Kubrik’s Mysterious Symbols: an Interview with Featured Member Nicole Berg

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At this Sunday’s final meeting before our summer break, the Berkeley California Writers Club celebrates author and film critic Nicole Berg. Berg’s fist book Discovering Kubrick’s Symbolism is now available for pre-sale from McFarland Books. This is her second year in the CWC. She says, “I really enjoy getting to know the other members here.”

Berg’s career began in animation, gaming, & software industries such as Walt Disney, DIC, Sierra, Symantec, and a number of dot coms during the “Tinker Bell” economy. Later, she taught college-level courses in Animation, Art, & Digital Media in Los Angeles & Portland. When earning her MFA degree, Nicole trained in film pipeline processes at PIXAR & ImageMovers Digital.

One day she happened upon a showing of Kubrick’s 2OO1: A SPACE ODYSSEY and asked herself, “what if other repeating symbols existed in 2OO1 that helped explain the monolith?” Nicole soon realized that indeed there were. This started the research journey of her book Discovering Kubrick’s Symbolism. That grew to include bombshell discoveries within all of Stanley Kubrick’s iconic films such as Spartacus, Dr. Strangelove, Lolita, Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, & Eyes Wide Shut.

Six Quick Questions for Film Writer Nicole Berg

What’s the most important piece of writing advice that you could give to other writers?

Write a list of subjects you think you would enjoy writing about for inspiration.

What one thing has helped promote your writing most?

My push in contacting both publishers & agents whose interests even slightly covered my book’s subject matter.

What are your writing habits?

Having a quiet place like an office is essential for concentration.

Nicole Berg’s forthcoming book

I aim for two or more hours. Some time in the morning & two or more hours in the afternoon or evening, at least 4 days a week.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be an animator and was in the animation & multimedia business during the nineties.

What other writers inspire you?

Riane Eisler (Chalice & the Blade), Richard Adams (Watership Down), Margot Adler (Drawing Down the Moon) & Terry Pratchett.

Meet Nicole Berg this Sunday May 17th

Stanley Kubrik Esoterica, Electing Board Officers, and Finding the Discipline to Write

At Sunday’s meeting, Berg will show us some of the mysterious symbols throughout the films of Stanley Kubrik, as a teaser to her forthcoming book. Following, she will take questions.

In addition to writing about film, Berg enjoys anthropology, archaeology, animals, word religion, & folklore. In our Zoom breakout sessions, Berg would love to find other writers who share her interests in film, animation, or graphic design. She wants to support other writers through mentorship and promoting one another’s works. So be sure to drop her a line in the chat window this Sunday, especially if you know of a website or journal that might be interested in film criticism.

Following Nicole Berg’s presentation, we’ll get to hear from former pro basketball player Paul Shirley. Shirley is now an author and productivity coach. He will teach us how to apply the athlete’s discipline to our writing. Commit to your writing this Sunday!

This Sunday We Elect Board Members

Get to know the candidates and have your say in the direction of the club. She we steer this ship into the ice berg, or the gaping maw of the Kraken? Or is there another course? Have your say, Sunday!

Get Tickets for our Zoom Meeting or Learn More about Sunday’s Meeting

Interview with Sunday’s Featured Member Terry Tierney

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Terry Tierney, author of the forthcoming The Poet’s Garag

Terry Tierney is our featured member for the meeting this Sunday, April 19th. His first book of poetry The Poet’s Garage is due to be published in May by Unsolicited Press. Terry Tierney hails from the Midwest, but has planted roots in the San Francisco Bay Area where he lives with his wife, their enthusiastic golden retriever and two inquisitive kittens. After serving in the Seabees, he completed his BA and MA at Binghamton University and a PhD in Victorian Literature at Emory University. He taught college composition and creative writing, and he survived several Silicon Valley startups as a software engineer.  His poems and stories have recently appeared in Typishly, The Mantle, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Front Porch Review, Jersey Devil Press, Rogue Agent, The Lake and other publications. Lucky Ride (Unsolicited Press), an irreverent Vietnam-era road novel, is set to release in 2022.

Check out Tierney’s website or buy your tickets for this Sunday’s event (which will take place via Zoom).

Six Questions for Terry Tierney (Followed by a Bonus!)

What’s the most important piece of writing advice that you could give to other writers?

Writing is breath. Never stop breathing. Write every day. The more you write the better you get, and it’s important to have rough drafts to edit. The process of editing is where the best writing emerges, but you have to continually stoke the furnace with raw material. For a first draft don’t think at all about editing and concentrate on free flow of ideas. Some days it might be one line or a few linked words, but try to end each day with more words than you had the day before. 

What one thing has helped promote your writing most?

