Schedule and Location

Welcome to the Sarasota Writers Group Blog. We meet the first and third Wednesday of each month at the Nokomis Fire Station. Coming from Sarasota or North, proceed a few blocks south of Albee Road on US 41 (past Matthews-Currie Ford) to Pavonia Road. Turn right (West, toward the bay) at the Fire Station's flashing yellow caution traffic light. If you are coming from the south on US 41, we are 2 blocks north of Dona Bay. Turn left onto Pavonia Road at the flashing yellow caution light. At the Fire Station, drive to the far end, or west side, of the firehall. Please do not block the fire doors! We meet in the training room at the far end of the complex. We Gather for a meet and greet at 6:00 pm Meeting called to order: 6:30 pm Ten-minute break: 7:50 pm Meeting Adjourned: 9:00 pm

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Slush Pile -- Another Extinct Dinosaur

There was an article in the Wall Street Journal recently, written by Katherine Rosman. The article was about some writers' shiniest dream and gloomiest nightmare. It's that repository of rapidly diminishing hope: the traditional publisher's slush pile. That's the enormous pile of unsolicited manuscripts that publishers and editors -- in the good old days -- waded through in their search for the next BEST SELLER.

Alas, the Slush Pile today is, for all practical purposes, extinct. None of the big traditional publishers will even accept manuscripts unless they come from reputable agents, preferably agents that work out of NYC or LA. And trying to get an agent, as some of us FWA-ers know all too well, is just as hard as trying to hook up with a traditional publisher. That's one of the main reasons so many writers are using independent publishers, or small presses, or POD publishers. They're about the only ones accessible to non-famous writers anymore.

For instance, Katherine Rosman says, 1991 "was the last time Random House, the largest publisher in the U.S., remembers publishing anything found in a slush pile. Today, Random House and most of its major counterparts refuse to accept unsolicited material."

For those of us who are not counting -- 1991 was almost 20 years ago!

Rosman goes on to say, "Book publishers say it is now too expensive to pay employees to read slush that rarely is worthy of publication.

"A primary aim of the slush pile," Rosman continues, "used to be to discover unpublished voices. But today, writing talent isn't necessarily enough. It helps to have a big-media affiliation, or be effective on TV."

Laurence J. Kirshbaum, former CEO of Time Warner Book Group and now an agent says, "From a publisher's standpoint, the marketing considerations ... now often outweigh the editorial ones."

Kirshbaum the agent goes on to say, "We are being more selective in taking on clients because the publishers are demanding much more from the authors than ever before."

Rosman also quotes Jim Levine at Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. "These days, you need to deliver not just the manuscript but the audience ... More and more, the mantra in publishing is 'Ask not what your publisher can do for you, ask what you can do for your publisher.' "

Are things different on the web? Is marketing much easier and quicker and more efficient and effective for writers today?

Rosman says, "In 2008, HarperCollins launched, a Web slush pile. Writers can upload their manuscripts, readers vote for their favorites, and HarperCollins editors read the five highest-rated manuscripts each month. About 10,000 manuscripts have been loaded so far and Harper Collins has bought 4."

"One slush stalwart," Rosman says, "the Paris Review, has college interns and graduate students in the magazine's Tribeca loft-office read the 1,000 unsolicited works submitted each month. Each story is read by at least two people. If one likes it and the other doesn't it is read by a third ... The [Paris Review] literary journal publishes one piece from the slush pile each year. That leaves each unsolicited submission a .008% chance of rising to the top of the pile."

If you want more bad, but nonetheless realistic news about writing, about traditional publishing, and about slush piles, you can contact the Wall Street Journal's Katherine Rosman at

Posted by
Russ Heitz

Friday, January 22, 2010

Calling all Children's Writers

Peace River Center for Writers at Edison State College in Punta Gorda, is sponsoring a new monthly critique group for children's writers. Anyone who writes or wishes to writes for kids is welcome to attend for a few sessions before deciding whether or not to join. Classes are the second Saturday of the month from 10am to 12noon. For more information, contact:

Ms. Story Boyle
Peace River Center for Writers
at Edison State College
26300 Airport Road
Punta Gorda, FL 33950
Tel. (941) 637-3514

I'll be posting a meeting recap soon.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Out of the Dark & Into the Light? I think.

