Welcome to The Club!

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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.

We’re taking a break. Have a great summer!

Mark your calendar for September 15, 2019,
when we start our speaker series.

Click here to commit to your writing career.

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9/15/19 – SPEAKER: “Causes Cross Genres” with September Williams

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Causes Cross Genres: Infusing Facts into Fiction with September Williams is the first event in our annual speaker series.

Some people find understanding through technical language and academic conveyance. But almost all people can learn through well-constructed Aristotelian Plot Curves. 

Using accurate scientific, medical or other precise technical information to inform fictional narratives is not for the faint of heart. It does not mean “dumbing down.” 

But for those committed to using every tool to convey the causes of humanity across race, class, culture, and genre—it often means an author must wade in well over her/ his own head. Exactly what tools do you need to get back to breathing air? How do you deliver science in a package that does not detract from the tone of the story or the truth of the ‘cause’ which the didactics seek to illuminate? Our September speaker seeks to answer these questions. Plus, her name is September!

Important!
Note new schedule below,
so you don’t miss the speaker

About September Williams

Physician-writer, bioethicist, and filmmaker September Williams, M.D. seeks a better understanding of and between ourselves in all her work.  She focuses on promoting resilience for people who are ill, aging, dying, or stressed by environmental and humanitarian violations. She is the author of The Elephant in the Room: Bioethical Issues in Human Milk Banking, which is representative of her nonfiction works covering health disparities, bioethics, and film, and a fiction writer as well. Chasing Mercury is a romance-suspense-memoir about families committed to human and environmental rights, and the first book of the “Chasing Mercury Toxic Trilogy.” The upcoming sequels are Weighing Lead and Mining Gold

September is also a member of the National Writers Union (AFL-CIO/UAW 1981), the International Federation of Journalists, and the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities. All of these organizations maximize the breadth of her work by informing, provoking thoughtful action, frequent tears and the greatest tool of all, laughter.         

For more information see: http://www.septemberwilliams.com

Full Schedule of Events

Please NOTE NEW SCHEDULE

12:00 pm Setup
12:30 Doors open & member services
1:00 Featured Member: GARK Mavigan
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.

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SAVE THE DATES!
Our Forthcoming Events:

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

CWC Book Launch Party Sat. June 15th

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Octopus Literary Salon on Saturday

June 15, 6:30-8:30 pm

The California Writer’s Club is hosting its annual launch party for member authors who were published in 2018-2019. Continuously operating since 1909, we are rich with Oakland history and writing for the future! Join us to hear seven excellent and diverse voices span genres from women’s fiction to thrillers, and self-help. A unique opportunity to absorb the vibrant local lit scene and get some great new books!

Featuring seven excellent and diverse voices spanning many genres, including literary fiction, magic realism, science fiction, thrillers, and timely non-fiction, the reading provides a unique opportunity to absorb and interact with the vibrant Bay Area literary scene.

Getting There

The Octopus Literary Salon is located at 2101 Webster Street in Oakland, not far from the 19th Street BART stop.

Reminder!

We are holding this event rather than our regular Sunday meeting. No meeting on June 16th!

There’s no charge for this event but please RSVP on Facebook

Readings Featured at the Book Launch Party

AGE MATTERS 
by Peggy Dougherty

Winner of the San Diego Book Award! A 60-something screenwriter convinces her thirty-year-old daughter to impersonate her. A smart and revealing romp through Hollywood ageism.

POWER IN THE AGE OF LIES
by M Verant

An action-packed political thriller built on ruthlessly factual criticism of the Trump presidency. Critics say: “A relentless thriller….”
“Put aside Patterson, Baldacci, Nelson DeMille and Grisham and give Verant a look….”
“Terrifyingly plausible…”
“I raced to the ending.”

SQUIRRELS IN THE WALL
by Henry Hitz

An interconnected series of stories about animals full of heartwarming and humorous experience.

MY JOURNEY WITH BERNIE
by Kacey Carpenter

A roller coaster ride through inspirational stories about the people who are bringing enthusiasm and hope, leading a new political revolution.

CONTROL YOUR THOUGHTS, CONTROL YOUR LIFE
by Gini Graham Scott

A series of inspiring ideas and images originally published on Instagram.  “Don’t just think about it. Act!” and “Good thoughts lead the way to wise actions.”

