Five Questions for Laurie Panther, Tomorrow’s Featured Member

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Lately we’ve been doing interviews with the guest we asked to come speak to the club, but we also want you to have a chance to get to know our fellow Berkeley CWC members. It’s not only our guests who have something to contribute, our members are capable, interesting and knowledgeable. Our meeting is mostly a chance for us to share our insights and struggles.

That brings us to this month’s featured member, Laurie Panther.

Laurie Panther holds a master’s degree in education and an Administrative Credential in Educational Leadership for Social Justice.  In her personal life, she has served in many capacities in both twelve-step recovery groups, as well as for Adult Survivors of Child Abuse; and has maintained twenty-nine years of sobriety and abstinence from drugs. She gives workshops on recovery and empowerment (for example, this upcoming workshop). Panther writes poetry and has performed a one-woman show about her life in several venues (see Laurie’s story about the “pussy bushes” at the Moth). She blogs about these topics at Mixed Girl Survival School

Five Questions for Featured Member Laurie Panther

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

Don’t be afraid to let other people read what you write. When you get lots of feedback, you can find trends to validate observations, and you won’t take each one of a few as the be-all and end-all. Less devastating. Also be prepared to revise—a lot!

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

A housewife (because my mother worked and emotionally neglected her children) and a writer (because I could express my unspeakable emotional truths as child). I began journaling when I was 11 years old.

3. If you could truly be the writer you wanted to be, what would your career look like?

My writing would be published by a reputable house, and after hot sales of the memoir style, I’d write in other genres, such as “self-help” and parenting—all focused on helping people identify and overcome the damage of trauma (sex abuse, child abuse, neglect, depression, anxiety, etc.) I would also travel to share my writing, as well as providing workshops & and individual consultations.

4. What other writers inspire you?

Female writers inspire me. Especially ones who capture the struggles of sexuality, repressions, overcoming barriers. Of the classic female English novelists: the Bronte Sisters, Virginia Woolf, and Kate Chopin come to mind, and from the modern women writers: Barbara Kingsolver (Poisonwood Bible is one of my all time favorites), Ann Pachett, and gritty memoir and memoir style writers: Jeannette Walls, Dorothy Allison, and Toni Morrison.

5. What do you think of the writing business these days?

I really miss the art in writing. It used to be that the people who were born with the ability to communicate their burning inner fire or insights were sought after by publishers and taken in and nurtured. Or less talented people could labor and hone their skills, achieving a fair chance that a publisher would give them a shot. But now, talent doesn’t seem to play much of a role. There’s so much crap being published and sold at Barnes & Noble, and people will read the latest crap displayed on the tables and buy more “in the series.” Access to a good publishing house, and the support they used to offer the writers is gone. The self-promoting that writers have to engage in has moved the craft aspect from the page to the internet manipulation game. It feels like prostitution to me, or a marathon where the most dogged win and not the most talented. When experts come to us with the great idea that instead of writing what we are moved to write, we should research what is selling and write what will get published—art has died.

At this Sunday’s meeting, Laurie Panther will be present to read from her memoir: Mixed Girl, Trauma Oncologist: How I Cured the Soul Sickness That Ate My Family Alive. A life-long East Bay native, Laurie’s story covers how her mixed race family, with adopted children from orphanages around the world, navigated the 50s, 60s and beyond. Laurie unpacks trauma, her inspiring efforts to survive, and how she broke the chain of dysfunction. We hope you’ll join us. Our featured guest will be Joe Clifford and as usual there will be coffee, snacks, marketing advice and craft discussion groups. 

 

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Interview with Acquisitions Editor and Author Joe Clifford, our Feature for This Sunday’s Metting

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It’s an interview with this Sunday’s featured guest, Joe Clifford. Joe is acquisitions editor for Gutter Books and the author of several books, including Junkie Love and the Jay Porter Thriller Series, as well as editor of Trouble in the Heartland: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Bruce Springsteen and Just to Watch Them Die: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Johnny Cash.

Clifford’s success wasn’t smooth sailing. He overcame a a ten-year heroin and methamphetamine addiction, which culminated with felony arrests, overdoses, and homelessness. He found his light as he fought through the darkness to recovery.  Skating the edge of insanity is a concept that Clifford is familiar with and lays it all bare in his memoir.

