When it comes to page turners, it’s all about the story


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Editor and writer husband and wife team Pam and John “J.J.” White will discuss “The Difference Between Style and Story” at 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 13 at the Cocoa Beach Library.

photo by linda wiggins

When boomer author John “J.J.” White was in the ninth grade at Eau Gallie High School, his composition teacher wrote on his proudly crafted paper, “Great story, John. Now please learn how to write.”

That was 1970 and he’d like to say he has since then, but wife and editor Pam is still not sold. 

“He spells ‘cigarette’ 14 different ways, and grammar still is not his friend,” said Pam White, an administrative assistant at Eastern Florida State College who types out his manuscripts from longhand legal pads.

One thing is certain: he knows how to spin a good yarn. On the strength of his current novel, “Prodigious Savant,” his publisher inked a contract for two more books that he has already completed, another noir mystery, “Deviant Acts,” and a World War II historical fiction novel, “Nisei,” which recently won first place in the Columbus Cooperative Novel Competition.

Hence the title of his presentation at 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 13 at the Cocoa Beach Library, “The Difference Between Style and Story.” 

“This is why you have today’s best sellers that writing critics tear apart but readers can’t get enough of, like ‘50 Shades of Grey,’ ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ and ‘Bridges of Madison County.’ There’s a saying that goes, you can have a well written book with no story, and you can have a poorly written book with a great story, and that’s what’s going to do well.”

Not bad for only seven years with pen in hand, a 40-plus year gap since teacher Dave Wortendyke’s red-inked note actually inspired him to want to write. He flirted with the idea of writing then, but along came life. While recovering from a serious injury, he was forced to remain in a position where only his hands were free. He used them to write.

Since then, he has penned eight novels and more than 200 short stories, some of them published in his first book, “Death’s Twisted Tales.” He developed a discipline that he also will share in his library talk for others who might be waiting for just the right time to tap their inner book.

It’s said that great writers read, but as an engineering manager at Orlando Utilities, much of White’s time is spent in commute. So he listens to books on tape by the hundreds along the daily drive, mentally taking them apart to study their structure.

Once he’s home, it’s dinner with his leading lady, “Jeopardy,” and buh-bye.

“I don’t see him for the rest of the night. He writes every day,” Pam White said.

Just as writers read, writers write, he said.

Expect generous helpings of humor in the Whites’ presentation.

A favorite: During their daughter’s wedding toast, after both bride and groom had lost their jobs in the 2009 downturn, Dad assured them that if things got really tough they could always “come home to live with your parents.” Not a dry eye in the house, he concluded, “Of course I’m talking to your husband. Your bedroom is my writing den now.”

Cocoa Beach Library is at 550 N Brevard Ave. For more information, go to jjwhitebooks.com or call the library at 321-868-1104. 

J.J. and Pam White speak at library

Husband and wife author and editor team J.J. and Pam White will speak at 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 13 on "The Difference Between Style and Story" at the Cocoa Beach Library, 550 N. Brevard Ave. in Cocoa Beach, 321-868-1104.