Tag Archives: Sanibel

Ninth Annual Sanibel Island Writers Conference

Ninth Annual Sanibel Island Writers Conference

November 6-9, 2014

Registration Open. Use link below:


BIG ARTS & the Sanibel Island Public Library, Sanibel Island, Fla.

Richard Russo

Keynote Speaker: Richard Russo

Steve Almond / MK Asante / Lynne Barrett / Derrick C. Brown / Kevin Clark / Dean Davis / John Dufresne / Beth Ann Fennelly / Emily Franklin / Tom Franklin / Artis Henderson / John Hoppenthaler / Gary Louris / Jen McClung / Karen Salyer McElmurray / Kathryn Miles / Dinty W. Moore / Jeff Newberry / Jeff Parker / David James Poissant / Julia Scheeres / Christopher Schelling/ Jennifer Senior / George Singleton / Christine Sneed / Wesley Stace / JL Stermer / Megan Stielstra / Parker Stockman / Darin Strauss / Johnny Temple / Karen Tolchin

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Sanibel Island Writers Conference 2013

Location: Sanibel Island, Florida

Event Date: November 7-10, 2013
Application Deadline: September 30, 2013
E-mail address: tdemarch@fgcu.edu

The eighth annual Sanibel Island Writers Conference, sponsored by Florida Gulf Coast University, will be held from November 7 to November 10 at the BIG ARTS center and the Sanibel Public Library on Sanibel Island, Florida. The conference offers workshops in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, as well as manuscript consultations, readings, panels, concerts, and book signings. Faculty and visiting writers include poets Richard Blanco, Beth Ann Fennelly, Kathleen Rooney, and Emma Trelles; fiction writers Lynne Barrett, Lisa Borders, Christopher Castellani, Brock Clarke, Benjamin Percy, and Laura Valeri; and creative nonfiction writers Steve Almond, Roxane Gay, Kristen Iversen, Darin Strauss (author of prize-winning memoir Half a Life), and Nahid Rachlin. The cost of the conference ranges from $250 to $400. For a manuscript consultation, submit up to 10 pages of poetry or prose with a $75 fee by September 30. General registration is first come, first served. Visit the website for an application and complete guidelines.

halfalifepaperbackParticipants at all stages of development—from notebook scribblers to published novelists—are invited to attend a variety of morning workshops in fiction, poetry, songwriting, children’s literature, journalism, screenwriting, and creative nonfiction; afternoon panels in publishing & editing; and nightly readings & concerts.  All scheduled events are presented by celebrated and experienced writers and teachers, and open to full-time registrants. The conference welcomes any aspiring writer who wants to create new work or refine a project already in progress.

Sanibel Island Writers Conference, Reed Hall 111, Florida Gulf Coast University, 10501 FGCU Boulevard South, Fort Meyers, FL 33965-6565. (239) 590-7421. Tom DeMarchi, Conference Director.

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Deception and corruption reign in White’s latest SW Florida thriller

Deceived, by Randy Wayne White. G. P. Putnam’s Sons. 352 pages. $26.95 hardcover.

This second installment in Mr. White’s Hannah Smith series, following the powerhouse debut of “Gone,” is totally satisfying. A reader with high expectations is easily disappointed; this reader had a delightful time getting to know Hannah better and being frightened, along with her, by mysterious and cruel events that test her courage and determination.  DECEIVEDbyRandyWayneWhite

There is a little corner of coastal Southwest Florida, not far from Sanibel Island, that has a troubled history and a threatened present. It’s officially known as Sulfur Wells. Hannah tells her curious fishing clients that the row of tiny tin-roofed cottages is known as Munchkinville . One of these men, a member of the important Chatham family, collects antique fishing equipment; the other, good-looking Joel “Rance” Ransler, at first hides his identity as special prosecutor for the county. What are these men really fishing for, underdeveloped real estate?

More than a few strange things are happening. Hannah’s mother, Loretta, is concerned that her good friend Rosannah “Pinky” Helms can’t be located. Soon, Hannah goes out to PInky’s dilapidated home and – though threatened by ferocious dogs and a crazed, axe-wielding man – finds that Pinky has been murdered.

Is there any connection between this murder and the unsolved murder of Pinky’s late husband many years ago?

