Member in the Spotlight

Jan Ogren

Jan Ogren


– Article by Venus Maher

Jan Ögren is a developmental editor, international author, licensed psychotherapist, public speaker and professional photographer. She has numerous essays, short stories and poetry in a variety of publications. For over thirty years, she has apprenticed with a Mescalero Apache medicine man. She grew up near Paris, France and loves to travel, especially if it allows her to cross country ski or bike.

Venus: I chose you because you make editing a delightfully fun process. What can you tell me about your approach to editing?

Jan: As a psychotherapist I know the challenges communication can present and the many ways it can go astray. Helping writers edit their work is like helping clients learn to communicate with family members or friends. First I listen to what they want to say, their feelings and desires in saying it and the meta messages that are imbedded in their writing. Then I enjoy helping them craft their message so the reader can enter into their world and join with them through the magic of words. The tone of the writing, just like the tone of voice when speaking, has a tremendous and often neglected influence on how much the reader is drawn in or pushed away.

For more than thirty years people have shared their inner realities with me. This tremendous wealth of experience enables me to guide authors in understanding their characters. It is similar to working with parents and their children. I encourage both parents and authors to lessen the urge to control so that they can appreciate the innate gifts presented.

Venus: I hear how being a psychotherapist helps you as an editor and writer. Is there a way that your writing influences your psychotherapy practice?

Jan: I’m one of the few therapists I know who will write notes for their clients during a session. I’ll draw diagrams to show relationship and personal patterns, then craft phrases to help clients focus on their issues like: codependence is when it’s easier to imagine another person’s needs than to listen to your own, or forgiveness is for giving yourself love. I also share stories and essays with them. At the end of their process with me they often have a folder full of notes I’ve written that they can refer to as they journey forward.

Venus: What is your greatest challenge as a writer?

Jan: I have too many projects! My poetry wants to marry my photography and give birth to a book. My self-help book begs me to finish it. My spirits guides are insisting I write my memoir. My collection of fables is almost ready for publication. And that’s just the beginning of the list.

Venus: How does your shamanistic work affect your writing?

Jan: Spirits guided me to write Dividing Worlds. They said “write it and we will market it.” That’s how I ended up with my magical realism novel, Dividing Worlds, being published in Brazil. I also write about my experiences with my medicine teachers, and

“Final Teaching”, a story from my memoir, Things for a Reason: The Making of a Shaman is included in the Redwood Writers 2014 anthology.

Learn more about Jan at:


Venus Maher

Venus Maher


– Article by Jo Lauer

Dr. Venus Maher is a chiropractor by day and a creator by night. “When I get out of the way I find stories, poems and songs pouring through me and writing is a delight.” Now that her only son is off to college, Dr. Venus has more time to spend in her cozy little writing studio. These sessions are supported by her life partner of fourteen years and their two cats.

The doctor’s most prolific writing time occurs on quarterly self-guided retreats with a friend she met through Redwood Writers. In between retreats these two gather frequently to write and edit each other’s work. Having a writing partner enhances the quality of their literary efforts and their lives.

Hungry to create the kind of books that mesmerized her growing up, Dr. Venus takes classes, reads voraciously and participates in writer’s groups to hone her craft. Having always loved a good story, she savors writing them. Her style is evocative, leaving a clean trace of hope on the palate. Full of delightful descriptions and actions, the doctor’s prose draws the reader into the worlds she creates.

Dr. Venus is currently nearing the completion of Light Weaver, book one of the fantasy trilogy she has been developing for over a decade based in the magical land of Hartlund. You can read about how the Chandra became shape shifters in the story “In The Beginning” which was published in a recent Redwood Writers Anthology. The second story, “First Budlings Flight,” tracing how her protagonists fly on sky trails of compassion into human lands to help those in need, will be in the next Redwood Writers Anthology.

Her memoir, “The Wild Years – Coming of Age in the Communes,” documenting her childhood in hippie and lesbian communes is next in the line-up of books demanding to be completed. You can taste the flavor of these adventures by reading “Tripping on High” published in Times They Were A-Changing: Women remember the 60s and 70s. Her tale received third honorable mention from the editors Kate Farrell, Linda Joy Myers and Amber Lea Starfire.

Dr. Venus Maher is also known as the singing chiropractor – serenading her patients when asked. An article in the Bohemian Newspaper by David Templeton led to a televised Evening Magazine episode. She has been involved in publishing three musical albums. “When Do We Laugh?” ranging from Jazz to Reggae, is comprised of the best eleven of her ninety rhythmic compositions. Teaching song-writing to middle-schoolers

involved the creation of two CD’s, aided by huge donations of time and talent from Linda Ferro as well as Prairie Sun Recording Studio. Recently her “Wings of Angels” was included in Rhea Schnurman’s book Singing Us Home – Songs for End of Life. Both women are members of the Threshold Choir, singing at the bedsides of those on the border of living & dying.

When the words aren’t yet accompanied by melodies, they call themselves poems. Her “Turning Fifty” was included in a recent Redwood Writers Anthology, and her “Miracle of Night” made its debut in the Redwood Writers poetry compilation, The Beat Goes On, in 2014.

Dr. Venus says, ”Each of us has a unique writers voice. Studying the craft of writing is necessary to hone my message, but art is not a learned skill. If I don’t trust my muse I stumble over my ego’s fear and writers block ensues. Ignoring the internal critic’s voice, writing chicken-scratch, lists, recipes or dreams, allows the fear to pass. In the midst, jewels flow onto the page, to be mined by later editing. No matter what, I just have to write!”





– Article by Susanna Solomon

Currently Jo Lauer is working on a pre-quel to her cozy mystery, Best Laid Plans. The characters come from such different and colorful backgrounds that Jo felt compelled to tell each character’s story through a series of vignettes from childhood up until they are ready to meet in the next book.  

Jo’s main goal is to become a good story teller with intriguing characters and find plots that can showcase them. Her characters make themselves known to her in the oddest of ways—they pop out at her while she’s in the shower, or driving along the highway—and simply insist that she write their experience. She is but the channel.

Her biggest anxiety is that the characters will stop jumping out at her and she won’t have anything to write about. She’s never been good with “prompts” or plot-focused writing.

Where she gets her inspiration:  

Jo thinks she channels her ancestral muses or something. She doesn’t just sit down and think, “I’m going to write a story or a novel.” The characters just sort of fall out of the ethers and it’s up to her to pad their stories with appropriate information.  A lot of her information comes from her own life experience, or from very well-disguised and fictionalized stories of the people she’s worked with over the years in therapy. 

Jo’s tips for fellow writers:  

– Be generous in your support and praise of other writers’ work.

– Be kind to yourself – it can be isolating and brutal to slug through the hard scenes and distressing when you have a character befall disaster. 

– Take self-care breaks while writing.

– Keep a sense of humor, regardless of how serious your writing may be. 

– Enjoy the process as well as the outcome.

– Allow serendipity to influence your writing – we only think we’re in control.”

Wins she has celebrated:  

To her surprise (as an introvert), she’s really enjoyed doing readings and book-signings. The Q&A at Gaia’s in March was fun; the Mystery Writers reading at the mortuary back in October was an event she’ll not soon forget. She’s looking forward to more events, even though they make her sweat.





