Welcome our Speakers

May 2017

Don Platt

Contract Pros & Cons
Want to know the ins and outs of an author’s contract? Don Platt will present an annotated author’s contract from the Author’s Guild, and share alerts and warnings of such contracts. He will discuss how to get out of a contract and reveal an experience he and other authors had and are still having with a certain publisher.

Donald Michael Platt is the author of five published novels, one book he ghosted, and two books he co-authored. He sold to the TV series, Mr. Novak, and ghosted Your Hair and Your Diet for a health food guru. Mr. Platt is the author of; A Gathering of Vultures; Vitamin Enriched; The Couple’s Disease; Rocamora; House of Rocamora; Close to the Sun; and Bodo the Apostate, to name a few. Mr. Platt’s new novel, The Sorceress and the Skull, is a historical fantasy, soon to be published.

He attended graduate school at San Jose State where he won a batch of literary awards in the annual Senator Phelan Literary Contest in 1959. Website: donaldmichaelplatt.com

Meeting: May 20, 2017
10:00 AM – 12:00 Noon

Location: [map]
Zion Lutheran Church,
7401 Winkler Road, Fort Myers, FL 33919

June 2017

Ben Feldman
Describing a Character
What is character in a novel and how do you describe it? Examples of novelists that render good characterizations will be offered. Ben will present examples from literature like Sister Carrie, Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye, plus ideas from Anais Nin and her novellas. In addition, Ben will discuss how an author’s

understanding of character in a novel or story is like a psychotherapist’s understanding of a patient. Also, excerpts from nonfiction diaries such as Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, will demonstrate the signs of character meaning in thought and action.

Ben is in private practice and is a self-employed consultant to home healthcare agencies in Fort Myers. He completed a three-year post-graduate study at the Tampa Institute for Psychoanalysis in Psychotherapy, is a member of the Tampa Psychoanalytic Society, and holds an MSW degree specializing in psychiatric social work. He has practiced with children, adults, and senior adults. He worked with Hope Hospice for two years, primarily with dementia patients and patients with end-of-life issues as well as their families. He lives in Fort Myers, and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Gulf Coast Writers Association. He is a published poet.

Ben writes a column for the Santiva Chronical, Talking Therapy.

Meeting: June 17, 2017
10:00 AM – 12:00 Noon

Location: [map]
Zion Lutheran Church,
7401 Winkler Road, Fort Myers, FL 33919

John Mills

July 2017

John Mills

Mystery Writing

John Mills is a fifth generation native of Ft. Myers, Florida, where from childhood to the present, he has enjoyed his favorite hobby—fishing the waters of Pine Island Sound.

He started his legal career as a prosecutor for the State Attorney’s Office in Ft. Myers. In 1990, he began his private practice, concentrating in Divorce and Criminal Defense and worked for Mockler, Porter & Mills. Since August of 1993, he has worked as a sole practitioner.

In addition to fishing, John is a lifelong avid reader. In 1999, he wrote his first local murder mystery, followed by five more. His latest novel, “The Hooker, the Dancer and the Nun,” which highlights social media as evidence in criminal cases, will be the subject of Mr. Mills’s presentation.

Website: www.jdmlaw-ftm.com/
Facebook: John D. Mills P.A.

Meeting: July 15, 2017
10:00 AM – 12:00 Noon

Zion Lutheran Church,
7401 Winkler Road, Fort Myers, FL 33919

Past Speakers

April 2017

Glenn Miller

Life in a Newspaper
Glenn Miller was first paid to write in 1975 when the St. Petersburg Evening Independent paid him a modest sum to cover a football game at Boca Ciega High School. He was asked to cover another game the following week and the week after that and after that and… forty-two years later he is still getting paid to write.

Glenn’s first novel, Grabmore, was recently published. He likes to call his story of life inside a large newspaper chain a “comic crime caper” and uses the word “frothy” to describe it. Readers may call it something else.

Glenn worked at The News-Press from 1987 to 2012. He is currently a freelance writer and writes primarily for Florida Weeklyglennrmillerwrites.wordpress.com/

March 2017

Irene “Susie” Smith was a restless, mediocre student, a “disturbing element,” in parochial school.

