The Gulf Coast Writers Association provides a forum for fellowship, education and information among writers in the community. We promote writer welfare and spirit by encouraging members and others to pursue writing for pure joy or for compensation, whichever purpose better gratifies the individual.

The Gulf Coast Writers Association (GCWA) was founded in 1995, incoporated in 2004, and granted 501(c)3 status in 2006. As of April 2013 there were more than 200 members of the organization. The Executive Committee consists of eight officers who are elected yearly in March and are resposible for the general management of GCWA. The Corporate Board of Directors (required under IRS 501(c)3 regulations) consists of four officers who are elected for three year terms.

GCWA is a proud member of the Florida Writers Association.

Volunteers are how we operate


Being on the Board or Executive Committee is extremely important to our association. Since we are a volunteer based, 501c3, the only way we can maintain the operation is through our member’s continuous donation of time.


We realize not everyone can give in this way all the time, and thus we have one-year terms for most of our officers. The Board meets four times per year outside of our general meetings, and the Executive Committee meets eleven times. Giving of just one year is all that is asked, and who knows, you may find you enjoy it and want to offer more. Each term begins on April 1st.

Corporate Board

(3 Year Term) Email: board@gulfwriters.org

Bob McCarthy Board Member
(term ends 2025)

Andrew Conlyn

Andrew Conlyn Board Chair
(term ends 2026)

Susan Grunin

Susan Grunin Board Member
(term ends 2026)

Irene Smith Board Member
(term ends 2027)

Executive Committee

(1 Year Term) Email: executive@gulfwriters.org


Mary CharlesPresident


Claudia GeaganSpecial Projects


Jeanne MeeksVP, Membership

Jeanne Meeks
Fort Myers, FL
Jeanne Meeks is an outdoors woman, an author, a late-bloomer, and a cheerleader for women who try. She was inspired to write when tragedy struck while backpacking across the Grand Canyon in 2007. Rim to Rim, was nominated for Best First Novel at Love is Murder, a Chicago writers convention. Four additional novels soon followed.
In another lifetime, Jeanne and her husband, Bob, formed a security surveillance company. She was recognized as the Illinois Small-Business Person of the Year. She has been the township Tax Collector, President of the Chamber of Commerce, and on the boards of a local bank and a hospital. After twenty-eight years in business a British corporation bought the business, and Jeanne and Bob retired early.
To escape Illinois weather, Jeanne winters in Florida. Days in Fort Myers are filled with tennis, golf, pickleball, book discussion and writing groups, and volunteering. Jeanne comes from a family of ten, has two sons, loves wildflowers, kayaking, camping, reading, and gardening, and occasionally has fits of baking. She adores her five grandchildren and two great-granddaughters but doesn’t see them often enough.
Now Jeanne is Membership VP for Gulf Coast Writers Association, the golf league president, and is trying to hatch a novel for boys, ages 10-12. Life is an adventure.
Check out her website at www.JeanneMeeks.com.
Claudia Volkman

Claudia VolkmanVP, Programming


Sheryl StillmanVP, Communications

Sheryl Stillman
I am the proud mom of two young adults and a Mini-Bernedoodle. I’ve lived in Southwest Florida since September 2022, hailing from Minneapolis, MN. By day, I am an Executive & Life Coach and consultant focusing on communications strategy and change management. At night, I write. I cover topics related to parenting, aging, self-care, healthcare, business, travel, and anything else that sparks my curiosity. I’ve been fortunate to be published at Insider, WIRED, and PBS’s Next Avenue. I’m working on a memoir and a self-help book (in my head). I joined GCWA in spring 2024 and was elected to be part of the Executive Team as Vice President, Communications.
Christie Zarria

Christie ZarriaSecretary

Christie Zarria
Lehigh Acres, FL
Christie Zarria is a God loving native Texan who retired in 2011 from a 22-year position as executive secretary to the CEO of the largest doctor-owned professional liability company in Texas. She has an Associates of Arts degree in fine arts and is married to the one and only love of her life, her husband, Emil (who is a first generation Ecuadorian-Mexican-American). Together, they raised five amazing kids in Texas for 42 years then decided it was time to embark on a dream journey of their own. They surprised everyone in 2012 by transplanting to Florida (where they knew no one) and have embraced the laid-back tropical paradise lifestyle here with gusto. Their large home on 3/4 acres has become known as the Zarria B&B to their large family (which now includes 15 grandblessings), extended family and many friends who have made their home either a vacation destination, or in some cases, a temporary home on the way to a new life. All of this has given Christie a lot of fodder for personal anecdotal stories that she loves to share with anyone who will listen. Her hope is to somehow consolidate these into some sort of self-help memoir, not just for herself and her progeny, but as encouragement and wisdom to others making their own journey through this crazy thing we call life. She joined GCWA in 2019, only to be sidelined by the COVID outbreak in 2020, but thanks to her dangerously limited knowledge of Zoom, she helped preserve GCWA via Zoom meetings during the pandemic, a fact that she is proud of. Besides writing (which is still a very elusive pursuit), she loves cooking, traveling and entertaining. She held the position of Special Projects Coordinator for three years before becoming Secretary in 2024. One of these days she is going to finish that historial fiction novel she started about four years ago….