Interview conducted by Berkeley CWC member Cristina Deptula.

Cristina Deptula: Your life seems to have been one wild adventure! What would you say to people who feel they should be working on developing their writing craft but are in a season of life where they really struggle to put keys to the keyboard, as you probably were when you were homeless?

Joe Clifford: Read! You can always find books (even on the side of the road). Long before I was a writer, I was a reader, and most great writers will tell you they’ve read way more than they’ve written. Of course one of the wrinkles is that as you start writing professionally, the time for reading for pleasure gets seriously cut into! You’re always reading for work, in one way or another. Also, writing is more than just the writing; it’s observing, practicing craft. I used to scribble poems on napkins when I was homeless, think about the scenes I was seeing, imagining the stories. Of course, this is in retrospect. When I was living on the streets and in skid row hotels, I wasn’t actively outlining novels; although I did always believe the material would, somehow, turn into art.

CD: You’ve edited anthologies of crime fiction inspired by Bruce Springsteen and Johnny Cash songs. What do you think in their music speaks to writers, and are there songwriters out there today who could have a similar effect on writers?

JC: I LOVE this question! I wrote in the introduction to Trouble in the Heartland (the Springsteen anthology) that if I had to pick one author as the most influential in my life, it would be the Boss. And the reason is simple. When I was a teenager, I rebelled and fought authority like a lot of kids, and this meant not doing homework, which included reading. In my defense, while I am certain Across Five Aprils is a wonderful book, to an angry sixteen-year-old, stuck “in a town full of losers,” it didn’t speak to me. Springsteen did. So he was part of my formative artistic years. I was studying story structure without realizing it. What Springsteen can do in a single line (“Remember all the movies Terry we’d go and see / trying to walk like the heroes we thought he had to be / and after all this time to find we’re just like all the rest . . .”) what it takes most authors three-hundred pages to do.

As for the best songwriter storytellers today? For my money: Brian Fallon and Craig Finn. But there are a bunch: Micah Schnabel, Travis Meadows, Frank Turner, and, yes, Taylor Swift!

Memoirist Joe Clifford

Join Joe Clifford this Sunday at Preservation Park in Oakland

CD: I notice that not long after coming out of homelessness, you went back to school and earned a MFA. Would you recommend that for other writers? Do you think that the degree adds to a writer’s career development?

JC: You mean going to school over being homeless? Definitely! But, seriously, without my MFA, I am not publishing books today. Just how my mind works. I had a tough time with causality, which is paramount to structuring a novel. I could do scenes; I couldn’t connect them the way one needs to propel a novel. And where I went to get my masters, Florida International University, is one of the few that actively promotes genre, since it’s a way to both write and make money.

CD: What drew you to crime/detective fiction?

JC: After I wrote Junkie Love, I’d told the story of my addiction, and I didn’t want to write the same book over and over. It seemed to me that, with my background, crime was the next logical place to go. Criminals, cops, lowlifes, junkies. As you can imagine, I saw a lot of stuff out there that would make for great stories! Plus, like I mentioned, FIU had several terrific mystery, thriller writers, like Les Standiford and James W. Hall, teaching there.

CD: In your blog you mention that the gatekeeper system of publishing has drawbacks but you “don’t want to criticize it because you don’t see any alternative.” Why do you say that, and what are your feelings about self-publishing? What do you recommend for authors who have trouble finding agents and publishers?

JC: There’re a number of reasons. The first being, no one wants to listen to a published writer complain about how hard it is to get published! Ultimately, though, there is no great conspiracy to keep good writers from going unpublished. The problem with the gatekeeper system, for writers, is that it can feel like it moves way too slowly. I still believe that if you are good enough and keep at it, your work will get out there. The timetable just stinks sometimes. It’s very hard to put your heart and soul into a book and then sit around and wait for the process to play out. My feeling on self-publishing is, more times than not, it’s counterproductive. Self-publishing doesn’t just mean the author getting the book into print themselves; it means he or she is responsible for all of it—the promotion, the booking events, the distribution, etc. And, yeah, when you are at an indie you can do a lot of that yourself anyway, but you still have a certified label behind you. Which means more reviews, a certain level of respect; and I don’t say this for any other reason than this can mean more sales. And not sales for money’s sake (although that part is nice). The bigger issue: once a book is published, traditional or self-published, it becomes part of your permanent record. If an author “only” sells 1,000 copies of a book, the next time he or she approaches an agent or a new house, whatever, those numbers come with them. Simply put, it’s very hard to move tens of thousands on your own.


