Write Angles

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December 2011

Frank Norris [Benjamin Franklin Norris, Jr. 1870–1902] Frank Norris’s brief life coincided with social changes taking place during the Progressive Era of American history. His early career as a journalist for California newspapers and magazines took him to South Africa to report on the Boer war and later to Cuba for the Spanish-American war. His novels followed the literary movement of naturalism, writing in a “scientific” realism. These stories dealt with the effect of industrialization and the need for realistic economic and social reform, using characters set in California and a turn-of-the-century San Francisco.

“No art that is not in the end understood by the People can live or ever did live a single generation.”

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President’s Message…

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View from the Mountain Top
–Linda Brown 1 2 2 3 4 5 5 6 6 7

President’s message Book Review Four Critics A Writer’s Christmas Eve November Survey Results December Survey PR Plea Volunteer Corner Member News & Contest Last Word

I am at home recuperating from early November hip replacement surgery. While I have worked in a hospital twice in my life—first as a 16-year-old candy striper and in my early 20s as a dietary supervisor—this trip was my first as a patient. My goal for this new experience was to determine if I have what all writers are supposed to develop: keen observation skills. My first observation was that I did not have a desire to read the books I had brought with me. After a couple of days, I did read the 11 “light reading” magazines I checked out from the library. I contrasted my experience as a patient receiving care with my experiences as a worker in Corporate America. My first observation was that some 80 percent of the medical team and support staff spoke English as a second language. It was clear that without this personnel from other countries, the hospital would be acutely short-staffed.

Holiday luncheon invitation 8

12/3 Holiday Luncheon Grand Tavern

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On a felt-sense, the collective energy in a medical setting contrasted with what I called the high testosterone levels found in corporate corridors.

2/4 Workshop: Sascha Illyvich —Writing About Love from the Male Point of View 2/19 Speaker: Fred Setterberg —Writing a True Life Novel

At home, I find myself still competitive. I ask the home health nursing team how I am doing in contrast to other patients, especially those my age. I am pleased that my recovery is at 100 percent in occupational health recuperation and in the top 5–25 percent using other metrics.

I am miffed that the stay did not magically make my tendency to procrastination go away. Instead, I have found myself totally enjoying one of my favorite pastimes—reading. I am nearly finished with Empire of the Summer Moon, a nonfiction book published by Simon & Schuster about the fierce Comanches in Texas during the 18th and 19th centuries, before they were forced onto a reservation. I hear we had excellent speakers in October and November. Eva Merrick has a fabulous program planned for our holiday luncheon. Looking into next year, the 26th annual Fifth-Grade Story Contest kicks off in January and the awards will be in June. Jane Glendenning did an excellent job lining up speakers through May. The agenda time for the speaker will change slightly to allow more social time. Workshop prices will go up slightly next year. (Workshops and special events are the second source of revenues behind dues). Enjoy the holidays, keep writing, and see you next year.

Our monthly meetings are free and open to the public and feature a speaker, an author event, or both. Oakland Public Library West Auditorium 125 14th Street 94612

Entrance on Madison Street

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Book Review

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A Visit from the Goon Squad
–John Q. McDonald

The best novels tackle the Big Questions: life, death, the passage of time. Jennifer Egan telegraphs her intent in the opening epigraph by Marcel Proust, the master of deep dwelling upon Time and its effects on us. In this deft novel, which won Egan this year's Pulitzer Prize for fiction, the author takes us through the lives of a large number of characters, loosely and tightly interwoven across decades from the early 1970s to a decade in the not-too-distant future. First, we meet Sasha, out on a date with Alex and trying in vain to suppress her kleptomania. We go on to meet Sasha's boss, who runs a small record label in New York. We have episodes from Sasha's youth, high school days spent getting into the Mabuhay Gardens, a San Francisco punk hot spot in the early ‘80s. Then there are big time music executives, a safari in Africa, college kids finding their way in New York, and even a strangely convincing and moving Power Point chapter told from the point of view of Sasha's daughter. The story jumps back and forth in time, and skips perspective from one character to another. Yet there remains no doubt about the arc of these people's lives. Music and its business are constant features, and certainly the passage of time, from spirited childhood to old age and death. Its tone reminds one of the complex interactions of characters and plot in the works of Armistead Maupin. Egan's writing is often similarly light and accessible. This is a little deceptive, though. Egan provides a remarkable depth and sensitivity to Sasha’s existence in Time. One can feel the movement of time through the book and sense the confusion and regret that comes with age, as the world speeds up and inevitably passes us by. Regret, too, as we try to stay true to the people we thought we would become when we were young, while also making our individual attempts to stay a part of the world, which moves in sweeps of coincidence, feeling and chaos. Many of these chapters were previously published as stand-alone stories, and they read as tidy tales. Yet, Egan weaves them together, adding more material, so that the reader is left with the impression of a community, living in a communal novel, and with frequent notes of brilliance. A beautifully woven novel.
McDonald's review of Poor, Poor Ophelia by Carolyn Weston was in James Rosin’s book on the’70s TV show The Streets of San Francisco.

