So Pay Tribute to Football and Those Freelance Writers

By Rooney, Jackie | The Florida Times Union, February 4, 2006 | Go to article overview

So Pay Tribute to Football and Those Freelance Writers

Rooney, Jackie, The Florida Times Union

Byline: Jackie Rooney

While sports fans prepare to hunker down with nachos and beer for Sunday's Super Bowl, please pause for a moment of silence for your local freelance social writer, who is bereft, suffering post-Super Bowl XXXIX letdown.

Chips and dip in front of the TV don't quite measure up to being there for the real thing. The tsunami of excitement that washed over Jacksonville last year has flowed to Motown along with all those elusive celebrities. Were Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise really here? Sigh . . . I wondered about that last year, too. The Super Bowl put Jacksonville on the map, and Detroit has spent $17 billion in two years to revitalize its downtown, making the big game the most effective urban renewal tool of the century.

No matter which team wins -- and with a name like Rooney, guess who the Bin is rooting for -- this is a perfect time to pay tribute to your local freelancers, because "Freelance Writers Appreciation Week" runs from Monday through Friday. Chase's Calendar of Events says those five days should be devoted to honoring hardworking folks who "write and submit articles and books, provide overworked editors with material -- spare no love for editors just now; their week comes in September -- as well as inform and entertain readers." But without Super Bowl and celebs in town, what's there to inform about at this time of year?

The floating hotels have gone, but some local residents found this an ideal time to take a cruise. Ron and Hilah Autrey celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary aboard the yacht Sea Dream II with 31 other Ponte Vedrans, such as Gail Dawson, Kelli Cutright, Jerome Fletcher, Sandra and Jack Bertoglio, Jeff and Celeste Burger and Mike and Claire Duffy. Conde Nast Traveler rates the Sea Dream II as No. 1 for food and service among small ships, so the Autreys et al had a splendid time. Their six-night January getaway began in St. Thomas and cruised to the islands of St. Barts, St. Lucia, the Grenadines and Barbados. In addition, some lucky cruisers spotted celebrity super model Elle MacPherson on the island of Mustique.

There's nothing like a game of bunco to beat the January blahs, so 20 Bunco Babes gathered at Pam Kearney's Sawgrass Country Club home Jan. 24 for a buffet supper and six rousing rounds of that crazy dice game. The big cash winner of the evening was Beverly Beck, who took first prize after a tie-breaking round of "bunc-off" with Dolly O'Reilly, Cathy LeBlanc and Gurmeet Keaveny. Judy Rogers had the most losses and a big smile, because she won a prize, too.

The World Affairs Council of Jacksonville got terrific news on Jan. 20 when Council President Marilyn McAfee of Ponte Vedra Beach, Vice President for Programs Marty Jones and Administrative Director Trina Medarev attended the annual National World Affairs Councils of America conference in Washington. McAfee accepted the 2005 Outstanding Achievement award on behalf of the Jacksonville chapter, which competed in the small council category. The Jacksonville council has about 800 members and offers a lecture series and educational programs to promote understanding of world issues. The honor is given "for extraordinary innovation, growth, outreach and impact," McAfee said. "Our council was recognized as being one of the most dynamic in the nation."

Global public health expert and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Laurie Garrett was guest of honor at a VIP party at the Marsh Landing home of Lin Knapp on Sunday. Garrett, author of best-sellers The Coming Plague and The Collapse of Global Public Health, was in town to speak at the World Affairs Council on Monday. While there's much concern about terrorism, Garrett's topic, the threat of pandemic diseases like avian flu, is equally timely. The media reports the discovery of drugs and avian inoculations to fight bird flu, but Garrett pointed out that it'd be impossible to vaccinate millions of chickens and other poultry, because "the migratory bird population is carrying a disease that is constantly mutating." What then to do? "I don't think helpful action grows out of paranoia," she said. "A healthy dose of pragmatism is in order."

On the lighter side, the hors d'oeuvres went beyond chips and dip. Knapp's a great chef, and I snagged a recipe for elegant cheese grape clusters that I can't wait to try. Among the VIPs enjoying the tasty spread were McAfee, Jones, Bob and Sandy Cook, Gen. Gerry Maloney, Linda and Tom Slade, Fiona Strathern, George and Judy Gabel, Anwar and Mary Anne Saadeh, Tom and Barbara Knowles, Carole and Javier Salinas and Tom Reilly.