Like many writers, promotion feels like an unnatural act. Setting up my website, Facebook author page, and social media accounts has been helpful, but the best help and support comes from networking with other writers. This includes going to readings and conferences, reading at open mics, and joining the CWC, in particular.

What are your writing habits?

Typically I write in my journal first thing in the morning and mine ideas, sometimes dreams, by brainstorming and free association. Occasionally I ponder a writing prompt. If I have an outline for a story or an essay I often cruise for several hours before I putter out. I edit when I start to feel drained of new ideas. But everything stops if I feel a poem coming on.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was younger I wanted to be an engineer or a soldier, since my father and all my uncles served in the military. But I was drawn more and more to writing, first as sports editor for my high school and college newspapers, then general news and editorials, especially in response to the Vietnam War. 

What other writers inspire you?

Probably Jack Kerouac inspires me the most, though I have several, including John Keats, Percy Shelley, Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray, Jane Austen, George Eliot, and a large number of modern poets, beginning with T. S Eliot. I credit Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg with inspiring me to write poetry, but Kerouac as a unique artist and character stole my heart. You might say my feeling for Kerouac is more than a crush—I want to be Kerouac. That said, I have also gone through similar attachments to Wallace Stevens, John Ashbury, Ted Hughes, Ernest Hemingway and others. When I love an author, I tend to read their entire canon, and I feel a sense of loss when I finish.

Do You Listen to Music when You Write? If So, What?

 Music is a great background for writing, but I find I cannot listen to vocals. My preferred genres are jazz and classical music, though I tend more often to queue up jazz. Miles Davis is one of my favorite artists, and his album “Bitches Brew” has carried me through several writing sessions. The unstructured feel of the tunes sets my mind free.

Bonus! A Poem by Terry Tierny

Meet Terry Tierney AND Learn Self-Editing and Revision Tips at our First Meeting via Zoom

As work-intensive as it can be to put our ideas into words, doing so is only the beginning of the writing process. Revision (“re-seeing”) is what allows us to mold our raw material into art. But where to start? And how do you know when you’re (ever) finished? Tanya Egan Gibson will share with you the process of how a freelance editor assesses a manuscript, marks it up, and comes up with a plan for revision, distilling the process into 7 tips to help you bring an editor’s eye and experience to your own work.

Learn More or Get Your Ticket Now

Small Press Editors flyer

Interview with Jennifer Joseph of Manic D Press

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Jennifer Joseph of Manic D Press
Jennifer Joseph of Manic D Press

Manic D Press was founded by Jennifer Joseph in 1984. An award-winning literary press based in San Francisco, California publishing fiction, poetry, pop culture, music, art, narrative-oriented comix, children’s,and alternative travel books, Manic D represents a diverse group of unique writers and artists, with emphasis on those who have been shunned by the traditional publishing establishment for lacking commercial viability, regardless of their talent or future promise. Their mission has expanded to offer refuge to established writers escaping from the commercial publishing parallel universe.

How can interested readers find books published by local or special-interest small presses? 

Go to local independent bookstores! Attend local bookfairs! Visit the websites & social media of local presses and find out where their authors are presenting their works!

How do small presses publicize the titles they publish, and how would people find out about those books? 

Social media is always a great source of publicizing books and events. Popular blogs, lit journals, mainstream magazines and newspapers, as well as direct emails and bookfairs and festivals and academic conferences.
How can society and the public best support the unique role that small presses play in getting unique or special-interest books into the world? 
Buy our books and tell others about them through social media and in-person conversation. Suggest small press books to your book club, too.

Awards Granted
to Manic D Press

  • 2000 American Library Association Stonewall Award for Literature
  • 1997 Firecracker Alternative Book Award for Art
  • 2002 and 2000 Firecracker Alternative Book Awards for Fiction
  • 1998 American Institute of Graphic Arts juried traveling exhibition 50 Books, 50 Covers
  • Sept/Oct 2003 + March/April 2004 Booksense 76 lists
  • SF Bay Guardian‘s 2004 Best of the Bay: ‘Best Quintessentially San Franciscan Publisher’
  • Publishing Triangle’s 2007 Thom Gunn Award for Poetry + 2008 Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction
  • SF Weekly’s “Best of San Francisco 2008”
  • 2009 and 2010 Lambda Literary Transgender Awards
  • 2014 Kathy Acker Award.

What do you see as the future of small press publishing, or publishing in general, in the age of technology, Amazon and self-publishing? 

