It was 1987.
With a thriving public relations firm in New York, Art Stevens had purchased a condo in which to spend holidays and vacations on Sanibel Island.
As a way to settle into his part-time island community, Stevens began to read the Island Reporter each week. He took notice of the columns, such as Movie Memories written by Clif Potter or Maggie's Memories by Margaret Mickle and With A Grain of Salt by Ginni Brown.
After having written a book on the public relations industry and a few guest articles, Stevens wrote a humorous opinion piece titled "A Conversation With My Cat," which was published in the New York Times. Thinking it would be fun to write a humorous column each week, Stevens approached the Island Reporter editor with his op-ed piece.
"I got a call right away," Stevens remembers. "She loved it and wanted to run it."
With that phone call, Shell Shocked was born. Stevens went to work writing about topics that were relatable to islanders and visiting readers, but with a humorous twist. Throughout the past 25 years, Stevens has given readers his take on various subjects from a frog in the toilet to Sanibel traffic during tourist season and serious topics like the presidential debates.
"It is my way of contributing to Sanibel," Stevens said of writing Shell Shocked. "I'm happy to play a part among the Islander columnists."
While Stevens' imagination and creativity spill into his column, he strives to give readers something to smile about each week. That is what it's all about for Stevens: Making people smile.
"I don't tell jokes," said Stevens about his sense of humor, which he has also found helpful in his professional life. "I often use humor with (PR) clients to help them feel at ease."
Even though he understands life can be tough at times, Stevens believes everyone should pause and find the humor in life, too. As for who Stevens thinks is funny, his favorite comedian is the late stand-up comedian George Carlin.
"(Carlin) was witty and poked fun at things," Stevens said.
Shell Shocked can be found each week in the Sanibel-Captiva Islander, along with Anita Force Marshall's What's Blooming in Paradise, a gardeners journey; Poetic License by Joe Pacheco; and during season Marsha Wagner's Center Stage, where readers can find theater reviews.
"This column has been a labor of love," Stevens said.
He enjoys hearing feedback from readers. After 25 years, Stevens believes Shell Shocked has gained loyal readership. Here is to the next 25 years!