Welcome to the Club!

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CWCLogowithR

The Berkeley Branch is the founding branch of the oldest professional writers’ club West of the Mississippi.

CWC Berkeley Branch welcomes all California Writers Club members and guests to our monthly speaker program and affordable workshops on the art and business of writing.

February 16th, 2020

Join us for our next meeting, featuring:

Jan Steckel on Poetry and Activism

It’s our half-year/half-price membership special!
Click here to commit to your writing career.

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Upcoming speakers Spring 2020: Jan Steckel on activism, Tanya Egan on editing, Andy Ross on finding an agent, & a panel discussion featuring local Small Press publishers.

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Interview with award-winning activist poet, Jan Steckel (meet her Sunday!)

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Our guest for Sunday’s meeting will be poet and activist Jan Steckel. Her latest book Like Flesh Covers Bone (Zeitgeist Press, December 2018) won two Rainbow Awards (for LGBT Poetry and Best Bisexual Book) and was a finalist for the poetry category of the Bi Book Awards. Her poetry book The Horizontal Poet (Zeitgeist Press, 2011) won a 2012 Lambda Literary Award. Her fiction chapbook Mixing Tracks (Gertrude Press, 2009) and poetry chapbook The Underwater Hospital (Zeitgeist Press, 2006) also won awards. Her writing has appeared in Scholastic Magazine, Bellevue Literary Review, Rise Up Review, Poetry Reading the News, The New Verse News, and elsewhere. She lives in Oakland, California and works as a medical editor.

Five Questions for Award-winning Poet Jan Steckel

Questions by Cristina Deptula of Authors Large and Small

You were a pediatrician before you pursued writing full-time. Do you feel that the ways of thinking you used to practice medicine informs how you think about creative writing? 

The experiences I had as a pediatrician gave me a lot of material, some of which I’m still working through. Medical training also gave me some vocabulary that I use in writing, and habits of observation of people’s physical appearance, gait, movement, posture, etc. I think I also went into taking care of low-income Spanish-speaking families for some of the same reasons that I write: outrage at injustice, and a desire to change things for the better.

You’re going to talk about poetry and activism. What sorts of responsibility do you feel that you, or any artist, has to the larger world above and beyond creating well-crafted pieces? 

I remember that my college biology professor E.O. Wilson, the father of sociobiology, had to defend himself from accusations that his work could be used to justify racism, misogyny and eugenicist viewpoints. Even though those were misuses of his work, because it was his work he had a responsibility to come out and explain why his theories did not support those points of view. So first of all, and this is a concept lifted from my medical training, you have to try to do no harm. If your writing is being misused, you have to come out and say so and say why. 

I remember someone I knew being excited by the fact that he had some marginalia in an old book he owned handwritten by a famous poet, but not concerned about the fact that the quatrain written there was kind of antisemitic. I am not really keen on separating the life of the artist completely from his work and valuing beauty and skill without considering the moral context.

So I would say that not everyone has a responsibility to be activist in their work, but you do have to consider the moral context of your work and take some responsibility for what it is going to do or what it could be used for once it’s out in the world.

Do you carry out your activist work primarily through your writing, or through other means?

No, I think I’ve been activist in a lot of ways, as a foot-soldier in protests and politics, as a doctor taking care of and advocating for marginalized people, as a voter and someone who has registered people to vote, as a writer of letters (to my representatives, to newspapers, and to corporations), as someone who is out as a sexual minority and who marches in Pride each year, and as a neighbor who tries to help out the people on my block and the people in my city. As I get older, though, and my platform as a writer and poet grows, I’m becoming less enthusiastic about marching and about pouring my energy into these other avenues and more interested in using my written voice to change the world through my creative writing.

Do you have advice for other writers who care strongly about different issues and want to write about them?

Your words matter! People are moved to action by stories and poems that activate their empathy. Keep your eye out on various lists (which I will tell you about in my talk on February 16) for calls for submissions for anthologies with political or social-justice themes that interest you. Familiarize yourself with the journals that publish this kind of poetry and fiction and submit to them (I’ll give you a handout with a list of a couple dozen such journals at my talk). Look on your social media, if you participate in that, for themed readings or writing groups on the issues you care about (I’ll talk about some local ones, including CWC’s Wolf Pack on climate change.) If you don’t see the readings and groups you’re looking for, consider starting one yourself.

What projects are you working on currently and where can we find you? 