– Article by Abby L. Bogomolny


Susanna Solomon was born and raised in Cambridge, MA. She admits that she misses the East Coast, but she is deeply contented with “the open spaces of her adopted coast.”

Besides being a grandmother, wife, mother and animal lover, Susanna has had great success: Her first collection of short stories Point Reyes Sheriff’s Calls was recently published by HD Media Press Inc. Thumbing through her stories, I am quite taken by the humorous and cranky, crusty oddities of human nature presented through Mildred and Fred, the married couple that darts in and out of the stories in her collection.

Susanna started writing when she was fourteen, soon after her mother died. Growing up she wasn’t allowed to make outward displays of strong emotions; she was supposed to be a “nice girl,” so she took to writing. She admits that there her emotions were safe, and since she’s been writing actively for awhile, her craft has had time to season and deepen. 

Finding time to write is her biggest obstacle, so she sneaks away in the middle of the day. She’s lucky because she has her own electrical engineering business, so “her boss” understands. To this day, when she writes, she often thinks the result is merely junk, although most of the time she feels dramatically better after writing. 

When asked about her sources of inspiration, Susanna responds, “What else? The newspaper, specifically the sheriff’s calls section of the Point Reyes Light, although she also points to conversations in cafes as being great story starters. She also admires the writing of Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays and Jen Michalski’s The Tide King.

Susanna continues to work on several new short stories, after her success with Point Reyes Sheriff’s Calls. She is also working on a novel Montana Rhapsody about a pole dancer and a farmer who get stranded on a canoe trip.

Writing helps Susanna quiet the little voice in her head because it releases the anxiety built from when she hasn’t been writing. “I’ve got a strong little voice, a nagging, insistent little voice that I have to write. Once I start the feelings come, and when I’m done for the day, or the hour, I have a deep sense of satisfaction.”

Susanna advises other writers to “Keep at it—at least an hour a day. Read at open mics, the more the better. Keep going even if you think your writing is bad.  Read aloud to audiences, not just to yourself. Even if you think you are a genius when you are writing, if the audience doesn’t clap, jump out of their chairs or laugh, write the section over again.”  Susanna also advises us to read in public four times a month to practice and send out submissions at least once a week.

“My tales came as a complete surprise. I didn’t know I could write short stories. So for all you writers out there – Try everything. Forget about writers block. Write about everything and anything. Writing can help us understand each other…and when we do, we create great feelings of satisfaction for those who arrive at the end of our stories.”




Abby Bogomolny

– Article by John J. Lesjack

  Abby Lynn Bogomolny loves to write.   A Redwood Writers member since 2009, she emcees the RW Open Mic at SOCO Coffee, and has written three collections of poetry.   While her first two collections, Nauseous In Paradise, 1986, and Black of Moonlit Sea 1991, are out-of-print, the third, People Who Do Not Exist, 1997, is alive and well.   She is also editor of New to North America, 2007, an anthology of diverse writings by immigrant families.   Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Abby lives in the North Bay and teaches English full time at Santa Rosa Junior College.

Q. When did you first begin writing for publication?

Abby:   “I first started writing poetry and songs as a teenager.   My poetry was first published in the Erasmus Hall High School literary journal back in Brooklyn, New York.   It was a rush, so I kept on going.”

Q.  How did your success in writing affect your decision to become a college teacher of various genres of writing?

Abby:   “I became an educator because of my decision to pursue a creative writing path.   After completing graduate work in Mass Communication research, I completed a Masters in Creative Writing from SFSU with a focus on poetry.   Afterwards, I completed a certificate in Post-Secondary Reading.   It became clear that once you’re bitten by the inspiration bug, it’s only natural to wish to cultivate practices in others that help them do the same.

Q.  Who are some writers you admire and find yourself quoting or reading again and again, if any?

Abby:   “I admire and find myself reading short stories by Grace Paley, Isaac Babel, Sandra Cisneros, Toni Cade Bambara and Franz Kafka again and again; novels by Toni Morrison, Gloria Naylor and Junot Diaz are pure genius; Neil Simon, Mark Twain and Henrik Ibsen keep my good humor; and the poetry of Walt Whitman, Mary Oliver, Adrienne Rich and Marge Piercy keeps me sane.   I am a thoroughly promiscuous reader, but generous helpings of James Baldwin’s essays always free the wit.”

Q.  Do you imitate any writer’s habits when approaching your writing area to begin writing?

Abby:   “Many writers I know rave about the magic of writing at dawn. I am usually up too  late  to view early mornings, so I burn the midnight oil and write.   Once in awhile, I am up early and do see how wonderful writing before the world begins to stir can be.”

Q.  What advice do you give your college students that you can share with people in the Redwood Writer’s Club?

Abby:   “Great work is not written; it is rewritten.”

Q. With your schedule of teaching, serving on various committees and with all the work you do for the RWC, how often do you get to work on your chosen projects?

Abby:   “Rarely, but I hope to collect the latest poems still flapping around my desk into a new collection soon.   I am also working on several works of prose, some are fiction, and others are clearly memoir.”

Q.  Do you have a pet you wish to mention by name or behavior?

Abby:   “My cat loves to sit on a chair next to me while I work, clearly helping me.   When I’m not sitting there, she sits in my place, snoozing away in dream time.”





– Article by Jonathan Hayden 

I met John at the RW Holiday Salon.  He was the final reader on that merry night of sharing laughter and delicious food at Sandy Baker’s lovely home.   

John’s story, “The Silver Dollar Tradition,” was a winner of the Press Democrat writing contest for 2011 and was later sold to the publishers of Not Your Mother’s Book in 2012.  He surprised us all when he passed out Eisenhower silver dollars to everyone at the end of his reading, encouraging us all to start our own tradition. It was a special and inspirational moment. 

Who is this learned and charismatic member of Redwood Writers? John J. Lesjack is a Korean War Navy veteran, honorably  discharged in 1957.  He attended a local junior college soon after and wrote about his experiences in the military.  One of these stories was published by Grit magazine.

He graduated from SFSU with a BA in English-Language Arts.  “No one was waiting to pay me to write the Great American Novel so I got a job teaching.  My thinking was that I would have ‘all that time off’ to write.  I destroyed that myth. Thirty-years later, I am retired and now write full time.” 

John has been published in many magazines and books. Here are a few:

  • SF Chronicle Sunday magazine
  • Chicken Soup for the Soul (6 stories) 
  • Ultimate Teacher
  • Ultimate Mom 
  • Not Your Mother’s Book 
  • Instructor Magazine
  • Science of Mind magazine 

Currently John is working on a project tentatively titled, “100 Days of Summer,” based on the true story of Bert Cutting, a blind salvage diver who despite his blindness succeeded in rescuing automobiles that had gone down with their barge one summer. Bert rescued 4 cars his first day on the job after a larger salvage firm tried and could not even find the barge.  

Excerpts were published in “Dialogue” magazine, Winter 2011, Salem, Oregon. “Dialogue” is a magazine (printed in braille) for the blind and visually impaired.

