Shayne Bell, a Utah science fiction writer whose first novel, "Nicoji," sold 33,000 copies during the month of December, has been awarded a $20,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The money is to further Bell's writing career, but it's up to him how and where the money is used."I'll probably use it to do some traveling," says Bell.

In the past, NEA grants have usually gone to writers with high literary aspirations. To have the money go to a solid, popular, genre writer like Bell is unusual and encouraging.

"I think I'm the first science fiction writer to win one," he says. "When I turned in my application, Scott Card and others told me I didn't stand much of a chance because I wrote science fiction, but I sent the papers in anyway."

Needless to say, he's glad he did.

- JOYCE KINKEAD will read from her book manuscript, "Uncommon Women: The Diaries of Early Mormon School Teachers," at noon at the Salt Lake City Library on Thursday, Feb. 7.

The reading is sponsored by the Utah Endowment for the Humanities.

For information call 750-1706.

- DAVID BROWER, environmental activist and former executive director of the Sierra Club, will sign copies of his recent autobiography, "For Earth's Sake," from noon to 2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8 at Sam Weller's Bookstore, 254 S. Main St.

- GARY R. WEAVER, senior pastor at Wasatch Presbyterian Church, will sign copies of his new book, "Gentle Words in a Raging Storm," from 1 to 3 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 9, at the Intermountain Bookstore, 1986 S. 1100 East.

Light refreshments will be served.

For information call 486-4965.

On Sunday, Feb. 10, Weaver will sign copies of his book from 12:30 to 2:30 at the Wasatch Presbyterian Church, 1626 S. 1700 East.

- THE UTAH STATE POETRY SOCIETY will offer a workshop on "The Sounds of Poetry" at the Whitmore Library, 2197 E. 7000 South, on Saturday, Feb. 9, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Janet Potter Nielson, who studied at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon, will direct the seminar.

For information call 969-9727.

- YASUSHI INOUE, one of Japan's best-known novelists, died of pneumonia in a Tokyo hospital late Tuesday, a spokesman said. He was 83.

Inoue specialized in historical novels, many of which dealt with Japan's cultural debt to China and Central Asia. In the 1970s, his novels were largely responsible for a surge of Japanese interest in the Silk Road through central Asia. - (Reuter News Service)

- H.L. MENCKEN always seemed to get in the last word - even from the grave, as the publication of "The Diary of H.L. Mencken" in December 1989 showed. But Tuesday, what are thought to be the truly last unpublished words written by this amazingly prolific author will be unsealed.

Seven long-awaited volumes of Mencken's memoirs will be opened.

"It seems to me that we are getting documents of unparalleled importance," said Terry Teachout, an editorial writer for the New York Daily News who is writing a biography of Mencken. - The Baltimore Sun.