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Four Critics
—Al Levenson

When Jay Asher wrote Thirteen Reasons Why, he had a support/critique group who brought chapters for review to their regular meetings. Every writer I know who is serious about his work has a group of trusted writers who make you open wide and take your medicine. The writer does not get to explain or defend the work. After all, the reader tanning on Luquillo beach doesn’t get to ask the writer what he meant. Once the book was completed, Asher took another step somewhat different from what Jay Asher I’ve heard before. He chose four readers to read the book through and give their recommendations. The difference was that he did not ask them to read simultaneously, and he did not ask them to reread after he considered and executed their suggestions. He believes in Fresh Eyes. Yes, of course. He understands peer editors don’t read the second version with the same diligence as the first. So his final readers are consecutive. Jay chose his first reader to find errors. When you write a book over three years and do four or five major rewrites in that time, errors will creep in. The author forgets the hero had a Corvette in chapter 2 when he gave him a Mustang convertible in Chapter 17. His boyhood pet is a collie in chapter 7

(continued on page 3)

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–Tanya Grove

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‘Twas the night before Christmas, my deadline loomed near I promised I’d finish that novel this year The kids were asleep and the dogs were well fed My husband was happily snoring in bed My laptop was working, the printer was fine And I’d had a glass of my favorite wine I had no excuse, no reason at all Why rather than writing, I stared at the wall My fingers weren’t typing, my thoughts were not flowing I just didn’t know where my story was going The characters wandered, lost in a haze I had not written a word in ten days I’m always complaining I need time to write And here I was given my own silent night Back in late March I was filling up pages I guess inspiration goes through many stages Because by mid-April and surely by May My muse had jumped ship and swam far, far away Then in July when we went on vacation I left my laptop inside of Penn Station Replacing computers does come at a cost But more than the money, my novel was lost I wrote down everything I could remember I think I got most of it by mid-September But a plumbing emergency brought on a flood The carpets were ruined all covered with mud Our kitten went missing, the kids got the flu So running the house was all I could do I did have a writing spurt on Halloween

I figured out how I could end a key scene But all through November till now I’ve been dry With seven days left, did I have time to try? What was that racket? Was something outside? I rushed to the curtains and opened them wide There stood a bearded man all dressed in red “Santa?” I asked with a tilt of my head “I’ve come to help out,” he said with a grin “Where’s your computer? Shall we begin?” Now this was an offer I couldn’t refuse— Having St. Nick as my personal muse We wrote and revised, and then we wrote more When it turned light, he left by the door But I could hear as he flew out of sight “Make sure your agent retains movie rights!” I am a writer, with proof now to show it But I’m not a novelist—I am a poet! That piece I created with such furrowed brow? Why, it is the poem that you’re reading right now

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Four Critics continued from page 2 but a cocker in Chapter 9. The second reader was chosen to examine pacing. The narrative arc of each scene and chapter build the wave of the entire book. Does the book keep the pages turning from the start, through the long swamp of the middle and the wrap-up? The third reader is for grammar. Jay’s wife is his Grammar Queen. Anne Fox keeps me honest. If she ever decides to retire, my backup plan is to take up bowling or bawling. By the time Jay has licked the wounds and finished the surgery necessary after his first three readers, he is ready for Unconditional Love. His fourth reader is his mother. Read more from Al at http://allevenson.wordpress.com.