A prolific writer, John’s other writing projects include Ochota, a western novel set in the Black Hills of South Dakota and Estanislao, the story of a rebellious Californian John hopes will change California history.  

Q:  When did you first start writing and why?

A:  My first memory of writing something creative happened in the 8th grade at St. Veronica School, East Detroit, Michigan.  The assignment was to write my biography.  I wrote it and realized that I liked writing, which led to journalism classes in high school and a sports writing award as the sports editor. 

Q;  What is your #1 tip for aspiring writers?

A:  Rewrite what you have written until you know what it is you have written about. My attitude toward writing is pretty much the same as the late Robert Frost’s.  Have you heard how he was a working poet who taught a college class back in New England?  When he came into class he said, “How many of you want to be writers?”  Students raised their hands. Frost said, “Then why aren’t you home writing?”




Jonathan Hayden

– Article by Osha Belle Hayden

You may have wondered about the mysterious Redwood Writers photographer who roams our meetings quietly capturing our best moments. You may have seen him racing through wine country on his bicycle or strolling with a smart phone glued to his ear. Here’s your chance to get the inside scoop from a fellow Redwood Writer who is also Jonathan Hayden’s partner and wife. 

Jonathan Hayden manages to juggle multiple roles with ease … thanks to that smart phone and the technology that enables him to work virtually.  A former track star, he loves sports, especially running and cycling, so it’s no surprise that Jonathan works in the sports industry as the Executive VP for Bownet Sports, Executive Director of the Soccer Dealer Association, and Consultant with Renaissance Creative Solutions. 

Since he likes getting paid to write, Jonathan has been authoring articles for trade publications for the past six years. He served as Senior Industry Correspondent for Team Insight, a sports industry magazine. If you are interested in writing for trade pubs, he is happy to share his tips for getting through to editors. 

When asked who influenced his writing, Jonathan replies:

“James Thurber. His stories are hysterical. They influenced my attitude about writing when I was young. It made me think that you could have a lot of fun writing.” 

Indeed, he has always enjoyed writing. At age 21, when he was Director of a YMCA Summer Camp, he would rewrite commercial jingles into funny lyrics for the staff to perform as entertainment for the campers.  

With all the balls he has flying through the air, Jonathan still manages to find time to write for fun. From the rich repertoire of his life and travel adventures, Jonathan distills precious nuggets of inspiration into stories. One of them, “Switching Gears,” was published in Beyond Boundaries, the 2013 Redwood Writers Anthology. 

The absurdity of the situations he encounters propels Jonathan to launch into a comic perspective.  Each time he tells the tale, the comedy grows thicker. Once it’s ripened, he writes it down. “The world is full of humor if you just look around. Ordinary circumstances become extraordinary when you apply a bit of fun and a large dose of imagination.” In response to my question about how he manages to be a serious business leader and a comic at the same time, he conjures a wide-eyed cartoon stare.

Other influences? “My critique group, Reality Writers, inspires me,” he says, “and Redwood Writers motivates me to write more.”  Based on his experience as an elite runner, his upcoming training book for runners combines his passion for running with the methods he developed and tested. He expects to complete it in 2014. In the meantime, he’s sure to find plenty of absurdity to write about.


PAM PIZZIMENTI – The Case of the Home Schooling Novelist

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– Article by Matthew Gollub 

When Pamela Pizzimenti writes, she puts on her game face. Time, between home-schooling her four children, is short. She stares down the blank screen, fingers ready to fly. Sometimes the Y.A. novelist snatches a few moments at lunchtime. Or when her husband can cover the home-based school on Fridays. Or when she models writing while her kids, ages 6-16, work on their writing, too. 

 Another way Pizzimenti makes the most of her writing time is by plotting her novels before her first drafts. “I never start writing a story,” she says, “without knowing how it will end.” Many of her best ideas occur to her while driving in her car or listening to music. She constantly reads Y.A. books. “You have to,” she explains, “if you want to write for this audience.” She takes pains to remain attuned to the literature and sub-cultures of the different aged kids in her life. She reads what they read and tries out her material on her oldest son’s network of home-schooled teens.  

A public school teacher since 1999, Pizzimenti chose to embark on her present lifestyle in 2008, the same year her first Y.A. novel, The River Whispers, was published. “When I was teaching,” she recalls, “I would read a lot of the Y.A. stuff but felt it lacked nuance and richness of language.” 

Prior to teaching Pizzimenti had worked for years in radio, so she came to the field of books armed with know-how about generating publicity. The River Whispers rose above mounds of competing Y.A. novels to snag a Writers Digest International Self-Published Book Award, and a Finalist citation from the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. 

I had the pleasure of meeting this warm and personable writer. Her blue eyes danced with enthusiasm and insight as she elaborated on a host of remarks:

Q. In The River Whispers, Evie, a young teenager, endures the heartbreak of losing a loved one. Is her loss based on your experience as a youth?

A. As a writer of YA, I work  with some of the issues  of my youth.  To write good YA,  I think an author  has  to recall how  they viewed the world when they were young.  Some might call this a luxury, others might call it painful?having to go back and remember what first love felt like, what it felt like to be left out, made fun of, trying to fit it, or trying to be different.  It’s not always easy to remember what was important to us when we were young.  The way we experience loss  when we’re young is very different than how we experience loss as an adult.  When we’re young it’s  often the first time  we realize that we are not invincible, that as things  change, we need to change too. 

Q. How do your years as a public school teacher inform your Y.A. writing today? 

A. Teaching and parenting enable me to learn from the kids around me about what is important to  teens today. I think it’s important to stay in touch with the current ‘youth culture’  and the issues they face.

Pizzimenti aspires to write books with big ideas and that are the sorts of books kids want to read. Contrasting her genre with adult fiction, she points out that Y.A. plots are more inter-connective, and that young people expect authors to write with greater honesty. Finding connections and respecting the audience with honesty, not a bad outlook to nurture for a writer, teacher and home-schooler of four.





– Article by Kent Sorensen

At first glance, the story of Sharon Hamilton’s aspiration to become a successful published author is familiar to most of us: work hard at writing, attend writing classes, enter writing contests, and learn to accept rejections—plenty of them.

Sharon’s journey in writing romance began only four years ago when she met, Catherine Bramkamp, a featured speaker at one of her husband’s Rotary Club meetings. After the presentation, she suggested to Sharon to join Redwood Writers if she was really interested in writing. Within a month, she was sitting in Anna Manwaring’s Second Step writing class and followed up by attending Marlene Cullen’s rewriting course. Sharon was a sponge learning POV, the story arc, character development and all of the other elements needed for good writing. She rounded out her exposure to writing by joining Romance Writers of America. 

Armed with the essential elements of writing, Sharon plowed ahead with writing a series of vampire romance novels. Inspired by her critique partner and widely published author, Tina Folsom, she completed three novels and entered them in selected writing contests. In 2010, she placed first in one of the contests which, in turn, attracted the attention from a literary agent. With a signed contract in hand, Sharon assumed that she had finally made it, but she was wrong. After shopping Sharon’s novels around to various publishers, the agent could share only one outcome with her—rejections.