Hello All

I have returned to the halls of communication, I think. I hope you all received the Comcast notice that my new email address is:

I chose a name that was in no way similar to the old shaley1112 I've used for ten years. Not taking any chances on just what keystroke triggered the block to go up. I've also kept my 'free' Yahoo account and may consider using that for personal mails. If you happen to receive an email from: that will be me. I do like the email program provided by Yahoo best of all. That was the one advantage to using Verizon; they used the Yahoo mail format. I'm sure Comcast is just as good but it's different and my brain can't change habits too easily anymore. I know a lot of folks use the Outlook Express mail program but I know nothing about that either. I've never activated it.

Want to thank Russ, yet again, for taking the reins while I was in my sick bed. I understand the meeting went well and there was a large turnout despite the cold weather. All the better that I kept my nasty little bug at home. Want to congratulate Russ, too, on the news that Infinity Publishing, has indeed received his files and it won't be long before we have a new adventure in one of Russ's excellent mysteries. I also recommended him to edit and teach for a workshop program for mystery writers being done by the FWA Group in St. Pete. They asked me to do it and I couldn't think of anyone better to guide a novice mystery writer. Russ was asked and accepted the PAYING postition. Not often that we get a stipend from the FWA activities as it's solely run by volunteers. Good for you, Russ! I hope you enjoy it.

Now onward and upward. We started having two meetings a month to accomodate those who wanted to read and be critiqued. I'm happy to say that everyone is enjoying all the enthusiastic readings. Some like the open format and others preferred the smaller groups in order that more have a turn since we can't seem to abide by the five minute time limit. However, the group is also about learning and discussing problems all writers will sooner or later face. If you want it to be all about reading, we need to encourage Steve Choby to actively pursue setting up a storytelling session and running it according to time limits. I have also been asked to do my "Attitudes on Editing" workshop by those who wish to learn some more about the rules and regs. Not that I'm always good about following them myself when writing, but I do know what they are. I'm more geared to 'style' for what it is being written.

This is a rather short presentation geared to questions and answers and input from the group. I've decided to do it this week at the General Meeting. It takes only an hour or so including the questions and answers period, depending on the participation.

After break, those who wish to have a reading session can do so. A couple of people have already requested a spot - Irv Newman and Sharon Baker. I missed the readings by Rod and Bart so would like to hear from them again. If you'd just bring me a copy of what you read, I'd enjoy it that way, too. I just got the good feedback on the content.

I've also heard from a couple of our members that have been gone a while. Gaile Harpin and Barbara Parker are planning to return this week. We should have another good meeting to look forward to. Oh, and whatever happened to our suggestion box?? That was a great idea that never was followed through much. With a new year looking at us, let us hear your ideas and suggestions! I know Peter has one as he emailed me about it.

Look forward to seeing you all on Wednesday. Now I will get back to muddling through all my emails. Comcast transferred all my stored mails over, which was wonderful, but not in their folders and these are the days when your email is NOT stored on your own hard drive. I'm looking at 1945 emails that are showing up as NEW. I have to go through each one and remake the file folders. It brought to my attention the IMPORTANCE of the subject line!! When replying to a mail off a mail we all need to get in the habit of making at least a slight change in the subject line!! It's overwhelming to see 20 or 25 mails ALL with the exact same subject line. I have absolutely no idea of order or date until I open them up. I guess we all should always plan for the day when we may be faced with switching or recovering data.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Random House PODs?

Seems like the gulf between traditional publishing and POD publishing and POD technology is getting smaller every day. A recent article by Benedicte Page posted on discusses the recent decision of Random House to utilize Print On Demand (POD) technology to make some of their older and sometimes out of print books available through their POD list, Random Collections.

