The Ventura County Writers Club was founded in 1933 by four writers in the Ojai, California area. Since then the club has grown to more than 150 members and holds regular monthly general membership meetings. In these meetings persons prominent in all areas and genres of the literary field speak on sources for ideas, enhancing creativity, and getting your work published. Click here for Membership Information...
May 2016 Speaker
Do you know what your story is really about?
By Lee Wade
Every story has a theme. It is the “stick’um,” if you will, that holds other story essentials together. It is the backdrop against which plot and characters alike play out, the lens through which actions and thoughts are filtered and rendered universally relative.
On May 10, Lari Newton will present “It’s My Theme and I’m Sticking to It.” She’ll unpack for us the importance of theme in storytelling, fiction and non-fiction alike, how to recognize it and how to write to it.
“Smart.” “ Kind.” “Encouraging.” “A great teacher.” “Just the best.” These descriptions have been voiced by members of the monthly Memoir/Creative Nonfiction workshop Lari has led since joining the VCWC over five years ago. Her keen eye for detail, her crisp wit and winning smile empower those around her. Lari’s passion and respect for the craft of writing is reflected in the diligence she pours into her workshop. Collegial critique is a common element as in most workshops, but Lari’s writers do more.
“We do a lesson for the first hour of our workshop,” she said. She often prepares a related writing exercise as well. Lari encourages full participation in the publishing opportunities available locally and in the wider writers' market. She is a frequent contributor to The Write Stuff and her work also appeared in VCWC’s recent anthology, Remembrances. The group has welcomed members from novices to published book authors and contest winners …and there’s always a waiting list.
Lari’s preferred genre is memoir, a first-person narrative form described by Gore Vidal as “how one remembers one’s own life.” It is more limited in scope than the cradle-to-grave latitude of an autobiography. A short story has a similarly circumscribed focus. The limited scope allows closer examination and reflection on the impact of particular events.
Sources vary on how many literary themes exist. Two things not in dispute are that themes touch our universal humanity and that every story contains one. Learn how to recognize and utilize this essential story component. See you at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday night, May 10.
April 2016 Meeting
Salute to the Poetry Contest Winners and A Night with Poet Marsha de la O
By Lee Wade
On April 12, our Poetry Month celebration will bring smiles, sighs, and “aha” moments as we hear the 15th annual VCWC Poetry Contest poets read. We are thrilled to have Poet and VCWC member, Marsha de la O, to headline our Salute to the Winners. A writing contest veteran, she has a few pointers about contests: how to brave them, key points in entering them, how to maximize chances of winning and how to deal with not winning.
As part of our members-only platform for new publications, Fresh Ink, she’ll read from her recently published book, Antidote for Night. Copies will be available for purchase during the reception after the program and she’ll autograph them.
Marsha’s poetry has appeared in journals and anthologies across the country, and will soon be available in Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond (Pacific Coast Poetry Series). She’s been a frequent Pushcart Prize nominee and the recipient of many awards. Her previous book, Black Hope,garnered the New Issues Poetry Prize from the University of Western Michigan, and an Editor’s Choice Award. In 2014, she received the Morton Marcus Memorial Poetry Prize.
In the fall of 2015, Marsha was awarded the Isabella Gardner Award from BOA Editions for her latest collection, Antidote for Night (American Poets Continuum Series). Judging the entries were previous awardees, Laure-Anne Bosselaar and Michael Blumenthal. BOA Publisher Peter Conners made the final selection.
About the book: In its announcement of the award, BOA wrote about her work:
“Set in present-day California, Antidote for Night is a heartbreak lyric, a corrido, a love song to California’s city lights and far-flung outskirts—the San Diego back-country, the Central Valley, the Inland Empire, and the Mojave Desert. A book of remedies for dire circumstances, rock-bottom realities, and the unrelenting weight of mortality, specifically among young men of color, this collection shows what it takes to see in darkness. Marsha de la O’s voice is a kind of free jazz, musically rich with L.A. noir and the vastness of metropolitan Southern California.”
About the award: Named for 20th century poet, actress, and Associate Editor of Poetry magazine, Isabella Gardner, the biennial award is given to a poet for a “new book of exceptional merit.” Isabella Gardner was the grandniece and namesake of Isabella Stewart Gardner (b. April 14, 1840-Happy 176th Birthday!), a Boston philanthropist and patron of the arts.
Known for “stylish tastes, and unconventional behavior,” Aunt Isabella travelled extensively. She became a leading art collector. In 1898, when most art was privately held, she was passionate that art should be publically accessible. She founded the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to house her extensive and eclectic international collection. She personally oversaw the construction and art installation. Built in the Fenway section of Boston, the structure matched her reputation: stylish and unconventional. It completely surrounded a glass covered courtyard, the first such structure in the United States. The museum is currently a vibrant hive and undergoing renovations. Her personal home is part of the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail.
