Claudia Volkman at the podium. Photo by Jeff Bogart

GCWA March Monthly Meeting Recap

Keynote Speaker: Sean Martinelli of NBC2 TV’s “Stories2Share”

Sean Martinelli, journalist and host of NBC2 TVs “Stories2Share,” was the speaker at Gulf Coast Writers Association’s meeting on Saturday, March 16, 2024. Attendance hovered near 50 and 17 members gathered for lunch at Bucketts in Fort Myers, with Martinelli joining in.

Childhood Dream Becomes Reality

Martinelli heard his calling long before he recognized what it would mean in his lifetime. As background, Martinelli admitted to being an unusual child. He dressed as Regis Philbin for Halloween at age nine and convinced his parents to drive him from Poughkeepsie, NY to visit the “Today Show” at age 12. He was enamored and obsessed with daytime TV and inspired by Oprah Winfrey and her positivity and impact.

Martinelli started his journalism career in Utica, NY. On the advice of a college professor, he wrote the ‘dark’ segments, interviewing people at their worst times as a general assignment reporter. He yearned to write about people at their best and took every opportunity to write positive features – and write them well.

Martinelli answered a job posting in 2018, joining NBC2 to launch “Stories2Share.” The series which airs Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 6:00 p.m. EST., focuses on unique and positive personal interest stories across Southwest Florida. The show is the most recognized franchise in Southwest Florida, winning multiple regional and statewide awards, Emmys, and a National Edward R. Murrow Award in 2022 and 2023!

Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things

During Martinelli’s presentation, he showcased three of his favorite episodes, describing the behind-the-scenes development of each. He also promoted StoryCorps to archive interviews with loved ones, as he did with his own grandfather. StoryCorps is NPR’s independent nonprofit, sharing select recordings with the public through podcast, animated shorts, digital platforms, and best-selling books.

Pitch Perfect

Among the nuggets Martinelli shared were the criteria he looks for that make for good pieces in any format, including those made of memorable moments and information that surprises the viewer (reader). Among the most interesting and appropriate for “Storie2Share” are those having a strong visual component, and of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Martinelli asked writers to look for the story behind the story and find the ones that make people laugh or cry, stories that connect people. He encouraged writers, “Now more than ever it’s important to expose the best in people.”

In closing, Martinelli quoted from a well-known speech about television journalism by Murrow, “This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and even it can inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise, it’s nothing but wires and lights in a box. Martinelli noted, “I do my best to not be ‘wires and lights in a box.’”

Martinelli answered questions and listened to a number of elevator speeches members had prepared, encouraging those present to email their elevator speeches to him. He advised authors to be sure they know where to pitch, exactly what they are pitching, and ensure its relevance to the targeted outlet.

Business items

1. New Executive Team Appointments

The following message was emailed to all GCWA members on Saturday, March 16th by Mary Charles.

Our new Program officer is Claudia Volkman, with Charley Valera as her teammate.

Our new Secretary is Christie Zarria. She replaces Jeanne Meeks, who has stepped up to be David Aiken’s teammate in Membership

Ed Donlin is our new Web Manager. Ed replaces Brian Devitt and Kesha Dreher, who have put so many hours into managing the migration into the new website. We are grateful for their tireless efforts to bring us to a new level in the online world. We’re all looking forward eagerly to the result of their work as the website is unveiled. Brian and Kesha have spearheaded that demanding initiative.

Heading up Communications is new member Sheryl Stillman. Sheryl will be supported by Cheryl Lynn Dratler and James Bennett. It takes three people to replace outgoing Communications officer Jeff Bogart, who brought a new level of professionalism and creativity to the job of communicating with the public. Jeff is leaving us to work on the board of his homeowners’ association. We will miss his energy and dedication.

Mike Cole, Claudia Geagan and I continue as Treasurer, Special Projects officer and president. That’s because no one else volunteered [and because Mike and Claudia are very good at their jobs]. Irene Smith, who was president for six years, handed the gavel to me at the last meeting of 2023. She leaves very big shoes to fill and now becomes a member of the Corporate Board of GCWA. We’re thrilled that Irene will continue to observe and advise our organization.

To all our outgoing officers, we offer enormous appreciation for the job you have done on behalf of Gulf Writers. Our survival after Covid-19 and Hurricane Ian was largely due to your efforts.

And to our incoming officers, we are delighted and grateful for your willingness to use your talents on our behalf. We have great confidence in you.

2. Skilled Photographer(s) Needed

Mary put out a plea for members willing to serve as a photographer during GCWA meetings and events. Please reach out to Mary if interested.

3. Tamiami Tale Tellers

With overlapping interest and mutual members, Mary encouraged GCWA members to support a special event by the Tamiami Tale Tellers on Thursday March 21 at 7:00 p.m. at the Alliance for the Arts. More news and information about the Tale Tellers will be forthcoming.

4. Ghostwriting Services Needed

A request came into GCWA for a writer to help an older adult write their story. Reach out to Mary if interested.

5. GCWA April Meeting – Saturday, April 20, 2024

Mary announced that the next general meeting, April 20 will be a session for members to work in groups to write during the session, based on famous song lyrics as writing prompts. More details will be sent ahead of the meeting.

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