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

Friday, December 05, 2014

Wednesday, Dec 3rd, 2014

Our first meeting of December was held on Wednesday, the 3rd, and had 19 attendees, 7 of whom are FWA members. The feedback from the last meeting with Dr. Ryan G. Van Cleve was overwhelmingly positive, and we will ask him to return sometime in the future. We had one new guest, and several of our winter residents joined us for the first time this season as well. The security light in the parking lot was out, and despite the best efforts of the Nokomis Fire Department, obstinately refused to illuminate our parking area. Attendees solved the problem at the end of the meeting with their car headlights until everyone was underway.

We had 12 readers, reading everything from poetry to first time memoirs and ran out of time before our last two readers got to the podium. They'll be at the head of the reader list on Dec 17th, to be followed by our Christmas get-together. Readers were asked to bring light, or seasonal material for the readings, and goodies and cookies to the meeting. The firemen make short work of any leftovers! Any stocking caps or old, ugly, Christmas sweaters will be welcome!


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Chess Genius by Andrew Parker

Check the trailer for Andrew's new book,
Chess Genius by Andrew Parker

Great way to advertise!!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Dirty Secrets of a Writers Group

Thinking of writing that book that has been buzzing in your head, but don't know where to start? Start by searching the Internet for "Writing your first book." If you use Google, you'll find around 49,300,000 hits, some of which may even be useful. There is a big market for helping new writers. Perhaps not a very big market for new writers themselves, but helping new writers is big, big business.

You may come across the suggestion to join a writers group in your area. A writer's group can be important in developing a beginning writer's skills simply by allowing a new writer to mingle with people who are familiar with typical beginner's problems. Helping writers of all ages and genres is a basic premise of most writer's groups. Many are listed in the Arts and Entertainment section of your Sunday newspaper, and Internet searches show most writers groups as well. Most public libraries can usually point you to a local writers group.

Writers groups vary in their format, with some groups welcoming all writing genres while others are strictly for poetry or novels or non-fiction narrative. Don't expect in-depth discussion of your historical fiction novel at a poetry writers group. Writers groups usually welcome new writers with enthusiasm and understanding, they are glad to see you taking that first step. I have been asked what the difference is between a writer and an author, and while the differences may be arguable, to me an author is the visionary or creator of the idea to be conveyed while the writer is the conveyor of that thought or concept to print. It follows that most authors are writers. I've been told that authors have published books. I argue many books by celebrity authors are actually written by ghost writers. It doesn't matter to me. A writer may do journals, blogs, newspaper columns, or magazine articles or any other form of written communication. A writer is someone who puts words into print to convey thought.

While you will welcomed by a writers group, do not expect them to pat you, a newcomer, on the head and lead you by the hand down the road to literary stardom. Don't expect a group of writers, almost all of whom have other day jobs, to dedicate their priceless time at a writers group meeting just for you, at least not more than once. Almost everyone in a writers group will help a new writer as best they can, from writing and editing, to proofreading and suggestions about publication. A new member may even find a mentor who will take them under their wing. However, if you are looking for free editing for your book or novel, you're wasting their time and yours as well.
  • Writers groups are not a substitute for English class
You don't have to be a great typist to be a writer, but a good dictionary will do wonders for your acceptance in a writers group. If you don't bother with spell checking, you're off to a bad start unless you are a really gifted story-teller. I was once told a writer who doesn't have a grasp of grammar is like a color-blind person trying to paint a portrait. If you are offended when someone points out spelling errors in your manuscript, or your grammar is horrendous, you might want to try something besides writing, Unless, of course, you have a really great friend who likes to edit.
  • An effective writers group is a symbiotic relationship between its members.
I have had the pleasure of watching members develop and grow into marvelously entertaining writers during the several years I've been a Writers Group Leader for the Florida Writers Association. However, I've watched people attend several meetings, then drop off, either discouraged or disappointed in what they found, or in some cases, what they didn't find. We may be in Sarasota, but Stephen King does not attend our meetings.

William K. Zinsser, in the Introduction to the 7th edition of his revised and updated "On Writing Well" writes:"My concerns as a teacher have also shifted. I'm more interested in the intangibles that produce good writing – confidence, enjoyment, intention, integrity – and I've written new chapters on those values."

New writers are often cloaked by intimidation or insecurities as they venture into an unfamiliar world that glaringly exposes their shortcomings and lack of experience. A good writers group will help define the writing process and help develop the mechanical and technical skills that allows new writers to express themselves while understanding most writers do not have a Bachelor's Degree in English or creative writing.
  • Writers groups are not a substitute for professional counseling.
There isn't much sympathy in most writer's groups for personal or political vendettas, ie: it was all his/her fault and the world needs to know what a bad person he/she really is and you all are going to sit here while I read chapter after chapter of this agonizing diatribe. Many writers get that personal story off their chests and find they don't have a second book in them, which leads to the question:

Question 1: Why do you want to write?

Are you looking for something to do in place of having a life? Believe me, if you become addicted to writing, you won't have a life. Are you telling a story? A personal memoir or an autobiography? Are you planning on making a fortune writing? Well, good luck, I know hundreds of writers but only a few who can call it a profession.

Question number 2: Whom are you writing for?

Who is your target audience? If you are writing an autobiography, which is the usual genre for new writers, there are only two possibilities to determine who will read your looming masterpiece:
  • You are already famous and people know you by name and image
  • You are like the rest of us
If you fall into the first category, you probably don't need a writers group, your book will probably sell very well. If you fall into the second category, however, the writers group probably doesn't want to read it, but they'll help you write it. You may find even your relatives won't read your manuscript, but they will tell you they will read it when they get a chance. But, they won't, although they skim through it to see what you wrote about them.