I am working on a poetry manuscript called Stripper Style full of poems about stripping and strippers (which is also about stripping as a metaphor). I am also collaborating with a physicist friend on a science fiction novel-in-stories featuring a main character who is a female bisexual disabled mixed-race scientist. I’m going to need a couple of different sensitivity readers for that one! I have a finished book-length manuscript collection of short humorous creative-nonfiction pieces called I Just Do This to Seduce Gay Men, as well as a book-length manuscript collection of short stories called Ghosts and Oceans, both of which I need to send out more to publishers. 

I give a lot of readings in the Bay Area (I think I did 30 in 2019). You can find an events calendar and some writing excerpts at my website at http://jansteckel.com. My books are available on Amazon, in local independent bookstores, and at the Zeitgeist Press website at http://www.zeitgeist-press.com

Meet Jan Steckel Sunday February 16th at our Meeting

This Sunday Jan Steckel will speak on how poets and writers can affect change through their writing. She will speak on advocacy, representation, and documenting social conditions. Steckel has experience to share on using your writing to inspire empathy and using your notoriety to draw attention to injustice. She will share the ways poets and writers can participate in acts of resistance and move others to action.

There will also be group discussions craft and marketing as well as a reading by featured member, novelist Henry Hits.

For schedule, map, and further details see the post for about the February meeting.

February 16th SPEAKER—Jan Steckel on Poetry and Activism

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social promo for CWC Berkeley February event
Jan Steckel, award-winning poet and activist

On February 16th the California Writers Club – Berkeley branch welcomes award-winning poet and activist Jan Steckel as a featured guest of the club. Steckel will speak on how poets and writers can affect change through their writing. She will speak on advocacy, representation, and documenting social conditions. Steckel has experience to share on using your writing to inspire empathy and using your notoriety to draw attention to injustice. She will share the ways poets and writers can participate in acts of resistance and move others to action.

Steckel will briefly survey activist poets of the past. Many poets who rarely wrote overtly political poetry have felt moved to do so over the last few years. Online and print venues for political poetry have recently multiplied; a list of 22 journals that publish poetry about current events, including poems that take a political stance, will be provided. Local and national organizations of activist poets and publishers and ways to be an activist poet will be discussed.

About February Guest Jan Steckel

Jan Steckel
February CWC-Berkeley speaker
Jan Steckel

 

Jan Steckel is a former pediatrician who stopped practicing medicine because of chronic pain. She is an activist for bisexual people’s, disabled people’s and immigrants’ rights. Her latest book Like Flesh Covers Bone (Zeitgeist Press, December 2018) won two Rainbow Awards (for LGBT Poetry and Best Bisexual Book) and was a finalist for the poetry category of the Bi Book Awards. Her poetry book The Horizontal Poet (Zeitgeist Press, 2011) won a 2012 Lambda Literary Award. Her fiction chapbook Mixing Tracks (Gertrude Press, 2009) and poetry chapbook The Underwater Hospital (Zeitgeist Press, 2006) also won awards. Her writing has appeared in Scholastic Magazine, Bellevue Literary Review, Rise Up Review, Poetry Reading the News, The New Verse News, and elsewhere. She lives in Oakland, California and works as a medical editor. Learn more at JanSteckel.com or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Full Schedule of Events

12:00 pm Setup
12:30 Doors open & member services
1:00 Raffle & Announcements
1:30 Featured Member: Henry Hitz
1:45 Keynote Speaker: Jan Steckel
2:30 Book Sales & Networking
3:00 Marketing Group*
4:00 Craft Group*
5:00 Byeeee!

$5 for members, $10 for non-members*

  • Coffee is provided, bring cookies and treats to share!
  • Admission includes 1 free raffle ticket

PLEASE PLAN TO PURCHASE A RAFFLE TICKET! Only $1 each or 6 for $5, every ticket supports the club’s equity program. You can win a book written by our club authors!

* Support groups are members-only but guests may audit
Empty pockets? Ask about our sponsored guest program at the door. We are writers helping writers, a welcoming community.

1204 Preservation Park Way, Oakland, CA 94612

Our meetings are right off 980 in downtown Oakland, at beautiful Preservation Park. Just off 12th Street, naturally you can get there from the 12th St. BART station. Those with limited ability can use the parking lot off of MLK Way; otherwise there should be plenty of FREE parking within the park and on surrounding streets.

We meet in Robinson Classroom ‘B’ 

Say you’re coming on Facebook!