NANO-UNCERTAINTY
by Gary Durbin

A software super geek becomes unexpectedly embroiled in a murder case when he is hired to investigate the software at a Bay Area tech firm, and must work with his lover to to contain a dangerous AI.

THE SOULS OF HER FEET
by Kristen Caven

A playful reimagining of Cinderella as a teen with body image issues and a modern dysfunctional family. A delightful gift for romantics, shoe-lovers, and drag fans.

Setting That Works: an Interview with John Byrne Barry

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John Byrne Barry, presenter of our Setting that Works workshop

John Byrne Barry, presenter of our Setting that Works workshop

Tonight at six we welcome novelist John Byrne Barry to lead us in a workshop, “Setting that Works,” at WeWork in Oakland. Today Cristina Deptula of Authors Large & Small asked us a few questions about setting in anticipation of his workshop. 

John Byrne Barry writes novels, designs websites and book covers, and leads bicycle tours in San Francisco. He is author of two “page-turners with a conscience”Wasted: Murder in the Recycle Berkeley Yard, and Bones in the Wash: Politics is Tough. Family is Tougher, which won the 2015 Best Book award from the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA). His third novel, coming in 2019, is an assisted-suicide family thriller, tentatively titled Why I Killed My Father. 

Last chance to get discount tickets for the Setting That Works workshop TONIGHT 

Interview with John Byrne Barry

How do you know how much setting to include? What does it mean for setting to ‘work?’

There’s no one answer to how much setting to include, but my leaning is to use as little as possible. Only what’s necessary. Even the most elegantly written setting can slow the story down. As for what I mean by “setting that works,” the best and most memorable setting is not just a pretty, or gritty description, it’s also doing other “jobs,” like advancing the story, setting mood, echoing theme, and more. Its primary role, of course, is helping the reader visualize the scene. Smell it and feel it, too. But if that’s all it’s doing, it’s a missed opportunity. At the workshop, we’ll be going over eight of the jobs setting can do. Defining or revealing character is one of the more common, and useful, jobs that setting does.

In most novels, there’s one or more point-of-view characters, and the camera usually sits on that character’s shoulder. The reader sees what the character sees. If I were a character walking in my neighborhood in Tam Valley, I might notice how happy the trees are, with all this rain, how many flowers and blossoms and weeds are everywhere. Another character might notice all the Teslas and BMWs and Mercedes. What the character notices tells the reader who he or she is. I might note the expensive cars too, not because I care about cars, but it reminds me that I’m living in a community where most people have more money than I do. That’s revealing as well.

What books, and which authors, would you say provide good examples of setting done well?

Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day comes to mind because the setting there is so much about describing a culture, a tradition, more than a place. It’s a brilliant book, and the setting is only one of its many strengths. The story follows Stevens, a middle-aged butler in the 1950s. Most of the novel is his reminiscence of the time between the wars, when he presided over a large staff at Darlington Hall, a Downton Abbey–like estate. The setting is not so much Darlington Hall or the West Country as much as the devotion to “dignity” that limits Stevens’ life. It’s sad and somber.

Then there’s Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver, which is set in the fecund forests of Appalachia, and follows Deanna, a wildlife biologist who is studying a den of coyotes that have recently migrated into the region, and who falls in love with a young man who had come to the mountains to hunt the coyotes. The setting here is the opposite of The Remains of the Day — it’s humid and lush and bursting with procreating plants and animals. It’s messy and rowdy nature at its sexiest, and it rubs off on Deanna and her complicated relationship with the hunter. I read it a long time ago, and I still remember the feeling of the natural environment and the way it seeped into everyone’s story. It was the birds and bees writ large.

I also want to mention my “green noir” mystery, Wasted, set in the recycling world of Berkeley. Two decades ago, I had done a lot of reporting and had written a long cover story for the East Bay Express called “The End of Garbage.” I had visited landfills and transfer stations and recycling centers, even the harbor in Oakland where bales of aluminum were loaded onto ships. I was intrigued with the idea of setting a mystery in this garbage and recycling universe, which is rich with themes of reinvention and discarding that which no longer serves us. The setting wasn’t just the recycling world, but Berkeley, where I lived for more than 25 years. I saw it as a colorful, creative place that also was ripe for ridicule. Like, for example, what I call “Berkeley-itis,” which is the idea that anyone on the street knows as much about anything as educated experts. I was very happy that one review of Wasted said I nailed the “vibe” of Berkeley. I think that’s what the best setting does. It’s not like painting a backdrop for a play. It’s more about capturing a feeling, a zeitgeist.