The best advice for new writers is to finish your autobiography and put it on a thumb-drive. Put it away until you're famous and can update it. Now sit down and write for fun, write because you enjoy writing. Write because you have a story to tell, you know the one you just made up. Then bring it to a writers group and read it out loud in front of people you don't know. Unreasonable? Yes, you may want at least a warm, comfortable feeling with the group before exposing your soul, but when you do read in front of a writers group:
  • Read only enough to make them want to hear more.
You are giving a sample of your writing, a taste of your descriptive powers or wit, to the group to view their response. If you are intent on reading every single word of your book, don't expect anyone in the group to buy it when it's finished. After all, we heard you read it. There isn't enough time at any meeting to listen to more than 500 words or several pages of material from any one writer. It only takes several hundred words to appreciate a writing style or the dialog between characters. Listening to someone read page after page of their own work can be an endurance test for the audience.

Many writers will at one time or another inadvertently revert to writing about personal experiences. The memories are often painful and unexpectedly personal. Writing is often cathartic, especially for new writers. While an insensitive writer's group might dampen a new writer's candid honesty, most members understand the self-discovery process. Shared experiences can become part of the camaraderie of a writers group, but don't overdo it. Constant repetition of personal problems is a sure way to shut off a receptive group of listeners anywhere, much less a writers group.

I have watched people join our writer's group and grow beyond their expectations, and conversely, I've seen talented writers drop by the wayside, discouraged or disappointed with their work. Many new writers take critique of their writing as criticism, and unfortunately, depending on the critiquer, sometimes it is. A new writer must be thick-skinned when submitting work for critiquing, but at the same time be open to change if the criticism is valid. Being poorly critiqued has probably discouraged more aspiring authors than any other single factor. Most critiques I've read are given in good faith, meant to improve the caliber of the work under review.

Unfortunately, critiques are a direct reflection of the talents and skills of the critiquer. I've seen great writing attacked because the critiquer was repulsed by the subject. It is often hard for those who aren't professional editors to separate the stimulus to an emotional response from the writing that triggered it. Often religious or political viewpoints become the focus of the critique instead of the writing itself. Novels in the sexual realms tend to be fire-starters. I can only imagine what kind of responses E L James would have gotten with her Fifty Shades of Grey from most writers groups. On the other hand, the book, in my opinion, could have used the help of a good writers group. Sir Salman Rusdie said about the book: "I've never read anything so badly written that got published." I doubt James would have abandoned her book because of a bad writers group critique, but good critique could have definitely have helped the quality of her writing. The fine line is critiquing the quality of the writing itself as opposed reacting to the emotionally charged nature of the subject.

First, you need to understand:
  • You can't please all readers
Arthur Godfrey once famously said, "Some people just don't like ice cream." As long as you please those you are writing for, you are by my standards, a successful writer.

Sometimes critiques are ego based, or subconsciously prejudiced and those are deadly to a new writer. I can read anonymous critiques from members of our group and tell who wrote it by the style of the critique. Alan Sherman wrote a parody of Peter and the Wolf, performed by the Boston Pops Symphony Orchestra, and one line from the work has stuck with me since I heard it almost fifty years ago: "A camel is a horse designed by a committee." That's exactly what happens when several critiques vary in their assessment of a given work. The poor writer being critiqued doesn't know which way to go, or, which path to follow to gain acceptance with the group. I was once critiqued for using too many adjectives in a manuscript while another critiquer said the same article was bland and needed better descriptions. I know one writer who attends several writers groups, and much to his dismay, can't satisfy any two of them with any one piece of writing. One group felt a narrative he wrote was flippant, distasteful, childish, while the other group thoroughly enjoyed the same piece of work. Some people just don't like ice cream.
    • Writers groups are basically mutual admiration societies
If you read in front of the group, rejoin the group when you are finished. Be polite enough to listen to others who read their material, after all, they were polite enough to listen to you. If you head for the door as soon as you're finished reading, don't expect the welcome mat to be out when you return.

Don't let your speaking style detract from your writing. If you sound like you're reading the telephone book when you are reading Steinbeck out loud, get someone else to read your material to the group. We have a regular member who is in demand to read other people's work. We call her the "Voice of FM," and her interpretation and inflection when reading makes even the aforementioned telephone book a pleasure to listen to. I recently read a member's final proof and was astounded to find myself intrigued by the book that I had a hard time following during the readings. I realized then that every reader embeds their own images and emotions on the written material, quite different from having it interpreted for you by a reader who flavors it by the way they speak. So, once again, don't expect an audience to cheer your first attempt at explaining how you helped develop nuclear fission if you, like me, read out loud like Elmer Fudd. Get a good speaker, or hand out enough printed copies for everyone so your audience can read for themselves.

I've attended writers groups that follow a specific reading and critiquing format almost religiously, often intent on developing writers in a competitive environment such as winning awards for the group members. Other groups tend to mix up the readings with presentations from outside guests, from published authors to publishers and editors while critiquing is done separately from the meetings. Comments are almost always called for after a reading so a writer has immediate feedback on their work. Every group is different in its makeup and purpose and rarely are there any fees associated with writers groups. If the group you visit doesn't offer the education or experiences you are looking for, try another group. We have members who routinely drive thirty miles one way to attend our meetings, while active authors who live in the neighborhood prefer a different format and attend other groups in the area.

I have one piece of advice for new writers: It is your story and you are the one telling it! Write it your way and let your writing reflect your heart and your soul if necessary. You are the artist and this is your medium. I like my own writing, I can read it for hours and I'm sure you can read your own writing for hours as well. Bring it to the next writer's group meeting, well, 500 words of it at least, and see if others hear it as you meant it. Don't be discouraged if the group you meet doesn't like your writing. Take the criticism and find another group and see if they accept your style and content. Our group likes vanilla, pistachio, chocolate, and just about every other flavor of ice cream, but every once in a while, someone is looking for upside-down cake instead.