Ask Joe your own questions at this Sunday’s monthly meeting. He will speak to how the truth will set us free in any genre, and any project. In his road to redemption, Joe has become a successful writer, editor and anthologist.   Clifford will share the lessons he has learned, insecurities about his success, and his insights of utilizing our struggles to become our strengths. He will be joined by featured CWC member Laurie Panther.

Joe’s writing can be found at JoeClifford.com. Find out about Laurie Panther at mixedgirlsurvivalschool.com

Say you’re coming on Facebook!

May 12: Art in the Park: Writer/Artist Mini-Retreat in the Oakland Hills

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art in the park retreat at Joaquin Miller Park

Join Your Fellow Writers at Joaquin Miller Park

…And Bring Your Artist Friends Too

10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Writers & artists, come for a day of quiet creativity in Joaquin Miller Park to celebrate Oakland Art Month. We’ll meet informally at the historic “home base” of our writer’s club, and generate new work with inspiration from the “minister of the woods.”

Who: Sketch artists, painters, literary and performing artists living in or visiting Oakland.

What: A generative gathering in community ~ includes a short history of “The Hights,” Joaquin Miller’s arts retreat in the Oakland Hills, an optional Literary History Hike, and time to write and to hang out.

When: Saturday, May 12, 2018, 10:30am – 2:30pm. Come for all or part of it!

Where: Joaquin Miller Park ~ Park on Joaquin Miller Drive and meet at the Fire Circle.

3300 Joaquin Miller Rd, Oakland, California 94602

Bring paper and pens, your laptop, or easels and paints, and a sack lunch and drink. Sharing is wonderful!

RSVP on Facebook or just meet us there.

The Road to Redemption: From Homelessness to Publishing

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Joe Clifford was born in Berlin, CT, before discovering Jack Kerouac and Syd Barrett (literally) and setting out for San Francisco to be a rock and roll star.

It didn’t work out.

After a ten-year heroin and methamphetamine addiction, which culminated with felony arrests, overdoses, and homelessness, Clifford finally had enough and decided to turn his life around. He found his light as he fought through the darkness to recovery.  Skating the edge of insanity is a concept that this author is familiar with and lays it all bare in his memoir, Junkie Love.  In his road to redemption, Joe has become a successful writer, editor and anthologist.  He will speak to how the truth will set us free in any genre, and any project.  Clifford will share the lessons he has learned, insecurities about his success, and his insights of utilizing our struggles to become our strengths.

About Joe Clifford

Joe is acquisitions editor for Gutter Books and the author of several books, including Junkie Love and the Jay Porter Thriller Series, as well as editor of Trouble in the Heartland: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Bruce Springsteen and Just to Watch Them Die: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Johnny Cash. Joe’s writing can be found at JoeClifford.com.

But Wait, There’s More!

Get Marketing Support, Get Your Craft Questions Answered, and Network with Other Writers…

Be sure to arrive early to participate in the Craft and Marketing groups. These are interactive conversations where you can talk to other writers to resolve the issues in your writing and your writers career. Make the commitment to be join us every third Sunday; your writing career is important and you deserve this.

MEETING SCHEDULE

12:00–1:00 – Craft Support Group
1:00–2:00 – Marketing Group
2:00–2:30 – Break, Book Sale
2:30–3:00 – Announcements

Featured Speakers

3:00–3:15 – CWC Featured member Laurie Panther
3:15–4:00 – Featured Speaker Joe Clifford

Meetings are $5 for members, $10 for non-members.

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!

Featured Member: Poet Fred Dodsworth

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Fred Dodsworth will open for Amos White’s The Art of Giving Live Readings tomorrow. We asked him a few questions… this is what he said!

