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.