Karen Dean Benson

IMG_00231As a young girl, Karen had a strong desire to put words on paper. She enlisted the help of her younger brothers to deliver a neatly hand-written newspaper throughout their Detroit neighborhood, Rosedale Park. This went on for several weeks until her mother lowered the boom  after a number of phone calls questioning the goings on in their home.

Years passed with Karen devouring book after book in the local library until one day she decided to try her hand writing historical fiction. After graduating from Northwood University, she married and spent the next years in the woodlands of Northern Michigan relishing the beauty of the Au Sable River.

In spite of, or because of, her growing family, she pounded out stories on a Royal Portable typewriter that bounced merrily across the desktop. The lusty voices of children in the background increased her fervor to lose oneself in another world.

Somewhere between diapering her first child and kissing the sixth off to college, she managed to resurrect what little she remembered about writing from the Dominican Nuns in the Detroit, Michigan parochial system. They had attempted to teach her how to diagram a sentence. Armed with this knowledge and her love of Jane Austen and Kathleen Woodiwiss’ memorable tales, Karen eventually swapped out the Royal for a thirty-pound Olympic that stayed put when typing.

Her love of research, history, and tales of convoluted lives adds spice to an already rich and rewarding family life. She weaves all this against the backdrop of a by-gone era and tosses in plenty of problems to solve. Her novels involve young women blundering through the social constraints of the 18th and 19th Centuries.

Karen is published in numerous anthologies in Michigan and Florida with mainstream contemporary short fiction. This past January she signed a three-book contract with Melange books, titled Ladies of Mischief. The first book, Devil’s Grace – Renn Arelia’s Story, launched August 29, 2015.  Mission Song – Chenoa’s Story will be out early winter 2015.

Karen joined GCWA in February 2005. She and husband Charlie divide their time between golf courses in both states.

Visit her website at: http://karendeanbenson.com

Karen Dean Benson’s books

Gillian Birch

Author-Gillian-Birch-book-cover-compact-60kbGillian Birch is a freelance travel writer and, whenever possible between trips, she is a resident of Florida. As the wife of a Master Mariner, she has traveled extensively and lived all over the world, including the Far East, Europe and the Republic of Panama. Her love of writing allows her to keep detailed journals, which are a valuable source of eye-witness information for her many published magazine articles and destination reviews.

Describing herself as having “endless itchy feet and an insatiable wanderlust”, Gillian continues to explore Florida and further afield, writing about her experiences with wonderful clarity and attention to detail. She has a diploma from the British College of Journalism and is proud to be a member of the International Travel Writers’ Alliance.

Gillian has ten published travel books and ebooks about Florida, including Days Out Around Fort Myers, a collection of local attractions with a foreword by the Lee County Visitor and Conference Bureau. All her books are available on Amazon.com and in local bookstores.

Visit her website at:

Dorothy Brooks

Dorothy-for-Edison-brochure-006Dorothy Howe Brooks writes poetry and fiction. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous literary journals, including Atlanta Review, Poet Lore, Louisiana Literature, Bayou, Poem, and Mangrove Review. Her second chapbook, Interstices, was published in 2009 by Finishing Line Press, and her full length poetry collection, A Fine Dusting of Brightness, was published in 2013 by Aldrich Press. She teaches various poetry classes in the Lifelong Learning Institute at Southwest Florida State College in Punta Gorda. Originally from Atlanta, GA, she now lives with her husband in Southwest Florida where they enjoy sailing in the coastal waters of the Gulf.

Visit her website at: http://dorothybrooks.org

Dorothy Brooks books

Dorothy Brooks

WORD SONG interview with Dorothy Brooks at the McGregor Café, Fort Myers, Florida.

by Gary McLouth
October 22, 2016

A poem is a small (or large) machine made of words.” William Carlos Williams

Dorothy Brooks hails from Atlanta, Georgia, and like many of us transplants, she had to make some adjustments. Instead of commuting from Atlanta to Lake Lanier for sail boating, Dorothy and her husband now step aboard from the dock behind their home. That kind of adjustment makes one feel like a genius, but what about a poet (wandering lonely as a cloud) looking for other poets? Dorothy was well aware of the solitary nature and often secluded life-style of poets. Sightings can be rare enough to try the soul.

A long time ago, I went to a writers group in Peace River… then, I heard about the Gulf Coast Writers Association. I remember entering the GCWA meeting place. Tables were set up by genre, and I spotted the Poet’s table. It was like a moth being drawn to a fire. Several people sat around the table, and a feeling of belonging washed over me. Poets, writing poetry! My tribe!

As members of different yacht clubs, we agreed that dinner conversation rarely touches on poetry. The name games don’t include poets. Okay, maybe Shakespeare.

I get bored with table talk about what other people have done, and when attention turns to the present, well, golf and grandchildren don’t hold much interest over the long haul. If I am asked what I do, now that I am retired, my enthusiastic responses about poetry are quickly deflected by statements like, “Oh, I should write a book, but who has the time?” and “You can’t make money writing,” and “Yes, but what do you actually do?”

Dorothy and I talked about types of poets.

I see a personal poet, one who writes strictly for one’s self, family, a few friends. No idea, or intentions of writing for a larger audience. Then, there’s the poet who writes for the public. This poet thinks about publishing; the poetry gets sent out to audiences beyond family and friends. That’s a poet who’s trying to make a connection with the world, so to speak. I guess I’m that kind of poet.