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November Survey Results

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What Do You Read?
–April Kutger

After an email reminder about the November Survey, we had 30 responses to the two questions asked: “What do you read?” and “How much time do you generally spend reading for pleasure?” Because this was a multiple-choice survey, percentages are the best way to analyze the results. However, our intrepid member who reports from the road, Al Levenson, wrote a fascinating email about his eclectic reading habits/interests, which can be read below. We’re very grateful to Al for his contribution. “What do you read?” 86% of respondents read fiction, followed closely by magazines at 80% and nonfiction at 73%. Poetry, the red-headed stepchild of reading, is read by only 13% of respondents. Specific types of books read by Write Angles readers include mysteries, how-to’s, short stories, history, economics, children's books, odd books found in second-hand stores, Jack London, and literary journals. “How much time do you generally spend reading for pleasure?” Not surprisingly, the large majority of CWC Berkeley Branch members read more than three hours a week. Only 7% read less than an hour a week. Hard to believe when you think of all the electronic and paper media outlets we have for our reading pleasure. Thanks to all who participated in our survey.

What Do I Read?
–Al Levenson

It is good question to pose to a writer. I read all the time, every day for several hours. But I am not all that proud that I read only three books or so a year. Nonetheless, for the three this year, I’ve met the authors and had lengthy discussions with them. How do I spend all those hours reading? I read a fair amount of email. Not only do I keep up with the news/sports/weather with a dozen family members and friends, I get a lot of information relating to my travels, as well as some ongoing dialog.

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I read blogs. I read the daily posting of three bloggers (one writer, one observer of the writing scene, and one political activist). I read most of the posts of three other bloggers. My own blog generates about ten comments every time I read and respond to about 20 percent of them.

For amusement and provocation I read the daily newsletter of Wordsmith.com, and Rod McIver’s Heron Dance Art Studio as well as Barbara McNichols’ weekly Wordtrippers. For high-powered intellectual stimulation, I go to the Arts and Letters Daily and scan the abstracts of published articles, essays, and book reviews and savor one of them. I used to read the back of the box of my breakfast cereal until I found out I’d get more nutrition if I ate the box. I read Write Angles the moment it arrives. I sometimes wonder if I read too much. And I am still embarrassed that I read only three books a year.

I read a lot of super-condensed news. My Internet home page is Googlenews. I read dozens of headlines in the course of a day and two or three news stories. I am a member of eight LinkedIn groups divided equally between writing and the RV life and skim the discussions daily. I read Susan Bono’s monthly newsletter, Tiny Lights. I read the CWC Back Fence, the listserve of the Mt Diablo branch and the listserve of my high school graduating class.

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December Survey:

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What Are Your Writing Goals for 2010?
This survey is a little different from the usual Write Angles survey. First of all, it’s not on SurveyMonkey this month. Second, it’s not anonymous. One of our past presidents, Al Levenson, used to ask this question in January’s Write Angles, and I thought I’d revive the tradition. It’s an open-ended question: what are your writing goals for 2012? You can be funny or serious, ambitious or lazy, brief or epic in your response. Just sign your name, put “2012 Goals” in the subject line, and send it to writeangles@gmail.com no later than Wednesday, January 12, 2012. Thank you for participating!

Will the CWC Answer a Plea From Beyond the Grave?
–Donna McCrohan Rosenthal, PR chair

The California Writers Club has leveraged Jack London’s name for the better part of 100 years. The CWC began as informal gatherings of London and his friends. We cite these stellar origins constantly. Now California State Parks has initiated closure proceedings for Jack London State Park. If we as writers have a voice, we might want to use it now. If we do, we stand to benefit right along with Jack. This is because PR teaches one lesson above all others: People do not want you telling them what to be interested in. No. They want you to tell them more about what interests them already.

essayists, journalists, short-story writers and poets. The arrival of cinema added screenwriters. The Golden Age of Radio accounted for an influx of radio writers. Not long after, TV writers joined our ranks. Throughout the decades, some became quite prominent. What about now? Surely we have bloggers. Perhaps some command sizable audiences. How ironic. They could have global outreach, yet pass under our radar. So here are a few questions to update the radar:

So here we have a unique opportunity. Published and unpublished members alike can attract an editor’s eye or a search engine by writing about state park closures. The fact that California will shut down 70 state parks constitutes a hot topic. Submit an essay on the subject to a newspaper or magazine, and you greatly improve your chances of acceptance. At the same time, you get to wax eloquent about the CWC, and you come away with a publishing credit. Arguably, we owe Jack London. Consider us one aspect of his legacy. We’d do well to champion the rest of it, including his ranch, cottage and yes, even his gravesite. CALLING ALL BLOGGERS