How important is setting to a story? What do you think of books, such as Wuthering Heights and Faulkner’s novels, where critics say that the ‘setting has become a character?’ Is it possible for that to be literally true? Can setting go through a character arc of its own?

Not sure setting can go through a character arc, though consider The Perfect Storm, a true story about the crew of a fishing boat caught in one of the most vicious Atlantic storms ever. The storm escalated in the same way a character might, and the storm was often described using some of the same adjectives as people — angry, fierce, relentless. Severe weather, because it changes, can be like a character. There are plenty of books where the cities they’re set in are characters of sorts. Think 1980s New York City in Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities, with its go-go greed-is-good bond traders and its polarizing racial tensions. But character arc for a setting is a bit of a stretch. Not that cities don’t have their own character and don’t change. Just look at what’s happening with San Francisco now with the tech boom. But that arc happens over generations. It’s hard to depict in a book, unless you’re writing an epic saga that unfolds over decades or centuries.

How integral should the setting be to the story? Should a story be grounded in a place or able to happen anywhere? (or does it depend on the book?)

I don’t know that it matters if the story takes place in some recognizable place, but most stories play out in a variety of settings, some of which are enclosed spaces, like bars or kitchens or prison cells. You may not need more than a sentence or two to capture those settings. Again, it’s more about the feeling than the colors of the walls. I’m in several writing critique groups and I also read a lot of novels, from literary to trash, and I find that many books, even ones that have won prizes and sold millions, have too much setting for my taste. One of my favorite pieces of writing advice comes from Elmore Leonard, who said something like, “You know those parts in books that you skip over? Leave them out.” Often, it’s setting that readers skip over.

How should you research (or imagine!) the setting of your book before you begin to write? How familiar should you be with a place before you start to write a draft?

I wouldn’t say should because everyone has their own way, but for me, what has come first was finding the right setting for my story. As I just said, Wasted started with the setting, and I then I built the characters and story on top of it. The same was true of my other novel. In 2004, I knocked on doors for John Kerry in Milwaukee. It was tedious work, phone banking even more so, but I got excited about the idea of setting a story against the backdrop of a presidential campaign. There’s the ticking clock, there’s the high stakes, there’s the adrenaline and dirty tricks and moral gray areas. But I grew up in Chicago and Milwaukee did not seem like a colorful enough place, for me, to set a book. (Sorry, Milwaukee. It’s not you, it’s me.) So in 2008 I got myself to another swing state, colorful and quirky New Mexico, where I set my novel, Bones in the Wash. The novel unfolds during the presidential race, as my two protagonists, campaign operatives for Obama and McCain respectively, fight for the state’s five electoral votes.

As I knocked on doors in Albuquerque, I kept my eyes open. I had been asked by a colleague to post a blog every night. As with Wasted, the setting came first. I attended a panel on setting at the San Francisco Writers Conference a few years ago, and the first two panelists insisted that you had to be physically present to research setting, but the third presenter, who ran a writers conference in Santa Barbara, said not any more. You want to find out what it’s like to ride in the canals of Venice? You can find that on YouTube, he said. Certainly, it is more possible than ever to see what places look like without being there. But that zeitgeist I talked about, you’re not likely to find that in a video.

See you at our Setting that Works workshop TONIGHT

Join us for Barry’s Barry’s hands-on workshop, where we’ll review the different ways setting can strengthen your narrative, and lead a writing exercise putting what we learn into action.

The best setting is more than a pretty, or gritty description. It’s lean and strong, because it’s working two or more jobs—pushing your story along, helping us get to know your protagonist better. Whether you write fiction, memoir, or nonfiction, join us for “Setting That Works” on June 5th at WeWork in Oakland. Price goes up at the door so get your tickets now

Topics Covered at Tonight’s Workshop

  • Studying the different ways setting can strengthen your story.
  • Do writing exercises putting what we learned into action.
  • Capturing the essence of a place in a few short sentences—a strategic snapshot, not a Wikipedia entry.
  • Drip-feeding description into your story so it doesn’t slow the momentum.

