What People are Saying

"The Gulf Coast Writers Conference is a fabulous opportunity for writers at all levels of experience -- just beginning, newly published, seasoned veteran -- to work on their craft, renew their commitment and get practical advice. The environment is upbeat and energetic. The supportive faculty and staff do everything possible to help you succeed."
Jim Huang, Editor, Publisher, Bookseller, The Mystery Company and Crum Creek Press

“What a great group of people. Everyone is so warm and giving -- and above all, inspiring.”
Cricket Freeman, Literary Agent, The August Agency

"Well run, entertaining, and absolutely enlightening -- The Gulf Coast Writers Conference is a day worth traveling for. If you're local, it's a must." Jim Pascoe, Publisher, Uglytown, author of UNDERTOWN

"I was honored to serve as the keynote speaker at the Gulf Coast Writers'
Conference, which provided supportive but concrete and specific advice and
feedback to writers at all levels." - Alafair Burke

"The Gulf Coast Writers Conference provides a wonderful opportunity to discuss writing and publishing in a supportive environment with people who really know the business." Ben LeRoy, Editor, Bleak House Books


Anthology Offers Outlet

By Laura Stevens

Writers and artists living and working in the Panhandle now have an outlet with which to express themselves.
“I'm a native of Panama City and am amazed with the myth that the Panhandle is culturally deprived,” said Bette Powell, one of the editors of the anthology postcards from Pottersville. “The Panhandle is rich with talented people, people who understand artistic integrity and daily hone their crafts.”

In an effort to boost recognition of the region's writers, artists and photographers, the Wewahitchka based Pottersville Press recently released its second annual collection of Postcards from Pottersville.

Writers from around the area submitted short stories, essays, photographs and line drawings for consideration. A board of editors that included Powell, publisher Michael Lister and Gulf Coast Community College professor Lynn Wallace made selections.

“We tried to find an underlying connection to all the pieces,” Lister said of the selection process.
Wallace, listed as editor of the anthology, said the editorial staff was very selective.

“Many local publications accept a great deal of material, much of it middling in quality,” he said. “We accepted works based on their merits and that criteria alone.”

Powell said the staff had to make some tough decisions. “We were committed to maintaining that previous creative integrity with Volume 2, and were heartened by the quality of the work that came to us from various sources,” he said.

“I think we fulfilled a responsibility to provide an outlet for fine work,” Wallace said. Douglas Wells, also an English teacher at GCCC, was a contributor to the anthology. He said the collection has impressed him.

“Ther's some really high quality material in here,” Wells said. The book can even stand up to some anthologies he has read that accepted materials from writers and artist all over the nation, he said.

“The quality level of both volumes is as high as anything I've seen come out of the Panhandle,” Powell said. “There are extraordinarily gifted and skilled people represented, many of whom are previously published and prize-winning.”

In a time when writers find it extremely difficult to be published, Lister said Postcards from Pottersville is a way to help writers from this region.

“This is a way to give talented writers an outlet,” Lister said.

“Volume 2 is special for many reasons,” Powell said. “It contains work created by dedicated artist and writers, talented people who are committed to their crafts.”

Pottersville Press is currently accepting submissions for the next anthology. For more information or to order one of the books call 639-4848 or visit the Web site, www.michaellister.com


Literary Agent to Relate Publishing Ins And Outs

Cricket Pechstein of the Cricket Pechstein Literary Agency will be in Panama City for the third annual Gulf Coast Writers and Storytellers Conference. She will speak on how to get an agent, how to get published, and how to look for new clients. The conference will be at the St. Andrew Bay Seafood Restaurant, 3001 West 10th St., Saturday with registration beginning at 8:30 a.m. Sessions will run from 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. with a lunch break at midday.

“I really connect with writers,” Pechstein said. “For more than a decade I've banked on words to bring home the bacon, first as a writer, book editor, writing instructor, magazine editor, book designer, publicist, and then as an agent. You could say I've savored many pieces of the publishers pie.”

The annual conference sponsored by the Pottersville Press, offers a variety of know ledged speakers presenting interesting and informative workshops, lectures, and panel discussions, addressing different aspects of writing, editing, publication, and promotion.

“Past attendees and presenters have complimented our conference on being extremely informative and practical,” local writer and conference organizer, Michael Lister said. “We offer a warm friendly environment and dedicated presenters who are at the conference to serve, not to be served.

Joining literary agent Cricket Pechstein, are poet, novelist and writing professor, Lynn Wallace; fiction writer and English professor, Douglas Wells; fiction writer and News Herald columnist, Tony Simmons; novelist, film-maker, and story theologian, Michael Lister.

“Each participant adds great dimension and diversity to the total conference experience,” Lister said, adding, “Everyone who attends is not only a participant, but also a contributor to this celebration of art and craft.

The cost to attend the entire conference is $40 and $20 for an individual meeting or “pitch session” with literary agent Cricket Pechstein. For more information call 850-639-4946 or go to www.michaellister.com


Listen if you want to get it write

by Tony Simmons

Got the opportunity both to the point fingers and to explain myself last Saturday evening as one of the presenters at the inaugural Gulf Coast Storytellers Conference— paired with WMBB News Channel 13 anchorwoman Amy Hoyt, who has too many pets and loves to get email ([email protected]).

