View From the Helm Sept 2009

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The 2009/2010 year of the Berkeley Branch bursts from the starting gate with ourregular programs further developed and new programs deserving of attention.  Our speaker program continues to be a pillar of the club. Focusing on information we can use as writers, we feature agents on two dates: Andy Ross in September and Michael Larsen in January. In October Kemble Scott will talk about the growing importance of eBooks. In February we welcome Becky Levine, author of a book on critique groups and revision techniques. And in June we will cash in our rain check for iconic writing teacher, Molly Giles.

This year we have two drop-in support/critique groups. The anchor five-page support/critique writers’ group grows in popularity and the quality of its critiques. The nonfiction group has a solid core. At least one closed group has formed.  I would not be surprised to find others born this year.

Last year one of our most successful programs was the Acquisition Editor workshop, presented by Charlotte Cook. We plan to reprise that workshop and introduce additional workshops on elements of craft. Already scheduled is a three-hour workshop in October (see the announcement in this issue) on “The Art of the Noun,” led by Marianne Rogoff, author and writing professor. November will see a craft talk on a topic to be chosen and facilitated by Marilyn Abildskov of the St. Mary’s College MFA program.  For 2010 we’ll have the Acquisition Editor Workshop and two other programs.

The WestSide Story Contest has come under the wing of the Berkeley Branch and is open to everyone. The deadline has been extended to September 15, so you still have time to get your story in. Your entry fees support the contest, and your club provides a quality outlet for your work. Please help spread the word.  Submission guidelines at

A few weeks ago I thought it might be interesting to get a few of our members to ponder on the notion of mentors. Pleased with the number and quality of the responses, I‘m devoting this issue of Write Angles to this theme.

– AL Levenson, President

View From the Helm | June 2009

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Since the last view from the helm, the club has taken more steps into the Age of Internet Networks. Thanks to member Deborah Hymes, we now Twitter, (@CWC_Berkeley), and the Berkeley Branch has its own blog under construction. Also, the Branch has a page at Facebook (CWC Berkeley) that already has over a hundred friends.

Browsing Twitter, we find that the people who “follow” our Twitter offer an interesting pool of offbeat commentators. Some are twits, but all of them tweet. Blogging is already the province of great minds, i.e., Huffington Post, as well as medium, medium-rare, rare, and raw minds. One quite well done is Deborah’s own blog, Writer Vixen Explains It All. Irreverent, iconoclastic, ironic, and irrepressible, a scoop of the Writer Vixen on your morning oats will get your wild day going.

I tried my hand at a club Facebook page. Its hundred-plus “friends” include over a dozen from the Berkeley Branch, an equal number from other branches, with most of the rest writers and wannabes and a spritz of publishing-industry luminaries peeking in to keep up. The ebb and flow of new tides of connectivity and outreach will promote the club and publicize our events and programs. Our greater Web presence will lead to more visitors at our meetings as well as to our Internet sites.

On our FB page Kemble Scott has already announced the release of his new book, Sower, as an e-Book at He and two fellow authors Tamimn Ansary and Joe Quirk, posted a brief video at YouTube about why they released their books in an online digital version. I liked Scott’s previous book, SoMa, and for only two dollars I could buy Sower. Scott tells me he will receive $1.60/book, 80 percent of the “cover” price.

Is a harbinger of things to come in the publishing business? Is the canary tweeting the demise of the print-on-demand industry? Will Amazon drop the price of Kindle books to $1.99? (LOL, in fact ROFL). By next week, will all of this be so last week?

For opinions but not answers to these and other burning questions of our time, check The View From the Helm in future issues of Write Angles.

— AL Levenson, President

View From the Helm | May 2009

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We are coming up on two annual cycles—elections of officers and membership renewals.It seems a good time to report on the state of the Branch.

At the April board of directors meeting, treasurer Ken Frazer reported a bank balance of $3475.98. None of the costs of the Fifth-Grade Writing Contest have been submitted, but even after setting aside the projected expenses, our balance is healthy at over $2000. Ken also submitted a budget for our next fiscal year.

The Berkeley Branch operates frugally. We pay no rent for any of our meeting spaces. Our primary income is from membership dues, 55 percent of which leaves the Branch and goes to the statewide California Writers Club. Our largest expense is the subsidy of our flagship activity, the Fifth-Grade Writing Contest; yet we operate within our income.

Next year we will institute another ambitious program, The West Side Writing Contest and Chapbook. We predict we’ll need to subsidize about $600 of this event in its first year. By providing another activity to current members, another attraction to new members, the subsidy is an investment in the future of the Branch.

Twenty-five members joined within the last year. Branch membership stands at 82, including five Life Members and five Emeritus members.

At our May meeting the board will propose a slate of officers for next year. Has the time come for you to be proactive helping the branch to function? Please contact any board member to become a candidate for nomination. If you believe someone would be an asset to the board but is too bashful to step forward, please persuade that person to contact the board. Elections will take place at the June meeting.

Memberships expire at the end of June. In the next Write Angles we will commence our drive for renewals. As a reminder, the Berkeley Branch is the only Branch that will publish its newsletter over the summer. The July and August issues will be devoted entirely to the creative writing of Branch members. Submission guidelines are below.

And that is the view from the helm this month.