 

GET TICKETS NOW

 

Ticket Info for this Workshop

Advance tickets $30; $40 at door.

CWC Members (50% discount): Advance tickets $15; $20 at door

There will be a member list at the door. Information about membership benefits and costs can be found at cwc-berkeley.org/about/join-us. 

On Being a Working Writer: an Interview with Peggy Dougherty

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Peggy Dougherty

Peggy Dougherty, one of three panelists this Sunday speaking on THE WORKING WRITER

This Sunday, we’re hosting a panel on the working writer, to engage our members in conversation about finding balance and inspiration with our writing careers. In celebration of our final event in this year’s speaker series, we have asked some questions of panelist Peggy Dougherty.

Peggy is an award-winning playwright whose plays have had had thirty-eight productions. Her plays (all comedies) have been performed in New York City, San Diego, Los Angeles, Boca Raton, Houston, San Francisco, Great Britain, Toronto, and elsewhere. Peggy is a member of The Dramatists Guild of America, Inc., and The Drama Association of Rossmoor. She published her first novel, Age Matters, in 2018.

But she also had a day job for many years as a clinical psychologist In 2013 Peggy published a self-help book, The Ten Minute Cognitive Workout: Manage Your Mood and Change Your Life in Ten Minutes a Day (authored by Peggy Dougherty Snyder, Ph.D.). The book won the 2013 San Diego Book Award for Best Self-Help.

At our Sunday meeting, Peggy will share how she juggled her professional career as a clinical psychologist with her passion for writing. She will discuss how her profession informed her writing and how being self-employed helped her carve out a viable writing schedule. She’ll also share the boundaries she established between her psychology practice and her devotion to her writing passion.Age Matters book cover Peggy Dougherty

1. How do you balance the different ‘hats’ that you wear, as a writer, salesperson, employee, etc? What helps you to get back into the writing headspace after you’ve shifted out of it?

One way I balanced them when I was working is I used different surnames. Peggy Snyder is a psychologist. Peggy Dougherty is a playwright/author. My first play, From Bed to Worse, was a comedy about a psychologist. I didn’t want my clients to hear about the play and think I was poking fun at psychotherapy. (I was poking fun at the psychologist.) So I authored the play and all my subsequent fiction writing as Peggy Dougherty. I had writing days and psychology days (because I didn’t see clients every weekday.) On writing days I introduced myself as Peggy Dougherty. On workdays, I was Peggy Snyder.

Peggy Dougherty's nonfiction book

Peggy Dougherty’s nonfiction book

2. What avenues do you suggest for writers who need more income?

Free-lance writing and/or copywriting. I tried my hand at both with little success, but when I wasn’t working I wanted to work on my current playwriting project–which I started longer ago than I care to admit. Another idea is to get a gig writing a newslettter for an organization.

3. Do you personally prefer day-jobs that involve writing, or that let you do something completely different and take a break from writing?

I prefer a day job that does not involve writing. I have spoken with several writers whose jobs involved several hours each day on the computer. They all said it was difficult to sit down at the computer when they returned home in the evening.

4. What are some tips for time management that have worked for you?

Where do you sneak away downtime to write? I am pretty good about sticking to a writing schedule. At least I was before moving to Rossmoor in August of 2017. In Rossmoor there is a revolving calendar of interesting and exciting events all day/every day. It is like living on a cruise ship without the non-stop buffets or sea sickness. (I especially like my Zumba class, taught by a CWC author!) However, currently I try to devote the mid portion of my day from 11:00 to 5:00-6:00 to writing. This has been a difficult adjustment because I write best in the morning. On writing days in San Diego, where fitness classes started at 7:30 a.m., I was usually at my computer by 9:00- 9:30 and wrote until 5:00. Prior to retirement I seldom tried to write on a psychology day. It was too heart-rending. I really kept a strong boundary between work and writing.


Meet Peggy Dougherty and Discuss Matters Important to Working Writers THIS SUNDAY

Peggy will be joined by fellow professional writers “the Answer Man” Thaddeus Howze and Paul Corman-Roberts, co-founder of the Beast Crawl festival. Watch for an interview with our other two panelists, and plan to attend this exciting panel on May 19th. This will be the final installment in the 2018-2019 speaker program!