While Sharon was coping with these rejections, she was advised by another agent to consider writing about a real hero, someone that the reader could root for. So she created the idea of a series of novels based on the life of Navy SEALS. In the RW spirit of “writers helping writers,” Sharon continued to benefit by Tina Folsom’s sage advice along with those from Bella Andre, a highly accomplished and successful romance writer from Sonoma. In one of their brainstorming sessions, Bella suggested that Sharon’s chances of success would be heightened if she turned to self-publishing, release a book every three to four months and produce three different series.

Armed with these goals, Sharon wrote with new vigor, determined to succeed. She hired the services of two editors plus Arlene Miller. By June 2012, she saw her first SEAL novel, Accidental SEAL, generate significant sales on Amazon. In December 2012, her second novel in the series, Fallen SEAL Legacy, provided Sharon with her first 5-figure monthly income. Ten months later, she keeps writing—always grateful for the help she’s received along the way.

Her advice for fellow writers working hard to find their place in the literary world:

  1.  1. Write every day.
  2.  2. Write in a series.
  3.  3. Seek advice from successful authors and use mentoring.
  4.  4. Don’t ever listen to anyone who tells you, “It can’t be done.”
  5.  5. Never, never, never give up.

Sharon presently lives in Santa Rosa with her husband, Donald, and enjoys her daily routine of writing romance novels in a burgeoning literary career.



Kent Sorenson


– Article by Arletta Dowdy

To introduce Member in the Spotlight,  Kent W. Sorensen, I draw from his self-description:  “… I used to reside on the left side of my brain, working eighty to a hundred hours a week while traveling around the globe and running companies in biotechnology and international housing… I decided to leave the analytical world and jump over to the right side of my brain and into the lush gardens of creativity.”

What has emerged is a man of multiple talents who is an author, a photographer, a book cover designer and advisor. In 2012, Sorensen published The Dark Horse of Shanghai, an adventure/thriller novel he describes as cultural fiction. Influenced by writers Lisa See, Khaled Hosseini and Arthur Golden, Kent’s outlook on life and inspiration to write stem from his deep roots to family and community. His soon to be published novel, The Jutaku Affair, chronicles the aftermath of the 1995 Kobe earthquake in Japan. The story reveals a surprising twist in the role of the feared Yakuza mafia in providing aid to the survivors.

Raised free of bigotry and disrespect of other cultures, Kent has a life philosophy that is positive — always looking for the good in a person or whatever the day may bring his way. His world-view comes through clearly and with great beauty in slice-of-life vignettes that have found places in several Redwood Writers contests and anthologies. His latest, “A Piece of Chalk,” was selected for publication the Redwood Writers Anthology 2013: Beyond Boundaries.

Kent’s creativity has shown itself in a growing portfolio of photographs from many areas of the world including the wine country and the northwest. His ability to capture light is awesome. In his portraits, including RW members for their websites and covers, he finds and conveys the true essence of the person. Kent’s photograph of his friend Curtis (grandson of FDR) was selected to hang in the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York. You can see his work at or on iStockphoto and Shutterstock.

A newer venture for Kent is found in his book cover design work. Easy to work with, Kent is committed to give the author the most effective cover possible to enhance the appeal of the writer’s work. I know since he designed the covers for both of my current books. He succeeds very nicely as seen on the covers visible on his website: 

In 2008, Kent moved from Shanghai, China, to Sonoma where he presently resides. Several months after settling in he joined Redwood Writers and was warmly welcomed by the 30 or so members who met at Marvin’s Restaurant in Cotati. Since then he has admired the work of the organization and can easily identify with its motto of, “Writers helping writers.” Kent serves on the Board of Redwood Writers.



Article by Jeanne Jusaitis

Before Arletta Dawdy became an expert on the history of the Southwest, before she wrote the first two books of The Huachuca Trilogy, Huachuca Woman andBy Grace, and even before she was a respected member of Redwood Writers, Arletta was a wife, mother and Social Worker. But even at an early age, Arletta knew that she loved words.

Here, Arletta tells us of her life of writing: “Perhaps it was being seven years old and sitting at the kitchen table in Dover, NJ, being made to spell my list forwards and backwards that led me to a fascination with words. Or was it being an only child for nine and a half years, making up dramatic scenarios with diverse characters, languages and voices? An avid reader, the library was my safe haven where I scooped up five or six books each week in summer from early school days. Putting stories on paper seldom occurred to me. By high school, I struggled at the notion. My high school science teacher pushed me into a horrible, 19th century valedictory that I could now produce more true to the era.

At Occidental College, my first Blue Book was barely a page and a half; I wasn’t proud of that grade! Writing books or being an archaeologist were beyond me, I thought. Remembering Jane Addams’ Twenty Years at Hull House, I turned to social work at San Francisco settlement houses. It was a challenging career working with girls’ street gangs and developing services for unwed parents. A spirit of innovation prevailed in that setting. I spent twenty-two years in Child Protective Services, gathering much material that I choose not to write.

Short stories and poems appeared in my forties; pieces I could do midst a strenuous career and an active family life. My late husband was from New Mexico and I’d already traveled extensively in the Southwest, as we continued to do with our children.

A quiet meadow near Silver Creek in the Sierras offered meditation and inspiration. In fact, that setting is now the base of a contemporary novella. Nature nurtures my creativity and energy as little else can do. These visits to Southeast Arizona, and one-liners told by my brother-in-law, led to the Huachuca Trilogy. My published novels are the result of long years of refining my craft, persisting in the face of rejection, and receiving faith and encouragement from my family, friends and supportive writers.

In the recent past, I have lived in the Southwest, for research, and will continue to return there.”

Now, an active mother of an archeologist daughter and two writing grand daughters, Arletta is hard at work on #3 in the trilogy, Rose of Sharon. She credits Redwood members Marlene Cullen (editor), Blake Edward (book designer) and Kent Sorenson (cover design) for assistance in publishing her books.

Whatever the future brings, we can thank Arletta for providing us with interesting perspectives of American history, more great reads, and for being a kind and talented friend.





Article by Robin Moore

The memorable thing about Jeanne Jusaitis is her ready smile and ability to laugh at the foibles of life. Her ability to see life in a humorous way spills over into her writing. Her first travel mystery, Journey to Anderswelt, was written for middle grade students and highlights an Austrian setting with a Mozart theme. While the four teens try to help save the fragile ecosystem around Salzburg from commercial development, there are still plenty of laughs.

A frequent traveler, Jusaitis has made several trips to Europe with students, both as a teacher and as a chaperone, enhancing her background for writing her travel mysteries for students. Currently she is working on her second in the series with a French setting and an art theme. Just thirteen years old the first time she was published, Jusaitis wrote a Valentine essay that was featured in the Oakland Tribune. After that, she entered and placed in many essay contests to help earn money for college. 

Jusaitis brings much of her organizational and development skills to Redwood Writers honed from 32 years of teaching both students and other teachers. Utilizing her Master’s Degree in TLC (Curriculum Education), she also wrote a book for the California State Department of Education on how to instruct students in crafting their own fairy tales. She worked as a consultant for the Joseph Campbell Institute in developing curriculum for teaching mythology in the elementary schools. 

