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Imagine the opportunity to step into the life of your favorite author. And imagine that he shares with you his writing techniques and life experiences.

Hard to imagine? Not if the author is Randy Wayne White and you are one of the 20 aspiring and published writers who attended his writer’s workshop in March. When John Worth approached Randy about conducting a workshop to benefit the RRC, he immediately agreed. Randy set the broad parameters of the event, and let the RRC volunteers run with it.

group of people sitting at tables set up on a covered porch
Workshop participants gather on Randy White’s porch overlooking Pine Island Sound. Photo by Lana Swearingen

Lana Swearingen set about the task of organizing the event and coordinating volunteer help. Because it would be held at Randy’s house, registration was limited to 20 people. In no time, registration was closed, and a waiting list of hopefuls was started in case someone cancelled. No one did. Randy graciously donated the entire registration fee of $250.00 per person to the RRC.

Randy’s old Florida cracker-style house with its screened wrap-around porch overlooking Pine Island Sound was the perfect setting to stimulate creativity. To kick off the workshop and establish a relaxed atmosphere, the first evening centered around a sunset gathering. After everyone was introduced and mingled while enjoying refreshments, Randy led the way to the water’s edge for all to watch the setting sun. His first assignment was to write about a personal interaction with nature. Later the group would describe the sunset, which was as spectacular as their descriptions were diverse and original.

group photo of four people
Randy White and RRC volunteers at the Pineland headquarters; Left to right: Lana Swearingen, Randy White, Barb Thomas, Pat Blackwell. Photo by John Worth

The next two days were filled with moments of intense silence as the group tackled the writing assignments, bursts of energetic conversation as stories were shared, and always, Randy’s advice, encouragement, and tips on how to be a better writer. Some were novices, others published writers, but all were fans of Randy’s long before they heard about the workshop. Randy’s success as a New York Times best-selling author, his world adventures, and his charismatic personality make him a natural teacher. His porch became the focal point for discussion, but everyone was encouraged to grab their notebooks and pens, seek a spot that would stir the imagination, and write.

On Saturday, Randy invited Kevin Lollar of the Fort Myers News-Press to share his thoughts with the group. Kevin referred to an old Doobie Brothers song “Listen to the Music”, as he encouraged everyone to listen, and be part of the environment. He also told the group to “Do what Shakespeare does – take an old metaphor and make it new.”

On Sunday, the last day of the workshop, the RRC volunteers donated their time and cooking skills to prepare and serve a brunch for the writers. John Worth explained what the Randell Research Center is all about. The group was fascinated by the RRC’s programs, and the Calusa culture. Lana Swearingen conducted a tour of the Pineland site at the close of the workshop.

photo of sunset
Sunset over Pine Island Sound. Photo by Lana Swearingen

A special thanks goes to all the volunteers who helped make the workshop a resounding success, especially Barb Thomas, Diane Maher, Sydney Cosselman, Dave Hurst, Marty Kendall, Pat Blackwell, Gloria Andrews, Denege Patterson, and Gary Edwards. In addition, sincere thanks go to a number of local businesses that donated merchandise, including the Tarpon Lodge, Winn-Dixie, Publix, Sun Harvest Fruit Company, Bert’s Bar, Pine Bay Marina, Tropical Island Wear, and Pine Island Book Store.


This article was taken from the Friends of the Randell Research Center Newsletter Vol 2, No. 2. June 2003.