California Writers Club
History of the Sacramento Branch
First Branch of the California Writer’s Club
Adapted from work compiled by former branch president La Ronda Bowen in 2007
and reviewed/updated by several long-time members 2017-18.
The First 50 years: 1925-1940
1925, Sacramento—Home of the California Gold Rush, the Pony Express, and the nation’s first long-range electrical distribution lines, Sacramento also claimed the state’s political heart and a roaring 1920’s economy fed by strong agricultural, manufacturing, and transportation industries.
The city, located at the confluence of the American and Sacramento Rivers, and just a one-day boat ride from the San Francisco Bay, was home to the Senator Hotel, considered the finest hotel on the entire Pacific Coast.
Further, Sacramento hosted the Crocker Art Museum, where Harry Noyes Pratt, the second President of the California Writers Club (located in the Bay area and formed in 1909), became curator. Pratt, a poet, lyricist and editor of Overland Magazine, liked the movies, and in the mid-to-late 1920’s, recognized Sacramento as a favorite movie location for Hollywood filmmakers.
Following Pratt’s election as CWC President, 31 Sacramento charter members formed the first “offshoot” or branch of the California Writers Club. September 30, 1925 is the date shown on official CWC records, but branch records show the date as October 31.
The newly minted branch held a formal Affiliation Dinner on Halloween night in downtown Sacramento at the Renaissance-Revival style Senator Hotel. Modeled after Italy’s Farnese Palace, the hotel’s gleaming marble pillars and Terrazzo marble floors reflected the bright hopes members must have held for their new venture. In the banquet room, silver and china sparkled in the light of hanging chandeliers, and prim-looking soloist Mispah Nathan performed for stylishly-dressed writers.
Sacramento Branch members represented a full spectrum of writers and affiliated trades, including poets, photographers, musical lyricists and composers, playwrights, novelists, journalists, and writers of textbooks, romance books, and policy documents. Their work appeared in popular magazines such as Argosy and Ladies Home Journal, specialty magazines such as Police Science and Petersen’s Photographic Magazine, syndicated newspaper columns, and local papers including the Sacramento Bee and the Sacramento Union. Crown Publishing, Doubleday, Charles Scribner’s Sons, Harlequin, Harper & Brothers, Grune & Stratton, Random House, Bobbs-Merrill, McGraw Hill, Delacourte and others, published members’ books. Member-created music, plays, and book adaptations reached audiences through radio, television, concerts, and live theatre performances.
Newly-formed Sacramento Branch
October 31, 1925, Senator Hotel
An unnamed photographer froze the image of well-coiffed ladies in party dresses and silk stockings, accessorized by the ankle-strapped shoes of the day. The men, outnumbered three to one, all wore suits and ties Guests who made the trip from Berkeley included Pratt, Vice President, Dr. Derrick N. Lehmer and both of their wives, Mrs. Mary Mills West, Mrs. Esther Birdsall Darling, and the young Misses Elizabeth and Laura Everett. Reporters from the two local major newspapers, the Sacramento Bee and the Sacramento Union, attended.
The philosophical and cultural diversity of the membership provided rich intellectual stimulation and represented geographic regions as far away as Reno, Nevada, and the Oregon-California border.
Edna W. Becsey served as the first branch president. She was followed in 1926 by A. R. Price and in 1927 by Sara Ashby, Under Becsey’s leadership, the branch established its purpose, which harmonized with the purpose of the parent club: “To inspire men and women in the creation of art and literature and to provide a forum for educating both club members and the interested public in the craft of writing and ways of marketing their work.” That vision continued to guide the branch into the 21st century.
Educational and Social
Beginning November, 1925, members held monthly dinner meetings the third Saturday at the Travelers Hotel on 5th and J Streets. Speakers included Irving Engler, Alice Marie Dodge, Estelle Swearingen Murray and E.G. Desimons. Guest speakers from Berkeley who spoke to the branch during its first year included Dr. Lionel Stevenson, Agnes Morley Cleveland, Anna Blake Mezquida, Hildegarde Hawthorne, and Derrick and Eunice Lehmer. Travel from the East Bay was not easy across miles of rolling hills, pastures, and farmland. Most people traveled by train. Those with automobiles experienced a long, dusty drive. The roads were little more than bicycle trails and mud holes, shared with mule-drawn carts, horse-drawn buggies, and pedestrians.
Many years later, in 1962, member Irene Donelson captured the motivation of the energetic, intelligent members who in the early years had endured arduous travel:
Something of Substance
When our writing days are over, let’s hope we have educated just one reader or made at least one person in this sad, mixed-up world laugh and forget his cares. If our words of inspiration have soothed a troubled mind or if our story characters have moved some reader to tears, then the hours at the typewriters will have been well spent. But most important, if somewhere along the line we have said something of importance that made our readers stop and think, then we may well be remembered.
—Irene Donelson, 1962
Judging by early scrapbooks filled with happy faces, Sacramento Branch members enjoyed dinner meetings. The hour of 6:30 pm meant booze at the no-host bar with dinner at 7:00, followed by the featured speaker. Continuing a practice that must have been established during Prohibition, members gathered afterwards in private homes for drinks and conversation. Guests paid $1.00 and members paid 50 cents for each gathering or $2.50 for a whole year. One newsletter editor encouraged members to purchase after-meeting party tickets: “Get your season tickets early…at bar prices plus tip, that means you can have two stiff ones the first night and you’ve already got your money back.”
On the first Wednesday of the month, at 8:00 pm, the branch’s Little Workshop Committee critiqued member-submitted manuscripts or focused on in depth study of an aspect of writing craft. These meetings were held in private homes and public venues, as resources permitted. When warranted, members arranged other Wednesday night meetings. Members also formed committees to work on projects like the Writers Conference at Mills College, co-sponsored with the Berkeley members, and the International Poetry Contest.
A year after its inception, the Sacramento Branch was invited to a meeting of the Berkeley Branch for an anniversary dinner banquet.
The Branch held an annual potluck each September, usually at the Garden and Arts Center in McKinley Park. Mr. and Mrs. A.R. Price held the first branch Christmas party and established the Christmas party tradition. Members pitched in to supply the theme and entertainment. Other special events, such as the Celebrity Luncheon and Sacramento Writer’s Showcase, focused on promoting local writers’ work. Photos of members cavorting in smiles and hula outfits attest to the pleasure they took in social events.
Despite the depression of the 1930’s, membership grew steadily until the US entered World War II.
Two long-time members made their first sales during this period. Alice Marie Dodge, writer of short stories/fiction, sold “Mingle Bird” to the Argosy All-Story Weekly for $4.00, in 1925 and several love stories in the 1930’s, and “The Nymph and the Doctor” for Trapped Detective Story Magazine, which sold for 35 cents in 1962. Bangert, Ethel (aka Virginia Mann) published her first story, “Ballerina,” in 1936 as the cover for Love Story Magazine.
1940-1944, The War Years
With the entry of the US into the war, participation in the branch declined, as many women dedicated time to the war effort or went to work outside of the home and men joined the armed forces. New members joining the branch were predominantly female, a trend which continued into the 21st century. Despite diminished human and capital resources, members met regularly and continued to write.
The CWC and the National League of American Pen Women held a few joint meetings in Sacramento during the war years. In 1942, the branch held a major writers conference with World War II as the theme.
The Monthly Bulletin featured highlights of activities by both the Berkeley and the Sacramento Branches. The latter held dinner meetings and maintained a Fiction Section where members read their stories. A local radio station (KROY) gave a half-hour broadcast to member Homer Parsons’ ballads and poems, and his new song “The Tuscarora” was sung by local musician Bill Rase.
The May 15, 1943 final dinner meeting of the season, dedicated to those fighting in the war, drew the largest attendance of the year. Speaker Harold (Hal) Johnson, traveling from Berkeley, was a newspaper columnist and editor who published a daily letter to the soldiers as part of his work for the war effort.
In 1944, Harry Noyes Pratt, an authority on California history and the Mother Lode, passed away. An executive secretary of the League of Western Writers, Pratt had joined the Poetry Society of America and the Verse Writers Club of Southern California as well as several art associations. The California Museum Association had appointed him as director-manager of Sacramento’s Crocker Art Gallery in 1936. Composers Faye Porter Edmunds (“Vagrancy”), Louella Geiger Schmitt (“Carmelita,” “Husha Bye Sea,” “Lullaby-O,” “By-O Babe”) and others, turned several of his poems, which he seemed to write on the back of any available piece of paper, into music.
1945-74, After the War
In the 1944-45 membership year, the club continued with a governing model of president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, and board member. One of the six speakers recorded for the year was novelist and short story writer Jessamyne West, who resided in the Napa Valley.
In 1953, the branch boasted almost 50 members, mostly women. However, board members over the years seemed to reflect an equal number of men. In 1955, the number of Board Members (non-officers) had expanded from one to three.
In approximately 1955, Ethyl Bangert, Jean Giovannoni (Professional Fiction Writing; A Practical Guide to Modern Techniques) and others who wrote fiction and met in Ethyl’s house, started a group later known as Suburban Writers (See Ethyl Bangert close-up, later in this history).
In 1962, Shirley Parenteau joined the branch and in 2018 was still a member, making her the longest serving member at the time (See bio, later in this history.)