Many years of teaching middle grade students in Petaluma gifted Jusaitis with the enthusiasm and background needed for writing for children. She frequently does school appearances with her stories, helps with reading, writing and theater projects, and encourages students wishing to write their own stories.

Jusaitis has also been  published in four Vintage Voices Anthologies. One submission in particular, her poem about Aunt Tilly on the beach, exemplifies her humorous take on life. For younger students, she has published Liliah Dill and The Magic Kit for readers who are ready for chapter books. In a fun romp across the stage Lilah attempts to put on a magic show without her father taking over the act. She also had a memoir published in Wisdom Has a Voice, edited by KateFarrell. Jusaitis has chaired events such as the very successful Agents Day hosted by Redwood Writers, held pitching workshops to help members prepare for meeting agents, and served on the RW Board. 

Recently, she chaired the nomination committees for the last two Redwood Writers officers’ elections. She has also chaired the volunteers at three Redwood Writers conferences. Often traveling to research stories, back home she regularly meets with a group of writers known as the Kid Lit Café. She is also a member of thenational SCBWI organization of children’s writers and illustrators. 

Jusaitis credits Redwood Writers for its resources, which help writers make connectionsneeded to be published, and for help in developing writing systems—systems that she notes, also work for students. She advises new writers to stay opento change, be open to critiques, to allow yourself to change your mind, and most of all to not give up—to persevere.





Article by Juanita Martin


Robin Moore is just as comfortable writing fiction and non-fiction as she is riding her horses Gracie or Willa. Sometimes her horses are her inspiration for writing. She’s in the process of rewriting a middle-grade horse novel, called Addi’s Wish. With her easy-going personality and quick wit, Robin is a natural with children. She writes primarily children’s literature, 4th-8th grade level. She also has a picture book in progress about the adventures of a crane truck. She hopes her writing will inspire children to develop a love for reading.

Each year Robin participates in Nanowrimo to write 50,000 words in the month of November. During this time, she started an historical fiction novel called Lost in Shanghai. The main character is Charles, a boy reconciled with his estranged father, after Charles’ sister and mother are killed in the United States.

Moore dabbles in other genres such as mystery writing and poetry. “Chellingstone Manor,” a mystery turned ghost story, was accepted in this year’s anthology. She took an Introduction to Poetry class from Santa Rosa Junior College to learn how to write better poems. “When I get inspired to write poetry, I send them to my friend Juanita for a critique or a laugh,” Robin chuckles.

Besides having numerous newsletter articles published, Robin was editor/reporter for the Cloverdale newspaper. She was also in the Road Apple Gazette and Western Horseman Magazine.

Robin believes in the ability of critique groups to support and respect their members. She participates in two groups on Tuesdays. She will also meet at SoCo Coffee in Santa Rosa and Platt Café in Cloverdale, for coffee, camaraderie, and free write sessions with fellow Redwood Writer members.

Moore joined Redwood Writers in the winter of 2007, helping behind the scenes at events and meetings. “I like being helpful.” She took on more leadership roles such as being newsletter editor for two and one half years. Robin really enjoyed her time on the newsletter team. It helped her meet new and interesting people who eventually she befriended. She also hosts an annual salon at her home and ranch in the hills of Cloverdale. She credits Redwood Writers for great speakers, writing opportunities, and the invaluable friendships she has gained. Robin also served on the Redwood Writers Board and co-chaired the Tech Day workshop.

Most recently she was on the Agents Day committee and the Nominating Committee. She also co-hosts the monthly Redwood Writers Open Mike event.

Where will you most likely find Robin? You won’t find Robin in front of a computer waiting for the muse to find her. Besides horses, she loves windmills and travel. In 2012, she went to Ireland where she met several writers.

Robin loves communing with nature, riding her horse, and painting, photography and art. For now, Robin just enjoys her family, friends, horses, and hobbies. She doesn’t want to write a memoir; she’d rather live out her adventures in living color as they unfold right in front of her. Someday she just might write about them. 






Article by Nina Ayin Reimer


Juanita J. Martin made adversity a powerful tool for good. She turned her abusive childhood filled with educational and emotional neglect into exemplary literary accomplishments. As a teen, she received a 1st place monetary award for a NJ Audubon Society essay. The essay was about the environmental impact on the 1976 casino referendum for Atlantic City. At Atlantic Community College in the 80s, she started a literary magazine called Silhouettes. After college, she worked at the South Jersey Advisor newspaper. 

Martin subsequently became a writer of several genres, including poetry. “I found my voice through poetry.” People are taken with Juanita’s philosophical messages. “Great poetry should provide an emotional connection.” Ms. Martin has read poets such as Frost, Hughes, Cullen, Longfellow, and Neruda. Juanita’s writing touches a diverse audience, from youth to senior adults. After Juanita read her graduation poem at Napa Valley College, Patty Vail, Director of Nursing said, “Juanita, I think you missed your calling. You should be a writer.” Martin replied, “Why can’t I do both? In 1998, Juanita wrote the first $500 LVN Scholarship, named after her, and awarded each spring at Napa Valley College. 

Juanita is still an LVN and prolific writer. “Despite setbacks, I persevered with my writing.” Ms. Martin had a home-based business where she wrote bios, letters, and promotional literature. She also started performing poetry, which led to a 2 year open mike series at Barnes and Noble, Fairfield. In 2003, she produced an inspirational poetry CD called Soul Stirrings.

She published an article in Sonoma County Women’s Voices. Juanita became a top prize winner in the Sonoma County Library Slams, and began hosting and performing around Sonoma County. 

Martin’s enthusiasm for writing includes supporting her fellow writers. She joined Redwood Writers in 2007and served as a Board member for 4 years. While on the Board, she developed the Redwood Writers Membership Brochure used in the book festival and conferences. Juanita was Historian, Author Launch Chair, and Poetry Night Chair, to name a few. Martin still serves as Acquisitions Editor of The Redwood Writer. For fun, she likes crafts, traveling, reading, and singing. 

Her poetry appeared in several Redwood Writer volumes of Vintage Voices. Juanita was a featured reader at Healdsburg Literary Guild, Petaluma Poetry Walk, and Healdsburg Literary Café. Her poetry also appeared in Blue Collar Review, SoMa Literary Review, Rattlesnake Review, Bay Area Poets Review and others. Juanita transitioned from being an unknown writer to becoming a polished, mature writer, with many publishing credits. In 2010, Ms. Martin’s award-winning poetry and literary honors helped her become First Poet Laureate for Fairfield, California. 

Ms. Martin is author of The Lighthouse Beckons, a poetry collection, which has been accepted in several branches of the Solano County Library. The Fairfield Branch displayed her book for National Poetry Month. Juanita is writing another poetry book called Quiet Intensity, and a memoir called The Making of a Poet Laureate. Juanita recently joined WNBA to turn her writing gift into works of prose. Juanita’s website is



              Article by Jan Boddie


 Nina knows how to accept a challenge. She plants her feet on the ground, opens both hands and trusts the creativity bursting forth from her soul. An artist by nature, Nina’s first published work was her medical illustrations in the book Our Bodies, Ourselves, Simon & Shuster, 1971. After years of working as a medical artist, she changed careers and became a teacher. Although her degree was in Art and Health, Nina was hired by the New York City Board of Education to teach English.