Writing that first novel Angel of Tears was a long-time effort for a lifelong writer. “I flunked Impromptu Writing. I’ve have never been able to write something acceptable the first time around. I am more of a rewriter than a writer. But I know when it finally comes together.”

Irene will explain how to create colorful characters and memorable settings, writing a memoir as fiction, exercises for writers block, how to pull it all together—and more.

Irene has been a member of the GCWA since 2009, and Membership Chair since 2014.


img_0141January 2017!

Happy New Year!

JOHN KEYSE-WALKER practiced law for 30 years, representing business and individual clients, educational institutions, and government entities. He is an avid salt- and freshwater angler, a tennis player, kayaker, and an accomplished cook. He lives in Ohio with his wife. Sun, Sand, Murder is his first novel and the winner of the 2015 Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award.

Contests and Competitions: A Non-Traditional Path to Traditional Publication
Summary of Topic: While most writers follow one of two routes getting their work into the hands of the reading public, there is a third route – contests and competitions. Hear from John Keyse-Walker, author of SUN, SAND, MURDER, on how he became a traditionally published author by winning the Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition.

suzanne-mozesSuzanne Mozes – Finding Voice
October 15th, 2016

Regardless of genre, the voice of a narrator on your page is the first being with whom your reader interacts. Finding that voice (your voice, a character’s voice, any voice really) is a truly difficult, mind bending skill. We will look at how talented authors capture this elusive, and yet vital, element of writing with dexterity and aplomb. The focus here will be to elicit each student’s individual voice and cultivate that person’s true identity, as only they can speak it, in all of its idiosyncrasy and individuality.

Suzanne Mozes is a writer, editor, and author. She is at work on a narrative non-fiction biography about Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his masterpiece Beata Beatrix, due out next year with W.W. Norton. She also writes long-form non-fiction stories and occasional essays and book reviews for literary publications.

In 2013, she founded Story building, a creative writing class series in Atlanta. Most recently, she launched a Saturday morning writing series for creatives in the South, free of charge and open to anyone, called Under/Over/On. She is also a member of Narrative Collective, a group of Atlanta writers who meet weekly at the Goat Farm Arts Center to give feedback on works-in-progress and generate new work.

unnamed-4Ben Feldman
August 20th, 2016
Describing a Character

What is Character in a novel and how do you describe it. Some examples of good novelists that render characterizations will be offered. To describe and show characterization I will use examples from literature like Sister Carrie, Holden Caulfield from Catcher In the Rye, plus ideas from Anais Nin and her novellas. In addition, I will discuss how understanding character in a novel or story is like a psychotherapist understanding a patient. Also, excerpts from nonfiction diaries like Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore will demonstrate the signs of character meaning in thought and action.

Mr. Feldman is in private practice and self-employed consultant to Home Health Care agencies in Fort Myers. He is a member of the Tampa Psychoanalytic Society who completed a three-year post-graduate study at the Tampa Institute For Psychoanalysis in Psychotherapy. He hold an MSW degree specializing in psychiatric social work. He has practiced with children, adults and senior adults and worked with Hope Hospice for two years, primarily with dementia patients and patients with end of life issues in families. A resident of Fort Myers, he is a member of the Board Of Directors of the Gulf Coast Writers Association. He owns two dogs, Toy Poodle and Bichon Friese, and is a published poet.

Workshop & Critique #1 – Create a Character
July 2016

Character Creation & the Critique Group Process, led by our Programs Director, Bob McCarthy

Members, visitors, and guests! For the July 16th meeting, you need to create a character. Bring the description of him, her, or it to our character-friendly, monthly meeting and introduce them to your peers.

Your character can be based in a work of fiction, non-fiction, poetry or drama. They can be good, bad or indifferent.

For tips on creating characters, visit Writeworld.com – click “Toolbox” on the menu bar.

Describe your character on one page, double-spaced.
Bring six copies of your description to the July 16 meeting.
Participants will be formed into small, supportive critique groups.
They’ll meet, greet, and maybe interact with your character.

For the September meeting, you’ll create a setting for your character.
Come November, combine the two and start your contest entry.

