President’s Letter for January

This year began with the continuation of ‘negotiating’ with Truist Bank.  Michael Cole is working diligently with one of the fraud analysts at Truist and with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office to get our funds restored.  Hopefully, we will have more information to share with you at our January meeting.

One of our members, who was a professional financial attorney, suggested the amount might be below the bank’s deductible and that could potentially be the reason why they do not want to pay it.  Gee–this sounds like the homeowners insurance companies!

The latest info will be available at our January 21st meeting.  We hope to have as many of you in attendance as possible because we really need your support and encouragement for other members.  We have been polarized for too long.  Now is the time to step forward and say, “I am not going to take this anymore!”

One of our authors is bringing people with her who probably haven’t been able to attend for fear of driving, etc. Carpooling is an efficient and effective way to save gas and to spend time with like-minded people; it is one way we can be of assistance to our fellow writers.  This author recently left one writer’s group because of the “cliques” that were ruining the organization.  This type of behavior has destroyed two other local groups that used to exist in our area.

GCWA is blessed not to have that issue.  The reason is simply because we follow our constitution.  When we have differences, we collaborate and iron them out at our monthly Executive Committee meetings.  Many elder members had to retire; however, we have been blessed by the new residents who have relocated to our area.

If you want an exciting and thorough understanding of what life was like in Southwest Florida years ago, our January guest speaker, Clarissa Thomasson’s four novels offer delightful reading.  In addition, add five children’s books, two award-winning stage plays, and a new novel for 2022.  Her complete bio is listed on the first page of the website.  Check it out when you get a chance.

The 2023 Writing Contest details can be found on the GCWA website as well.  There is still time to submit your entries–the deadline has been extended to February 28, 2023.

Our January meeting is scheduled to be held on Saturday, January 21, 2023 at 10:00 am – noon.  Remember, the meeting will be offered, both, in person and via Zoom.  We offer quite a few diverse ways to renew your membership.  A payment can be made while physically attending the January meeting, you can pay online through PayPal, or you can mail a check to:

Gulf Coast Writer Association
P.O. Box 60771
Fort Myers, FL 33906

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Irene Smith, President

January 2023

Speaker: Clarissa Thomasson
Topic: Suspending the Disbelief
January 21, 2023, 10a.m. to Noon

In Person and Zoom Meeting – Register Here

Location: Map
Word of Life Church
6111 South Pointe Blvd.
Fort Myers, FL 33919

“Suspending the Disbelief” reflects the writings of Florida Historical Authors: Marjorie Rawlings, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, Patrick Smith, Carl Hiaasen, and my own Florida books. The Florida setting of each of these authors directly affects both the characterizations and the plot and makes their stories come to life.

Clarissa Thomasson was born and raised in Miami, Florida. She received a BA in English Literature from Duke University and a MA in English from the University of

Florida. Thomasson taught English, journalism, and creative writing in Montgomery County, MD, until her retirement. Her first two novels, Defending Hillsborough and Reconstructing Hillsborough were chosen by the North Carolina Association of Public School Librarians for use in the high school study of the Civil War. Lorinda’s Legacy was “pick of the month” at Greensboro, NC Barnes and Noble.

In 2000, Thomasson returned to Florida and now resides in Venice, FL. She has written five children’s books in her Little Green Monkey series, four novels: Florida Shadows, Florida Secrets, Florida Sunset and Surviving Sarasota set in Southwest Florida, a World War II novel—Over the Bridge—and Venice Dreamers, which highlights Venice’s original settlers. Thomasson’s stage plays, Over the Bridge and Florida Shadows, each won first place in the Clarence “Bud” Jones Playwriting Competition at the Firehouse Theatre in LaBelle, FL, in 2014 and 2015.

Thomasson is also a freelance writer–having written for GRAND magazine, Yesterday in Florida—where she won a 2005 Florida Trust for Historic Preservation Award for her contributions to Florida history—and Eastside Venice Neighbors—where she authored monthly articles on Florida history. She is also a contributor to the Venice Gondolier.

Thomasson’s newest book, Forgotten Florida, tells the story of the earliest American settlers on Florida’s west coast, was released September 1, 2022. More information at saltmarshpublications.com.