It’s gotten harder to get readers to focus because the news cycle moves so quickly. There are fewer major media sources and more books being published. The distribution system is almost broken, thanks to Amazon. Anyone can print a book but getting it into stores and finding a readership for it has always been a challenge. Technology-wise, the availability of books in various formats (print, ebooks, and audio) is a good thing because it expands the potential audience for a writer’s work. Also, as printing technology has advanced, it’s possible to have cost-effective short print runs, which is also a good thing. On the downside, it’s easier than ever for books to be pirated and put up on the internet for free download, which sucks. 

Ask Jennifer Joseph your own Questions this Sunday at our Small Press Editors Panel

Out of respect for the coming health crisis we are experimenting with live streaming this for our members. Check the Facebook event page for updates on how to access the live stream. If you attend in person we will all work together to take care to stay hygienic, but we hope you will pop into the live stream if you would prefer to stay at home.

March small press editors event

An Interview with Pochino Press Editor Daniel Zarazua

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Daniel Zarazua
Daniel Zarazua of Pochino Press
will be joining our Small Press Panel

Daniel Zarazua is co-founder of Pochino Press, alongside his sister Monica and wife Xiomara. “We all play an equal role, with Monica handling the editing duties, Xiomara the graphic design, and myself taking the lead on planning events,” he says. Pochino Press have made their mark as a platform for underrepresented voices from places as diverse as Addis Ababa, Taipei, and their home-base of Oakland. Their publications tend to explore the hybridity of cultures and ideas that have come together to explore new ideas, perspectives, and ways of being. “We also draw upon our experiences as K-12 educators, community organizers, and other life experiences to inform our work and connect with others beyond the literary world,” Zarazua said, “Central to our work is creating and contributing to a broader community, not just a literary one.”

Publicist Cristina Deptula interviewed Daniel Zarazua, ask him your own questions when he appears on our Small Press Editors Panel March 15th.

Questions for Pochino Press Editor Daniel Zarazua

How can interested readers find books published by local or special-interest small presses? 

Go to where those who share your interests will be, virtually and literally! I don’t just mean literary events. Many of our best recommendations come from word of mouth, both online and in face-to-face interactions. For Pochino Press, we’re deeply enmeshed in our greater community, supporting local businesses, live music, and festivals as community members, not just publishers, so many of our connections happen outside of literary-specific events.

How can society and the public best support the unique role that small presses play in getting unique or special-interest books into the world? 

Recognizing the value of small presses that may be giving a voice to unique and needed perspectives is a good place to start. We’re often more nimble and willing to take chances on works that we’re passionate about as our decisions aren’t driven by shareholders. Part of recognizing this value is a willingness to pay a little more than you would at a discount outlet. The money might actually have a larger impact! Speaking from a Bay Area perspective, we live here so the money goes directly to the community through us renting spaces, paying local authors, performers, artists, and caterers. Plus, all of our publications have been published with local printers. Aside from purchases, telling others about our publications, leaving online reviews, checking out and requesting our books at your local library, inviting our authors for interviews, and teaching our works in your class are just a few things that come to mind. Everyone has something to contribute and as a press we always seek ways to be collaborative.

How do small presses publicize the titles they publish, and how would people find out about those books? 

In full transparency, this is an area that we at Pochino Press could experience some growth! We’re proud of our publications and related events, but we could be doing more to further our reach. We have an idea of what to do, such as booking more speaking engagements, hosting workshops, and doing more interviews, but balancing the press with our other responsibilities can be challenging, meaning that we are not reaching more people who would be interested in our work.

As a reader I try to be proactive, following key social media accounts, scouring my local public library, and frequently visiting independent bookshops. Through this process I meet people who make recommendations. Once I find a new press or author I like I follow them on social media and checkout who they’re connected to. I’m never at a loss for things to read and I love the thrill of the hunt.

What do you see as the future of small press publishing, or publishing in general, in the age of technology, Amazon and self-publishing? 

We have to adapt, remain creative, and remember that relationships still matter. Yes, we’re literally selling books, but most people still want a human connection, whether that’s through online forums such as blogs, effectively using social media to build relationships, or simply talking to people! Without the connections, we’re just pushing a product, which is probably not the reason most of us started small presses.

We have to make sure that the quality of our books, from the content to the physical materials, are at a high level. Plus, are we offering something unique? Individual small presses can’t compete with the larger corporations, but should that even be the goal? We have to look at traditional entrepreneurial models, such as finding our niche and developing that, while looking to the future, using technology to our advantage, and being aware of changing social dynamics. 

There are unquestionably some major hurdles for small presses, but ultimately, are we working together to create sustainable solutions? There’s no benefit in lamenting the challenges if we’re not solutions oriented.

Have Questions Daniel Zarazua? Ask them at our Small Press Editors Panel Discussion

March small press editors event

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.

“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

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”


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