"Random is launching a dedicated website," says Page, "which will be interactive and searchable and there will be a launch list of 750 titles with further books added throughout the year."

Random House's deputy group sales director Faye Brewster, the coordinator for the Random Collections, said: "We have a massive archive of well-known and less well-known books and it is our policy to make as many available as possible. We've had a p.o.d. list for the past year-and-a-half and now that there is a critical mass of titles we can be proactive in marketing them."

Brewster said, "When retailers [book stores and other stores that sell books] are asked for a Random House book that is out of print, they can suggest it to us and we will check out the rights."

Does that mean Random House will soon be publishing new and unpublished books by unknown authors via the Print On Demand route? It's hard to say. But another well known traditional publisher, Harlequin, is indeed now offering POD/self publishing services to unpublished writers while it continues to publish books via the traditional advance-royalty route.

There is no doubt that the traditional publishing industry is struggling mightily to keep up with rapidly changing technology. It is also trying to keep pace with the rapid changes in reader demands, in particular with the e-book revolution now upon us.

Nearly 500,000 books were published last year, over half of those were done through various POD channels. Whether traditional publishers like it or not, Print On Demand technologies and POD publishers are revolutionizing the way readers and writers communicate.

Posted by
Russ Heitz

Monday, January 11, 2010

How Could We Forget?

Oh, yes, there was another reader at Wednesday night's meeting: Ed Ellis. Ed usually reads a nonfiction piece but this time he had something different. Something very different. His story was about a man stuck in the enviable position of being in bed between two nubile, affectionate, and accommodating women. How could we have possibly forgotten a story like that?!?

Did I miss any other readers? Let me know if I did.

Posted by
Russ Heitz

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Chilly Night, Warm Gathering

Despite the chilly weather this past Wednesday night, we had a great turnout for our "reading meeting" and the atmosphere (and camaraderie) inside the firehouse was definitely warmer than outside.

We had three visitors--Steve, Brenda and Judith--who shared with us a bit of their background as well as their writing goals. Steve also shared with us the opening chapter of his work-in-progress mystery novel which definitely generated a good jolt of opening suspense. We do hope all three of them will continue to join us at future meetings.

We also had a lot of regulars among the 20+ attendees and nearly all of them brought something to read. A few folks showed up whom we haven't seen for awhile. Bart Stamper and Linda Malloy have been out of town doing other things.

Bart gave us a special treat this time. In addition to another one of his sensitive and powerful pieces related to the Vietnam War, he also shared with us a very funny piece about his current employment at a nuclear power plant. Doesn't sound like a funny topic but his treatment definitely was.

Weslynn McCallister read the opening chapters of her latest novel, which is definitely off to an intriguing start. Joe Porter gave us a few more of his powerful poems about the people of Appalachia. Joanne read a heart rending story from her new book, SHORT TAKES ON LIFE. Peter read some new poetry and a few short "experimental" pieces; all done with his usual delicate touch and vivid imagery. Sharon read another one of her hilarious poems, this time about a city girl who moves to the hillbilly mountains. Dewey read another boating-related story, plus an account of the Normandy landing during WWII.

I know I've forgotten some others who also read so we'll try to give you folks a double recognition next time.

Overall, it was a very productive meeting, one that everyone seemed to enjoy. Thanks again to all of you, for braving the frigid weather and for enduring the not-as-warm-as-it-should-have-been meeting room.

Our next meeting will be on the 20th; same time, same place. Keep in mind, too, that we'll be taking a collection at that time. We are suggesting a $5.00 contribution from everyone. This money will go directly to the Nokomis Volunteer Fire Department for generously allowing us to use their room for another year.

Posted by
Russ Heitz

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Don't Forget -- There's A Meeting Tomorrow Night

Despite the frigid weather and despite an imaginary forecast of blizzard conditions throughout "sunny" Sarasota County, the "reading meeting" WILL go on tomorrow night (Wednesday, the 6th). Same time, same locale. And bring something to read. After all the stories are read we'll toss them into a pile and start a bonfire. I'll be bringing marshmallows and some willow branches if you all will bring the cocoa. And don't forget the snowtires and chains.