 

Gulf Coast Writers Association Victimized by Theft

In September and October of 2022, during the lead up and aftermath of Hurricane Ian, we had $4,000 stolen from our bank account, via account-to-account transfers, from our account at Truist Bank.  This left us with only approximately $1,000 to operate.  All of this took place around the time of hurricane Ian.  We filed a fraud claim with Truist.  They did an investigation and denied our claim, despite overwhelming evidence that we were the victims of fraud.

Their reason for denial given was, “We have determined that the transactions were authorized and therefore not eligible to be returned.”  When Mike Cole asked who authorized these transactions (only Mike is authorized to do so), they continually refused to reveal who the thieves were, even though they know who the perpetrators are.

These account transfers were initiated by another bank, which Michael Cole found out to be Suncoast Credit Union.

Mike opened a case (#22-480794) with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office; they claimed banks do this all the time.  Mike was told they would wait and see how Truist respond to him and will then submit a subpoena for the relevant bank records, if necessary.  They have since subpoenaed the documents and the investigation is ongoing.

I have read the complete transaction report on this activity, rest assured; this was no amateur job.

It is clear the bank has no intention of returning our stolen funds; although, we continue our efforts to have them restored.

I ask YOU: why do banks protect the criminals and not their depositors?  How safe is anyone’s money if the banks are permitted to persist in this behavior?

The answer is obvious: There are 16 full pages of lawyers in this area but not one handles fraud cases.  I stopped calling after 15.  The reason is obvious…there is no money to be made for the lawyers.

For three months and a countless number of hours, Michael has met with and documented every conversation he has had with Truist officers and their Centralized Fraud Claims Team members, and all have the same answer, “I cannot give you that information.”

Mike contacted local TV media, but again, absolutely no acknowledgment of his request.

We are also in the process of moving our business to another bank, which we hope will be more attentive to the security of our deposits.

Ever since the COVID crisis, our membership attendance and renewals have dropped by nearly 90%.  We understand some people didn’t wish to go out or gather indoors with a crowd of people, but for most, times have changed.  Without financial stability, we cannot survive as an organization.

I would like to make this very clear…this is not a request for charity.  We are asking that you renew your membership, so we can continue our goal of encouraging emerging writers, and to create an inclusive environment for writers and would-be writers.

Our January meeting will be held on Saturday, January 21, at 10:00am-Noon.  Remember, you can attend physically or via Zoom.  You can renew your membership through PayPal or mail a check to:

Gulf Coast Writer Association
P.O. Box  60771
Fort Myers, FL 33906

Details of that meeting will be discussed in the January 2023 President’s Letter.

Irene Smith, President

President’s Letter for December 2022

With winds cresting 150 MPH, SW Florida has survived the Perfect Storm.  We may still be walking about with glazed eyes and exhausted bodies, but we are making the best of a bad situation.

This month, I asked our officers if they wished to convey something encouraging, uplifting, or humorous about their battle with Ian.  Here are a few of their feelings:

“Dear GCWA members, I want to encourage everyone to stay positive and safe.  Also, as we are about to begin a new year, let’s focus on our families and see if we can begin anew to also get back to writing.  Some may find that this is a good time to reflect and write about family, feelings, and life experiences.Susan Grunin, Board Member

“I joined GCWA three years ago to get help for a writing project I had taken on because I was a “closet” writer with NO experience or credentials to my name and I knew I needed guidance.  Well, the project fizzled out, but I’m still here three years later because my experience with GCWA has ignited a desire that lay dormant in me for most of my 72 years!  Gulf Coast Writers Association has welcomed me with open arms and has been a continuous source of inspiration and motivation, from their amazing monthly programs, with top notch speakers, down to the camaraderie and encouragement I’ve found in critique groups and interaction with the board of officers.  Whether you’re an acclaimed published author, with impressive credentials, or a nobody like me, GCWA is a GREAT place to be if writing is in your blood!  This group has a passion that’s contagious.  You will not be disappointed–come see for yourself.” Christie Zarria, Special Projects

“In my professional capacity as a psychotherapist, I have often encouraged trauma victims to write about their experiences as a way of dealing with stress and PTSD.  I did this myself, albeit many years after my return from the Viet Nam war.  Many people in SW Florida have experienced trauma and loss, either directly or indirectly, from hurricane Ian.  Writing about it could help them cope.” David Aiken, Membership

“As a writer, I sincerely believe we create stories in order to make sense of life’s events.  The kinds of stories we tell can change the past and the future.  In Fort Myers, the story of 2022 is one of resilience, of renewal, of perseverance, and of neighbors helping neighbors.  In this Christmas season, it’s a story that brings joy.” Claudia Geagan, Special Projects