Undaunted by the assigned task of teaching Language Arts to English learners, Nina used the universal language of creative arts as her primary teaching tool. Her students were instructed to write about their learning experiences from painting a picture, producing a play, creating a collage. By each year’s end the students had written their own books, in English.

In 1993, while continuing to teach, Nina returned to her own painting and sculpture. She was drawn toward doll-making as a healing art, shamanic in nature. Her non-fiction book published in 2003, Artist as Healer, Stories of Transformation and Healing, includes case histories of many clients touched by her healing work. The book also contains photographs of the dolls, each face glowing with a story to tell. 

In 2004 she completed her certification as a Reiki Master. Nina describes Reiki as a form of medicine which works on energy systems, similar to acupuncture. She is a healing and medical intuitive and a trance medium who works with private clients, and she shares some of her methods with participants in her doll-making workshops. Nina’s healing work has been featured in DOLL Magazine and other publications, and her articles have appeared in national magazines including Art Doll Quarterly. 

Recently Nina’s writing has moved to new heights. Her completed debut novel, Bleed Through, spans two-hundred years and includes four main characters from different cultures. She has worked with two editors, made revisions, and with a final tweaking and formatting, feels her book is ready for publication. Thinking ahead about marketing and her novel’s sequel, Nina asked an agent who read the book’s synopsis which genre best describes her work. Thoughtful for a moment, the agent said, “Your book is a literary novel.” In the near future Nina also plans to publish her forty-eight page poetry book, Passing Through.

Asked about tips for writers, Nina offered a passionate response: “Get rid of the fear. Tell that critical voice to go away. Say it aloud and mean it! Write everyday, even if you’re tired. Make a list of prompts. Place inspirational pictures and quotes around you. I had a book marker on my frig for the last few years that read Write the damn book! and that worked for me.” 

Whatever gifts and challenges come into Nina’s life next, I look forward to the weaving of colorful, creative threads formed through soul essence and spirit messages in her poetry, fiction and non-fiction books and articles.



Article by Sher Phillips Gamard

Jan’s life is like a woven basket of many strands. The basket is spinning with two colors which alternate and intertwine — sandstone and deep blue. These two spinning colors of her life could also be called: connection with Mother Earth and connection with Spirit, the outer life journey and the inner journey, individuality and community.

Outer life journey: As a young adult, Jan felt a calling to be a teacher but dropped out of college when she found out that teachers were required to stick to a strict curriculum. In 1963, while living in Boston, her interest in folk-music became a “Coffeehouse Theatre” column in Broadside folk-music magazine. This, her first writing project, lasted for ten years! Meanwhile, she met Eddie, a big man with a heart that matched his size and a serious student of martial arts. Traveling to Japan in 1973, Jan and Eddie entered the respected Kodokan Judo Institute where they experienced an intense and rigorous two year training before returning to live on Cape Cod.

In 1977 Jan decided to make another move west, this time to San Francisco. Two years later, feeling deeply guided to return to school, she enrolled in Antioch College, completing her BA and MA degrees. Jan worked as a volunteer for the Shanti Project, which provided support for the terminally ill and their families, until they hired her as a counselor in the first AIDS unit of S.F. General Hospital. This very intense and heart rending work lasted for two years. She then became a therapist in private practice and also earned her PhD from Sierra University.

Jan’s life opened into a new dimension in March 1993 when she met the love of her life, Marystella, at a seminar. Together, they embarked on “a spiritual journey beyond beliefs.”

Inner life journey: During repeated retreats in Sedona, Arizona, they learned to tune into the vortex energies of the Earth. In 1996, they were guided to move to Marystella’s family home in Santa Rosa. Since 2001 their learning and growth has continued as a dozen energy vortices and portals have opened on their half acre of land. “Your love was the first vortex” said a shaman from Ecuador who visited them.

Jan and Marystella have taught CEU classes at SRJC and Memorial Hospital’s Life Learning Center and, more recently, are leading their own groups in the expansion of awareness of Earth energy and connection with Spirit.

Four years ago, Jan started writing her memoir which tells the story of her participation in the emerging awareness of unity — or, as she calls it, the “downfall of duality” — return of the divine feminine, and transformation of the Earth. Jan is grateful to Redwood Writers for the warmth of its members and the many opportunities presented as writers help writers.

The weave of Jan’s life spins together to form a vortex. The beautiful colors may be seen and yet together they merge to create a whole pointing toward unity. Learn more about Jan and Marystella’s work on:



Article by Mary True


Sher has been a seeker of wisdom and self awareness since the age of seventeen. The first breakthrough step for her was college. Telling nobody, she applied for and was accepted at San Diego State. The first in her family to do so, she attended college and studied Psychology, hoping to gain self awareness and understanding of the human psyche.

After two years, she moved to Berkeley and got married. “The marriage didn’t work out, but Berkeley did,” she said.

Sher loved the idealism and excitement of social activism in the 1960s. Living in Berkeley, she attended San Francisco State as a working student. After studying theoretical psychology for eight years, Sher realized that it had not cured her of the deep pain of an unhappy childhood. Seeking to experience and work through her deeper feelings, Sher joined a Gestalt Women’s Group that included creative writing.

Two years later, with friends, she joined a Meditation Class with famous East-West guru Claudio Naranjo who blended psychiatry and spirituality. There she met the love of her life, her second husband, Bill Gamard. Through Claudio’s group they met their second spiritual guide, British Healer Reshad Field, of the Sufi “whirling dervish” tradition. In 1974, Bill, Sher, and others set off on a spiritual adventure in search of higher truth. They traveled to Sufi Centers in Los Angeles, Mexico and Turkey for months of extended study and work.

Returning to Berkeley, Sher supported Bill through the completion of his Doctorate in Psychology. When their daughter Marri was born, she became a full time mom. When Marri started school, Sher began writing the book that would become her life’s work for twenty years. Rigorously, Sher wrote three to five hours daily, describing the pilgrimage she lived, seeking an ever deepening sacred life. Her commitment to the discipline of daily writing was constant over the years.

Six years ago, Sher submitted Gifts From An Unseen Hand to a few selected publishers. None of them were willing to publish it.

Discouraged and depressed, Sher was browsing in Copperfield’s one afternoon when a large group of people surrounded a speaker. They were Redwood Writers, an organization for writers supporting writers! After years of writing in isolation, Sher found the organization that she had always needed. She joined Redwood Writers and became an active member.

Sher Gamard is now working with a “fantastic” copy editor to fine tune her book. She plans to self publish it by 2014. Bill’s’s support and encouragement for her writing and their happy marriage over the years have made it possible. Sher points out that she has lived her book title, as she has received “abundant gifts from unseen hands.”

As Redwood Writers Salon Chairman, Sher Gamard handles Salon arrangements with style and grace. Speaking to hosts and attendees, she treats each person with impeccable manners and careful attention. Sher, with shining eyes and a sweet smile, is usually at the entrance table for Redwood Writers meetings.




by Karen Batchelor

Mary True dropped out of college to marry. She raised three children and says they are the best of her accomplishments. When her children were grown, she returned to university, graduating from Sonoma State in 1972. Her husband was relieved when she held that diploma but entirely unsupportive and resistant when she decided to enroll in an M. A. program. In fact he said, “Aren’t you done yet? Education has ruined a perfectly good wife!” Education, you might say, caused her divorce.