Wednesday, November 19th meeting

Our Wednesday, November 19th meeting, was attended by 19, only 3 of whom were FWA members! Our special guest was Dr. Ryan G. Van Cleave, author of 20 books including The Weekend Book Proposal and Memoir Writing for Dummies. After Dr Van Cleave's well received presentation and a break to chat and mingle, we heard from 8 readers (great readings tonight even though most were short!) and discussions about each. Next meeting will be December 3rd, and we've tentatively dedicated at least half of our December 17th meeting to our holiday party, open to all members and their guests.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Congratulations to Frankie McGuire for her first published fiction in the Florida Weekly! Available online at:

George Mindling's first foray into fiction will be available for free download from Oct 16th to Oct 18th at from Amazon at:

The writing season is on!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Gulf Writers Association Writing Contest.


Once again, the Gulf Coast Writers Association takes great pleasure in encouraging writers from Southwest Florida to enter the Gulf Writers Association Writing Contest. Original works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry will be awarded prizes of 100, 50 and 25 dollars for first, second and third place in each category. The contest is open to members and non-members.

Fiction and nonfiction works (adult and children's) must be no more than 1500 words. Poetry is limited to 40 lines or less.

The contest will be open for submissions on October 1, 2014 and deadline for submissions is December 31, 2014. Winners must be present to receive their awards at the March 21, 2015 meeting.

The contest will help GCWA fulfill its goal of assisting Southwest Florida writers to stimulate and improve their skills. GCWA expects a high level of contest participation.
The following are links to download the pdf files for entry, guidelines and judging criteria.
Gulf Coast Writers Association

Entry form:
Guidelines for entries:

[Thanks to Kerri for the tip]

Friday, October 03, 2014

Kick Off Meeting

Our Fall/Winter guest speaker program kicked off Wednesday, Oct 1st, with FWA member and supporter Julie Ann Howell, founder and publisher of Peppertree Press, as our guest speaker. Julie Ann's great presentation on publishing and on Peppertree Press was warmly received by 20 attendees, 10 of whom are FWA members. Julie gave out four gifts, selected by drawings, at the end of her presentation. We will ask the popular Julie Ann back again in the future.

 Our winter residents began trickling in as several of our "snowbirds/sunbirds" returned for the first time since last spring. We had a short break following Julie Ann's presentation, and listened to two, short readings before wrapping up the evening.

We were fortunate to have Weslynn McCallister join us as well. Wes is a lifetime member of the FWA and one of the original founding members.

 Congratulations to Kerri Dieffenwirth for being a 2014 Nominee for Still: The Journal annual BEST OF THE NET ANTHOLOGY for her piece "A New Bitterroot." Winners will be announced in late October. Congratulations Kerri for the nomination.

Our next guest speaker will be Ryan G. Van Cleave, writer, speaker, & Professor at Ringling College of Art + Design, on Wednesday, November 19th. Ryan is the author of Memoir Writing for Dummies and The Weekend Book Proposal.

Next Sarasota Writers Group meeting will be Oct 15th. See you there.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Get Ready!

We welcome our first guest speaker of our fall/winter season, Julie Ann Howell, Publisher and Founder of Peppertree Press - A Sponsor of the Florida Writers Association’s yearly Writing Conference - who will address our group Wednesday, October 1st! Welcome back Julie, who has an interesting announcement for mystery writers

Readers will have a chance to meet more than 40 authors who have written books for just about every taste at the 22nd annual Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading on Oct. 25, The writers will be discussing and signing their books at this free event on the Bayside campus of the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg.

[Thanks to Kerri for the heads up]

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Snakes, Spiders and Palmetto Bugs

Our own Rodney DiGruttolo, chief cat herder and master of ceremonies for our FWA writers group meetings, has published his wonderful anthology of Skeets and his buddies growing up in southwest Florida. We have listened to the many great tales over the years and wondered if and when the stories would be available in a single, continuous story. Well, we wait no longer, the book, "Snakes, Spiders and Palmetto Bugs," is available both as a paperback and an e-book from Amazon. Congratulations to Rod on publishing "Snakes, Spiders and Palmetto Bugs"

Friday, September 05, 2014


PICTURE BOOK DUMMY WORKSHOP! A picture book is more than just words, more than just pictures. It is a physical object that melds the two. Bring your manuscript or your sketches or your concept outline. Join us for a day of information, imagination, evaluation, and inspiration. Reconnect with your inner child. Find your book’s heart. Shape and pace its content. Build its suspense. Discover the dynamics that can drive it. ! ! Both writers and illustrators will focus on the picture book form using a dummy as the foundation for the creation process. This will be a day of learning, bursts of targeted work, and periods of guided meditation with Linda Shute, author/illustrator and Dianne Ochiltree, author and a 200 hour RYT with the yoga alliance! ! Please join us Saturday, September 27th, 9am - 4 pm.! ! We will meet at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota, 3975 Fruitville Road, just west of Cardinal Mooney High School.! ! $75 SCBWI members. $85 non members. Register at - go to the Florida regional chapter page.! ! Please contact Linda Shute, with any questions and for information about supplies.! !

Friday, August 01, 2014

Writing Challenge

Dear Fellow FWA Member,
I am a member of the Orlando FWA group and have spoken at many FWA chapters and mini-conferences throughout the state and at the annual conference several times about the importance of preserving our life stories. To that end, I'm offering a free seven-day writing challenge starting on August 11th where people will receive a writing prompt every day, have a forum to post their responses, and can participate in a tele-training seminar on August 18th at 7:00 p.m., and I'm trying to get the word out. Will you help me and distribute this information to your members?