The year 1967 saw an Annual President’s Letter (Willard Thompson, 1957-68) detailing workshops and “criticism” meetings the first Wednesday, and dinner meetings the third Saturday of each month. The latter were held at the El Rancho, featuring a speaker, while workshops were held in the home of Alice and Budd Westreich in Arden Park. Members were encouraged to report sales regularly, participate in meetings, recommend prospective new members, and keep on the lookout for good speakers. Committees included speakers, workshops, criticism, locating homes for after-dinner parties and workshop/criticism, decorations, telephone, dinner hostess, Christmas party, remembrance, membership, Speaker host, Chamber of Commerce Cultural Committee, and historian.
In October, 1967, Walter Christensen, Mayor of the City of Sacramento, proclaimed October 15, 1967 as Poetry Day, the result of efforts by members of the Sacramento Branch.
PROCLAMATION OF POETRY DAY
Text: Proclamation Issued by the Mayor City of Sacramento Poetry Day
WHEREAS, people of all ages have universally turned to poetic expression as a means for expressing the thoughts and hopes of their generations, and WHEREAS, much of this poetry has come to us in the Twentieth Century as a cultural heritage of inestimable value, passed down from the folklore, patriotism, and religion of the past, giving tome and character to the culture of today, and WHEREAS, the poetry and culture of this generation will give similar impetus and strength to the lives of coming generations, and WHEREAS, in the rush of modern civilization, we frequently give too little attention to the cultural values and ideas which should be an important part of our daily lives; NOW, THEREFORE, I, WALTER CHRISTENSEN, Mayor of the City of Sacramento, hereby proclaim Sunday, October 15, 1967 as POETRY DAY in Sacramento, in recognition of the cultural and human values of poetry and poetic expression, and to honor those poets of the past and present who have done and are doing so much to enrich the lives of our citizens.
ISSUED: THIS 11th day of October 1967 (Great Seal of the City) Signed: Walter Christensen, Mayor
By 1969, the Bulletin was called the CWC Communicator (changed at least twice in later years), and carried items on magazines and publishers looking for works. The newsletter also contained items under networking, referencing a club mentorship program, a Nonfiction Network II group meeting in the evenings, a Talent Data Bank such as ghost writing and PR, and a call for getting the most out of CWC by helping with programs, contests, publicity, events, raffles, data bank, and membership. The calendar indicated that the luncheon was now held at the Beverly Garland Hotel and announced International Literacy Day (Sept. 8), Banned Books Week (Sept. 23-30 to highlight the importance of freedom to read, and Be Kind to Editors and Writers Month, September, sponsored by Lone Star Publishers, to promote fellowship and respect between writers and editors. Birthdays and Who Should I Contact (club telephones) were also run in the newsletter.
According to Luther Nichols, West Coast Editor for Doubleday Books, Sacramento had become, much to his surprise, “one of the most creative writing communities in the country.” This statement was made in a speech to the Suburban Writer’s Club. Nichols took pride in the fact that he was the man who “discovered” author Richard Vásquez (Chicano), one of the first known writers of new Latino heritage.
In 1970, The Writer’s Digest issued a book called The Writer’s Digest Handbook of Short Story Writing, which carried a collection of the “most helpful articles from the magazine of the same name,” with a preface by Joyce Carol Oates. “Five Ways to Stay Creative” by Jean Giovannoni appeared under her pen name Jean Z. Owen.
In approximately 1970, the Sacramento Branch sent Margaret Wensrich to Berkeley to assist Theyer Horn of Berkeley and Patricia Kawakami of the Peninsula Branch in developing recommendations for reorganizing the California Writers Club to accommodate its growth.
Sacramento Bee columnist Margaret Kriess noted that the list of member accomplishments and sales presented at each monthly meeting was always “impressive.” On Oct. 25, 1970 she identified examples of “major sales” which included dozens of branch members.
In 1973, through a joint venture of the Friends of the Sacramento City-County Libraries and the Sacramento Regional Arts Council, a roster of the region’s writers, designers, illustrators, and private press operators called Sacramento Valley Book People was produced and sold at the Second Regional Writers Showcase (April 7-13). Sacramento Branch writers included were: Ethel Bangert, Bernice Curler, and Betty Coyle.
Pot lucks were held in members’ homes. On December 21, 1973, the branch Christmas Party was held at the Woodlake Inn off Highway 160. On June 7, 2074, the annual pot luck was held at the Sheppard Garden and Art Center while potlucks continued in various locations.
Member Bernice Curler taught an article-writing workshop at Consumes Junior College, Students participated in group discussion on writing techniques, marketing trends, and manuscript criticism. Students reported 20 sales to national magazines as a result of taking the class.
Duane Newcome taught in the American River College’s “Sierra Writing Camp” near Pollock Pines. Students from that workshop reported significant sales.
The Sacramento Branch helped organize the 17th annual CWC Writers Conference at Mills College in Oakland where speakers included a former vice president of Dell Publishing, Ernest L. Scott (who launched his own San Francisco book company in 1971) and Hayes B. Jacobs, editor of Writer’s Digest. Joyce Odam led the poetry workshop.
The Branch invited poets, members and non-members, to bring published works to its Poet’s Night.
Literary Activity of Prominent Members
Armer, Alberta, Screwball, listed on recommended reading for Junior High School students. Armer also wrote The House on Stephenson Street, Runaway Girl, and the Guide Dogs Troublemaker.
Bailey, Jane H., nonfiction, photos, drama, The Sea Otter’s Struggle 1974. Photo stories appeared in the Sacramento Bee, the Peninsula Midweek and the San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune. Spanish dramatizations for young children studying Spanish were picked up by the J. Walsh Publishing Co., and articles were sold to Quinto Lingo Magazine, West/Art, Science Digest, Way Magazine, Boy’s Life, and Presbyterian Life. 1969-1972.
Bangert, Ethyl, aka Virginia Mann, fiction, romance, nonfiction (parent guides) Snow Flower, Indian House. Aussie Nurse, Thomas Bourgey, Chicken Soup for the Writers Soul contribution, “Ballerina,” Love Story Magazine, 1936 cover, her first published piece. Numerous travel-related magazine articles, 1966-2000. Working well into her 90’s, Ethel wrote and published 30 books and more than 400 articles, including a series for Columbia Educational Books (1942). In 1990, she won the Golden Treasure (Lifetime Achievement) Award from Romance Writers of America. Ethel co-founded the Suburban Writer’s Club in Sacramento. In 2007, at age 90, Ethel still coached writers from her home. Much of her work is available in the Sacramento Room of the Sacramento Public Library.
Banks, Katherine, lyrics, poetry. Song Pledge Allegiance to Teachers Magazine, and Dawn Early Light to Wick; “All Are His Sons” (poem) requested for Berkeley radio broadcast. 1968-1970.
Bottel, Helen, “Helen Help Us,” syndicated advice columnist first published in 1958 in answer to a challenge from her husband that she could not write a better column than one then in the papers. At the time, she was a housewife in O’Brien, Oregon with 4 small children. Knight Features syndicated Helen’s column, which appeared for over 19 years in newspapers nationwide. (By 1970, her syndicated columns “Helen Help Us” and “Youth Asked for It,” were published in 150 newspapers.) Daughter Sue Bottel (Mrs. Cliff Peppers) started helping to answer questions from teens. Knight Features liked the idea of a mother-daughter team, and signed Sue, beginning a column, “Generation Rap.” Doubleday and Grosset and Dunlap published Helen’s three books. She wrote for Writer’s Digest, Good Housekeeping, Family Circle, etc. She won 1st Place in 1969 CA Press Women’s writing contest.
Boyd, Waldo, nonfiction, TV director, Your Career in the Aerospace Industry. Your Career in Oceanography, Jlian Messner. 1968 The World of Cryogenics. G.P. Putnam & Sons 1969. Many articles to science/supervisory business publications. The World and Its People, Ch. 6 Santa Rosa (weekly 1971).
Bromberg, Walter (MD), published more than half dozen books including, Crime and the Mind and How to Keep Out of Jail. He was a well-respected Sacramento psychiatrist and a member of the defense team of Jack Ruby, the man who killed Lee Harvey Oswald after the President John F. Kennedy assassination.
Burton, Arthur, (Dr.), psychology professor at Sacramento State, wrote books in the fields of medical and clinical psychology including, A Basic Guide to Psychotherapy: What Makes Behavior Change Possible. His work is cited in many modern books on psychology and psychotherapy.
Chandler, Edna Walker, was well known to many Sacramento children for her juvenile stories. She published 50 books by 1969, including Cowboy Sam series. Her book, Women in Prison, was published by Bob-Merrill Company’s Trade Division in 1975.
Clar, C. Raymond, nonfiction. Principles of Forest Fire Management, State Printing Office 1967, Evolution of Wild land Fire Protection Systems, CA Dept. of Conservation 1969 History of California Government and Forestry, State Printing Office, 1970, Quarterdecks and Spanish Grants, Glenwood Press 1970 Out of the River Mists, 1974
Cole, Eddie Lou, poet and Harlequin Press columnist. Won 1st Prize in the World Poetry Day Contest for Jester, 2nd place in the Ethel Shoemaker Schull award for Dragon Rider, 1st and 3rd prizes at the Ad Schuster Award Contest (Berkeley Poet’s Dinner) for Trailmates and I Imagist and 1st prize Ina Coolbrith Contest for An Answer to Judson Jerome, and 2nd in the Rod McKuen Poetry Contest, 1971. Listed in the Royal Book of Who’s Who in the Writing World, 1969. Poems included in the Ina Coolbrith Anthology, Angel Publication Anthology, winter edition of Voices International 1971
Craven, Margaret, part of a group who met in Ethyl Bangert’s home to critique each other’s stories; wrote I Hear the Owl Call My Name and made into a movie.