Does any of this bring back memories of why we came here in the first place? To get away from the cold? Where's Global Warming when we need it?

Posted by
Russ Heitz

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Favreau Starts New Year With New Achievements

Ann Favreau, one of our most loyal FWA members, has started off the new year with a double bang!

First, the Englewood Sun newspaper is now running a story about Ann's life and about her new book WINDOW EYES. To read the article about Ann's life go to, scroll down to "Today's Printed News" and scroll further down to the article "Seeing the World Through Window Eyes."

And second, Ann also received word that her story TERROR IN A TAXI was selected for publication by Doorways Memoirs, an online ezine. TERROR IN A TAXI will appear for a year in this publication. Ann was also paid for this story, which makes her a true "professional" writer. To read TERROR IN A TAXI go to

A teacher for 27 years, Ann's life changed drastically in 1988 when she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. But Ann was determined that her cancer was not going to ruin her life or stop her from traveling. As the article says, "Sentenced to a life with an artificial opening in her colon, Ann set out with her husband Raymond to travel the world. ... Along the way, Favreau became a voice for ostomates--people who live with an artificial opening in some part of their bodies from cancer or catastrophic illness.

"Her work with ostomates led her to speak in front of hundreds of people [and] write for ostomy publications." From there, Ann moved on to writing her own story and publishing a book about her experiences. Those experiences included an invitation to the White House to serve on a colorectal round table.

Ann's visit to the White House also included a sampling of an especially luscious White House dessert. Not one to let an opportunity slide by, Ann included the dessert in her "Desserts Around the World" story.

Ann is also the director of the Suncoast Writers Guild. She will be doing book signings for WINDOW EYES at the Jacaranda Public Library February 9th at 10:30 a.m. and the North Port Public Library February 20 at 3 p.m.

For further information about Ann's experiences with cancer or her world-wide travels, email her at

Congratulations, Ann! May the rest of 2010 be as exciting for you as its beginning!

Posted by
Russ Heitz

Friday, January 01, 2010

Advice For The New Year

Independent publishing guru Jerry Simmons sends out a free newsletter every month to anyone who wants the latest "insider" info about the publishing world, both traditional and POD. This month he had several articles regarding publishing rights. Below is a portion of one of the articles that is especially important for anyone who expects to have a book ready for publication in the coming year.

"As authors it is extremely important that you own and control your content and unfortunately that is not possible with traditional publishers, especially the major New York ones. The business model for the INDI Publishing Group [A Jerry Simmons publishing service] does not center around print, but "content" and how best to maximize the potential for sales, whether it be print or digital. Each of our authors own, obtain all rights, and control their content at all times.

"If you are considering a POD company or other self-publishing option,"Simmons says, "you must make absolutely certain you obtain all rights, possess complete ownership without restriction and control the future of your content. As publishing changes so must the business models for all publishers."

The important word here is content. For content includes all the publishing options: print media, electronic media, audio media, video media, etc. That means you don't want to settle for rights that only pertain to your printed book. Having all the rights to your content means you have the rights to publish your work in as many different media as you want, and as many different media as you can.

Also, if you are thinking about publishing that Great American Novel or Nonfiction book in 2010, be sure to tell us about it either privately or during one of our FWA meetings. We have several people in our group who have published articles, stories and books both POD and traditionally. Be sure to utilize their experiences to avoid making decisions that you might regret later on.

There are literally dozens and dozens of POD publishers (probably hundreds!) that will be very happy to publish whatever you send them, as long as you attach a check to your submission. Unfortunately, not all POD publishers are the same. Some will treat your fairly. Some will rip you off while raving about what a wonderful writer you are and how you'll surely sell thousands of copies if you let them publish your book.

If you want more information about Jerry Simmons, his services, and his newsletter, go to The more information you can gather about the rapidly changing world of publishing, the more likely you are to avoid making costly mistakes.

Posted by
Russ Heitz