When I did a similar challenge in the spring, more than 300 people from 40 states and 8 countries accepted the challenge, wrote  every day, and shared their work with fellow participants. In this August’s challenge, I hope to have 500 people from every state in the US and as many countries as possible participate. If you feel this will benefit your members and other writers you know, please share these few sentences about the challenge:
Join hundreds of writers from all over the world for Writing Your Life's FREE Seven-Day Writing Challenge, beginning on August 11th. Each day, receive a writing prompt designed to trigger memories, post your responses on a private, members-only community forum, and participate in a free tele-training seminar on Monday, August 18th at 7:00 p.m. To read more about the Free Seven-Day Writing Challenge or to reserve your spot at our international writing table, follow this link:
Do you know others who might like to accept this challenge? Share this link——on Twitter, your Facebook page, email a friend, or print out and distribute this Free Seven-Day Writing Challenge flyer. 

Thank you for any help you can provide!
Patricia Charpentier
Writing Your Life

Multi-Award Winning Author of 
Eating an Elephant: Write Your Life One Bite at a Time

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Pat Patterson releases "The Takers"

Congratulations to member Pat Patterson, who regularly makes the long trip to our meetings from Punta Gorda, on the publication of his new book, "The Takers." The historical fiction novel is available from both Create Space and Amazon. Great work, and many thanks to Pat for the kind acknowledgment of the Sarasota Writers Group.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

GREAT DANGER: Building Suspense in Fiction - Free Writers Workshop

The free presentation will be at 6 PM, Monday, July 14, at the Mid-County Library, 2050 Forrest Nelson, Port Charlotte. Here's an overview:

GREAT DANGER: Building Suspense in Fiction

Some books just make you say, "I couldn't put it down!" What makes some stories grab you, while others plod drearily to the finish line? Learn the tactics, tricks, and techniques of building and maintaining suspense in a story, from big picture issues down to line-by-line details.


Here's a bio:


Ken's debut novel, BRIGANDS KEY, a first-place winner of the Royal Palm Literary Award, was published in hardcover in 2012 by Gale Cengage/Five Star Mystery. 
The Florida Weekly describes the novel as "breathtaking" and "a perfect storm of menace." The prequel, PLACE of FEAR, a first-place winner of the Royal Palm in 2012, was published in ebook in 2013 and paperback in 2014.

Ken has written and published numerous short stories and non-fiction articles. Two of his short stories--"The Light Keeper" and "The Wreck of the
Edinburgh Kate"--have been selected as finalists for Best Published Short Story in this year's Royal Palms.

A member of Florida Writers Association and International Thriller Writers, Ken lives in Maitland, and dabbles in cycling, scuba diving, and fishing, to varying degrees of success. 
I hope you can join me!

For more information, please call 941.613.3192
Ken Pelham
Maitland, FL

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Edwin Ellis classes at Edison State College

Edwin Ellis of Englewood Authors and FWA Nokomis will be teaching a course on Memoir writing at Edison State College - Punta Gorda campus this fall.
Course dates

Session 1 - Monday 10/27/14 at 1:00 PM to 2:50 PM
Session 2 - Monday 11/03/14 at 1:00 PM to 2:50 PM
Session 3 - Monday 11/10/14 at 1:00 PM to 2:50 PM
Session 4 - Monday 11/17/14 at 1:00 PM to 2:50 PM

Contact Edison State College Punta Gorda for details and to sign up for the upcoming Memoir course


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

April 16th, 2014 Meeting

Elizabeth Sims, award winning mystery writer and Contributing Editor for the Writers Digest, kicked off our April 16th meeting with a presentation about writing fiction and the research needed to write with authenticity and believability. Her great presentation was followed by a Q and A session that ran right up to our 8:00 pm break time. Elizabeth's presentation included free orange wrist power bands emblazoned with the logo of her book “You've Got A Book in You” for all attendees, and a free copy of the book to the lucky recipient of a random drawing. With 18 attendees, 8 of whom were FWA members, the meeting went quickly, and after a 10 minute break wrapped up with readings by 3 members.
Our next meeting will be May 7th.
On Our Bookshelves...
Favorite books for Writers of the Sarasota Writers Group:

  1. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – Stephen King
  2. The Elements of Style – Strunk and White
  3. Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott
  4. Writing Down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg
  5. Eats, Shoots and Leaves – Lynne Truss
  6. The Right to Write – Julia Cameron
  7. The Forest for the Trees – Betsy Lerner
  8. Wild Mind – Natalie Goldberg
  9. Ron Carlson Writes a Story – Ron Carlson
  10. On Becoming a Novelist – John Gardner
  11. Storycraft – Jack Hart (U. of Chicago, 2011).
  12. Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript – Cynthia Laufenberg
  13. Zen in the Art of Writing – Ray Bradbury
  14. Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer – Roy Peter Clark
  15. The Practical Writer's Guide – Mary A. Davries
  16. The Mother Tongue – Bill Bryson
  17. How to Write – Richard Rhodes
  18. Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words – A Writer's Guide to Getting it Right – Bill Bryson
  19. Advice to Writers – Compiled by Jon Winokur
  20. Handbook of Effective Writing – Robert Moore
  21. Write it Right – Josephson – Hidden
  22. Techniques of the Selling Writer – Dwight Swain
  23. Simon and Schuster Quick Access Reference for Writers – Lynn Quitman Troyka
  24. The Writers Digest Guide to Manuscript Formats – Buchman & Groves
  25. A Room of One's Own – Virginia Woolf
  26. Writing in Style – Bobbie Christmas
  27. You've Got a Book in You: A Stress-Free Guide to Writing the Book of Your Dreams – Elizabeth Sims
  28. Things That Make Us [Sic] – Martha Brockenbrough

How does our list differ from the Internet?
Take a look at Infolist's current survey of the top 100 books at:

Saturday, April 12, 2014

On Our Bookshelves

All writers need readers. Real readers, people who actually read your efforts without the pressures of family or friendship. People who actually might even someday pay to read the ideas and thoughts you, a writer, puts into print. And not just those who condescendingly pat you on the back and say “That is really good stuff, you should send it in someplace.” I've found the best readers are those who actually write themselves and understand both the joy and the pathos of putting their souls out in the world for everyone to see. 