Curler, Bernice, romance, history, stage plays. The Visionaries, Publish America, 2002 Mazie’s Red Garter (musical comedy). At 93 years old, Bernice was still writing.
Davidson, Diane, author of Feversham (Crown Publishing) after working on it for eight years. She subsequently wrote it into a screenplay. She was Phi Beta Kappa/ UC Berkeley, formerly acted with a NY stock theatre company and taught English at El Camino High School.
Dean, Nell Marr authored 40 books in the career and women’s fiction fields, including Reach for the Moon and Assignment to Danger, which were set against a background of the space program.
Dodge, Alice Marie, short-stories, fiction, while starting in 1925 (Mingle Bird published the Argosy All-Story Weekly, which sold for $4.00), several love stories sold in the 1930’s and “The Nymph and the Doctor” for Trapped Detective Story Magazine, a publication that sold for 35 cents in 1962. Alice passed away at 89 in 1977. The first member to join the Sacramento Branch after the Affiliation Dinner and was also a member of the League of National Pen Women.
Jean Giovannoni, using the pen name Jean Z. Owen, wrote Professional Fiction Writing; A Practical Guide to Modern Techniques. She along with Margaret Craven belonged to the group that met in Ethel Bangert’s home. Jean also mentored writers in her Carmichael home. One of her articles appeared in a Writer’s Digest book articles on writing short stories, with a foreword by Joyce Carol Oates.
Madison, Winifred, youth, Growing Up in a Hurry 1983, Bird on the Wing 1974, Becky’s Horse, 1975.
Parenteau, Shirley, Children’s books, see attached section on Shirley.
Stadley, Pat, wrote two suspense novels, The Black Leather Barbarians and Autumn of a Hunter, as well as short stories for Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen magazines. Some of her work sold to television.
Westreich, Guy Budd, fiction, The Lance Todd Mysteries. Lantern Press 1959. The Sacramento Bee called him “A writer publisher, printer, and teacher. Some of his works are profound, others are funny and some are written for no apparent reason” (April 30, 1975). Bud taught writing at Arden Intermediate School where he had use of a small offset press in the school’s hallway closet. He taught 7th and 8th graders about writing, printing, and producing books “to give them another mode of expression,” he said. Budd kept three printing presses in a small room behind his house. Here, among reams of paper and gallons of ink, Budd produced copy with humor and without censorship. He named his printing company Mal De Mer, French for seasickness. He printed limited numbers of his “just-for-the-heck-of-it” publications, which included an 8-page discourse on educators and the education system, and a pamphlet of funny quips, such as: “Ex-President Nixon told us to tighten our belts if we wanted to beat inflation. Now President Ford tells us to tighten our belts. It looks like the only people coming out ahead in this inflation are the belt manufacturers.” His 41-page poem, “A Christmas Carrot,” is a rare Sacramento classic. Unlike the characters in the Dickens classic, the characters are all animals where paws point “with the finality of embalming fluid” and one tombstone reads, “Here lies Meekly Muskrat. I told you I was sick.” The story addresses the difficulties small business owners and the hoarding of goods by rich animals, raising prices for poor creatures: Budd said he intended the story to address kindness to one another and the power of women.
Husbands and Wives
During this time, and continuing well into subsequent decades, many husband-and-wife teams played a major role in the club. Among the couples:
Bode, Frances and William, collaborated on a “how-to” flower-arranging book, New Structures in Flower Arrangements. Better Homes & Gardens featured some of William’s photos and other excerpts from the book. She wrote, he photographed.
Donelson, Irene and Kenneth, authors of When You Need a Lawyer, 1964 and Married Today, Single Tomorrow. Doubleday published both titles.
Dowdell, Dorothy and Joseph, both former educators, had written several career books, including, The Japanese Helped Build America, published by Julian Messner, June 1970.
Geeting, Baxter & Corinne, hosting a weekly 30-minute TV program on Channels 3 and 6 “Reading for Pleasure.” Baxter Geeting, once a Senior Researcher for the U.S. Office of Education, was a professor at Stanford University, CA State University San Francisco, and CA State University Sacramento (where he was founding Chairman of Humanities and Fine Arts Division). His PhD was from the University of Southern CA. Corinne, a freelance article writer, artist, poet, and musician, wrote Interpretation for our Time, How to Listen Assertively, and Confessions of a Tour Leader. She wrote for the Christian Science Monitor and the Sacramento Union newspapers and Modern Maturity and Mature Years magazines. Her light verse ran in Reader’s Digest, Pen, Quote, the Atlantic, the Saturday Evening Post, and Grit. She published and illustrated cartoons for eight light verse booklets. She graduated cum laude from Pomona College, received her M.S. from USC, and held a secondary credential from UC Berkeley. She also belonged to the National Writers Club and the CA Federation of Chaparral Poets.
McCall, Virginia and Joseph (Mac), the latter receiving one of the early Jack London awards for his service to the club. Virginia had supported herself in early years by writing for the confession magazines while putting her two brothers through college. She wrote Avon Books and later published Harlequin Historicals.
1974 seemed to be a particularly successful year for many members, as documented by the Sacramento Bee. Successes included: Kathrine Mary Ingram, articles, “Why I Don’t Hate,” 1974; Wilma James, nonfiction, ecology Know Your Poison Plants, 1974; Leonard Kennedy, nonfiction Games for Individualizing Mathematical Learning, 1974; George Keithley, Song in a Strange Land, 1974; Rhoda P. LeCocq, (Dr.) The Vision of Suprahumanity ,1974; Ethel Tomes, novelist Rocket of the Comstock, 1974; Betty Fine, articles, American Association of University Women Journal, American Girl, The Woman and the Christian Science Monitor (1974); Melford S. Weiss (Dr.), nonfiction Valley City: A Chinese Community in America, 1974
1975-2010 – Changes Ahead
Sacramento’s 50th Birthday
In 1975, the Sacramento Branch celebrated 50 years of service. The golden scrapbook made from an old wallpaper-sample catalogue shows the affection felt by members for their branch as well as the club’s personality: (Cover: Gold and black semi-gloss wallpaper with a golden picture frame surrounding a “book” entitled, “California Writers Club.” The hand-cut scroll reads: “The four-hundred-year epic of the Golden State, from the coming of the Spaniards to our challenging present.” Golden Anniversary is pasted on the lower right.)
Golden Anniversary Scrapbook, 50 Years in 1975
Inside page 1: This and subsequent pages are made of regular wallpaper sample paper – no glossy finish. There is a gold and silver embossed card which reads, “To Wish You Happiness on Your GOLDEN Anniversary.” Beside it is a newspaper article clipped from the Sacramento Union of Friday, September 19, announcing the Saturday, September 20, 50th anniversary dinner meeting.
Speaker Michael Price was a TV producer and comedy writer who had recently moved to Sacramento from Southern California to produce the “7:30 Show” on Sacramento’s PBS station. He had worked on scripts for programs like M.A.S.H., Maverick, and the Johnny Carson Show and had written the book, “How to Depress Your Analyst.” That night, Price’s topic was, “How to Break Into Movies and TV and other Fractured Subjects.” Following the 6:30 p.m. dinner, held in the Mansion Inn where the club regularly met, incoming President Margaret Wensrich sponsored a celebration at her home. On September 26th, The Sacramento Bee declared the club’s anniversary dinner “an unqualified success” with 100-+ members and guests participating. “Member Gladys Morse attended; just as she did the chapter’s first banquet in the Empire Room of the Senator Hotel…she hasn’t missed a meeting in 50 years,” the Sacramento Bee reported.
Having maintained the schedule of monthly meetings since the end of WWII, the club began to hold fewer craft meetings. Evening parties disappeared and most events took place during daylight hours. Nevertheless, the branch’s esprit de corps remained uncompromised. A June, 1975 flyer illustrated by member Jim Lentine promoted the end-of-term potluck and celebration for Branch officers by proclaiming, “Lies by old officers, promises by new ones,” and lauding, “Two distinguished Punch Bowls: One distinguished by booze and one distinguished by lack of same.” The promise was to be fulfilled at the Branch’s Wednesday craft meeting at the Shepard Garden and Art Center in East Sacramento.
In August of 1975, the California Writers’ Club Newsletter Sacramento, as it was then called, announced a potluck dinner at the Garden and Arts Center in McKinley Park. The club bought chicken and members were to bring the rest, including tableware. The 50th Anniversary Dinner was held at the Mansion Inn at 16th and I for $5.50. An after-dinner party was held at Margaret Wensrich’s home, $2, 50 per member, 50 cents per party per member or spouse, $1 per guest per party.
Workshops were held in the Garden and Arts Center, McKinley Park, on the first Wed. of every two months. Attendance varied from 10 to 20. A manuscripts committee was announced to read and comment on work for any interested member. By now there were four Northern California branches and a dinner was announced hosted by the Santa Rosa branch for all four branches in April.