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Do you maintain a regular, topical blog for massmarket consumption such as the blog made famous by “Julie and Julia”? How much traffic does it get? In the same vein, do you send out regular, topical email blasts to readers other than family and friends? If yes, what is the subject? Do you blog or broadcast issues related to writing or creative pursuits? Do you manage to plug the CWC from time to time? Recently, Redwood’s Robin Moore emailed me, “I wrote a blog today about the closing of Jack London State Park. My inspiration was a posting on our Redwood Writers by our Web Editor Lynn Millar….” Good work, Redwood. Everyone else, if you have CWC success stories that could help branches and members to get the word out, please send a note to pr@calwriters.org. Your advice could turn up in a future column. Thanks in advance and sail on! - pr@calwriters.org

The world of communication has seen its share of changes over the past century, and CWC membership has reflected them. Early on, we had novelists,

For more information, see http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/02/fall-of-the-wild/ , http://jacklondonpark.com/ and http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=712. If you place an article, please let me know.

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Volunteer Corner
–Madelen Lontiong

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The dictionary gives the meaning of volunteer as a person who performs a service willingly and without pay. That started me thinking: What would the Berkeley Branch of the California Writers Club be without volunteers? The answer? We likely couldn’t exist as a branch because every activity that takes place, from putting up notices about speaker meetings, to having workshops, to offering new member orientations, to having a slate of officers, to processing memberships, to monitoring the treasury, occurs because people volunteer to help make an activity or event happen. Without the involvement of our volunteers, our branch would have to fold. For starters, we wouldn’t have speaker meetings without speaker coordinator Jane Glendinning to contact, invite, and confirm potential presenters, and provide assistance to make sure the events run smoothly. Recent speakers have addressed such topics revealing character through dialogue; how character and plot arise from setting; the reflective “I” in nonfiction; the publishing process; and how to improve online presence. We wouldn’t have our enjoyable, informative Write Angles newsletter without editor Tanya Grove, who requests and obtains timely articles, formats the pages, places copy on the pages, adds graphics, and creates a cohesive and attractive whole. The variety within the newsletter includes the president’s message, a write-up on the upcoming speaker, a poetry page, a page where members can tout their publishing successes, a space to promote members’ blogs, a page for member profiles, an occasional book review, and information about other branches. Write Angles offers us a site for the giving and receiving of the news writers need. Tanya’s editorial leadership has created a quality newsletter that receives kudos from other CWC branches. And we avoid errors in the newsletter with copyeditor Anne Fox to scrutinize the copy—to make sure the finished product is clear and informative, has correct spelling and punctuation, and is grammatically and factually correct. This month, we salute Jane Glendinning, Tanya Grove, and Anne Fox as our Volunteers of the Month. When you see them at a meeting, let them know you appreciate their time and service to the club.

Member News

Alon Shalev reports that his A Gardener’s Tale, a novel he wrote over 10 years ago, has been picked up by Three Clover Press, with e-book on Kindle and cover by Claudia McKinney (of Amanda Hocking's book covers). http://www.alonshalev.com/ Risa Nye’s essay, “She Never Thought the Fire Would Jump the Freeway,” appeared in the Oakland Tribune Online, www.insidebayarea.com , October 17, 2011. Put her name into the Search space. Online Hippocampus Magazine, Nov. 1, has published Risa’s essay on craft, “Falling Memories.” http://www.hippocampusmagazine.com/category/november-2011/ Risa’s piece, “Chopped Liver” appears in the November 1, 2011 Essays section of Skirt! Tatjana Greiner’s story "A Doctor in La Paz,” first reported in the March Member News, is being published in 2012 by Untreed Reads in German, Spanish, and French translations. Untreed Reads also wants to publish the e-version of Tatjana’s German novel Spring, Baby! in the original German version.
Write Angles welcomes letters to the editor, book reviews, and articles of interest to writers. Submit to writeangles@gmail.com. If you are a member and want to share news, please write “Member News” in the subject line. Deadline is the 15th of the month.

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Redwood Writers Host Contest
Writers are invited to submit entries to a contest connected to Redwood Writers’ 2012 Next Steps Writers’ Conference, April 27-28 in Santa Rosa. “Odyssey” is the theme of Next Step’s Prose Contest, which is open only to registrants of the April 28 writers’ conference at Santa Rosa Junior College. Contest winners will be announced at the conference luncheon, and their work will be considered for inclusion in Redwood Writers publications. The first-place winner also will receive a $100 prize. The second-place prize is $50, and $25 goes to the third-place winner. Contest guidelines, fee schedules, and other information can be found at the conference page of www.redwoodwriters.org.Robert Digitale.