Dorothy writes “nature” poems because she loves experiencing the marshes, the barrier islands and the Gulf of Mexico waters, but poetry is more than the crafting of words to engage nature. Her teaching in the FSW Life Long Learning program in Punta Gorda, encourages her fellow poets to “look at this, witness!” not to politicize or demagogue but to become aware of how the language is used to describe and to express things.

I was a math major in college, a career IBM-er. This whole poetry adventure grew out of my waning interest in one and one equals two. The other side of my brain kicked in to fill the vacuum, and I’ve been reading and writing like crazy to catch up. I’m self-directed as far as English and writing are concerned. Workshops with poetry teachers and conferences attended and led by experts have guided my own writing teaching. There’s a lot of experimenting with other poets’ styles. Right now, I’m reading Laura Kaschicki and Sylvia Carbelo. 

I ask Dorothy what ‘catching up’ is all about. She stares me down for a moment, takes a careful sip of decaf. “You know what I mean.”

Getting back to personal and public poetry, I’m not saying that writing about personal feelings is forbidden in public poetry, quite the contrary. It’s in how those personal feelings are written about. There are rules and formulas for writing news stories, short stories, memoirs, novels, children’s stories and so on, but a poem can take many different forms, set its own rules even when following other rules. That’s why I love writing poetry. There’s always more to learn through writing poetry and from reading what’s in poetry.

Jamilla D. Brooks

IMG_4577Jamilla is a native to beautiful Southwest Florida. Her love for writing started at a young age. Writing has allowed Jamilla to share her voice. As an Inspirational Speaker, Mentor, Spoken Word Christian Poet and soon to be published author, she has been able to perform and speak in many venues with her “Desire To Inspire.”

She recently landed her first role in a full feature film slated to be released in 2016. The indie film will be produced in beautiful Southwest Florida! She’s excited to embark on this new journey!

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Jamilla’s books

Jennifer Christiansen

jennifer_christiansen-250Jennifer Christiansen, Ed.S. is an instructor of psychology and English, holding an MS degree in Psychology and an Ed.S. degree in Higher Education and Adult Learning. Her academic research focused on senior citizens and pet therapy. Jennifer is the author of a picture book entitled Saucy’s Taste of Paris and a young adult novel called Lyla’s Song. In addition, she is the co-writer of an adult book entitled, Secrets Men Share: When You Run Your Fingers Through Their Hair. An active volunteer at facilities of Lee Memorial Health System, she and Heidi, one of her two miniature schnauzers, serve with Therapy Dogs, Inc. In addition to writing, teaching, and volunteering, she owns a Cruise Planners travel agency. In her free time, Jennifer reads, travels through America and Europe, enjoys film, theatre, photography, fine dining, running, agility training with her dog, and paranormal investigation. And yet, living by the beaches of Fort Myers, Florida, she finds time for breathing the sea air and taking sandy walks with her husband and pets at sunset.

Visit her website at: http://Cruiseplannersfortmyers.com

Jennifer Christiansen’s books

Mary Clista Dahl

mary_clista_dahl_250Mary Clista Dahl discovered her passion for pouring out her heart and soul on paper at age four when she journaled about true-life preschool drama in a miniature diary. Her desire to promote joy, love and compassion through the written word, combined with her perpetual wish to help others, have become the foundation for her life’s work, Capture Life Writing. She has been published in Reader’s Digest, Wall Street Journal College Journal, National Business Employment Weekly, and The Buffalo News. Mary, an avid nature advocate, is also a frequent contributor to the online journal, Naturewriting.com.

Her first book, Giddy as Charged, The Happy Manual, is available now at Amazon.com. Her one and only work of fiction produced the self-proclaimed worst romance novel ever written, the never published, “From the Moment You Said Good Morning.”

Mary earned her B.S. degree in Cultural Studies with a communication concentration from SUNY Empire State College and a certificate in Public Relations and Advertising from the University at Buffalo, where she has spent over thirty years on an enthusiastic journey assisting students on their academic and career paths.

She is a past winner of the UB Literary Guild Writing Contest and the most gratifying award ever, a lifelong listener of, “Have Mary do it, she likes to write.”

Visit her website at: http://capturelifewriting.com

Michael Cole

michael-coleMichael Cole is Assistant Professor of History at Florida Gulf Coast University, and Senior Editor of FCH Annals: Journal of the Florida Conference of Historians, a peer-reviewed academic journal.  His principal field is colonial Latin American history.  He is the author of several history articles, book reviews, and articles in specialized history encyclopedias.  His most recent article is entitled “A Spanish Entrepreneur in Early Colonial Mexico,” and is available electronically in volume 24 (at no cost) here: .

Anita Katherine Dennis

anitaDennisAnita Dennis received her BA in sociology, with a minor in anthropology from the University of Michigan-Flint in 1973. She was not only accepted into her husband’s Mende tribe in 1972, but she lived in his village for a year in 1983-84 as a lay missionary. She is the co-author of Slaves to Racism: An Unbroken Chain from America to Liberia, 2009. In 2014 she published Beyond Myself: The Farm Girl and the African Chief.

Visit for a movie of the tribal masked being, color photos, and her blog.
Watch her video at http://youtu.be/LRCCSyILJec

Anita Dennis’s books

Rebecca Elam

notavailJoined GCWA about nine years ago. I am a former Membership Chairman.
I have a children’s series that I work on when I have the time, but I mainly write for my husband who is a storyteller. He performs at least three times a month both locally and state-wide. That takes up a majority of my writing time. I enjoy this form of writing as I see my work come alive. I see what works and what doesn’t then go back and edit one more time. I am an original member of the Hurricane Critique Group. Without them, I would be lost. All my work receives a professional going over, no word left unturned, no comma ignored.