John Pelot, who writes about travelers in time, took a little trip himself.

It was a simple excursion, nothing like the complex comings and goings of the characters in his books. He’s written three in the self-dubbed genre of alternative history.

This was straightforward, a telling of the past and present of the Peace River Center for Writers at Florida SouthWestern State College in Punta Gorda.

The college educator has seen it when it was a poet’s corner and when it carried 400 members and represented a larger stage for writers of all genres. He presides over it in its most recent incarnation as a clearinghouse for the care and feeding of those whose canvas is a blank page. Dues are $35 a year.

The only requirement is a desire to start writing.

“This is for anyone interested in or appreciates writing,” Pelot said.

It also publishes works through the Peace River Press. The press has put out five books, including two anthologies of local poets.

“We started a press because we wanted to put out books by local people who deserve to be published,” Pelot said.

“We’ve done all kinds of things,” he continued, clicking off workshops and seminars, readings and formal and informal critiques. Peter Meinke, the poet laureate of Florida, has read for the center.

According to its Facebook page ( riverwriters), it is “dedicated to writers and to the written word. Through an array of educational and informational programs, services and events, the center aims to provide support for those wishing to pursue the craft of writing in any form.”

“We’re a place to help both young and polished writers work at their craft,” said Pelot, who teaches creative writing and other written word courses at FSW. He includes his student’s in the center’s activities.

The center was founded by poet Carol Mahler in 1992. Punta Gorda attorney Michael Haymans, a member of the original board of directors and a former board president, remembers:

“The idea was to provide a galvanizing community force around which writers could organize for support and continuing education,” he said.

For years, the center’s headquarters was in History Park in Punta Gorda. Sometime after Hurricane Charley hit in 2004, it was moved to the college.

“Although the center has now found itself in the comfort and continuing support of an educational institution, it was intended as a community organization that interacted with and supplemented the educational institutions,” Haymans said. “It still serves the basic concept, and has the potential to blossom into the wider community again. It is and can continue to be a publishing house for our community.”

The center offers a continuing newsletter as well as connections with such groups as Writers on the Air, an online writing group and writing workshop; the Writers Tea critique, which meets at the Charlotte County Library on Aaron Street; and the Veterans Initiative for Therapeutic Arts, a new nonprofit dedicated to promoting veterans in the arts.

Pelot is a fifth-generation Floridian who took a detour through North Carolina before settling in Burnt Store Isles 20 years ago. He’s been teaching at FSW for 20 years, long enough to have been an instructor for at least one mother and her daughter. His wife, Martha, is a poet.

Pelot’s ebooks, “2021,” “The Parsifal Effect,” and “Under Leviathan,” are available on Amazon.


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