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Club offers home to budding, seasoned authors

Closet Hemingway or published author?

It makes no difference at the Lifelong Writers club.

Beginners and veterans, all genres, all levels come together to critique one another in an atmosphere of respect.

"Going to a Lifelong Writers meeting is like stepping into a warm bath," member Diane Masiello says. "It's comforting and relaxing and gives me the energy to persevere."

Lifelong Writers began at the University of South Florida in 1998. It was founded by the heads of the USF's English department and creative writing program and its director of Lifelong Learning.

The three thought the group would be a successful liaison between their educational outreach and English programs.

Today, 90 people draw moral support and practical information from the club.

"It's a top-notch writers club that offers the opportunity to be in quality publications, provides helpful critiquing, and establishes long-lasting friendships," says Angie Jones, a member for several years.

"It's a wonderful group," says facilitator Terra Pressler, who has been with the group since 1998 and is the author of Creative Juice, a self-help book for writers.

Pressler arranges speakers for the group's regular meetings, held the third Wednesday of each month in USF's continuing education building (known on campus as MHH) at 4202 E. Fowler Ave. For members who like to meet more often, there is also a smaller monthly meeting in St. Petersburg.

Martha Lakis, USF's coordinator of continuing education, takes care of the financial duties and publishes a biannual newsletter and "Palm Prints," an annual compilation of fiction and nonfiction. She also is administrator of the annual Suncoast Writers' Conference in St. Petersburg.

Pulitzer Prize winning author Norman Mailer will be the keynote speaker at the writers' conference this year. It will take place at USF-St. Petersburg from Feb. 6 to 8.

The cost for the writers' conference is $245, or $190 for students and teachers. For registration, call (813) 974-2403 or log on to the Web site:

_ For further information, contact USF Educational Outreach at (813) 974-2403.