Seriously, without readers, why write? Other than the safely tucked away confessional letters that will never be sent and a few other soul-cleansing, cathartic, autobiographical pieces meant to clean out cobwebs and barriers from the writer's own carefully tucked away abyss of dark memories, most writing is done for pure joy and entertainment. But am I doing it right? How do I write so no one laughs or even worse, ignores my writing? How do the experts do it? 

Personally, I have no clue. I simply know what I like to read. I hate tedious, pompous writing that insults my intelligence, how meager it may be. I have read so many guide books on writing that I have simply become an expert on the guide books themselves. Unfortunately, many of them aren't worth the time to read. Especially the free e-books; as a rule they are badly written nonsense. I've deleted some I didn't bother to finish. I was deep into one book when I came across a misspelled word that should have been caught by any word processor, much less an editor. The word? Grammar. 

What better place to compile a list of good references than a group of people who love to write? The members of the Sarasota Writers Group sent in their respective recommendations of books and guidelines for writers so I could compile a list of material. The list will be presented on Wednesday, April 16th. See if your favorite made the cut. 


Monday, March 10, 2014

"Non-Fiction and Other Lies: Writing the Stories in Your Life."

Florida Gulf Coast University will offer the four week series "Non-Fiction and Other Lies: Writing the Stories in Your Life." Robert J. Taylor will be the instructor. Sessions will be held Thursdays from 10 AM to Noon starting April 3, 2014, at Harold Court, Punta Gorda.



Robert Taylor, Instructor

A fun and highly interactive course on writing memoirs that draws on the skills,
experiences and insights of the participants. In four, two-hour sessions, partici-
pants will discover the stories in their own lives, practice using dialogue and other
techniques to recreate a scene, sort out the wheat of their story from the chaff,
explore ways to drive their story forward, and examine options for publishing their
writings for their family or the wider world.

Week ONE

Finding the stories on your life. Who am I writing for, anyway? Writing in your
voice. Telling the truth with lies.

Week TWO

Recreating a scene: dialogue and other fiction. Using all your senses. Show don’t
tell and avoiding clich├ęs.


The arc of the story: throwing out the good to save the relevant. Respecting your
reader: no preaching, condescension, no boredom. Manipulating your reader:
playing to base instincts, transitions that draw the reader on. Playing nicey-nicey
or being ostracized by your family.


The joys and satisfactions of editing. What’s an m-dash? - for crying out loud - and
other obscure rules of editing. Human and unhuman help. Publishing and printing
choices and resources.

Preparation and Materials:

Participants are expected to share their experience and samples of their own
writing, especially prose they’re proud of or are struggling with. Samples may be
in hard copy (with a copy for each class member) or on a thumb drive for pro-
jecting on a screen. Those attending will also be expected to participate in con-
structive critique, writing exercises, and discussion. Handouts will be distributed
and readings and resource's suggested.


DATE: April 3, 10, 17, 24

TIME: 10am-12pm

COST: $50

LOCATION: Florida Gulf Coast University @ Herald Court

117 Herald Court, Ste 211, Punta Gorda, FL 33950


Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

We were fortunate to have a special guest presenter, Jayne Ann McLachlan, an award winning published author specializing in short stories who was visiting from Canada. She took us through a workshop to help us connect with our characters in our works in progress, understanding their motivations and who they are, and why that's even more important in a short story. She also went over other details like the end goal and how to plot out your steps to get there.

If you visit her website, which I've linked in through her name, you'll have an opportunity to see more about the things she's done and connect to her blog. Thank you for sharing with us.

After Jayne Ann's very interactive workshop, Peter Frickel, author of My Frog Sings and Lotha and the Three Crosses shared from his current work in progress, "Lillies of the Vlei" a chapter he called "Soul of Africa." This particular chapter found him walking the length and breadth of Africa in search of his "soul." At the beginning of his journey he tracked landmarks, marked time. After a while he became one with the land, the need to mark passage forgotten. He wondered if he was safe. After all, he was travelling the wilds of Africa by foot. One day he crossed paths with a stranger, and shared the road. Through this journey he discovered the ability to appreciate aloneness, but also felt he'd discovered his connection with God. The group really enjoyed hearing about his voyage through the author's voice.

Educator/writer, Suzi Lynch, shared with us a piece she called "Invite Into the Mind of a Teacher." In this piece she states very clearly that she does not have 'data', more passionate moments that occur in teaching. In her piece she describes an interaction with a student who isn't "model" by grades. It becomes very obvious based on the dialogue that this particular 3rd grader is basically raising his younger siblings and left to his own devices. Although he struggles with ADD, he's not getting his medication regularly. He's already, within the last year, been bounced from house to house, relative to relative. Being an educator in the public school system and the way that they're expected to be so concerned with test scores could lose an opportunity to really help a child like this, and it tears at teachers. The heart and frustration...the power of her words, had everyone in the room empathizing with the teacher and wishing for a way to help save this child.