Proud grandparents Lee and Carolyn Chelette of Ponte Vedra Beach just got news that their granddaughter, Holly Chelette, 12, of Keystone Heights, will appear in a Long John Silver's commercial this year because she won Long John's "Three Free Shrimp Tongue-Twister Challenge." Holly's parents, Clarence and Melanie Chelette, and sisters Charity Chelette Kehoe and Dixie Chelette were thrilled when she was chosen from 500 entries across the country. She won because of her good use of body language and intonation of "three free shrimp" to demonstrate statement, question and surprise, said University of Louisville linguistics professor Frank Nuessel, aka "Dr. Tongue Twister."

The commercial will be filmed this year at a location to be determined, but Holly has stars in her eyes and wants to go to -- where else? -- "Holly" wood.

"When my mom called to tell me I'd won, I had to wait a few seconds just to breathe," she said. "We both burst out crying because we were so happy."

Author Charles Martin has had a few rejections. He received 86, then stopped counting, said Mary Barrus, fine arts chairwoman of the Sawgrass Players Club Women's Association. She introduced the Northeast Florida author to 35 book club members and guests in attendance at the Ponte Vedra Beach branch library. Undaunted by multiple turndowns, Martin continued to write; he kept in mind that F. Scott Fitzgerald got 126 rejection letters before his first novel was published. Martin grew up in San Marco and went to Florida State. He has two passions -- sports and writing stories -- but a football injury ended his aspirations for a sports career.

"I wanted to write. I just didn't know how to turn that into a career," said the young writer, who has been compared to Nicholas Sparks and called "one of this generation's great storytellers" in a review. Martin supported his family and writing habit by building docks and pressure washing -- "I pressure washed a lot of homes in Ponte Vedra" -- but things have changed since he became a published author. "Oprah hasn't called me . . . but I've been able to write full-time for two years," he said.

Shortly after the debut of his first book, The Dead Don't Dance, The Hallmark Hall of Fame offered him a contract to make it into a TV movie. However, they recently withdrew the offer and released the movie rights to him. Rejection again? Martin takes it in stride; after all, he has since produced two more books -- Wrapped in Rain and When Crickets Cry -- and Maggie, the sequel to his first book, is due out in September.

Stellers Gallery at Ponte Vedra introduced six new artists at its 2006 Launch on Jan. 27. The gallery's annual show of new art featured Teruko Wilde, Sabre Esler, Shaun MacDavid, Giovanni Casadei, Shirley Rasmussen and Wendy Martin. Their work ranges from landscapes to figurative, still lifes, abstracts, mixed media and collages. For example, Esler uses a palette knife in oil on canvas to produce amazing expressionistic landscapes and still lifes. Rasmussen's figurative works are done in pastels and charcoal from live models to capture reactions, moods and color.

Come to think of it, there's plenty of excitement brewing at the Beaches, so who needs the Super Bowl to have something to write about and have a good time? For example, Newcomers of the Beaches will celebrate its 28th birthday with a luncheon at Casa Marina in Jacksonville Beach at 11 a.m. Wednesday. A representative from the Donna Hicken Foundation will be the guest speaker. Newcomers is a great way for women new to the area to make friends, learn about the area and get involved in a variety of activities, which, in addition to monthly luncheons, include crafts, games, cards, trips and book club. Call Maggi Penn at 998-2331 for information and to reserve for lunch.

You have until Monday to make reservations for the annual Presidents Day Dinner sponsored by the Republican Club of Ponte Vedra Beach. U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, will be the guest speaker at the event that begins with a cocktail reception at the Sawgrass Beach Club Topsider Lounge at 6 p.m. and is followed by dinner at 7 p.m. at the club's Ocean's Edge restaurant. Randy Scott will present a salute to Abraham Lincoln, and Dan Quiggle will salute Ronald Reagan. Rodger Gibson is master of ceremonies. The dinner is $55 per person or $100 per couple. Call Chris Demme at 285-0156 or Gibson at 285-4303 to reserve.

