At the Largo Library, on April 25, 1987, more than 25 people attended the first organizational meeting of what was to become known at PINELLAS WRITERS. Founders Jan Fletcher (reference librarian) and writer Jean Vanderplas, were the sparkplugs for the fledgling group, which met only sporadically for the first few months, then changed to the weekly format still used today. That same year, the first monthly newsletter was mailed to members.
In September 1990, when the Largo Library was renovated, the club lost its meeting space, moving to the Highland Recreation Center in Largo, then later transferring to the Largo Community Center. The organization currently meets at the Largo Southwest Recreational Center on Vonn Road.
For decades, members have met nearly every Saturday morning. PINELLAS WRITERS was then, and still is, the largest writers’ group in Pinellas County. Early on, it focused on guest speakers, but, after a few years, changed its focus due to increasing demand for time devoted to critiquing. By 1993, business discussions were seriously cutting into the time for critiquing, and a seven-person board of directors was formed to manage the organization’s affairs. Because board membership is staggered over three-year terms, annual elections are held. The Board selects the officers.
Formal by-laws were created in 1995, and, in 2003, the club was incorporated in Florida as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization. Although it officially began under the name “Pinellas Authors and Writers Organization,” and was widely known for decades as “PINAWOR” (an acronym of our formal name), in 2015, it registered the d/b/a PINELLAS WRITERS, under the belief that the public name should better describe what it is and what it does.
Membership over the decades has fluctuated, with a high of 120 members and an average attendance of 30-40 in about 2007. Professionalism has increased, and members include published authors in fiction and non-fiction, and in many genres, including novels, short stories, articles, memoirs, poetry, and plays.
PINELLAS WRITERS has evolved into a 21st Century critique group professional in its attitudes and accomplishments, offering writing classes to members as well as to the general public. Today the newsletter is distributed electronically instead of being mailed. The club maintains a website (pinellaswriters.org), where it strives to be a resource for all writers, by announcing writing contests, and by posting articles on writing techniques and craft, and on publishing. PINELLAS WRITERS is active on social media, including Facebook and Meetup, with many followers.
Yet, even today, PINELLAS WRITERS carefully guards the traditions of its past. Members still receive excellent oral craft-oriented critiquing at weekly meetings. And, its Holiday Party still is a wonderful event at which members are free to read with no critiquing, and are—without exception—honored by enthusiastic applause.
In sum, we are proud of our history and look forward to continuing on, decade after decade, with our focus still as it was at the beginning—to help writers perfect their craft and achieve success, however they as individuals may define it.