Jeff Cochran revisited his time travel work in progress. This scene brings us to Rebecca, who was 19 when she'd originally travelled back in time, watching her 5 year old son, Horace. She is now a mother of two children since she and Asa were transported back to 1900. She is holding her baby, Mary, and wondering a bit about how differently her life turned out as she watches Horace splash and play in the water. After a time she gathers the children and heads home to start supper. Jeff has a way of infusing reality of the past and blending it with the more modern thought process of his characters.

Bill Elam followed, revisiting his current work in progress with a chapter called "The Pastor." In this chapter, a public school that had deteriorated had been converted into a church called "The Mission." Although this was built to help those who were truly in need, the sad truth is, that even a ministry is considered "a business" and needs money to run. The pastor was not a 'businessman,' but rather a shepherd of people, so it appeared that despite the great need in this area, the church would be shut down due to inability to pay. That Sunday, preaching a sermon of hope, the pastor's heart was heavy at the thought that this might be the last sermon he'd be able to share. However, in the offering plate, was an envelope from an anonymous donor with a cashiers check that would allow him to pay off in full, the debt for the church, and still have money left over to minister to those in need. Turns out, this was the same place where 'The Old Man' saw that mural discussed earlier in the chapter called "The Artist." Those of us who've been with Bill on this ride were moved.

Sara Lee, a fellow writer from our FWA chapter on the other coast, came by to visit and shared a part of her work in progress, "Boomer Love." She kicked it off with the quote, "An orgasm a day keeps the doctor away." That's all it took to sell us as she shared her chapter which found her protagonist having phone sex with her boyfriend after coitus interruptus happened, thanks to her son. This was her first foray into this area, but with the guidance of her boyfriend, she donned a black lace nighty and went to get "Junior," their nickname for her vibrator. Marty, her boyfriend, of course, carried "Senior" with him in his pants. Yup! The room loved it and laughed at all the right moments. We hope she comes back to share more.

Our final reader of the night was Maris Soule, author of more than 25 books through various presses, was kind enough to share with us an excerpt from her book, The Crows. This mystery had us glued to our seats from the beginning as it kicked off with the protagonist hearing 3 shots, crows cawing a warning...and it wasn't deer hunting season. Furthermore, her dog had not been with her when the shots fired. As she heard noise in the brush, she hid, unsure of the danger. We were all thrilled to know her dog was not injured when he came out of the tall grass towards her. Of course, we went straight back into concern when she finally headed home only to see a trail of blood leading into her house as she raced home to call the police. Yup! Wounded man, laying on the floor, no idea if he's friend or foe. We were definitely hooked! Maris was also kind enough to write about our group in her blog. You can read about that here!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Author Tim Dorsey to Speak at SCF Venice

(Bradenton, Fla., February 12, 2014) – State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota (SCF) Venice language and literature department will host a discussion and book signing by author Tim Dorsey at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 18, at SCF Venice, 8000 S. Tamiami Trail, building 800, Selby Room. The event is free and open to the public.
Dorsey, author of Florida-based mystery novels, will discuss his writing experience and his works, including his most recent novel, "Tiger Shrimp Tango." He will sign books following the event, and some books will be available for sale.
His novels chronicle the adventures of main character Serge A. Storms, an insane yet lovable serial killer, who tries to make Florida a better place to live.
A former newspaper journalist and editor who grew up in Florida, Dorsey combines his experience covering crime and courts with his knowledge of Florida history to create light-hearted mystery novels. His other novels include "Pineapple Grenade," "Triggerfish Twist," "When Elves Attack," "Hurricane Punch," "Atomic Lobster" and "Nuclear Jellyfish."
For more information, contact Beverly Brown at 941-408-1404 or Rich McKee, SCF language and literature instructor, Maps and directions are online at

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

January 29th, 2014

“It was a dark and stormy night....” Apologies to Edward Bulwer-Lytton, but for Florida, it was a cold and rainy, if not really stormy, night and I was surprised to see 17 names on the sign-in sheet. I expected the turnout to be quite a bit smaller. Die hard writers, this group.

We greeted new guests Mary and Jim Hanna from San Francisco, and Dennis Quinn, from Massachusetts via Alabama, who is also a seasonal resident, but hopefully, they will be full time members while they are here in our odd little corner of paradise.

First, my sincere apologies to everyone for unintentionally skewing our calendar, and our schedule, by slipping everything back in January due to the scheduled meeting that would have been held on the 1st! I wouldn't have made it to any writers meeting on New Years Day, and I'm sure there wouldn't have been as much of a turnout on the unofficial National College football day as we had this last meeting. I scheduled a meeting on January 29th to fill the gap and everything scheduled behind that went in the proverbial dumper. We resume our regular schedule on Wednesday, the 5th, and will meet on the first and third Wednesdays of each month as always.

Rod DiGruttolo handled the duties as MC and allowed me to make several announcements, including a reminder about the upcoming Dearborn Street Book festival in Englewood. While we are past he deadline for writing entries, table space may still be obtained at www.facebook.comDSBookFest.

Due to the short week turnaround, and my being out of town for three days, this blog will be uncharacteristically truncated. We opened with Bill Elam reading “The Physician”, Don Westerfield reading his “The Man Who Never Was – along with the poem “High Flight” – and George Collias, who has a screenplay in the oven, followed by the delightful Kathleen Schwartz and her bi-polar cat. 

Jim Kelly brought more than enough copies of his great poetry, and a story about the fifth graders he so diligently works with. “Lightning looks like a strip of death,” a marvelous comment from one of his young understudies, followed by Cathy Marine and her next chapter of her non-fiction “Wings in the Water.” Suzi Lynch read for only the second time, and once again enthralled the group. “Wonder what I would have thought of myself at that age?” and nuances – twenty-five at a time... Great stuff.