“A sudden burst of homelessness was not in my master plan for life.  But Ian said phooey to my plan.  I sit in my borrowed bed in a dark borrowed house on October 1st.  My car sat in the garage during hurricane while waters rose to the rafters.  I was invited to go with neighbors to buy a replacement car from Enterprise Car Sales.  I have never bought a car looking like a vagabond, but I now own a car I don’t like, and I am happy.  I am still living communally with two other neighbor families in a temporary situation, which we must vacate by mid-December.  I’m hoping one of our houses will be livable by then so we can all camp out there until our own homes are habitable.  This is a new situation for me — not knowing where I will live next month was not on my radar.  There is such a feeling of finality in being suddenly cast adrift from a life we have all cherished.  I want to believe that we’ll build back and become the caring community we took for granted until September 28th.  I have stopped whining.  My bumper sticker on the car I don’t like says, ‘Not to spoil the ending, but everything will be okay!’” Mary Charles, VP and Programs

“The devastation of Hurricane Ian has affected us in many ways.  Months later, our hearts still break into a billion tiny pieces as we drive through the once beautiful cities of our area.  December is typically a month of holiday spirit and cheer.  Yes, we are hurting deeply—some even angry; however, just like with everything else, we have the option to make a choice.  We can either allow the havoc and destruction of hurricane Ian to depress and demotivate us or we can pull up our bootstraps, ask our higher power to give us strength and peace in the midst of the storm, and decide to uplift our mindset.  We must not allow our surroundings and emotions to dictate our moods and actions or to shut us down.  Let’s use the month of December to reset and purposely decide to grasp onto what little holiday spirit we can muster up.  Sometimes, we just have to ‘fake it until we make it!’” Dr. Kesha Dreher, Webmaster

Now, back to business:

Our GCWA 2023 Writing Contest is in full swing.  Because of the storm, we have extended the contest deadline to February 28, 2023.  This information will also be on our website.

On behalf of all of us, we wish all of you a blessed and happy Holiday season…be it Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Soyal.  Draw close to your loved ones and provide aid to those who desperately need it.  “There, but for the Grace of God, go I.”

We look forward to seeing many of you in January.  Full details of future GCWA expeditions will be provided at that time.  Get ready because we have some power-packed programs lined up that will clear the cobwebs from your eyes.

May God bless and keep all of you safe and sound.  Have a blessed holiday.

Irene Smith, President
Gulf Coast Writers Association

 

STORYTELLING SERIES AT THE ALLIANCE FOR THE ARTS

By Mary Lou Williams

The Alliance for the Arts is presenting a series of storytelling showcases in 2023.  The Storytellers of the Round Table and the Elephant Showcase Storytellers will take to the stage to tell their stories of New Beginnings, Stories of Love, and Stories of Luck.  These are the themes of the stories for January, February and March, respectively.

The series will start with a performance on Friday, January 6th, from 7 to 9 pm.  Four storytellers will tell their stories of New Beginnings.  Dr. Joel Ying will kick it off by giving you a Recipe for Life to begin the new year and a personal story.  Then, Mary Lou Williams will tell a medley of Aesop’s fables, updated for a modern audience.  Rhonda Brazina will then tell a personal story.  Last, but not least, Marilyn Graham will tell two folk tales.

The same four storytellers will tell love stories in the spirit of Valentine’s Day on Friday, February 3rd, from 7 to 9 pm.

The third showcase titled, “The Best of Luck,” will be on Friday, March 3rd, from 7 to 9 pm.  Lisa Leonhardt and Pamela Minton will join Dr. Joel Ying and Mary Lou Williams to tell tales of luck, both good and bad, and how one can sometimes be mistaken for the other.

When was the last time a story transported you to another world?  Experience the power of the spoken word – captivating, spellbinding, and entertaining!  The stories will be followed by a talk back, which is a question-and-answer session with the audience.  Meet the storytellers.  Discover the stories behind the stories.  The talk back was an innovation that proved to be popular in last year’s series.

The Alliance for the Arts is located at 10091 McGregor Blvd.  in Fort Myers, FL.  The ticket price is $18 for members and $20 for nonmembers.  To purchase tickets visit www.artinlee.org or call (239) 939-2787.