Workshop & Critique #2 – Create a Setting
September 2016

Members, visitors and guests! For the September 17 meeting, you will create a setting. It can be a familiar place, a place from your past, or a place you wish did exist.

Bring the description of your setting to our monthly meeting and show it to your peers. Your setting can be for a work of fiction, nonfiction, poetry or drama. For tips on creating settings visit: writeworld.com & click “Toolbox” on the menu bar.

Creating a Setting & the Critique Group Process

1. Describe the setting on one side of paper, double-spaced.
2. Bring six copies of your description to the September meeting. 3. Participants will be formed into critique groups of six people each. 4. You’ll review and comment on each other’s work.

For the November 19 meeting, we will combine your character from the July meeting with your unique setting and write an opening to your work of fiction, nonfiction, poetry or drama.
Have a blast!

Writing Workshop & Critique #3 – Combine story & character and begin Your Story
November 2016

Members, visitors and guests! For the November 19 meeting, you need to take your character from July, your setting from September and great an opening for your work.

Your great opening can be for a work of fiction, nonfiction, poetry or drama. Bring it to our monthly meeting and ask your peers to critique it. For tips on great openings and more visit: writeworld.com.
click “Toolbox” on the menu bar.

Creating a Great Opening & the Critique Group Process

1. Print your great opening on one side of paper, double-spaced.
2. Bring six copies of your opening to the November meeting.
3. Participants will be formed into critique groups of six people each. 4. You’ll review and comment on each other’s work.

This is a great opportunity to create and refine your entry for the GCWA writing contest. The deadline is December 1, 2016.
See the GCWA web site for contest details.
Have a blast!

Dorothea SonneDorothea Sonne
June 18, 2016

Dorothea Sonne is the Food and Wine editor at Gulfshore Life magazine, one of Southwest Florida’s preeminent lifestyles publications. She writes features and reviews that cover the local dining scene, and she manages a stable of freelance writers. Dorothea was recently inducted into the Chaine des Rotisseurs, the world’s oldest and largest gastronomic society. She’ll speak about her experiences as a food reviewer and offer insight on exactly what an editor is looking for from her writers.

bobby-christmasBobbie Christmas, The Book Doctor

May 21,2016

Writing in Style to Win

Editor Bobbie Christmas is your book doctor. She can also be your mentor, ghostwriter, copywriter, and writing and publishing consultant. After spending decades writing and editing for a living, Bobbie became a much-sought-after seminar and workshop leader. She began Zebra Communications in 1992 in Atlanta, Georgia, to provide professional editing services to publishers and to writers like you.

In the early 1990s, the book-publishing industry went through change and turmoil. In a cost-saving move, publishers preferred to buy edited books, rather than unedited ones. Bobbie saw a need, took a leap from the corporate ladder, and devoted herself full-time to Zebra Communications. In this role, she combines her love of writing with her understanding of the challenges of a writer. She gets great satisfaction out of helping other writers around the world realize their dreams.

Bobbie is the author of Write In Style published by Union Square Publishing, New York, New York. She has also written a number of other books, articles, essays, and business publications.

Topic: Write In Style, and You Write to Win!

This seminar is based on Write In Style, Bobbie Christmas’s triple-award-winning book on creative writing. Publishers say they seek fresh voices, but what is a fresh voice? This seminar shows you how to find your fresh voice and power up your prose, whether writing fiction or nonfiction. You’ll learn all this and more:

  • The value and ease of setting goals that ensure you win at writing.
  • What constitutes a fresh voice?
  • How to find your fresh voice.
  • How to save time and be objective during revisions by using Bobbie Christmas’s Find and Refine Method™
  • The secret of style versus style, the two ways the term is applied and how to make both ways work in your favor.
  • The difference between Chicago style and academic style, the style of writing you probably learned in school.
  • Copious things to find and revise using the Find and Refine Method™ to make your writing fresh, unique, stylish, and persuasive.

don-plattDonald Michael Platt
April 16th, 2016

Topic: How and why I began to write

Donald Michael Platt is the author of five published novels, one book he ghosted, and two books he co-authored. Donald attended graduate school at San Jose State where he won a batch of literary awards in the annual SENATOR PHELAN LITERARY CONTEST in 1959.