Jenny Oberg continued the reading with “Observations at a Red Light,” followed by George Mindling with an excerpt from a published Waterline article from years ago. We wrapped up the evening with the introduction to Rod DiGruttola's sinister character “Horace.” I have the advantage here of having read ahead, chapter 4 is a real change for Rod, and is outstanding stuff. I can't give anything away here, it'll come out at the next meeting, Wednesday, Feb 5th.  If I left anything out, my apologies yet once again.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

We had our first official meeting of the new year with many familiar faces returning to rejoin our group, and a few new faces as well! It was great to see so many folks in attendance.

George Mindling kicked off our meeting with the following announcements:
  • We received our "Thank You" letter from the Nokomis fire department, along with an invitation to continue meeting there for as long as we'd like.
  • George will have a table set up at the Dearborn Street Festival on February 15th in Englewood and is welcoming those who'd be interested to speak to him about joining him.
  • Based on the fact that we bypassed our first meeting date of the year (January 1st) to watch football and spend time with our families, we'll be meeting again on January 29th.
  • Elizabeth Sims was recently interviewed in Writers Digest where she was kind enough to mention our writers group. She has also agreed to come speak to our group on April 16th, so mark your calendars!
Rod DiGruttolo took over moderator duties as we headed into our first meeting by introducing several of our newer folk, people we hope to see again soon, and moved into our readings.

Laura Heath was our first reader of the evening with a meditation for the new year for writers she titled, "Getting Back to It." In her somewhat tongue-in-cheek piece she encouraged writers to clear their bad habits "unless saving them for lent." Easier said than done, right? Well, saving it for lent sounds like as good an excuse as any...

Next, Ed Ellis shared a piece he called, "Very Short, But True, Story." In his story the protagonist introduced us to life as a sole male in a female dominated household. With four daughters and a wife, the home was "a democracy." The primary catalyst for conflict appeared to be the toilet. After all the training to master the art of putting the lid down, he made the "mistake" of being overzealous in his learning and also lowered the cover. His wife found this out the hard way in the middle of the night in the dark. Though it didn't bode well for him, we found the story to be quite humorous. His defense was that he was trying to "protect" his family and their tooth brushes because he'd heard bacteria from flushing actually travels six feet! Yes, this little factoid was good to know. Toothbrush is now safely kept in the medicine chest.... Thanks, Ed!

Local author of Myahmuh: a Novel of Miami, Florida and Sandspurs: Limericks by a Native Floridian, George Collias, shared more from his book, Myahmuh. After learning that Charles, one of the main characters, lived with an alcoholic (an most likely abusive) father, we, along with the boys, the boys discovered, as they were about to leave for their camping trip, that there might be a multiple murderer on the loose. I don't know about you guys, but after all that, camping didn't exactly sound like the safest or smartest idea.

Jim Kelly, poet author of  the Place and From the Embers, shared two recent pieces called "Mourning Dove" and "Blue Notes." With his permission, I'll share one of them now. It's easy to see why his poetry is so beloved by the group.

Blue Notes
(written 12/19/13)

Blue notes frolic on the inside of the window,
hinting of soft and easy.

Some say it's a national treasure--
others...a place where heaven comes
to score its music.

In a dingy room, almost too small for itself,
fan blades chase each other
through a blue-gray haze clinging to the ceiling.

That horn...jumps right up front, demanding every ear--
polished notes tumbling from the flare,
rising, falling, melting away,
making room for others.

That mute...dodging in and out
of progressions,
wailing, weeping, coaxing emotions from shells.

That steel brush...prancing across the snare,
measuring its steps,
offering only what is needed.

That sax...with the smoker's voice
pretending to go unnoticed.
And that flute, that ebony flute laced in silver buttons,
stands up and flaunts its credits.

An old man sits at a table for two--half-full, half-empty.
Eyes closed, head cocked in silence,
his lips finger the sounds he knows by heart--
ones that take him where he yearns to be.

Bill Elam returned from the cold north to share more of his tale with us. In "The Gardener" we revisit the ripples that the old man's actions had at the end of his life. We learned that as the old man, knowing his time was nearly done, gave his earthly possessions away, he helped turn dreams into realities. The simple lawn mower he gave away helped to start a new life and career for a man who was apropos that it was in landscaping. Those of us who've heard most of this tale truly appreciated the beauty in the circle he created.

Next, Kathleen Schwartz, also back from up north (and hopefully on a more permanent basis), had us rolling with laughter as she shared an excerpt from her current piece with a working title of "Jazzed On Life." In this chapter, the realities of aging, new relationships, and Viagra took a wrong, if not hilarious turn. What began as a serious discussion about the status of their relationship devolved into hysterical laughter as honest communication regarding sex and the pressure to perform were discussed. There was not a dry eye in the house as she read, but then, stomach muscles got a much needed work out, too as we cracked up along with the main characters.

Next, a prose piece called "Moments" was shared by Jenny Oberg. In this piece she discussed how simple moments can become snapshots of memories; the thoughts, the feelings, the love. It was beautiful in its simplicity.

JoAnn Phillips, author of Adventures of a Sea Hag, continued with her newest work in progress, "Matrix of Life." In this chapter, on her mother's birthday, we're introduced to a friend of her mother; a guy named Jerry. Although there was some humor in young Joanne's first attempt to make a birthday cake (she didn't know what shortening was, so she substituted corn starch figuring that something was better than nothing), it was also filled with a lot of scary moments for a child to go through. Finding out about Jerry through an innocent story told by Joann, her father accuses her mother of an affair, and causes a scene in front of Jerry's home and wife. Despite their denials, her father leaves them. Her mother punishes Joanne by destroying her horse collection. The entire scene was cringe-worthy. Joann continues to grow by leaps and bounds in her writing style.