Working Writer Panel May 19th

 

 

Write Angles: May 2019

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Read the entire newsletter here

The Wind In Your Sails

Some words from your captain/president

In the big book of work-life balance, writing fits in both categories for most of us. In Chapter seven of my memoir, Perfectly Revolting: My Glamorous Cartooning Career, “Doodling for Dollars,” I write: 

There are five or six ways to have art in your life when you’re living in the real world.

1) drawing for free
2) drawing on the job
3) drawing as a job
4) drawing off the clock
5) getting successfully published
6) becoming independently wealthy.

Insert “writing” for “drawing” and you’ve got the setup for our May panel, The Working Writer. Come meet our interesting panelists on May 19th, and share your p.o.v..  Sheryl Bize-Boutte is the first to chime in… check out her piece in “The Writing Life,” in the newsletter.

Now, volunteering for the CWC is both work-related for those of us working writers, and life-related for those of us who find any sort of happiness in helping and working with others. 

posing with the Jack London Award & CWC sealEvery other year, the CWC gives out an award to one volunteer in each of its branches who has gone “above and beyond” in supporting the club. When I received the 2017 Jack London Award, it felt SO good to be recognized for my efforts that I volunteered even more! 

> With uber-volunteers JoAnn Ainsworth and Kymberlie Ingalls, plus fellow Jack London Award Winner Linda Brown, I pose with the 1913 woodcut that became our club seal. Other Jack London Award Winners from this branch include David Baker, Anne Fox, and Lucille Bellucci.


And at a board meeting earlier this spring, it was such a pleasure to ask Karma Bennett to leave the room for a second so I could nominate her for this year’s award. The consent was unanimous and uproarious!

Karma has been your web mistress, your workshop host, and even your president! She sets up our meetings, month after month! Karma is the first and last person to hold up her hand when volunteers are requested, whether or not she’s got the time. She’s always eager to explain something or juggle something or hold the door. Karma has been a force of playfulness and possibility in this club since the day she arrived, and is always willing to offer her advice and support. Karma will be honored by the Central Board at a luncheon here in Oakland on July 21st.

More calendar notes: May 19th is our last meeting at Preservation Park this year. (It’s also our election! Come cast your vote!) Reserve NOW for our June 5th workshop on setting and plan to attend our club party and book launch at the Octopus on June 15th before we break for summer. We might be looking for a new home come September…. Then it’s California Writers Week in October and Litquake and then who wants to run away to the islands with me in November? The Kauai Writers Conference has offered our club members a 20% discount off attendance fees. Let me know if you’re interested.



                                           Sail On,

 —Kristen Caven
 Berkeley Branch Captain a.k.a. President, 2017-2019

 Author, The Souls of Her Feet
 Co-author, The Bullying Anditote
                        

June 5th WORKSHOP: “Setting that Works” with John Byrne Barry

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The best setting is more than a pretty, or gritty description. It’s lean and strong, because it’s working two or more jobs—pushing your story along, helping us get to know your protagonist better. Whether you write fiction, memoir, or nonfiction, join us for “Setting That Works” on June 5th at WeWork in Berkeley. 

In this hands-on workshop, author John Byrne Barry will review the different ways setting can strengthen your narrative, and lead a writing exercise putting what we learn into action.

Topics Covered at June 5th Workshop

  • Studying the different ways setting can strengthen your story.
  • Do writing exercises putting what we learned into action.
  • Capturing the essence of a place in a few short sentences—a strategic snapshot, not a wikipedia entry.
  • Drip-feeding description into your story so it doesn’t slow the momentum.

Workshop Led by John Byrne Barry

John Byrne BarryJohn Byrne Barry writes novels, designs websites and book covers, and leads bicycle tours in San Francisco. He is author of two “page-turners with a conscience”Wasted: Murder in the Recycle Berkeley Yard, and Bones in the Wash: Politics is Tough. Family is Tougher, which won the 2015 Best Book award from the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA). His third novel, coming in 2019, is an assisted-suicide family thriller, tentatively titled Why I Killed My Father. Learn more at johnbyrnebarry.com.

Get Your Tickets Now

Ticket Info for this Workshop

Advance tickets $30; $40 at door.

CWC Members (50% discount): Advance tickets $15; $20 at door

There will be a member list at the door. Information about membership benefits and costs can be found at cwc-berkeley.org/about/join-us. 

Reservations are required!

GET TICKETS NOW

 

 

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