meet the fourth Saturday of the month, February 23, at 10AM at the Ponte Vedra Library. This month, Merrillee Whren, the award-winning author of six inspirational romance novels, will address the challenges of writing for the inspirational market. Inspirational romance is a growing market, according to Merrillee, and is seeking new authors in almost every sub-genre. She will discuss different inspirational markets and publishers and take questions about writing in general. You can contact me for more information,

And now, for the rest of the story...

  • The Ancient City Chapter of FWA and the Friends of the St. Johns County Main Library present the second in their series of panel discussions titled The Writer's Journey. A Book from the Heart is a discussion of romance and women's fiction in celebration of Valentine's Day and is set for Saturday, February 9 at 1PM at the Main Library in downtown St. Augustine. Panelists include Shannon Greenland, Tracy Montoya, Elizabeth Sinclair, Heather Waters, and Delores J. Wilson. Nancy Quatrano will moderate.
  • The Amelia Island Book Festival, October 3-5, is seeking authors for the 2008 festival. For an author to be considered, the festival must receive a copy of a book, author bio and suggestions or proposals for a talk or workshop. Submissions must be in by March 1, 2008. Please mail books and materials to: Amelia Island Book Festival, P.O. Box 824, Amelia Island, FL 32035. For more information, visit, e-mail the Festival planners at or call the information line at (904) 491-8176.
  • Much Ado About Books is scheduled for April 25-26 with Saturday's activites at the Prime Osborn Convention Center. Key authors scheduled include Carl Hiaasen, R. L. Stine, William Dietrich, Steve Berry, Tim Dorsey, and many more. Congratulations to local author Rita Malie who has been added to the line-up with her book, Goodbye America. For more information on MAAB, go to
  • The North Florida Writers monthly meeting, 2:00 p.m. February 9 at the Webb Westconnett Library, 6887 103rd St. See news about the First Coast Regional Poetry Anthology Word Trips:
  • Also on February 9, First Coast Romance Writers at the West Regional Library: 1425 Chaffee Road. 11:00-12:30 p.m. Writing Erotic Romance with Eileen Goldman and Marianne LaCroix; 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. Business Meeting. For more information:
  • Speaking of the First Coast Romance Writers, they will hold their 15the Annual Southern Lights Writers Conference, March 28 - 30, at the Jacksonville Marriott. New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Brockmann will be the keynoter. They have a huge line-up of presenters. Check them out at
  • The Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) is meeting on Saturday, February 16 from 1-3PM, at the Southeast Regional Library. They will cover highlights of Miami and NYC Regional Conferences earlier this year, as well as a discussion of agents. For more information, contact Janet Walter at
  • Investigative journalist Susan Thomas has written a compelling book examining how marketers exploit infants and toddlers and the broad, often shocking, impact of that exploitation on our society at large. Formerly a senior editor at U.S. News & World Report and a co-host of public television’s Digital Duo, Thomas and will be at the Ponte Vedra Library on February 19 and 20 to discuss the findings in her hard-hitting book, Buy, Buy Baby. Presented by the Friends of the Library, she will speak first on Tuesday, February 19 at 6:30 p.m. in a presentation aimed at adults. The next morning, Wednesday, February 20 at 10:30 a.m., she will speak to parents and their children. In her book, Thomas explores the notion that infants and toddlers can be made smarter with exposure to the right products and TV programs. Toy and media corporations manipulate the insecurities of parents to sell their products. In Buy, Buy Baby (Houghton Mifflin) Thomas reveals that there is no evidence that any of these products provides any educational benefit at all. The programs are free and open to the public.
  • The Friends of the Ponte Vedra Library resume their monthly Book Talk Cafe programs this month with the opportunity to meet and hear Bob Morris, author of three Caribbean-based mysteries, including BERMUDA SCHWARTZ, Monday, February 25 at 6:30 p.m. in the FOL Community Room. Future meetings will present talks by Charles Martin, Michael Wiley, Pat Duggins, and Solon Timothy Woodward.
  • There's a new book festival in the works in the nation's oldest city. The Florida Heritage Book Festival will celebrate Florida authors and those who write about Florida. It's scheduled for September 13 & 13 of this year and will be held at the Casa Monica Hotel and Flagler College. More next time.

That's it for now. I'll leave you with this tidbit from E. L. Doctorow,

"Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia."

I'll see you on the book shelves,
Victor DiGenti
FWA Regional Director