Randy Wayne White

Randy Wayne White

Some of Loretta’s valuable possessions, which had be put in the custody of the Helms family, have disappeared. Is there a connection between their disappearance and the pamphlets describing an organization called “Fisherfolk of South Florida” which touts a “Preserve Our Heritage” motto? It seems as if the elderly locals are being scammed by a scheme that invites donations of their family heirlooms to fund a local heritage museum. The scammers push the idea that the donors can get tax benefits from the government that is usually busy regulating their livelihoods – like fishing –out of existence.

And what’s that monstrous building looming alongside of Loretta’s modest home and grounds? How did bad neighbor and shady shrink Dr. Candor, psychiatric clinic and rehab center entrepreneur, have a bunch of zoning codes waived for that edifice? And where are the remains of the historic Indian shell mounds that were demolished to level the land? . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the August 28, 2013 Fort Myers Florida Weekly, the August 29 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte editions, and the September 5 Palm Beach Garden / Jupiter edition, click here: Florida Weekly – White’s “Deceived”

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White’s 20th Doc Ford adventure is one of the best

Night Moves, by Randy Wayne White. Putnam. 368 pages. $26.95.

In 1945, five Navy torpedo bombers called Avengers took off from Fort Lauderdale and disappeared on a mission named Flight 19. The planes and fourteen men vanished, to become transformed into legend and into the search objective of many treasure hunters and other adventurers who’d want credit, fame, and who knows what else by solving the mystery.

Now, almost seventy years later, Doc Ford, his drug-enhanced ethereal buddy Tomlinson, and veteran pilot Dan Futch are flying over the Everglades to test Dan’s theory of where the planes went down. A mechanical failure leads do an emergency landing, after which Dan discovers that the seaplane was sabotaged to fail. NIGHTMOVEScover

Who would want to do such a thing? Is someone simply after Dan Futch? Or are there people who would like to see this particular quest fail? Why? Are there competitors who hope to claim discovery rights for the long-gone aircraft? Or is the saboteur actually after Tomlinson, who has been tempting fate by romancing the gorgeous, semi-crazed Cressa Arturo, a wealthy married woman on the edge of divorce?

But wait, Tomlinson has also made an enemy of Kondo Ogbay, a Haitian narcotics overlord. Could Ogbay have arranged the mechanical breakdown to injure or kill Tomlinson? Or just to threaten him?

Whatever is going on in Doc Ford’s world, a lot of it is being surreptitiously photographed.


As the pursuit of evidence about the missing Avengers moves forward, the plot population grows. We meet a jet-set assassin with at least two names who alternately snubs, threatens, and befriends Doc Ford. This handsome, dashing fellow, at once Brazilian and Germanic, is a history buff who would greatly enjoy being in on the Flight 19 search action. Mr. White skillfully builds the grudging respect that Doc and this elite killer (a kind of alter ego for Doc) have for one another.

Night Moves has a wide range of integrated details that enrich the readers’ sense of context and culture without being ultimately necessary to the plot. Information about a Native American Bone Field in the Everglades, concerns about illegal fishing techniques, and even a narrative thread that exploits the increase in the region’s population of large exotic snakes all show Randy Wayne White’s skills in weaving a hugely interesting tapestry of environmental and atmospheric complexity. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the March 27, 2013 Fort Myers Florida Weekly, the March 28 Naples edition, the April 11 Charlotte County edition, and the May 2 Palm Beach County/Jupiter edition, click here Florida Weekly – Night Moves 1 and here Florida Weekly – Night Moves 2

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In White’s latest, Doc Ford’s adventure runs aground

“Chasing Midnight,” by Randy Wayne White. Putnam. 336 pages. $25.95

Like some other recent novels in the Doc Ford canon, this latest thriller deals in painstaking detail with a very brief time period and – almost literally – a ticking clock. When environmental do-gooders, some of them crazed, manage to inject themselves into a secret meeting of kingpins in the beluga sturgeon (caviar) industry, Ford and his buddy Tomlinson discover that there is a plot to blow up the meeting and, perhaps, a large boat carrying a huge tank filled with a new sturgeon breed. 

The explosion is set for midnight.

