The Naples Writers’ Workshop Winter Session

I’m launching my first paid writing workshop as a way to serve seasonal residents in Naples — and as a way to make some money doing what I love most.

For the past three years, I have overseen a free writing workshop for local writers working on fiction and literary nonfiction. About six months ago, we began a second group for novel writers.

But with so much interest from seasonal Floridians, I decided to start a 13-week paid workshop beginning in January. This way, Neapolitans who aren’t here year round but still want to partake in a workshop can have a place to share their writing and learn some skills along the way.

The session has a set curriculum and three speakers, and will culminate in a public reading. Registration is now open.

Our speakers this year are author Artis Henderson whose memoir Un-remarried Widow chronicles her life after losing her husband Miles in the Iraq war.

Ben Bova is the author of more than 120 science fiction and science nonfiction books. He’s also a six-time winner of the Hugo Award.

And Thomas Dunne is a publisher at St. Martin’s Press where he has overseen an imprint by his own name since 1986.

For $250, you’ll get 13 weeks of instruction, attendance to all three speakers and time to share your work with fellow workshop members. If you’re interested, please email me for details.

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Recent Freelance Work

I still make it a point to do the occasional feature on the side, as a way of keeping up my freelance chops. Here are links to a few recent clips. Recent seems like a loose term, given that I started one of these stories back in January. But that’s how magazine deadlines roll!

The Burlesque Dancer Next Door

This story featured the two founders of a burlesque amateur dance group in Naples. The magazine ran the submitted art as its cover and also gave it good play inside.

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Artist Dana Roes Goes Under The Surface

This was a fun and interesting profile about a local artist whose modern, abstract work was a challenge for me to write about and describe. I think I managed, and the accompanying photos happened to be shot by a friend of mine, Michelle Tricca.

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Photo by Michelle Tricca, featuring artist Dana Roes. This image ran in Gulfshore Life magazine in October. 

Winning My First Fiction Contest

Each year Florida Weekly holds a writing contest using photos as prompts. I submitted a story this year after a Naples Writers’ Workshop member suggested we all compete. I was shocked to learn I won out of the more than 250 submissions. My prize was a ticket to the Sanibel Island Writers Conference the first weekend in November.

Attending the conference was another first for me, and now I’m sold on the paid writing workshops. I spent the weekend taking lessons from local and national published writers and attended the panels and readings they offered. Budget permitting, I’m hoping to make writing conferences a regular thing.

You can read my winning submission through Florida Weekly. Read about their contest, too.

Plus, learn more about the Sanibel conference.

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This is one of two photographs that served as prompts for the writers from Key West to Alberta, Canada, who submitted a total of 256 entries in the 2017 Florida Weekly Writing Challenge. BETTY WELLS / FLORIDA WEEKLY

Cold case cracked 25 years later

On Friday, we got a press release about a woman whose body was found in the Everglades back in 1990. For 25 years she went unidentified as the victim of a homicide. Then this summer, forensics experts in Texas matched her DNA to that of a woman whose mother went missing around the same time.

The Aug. 1, 2015 issue of the Naples Daily News.

The Aug. 1, 2015 issue of the Naples Daily News.

The story I wrote for Saturday’s paper details the gruesome discovery of the body by a group of prison workers who were repairing a road through Big Cypress National Preserve that day in August when they discovered the woman.

The woman, Patricia Minnis, was reported missing from Turlock, California in 1992. I wasn’t able to contact any surviving family members, but I did interview ones of the former prisoners who found her body that day. It made for a compelling lead.

Deputies here say they have a person of interest in the case but no arrests have been made.

Our writers group

A couple of months ago, I started a writing blog along with fellow reporter Jessica Lipscomb.

Each week, a group of Naples Daily News reporters meets to talk about how a reporter pulled off a story that we read and liked. Hence the name of our blog: storieswereadandliked.com.

Jessica and I take turns interviewing the journalists behind the stories for more insight into how they reported and wrote each piece. Often, the stories are narrative or long-form, but we’ve also looked at daily stories and columns.

So far the group has been pretty productive, and the blog is our way of sharing what we discuss for those who can’t attend in person. Check it out!

New radio segment

For the past few weeks, I’ve been recording a two-minute radio spot to be used on B103.9’s internet radio station.

This week, I started a new weekly spot for Fox News 92.5. Each Thursday at 7:38 a.m., I’ll call in to the local radio station to give an update of Collier County news and the biggest stories we’ve had that week.

This is a podcast of the first recording.

SPJ winners

Got word this weekend that a team of Naples Daily News reporters won the breaking news category for our division in the 2014 SPJ Awards.

Our submission involved coverage of former U.S. Congressman Trey Radel’s admission of drug use and the subsequent fallout.

Reporters in our newsroom went to D.C. to follow the Congressman there as well as to his local campaign headquarters and home.

My job in the weeks after was to approach Radel at his treatment facility where he was admitted for drug rehab as the public called for his resignation

Congrats to fellow reporters Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Jacob Carpenter and Eric Staats. Here’s the full list of winners.

Latest clips

I recently spent about eight hours with photographer Dania Maxwell visiting with employees of 24-hour establishments following a rash of armed robberies at Waffle Houses in Lee County.

The employees we talked to recounted the nights they were robbed at gunpoint and talked about how they were scared to return to work. The story ran A1 Sunday above the fold and I had some good feedback about the writing specifically.

Another recent highlight is my story about alligator activity in the county. As the weathe warms up, these reptiles start wandering and calls from scared residents start pouring in.

In other crime news, I’ve written about the arrest of an accused child abuser, a teacher accused of having sex with a student, a low-income RV park that’s making its residents leave, and a woman caught living in a storage unit with a young child.

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Recent highlights

I can’t believe I’m about to wrap up another year at the Naples Daily News. I started in August 2011 and already 2013 is slipping away.

Here are a few recent clips from the last month. Again, we’ve got that paywall, but you’ll get the idea.

1) A brief encounter with U.S. Congressman Trey Radel at his rehab facility the day after local political leaders called for his resigation.

2) A daughter reels from the loss of her 91-year-old mother who was killed in a car crash a block from her home. The other driver is facing charges of reckless driving and vehicular homicide.

3) Friends of a college student jailed on murder charges speak out after a drug deal goes wrong.

4) Wannabe Santa gets jammed in the chimney then sent to jail after trying to break into a Naples home.

5) A Kentucky artist spends three weeks in Big Cypress National Preserve through a residency program.

6) A few vignettes about locals who are part of national statistics that show the popularity of tattoos is increasing.