Isabella, the younger, published five celebrated poetry collections, and won the first New York State Walt Whitman Citation for Merit. The award pays homage to the merit of her personal works, her equally passionate and persistent encouragement of young and gifted poets and her professional work at Poetry magazine.
True to the spirit of the award’s namesake, Marsha is a noteworthy artist, a supporter, an educator, and an ally in the writing community, especially for poets in Ventura County. With her husband, Poet Laureate of Ventura County, Phil Taggart she publishes the poetry journal ASKEW. Together they produce, promote, and support poetry events like ours.
Join us Tuesday, April 12, at 7 p.m. Share the joy of poetry at the VCWC Salute to the Winners.
March 2016 Speaker
Power Tools for Writers: A Fine Finish
by Lee Wade
The companion of the strong desire to complete a work is often self doubt, an adversary that must be faced before the freedom of a fine finish can be enjoyed. - Yvonne Wilson
In our series, Power Tools for Writers, which began last September with author Sheila Lowe, we’ve covered how to get a story started, how to keep it moving forward and on track by managing the pace and chronology. Middle-grades author, Veda Stamps helped us understand point of view (POV) and character vs. author voice. Nancy Cole-Silverman, veteran copy writer and novelist, sparked us to vivify characters and locations with power-packed emotional triggers and fresh imagery.
Mystery writer Mar Preston will close out the Power Tools for Writers series on March 8th. Getting to the end of a story is sometimes harder than creating the beginning. It is not sufficient—no matter how long you’ve toiled and how tired you are—to simply stop the story telling and, like elementary school kids, declare in bold letters, “The End.” In this final session of Power Tools for Writers, we’ll look at finishing from two aspects: how to bring our stories to a satisfying narrative close, and how to polish our works before public presentation much as a car enthusiast might shine up the vintage ‘Cuda for Saturday night cruising.
“You can start your writing life at any age,” says Mar Preston. Hers began after the death of her husband, Howard, in 2005, just four days after they moved into their retirement dream home in the Southern California mountains. Mar rekindled her interest in creative writing to fill her empty hours.
What has followed is the publication of five police procedural mysteries. She has just finished the sixth. She’s also authored three e-book manuals on writing mysteries. The fourth, Finishing your Mystery Novel was released earlier this year. All are available on http://www.Amazon.comHer short stories have appeared online and in print. She is a member of the Los Angeles chapter of Sisters in Crime, an international mystery writers’ organization, and a founding member of the Bakersfield chapter. She holds a BA in History from UCLA and a MFA in Creative Writing from USC.
Said one review of her debut novel, No Dice, “The ending turned in a direction I hadn’t expected, and…along the way I learned something new in an easy and fun way…about big gambling and city politics.” http://www.Marpreston.com.
Please join us at 7p.m. on March 8 for an evening with Mar Preston as she takes the mystery out of finishing well.
February 2016 Meeting
From Script to Screen: The Making of Authors Anonymous
By Lee Wade
Imagine Bill Shakespeare and Andy Warhol sharing a draft at The Cosmic Artists, a local micro-brewery. “All the world’s a screen,” says the Bard.
“Yes,” agrees Warhol. “And everyone’s going to be famous on it for at least fifteen minutes.”
Around the room, there’s a crescendo in the click-click-click of keystrokes on laptops as other patrons vow, “I will write the script.”
It turns out that in our very real world writing the screenplay, arduous as that may be, is a piece of cake compared to the challenge of getting the script to the screen.
Our February 9 guest speaker knows the creative challenge well and has mastered it.David Congalton is a screenwriter, the top-rated radio talk-show host on the Central Coast, (KVEC, 920 AM) and an award-winning author from San Luis Obispo. David also was the director of the Central Coast Writers Conference for 12 years.
He’ll be showing scenes from Authors Anonymous, a comedy about a dysfunctional group of unpublished writers. He wrote the screenplay and will be sharing secrets and insights.*
The 2014 comedy feature film starred Camarillo native Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory), Chris Klein (American Pie), and the late Dennis Farina (NBC’s Law & Order) in his final role. A second screenplay, Seven Sisters, is expected to go into production later this year.
In March, the Chicago native will be one of the mentors at the Rocaberti Castle Retreat in Spain. Just an hour from Barcelona, the retreat offers five days of instruction and inspiration from mentors Juliet Blake, renowned producer, and Brian Levine, London-based film producer, writer, actor and media lawyer. www.rocabertiwriters.com
David loves speaking to writers about the writing process and “chasing the creative dream.” He says, “Regardless of genre, one must never give up. It took me 25 years to accomplish my dream and it was worth the journey.” www.davidcongalton.com
*Authors Anonymous is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any past or current VCWC critique groups, especially yours, is purely coincidental. Cross my heart.