The men holding the meeting are competitors, and one of them claims that his new breed will revolutionize the industry by replacing the threatened beluga that is nearing extinction from overfishing.  The ultra-extreme environmentalists, actually rank amateurs at terrorist doings, take control of the meeting and threaten to kill people off – one an hour – until their demands are met. At midnight, the time for capitulation runs out.

Ford and Tomlinson conceive a plan of investigation and counteraction that just about exhausts the clock, but then discover that the extremists had set their timed explosive on West Coast time. The adventure is then reset for three more hours of action-filled exploits and heart-pounding suspense.

For several reasons, the formula in “Chasing Midnight” produces a less exciting, less rewarding result than Mr. White’s readers have previously enjoyed. More has become less as readers encounter excessive repetition of boat-driving maneuvers, employments of a heat-sensitive optical device, descriptions of weaponry, and examples of Ford’s skills of improvisation and calculation. Every step shouts its importance in a way that levels them all so that, after a while, none seems important.

Randy Wayne White

 In addition, who Ford is and why we should care about him are not sufficiently developed, especially for initiates to the series.

The cast of grotesques with whom Ford and Tomlinson are at war seems overdrawn.  It is hard not to want to laugh at the threat provided by the dwarfish, unstable Neinabor brothers and the dead brother who supposedly speaks through one of them.  Their associates in do-gooder terrorism seem even less equipped to battle the forces of the wily Russian named Viktor Kazlov and the other menacing overlords who constitute the “big four” of the beluga caviar trade.  Individually interesting, there are just too many of them (along with bodyguards and other underlings) to focus and hold attention. . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the May 9, 2012 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly and in the May 10 Naples, Bonita Springs, and brand new Viera/Suntree editions, click here: Florida Weekly – RWWhite pdf 1 and continue here: Florida Weekly – RWWhite pdf 2. It also appears in the May 17, 2012 Palm Beach Gardens/Jupiter edition.

Other books by RWW are reviewed elsewhere on this site. Use the search box to find them on the right-hand column to find them.

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Sanibel and Captiva history come alive in new book

“Historic Sanibel & Captiva Islands: Tales of Paradise,” by Jeri Magg. History Press. 128 pages. $19.99.

Southwest Florida’s coastal islands are among the state’s – and the nation’s – most enjoyable treasures. Sanibel and Captiva are particularly colorful both in their fascinating histories, their natural beauty, and in their present-day balance of old and new. Jeri Magg’s new book provides a wide array of insights and anecdotes about what makes these places special. It also provides fifty black and white images to help engage our imaginations. 

The author’s plan is traveler-friendly. After a concise, general overview of the region’s history, Ms. Magg pins her exploration to two maps –one for each island. The maps number and name almost fifty places of interest (sometimes merely crossroads or historic buildings), and the names and numbers then head her larger and smaller narrative treatments. These sections and sub-sections are in themselves chronologically organized. With this book in hand, one can make one’s way around the islands and soak up information about colorful personalities and changing times.

The history stretches back hundreds of years to a time when the Calusa Indians built shell mounds on the islands, when Spaniards and later Cubans wrestled for influence and dominance. Later, enterprising individuals from around the colonies (and then the states) struck out for opportunities to enjoy and exploit the natural beauties, the fertile soil, and the bountiful marine life.

Those of us who live in Southwest Florida and other desirable, once-obscure locations, know the story of the constant struggle between the forces of conservation and so-called progress, between privacy and exclusivity on the one hand and population growth/development on the other.  In many of her vignettes, Jeri Magg presents versions of this paradigmatic story. Indeed, the famous lighthouse on Sanibel (that has undergone so many technological changes) can be said to stand for the tension between a place being marked out – being put on the map for safety and convenience – and a place screaming “notice me” and being overrun.

Jeri Magg

The detailed stories Ms. Magg tells of transportation to and from the islands – from private commercial piers to ferry boats to the causeway – are filled with this kind of tension. Make it easy to get there and people will come, and then more people will come, and then . . . you’re stuck in traffic and surrounded by noises that drown out the ripple of surf and the sea breezes.