From the 1970’s through the 1990’s, several members taught writing courses. Member Lilyan Mastrolia wrote that they, “…expound the trade at community service centers, junior colleges and Cal State… (and) brave the classrooms of the public school system.” Writers included Leigh Fine Stephens, Bernice Curler, Lilah Frazier and Ethel Bangert. Bud Gardner’s students sold $100,000 worth of articles, books and stories during the first six years that he taught. Jean Giovannoni had successful fiction students and Duane Newcomb and Bud Gardner taught in American River College’s “Sierra Writing Camp” at Sly Park Educational Center near Pollock Pines. Phyllis Halderson was, “one who graduated from confession stories to becoming an important influence in the romance novel field,” Mastrolia wrote.
In April of 1977, and continuing for at least five years, Quad Meetings occurred in the spring, alternating between Sacramento, Berkeley, Peninsula, and Santa Rosa. The purpose appears to be for networking and coordination among existing branches.
The Sacramento Branch participated in the CWC Board decision to have the branch board instead of individual branches manage future CWC Writers Conferences at Mills College beginning around 1977. Speakers at the 17th conference included a former vice president of Dell Publishing, Ernest L. Scott (who launched his own San Francisco Book Co in 1971) and Hayes B. Jacobs, Editor of Writer’s Digest. Joyce Odam led the poetry workshop.
In 1980-81, the branch directory listed 151 members, at least six of them couples. Added to previously mentioned Donelsons, Bodes, and McCalls were Donald and Gladys Wilson, Ethel and Joseph Tomes, and Donald and Mary Louise Foley.
Beginning in the 1980’s, a major shift affected the publishing world and the technology of writing. No longer did Sacramento Branch members write in pencil or toss mountains of crumpled paper into their overflowing wastebasket. Most typed on a computer, revised whole sections with a few keystrokes, and hit delete to discard an unwanted page. The Internet made sending query letters to multiple agents and publishers relatively easy. At the same time, hundreds of publishers who formerly sought stories for just as many imprints had given way to a handful of major publishing conglomerates seeking books that could become movies and merchandise or which bore a celebrity imprimatur. Book publishers slashed their junior editors and many eliminated the slush pile altogether, preferring to read only work filtered through agents.
Writers specializing in highly technical fields like information or video technology were in demand while the market for high quality general literature declined. The newspaper and periodical markets became more challenging for freelance writers as all publishers sought to cut costs by relying more on newswires and staff. Corresponding to the shrinkage in traditional publishing, on-line or electronic publishing boomed. In response, many writers turned to the new electronic media both for assignments and to find or create a worldwide audience for their work. On demand and self-publishing became common as did other electronic means of distributing the written word.
In 1993 and 1995 Branch member Carol O’Hara directed two successful CWC conferences at Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove.
In 1993, the branch published Limericks and Short-Stories from recent contests in a photocopied booklet.
The Sacramento Branch held a Poet’s night and invited all poets to bring published works for sharing. In 1993 an 18-page booklet of Limericks and Short-Short Stories by members was published by the branch.
By 1998, the branch newsletter now renamed Write On! featured speakers, member sales reports, article summaries of interest to writers, and summary of the Nonfiction Network meeting. Ads were advertised at $25, business card size for remembers, $15 the second month, and $10 the third month, with higher rates for nonmembers. Luncheon meetings were $12.50 members, shows that the luncheon meeting was held at the Sheepherder’s Inn at 11275 Folsom Blvd. and the member price was $12.50, the non-member price $14.50. RSVPs for meal selection were taken by mailed check and due Tuesday of the meeting week.
One newsletter featured a write-up on a member, announcements about the upcoming speaker, a list of member sales to various publications, overview of Success Magazine and how to query, announcement on where to send member sales reports (“Please send no more than two publishing credits per person.”), and the menu for the next luncheon (grilled chicken salad, summertime sandwich, pecan halibut, coffee and tea). Board of directors, in addition to officers, now totaled ten members.
A handful of long-time, dedicated members kept copious notes on the club and filled positions necessary to keep the branch running smoothly.
In 2000, longtime member Bud Gardner served as co-editor of Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul, featuring many famous authors. In addition to his own stories, the book carried stories by Ethyl Bangert and Deirdre Honnold, who would later become a member under the last name Wollownick.
Societal and demographic changes impacted the branch. More women had entered the workforce, leaving less time to spend in pursuit of club activities. As a result the branch relied extensively on the dedication of a handful of long-time members, many filling multiple offices for multiple years. These included Beth Tigner who held every office except president, Charles Pettingell treasurer for a dozen years, Grace Ertel of the Nonfiction Network, Julie Bauer (newsletter editor and later historian), Bob Baker (mailing list), Bob Finch, collecting luncheon dues, and Marsha Porter as President and program chair numerous times.
California Writers Week
Prior to becoming State CWC President, Sacramento Branch member Anthony Folcarelli in 2003 succeeded in interesting the State Legislature in proclaiming the third week in October as California Writers Week. Anthony led the effort at the request of CWC State President Barb Truax. Working closely with Assemblyman Tim Leslie, Anthony succeeded in obtaining a Resolution that represented both the Assembly and the Senate and was signed by leaders of both Senate and Assembly. The framed Resolution was presented to leaders of CWC on a special day in September, 2003.
Joint Legislative Resolution
Declaring the third week in October as California Writers Week
Present to share in the victory were CWC President Barbara Truax (holding Resolution), Vice-President Tom Adams, Sacramento Branch president Octavia Simien (scarf, white heels), branch members Jackie Krug (blue suit, reddish hair), Marilyn Smith-Murphy (blue dress, beige purse) Beth Tigner (white purse and shoes), and representatives from other branches.
Sacramento Branch Members joined by CWC leaders
To celebrate the Joint Legislative Resolution
Also on hand was Assemblyman Tim Leslie, who championed the Resolution and succeeded in obtaining signatures from John L. Burton, State President pro tempore, as well as from other State Legislature officials.
Assemblyman Tim Leslie, State CWC President Barbara Truax,
and State Librarian Anne Marie Gold
Wording contained in the Resolution follows at the end of this history.
Securing the Resolution – An Eyewitness Account from Anthony Folcarelli
As written by Anthony Folcarelli, in a September 6, 2017 email to branch president Kimberly A. Edwards
“Let me begin by saying that obtaining a Legislative Resolution, especially one signed by both the Senate and Assembly, is not an easy accomplishment, since the body has to vote in the majority to pass any resolution.
The resolution is now, and forever, an historical and legitimate act of the California legislative body. It is timeless, as there is no need to obtain another one. In fact no assembly person is going to do so if they check the record and see that there is already such a resolution.
I was a new member of CWC when Barbara Truax visited Sacramento. She gave an update on what was happening and she stated that they were thinking of celebrating October as California Writers Month.
She asked if anyone knew anything about legislative resolutions. I was the only one who raised a hand.
Following the meeting, Barbara and I met and discussed what could be done and how I was sure I could get a resolution as well as a Governor’s Proclamation. In my professional career I had worked with the Assembly on behalf of United Way and for the general interest of non-profits.
After meeting, I accepted the responsibility to pursue the resolution. I met with Barbara again in Vacaville because she wanted to pick my brain. In fact, we met several times.
I met with the Assemblyman for my district and gave him a history of CWC. He agreed to carry the resolution. I then worked with a member of his staff to develop the resolution. I met with the State CWC on the resolution. The suggestion was made to make it more ethnic- and gender-sensitive. She had suggestions and I did research, adding more diverse writers to the list of names of writers.
The day of passage, several members from CWC Sacramento and Barbara Truax were present. With the resolution in hand, a few days later I met with someone in the Governor’s office and was able to obtain a Governor’s Proclamation. I did it all at my own expense.”
Note: in October, 2017, Anthony Folcarelli was awarded the CWC Ina Coolbrith award for his work in securing California Writers Week for the club. See description later in this history.
Educational and Social
Branch members and visitors alike found encouragement, knowledge and inspiration at meetings. Usually the monthly general meeting featured a speaker who shared expertise on some aspect of writing, publishing, or marketing. The Nonfiction Network, a monthly genre group started by article writer Grace Ertel in approximately 1995, met on Friday mornings to exchange information on markets for writers. This meeting format became a prolific source of new members due to the quality of the sharing and presentations.
Announcements placed in local newspapers and on the new web site attracted many visitors. Eventually the meeting attracted an equal number of fiction writers.
At the regular monthly Saturday meeting, Helene Vorce-Tish organized an annual genre workshop where specific areas of craft were presented, including poetry, nonfiction, memoir, novel or article writing. Incoming 2006-2007 officers instituted a brief craft exercise as part of the monthly luncheon meetings, emphasized the necessity for members to serve the club as volunteers and promoted involvement opportunities. President La Ronda Bowen began tracking and assessing the branch’s business information, such as which sources produced the most visitors and what caused visitors to become new members. This information resulted in increased emphasis on newspaper and Internet promotion of meetings and the recognition of the Nonfiction Network as the most productive vehicle for turning visitors into members.
In approximately 2005, the branch faced a challenge when a few members wished to move to meetings out of Sacramento and closer to Auburn. After new presidential election, with Marsha Porter reassumed the helm and returned the branch to the stability it had known. Under Marsha, the branch tightened its accounting practices and explored innovative ways to attract new members, including the first website.