SAVE THE DATES!
Our Forthcoming Events:

  • February 22 – New Member Orientation
  • March 15th – Panel: Small Press Publishers
  • April 21st – Tanya Egan Gibson feat. Lynn Fraley
  • May 17th – Andy Ross feat. Nicole Berg
  • June 20th – Member Book Launch at Great Good Place for Books, Oakland

Check for support groups and more member events on our Calendar.

Full Schedule of Events

Please NOTE NEW SCHEDULE

12:00 pm Setup
12:30 Doors open & member services
1:00 Introducing Featured Member
1:15 Keynote Speaker: September Williams
2:00 Announcements & Networking
3:00 Marketing Group*
4:00 Craft Group*
5:00 The End

$5 for members, $10 for non-members*

  • Coffee is provided, bring cookies and treats to share!
  • Admission includes 1 free raffle ticket

PLEASE PLAN TO PURCHASE A RAFFLE TICKET! Only $1 each or 6 for $5, every ticket supports the club’s equity program. You can win a book written by our club authors!

* Support groups are members-only but guests may audit
* Empty pockets? Ask about our sponsored guest program at the door. We are writers helping writers, a welcoming community.

1204 Preservation Park Way, Oakland, CA 94612

Our meetings are right off 980 in downtown Oakland, at beautiful Preservation Park. Just off 12th Street, naturally you can get there from the 12th St. BART station. Those with limited ability can use the parking lot off of MLK Way; otherwise there should be plenty of FREE parking within the park and on surrounding streets.

Say you’re coming on Facebook!

SAVE THE DATES!
Our Forthcoming Events:

Check for support groups and more member events on our Calendar.

"A Chance to Have My Say"— Get to Know Playwright/Poet Judith Offer

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Judith Offer playwright poet
poet & playwright Judith Offer

Member Judith Offer will be our featured reader at our first meeting of the year on Sunday, January 19th.  Judith is celebrating her one-year anniversary of being in the California Writers Club! She is an Oakland poet and playwright. 18 of her plays have been professionally produced, most in community theatres in the Bay Area. Her themes are women’s issues, American history, and the various cultural groups that populate Oakland.

Judith has five books of poetry. Recently, she self-published a chapbook called The Grating of America, Poems For a Democracy Ground Down, about the current political situation. 

Pictures of plays, copies of some of her poems, and reviews are available at her web site, JudithOffer.com.


How did you become a writer?

In one sense my career is amazing: I had every possible disadvantage to ever writing anything. I was the oldest girl in a family of nine kids, born to parents who didn’t really want a huge family and were angry and resentful. We moved a lot, so I attended seven grammar schools and ended up with a sketchy, confused basic education, no permanent friends, and no long-term other adult support. My high school probably saved me. It was big, well-organized, and had a good teaching staff. And I got to be there for four years. I managed a few close friends and in spite of many home responsibilities, participation in a drama club. My intelligence was recognized to the extent that I made it into the top “track”. And though the teachers of the day mostly tried to ignore the girls, there were two who showed that they thought I had…something special. I made it through college by working as an au pair for room and board and with a state scholarship for tuition. I graduated with no single teacher telling me my writing was good, or suggesting a writing career, in spite of many essays and term papers with good grades. I went off to teach after school, not sure I wanted to; left to work in urban renewal, mostly because I got to work in downtown DC, still wondering what I was “becoming”. All this time, I was writing a few poems every year, which I kept in a small black notebook. In my late twenties I married, and two years later my husband, Stuart Offer, the only person who had seen my notebook, gave me a typewriter for Christmas, “so you can send your poems out.” So in my case, I really was rescued by Prince Charming. When I did send them, a number were quickly taken, and I suddenly knew what I was becoming. There has been a long road since then, and I am far from rich or famous from my writing. But I have been able to develop my gift, and I have seen many of my plays performed and poems published. I have had some killer fun times, directing plays, teaching kids drama, reading in cool places, and meeting all sorts of interesting and wonderful people. I feel like I have become part of the American story…a small part, but a part. I would like to see my plays on bigger, better-known stages, and I would like to get paid real money some day for them. But even if I never do, I feel that I have had at least some chance to “have my say” and to add to the list of women who, thanks to American feminists–such as the suffragists we’re celebrating this year—have made openings for people like me. 