Stories of postal service, eateries, schools and churches, important homesteads (like that of George W. Carter), agricultural enterprises, and resorts come laden with their casts of characters. We learn about Jake Summerlin, lighthouse keepers Dudley Richardson and Henry Shanahan, the Kinzie family’s steamship line, and postmistress Laetitia Nutt. We enjoy tales of the pioneer families like the Bryants and somewhat more recent families like the Lindgrens, the Matthews, and the Baileys. We witness the slow march of technology as it modernizes life on the islands. . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the March 7, 2012 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the March 8 Naples edition, click here: Florida Weekly – Jeri Magg

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A fateful mission, a powerful vision

“Night Vision,” by Randy Wayne White. Putnam. 368 pages. $25.95.

In the 18th installment of Randy Wayne White’s Doc Ford mystery series, the artistic stakes are higher than they’ve ever been. The rich amalgam of sensibilities that the author has fused together raises his new novel several notches above the genre expectations that Mr. White has always satisfied with cunning and passion. His portrait of a Guatemalan girl on the edge of adolescence, a true believer on a fateful mission, is startling and emotionally stirring. It is also spiritually uplifting. “Night Vision” goes way beyond tough guy action (Ford is the only cerebral marine biologist action figure you’re ever likely to meet), yet there is plenty of that, too. 

In a squalid Southwest Florida mobile home park called Red Citrus, a young girl named Tula witnesses the park manager dumping a corpse into a polluted lake.  The man, Harris Squires, is a steroid junky body-builder and all-around creep, and his girlfriend Frankie is even worse. Together, they run a steroid brew factory and are involved with several other criminal enterprises including prostitution, snuff flicks, and human trafficking. Squires knows that Tula has seen him, and he needs to silence her.

Tula has traveled on her own from Guatemala hoping to find her mother and other relatives. She is convinced that their decision to fracture family life for the illusion of financial betterment has been misguided. She wants to bring them home, restore them to themselves. A wise, disciplined, worshipful young person, Tula believes that she receives advice and direction for Joan of Arc, her patron saint.  Tula’s magnetic personal power affects those around her; she immediately becomes a spiritual guide to other Red Citrus residents, especially those who share her Mayan ancestry. Many feel that Tula herself is a saint.

Tula is befriended by Doc Ford’s close buddy Tomlinson, and both of them become involved in an effort to rescue her once Squires has stolen her away. The main plot describes this rescue effort, the menacing criminal underworld with which Squires is associated, the Hispanic immigrant communities in Southwest Florida (especially Immokalee), and a new romantic interest for Ford . 

Randy Wayne White by Wendy Webb

Doc Ford has to apply all his skills as a well-trained undercover agent and assassin to put down the bad guys and rescue Tula. Just how he does it – the technical details, the adrenalin firepower, and the ferocious imagery – is what keeps readers glued to Mr. White’s words.

In each of Doc Ford’s recent adventures, Randy Wayne White has portrayed a man who is increasingly thoughtful and increasingly self-aware. Also, Ford sensibilities are continually being broadened and deepened. These aspects of characterization complement the high-energy, literally explosive action that never misfires.

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the February 16, 2011 issue of Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the February 17 issue of Naples Florida Weekly, click here: Florida Weekly – Randy Wayne White 2

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Sanibel Author’s Guide to Paradise

“Living Sanibel: A Nature Guide to Sanibel and Captiva Islands,” by Charles Sobczak. Indigo Press. 498 pages. $26.95.

A lavishly produced coffee table book and an authoritative, user-friendly field guide, Charles Sobczak’s “Living Sanibel” is also a labor of love. Twenty-five years ago, Mr. Sobczak and his wife moved to his treasured island from the Midwest. He explored its soul – its inner nature – with his first title, the novel “Six Mornings on Sanibel” (1999). Now, six titles later, he has explored its body – its outer nature.

Although Mr. Sobczak apologizes for what he has had to leave out, he erred on the side of being utilitarian rather than encyclopedic. Who would want to carry three volumes around to become intimate with the flora and fauna of those delightful islands off the Lee County coast? This single volume manages to cover its subject generously and with passionate attention.

To read the entire review, as it appears in the March 31-April 6 2010 issue of Fort Myers Florida Weekly, click on Florida Weekly – Charles Sobczak. This review appeared four weeks later in the Naples Florida Weekly. 