What’s the most important piece of writing advice that you could give to other writers? It’s hard to start writing but if you don’t start everything anyone might tell you about writing become wasted words.

What one thing has helped promote your writing most? Actually taking the time to promote yourself. That means submitting everyplace you can. I learned this in sales. You don’t make a sale unless you make a pitch and if you make enough pitches you’re guaranteed to make a sale.

What are your writing habits? I really learned to write in a newsroom. At the time I was pulling down about $70,000 a year as an editor and my new boss, the Executive Editor wanted to fire me but he couldn’t so he tried to drive me out by making me a front page columnist [column one above the fold, six times a week]. I liked the money so I worked in the middle of the complete madhouse of a major daily, folks on the phone shouting, several TVs running, people standing around chatting about their work or this sex lives, and did what had to be done. A year later I took my first creative writing class. My writing habit is simple. I type on a computer anywhere I can but only when I have a goal. I know I need to write everyday and I write whenever I sit down to write, whether I’m on a computer in an office or on a composition note book (I buy them on sale for 50¢ to $1 each) but .

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to grow up. As I grew older my goal became moving away from home. I first moved out when I was 15. I had my first salary job at 14 and shortly thereafter I moved out.

If you could truly be the writer you wanted to be, what would your career look like? I’d be Joyce Carol Oates, able and willing to write every day relentlessly. When I do that it scares me. I lose touch with everything else for days at a time.

What other writers inspire you? George Elliot, John Gardner, Virginia Woolf, Aimee Bender, Haruki Murakami, Alain Robbe-Grillet (le voyeur), Miguel de Cervantes, Mary Gaitskill, Julie Otsuka (Buddha in the Attic), Leslie Marmon Silko (Ceremony), so many.

Come hear Fred read his poetry tomorrow!

An Interview with This Sunday’s Guest, Amos White

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amos-white-thumb.jpgFive Questions for Haiku Poet Amos White

Amos White is an awarded American haiku poet and author, producer and activist, recognized for his vivid literary imagery and breathless poetic interpretations. Amos is published in several national and international reviews and anthologies. He is Founder and Host of the Heart of the Muse creative’s salon, Executive Producer and Host of Beyond Words: Jazz+Poetry show; Producer of the Oakland Haiku and Poetry Festival; President of Bay Area Generations literary reading series.

Member and book publicist Cristina Deptula interviewed him for the California Writers Club.

Meet Amos this Sunday, when he is our featured guest for our April monthly meeting at Preservation Park.

CD: Out of all possible forms of poetry, what drew you to haiku?

AW: In 1987, my haiku was referred to Assistant Professor. Shelly Fenno, a visiting professor in Wittenberg’s East Asian Studies Department. Word was, she had studied under the foremost US authority on haiku at the time. I had just graduated and was working at The Ohio State University as Assistant to the Dean of Humanities. I had dreams of getting published in the New Yorker or Playboy (the highest paying magazine at the time).

After an arranged meeting to discuss a focus on the Japanese art of haiku, Professor Fenno encouraged me to read the works of Matsuo Basho. She also let out that a haiku contest was being held for the Department and the winning entries were to be published in The Witt, the University literary periodical.

I drove 55 minutes from Columbus to Springfield with those three haiku to personally submit them at 5 p.m. on the day they were due. The result some days later lay indelibly on me for years thereafter. The phone rang to inform me that The East Asian Studies Journal had published my haiku and I had been selected its contest winner.

Amos White will be speaking at our April event

CD: You mentioned that you want a poet elected president. What sort of unique approach to governing do you think a poet would bring? And how do you think that poetry and art speaks to the practical issues our country faces?

AW: It is my deepest belief that one who presides over others in governance is best served, and best serves, when they have the poetry of their people and of the stories that compose their land’s narrative at heart. Poets know this best. They can carry a kernel of hope in but a metaphor and feed the hearts and souls of millions with the feathered edge of their words. Such empathy begets a selfish humility—not to parrot the fears of the misguided, nor to pimp the most vulnerable, nor preen when satellites watching, nor crow in Capitol columns, but to reflect without hubris or reflex in times of crisis or great national stress, and to draw upon the image of the institution to frame one’s thought and policy, as a sound of the commons.