As Kerri Dieffenwierth continues to tweak her memoirs, we get to be the fortunate listeners. This particular portion was called "Race Track." She is working at a stable, training horses. The particular one she was to work with that day was big and strong, but considered "El Caballo Defectiva" or a defective horse. The line that most spoke to me was, "Horses sense fear like solicitors sense you're home." As she works with the horse, he takes off, out of control. All her attempts to stop him were unsuccessful. She found herself thrown hard, hurt, and rushed to the ER. After numerous attempts to realign her collar bone properly to set, she'd had it and walked out. Oddly enough, the thing that came through was that through all the self doubt, the sense of unworthiness, the was then that she seemed to find her inner strength and her realization that she was better and stronger than she ever thought she was. She finally began to discover herself. It made me want to stand up and cheer.

Next, Ernie Ovitz, shared more from his work in progress, "The Seventh King." In this portion we travel back to 302AD and meet Princess Amatus, a maiden aunt...sister to the queen who'd passed away. Her 15 year old niece came to visit her, bored, and discussing how she wants to get married or to meet a "man." She warns her ward that not only is such talk unseemly, it would be best should her wishes not make their way to her father's ear.

Don Westerfield, another of our resident poets, shared some of his older works. One depicted his love of flying, described what it must feel like to be a pilot. The other was quite appropriate to today's world where we have all sorts of subtitutes from meats to sugar to so much more... That's the one I'll be sharing with you today.
I find it's a counterfeit world we live in,
nothing is what it appears to be.
Oh, it may look like the real thing,
but it's a false reality.
I first noticed it in the store one day,
(I hesitate these words to utter),
but they were selling imitation margarine
and I think it was mostly butter.
Yet the cheese was made from soybeans
and other labels made it clear,
the lemonade didn't come from lemons
and there was no alcohol in the beer.
The sweet stuff wasn't sugar
from what I could deduce,
it was all some chemical mixture,
like the orange juice - it contained no juice.
Even my shoes are no longer leather
and I find that quite pathetic.
It's all man-made materials, except the rubber heels
they're genuine...synthetic.
Why the wood in my house, I believe,
is nothing but pressed sawdust.
I'm beginning to wonder how long it'll stand;
what is there left to trust?
You see that proverbial last straw has hit me.
Right after our matrimonial whirl
my sweetie told me about her operation,
yep,...seems she's only an imitation girl.
Kitt Crescendo finally published her book, Three For All, over the holidays. She came with business cards and bookmarks to share with the group. We were thrilled for her and wish her much success. As a thank you for all of our support, she shared the excerpt that she'd posted on her blog to announce her new release and continued to read a bit more. If there were windows in our meeting room in that firehouse, the windows would have been fogged. If you missed her excerpt, click on her name. It leads back directly to her blog post announcement.
George Mindling shared two things. First was humorous reminders of common writing mistakes and how to avoid them. The second was a short piece he wrote called "Disappointment." In his story he shared how a memory, from a child's perspective, can be perceived so differently when shared with an adult audience. As a smile child he'd been enamored of penguins and had been disappointed to learn that they were small. Of course, sharing this memory to his adult daughter was met by her with laughter...probably mostly because it's hard for us as adults to imagine our parents as children, making childlike suppositions. Needless to say, penguins are now a part of family lore and a way to tease dad.
Lois Stern, originator of inspiring compilation book series, Tales To Inspire: Topaz & Emerald was back in town and shared her cautionary tale called "Hubris." In this piece, she shares, with self deprecating humor, about an email she'd received to be a guest speaker at a very reputable university in England. At first she came into the "opportunity" feeling as though she'd been patted on the back, but wondering "what's the catch?" As she did her due diligence she discovered that the person who reached out to her was on staff at the university, very easy to work with, quick to answer questions. She became more excited. Just when she thought it was safe to pack her bags, "the catch" presented itself. To expedite her "work permit" she'd need to mail them money to "grease the wheel" in a timely manner. Yep, it turned out to be a long, drawn out scam by some skilled con artists. Thankfully, she caught it before she'd actually "invested" anything of monetary value into this "opportunity." There's definitely a reason why the saying, "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is" has lasted.
On that final note, our wonderful, eclectic group closed out the night. We look forward to seeing what the next meeting holds in store for us. 

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Jeff Parker to speak in Venice

SCF to Host Writer-in-Residence Jeff Parker
(Bradenton, Fla., January 7, 2013) — State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota (SCF) language and literature department, in partnership with the Hermitage Artist Retreat, welcomes author Jeff Parker as a writer-in-residence for a reading open to the public at 2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 13, at SCF Venice, 8000 S. Tamiami Trail, building 800, Selby Room. A question-and-answer session will follow the reading.

Parker, an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is author of the novel “Ovenman,” and a story collection, “The Taste of Penny.” His writing has appeared in “American Short Fiction,” “The Best American Nonrequired Reading,” Ploughshares,” “Tin House” and others. He is co-editor of two anthologies, “Rasskazy: New Fiction from a New Russia” and “Amerika: Russian Writers View the United States.”

He is the editor of the DISQUIET imprint of Dzanc Books and co-founder and director of the DISQUIET International Literary Program in Portugal.
Parker has a Master of Fine Arts degree from Syracuse University.
The event is sponsored by SCF artist-in-residence funding through the SCF Venice provost office and academic affairs. For more information, call Dr. Doug Ford at 941-408-1501 or