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BOOK BEAT 24 – Charles Sobczak

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times   December 27, 2006-January 2, 2007

by Philip K. Jason

When Sanibel realtor Charles Sobczak founded Indigo Press to publish his first novel, Six Mornings on Sanibel (1999), he was issued ten ISBN numbers. Sobczak has managed the risks and rewards of self-publishing so well that he will soon have to apply for more. As 2006 comes to a close, he has now five books in print plus two special editions. And this inventive author is a long way from running out of ideas, whether for the books themselves or for marketing them effectively.

Six Mornings, which has sold an astounding 21,000 copies, tells of the therapeutic interaction between Carl, a long-time Sanibel resident now in his twilight years, and Richard, a burnt-out alcoholic Midwesterner reluctantly on vacation. The recently-widowed older man needs someone to listen to his tales; the vacationer needs to redirect his life and recommit to the values he once held as a young man. The interchange presents fishing lessons and life lessons that, along with the Sanibel setting, move both men toward spiritual restoration.

Sobczak’s second novel, Way Under Contract, has much more of a satirical bite. It has been labeled a black comedy about the real estate business, particularly as it exists down here in Southwest Florida. Sobczak crafts into a compelling narrative the many quirks of the business while ultimately encouraging a more respectful attitude toward the world we live in. In 2001, this book won the Patrick D. Smith Literary Award, which is given by the Florida Historical Association for a book that depicts some aspect of Florida life in a most effective way. It, too, has sold quite well over the years, aided in 2004 by the coincidence of a phenomenon named Hurricane Charley, which brought special interest to the regional real estate market and to the fragility of this man-made Paradise.

Rhythm of the Tides is a compilation of Sobczak’s newspaper columns, along with selected short stories, essays, and poetry. It is a kind of Charles Sobczak sampler, and thus a good way to become familiar with the concerns and techniques of this versatile writer as they have developed over the years. Sobczak has packaged his first three books together in a bound collection called Island Writings. This collection is published in a general edition and a special Sanibel Island edition.

In 2003 came A Choice of Angels. This novel grows, in part, out of a visit Sobczak and his wife made to Istanbul in 2001. It centers on a romance that invited a clash of cultures, as a young Muslim woman who is an international exchange student meets the son of a Baptist minister at a small Georgia college. The damage caused by religious intolerance is treated with subtlety and precision in this exploration of contemporary political and religious issues. Though the manuscript was completed before 9/11, it seems as if the book speaks to that event and its aftermath. The author weaves background and foreground together skillfully, always making sure that the authenticity of his characters is not sacrificed to the need for exposition. 

Alligators, Sharks, & Panthers is Charles Sobczak’s most recent effort. Published last month, its theme is in its subtitle: “Deadly Encounters with Florida’s Top Predator – Man.” This, Sobczak’s first book-length piece of nonfiction, is a compendium of information on the confrontations between humans and other predators in our state. The book unfolds in brief sections, alternating fact-laden chunks with chunks of narration that illustrate these confrontations, most often revealing how they either were man-provoked or provoked by human ignorance.

Each of the major predators named in the title gets a separate chapter, and each chapter follows the same pattern. First comes an exposition on the animal itself: its nature, its evolution, its situation in Florida in the 21st century. This information is followed by a miscellany of stories – often news items – and warnings that underscore Sobczaks’ theme. The fourth chapter is on man, figured as the planet’s unwitting destroyer. In chapter five, the ecological problems that human activities bring to our home state are outlined in detail. As the book progresses, Sobczak presents more and more information about what we can do to alleviate these problems.

Finally, the book is an impassioned plea for understanding and action. Amazingly, it sold 1,200 copies in its first thirty days in print! Environmentalists and conservationists are, of course, buying the book. But so are tourists and teenage boys.

One thing that distinguishes Charles Sobczak from most self-published authors is his marketing savvy. His books do not stay in storage, and they do not remain secrets. He knows how to promote them, and he is not lazy about putting in the necessary effort to get them to and through the distributors and stores and into the hands of readers. But these efforts would not succeed if the books themselves were not worthy of attention. So far, with 34,000 Indigo Press books sold, he is batting 100%.

You can find and order Sobczak’s books in most area bookstores and online. They are usually well-stocked in Mina Hemingway’s Florida Bookstore at the Pavilion Shopping Center. Also, see indigopress.net.

Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy.  A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club. Send him your book news at pjason@aol.com.

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