The divorce liberated her, and she wanted to experience as much of the world as possible. After commuting to Sacramento to study and complete her MSW, she took the newly minted degree to Yountville where she worked for five years counseling veterans. Then she went into private practice in Pleasant Hill, a choice that allowed her to do in-depth clinical hypnosis.

In 1990, she felt a pull toward the ministry and decided to attend Divinity School. This venture took her to Missouri. It was at this school where she met her second husband. After her ordination in 1990, she and her new husband headed west to California. Their dream was to establish a Unity Church in Petaluma. And they eventually did. They returned to California and in 1992, established the Unity Church in Petaluma. Mary believes the ministry was her true calling.

But in 2003, her husband became very ill, and Mary retired from her church to take care of him. He died in 2007. Without the ministry, Mary says she felt like “a shell.”

After her husband passed away, Mary saw writing as a way to bring her out of a self-imposed isolation. She had already published several devotional columns in the Argus Courier. And, of course, she wrote her weekly sermons.

This collection of Mary’s occupations reveals the soul of a nurturer, a person involved in the helping arts, and from these experiences, she feels she has much material to share with others through her writing.

Her first step was to take classes. She studied with several local teachers, including Ana Manwaring, Suzanne Sherman, and Steve Boga who teaches a writing and critique class in Sebastopol. She has learned a lot from each of them. Classes also spurred her to actually write because she had to have something written to take to class.

She still recommends taking classes.

When she joined Redwood Writers, she found the meetings to be interesting and informative and the people to be supportive and friendly. The conference she attended was “wonderful.”

Mary writes about ordinary folks, blessings, people she has met, everyday things. She especially likes to share stories that have an unusual or unexpected outcome, like the time she accidentally picked up a hitchhiker with an axe.

Mary did not start with an eye to publication, but that may change soon. And she might study fiction next.

These steps would not “ruin a perfectly good” writer, and she’s not “done yet.” 



– Article by Ana Manwaring

My friend, mentor and often inspiration, Karen Batchelor, started writing when she was ten. Her first work, five handwritten pages, was co-authored with her best friend in 1958, and may still be pending revision and publication. As a teen, Karen fell in love with poetry.

After university, Karen served in Korea as a Peace Corps volunteer (1972-1974). She kept journals and wrote poetry, some published in literary magazines including Literary Messenger, Dialogue, and Wide Open.

In 1978, she won several cash awards, and realized “writing poetry was not a career option.” Instead she took a job at City College of San Francisco teaching English and ESL for thirty-five years. She’s written articles and eight ESL texts. “Creative writing was always a side-dish—squeezed in when I could.” Part of that squeezing produced her first novel, Murder at Ocean View College, a delightful mystery set on a college campus and crafted for the emerging English language reader.

Since her 2009 retirement, and nearly three-year battle with cancer, writing has become more important than ever. Every day she writes at least five minutes, if that’s all she can do. The effect: she’s recently published stories in, CWC Literary Review, and the Peace Corps 50th anniversary anthology, giving her some great exposure. Alas, “’great exposure’ doesn’t pay the rent.”

I asked Karen what has helped her in her writing career and she emphatically names classes and critique groups. “Reading others’ work and listening to comments about your own, provides a wonderful education.” Karen is a founder of Wordweavers, a group that has met now for seven years. She has also studied under Shelly Singer for many years. It was in Shelly’s group she revised Murder at Ocean View College.

Karen reminds me that, “in fact, critique groups are a method we used to grow Redwood Writers.” I recall our club when Karen was elected president in 2007: 30-40 members, $300 in the bank and five volunteers. We’d atrophied due to an aging membership and costly dinner meetings. Karen and team injected Redwood Writers with some new programs. Karen, with Kate Farrell, started our Vintage Voices tradition, and edited the first five volumes. She started Member in the Spotlight, the July Author Launch, regular writing contests and the first Redwood Writers conference in twenty years. She oversaw the start of Odd Month Reading with Ann Wilkes and Mona Mechling, the Redwood Salon with Ana Manwaring, and ran the logo and motto contests won by David Prothero and Ann Philipp. Karen says, “It’s gratifying to see programs still going, strengthened and expanded to fit a growing membership.” She points out that we haven’t met our five-year goal of three hundred members, but Karen is grateful to be a part of our wonderful organization.

As to her writing goals, Karen Batchelor says, “other than the Pulitzer prize?” She wants to see new novel, Snapshots of St. Lorraine, 1960, “finished and number one on the bestseller list!” So do her friends, children and grandchildren.



– Article by Christina Julian

 For Ana Manwaring, writing has always been a way of life. When asked why she writes,  “I can’t imagine doing anything else. I write because I have some kind of urge that I can’t ignore. If I do ignore it I feel ragged around the edges.” Writing makes up many parts of Ana’s life, whether she is teaching at Napa Valley College, writing the next chapter in her narco-thriller, The Hydra Effect Book 2: Coyoacan, or penning her monthly column for the Petaluma Post, wordsmithing sits at the core.

Regardless of the medium or genre, fiction or non-fiction, Ana draws from personal experiences. “For my column I’m learning about Petaluma by having an experience and writing about that. It’s more personal essay than from a news standpoint.” For her novel she draws from her days in Mexico where she lived for three years. Ana describes the premise, “When a surprise vacation to Mexico materializes into the form of a case, Jade Anne Stone finds out that Mexico is not all sunsets and margaritas, and not all missing wives want to be found. Abducted from a lonely highway, Jade Anne and her attack trained German shepherd are ensnared in a web of violence and intrigue.”

When asked about how she conquers writer’s block, “It may sound odd, but I wrote a little prayer, to align myself with the universe and to start getting ideas and words flowing. If I’m really stuck I read my prayer, it works every time. It’s my talisman, my magic. I don’t know how it works, but it does.” She also rips inspiration straight from the headlines. “I like to read collected news. I’m always reading about drug cartels, political commentary and incidents that occur. I find random things in the newspaper that strike me.” If she butts up against a killer stumbling block she just can’t tackle, she likes to sleep on it. “Things come out of my dreams, I go to sleep thinking I need to write about something, and when I wake up I have an idea.”

Enthralled with everyday life, Ana is at work on a memoir, entitled Saints and Skeletons, which she expects to have completed within the next four months. It chronicles her journey to the “epiphany moment,” as a result of her time living in Mexico.

Her words of wisdom for other writers, “I’d have to say, sit down and write. Writing is like any other activity, the more you do it the better you get.” Ana was recently invited to lead the upcoming Redwood Writers workshop on point of view which she is thrilled about because, “It’s one of the most important parts of writing, and one of the most difficult, so I’m getting to understand it deeply and getting to help others understand it also.” The course will be held at the Flamingo Hotel, November 17, 9:30-1:30. You can learn more about Ana’s thoughts on point of view and other topics at and


– Article by Amber Lea Starfire

In elementary and junior high school, Christina Julian loved creative writing, but not the classes and grammar teachers that stifled creativity. It wasn’t until she started working in advertising that she rediscovered her creative side. Over time, she made the transition to creative marketing. Then, four years ago, she decided to make the leap to writing full-time, quitting her job and moving to Calistoga from Southern California. “It was all, or nothing,” Christina says. She began by writing essays and soon realized that her writing voice had a sense of humor.