CD: I know that you’re a runner as well as a writer. Annie Dillard wrote about running in her memoir and linked it to her writing as a parallel form of discipline. I was a runner myself for a few years—do you notice that it helps your writing, helps you think? Do writers tend to be drawn to running?

Amos White pull quoteAW: I last ran the week my first son was born. Time to time now, I find myself buying a new pair of joggers and thinking about the throb of thighs and pangs of cold air pulled tween pursed lips.

I do not know if writers or poets are drawn to running. I do hear often that many take walks, and since we live in the most beautiful place on earth, here in the San Francisco Bay Area, we can find ourselves, bay side on sandy encinal lined beaches of Alameda to the salmon flecked creeks of Sausal and Dimond and Strawberry Creeks, to the peaks that bear spent lava and amaze those who dare lose themselves if but for a few hours wrapped in a Redwood’s embrace.

CD: Do you prefer to write pieces to be read aloud, or read silently, and why?

AW: I have never contemplated this. I write because an experience from without has moved me within, and that feeling within I want to share so precisely shape that you know where I’ve been.

CDIt’s become a cliché that poetry can’t sell, that poets have to have day jobs, that people don’t often read and think they can’t understand poetry. So in today’s world, how and where can a writer who’s primarily a poet have an influence? Or should a writer just write and not worry about their influence?

AW: Poets have influence because they are poets. To be a poet is our point of differentiation. Poet means “maker.” We make worlds from words and we make futures when we fashion and code our images to page or mindful listeners. We capture time to memorialize an occasion or celebration or to give rise to our eyes cast low from forgetting the meaning of horizon, it is a gift to be able to share so little that can mean so much to so many in so few words. To write *is* to influence: the world, and yet the universe itself has changed, and Heidegger’s cat rolls twice on pages and screens with every dappled character that only we poets dreamed to be that was not there moments before.

 

Join Us This Sunday, April 15, When Amos Speaks to the Berkeley CWC on The Art of Giving Live Readings

Come hear this engaging and educational speaker to learn how the subtleties of tone and time can move an audience with but a word. Find out how to find open mic readings and learn to perform like a pro. Amos will teach us the dos and don’ts of reading etiquette and even how to host your own literary readings. Bring a small poem or a written paragraph of fiction, nonfiction, etc. to practice reading aloud.

Learn more or Say you’re coming on Facebook.

About Amos White: about.me/amoswhite or follow him on Facebook.

 

April 21st Location for Our Five-Page Critique Group

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Improve your writing - Critique Group April 21st

Don’t forget our members have access to a five-page critique group!

Later in the summer they will meet at the Rockridge library, but for the April meeting on April 21st they will meet at the Fourth District HQ Building. Please RSVP if you want to attend  by this Saturday, April 14th, by contacting Bob at newsjazz4@aol.com.

Participating in the Five-page Critique Group

You do not have to bring writing to participate, you may attend and critique the work of others if you prefer. If you bring writing, you may bring up to five pages of any kind of prose, double-spaced manuscript style, text no smaller than 12 pt. Times New Roman, 1-inch margins, no extra spaces between indented paragraphs, except for change of scene. Let readers know if you’re offering fiction or nonfiction. Add a short synopsis if your writing is from a longer work. Bring 13 copies.

Only eight submitters are reviewed per meeting, first come, first served. So RSVP now!

Participants read silently on-site, marking pages, and discussion follows. Readers sign the drafts they have worked on. For more information contact Ann at writefox@aol.com.

Directions to the April 21st Critique Group

The address is 111 Grand Avenue in Oakland, at the corner of Grand and Webster. Parking is limited to street parking and one corner garage.

The #12 AC transit bus stops right at the building. Depending on where you live in the East Bay, you should be either close to the #12 or close to another bus that intersects with the line. The #12 is also right next to 12th Street/Civic Center BART station.

The building is four blocks away from 19th Street BART station. AC Transit’s NL bus also stops at 19th Street BART. Several buses run up and down Broadway, which is just one block away, and Telegraph, which is two blocks away.

The location is near bicycle racks and a Ford GoBike station.


If your draft is finished and ready for the world, consider our next meeting on the Art of Live Readings. Get your writing out there!

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