Write Angles
The Last Word

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“I Like to Write Day” Has to Be Every Day
–Tanya Grove

I recently discovered that November 15 was “I Like to Write Day.” I have no idea who gets to decide these things, but I like the idea of reaffirming why we write in the first place. After all, writers know that the only reason we write is because we like to write. Though some say it is more that they are driven to write, which I suppose doesn’t necessarily include affection for the craft. But we also know, or should know, that false notions fill the heads of many would-be writers. To those who harbor such delusions I direct these warnings: • Don’t write that book thinking that you’re going to land a million-dollar book deal or become famous like Stephen King. • Don’t write that book thinking you’re going to win a Pulitzer, the Booker Prize, or a Newbury Award. • Don’t even write that book thinking it will earn you a steady income with health benefits. Because none of those things are likely to happen except for a tiny percentage of writers out there. So striving for these improbable goals will no doubt leave you frustrated. But if you truly like to write, you can reach attainable goals: • Write the best poem, story, novel, essay, play, or memoir that you possibly can. • Revise that piece of writing so that it’s better than it was. • Be in a writers’ critique/support group. (Or even two!) • Join the California Writers Club and attend their meetings and workshops. • Teach yourself the basics of the book biz by going to conferences, taking classes, reading the trade magazines, and immersing yourself in the community of writers. You can reach the preceding goals because you have control over all of them. You can make them happen. The truth is you can’t control whether or not you sell a million copies or win a prestigious prize because those achievements depend on someone else—a publisher, an editor, an agent, judges, the book-buying public, fate, trends, etc. Okay, you can buy health insurance, but you can’t guarantee that your writing alone will support you. So even if you never win an award or get to talk about your book on TV with Jon Stewart, even if you never get published, you still get to do what you like to do. So just keep telling yourself: I like to write…I like to write…I like to write…

“The function of the novelist...is to comment upon life as he sees it.”
–Frank Norris Write Angles
Editor Copyeditor/Member News/Tidbits Cover Author Contributor President’s Message Speaker Profile Poetry Page Editor Member Profiles Survey Analyst/Reporter Tanya Grove Anne Fox Karren Elsbernd Linda Brown David Baker Barbara Ruffner Thomas Burchfield April Kutger

Menu for CWC – BB Annual Holiday Event Saturday, December 3, 2011, 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.* Choice of organic, full-bodied coffee; tea, fresh-squeezed orange juice Assorted salads (Caesar and beet with marinated beets, gorgonzola, organic greens and house viniagrette, served family style) Entrée (choose one) Monte Cristo Sandwich Provolone, raspberry jam, ham, dipped in egg batter with mixed greens. Traditional french bistro fare, served with mixed greens Tavern Burger Niman ranch beef, dijon mustard, roasted garlic on a Acme bun, with or without gorgonzola served with social skin fries Huevos Rancheros two eggs sunny side up, corn tortillas, pinto beans, jalapeno chutney, sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo (vegetarian) Grilled Chicken Hearts of Romaine (Caesar) anchovy dressing, red onion, herbs Dessert: chocolate truffles, french pastries Brunch cocktails (bloody mary, mimosa, tequila sunrise $6.00 – no host) *We are opening early to accommodate CWC-BB; normal opening time is noon.

Welcome to The Grand Tavern
We are your local tavern, specializing in pre-prohibition cocktails with a wide range of wines and beers. Our gastropub style cuisine bursts with international flavors. We work hard to use organic and local produce in all of the drinks and food served to you. Limited parking available in our lot; ample street parking. Just off the No. 12 bus line. Located on Grand Avenue, cross street Weldon. 3601 Grand Ave Oakland, Ca. 94610 510-444-4644 For our members: Tax and service included - $25.00 payable to CWC-BB. Please mail checks to event coordinator Eva Merrick, P.O. Box 426337, San Francisco, CA 94142 by Saturday, November 19th, or bring in person to November Meeting.
Attendee Name:_________________________________________________(please print) Choice of Entrée:________________________________________________ (if choosing the Tavern Burger, please specify with or without gorgonzola)

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