The most significant change from 2005-2008 was that long-time members transitioned out of active leadership roles and into mentorship positions. The branch of the CWC would not have survived without their sacrifice and leadership.
Member Anthony Folcarelli, branch board member and liaison to the CWC’s Central Board, won statewide election as 2007-2008 State CWC President, the first Sacramento Branch member to have this honor.
New Sacramento Branch members Ken Umbach and Margie Yee Webb were recruited by Branch president La Ronda Bowen to begin thinking of leadership possibilities, joining long time members and officers Marsha Porter, Marilyn Smith-Murphy and Nancy Ware. Julie Bauer redesigned the webpage and linked it to the site of the parent California Writers Club in 2006. Member Karl Palachuck initiated an on-line discussion site for the Nonfiction Network group and Ken Umbach made it more user friendly in 2007.
In 2007, Margie Yee Webb became president. She was known for her cheerful welcomes and promotion of the branch. After four years, she stepped aside for two years before returning as president for three more years.
Major Literary Accomplishments of Salient Members (Note: Many members 1975-2010 achieved major literary accomplishments; this list is only a sample.)
Adams, Elaine, joined in 1982 when KCRA televised miniseries, “King of the Olympics: The Lives and Loves of Avery Brundage,” adapted from biography she wrote. Received Sacramento Advertising Club Award for excellence in public service advertising for video presentation, “Behind Closed Doors,” for Women Escaping a Violent Environment (WEAVE). Authored The Healing House: A Memoir, of homesteaded Swedish-built farmhouse at Hayden Lake, Idaho, listed in National Register of Historic Places. Wrote for El Dorado Hills “Hilltop News” and Folsom Telegraph. Scripted one of Sacramento’s first TV commercials in the early 1950s.
Brill, Ruth Burke, nonfiction articles, Sacramento Bee and Sacramento Union on South African (Zambia) President Kenneth Kaunda, 1976-1980
Burton, Arthur, nonfiction, Encounter, Jossey-Bass, 1969 A Basic guide to Psychotherapy: What Makes Behavior Change Possible, University of Michigan, 1976.
Ertel, Grace, following the publication of Plant an Indoor Garden for University Women in 1972, Grace wrote and sold over 1,000 articles. Topics ranged from travel to sports, children and environment. One title was, “The One and Only Elephant Grape Stomp Sampling the Flavors of Mexico” (Vie Times, 2008). In the mid 1970’s, when Grace joined the branch, it was the only professional writers group. She started the Nonfiction Network so members interested in articles could network and gain marketing tips. By 2007, this group, which met the first Friday of each month at International House of Pancakes in Rancho Cordova, had become a major source of new members. Emerging subjects such as print-on-demand and self-publishing, were frequent topics. In her 80th year (2008?), Beth turned the scheduling of speakers over to newer members, while vowing to remain personally active in the group “as long as possible.”
Finch, Michael, nonfiction and technical articles on California geology. Articles sold to Bulletin of Engineering Geology and others. Mike was the branch’s long-time meeting “registrar,” well-loved in his bow tie and suspenders. He sat at a small table and cheerfully greeted attendees.
Gardner, Bud, writer, teacher, editor and promoter, coached students at American River College to sell 3,000 articles and 100 books during the 1970’s-1980: add his private clients and the number is 6,000 articles and stories and 200 books. The American Society of Journalists and Authors named Bud the Robert C. Anderson Memorial Award Winner for being the most inspirational writing coach in America. Bud won recognition from the California Senate, the California Joint Legislature, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction for his outstanding teaching accomplishments. Bud edited and coauthored the New York Times bestseller Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul. He and his wife Jennifer Martin founded the Prairie Angel Press. Bud has written numerous articles and the book Sell What You Write.
Halldorson, Phyllis, romance writer, at 16, met her prince charming. At 17 she married him. After most of her six children grew up, she and husband Gerald (Jiggs) took creative writing classes through Adult Education. Three years later, she sold stories to the true confessions market. Two years later, Silhouette, a new line that Simon and Schuster launched in 1980 to compete with Harlequin, accepted her story idea for a book, Temporary Bride. Halldorson said, “It was so exciting! I think except for the days my children were born and the day I got married – it was the most exciting thing that ever happened to me.” (Sac Bee, Jan 6, 1991). Phyllis joined the Romance Writers of America in 1980 as a charter member. She died in December, 2007. Temporary Bride, A Haven In His Arms, re-released Aug. 2008
Holden, Bill, wrote Sacramento, Excursions into its History and Natural World was named one of the best 100 nonfiction books on the American West by Westerner’s International. First published in 1987 (8?), it remained a local bestseller in 2008. Bill also wrote articles and adventure fiction, including Dhow of the Monsoon: From Zanzibar to Oman in the Wake of Sinbad, and Between Heaven and Hell: A Thrilling Story of Love and War.
Lucher, Evelyn (writing as Evelyn Swift), wrote. Wyla the Witch, 2008; The Lost Creek Legacy, 2008 Nottingham Lace, Widdicombe, Fair, Barnston, Life 2004 Oh, What a Lovely War: A Soldier’s Memoir from WWII (Written as Evelyn Lucher with Stanley Swift), 1999
Muro, Diane, P. was the first female police officer in California, a pastor’s wife, a writer, and mother of four. In a January 29, 1977 interview, Muro said she wrote her book, Woman on Patrol, about her law enforcement experiences, from a Christian perspective because, “I felt it had something to say about how God helped me and how God was able to use me in a special form of ministry.” Diane also wrote Police Careers for Women.
Nauman (Burnham), Edna Mae, composer of 52 music composition books published along with 156 pieces of music.
Newcomb, Duane built his own adobe brick house and wrote a book about it, The Owner-Build Adobe House (Charles Scribner’s Sons, NY). The Postage Stamp Garden Book (J. P. Tarcher in hard and soft cover) sold more than 100,000 copies and was a Book of the Month Club selection. He wrote more than 2,000 articles, many of them for recreational vehicle publications. He also wrote The Professional Author Newsletter.
O’Hara, Carol joined in 1981, directed both 1993 and 95 CWC conferences at Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove. Through her business Cat Tale Press, she published four books and served for many years as a board officer of the International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers Association. She wrote articles for local, national, and international publications. She edited and consulted on writing for clients throughout the U.S. the U.K.; also served as editor of Global Writes. She remained an editor, writing instructor, and photographer. A long-time travel writer, she devoted her focus to travel for the less-able traveler. She has directed writing conferences for colleges and association, including two aboard cruise liners.
Parenteau, Shirley joined in 1962 and in 1918 was still going strong after signing 1200 copies of Bears on Chairs for a promotion her publisher Candlewick arranged with the Toys-R-Us chain. Candlewick offered her a contract for two more bears books, the 8th and 9th in the series. Bears and Blossoms is a hit in Japan. Later this year, Bears on Chairs/Osos en Sillas will be published in the U.S. as a duo-language version with the story in English and Spanish on each page. (See appendix, for first-hand account of Shirley, member since 1962.)
Pettingell, Charles, award-winning journalist and publisher joined in 1988. He was accepted on the basis of his work as editor of the monthly tabloid newspaper of the largest union on the west coast. His newspaper won top honors from the international federation for five years and numerous awards from the Western Labor Press Association, representing all unions in 13 western states. Charles, the former chief of labor relations at McClellan AFB, edited and published the base employees’ newsletter and wrote articles for the base newspaper as well as the Sacramento Bee and Union newspapers. He wrote Island Fury. In 1992, Beth Tigner prevailed upon him to replace her as treasurer and Charles held the position until 2005.
Porter, Marsha. nonfiction DVD & Video Guide. Ballentine Books A high school English teacher, Marsha stayed involved in the club and available to succeeding Presidents as needed. In 2017, she made remarks about Anthony Folcarelli when he received the Ina Coolbrith Award. Marsha Porter served as president during the years 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2005 and 2006. Marsha won numerous branch writing contests.
Sato, Kiyo, nurse, veteran, and mother of four, wrote of being swept off to a concentration camp and ultimately surviving and succeeding. Dandelion through the Crack (Willow Valley Press, 2007), published during her 80th year, garnered high praise and numerous awards, including the William Saroyan Prize for international writing (2008) and Best Overall Book Award from Northern California Publishers and Authors (2008). The Smithsonian Institution invited her to speak as part of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program, which marked the 67th anniversary of the signing of President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 90666 and the imprisonment of 120,000 Japanese Americans during WW II. At the end of the war, Kiyo joined the US Air Force, earning the rank of Captain and completed her nursing education. As a civilian public health nurse, she developed the Blackbird Vision Screening System to detect eye problems in young children. In 1999, Kiyo and other members of the VFW Post 8985 developed an educational video and workbook for children about the Japanese-American Evacuation, entitled, ”Lessons from Our Lifetime,” with a grant from the California Civil Liberties Publication Fund. Kiyo’s memoir was reprinted as Kiyo’s Story: A Japanese-American Family’s Quest for the American Dream, released by Soho Press, 2009. Kiyo was not pleased with the new cover nor title. She acknowledged the support she received from CWC members Ethel Bangert, Bud Gardner, Duane Newcomb, Ken Umbach, the latter her “guardian consultant,” for his mentorship.