He sold to the TV series, MR. NOVAK, ghosted YOUR HAIR AND YOUR DIET for health food guru, Mr Platt has authored; A GATHERING OF VULTURES, VITAMIN ENRICHED, THE COUPLE’S DISEASE, ROCAMORA. HOUSE OF ROCAMORA, CLOSE TO THE SUN, and BODO THE APOSTATE, to name a few. Mr Platt has a new novel, THE SORCERESS AND THE SKULL, a Historical Fantasy, soon to be published.

How and why I began to write followed by the serendipities preceding my sales in Hollywood, mistakes I made there, Hollywood and Literary agents, how each of my books was published, their awards, why some were rejected by the Big Houses, pluses and minuses of Indie publishing, and how I select topics, research, and write my Historical novels. Plus anecdotes about my time in Hollywood and showbiz and how they affected my sales or lack thereof.

The Impact of Fame

sid-simonMarch 26th, 2016 Sid Simon

Topic: What impacts your writing when you begin to think you’re a celebrity.

Watching real celebrities in action and how that affected my writing.

I got to Oprah because of my book, GETTING UNSTUCK. How Oprah used me and the book in that session about stuck people. I got to Donahue because of a Workshop at Omega my Son and I had taught on: “Fathers and Sons. What makes closeness between Fathers and Sons, and what makes distance?” Why Donahue thought that was worthy of a National Audience. Participants will walk away with some useful “Things I learned about myself ” from this entertaining and challenging morning.   Who could ask for anything more?   Not me.

Sidney B. Simon is internationally known for his pioneering work in Values Clarification. He retired as Professor Emeritus from the University of Massachusetts in 1998. Over 100 articles and some 13 books authored or co-authored came out of that adventurous academic life.

He was a much in demand keynote speaker at major conferences on Psychology, Counseling, Education, Alcohol and Drug Addiction, Self Esteem, and Family Values all over the United States, Canada, and six countries in Europe.

Simon was a guest expert on the Oprah show, and also shared his wisdom on a Phil Donahue program about Fathers and Sons in the same year he was a keynoter at the Betty Ford Clinic.

More recently, Dr. Simon has been active in the Florida literary arts community. Simon is a frequently published poet, a drama critic for the SANIBEL CAPTIVA ISLANDER, a participant for the past nine years in ART POEMS, and he is the Chair and MC of STORIES FOR GROWNUPS at the Sanibel Library

In, 2011 he won the Lee County Literary Artist of the Year Award.

Deep down, he just wants to be nominated for the Grampa of the year award.

Jenn-FitzGerald-book-designer1January 16th, 2016
Jennifer FitzGerald

WordPress for Authors:

Author, Book Designer & Publisher, Jennifer FitzGerald, has worked with hundreds of authors for a decade now. Originally she was only designing book covers, although now has come all the way to owning her own micro-press publishing company.  You can see her speaking to groups across the state, and now she will be here with us to answer your burning questions.

Our very own Webmaster will be showing us an overview tutorial on the workings of WordPress for authors, and more importantly, how to write for the internet.

Jennifer FitzGerald has three college degrees. Her last was in Web design and development. As a book designer and publisher, she now helps authors with both design and marketing of their publications.

This will tie in especially well if you are planning to attend our February Social Media workshop.

You can read her full profile on the Members Page.


jodi-cohenSeptember 19, 2015: Improvisation for Writing

Jodi Cohen,

Jodi Cohen has been performing and teaching improvisation since the late 1980s. She’s written and performed several original one-woman shows, directed improv troupes, written short non-fiction pieces, and also writes terrific thank you notes. Jodi has worked as a keynote speaker and presenter using improvisation as a platform to teach communication skills. She is delighted to be a new Fort Myers resident, and is excited to join the Gulf Coast Writers Association.

Subject / Topic: Improvisation for Writing

Improv allows us to ‘write’ on the spot, automatically, without editing. In this hands-on workshop we’ll apply some basic improv principles via short writing exercises to explore character development, story plot, and idea generation. We’ll also experiment with how to use “writer’s block/feeling stuck” as a launch point for our writing practice.

Download an overview of her presentation Click HERE.