A year ago, Christina set two goals: to get a column and to sell her novel, Dear God, Can I Fire My Family?—“a comedic romp navigating romantic relationships and family dynamics in funny and sometimes heartbreaking ways.” She’s still working on selling the novel, but Christina is well on her way to a successful freelance writing career. She publishes a monthly column in NorthBay Biz Magazine, as well as feature articles on wine, food, entertainment, and art-related topics in the Bohemian, NorthBay Biz, California Home Design, and 7×7.

Her success, Christina says, started with her blog, WackyWineSense: “My first posts, in the form of articles were about a well-known winemaker, which led to published articles about him for local newspapers and magazines. One thing led to the next. Blogging about a well-known subject was my launching pad.”

Other factors contributing to Christina’s success are persistence, consistency, established work hours, and a structured approach to freelancing. “I came from the corporate sector and was used to a regular eight-hour workday. I adopted the same schedule in my freelance life.” According to Christina, pitching and getting published is a numbers game: it’s not unusual to send out 20-30 pitches for every response she receives. Also, she emphasizes the importance of analyzing target publications to know which types of articles they accept from freelancers and who the editors are.

Any win is a win worth celebrating, no matter how small,” she says. “I celebrate any response, even the negative ones. Recently, I wrote an article for a new section, in Napa Valley Life magazine (Mischievous Ink), which is being promoted through a live video stream by ToutSuite.”

For the future, Christina would like to focus more on writing fiction. “I feel that’s my strength, though I’ve come to enjoy journalistic writing because I get to meet a lot of interesting people,” Christina says. “I have a snarky, funny style. This is the type of writing I most enjoy.” In nonfiction, she’d like the opportunity to publish more creative, voice-based works, such as opinion pieces and essays.

Married this June, Christina and her new husband traveled to Spain for their honeymoon, which should provide a wealth of new topics to write about.

Seeing her byline in print is Christina Julian’s inspiration to keep writing and pitching ideas. “It’s an excitement that never wears off.”

For more about Christina Julian and her freelance work, visit and



-Article by Mark Piper

If you don’t know who Kate Farrell is you’re either new to Redwood Writers or you haven’t been paying attention. Known for her warm personality and ready smile, Kate joined Redwood Writers in 2004 and has served in various capacities, including Member of the Board and Representative to the California Writers Club.

Primarily a librarian by profession, Kate earned a Master’s in Library Science at UC Berkeley in 1970. But her passion has always been Storytelling and its modern iteration, memoir.

It’s not surprising then, that among Kate’s strongest influences was Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist who famously focused on archetypes and myth.

Kate started as an English teacher in San Francisco, assigned to a Hunter’s Point junior high school, one of the worst in the system. Most of her students couldn’t even read. So Kate read to them and eventually related the ancient myths and folktales from memory. That transformed a drab classroom into a magical place. At the time, she didn’t even know that Storytelling was a viable discipline.

In graduate school, Kate happened upon a course in Storytelling and learned about the tradition and how to perform it in a professional way. As she puts it, “I found my gift and then found a way to give it away to kids who were at risk.” Much later, a two-year course at a Berkeley psychic school provided valuable training on how to read auras and more effectively relate to an audience.

With support from the Zellerbach Family Fund, Kate established the Word Weaving Project, which provided professional training and developed a statewide language arts curriculum in the art of Storytelling for educators at all levels. Kate co-authored a monograph, Effects of Storytelling: An Ancient Art for Modern Classrooms, created Word Weaving: A Teaching Sourcebook, co-wrote and produced a Storytelling training video, and wrote Storytelling: A Guide for Teachers.

Sadly Storytelling was dropped from California schools. But as Kate helped produce the first Vintage Voices anthology and heard Beth Grimes read aloud she saw that Storytelling was not a lost art after all; it was simply going by a different name, “memoir.”

These days Kate is part of the rebirth of the memoir. She edited the acclaimed anthology, Wisdom has a Voice: Every Daughter’s Memories of Mother, and she is hard at work on a second collection due out next spring: The Times They Were A-Changing: Women’s Memoirs of the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Kate views women’s memoir as much more than just a popular genre; she sees it as a cultural revolution—a new oral tradition that provides the opportunity for women to finally find their voice. In a sense, Kate has stayed the same course throughout her career, starting with preserving myths and folktales through Storytelling and transitioning into giving voice to personal truths through memoir. Her goal is to continue down this road as different media come into play and to examine new platforms for the stories we share. Visit her website:


Article by Charles Markee

While in school, Mark Piper was concurrently the smartest guy on his softball team and the best softball player in his Ph.D. program. Even before receiving his Ph.D. in English from the University of Oregon in Eugene, he played high-level softball in a league. For the next 30 years, he continued playing softball while teaching college classes in literature and writing, directing and producing videos and doing freelance writing in the Bay Area.

Mark has been writing professionally his entire adult life. “It has made me somewhat neurotic about punctuation and grammar,” he says. He favors novels over short stories, although his short, “A Perfect Arrangement,” was recently published in the inaugural issue of the CWC Literary Magazine.

Diagnosed with cancer of the throat in 2011, he underwent a chemotherapy regime so severe he was hospitalized to save his life. It was a ‘treatment worse than the disease’ scenario during which he couldn’t eat. His only sustenance a feeding tube. It was a harrowing experience and he lost 45 pounds, but today, he’s cancer-free. This medical intervention will become the subject of his next short story.

Over five years, Mark completed first drafts of three novels while searching for a critique group. Now active in two groups, he comments, “I thought my manuscript was finished until I joined a critique group of serious, insightful writers. It has really improved my novel.” Mark is nearing a final edit of Involuntary Games, the story of a sadistic writer/criminal who makes his heinous stories come true. The hero of the story is–can you guess?–yes, an English professor. As Mark contemplates what to do with his finished novel, he sees no point in beating his head against the “iron curtain” that surrounds traditional publishing. He’s looking for a good digital publisher.

Mark creates each new work at his computer in a dedicated home office. However, he edits his own work and critiques other manuscripts using hard copy and a pencil. After his characters and setting are established, he types into a growing manuscript as fast as he can, to keep pace with his characters. Other than seeing his work published and enjoying the reactions of his readers, this is the process that most excites him about writing. The biggest problem he faces is knowing when to stop editing.

Although not a fan of Stephen King, Mark was impressed with his book on writing. He used his recommendation and did ‘what if’ scenarios while writing Involuntary Games.

After years working with students as an English professor, he provides us with good advice. Don’t stop on a block. Work around it and come back to it with a perspective from the whole manuscript. Be the best editor you can be. The best writing comes from rewriting. When you’ve completed only three or four drafts, you’re not finished.

You can get a one-chapter glimpse at Mark’s three novels on his website

Member in the Spotlight Editor: Osha Belle Hayden