by The Editors | September 6, 2018

Flamingle: Word Slingers

Five literary luminaries rooted in (and rocketing from) our peculiar peninsula


Illustration by Stephen Lomazzo

Lauren Groff
Swamp Savant

Lauren Groff stepped into the spotlight in 2015 when President Barack Obama named her novel Fates and Furies his favorite book of the year. In Florida, her newest collection of short stories, the New York Times best-selling author transports readers across the state from storm-stricken shores on the Gulf Coast to Gainesville’s reptilian reservoirs and the salt-sprayed cities surrounding St. Augustine. Aside from this summer sensation, the 40-year-old has authored five books and a myriad of short stories and essays. Between book tours, this Florida phenom takes to Twitter to defend authors’ rights against bootlegged books and fight for indie bookstores.

Jack Clemons
Rocket Man

Writing isn’t rocket science for this former aerospace engineer who finds fiction to be the final frontier. University of Florida alumnus Jack Clemons worked as a lead engineer on some of NASA’s most famous moon missions, including Apollo 11 and Apollo 13. Now his head is in the clouds as he becomes a science fiction and nonfiction author. In his forthcoming memoir, Safely To Earth: The Men and Women Who Brought the Astronauts Home, Clemons takes readers behind the scenes at NASA during the height of the space race and chronicles the unprecedented technological challenges of his most momentous moments.

James Patterson
Persistent Pat

The Guinness World Record holder for most No. 1 New York Times best-sellers, James Patterson sold his first novel in 1976 after 31 publishers had rejected his work. Patterson took a job at the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson, where he entered as a junior copywriter and worked his way up to North American CEO. The 71-year-old author has sold more than 350 million books. His most recent work, The President Is Missing, was co-authored with former President Bill Clinton. The Palm Beach resident has funneled his passion for education into over 400 scholarships for up-and-coming teachers and has donated more than a million books to students.

Mitchell Kaplan
Book Worm

Mitchell Kaplan worked on his first feature film, The Man Who Invented Christmas, for nine years before its national debut last fall. The film brings to life the nonfiction book by a fellow Floridian, Les Standiford, about Charles Dickens’s struggle to write and publish A Christmas Carol. Kaplan’s love of story runs as deep as the stacks at his South Florida bookstore chain, Books & Books, which has nine locations and 35 years in business. Kaplan also founded the Miami Book Fair, the nation’s largest literary festival, which attracts hundreds of authors, including dozens of A-listers, for a week of intimate talks, panels and book signings each fall.

Peter Meinke
Paradisal Poet

Peter Meinke, 86, reigns as the poet laureate of Florida, a position only three other people have held in the state’s history. His latest book, To Start With, Feel Fortunate, is the second collection of pieces from “Poet’s Notebook,” a column he writes for Tampa Bay’s Creative Loafing. In the column, he pairs poems with personal narratives that range from his experiences in the Army and the Great Depression to literary analysis and political debates. In March, Meinke harnessed the healing power of poetry when he read with students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at their memorial event, “Poems for Parkland: Poetry of Peace.”