Robert-McCarthyOctober 17, 2015

Robert S. McCarthy Critique Groups organizer at GCWA

On October 17, our meeting’s focus is on critique groups, how to form and operate one – and guests and non-members can bring their work and participate for free! Two hours of rubbing elbows with other writers plus having your work read and reviewed. That’s a deal. By meeting’s end, you’ll have fellowship and some really constructive feedback about your work.

Since 1979, Bob has been a professional writer, editor and producer in both freelance and corporate positions. He has written video scripts for marketing and training, collateral materials. Bob published an e-book on social media in February 2014 – Collaborative Blogging: A Team Approach to Social Media in 6 Easy Steps. He writes non-fiction books,  video scripts, magazine articles and content for web sites and social media. Web Site: www.theb2bwriter.com

Handouts for 2015 workshops: Workshop Exercises Download

charles-sobczakNovember 21th, 2015
Charles Sobczak
Topic: Writing about Nature

Charles Sobczak lives and writes on Sanibel Island, Florida.  His first novel, Six Mornings on Sanibel, was originally published in 1999 and is currently in its seventh printing. In 2010 he published a nature guide titled, Living Sanibel – A Nature Guide to Sanibel & Captiva Islands. The book quickly became the best-selling book on Sanibel and rose to #34 nationally on Amazon.com for nature guides during the winter of 2011.

His latest nature guide, The Living Gulf Coast – A Nature Guide to Southwest Florida, won the Gold Medal Presidents Award for the best work of Adult non-fiction, 2011, by the Florida Publisher’s Association. The book was featured in an April, 2014 broadcast on Book TV’s Cities Tour when they filmed the best nature places to visit in Ft. Myers, Florida.

Sobczak has been a featured lecturer for the past decade with Road Scholars (formerly Elderhostel) based out of Boston, Massachusetts. He is only one of two authors in the county whose books (both from the Living series) are used as companion guides to their local programs, in this case Sanibel Island and Naples, Florida.

Point of ViewMay 2015: Mini-Workshop (led by Denise Holbrook)

Topic: Point of View

What exactly is Point of View? What are the common types? What are their advantages and disadvantages? What does it mean to write in my character’s voice?

We’ll answer these questions as simply as possible and then give members a chance to practice writing short passages from specific points of view, in a specific voice.

If you’re not sure what all that means, this meeting is definitely for you! Bring your notebook, laptop, or whatever writing instruments you’ll need to join the fun. You may not be an expert at POV and voice when you leave, but you should at least know how to decide which to use for your project and protagonist.


POV Bibliography

POV Chart

Rik FeeneyJune 2015
Rik Feeney
Topic: Digital Books: Don’t get left behind!

Rik Feeney is the author of several books including Writing Books for Fun, Fame & Fortune!, his latest book Editing Basics for Authors and Indie-Publishers!, the soon to be released Kindle Publishing Success Guide & Workbookas well as the upcoming memoir “What Are Little Boys Made of…?” Rik is a Book Coach, Book Cover Designer, and Publishing Consultant. Rik’s passion is helping authors effectively and successfully publish their books.

Digital books are the wave of the future. Even if you publish traditionally, the additional markets available through digital books is enormous.

Email Rik at usabookcoach@gmail.com

Visit his website at www.PublishingSuccessOnline.com.

JeremyPilarskiJuly 2015
The importance of description in writing.

Jeremy Pilarski is an English Professor at Florida SouthWestern State College (Edison State College)

Mr. Pilarski received a Master of Arts (M.A.) in English from Florida Gulf Coast University. He has written papers on topics from social media to ancient philosophy. He published articles for the Florida Gulf Coast student newspaper (The Eagle). He graduated Phi-Theta Kappa, is a member and a participant in the Honors Scholar at Edison State College and received the Rose Kosche Scholarship for poetry and short fiction.

Participants will learn:

  • The difference between showing and telling
  • How to build a descriptive scene
  • How to write effective dialogue.

