Friday, December 30, 2011

West Coast Writers' Conferences, 2012

I am so jazzed. Marilyn Meredith has featured Leaves from the Valley Oak on her blog. Take a look.

The other thing I'm jazzed about is the lineup of Writers’ conferences coming up right here on the west coast in 2012. It’s a great way to meet other writers as well as agents and publishers. I always come home full of resolve and inspiration. There are four high on my list, two of which I have attended in the past.
Left Coast Crime, March 29-April 1 to be held in Sacramento at the Sheridan Grand Hotel. This big mystery conference is rarely so close to home. For info: http://
Central Valley Writers Conference, April 28th will be held at the Sierra Sky Ranch near Yosemite Valley. This is a small conference with registration limited to keep it writer-friendly. A friend of mine, Flora Burlingame, met an agent from Fireship Press at this conference last spring, and now her book, Charcoal and Chalk, has been published and is available at Amazon.
For those most interested in police procedures and how they might be useful for your book, there’s the Public Safety Writer’s Association Conference (PSWA) held in Las Vegas in July 12-15 at the Orleans Hotel and Casino. Not as close, but not too far away either. More info:
A favorite of mine is the Central Coast Writers’ Conference at Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo. The date is Sept. 21 and 22, 2012. The conference is followed on September 23 by the Central Coast Book & Author Festival at Mission Plaza in SLO. It’s a great time of year to get away from our summer heat and enjoy the coast.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Why Writers Write

I was touring a few blogs today and found one writer who, after stating some grim statistics, wondered why writers write. My answer is – because we can’t stop. We’d write with a stick in the dirt if there was no other method around.
Most of us have kept a journal since childhood. I know I did. Later, when my children were small and did, and said such funny things, I wanted to share them. So I wrote long letters to my mom and my aunt. Snail-mail letters are becoming a thing of the past, but I still write to a cousin of my husband’s mother. She is elderly and enjoys looking forward to something in the mail - besides bills.
Writers write because they love books; the adventure waiting behind each cover. Someone new and interesting is waiting there to take you on a journey to a new place that you'd never visit otherwise.
Writers write because there seems to be a story behind every situation. Recently, a friend told me about how her great grandfather immigrated to New Orleans in the early 1800s. He’d been a high ranking officer in Napoleon’s army, but in New Orleans he was relegated to collecting sewage in a wagon. Ah, there’s a novel in that little bit of history. It sets the imagination into motion.
So many ideas,so little time. So many characters wanting a voice. So writers, keep scribbling! There's a New Year ahead and adventures to record.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Lianne Card, poet, travel writer

I’d like to you meet Lianne Card, another one the contributors to Leaves from the Valley Oak.  You’ll find her poetry in the book. She’s a longtime member of Exeter Writers.
Lianne, tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Canada of Ukrainian ancestry and became a naturalized US citizen after September 11th.  I grew up in a multicultural enclave in Winnipeg, Manitoba, a prairie city where learning was intensely respected by our immigrant communities. I knew from an early age that I wanted to experience the world as widely as possible. I moved to California in 1979 and spent 15 exciting years working in Silicon Valley during times of great optimism and growth in the computer industry. I have learned to love all of California with its diverse geography and people. I was able to enjoy living in Aptos, hearing the surf during winter nights, then appreciated the delights of Paso Robles wine country before moving to Exeter in 2003. 
How long have you been writing?
 I have been writing since primary school when I won a contest with a knock-off Nancy Drew mystery. I began keeping a journal in high school, a practice that persists until today. I have boxes of journals in the garage, and hope to live long enough to refine that raw material. My writing practice continues to be sporadic for my outer life has always been complex and many-faceted. I love writing getaways when I can be far from phones, people, and the Internet.
How did your upbringing color your writing?
My father loved poetry and committed hundreds of Ukrainian poems to memory. He would often recite to me. Later, I was coached to recite poetry as a performance art. I learned to respect the inner meaning of words, and project my voice to the back rows of the balcony. Wonderful English teachers in high school shared their love literature. Hearing the rhythms of language has always moved me. My mother and older sister both loved reading.
I love your poems. Where do you get your ideas?
Most poems come to me as an image or phrase from every day experience. I might glimpse a scene while driving, or be surprised by a phrase in an interaction with another person. If I can follow and explore the thread of the beginning, a poem will gradually take shape. Although the meter matters, I have also come to appreciate how a poem looks on the printed page.
What books and authors influenced you?
It would be difficult to narrow my influences, for I have read voraciously all my life. I loved the Beat poets – especially Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gary Snyder. I once had the good fortune to be able to be in a small group class with Alan Ginsberg. He emphasized the importance of randomness in poetic language. In a more traditional style, I still believe in Wordsworth’s assumptions about poetry. When you experience a place or an event, and recall it later, it then comes from a deep inner well where it has been stored. That “recollection in tranquility” filters out what is not essential. What is remembered is enhanced and sometimes more clear than what was grasped in the original moment.
Although I have focused on poetry in this interview, I also have been a great fan of creative nonfiction, especially literary travel and memoir. I love the works of Paul Theroux, Pico Iyer and Bruce Chatwin. All have the ability to tease out what’s universal and what’s unique about each place they experience. I appreciate how their perspectives simultaneously express the personal, the social and the historical.
What is your latest project?
I have been working on a memoir of a trip I took to Europe and the Middle East in 1967. It is a coming of age story and a snapshot of a historical turning point for my generation. I hope to complete it soon.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Winnie Furrer, Author, Historian

