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
The club’s Presidents are as follows:
1996-1998 Ileane Flores
1998 Harold Hunt
1999 Carol Kennedy
2000 Alison Chabonais
2001-2003 Jules Morreal
2003-2005 Jeri Magg
2006 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
2018-present Irene Smith
NB: Somewhere, either during the term of Alison or Jules, the membership voted to discontinue our membership in the National Writers Association because the group was charging us too much for membership and the members were not gaining anything.
During Jules’ tenure, Harold Hunt and Jeri Magg were asked to go through the legal work to form a 501 C (3). After Harold moved from the area, Jeri completed the paper work.
Mrs. Appletons closed a few months after we began our meetings in 1996, and Joanne Lalli was able to persuade Books A Million to allow us to use one of their rooms. Within a year our group outgrew that room and because Eugene Craig owned a book store at the Raffles Mall ( on the corner of Winkler and College) we were able to move to a large community room there.
We again outgrew the space and Pat Janda arranged for us to move to a room at Robb and Stucky. We were there for another year – outgrew the space and Jules and Jeri found a large space at Beacon Manor. Up until that time we had not paid for our meeting space.
Our costs for the room were covered by our doing away with the paper version of the newsletter. We stayed there for about four years. During Carol Defrank’s tenure Beacon Manor asked us to move out (they could rent the space for more money) and Carol found us some space at a college on Colonial (the name escapes me at the moment). During her second year we moved over to the Zion Lutheran Church on Winkler, after one of our members, also a member of the church, found us the space. We’ve been there ever since.
So, that’s kind of it in a nutshell. Jeri has many copies of the newsletter from those years. During Jules’ tenure we found that the newsletter was too expensive to produce and went to the e-mail version.
During Harold Hunt’s tenure Conrad Brown created the website. Jeri Magg took it over for the next few years – with a break when Carol Drummond and Rosalie Villafrate took it over. Jeri took it back after she stepped down as President. When Richard became President he found a replacement, Judy Loose. She ran it for five years with Jennifer FitzGerald stepping in for a couple of years. Judy came back as website manager for another year or two and is still running it.
Some of the following links take you to our archives. The menu at the top of the pages will not bring you back to our current website. The original window should be open in your browser or go to gulfwriters.org.
Read our First Newsletter (1996) – WRITE
Current Photos on Facebook.
GCWA History from Jeri Magg (see Our Founders, above) includes the original members and a list of past presidents.
Newsletter from September 2005
Member Information Sheet from the time of Jeri Magg’s Presidency (2003-2005). It lists all the officers at that time.
Member Application from 2003-2005. Shows different location.
A Workshop Flyer from October, 2004.
Insert from Newsletter from unknown date.
Anthology Submission Guidelines – 2004