Newsletter – April 2018

Greetings, North Central Members!

Welcome to the April 2018 chapter newsletter. Let us know what you think, and remember, you can always read it on the chapter website. You can find previous newsletters on the website as well. And we always welcome suggestions for newsletter topics.

In this issue:




Book Club: Monday, April 30, 11 a.m.
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
Details: In April, we’ll meet at Caribou Coffee at 4745 Cedar Ave. S. in Minneapolis, on the corner of Cedar Avenue and Minnehaha Parkway, just north of Lake Nokomis.

Even if you haven’t started or finished the book by then, feel free to come and chime in anyway. Our small group varies: new and/or returning AMWA Book Club fans are always welcome. By 9 a.m. on April 30, please let Mary Knatterud, Book Club coordinator, know that you will be coming (email her at knatt001 (at) umn (dot) edu).

For those of you who like to read ahead, we have chosen our books through 2019:

  • September 24, 2018: A World without “Whom”: The Essential Guide to Language in the Buzzfeed Age by Emmy J. Favilla
  • January 28, 2019: The Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization by Martin Puchner
  • April 29, 2019: Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce by Douglas Starr
  • September 30, 2019: Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande


May AMWA Chapter Event:
CER writing and EU MDR
Speaker: Karen Bannick, MA, RAC, FRAPS

Details: Our AMWA North Central spring program will feature Karen Bannick of Bannick Consulting, whose work includes manuscripts, medical device regulatory submissions, and clinical documents. An experienced independent consultant, Karen will speak about the new European Union Medical Device Regulation (EU MDR) and its impact on the writing of clinical evaluation reports (CERs). Discussion related to CERs and the new requirements is timely, because companies have only a limited period to update their reports. The topic is also especially relevant given that our North Central region includes the “Medical Alley” of medical device companies.

Watch for email news regarding the date, time, and location.


SE Minnesota Writers and Editors Discussion Group:
May 11, noon to 1 p.m.
Details: These quarterly gatherings are informal, and lunch is provided by the chapter. All AMWA members and guests are welcome. To have an accurate head count for the lunch order, RSVP one week before the meeting (email June Oshiro at oshiro (dot) june (at) mayo (dot) edu).

We have no formal discussion topic for this meeting—let’s talk about whatever’s on your mind! If it’s been a while since you’ve attended, come on back, don’t be shy! If you’ve never joined us before, please consider coming by and introducing yourself. Nonmembers are welcome, too.

Directions to our meeting are at
Hope to see you there!


Grant-Writing Opportunity:
Home Dialyzors United (HDU,, a patient-led organization devoted to supporting home dialysis, would like help in pursuing grant funding. If you are interested in the HDU opportunity, contact Nieltje Gedney at 304-279-3192 or ngedney (at) homedialyzorsunited (dot) org.


Volunteers Needed:
Volunteering with AMWA is a great way to network with your fellow members—and a good way to fortify your C.V. with an extra line showing how you give back to your profession!

Programming Committee Chair: Educational programming is a core mandate of our chapter, and professional development is a key benefit to chapter members. The North Central chapter currently needs a Programming Committee Chair to plan and organize these events. This is a fabulous opportunity to contribute to the chapter, build your organizational and management skills, and ensure that the chapter programs cover topics that interest you. If you would like to lead the Programming Committee in brainstorming and planning programs and events, have suggestions on topics, or would like to present to the chapter, we’d welcome your help.

Membership Committee Chair: AMWA is only as strong as its members, and our chapter is also in need of a Membership Committee Chair to be a point of contact for our current members, keep our email lists up to date, and facilitate outreach to potential, new, and former members.

Happy Hour Coordinator: Another core function of the chapter is to facilitate networking. We would like to add a Happy Hour Coordinator to organize these quarterly networking events. This position requires just a few hours each quarter and is a great opportunity to build your network.

If you can volunteer a few hours a month to help, contact our Executive Committee: EC (at) amwanorthcentral (dot) com. Thanks!



Read a Good Book?

Two by John Scalzi:
Don’t Live for Your Obituary and Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded
by Paul W. Mamula, PhD

I read John Scalzi’s Don’t Live for Your Obituary: Advice, Commentary and Personal Observations on Writing, 2008-2017 last week and couldn’t put it down. It is his second nonfiction collection of essays and answers to emailed questions that provide good advice if you write for a living. Don’t Live for Your Obituary traces Scalzi’s experiences and offers advice about becoming a fiction writer, yet doesn’t do it in a traditional advice book fashion.

Scalzi is a successful science fiction writer who first made his living as a newspaper movie critic, then as a corporate consultant, author, and technical writer. He wrote his first novel, Agent to the Stars, in the late 1990s and serialized it on his blog, as a test, to see if he could write and sell his fiction. His second novel, Old Man’s War, was published in 2005 and was a big success. That novel led to his becoming a full-time novelist, although he still does other writing.

Don’t Live for Your Obituary was published this year in a limited edition (only 1,000 copies). It features advice on writing, practical finances, and lifestyle culled from emails and questions from John Scalzi’s blog. I found it fun to read, pithy, and full of tales of his life as a writer. The book covers much of the same territory as his 2008 book, Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008, which I also read and recommend. That book may be much easier to find, since it was published as a trade paperback.

Scalzi has a slightly snarky style, partly due to the rude nature of some of the questions and emails he has had to deal with; however, he offers lots of insights for the budding fiction writer. Among his most important bits of advice are “Write every day,” “Don’t quit your day job,” and “Have multiple revenue streams.” Good advice indeed, because the stereotypical success story for a writer is authoring a smash successful book and living happily ever after on the royalties. In reality, only a very few authors make a living writing only science fiction.

I read both of his nonfiction books because the titles caught my attention, and I had also read 4 of his science fiction books. The introduction to Agent to the Stars also contains the story of how it came about, how it was edited, and how much money he made on it (not a lot). In Don’t Live for Your Obituary, I was fascinated by the story of the sale of the successful Old Man’s War: Scalzi offered it to a publisher just before he was going to post it on his website and charge $1.50 per download. The agent bought the book ($6,500 plus royalties), and John Scalzi was on his way.


Tell us about your Good Read!
Whether you’ve read a professional/technical, biomedical/science nonfiction, or fiction book that you think other chapter members may enjoy, share a short review with us. Write a paragraph or a few about what you liked about the book, how it might be good for medical writers to read, or how it might fill a need. Send your submissions to jean (at) imagesmythe (dot) com.