Today I’m interviewing Winnie Furrer, one of the contributors to Leaves from the Valley Oak. Winnie is a longtime member of Visalia Writers.

Welcome to my blog, Winnie. Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born into an Imperial Valley pioneering family in 1928. My father and mother died at an early age, leaving me and my brother and sister to be raised by my grandparents. By age ten I was working outside my home. World War II had started, and two new military bases were built in the valley. I kept busy babysitting for military families. Washing carrots in the sheds with the fruit tramps and weeding fields of onions also kept me busy until my grandmother came to yank me home. I also worked as a soda jerk and as a skating car hop. In 1946, upon graduation from high school, Ma Bell found me. Like the majority of the girls in my graduating class, I started my career as a telephone operator.
I was married in 1950 to Arnold Furrer, had two children and moved to the San Diego area. While working for Ma Bell, I held many male-titled jobs, mostly due to the Women’s Liberation movement. For ten years I worked as a technical writer. Arnold and I divorced in 1967. I retired in 1982 as a senior engineer. Arnold passed away in 1983.
Lewis, my son, died in 1997, and my daughter, Theresa, passed away in 1998. Her two daughters were both pregnant at the time, so I moved to Hanford to help out. Now there are five great grandchildren, and I’m in love with each one, so here I’ll stay.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been telling yarns since I could talk. In high school my teachers told me that I was a good debater and a decent writer. I listened and started a journal.

Where do you get your ideas for your stories?

My grandparents kept boarders and roomers. We kids sat out on the front lawn and listened to the adults tell stories about their childhood. I felt that their real-life stories should be written down for later generations. I still feel that way. My great-grandchildren are also a good source.

How have you done your research?

I was lucky to have my grandparent’s generation live long lives. I could ask question of them directly. Since they are now gone, I rely mostly on diaries, journals, maps and the memories of other family members. I also use the internet.

What’s been your most rewarding experience during the writing process?

Verification of some segment of my grandparent’s lives is most rewarding. When I find a part that is accurate, I know they really lived the event. That makes me even more proud that they got through those hard times, and I remember them with pride and some humor.

How did your upbringing color your writing?

It was a stimulating childhood. There was no TV. The only time the men in the household agreed on a radio station was when night Joe Lewis was fighting. Our mixed family talked all evening, every evening. We children were allowed to take an active part and encouraged to ask questions. The environment not only helped build character, but also the experience showed us how each participant reacted.

What books and authors have influenced you?

The first novel I read, I found in Grandma’s library. It was Call of the Wild by Jack London. It made me want to be there in the wilderness. I thought about it for weeks. I wanted to give others that feeling. At San Diego State, I took a class on Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. It taught me to read critically and to never use a word that wasn’t needed. I try to live up to Hemingway’s standard, but I’m afraid I fail most of the time.

What’s your latest project?

I have three stories of the Pollard family’s wagon trip from Colorado to California in the 1890’s. One is a journal my grandfather wrote during the trip. He was sixteen. Another was written by his brother and sister during their middle age. The last is a sketchy one written by my grandfather’s mother when she was in her declining years. I’m trying to melt them into one accurate story.

Where can your work be found?

Some of my work can be found in newspapers, such as The Imperial Valley Press, the San Diego Union, Fresno Bee, and The Hanford Sentinel. Articles can be found in the Visalia Lifestyle Magazine, Modern Maturity, and the Firstdraft Literary Magazine. Short stories are the Imperial Valley Museum archives.