Other presenters discussed self-editing, the ingredients of a good tale, getting and keeping a literary agent and other topics of interest to people who take their writing seriously and wishes others would, too.

For our part, Mrs. Hoyt and I attempted to explain the news gathering process, how reporting relates to storytelling and how print and television are alike— and how they are different. We fielded questions about the way TV and print outlets find, assign and write stories, including the distinctly different editing processes.

Perhaps the nugget of the truth behind the reporting as it relates to storytelling was best expressed, however, by conference organizer, Michael Lister: “The writing life is the listening life”

Lister a former prison chaplain, listened well to the lives around him and used his observations in crafting Power In The Blood, a mystery novel about an ex-cop turned prison chaplain. Lister is also the founder of Pottersville Press, a small publisher dedicated to Panhandle-based storytelling.

“The value story imparts to each of our lives is immeasurable,” Lister said in notes introducing the conference. “It is what defines us and how we define our lives.” As we explore more deeply the impact story has upon us, we can more freely embrace its creative work in our lives.

If our have something to say, Pottersville Press wants to listen. It is searching for stories (and pictures that paint a thousand words) for its first “anthology of North Florida art” to be called Postcards from Pottersville.
Guidelines are:

Poems: 30-line limit

Fiction: short stories (3000 words or less); novel chapter or excerpt (3000 words or less).

Creative Non-Fiction: essays (2000 words or less); memoirs (3000 words or less).

Black-and-white images: drawings, mixed media or photographs.

Mail submissions to:
Contributing Editor Lynn
Wallace/ Pottersville Press,
P.O. Box 35038, Panama
City, FL 32412


Talking about a thing is not the thing itself

By Tony Simmons

Talking about writing isn't writing. Neither is writing about writing, although it might seem that way. It's a tricky thing. Don't be confused by the two.

(Doubly confusing is the idea that I'm writing about talking about writing. But there you are.)

That was what I got from one of the V-8 moments (you know, when the obvious stands revealed and you slap your forehead and go, “I knew that!”) that came out the recent Storytellers Conference at the St. Andrew Bay Seafood Restaurant.

It was a gathering of diverse personalities who love the written word and want to understand more about it. If I have to explain what I mean by that— by craving and understanding of the craft— then you probably wouldn't understand anyway. It's like a David Lynch film or a Heinlein novel. You either grok it or you don't.

People who meet to talk about writing are a subculture, like those who gather to compare their UFO photographs or channel the dead. We know there's something deeper than the printed page, and we know it can be expressed, and we scramble like zealots in the desert for the epiphany that will give us power to express whatever-it-is.

I'm not talking about poseurs and dabblers, who sip their flavored coffee in the café and scribble in their notebooks, who smoke tea and wear berets or something.

I'm talking about the obsessed, the possessed, the clinically insane.

In that vein , I had the pleasure of being a presenter at the conference, alongside author, Michael Lister, agent Cricket Pechstein, and Gulf Coast Community College professors (formidable writers both) Lynn Wallace and Doug Wells. Nobody got paid to be there. They did it because they had something to share.

We talked about approaches to fiction and nonfiction, finding inspiration , setting schedules, crafting queries, creating characters— all the fundamentals, as well as the business of the thing.

And we also talked about passion. That's something harder to quantify, like trying to take the measure of a moonbeam on a magnolia. You know it when you feel it, and you ache for it when you don't feel it. If you feel it more often than not, then you've been blessed.

And if any of this makes any sense to you, then you have condolences.

You just may be a frustrated writer, too.



A Celebration of Story

by Bette Powell

Michael Lister, that spiritual dynamo and founder of Pottersville Press, tossed me this assignment casually, like a plum from across the table. “And Bette, you can write a brief commentary on the Annual Gulf Coast Writers' and Storytellers' Conference.” Man. He might just as well have asked that I describe cobalt or my grandson's first belly laugh. I enjoy a challenge as well as the next woman, but trying to capture such enthusiasm, such dignity and diversity of purpose, commitment and camaraderie is surely beyond my limited skill.

The annual Gulf Coast Writers' and Storytellers' Conference is held every September for working writers, educators, the reading public, and to some who just come because they love us. Story is the guest of honor, and she comes dressed in chartreuse silk, gaudy with diamonds. To ensure that she is properly feted, only the most deserving of her statewide servants are invited to present on her behalf. Each session is inspired, well structured, and received by eager and responsive celebrants, their zeal for information snapping in the September air. There is an electricity, a strumming of excitement that resonates in conversation and in the faces of those greedy for information about Story. Story stirs us on this day, places her hand on each of our shoulders, and admonishes “Don't you dare forget me. I'm your autobiography.”

Special thanks are due our patrons, Bay Bank and Trust Company, The Carousel, and The Natural Light, as well as to tireless volunteers, our creative advertisers, all presenters, and to each celebrant. Michael and his Board of Directors bend at collective waists, palms together and fingertips to brows, whispering, “Thank you. Thank you all.”

See there? I can't describe cobalt, either - and my grandson's first belly laugh defies even the skill of Homer.