Meet Judith and Prioritize Your Writing this Sunday January 19th

Join us with Judith Offer this Sunday

1/19/20 — General Membership Meeting

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Gust of Wind

A Gust of Wind

Full membership meeting 1/19/20

“When Jack London said you have to go after inspiration with a club, I think he meant a writing club.” — Kristen Caven, author, president of CWC Berkeley 2017-2020

Dear Members,

It’s time for us to hold council at a general meeting about the state of our branch. Please join us for a very special monthly meeting where, in lieu of a speaker + announcements, we’ll have a chance to talk together about what we want from each other our association.

After our announcements & featured reader, The meeting will have three parts:

Where We’ve Been

Historians Therese Pipe and Linda Brown will do a brief (10-minute) presentation on the history of the California Writers Club. If you don’t know much about us, this is a MUST-SEE! This club has been operating, and run by volunteers, for  110 years.

Where We’re At

As the century swings into gear, we employ various technologies to run the intricate business machinery of our metaphorical sailing ship. But the ship is only as strong as it’s sailors. President Kristen will give an overview of who pulls the ropes and pushes the oars, and help you see YOUR place in the crowd & crew.

Where We’re Going

Reflecting on the overview, club leaders will host breakout groups where we will all brainstorm about: 1) something the club is doing well, 2) what we get from the club, 3) what we want from the club, 4) what we can each contribute to the club, and 5) the club’s greatest concerns.

We’ll close by sharing priorities from each group, and selecting task groups for our crucial next steps and future.

We are a Participatory Democracy (or better yet, a DO-ocracy!), so do plan to come to this important group event and participate—this is YOUR club. Until then, please give some thought to these existential questions:

  • Who/what is the CWC?

  • What do we all, as a group, want to do?

  • Why does having a club matter to you?

  • What are you willing to contribute so that you get the benefit you need?

We are an eclectic assembly of strong writers who are all very interesting people. So…

  • How can we best work together to help each other and ourselves?

Here’s the day’s schedule. (If you’re attending the 5-page group the day before, we still hope to hear from you!) Please send notes to berkeley.cwc@gmail.com if you cannot attend.

12:00 pm Setup
12:30 Doors open & member services
1:00 Raffle & Announcements
1:30 Featured Member: Judith Offer, poet & playwright
1:45 CWC past & future PRESENTATION & DISCUSSION
2:45 Break & Networking
3:00 Marketing Group (Kymberlie Ingalls)
4:00 Craft Group (Terry Tierney)

Happy New Year to all writers, editors, publishers, publicists who follow this blog. Please take time to savor all of your writing and personal accomplishments! I look forward to us all giving each other energy on our writing goals for 2020.

Kristen Caven


$5 for members, $10 for non-members*

  • Coffee is provided, bring cookies and treats to share!
  • Admission includes 1 free raffle ticket

PLEASE PLAN TO PURCHASE AN EXTRA RAFFLE TICKET! Only $1 each or 6 for $5, every ticket supports the club’s equity program. You can win a book written by our club authors!

* Support groups are members-only but guests may audit
Empty pockets? Ask about our sponsored guest program at the door. We are writers helping writers, a welcoming community.

1204 Preservation Park Way, Oakland, CA 94612

Our meetings are right off 980 in downtown Oakland, at beautiful Preservation Park. Just off 12th Street, naturally you can get there from the 12th St. BART station. Those with limited ability can use the parking lot off of MLK Way; otherwise there should be plenty of FREE parking within the park and on surrounding streets.

Say you’re coming on Facebook!

SAVE THE DATES!
Our Forthcoming Events:

Check for support groups and more member events on our Calendar.

Our Winter Social Is December 15th

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Berkeley CA Writers Club annual winter social

A Sunday Afternoon Salon 

Sunday, December 15th

1:00-5:00 p.m.

Please join us for our Winter Social! We’ll be gathering at the home of a soon-to-be-famous writer for an afternoon salon.

& Open House

Members know Rancho Deluxe is a home in the Dimond District, but since this is a private house party we can’t post the address publicly. Members received an email with the address, and are welcome to bring guests. If you’re not a member and you’d like to attend, drop an email to our president and request an invite.

What to bring:

  • A holiday or literary-themed dessert or beverage
  • an inspiring passage to read or song to perform (instruments welcome!)
  • a guitar or musical instrument if you feel like jamming
  • gently-used and unwrapped books to share (one for the gift grab and one to donate)
  • a guest who loves writers or is a writer or wants to be one!