Small, Dorothy May, according to Shirley Parenteau: “Erla and I met Dorothy at a CWC luncheon and invited her to join our critique group. Dorothy was a nature photographer who wrote and illustrated articles for what was then called Modern Maturity. She also had a beautiful coffee table book of her photos illustrating quotes from Thoreau. Called Thoreau’s Walden, the book was published by Country Beautiful.”
Smith-Murphy, Marilyn, articles on juvenile, trade, and senior topics. Marilyn served as many capacities for many years, including: Treasurer (1975), Second V.P./Membership Chair 1995-98 and 2005-2012; and Board of Directors 2000-14, when she suffered health challenges. However, she remained helpful to the branch, including visiting the Bank of America to assist the branch in adding new officers to the account.
Tigner, Beth, essayist and author of Christmas Memories and When Coldmaker Comes,, Beth was the spine of the branch from 1978-79 when she first served as Secretary, until 2007, when she resigned as board member and chair of the Short Story contest to pursue publication of the 20 stories she had written. During 30 years of continuous service, Beth, a lifetime member, experienced the waning and waxing of membership and activity. “When I joined, we met in the evening and afterwards we went to someone’s house. The men had a liquor cabinet they carried from place to place and sometimes, I didn’t get home until 11pm – not because I was drinking but things just went on ‘til then. In those days, just about every other woman had her husband with her but over the years we became mostly women. One time a woman had her purse stolen between the house and the car. Everybody decided we should start meeting earlier and that is when we began having luncheon meetings (about 1988). We met at the Sheepherders Inn on Folsom Blvd for a long time. We moved from there because they decided that we weren’t a big enough crowd to have two waiters. So sometimes, with a crowd of 20 people, lunch would be over and people were still awaiting service. When we moved from there we lost a lot of members. Then as people got older, some died, some moved away – membership went down. I noticed in the last bulletin, we are growing again…that is good.” Beth held nearly every position in the branch except president which she declined numerous times. When participation in leadership dwindled, she took on multiple roles and encouraged others to do the same. She was tireless in searching out potential new members, mentoring, chairing contests and recruiting judges, and performing any task needed to keep the branch moving forward. Charles Pettingell wrote, “Beth was a real bellwether for our organization for many years. That’s why she was recognized and designated as Patron.” Asked why she had sacrificed her own writing for the branch, Beth said, “Oh, I just love the club…it’s so worthwhile.” In 2007, the Branch renamed the short story contest The Beth Tigner Contest and Award, in her honor.
Windmiller, Erla, articles (style, history); wrote for the Elk Grove Citizen, belonged to Shirley Parenteau’s critique group and had taken classes from Bernice Curler. She was an amazing graphologist in later years.
2010 – Present – Appreciating our Heritage
In approximately 2010, the Nonfiction Network dropped the word Nonfiction in recognition of the fact that attendees represented all genres. The branch went through various newsletter editors, at times relying on long-time editor Julie Bauer (branch historian) to come to the rescue. Club membership turned over significantly as erstwhile writer-leaders such as Grace Ertel and Marilyn Smith-Murphy faced health issues. A 90th anniversary in October, 2015 celebrated the branch’s birthday with a cake, a power point, a skit, and readings.
Books became the prevalent writing media, as article writing moved into the background. This was the result of increased self-publishing opportunities and the shrinking magazine/paying opportunities. Book marketing and platform building became “hot” topics.
In 2016, a new board came together, bringing leadership in a new writing world. Publisher Ted Witt, First V.P./Programs, brought publishing, marketing, and social media experience. The branch newsletter was renamed Sacramento Writer to coincide with the internet address). A popular early-bird session was instituted at luncheon meetings. Members were surveyed to identify program needs. Gini Grossenbacher returned as Second V.P./Membership, adding a unique professional veneer due to her salons, critique group, editing certification, historical novel research, and Amherst training. Kimberly A. Edwards came on as president, having first joined in the late 1970’s – rejoining in the early 2000’s – and having served in board and officer positions.
The branch rededicated itself to the mission of writing improvement. Many Saturday luncheon speakers came from outside the Sacramento Valley such as the Bay Area in an effort to expose the community to outside talent and ideas. The branch stepped up its emphasis on critique groups and revitalized its reputation as the “oldest professional writing club on the West Coast.”
The network meeting continued as a very popular venue. In June, 2017, after 22 years at the International House of Pancakes on Sunrise across from Gold River, the meeting moved to Coco’s on Madison at Sunrise. The reason for leaving was that IHOP was closing. However, the restaurant allowed the branch to take the table podium it had used for many years, as no one else claimed it.
During California Writers Week Oct. 15-21, 2017, the branch offered six community panels in bookstores, libraries, and a music café on various topics related to writing. Panels included how to become a writer, writing memoir, the elements of fiction, business writing, and writing and publishing children’s book. Members also presented a workshop on research – how
On October 21, 2017, a new California Writers Week Resolution was received from the office of Assemblyman Ken Cooley. This followed many attempts by the State CWC and the Sacramento Branch to locate the original resolution, most likely in the possession of a former/non deceased State President. The Resolution was given to State CWC President Joyce Krieg for safekeeping on behalf of CWC.
Also on October 21, 2017, Sacramento member and former State CWC president Anthony Folcarelli was awarded the Ina Coolbrith Award, the highest CWC recognition, for his work in securing California Writers Week in 2003. Bestowal of the award had been voted upon by all twenty-two Central Board branch representatives. The honor came as a surprise to Anthony, who, upon hearing the announcement by State President Joyce Krieg, was uncharacteristically moved to silence and emotion. After he recovered, the branch took photos.
Sacramento member Anthony Folcarelli, recipient of the CWC Ina Coolbrith Award
For his enduring contribution of California Writers Week
Ina Coolbrith recipient Anthony Folcarelli
With State CWC President Joyce Krieg
A special printed program featured a biography of Ina Coolbrith, her poem “California,” the meaning of California Writers Week, and a summary of works of the California authors included in the Resolution.
Inaugural Officers and Members – California Writers Club Sacramento Branch, 1925
|Inaugural Year Officers: President, Edna Wilson Becesy 1925-26, 43-44; V. P. , A.R. Price; Secretary, Adele Decker; Treasurer, Alfred Bass; Board Member Elizabeth Wood.
Speakers included: Henry White, Roland Oliver, Sara Ashby, Elizabeth Wood, Jeanette Lawrence, J.D. Lathrop. Harry Noyes Pratt returned to speak in May and Reverend Berkley Blake, Judge Peter J. Shields and Mrs. Frederick Faulkner spoke between September and November of 1926.
Blanche Ashley Ambrose,* children’s books
Elizabeth S. Young
Marie Estelle Urbahns*
Frank J. Kelleher
Gladys Wilson Morse*
James A.B. Scherer
Christina Krysto Queena
M. (B?) Leithead
Louise D. REYNOLDS
Louise Wilson Reynolds
Estelle Margaret Swearingen
Louise Reynolds Stephens, 1932 president; left CA to become editor/publisher of The Community Sun, a Houston newspaper.
Mathilde A. PRICE
Adele M. Decker
May Showler (Groves) KNIGHT
Matilda A. Price
Sara Canterbury Ashby, President 1932-33 and 1933-34, educator/chair of English Dept. at Sacramento High School.
Edward M. Muse
Mary Louise Smith
Estelle S. Edson
Edna Wilson Becsey*
Edith N. Winslow
Elizabeth F. Wood
Milo N. Wood
Ora McDermott Morgan
Gladie B. Young
Alfred M. Bass
Mrs. S.A. Conzetti
Gladys Lucille WILSON
Note: Last name in ALL CAPS indicates names that appear on the branch charter as copied from the manuscript collection of the CWC at Bancroft Library but which are not on branch records.
Last names written in bold script (?) indicate names shown on branch record but not on the copy from the Bancroft. Asterisk (*) indicates still active 40 years later, Sept. 1, 1965. The first member to join after October 31, 1925 was Alice Marie Dodge
Looking Back: A Perspective from Ethel Bangert, the Sacramento Branch’s Eldest Member
In June 2007, the oldest living continuous member, Ethel Bangert, age 95, continued to host writers in her home, where she edited, mentored, and critiqued. One of her favorite students was Edgar “Spike” Walker, who, with her guidance, made a fortune on his first book about crab fishing. Ethel joined CWC in 1936 after learning about it from her employer, Henry Noyes Pratt, CWC President/curator of the Crocker. Membership Chair Beth Tigner signed Ethel’s certificate. Alice Marie Dodge was an active member. “Alice Marie Dodge was a friendly, kindly lady who dyed her hair coal black, like soot,” recalled Ethel, who also remembered that CWC used to meet on Front Street in the old part of Sacramento, “because the rent was cheap.” Ethyl said that one afternoon, a tall, harsh-looking woman with big blonde hair looked Alice Marie Dodge over, and remarked, This is my territory. You get out. Alice ignored the insult and stood her ground. As more members arrived, the blond woman left. “That was typical of Alice; she was warm, but strong and unflappable. Those were fun times,” Ethel recalled.