On Tuesday, The Winston Family YMCA will kick off its annual support campaign with a family night (and morning) of food, games and prizes for members and guests from 7 to 9 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. Last year, the YMCA provided about $87,000 in assistance to families in the community, who could not otherwise afford programs such as summer camp, after-school and Y sports programs.

"Our new campaign slogan, 'Share the Y,' says it all," Campaign Chairman Rick Newell said. "Our annual campaign gives us the opportunity to not only raise funds to help others, but to educate on the possibilities that exist through their support."

The tragedy of Hurricane Katrina isn't deterring folks in New Orleans from celebrating Mardi Gras this year. Mardi Gras parties also are springing up a little closer to home. At 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, Tom and Cheryl Rackley are hosting Fete de Mardi Gras at their Harbour Island home. The party benefits the Christ Church Foundation, which raises money for Young Life, BEAM, Mission House, Save Our Students and scholarships for high school seniors. The Sawgrass Marriott Resort is catering the event, and Bob Schuster is providing choice wines for tasting. Tickets are $150. Send check to Fete de Mardi Gras, Christ Episcopal Church, 400 San Juan Drive, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32082.

Same night, different location: a Mardi Gras Ball will be held at 7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Grand Ballroom of the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club. King Rex, aka Don Blackburn, will preside over the festivities along with emcee Bruce Barber. The evening benefits United Way of St. Johns County. There will be an auction, dancing to the music of The Mystery Band, stations featuring New Orleans-style cuisine and desserts, plus complimentary "Hurricanes" beverages. Masks are optional, however black tie is the preferred dress code. Tickets are $150. To make reservations, call Ann Breidenstein at 829-9721.

The Rooney Bin is a freelance production; can you tell? The keyword is "free," or nearly so, it seems. However, there are benefits to working at home and not being tied to the daily grind and a staffer's big paycheck -- that's an inside joke. As an unencumbered martyr (my spouse's definition of freelance), I'm free to run hither and yon to party, party, party. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it. Although I'll miss the up-close-and-personal Super Bowl experience, Sunday the TV will be on while I'm churning out my weekly 2,000-word freelance offering. Go Steelers! And pass the chips.

Jackie Rooney is a freelance writer who lives in Ponte Vedra Beach. To contact her, please e-mail Or call 249-4947. Or fax 280-1899.


Jackie Rooney/special

Bunco Babes Dolly O'Reilly (from left), Gurmeet Keaveny, Cathy LeBlanc and Beverly Beck had to play a Bunc-off round to determine that Beck was the big winner.


A group of Ponte Vedrans took a cruise on the Sea Dream II yacht including Jeff Burger (from left), Gail Dawson, Kelli Cutright, Celeste Burger, Ron and Hilah Autrey, Jerome Fletcher and Sandra and Jack Bertoglio.


Hilah (left) and Ron Autrey enjoyed the spa services provided by two women from Thailand aboard the Sea Dream II yacht.


Holly Chelette, 12, won the Long John Silver's national tongue-twister challenge and will appear in a commercial this year.

Jackie Rooney/Special

National World Affairs Council President Jerry Leach presented Jacksonville Council President Marilyn McAfee with an award for outstanding achievement for the Jacksonville chapter.

Jackie Rooney/special

Global health expert Laurie Garrett (from left) was guest of honor at a VIP party sponsored by the World Affairs Council. Education Vice President Sandy Cook, hostess Lin Knapp and programs Vice President Marty Jones asked the Pulitzer Prize winning author about the threat of Avian virus.

Jackie Rooney/special

Mary Barrus introduced author Charles Martin who spoke at a meeting of the book club of the Sawgrass Players Club Women's Association.

Jackie Rooney/special

Cindy Greif (from left), Ben Sheldon, Sandy and Kim Crenier, Yves Genre and Peter Crenier were at the Stellers Gallery art opening featuring six artists.

Jackie Rooney/special

Stellers Gallery owner Hillary Tuttle (from left) held an art opening for six artists including Shirley Rasmussen and Sabre Esler.

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So Pay Tribute to Football and Those Freelance Writers


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