See you at the salon! Happy winter holidays!

An Interview with our November Guest, Author Joan Gelfand

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Our featured guest this November 17th is Joan Gelfand. Her reviews, stories, essays and poetry have appeared in over 100 national and international literary journals and magazines including the Los Angeles Review of Books, Rattle, Prairie Schooner, PANK! Kalliope, The Toronto Review, Levure Litteraire and Chicken Soup for the Soul.  The author of three well-reviewed poetry collections and an award-winning chapbook of short fiction, Joan’s novel Fear to Shred will be published by Mastadon Press in 2020. Past President of the Women’s National Book Association, Joan is a member of the National Book Critics Circle and a juror for the Northern California Book Awards.  Her poetry was featured at the 4th Annual Video Poetry Festival in Athens, Greece and won Certificate of Merit in a juried art show at the International Association for the Study of Dreams. A film based on her poem, The Ferlinghetti School of Poetics, has since showed at nine international film festivals and won Best Poetry Film at the World Film Festival. 

Four Questions for Joan Gelfand

What are some common misconceptions people have about what it takes to be a real writer, and what’s true instead?

One common misconception is that real writers have literary agents. 
Many writers work with small presses directly, or university presses that do not require an agent. Also—and I feel strongly about this—poets are real writers and only a handful of poets have agents.  IMHO, the distinguishing feature of a ‘real writer’ is a writer who has at least one traditionally published book.

How did you harness Confidence, Commitment, Craft, and Community to help you write your latest novel Fear to Shred?

Let’s talk about Community first: 
I met my publisher at a Women’s National Book Association event. 
I had been very involved with the WNBA for 14 years as a volunteer.  I served as National President and chapter president of the SF chapter for two years. 
I also spent many years building up a platform, or fan base. I started a national writing contest that brought in a lot of writers and funds to the WNBA.
The other topics, Commitment, Craft and Confidence—I’d prefer to discuss in person with the group.

Who should be in a writer’s community? Are you talking about critique groups, or going to conferences to meet agents and editors, or both? Or something else entirely?

Again, in my humble opinion, every writer NEEDS to be in some sort of community.  If they are able, they should be serving as volunteers in any number of active writing communities in the Bay Area.
I don’t consider critique groups , or going to conferences, part of community. Conferences would be part of networking and critique groups I would put under craft.
 I am talking about building up your platform and fan base.  One writer said you build your fan base one fan at a time. That means you need to meet people, you need to show up at other people’s events, support other writers, etc.  Building community is a long term commitment. That said, many writers have built strong, successful communities on line. 
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all provide the tools to build community.

What are some good places to go in the Bay Area to meet some other writers and build community?

Beside the CWC there is the Women’s National Book Association, Left Coast Writers, San Francisco Creative Writing Institute, the Writing Salon, just to name a few.

Meet Joan Gelfald November 17th when she speaks on the topic “You Can Be a Winning Writer”

 

FREE Audiobooks Workshop Nov 14th, Featuring Becky Parker Geist

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What Every Author Should Know About Audiobooks

Thursday, Nov 14 6:30-8 p.m.

Presidio branch of the SF Public Library
3150 Sacramento St, San Francisco  

With the skyrocketing popularity of audiobooks, every author—published or not—should understand their options regarding audiobooks.

Learn about key decisions involved in the audiobook production process, such as:

  • preparing your manuscript for recording
  • finding your narrator
  • audiobook distribution options
  • where to get your audiobook produced
  • hiring a narrator or producer
  • using the ACX system
  • dos and don’ts of recording your audiobook
  • marketing your audiobook from the inside out
  • what to do once your book has launched

About Workshop Presenter Becky Parker Geist

Becky Parker Geist is an audiobook producer and narrator with 37+ years of experience in the audiobook industry; and owner of Pro Audio Voices, serving clients internationally for audiobook production and marketing. Becky has narrated and/or produced over 200 titles to date.

Becky Parker Geist

Committed to leadership, Becky serves as President of BAIPA (Bay Area Independent Publishers Association) and is a member of IBPA, APA (Audio Publishers Assn), NFAA (NonFiction Authors Association) and the California Writers Club. She is the author of five titles, including Audiobook Toolkit for Authors: Your Comprehensive Guide to Recording Your Own Audiobook, now available at authortoolkits.com. Her passion is to help great stories come alive. Learn more at proaudiovoices.com.

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