Ethel published 30 books and more than 400 articles. Her subjects were romance, nursing, parenting, and the West. Sitting comfortably in a high-backed chair in her living room near Land Park in 2006, Ethel reminisced about her first sale. Harlequin Books regularly rejected her attempts to sell them book ideas. So, when the editors of Love Story Magazine selected “Ballerina” as their cover piece in 1936, she was stunned. “Ballerina” was the first story Ethel Bangert had ever submitted. Ether’s cousin, a dancer in the Ballet Russe, inspired “Ballerina. ” (The story) escorted readers behind the theatre curtain and exposed the harsh conditions under which dancers pursued their craft, dancing on bleeding toes and surviving on dismal diets. “Ballerina” took the cover because people didn’t know about the great jealousy between the Russians and the other dancers. In 1936, the Ballet Russe was just coming over the horizon,” Ethel said.
Most of Ethel’s articles were set in the western US because, “Westerns were big when I was writing,” she said. One story, set in Washington, earned what she called, “a movie nibble.” It was true, of a Chinese cranberry picker with a long queue, who loved the little, unimportant people, regardless of race, and they loved him. One evening, as he sat in a pub, a man walked over to him and without provocation, snapped off his pigtail. The man was a bully and didn’t like Chinese. For the Chinese man, his pigtail was his entrance into heaven, so he took out his gun, aimed it at the man and pulled the trigger. “Unfortunately,” Ethel said, “he was not a good shot and he did not kill the man. Still, he was Chinese and the man he shot was white, so he went to prison.” Later friends managed to open the jail so he could escape. They convinced him to run away. He ran about 10 miles before returning to jail. “He said that he was in this country and here, in this country, ‘you have to pay for doing a bad thing.’ Ultimately, the Chinese man was hung,” Ethel recalled.
Collier’s published the story and someone called Ethel and told her they wanted to make it into a movie. “They offered to fly me out to where the movie was to be made and flying was a big deal then,” Ethel said. The movie company had a Chinese actor ready to play the lead role and only needed to find a cranberry bog for the setting. By the time they found a cranberry bog in bloom and everyone was set to go, the Chinese lead actor had died. “And there went my movie,” Ethel said chuckling.
Ethel’s books were mainly about nurses. Her good friend Jean Giovannoni (pen name: Jean Z. Owen) was both a nurse and a writer. She often read Ethel’s stories and helped her keep them true to life. In addition to collaborating on nursing stories, Ethel and Jean played teacher and mentor to a group of aspiring writers who were intimidated by the quality of writers in the Sacramento Branch. These aspiring writers met regularly to practice craft, usually at Jean’s home in Carmichael. Eventually Ethel and Jean decided to call the group Suburban Writers (est. 1955). Like CWC, Suburban Writers became an ongoing organization and it has helped many writers become published authors. Ethel enjoyed active participation in both groups.
Ethel’s early success caused her to realize that she needed a stronger literary foundation, so she enrolled in a U.C. Extension literature and writing class. “The teacher was horrible, discouraging, and rude,” Ethel said. “He would hold his nose and drop a student’s article into the wastebasket asking, ‘and who wrote this epistle?’ in a sarcastic voice.” Following a particularly egregious incident when the teacher mocked a student with polio, Ethel asked the principal to remove the instructor, offering to teach the class herself. He told her she had to get a degree from the state first. Ethel did, and years later, taught the class. She stopped writing in 2003 after she pushed a wrong button on her computer and lost the manuscript for a book she had written and was revising. Much of her work is available in the Sacramento Public Library (Sacramento Room).
THE SECRET OF SURVIVAL AS A WRITER
California Writers Club, Nov. 21, 1981
Thanks to Sacramento Suburban Writers, whose past newsletter carried this article!
The Plains Indians had a greeting that I feel is the answer to the question, “How does a writer survive all the vicissitudes of fate, all the unkind rejections of his work, all the disappointments, and yes, even the dangers from a too early success? The Indian greeting was, “Sigh you.” It translates, “Be strong.” And we must be strong to survive as writers. Strong enough to persevere in the face of every challenge that looms before us. Some so black, some so terrifying at times, that we don’t see how we can possibly go on. But we must go on.
We’re here to communicate with people. Now, when I was a young writer, I no sooner would sign a contract for a book and dream of those sales, then the roof would fall in. The kids would get sick, some other terrible thing would happen in the family, some catastrophe would hit, that should have stopped production. But!…oh, those career-saving “but’s”…I made a commitment to a publisher. I had signed a contract. I had made a promise to meet a deadline, so the book was mailed on time. And this was often only possible by working after the house was quiet. Sometimes at midnight. “Sigh you” — be strong.
Another trick in facing problems and in persevering against all odds is to thoroughly analyze your proposed job before you tackle it. If a book, what about the subject matter? Before you submit an idea to a publisher or to a magazine editor, find out if there is material enough, material in abundance, for research on the subject before you start it. I believe this is true of fiction as well as non-fiction. Novels must have fascinating backgrounds, so you research and you research until you have enough rich material for that background, in depth, to make it interesting to your reader.
Another thing, ask yourself is this subject within my grasp? Do I have the technical skills to handle it? Am I ready for this idea? It is terrible to start a job and, half-way through it, face up to the fact that the whole project is far above your head. I know. I’ve done this. How much do you want to do the book? Is it worth making sacrifices for? Writing demands sacrifice. More careers have been wrecked from weak desire than from lack of talent. Am I emotionally equipped to write this book? If not, why write it? However, consider, if a slice of romance can push back loneliness for a person for even an hour, that may be reason enough for you to persevere and write this romance. Do I want to shape my life, for a year, around this book?
Answering honestly will enable you to be strong enough to struggle with this material, to conquer it, to succeed. Finally, to proudly hold it in your hands when it is published. To think, without vanity, but with a kind of awe, “I did this! I did this! Myself! This never existed before in this world, and I created this.” That’s quite wonderful. That’s a miracle. Never mind what other people say about it. Never mind that they say, “You only got so much money for it.” That isn’t important at all. The important thing is that you created something that never existed in the world before. Or will you perhaps be strong enough to turn away to a less ambitious project that is just as important to your growth at this time, something that can be accomplished in a shorter space of time and with much less dedication on your part?
I’ve heard people say, “I’ll never publish. The odds are against me. Too many people writing today. I haven’t got a chance. No, the odds are against me.” Well, let’s look at these odds. First, be aware that although it is true that thousands of manuscripts, short stories, and articles, never get published, and if you visit New York as I do occasionally, you will see these offerings in hallways, stacked up. You will see them on editors’ desks, and you’ll think what chance do I have. But remember, of all the manuscripts mailed to national magazines each year, ninety-four per cent of the writers mail in one manuscript and never mail another. 6% mail two manuscripts and of that six per cent, two per cent persist.
They hang in there. They work. They keep going. And from this tiny two per cent, all of the magazines get their material. So where are the odds? They’re all in your favor. And we also have seven thousand markets out there. Isn’t that right, Bud? Easily. Yeah, seven thousand. How dare we say there are no chances for us
Tenacity and success are the one and the same thing. What we, as struggling writes need to survive, as selling writers, is ability, tenacity, work, and perseverance. Preparation is in proportion to the rewards. For we must all serve an apprenticeship. I think we must realize we have to go back to square one if we change horses in mid-stream and try a new field. We have to go back and start again. Say that we move from articles to fiction, or short-fiction to novels. We have to be aware that once more we have an apprenticeship to serve. Now we must write every day and not allow anything or anyone to keep us from working. I can make up a new excuse every day of my life for not writing, but if I want to write more than I want do anything else, I’ll write. And if the truth be known, no matter how much they may deny it, most housewife-writers are truly in love with their homes and gardens. It is very difficult for them to put writing first. It is for me. And frequently the persons who complain the most bitterly about no selling, if the hours at their machines were added up, the sum would be very modest. Instead of those hours being spent at writing, they’re spent somewhere else. And this is fine.
It’s your life. But don’t kid yourselves. If you used your writing time elsewhere, then don’t feel bad if publishing doesn’t follow a few meager efforts. By the way, keeping a work journal of your actual hours spend in production, turning out copy, is really the gist of the whole business, turning out copy. Not talking about turning out copy. Turning it out! Now this can be an eye-opener. When you make an hourly journal, you actually see, Monday, I spent so many hours, Tuesday, I spend so many hours, Wednesday, I didn’t work. Well, all right, then you have to do double work time on Thursday to make up for the Wednesday you missed.
You see. You are, you know, working toward failure if you are not working toward success. We simply cannot live in a vacuum. We do one thing or the other. “Sign you” — be strong. And know also, you are only in competition with yourself. You, and only you, can say, “Yes, I’m writing more carefully this year than I did last year.” And only you know your true goals. That’s why you cannot ever allow someone else, agent, friend, or family, to tamper with your work. It’s your work. You’re writing for publication. You’re writing for a certain editor whose production you have studied. You know what that editor wants. Pay attention to that.
Don’t pay attention to someone saying, “What does that amount to? That’s just nothing.” You have your own standards and your own goals. How can these other people know your goals? They can’t. However, no manuscript should ever leave your desk until it is the very best that you can do at this time. Later, you’ll do much better. Now, as I see it, editors want fresh ideas. They want to be touched by your article, story, or novel. What does my reader want to feel? Different publications have different readerships, as we all know. What do those readers want to feel? Because that’s what we are trying to do. Transmit emotion. I doubt that anyone who hates people, can ever truly be successful because people are our stock in trade. All else is window-dressing. One last thing, don’t brood over stories that won’t jell now. Some won’t. Years later, that story will resurface and perhaps make your fortune. In takes perseverance then, to transform desire into its monetary equivalent. The basis for perseverance is the power of your will. “Sigh you.”