Kim WeitkampJanuary 2015 Speaker: Kim Weitkamp

Kim Weitkamp is a nationally known storyteller and a gifted workshop leader who has performed her own personal stories at festivals throughout the country and at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN. Kim travels full time performing at festivals and theaters around the continent. She is repeatedly booked back and is a favorite with audiences and event/festival directors. Her material is geared toward adults but safe for kids. Kim’s single CD, “The Lap,” has won a 2014 Storytelling World Award, and she is the proud recipient of the Toastmasters Communication and Leadership Award, an honor given once a year to a former member who has gone on to achieve great success in leadership and communication. She has seven award winning albums filled with songs and stories. Kim presents and leads workshops internationally. For more information, visit her website at www.kimweitkamp.com.

Topic: How to Write and Tell Personal Stories

Using her Memory Map and ‘StoryBox’ techniques, nationally acclaimed storyteller, Kim Weitkamp, will show you a fun easy way to pull numerous story ideas right out of your own personal life experiences and turn any one of them into a well-rounded tale. Participants will leave this workshop with one new piece that will contain all the bones of a good story. Whether a story lover, a family storyteller, a performing teller, a writer or a public speaker – this workshop will help the participant build his or her repertoire, enhance any presentation and transform life experiences into spellbinding narratives.


Kim WeitkampFebruary 2015 Speaker: Marty Ambrose

Marty Ambrose has worked at Edison (now Florida Southwestern) State College for more than two decades as a professor of English and Communications. She teaches an online creative writing course and is currently working on her fifth book. Ambrose is the author of the Mango Bay Mystery Series for Avalon Books. The series features amateur sleuth Mallie Monroe and is set on a fictional island in Southwest Florida, like the one where Professor Ambrose lives.

Topic: The Politics of Publishing

See Lessons Learned for slide show.

April 2015 Poetry Month Speakers: Jim Gustafson and Larry Stiles

Jim Gustafson

Jim Gustafson’s resume lists everything from a United Methodist Pastor to a bartender, with a generous sprinkling of occupations from golf pro, radio station manager, and Hospice Director to a Vice President for CBS. He currently resides in Fort Myers, Florida, where he reads, writes, pulls weeds, and teaches classes on “How to Choose and Keep a Job for Life.” His book of poetry, Driving Home, was released in January, 2013. 

Larry StilesLarry Stiles is a native of both ends of Tennessee. Retired following a long career in higher education administration, he now spends his time in volunteer activities in SW Florida and tries to squeeze in a little time for writing. Larry has been awarded by this group for his outstanding poetry, and his work has been selected multiple times to be featured in the ArtPoems multimedia event.

Topic: Revision

Revision is one of the exquisite pleasures of writing. ~Bernard Malamud

National Poetry month is a celebration of poetry. Our celebration will salute the work the muse leaves behind: revision. Revision can make the good great and the great greater.

It is rare a piece of writing, be it poetry or prose, that is finished in the first draft. Using poetry for illustration, we will look at specific strategies for revision that are applicable to all genres.  Bring your pencil, bring your paper, bring your friends.

If you are interested in seeing speaker information from even further back, this link will take you into our old, archived website. Please remember, in order to get back to the new site, either use the go back button, or go to GulfWriters.org. Do not try to use the menu at the top of the page.

Click here to see archived speakers.

5 Responses to “Speakers”

  1. Joanne Stankievich

    As a published writer starting on my second book, I’m looking for a critiquing group. Please let me know of those in the area. I’m a new member of the Marco Island Writers’ group, living in Naples. Thank you. My website wasn’t accepted above; it’s http://www.JoanneIvyStankievich.com

  2. Gary McLouth

    Webmaster! Please spell my name correctly in all displays. Thank you.


  3. Christine

    Interested in your group, please let me know how to join. Myself n my friend Brittany are interested in learning to write. Brittany is interested in short novels and I interested in autobiography Thank you

    • admin

      Simply attend one of our meetings. Our annual membership fee is $40. You can pay at the meeting or pay here on the website. On the home page there is a “Join Us” button. Go there to download the application and submit fees online.

  4. Patricia Ferrara

    You have an informative and attractive website. I used to attend your meetings and will attend again as I have a book in the process of being printed by Dorrence Publishing. It is entitled; “The Black Eyes.” I will attend the August 15th meeting. Thank you. Patricia


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