Ed DonlinWeb Manager

Edward Donlin
Fort Myers, Florida
Edward F. Donlin, born 1946 in Youngstown, Ohio graduated Ursuline High School class of 1964, hired onto Erie Railroad, and attended Youngstown University while unsuccessfully trying to avoid the draft. My Uncle Sam wrote me a letter and off I went. After a mostly unremarkable 18 months, mostly in Germany, I resumed my career on the railroad while tending bar, managing said bar’s kitchen and assisting in the management plus being the door man that some assumed was the bouncer for 8 years. Conrail ruined the railroad and I tired of the bar, so I was forced to take a RR severance which I used to open a sailboat dealership. Five years later the family, wife Marion, son Christopher and I moved to Florida where I worked in various aspects of the marine industry. To promote those endeavors, I began writing, producing and hosting a series of local reality television shows and included my son as host. I have been writing, mostly unsuccessfully, for many years and have the rejection letters to prove it but it also gave me experience in many aspects and a bottom drawer full of work that I am now self-publishing on Amazon. I have been a due paying member of the Gulf Coast Writers Association on and off sin the late 90’s and am happy to assume the role of web manager this (2024) year.

Michael ColeTreasurer

Michael Cole
N. Ft. Myers, FL
Michael Cole is a historian specializing in colonial Latin America.


In 1995 Ilene Flores, a member of the South Florida Chapter of the National Writers Association in Miami, gathered six Southwest Florida writers in her living room. Within two hours they decided to form the Gulf Coast Chapter of the National Writers Association. Their mission was to support, educate and encourage local area writers of all levels and genres. The new Board of Directors elected Ilene founding Chapter President.

In mere months, multiplying membership sparked the first of what would become a pattern of meeting room relocations as participants and publicity spread the word. Camaraderie and monthly guest speakers continued to attract growing crowds.

Along the way we twice sponsored the acclaimed Southwest Florida Writers Conference. We sponsor, host and support several area literary events, workshops, writing contests and conferences each year. As a result, the quality of our membership has heightened and intensified. Monthly attendance regularly reaches 50 or more, with new visitors at every meeting.

As our membership has grown, so has our reputation. We maintain friendly relationships with authors, agents, writing teachers, columnists, editors and publishing houses. Writer’s Digest thinks enough of the club Web Site to ask for a link.

Today Gulf Coast Writers is a thriving independent entity. We continue to strengthen our membership services and programs, guided by a Board of Directors committed to high professional standards. Daily we learn from our peers better ways to keep writing, marketing and publishing what we write. Newcomers are always welcome. We stand ready to share and celebrate large and little successes.

The year 2015 marked the 20th anniversary of Gulf Coast Writers. It is with pride and a true feeling of accomplishment that the members celebrate this occasion. We have come a long way from those early days in 1995. The dream has come true.


In April of 1995 six writers met in the home of Ileane Hope Flores to discuss the need to organize a writer’s group.
These six members were: Eugene Craig, Ileane Flores, Jill Goodman, Crissie Dice, Jeri Magg and Beverly Hannermen.

The results of that meeting were to advertise for other writers and to meet on a monthly basis at Mrs. Appletons, then located next to Office Depot. We decided to charge a $3.00 fee for the meeting to cover the cost of donuts and coffee at Mrs. Appletons. Hence the $3 charge today.

During the subsequent monthly meetings a name was chosen: Our founding President – Ileane Flores was a member of the National Writers Association in Miami – so we applied to this organization to form a chapter – hence – The Gulf Coast Chapter of the National Writers Association. Within a few months a constitution and bylaws were written down by the founding members. Attendance at the monthly meetings went from sixteen to sixty by March of 1996.

We published our first newsletter, WRITE, in March of 1996 for our first annual meeting. Our first board of directors to be elected in March of 1996 was as follows: President – Ileane Flores, Vice President – Jill Goodman, Treasurer – Joanne Lalli, Secretary – Crissie Dice, Publicity Chair – Jeri Magg, Newsletter Editor – Jill Goodman, Parliamentarian – Walter Bittner. In the copy of the newsletter – we were looking for a Speaker Chairperson’s Slot. Our annual dues were $10.00

History of Association’s Presidents:

1996 - 1998

Ileane Flores


Harold Hunt


Carol Kennedy


Alison Chabonais

2001 - 2003

Jules Morreal

2003 - 2005

Jeri Magg


Sissel Robertson

2006 - 2008

Carol DeFrank

2008 - 2011

Richard Georgian

2011 - 2013

Tom Nelson

2013 - 2014

Tim Jacobs

2014 - 2016

Gary McLouth

2016 - 2018

Don Cappelli


Irene Smith


Current Constitution & By-Laws

This is the Constitution and By-Laws, voted in at the January 16th, 2016 meeting, and made effective on April 1st, 2016, amended March 25, 2017.

Attention Members: Two changes to the GCWA bylaws unanimously approved at the March 25, 2017 meeting. To review the changes

Constitution & By-Law History

  • The constitution and by-laws were ratified by charter members in 2003 and again in 2016.
  • GCWA incorporated on May 29, 2004.
  • The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) granted GCWA 501(c)(3) status on January 18, 2006.
  • The Bylaws were amended in 2004, 2007, 2016.
  • Constitution and Bylaws amended March 15, 2008. Constitution and Bylaws amended March 17, 2012.
  • Constitution and Bylaws amendments were voted January 16, 2016, and officially amended April 1st, 2016.
  • Click here to open PDF of our previous Constitution & Bylaws.
  • This is the Constitution & Bylaws was in force until April 1st, 2016.