With perseverance and a strong desire to succeed, with study of the markets, and of your craft, you will in time be irresistible to editors. Yes, you will. In time. Now, many folks are ready to throw up their hands and quit at the sight of the first, second, tenth, or fifteenth rejection slip. Survivors carry on, despite all opposition and all misfortune. I salute them. There may be no heroic connotation to the word that is the secret of surviving as a writer, which is, of course, perseverance. But the quality (of perseverance) is to the character of a writer what carbon is to steel. So my dear friends and beloved students, “Sigh you.”
Wording of California Writers Week Resolution*
California Legislature Assembly Resolution By the Honorable Tim Leslie, 4th Assembly District; the Honorable Joseph Canciamilla, 11th Assembly District; the Honorable Guy S. Houston, 15th Assembly District; the Honorable Bill Maze, 34th Assembly District; the Honorable Gene Mullin, 19th Assembly District; the Honorable Joe Nation, 6th Assembly District; the Honorable Patricia Wiggins, 7th Assembly District; the Honorable John L. Burton, President Pro Tempore of the Senate; the Honorable Nell Soto, 32nd Senatorial District; and the Honorable Jackie Speier, 8th Senatorial District; Relative to the CALIFORNIA WRITERS CLUB
WHEREAS, The California Writers Club was founded in 1909, with Jack London, Ina Coolbrith, George Sterling and others as members; and
WHEREAS, California’s literary tradition dates back to the works of Mark Twain, Bret Harte, Mary Austin, Nobel prize and Pulitzer prize winner John Steinbeck, Delilah L. Beasley, Joaquin Miller, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Barrio, Gertrude Atherton, Raymond Chandler, Pulitzer prize winner William Saroyan and a great many others, and
WHEREAS, The California Writers Club honors all California writers, past and present, and continues to nurture the talents of new writers as well as established authors, and to provide a forum for the sharing of their writing experience, and
WHEREAS, The California Writers Club’s mission is to teach, mentor and encourage all writers for the good of our society; and
WHEREAS, California libraries are the forum where the writing of Californians is preserved and provided to the public, and
WHEREAS, the California Writers Club encourages all California libraries to showcase the works of California writers through displays, author programs and reading clubs; and
WHEREAS, The California Writers Club urges all educational institutions to place more emphasis on developing the writing and reading skills of everyone; and
WHEREAS, The California Writers Club is observing the third week in October as California Writers Week; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED BY ASSEMBLY MEMBERS TIM LESLIE, JOSEPH CANCIAMILLA, GUY S. HOUSTON, BILL MAZE, GENE MULLIN, JOE NATION, AND PATRICIA WIGGINS AND PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE OF THE SENATE JOHN L. BURTON AND SENATORS NELL SOTO AND JACKIE SPEIER, That they recognize the third week in October as California Writers Week, and encourage the people of the State of California to reflect upon the contributions that California writers have made to humankind.
Members Resolution No. 2170. Dated this 4th day of September, 2003.
Signed, Honorable Tim Leslie, 4th Assembly District Honorable Guy S. Houston, 15th Assembly District Honorable John L Burton, President Pro Tempore of the Senate Honorable Nell Soto, 32nd Senatorial District
Assembly: Tim Leslie, District 4. Roseville Guy Houston, District 15. Livermore
Senate: John Burton, District 3. San Francisco Nell Soto, District 32. Ontario
Co-sponsors: Assembly: Joe Canciamilla, District 11. Martinez Bill Maze, District 34. Visalia Gene Mullin, District 19. San Mateo Joe Nation, District 6. San Rafael Pat Wiggins, District 7. Santa Rosa
Senate: Jackie Speier, District 8. San Mateo
*Because the original framed Resolution seems to have been lost, a new one was issued by Assemblyman Ken Cooley’s office in October, 2017; while wording followed that of the original, the new one mentioned Anthony Folcarelli, who received the Ina Coolbrith Award. Thanks to Ken Cooley’s staff, whose efforts to speed up the Resolution process allowed the new one to be presented to Anthony Folcarelli at the October, 2017 luncheon meeting.
Shirley Parenteau, Member 1962-present
What More Could a Writer Ask?
Written in 2017
I joined in 1962 shortly after we moved from Salem, Oregon. The only published writer I knew was my mother who wrote feature articles for Portland newspapers. There were still two daily newspapers then.
It was so exciting to learn of a writer’s conference to be held at Mills College. I drove over and was thrilled to meet so many writers, many from Sacramento. Dorothy Dowdell told me I qualified for membership and invited me to the monthly workshops then held in member’s homes. Through CWC, I became part of a writing community, filling a vacuum in my life I hadn’t known was there. Later, Virginia McCall invited me to join her critique group of published writers. I stayed with them for years until Gini’s death when she was in her 90’s. I learned so much and moved from writing children’s books into writing women’s fiction. I was invited to attend critique groups held monthly in Sacramento members’ homes. The welcome, encouragement and advice I received there were invaluable. Later, Virginia (Gini) McCall invited me to join her smaller critique group of multi-published women who pulled no punches. At times, I left hiding tears until I was in my car headed home, but I learned more from those hard-hitting critiques than from any number of conferences.
Yes, many other writing groups came along. I think I joined nearly every one. I’m a charter member of Romance Writers of America and of Novelists Inc. and a longtime member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
For awhile, I belonged to PEN and to the Science Fiction Writers of America. I flew to writer’s conferences all over the country, met so many writers and learned so much. I attended the Sierra Writing Camp run by Duane Newcomb and Bud Gardner at Sly Park. I was there and enthralled with the way writing crackled through that mountain air from tented quotes on tables to the classes and evening campfires.
The women in the group were writing romances, a genre just beginning to find an enormous readership in the 70s. Although I had sold several of my first eight children’s books, I decided to try women’s fiction and sold two novels to Ballantine Books and three to Harlequin Historical.
I had joined Romance Writers of America, Novelists Inc. and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. By then, CWC seemed to be going through a period less vital to me. (In the past few years, I’m delighted to see that has changed again with many exciting activities and speakers offered).
I met children’s writer Eve Bunting at the first of the camps. She critiqued my children’s story which later became my first published children’s book. Of course, Eve has gone from 5 published children’s books when I met her to more than 250 now.
The California Writers Club went through a sleepy period for a few years. It’s great to see the club has become vital again. Congratulations to all of you! I’ve remained a member because CWC is part of my heart, my first introduction to the writing community. Through club members, I found the courage to move from writing magazine articles to writing children’s books and then full-length novels. Of course,
I’m back to writing children’s books now and with Candlewick Press, loving every minute. Children’s books caught my interest on a spring evening in 2002 when I stood on our front porch and listened to frogs in a nearby creek. A car drove by on the rainy street, the frogs stopped singing, then slowly began again. I heard a counting book and soon sent a manuscript to my then-agent at Curtis Brown in New York.
Bad news often means that something better is waiting. A good dozen editors rejected One Frog Sang, explaining that their house couldn’t support more counting books. Then my agent contacted Candlewick Press, a new children’s publisher in Massachusetts. One Frog Sang sold there and is still in print. A picture book, Bears on Chairs, followed with irresistible adorable illustrations by artist David Walker.
As I write this in February, 2017, I’ve just seen preliminary sketches for the seventh in what has become a series of books about sharing and other problems between four small teddy bears and their larger teddy bear friend. All the titles have sold translation rights to Iwasaki Shoten. When I had the good fortune to fly to Japan this past November and meet my publisher and his staff, they told me that together, my bear titles have sold over 550,000 copies in Japan, a figure I still find hard to believe.
The bears have also sold translation rights to publishers in Germany, Finland (for 4 languages), Thailand for an English/Thai version and to a publisher in Taiwan who will soon publish a version in Complex Chinese packaged with a Chinese/English audio and a pamphlet of the text in English.
My oldest granddaughter, whose mother is Japanese, inspired me to research a Japanese Girl’s Day celebration. Online research led to the discovery of a little known historical event when in 1926, American children sent more than 12,000 dolls to children in Japan, hoping to create friendship. The Japanese children sent back 58 three-meter tall kimono-clad dolls with small lamps, tea sets and other accessories.
After publication by Candlewick Press, Iwasaki Shoten bought translation rights to Ship of Dolls and Dolls of Hope. Dolls of War will follow soon, set after the bombing of Pearl Harbor when the exchanged dolls became symbols of the enemy. I hope to do a fourth book set in the 70s when the surviving dolls in both countries were gradually rediscovered.
First I’m finishing Samurai Girl based on another little known bit of history. In 1869 at the end of the shogun era, 22 Samurai, some with families, left Japan to establish a short-lived silk and tea raising colony near Coloma, California. As usual, I’ve fallen in love with the characters and their struggles.
We asked Shirley Parenteau about some of the highlights of her long career and 55-year membership in our branch. She had just received a letter forwarded from Candlewick Press by a little girl in North Pole, Alaska, who said that her book, Dolls of Hope, made her care more for people, “even if they are not dolls.” Shirley said, “What more could a writer ask?”