Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “California Writer’s Week”

John Putnam – California Writer

In this last post commemorating  California Writers Week, I want to introduce my friend and local author, John Putnam. John and I have been friends and writing buddies for over four years, meeting weekly at the Berkeley Writers Group. He has written two novels about the Gold Rush. In our critique groups, I would often begin my feedback about his work with the words – This isn’t my genre…

But John’s writing is captivating. He has exposed me to the majestic scenes of Gold Country, sending my family twice on camping trips to Northern California, and his characters seem to follow me around. John’s novels are not just for Westerns enthusiasts, they are for anyone who loves realistic and resilient characters, and anyone who loves an everyday hero. Over to you, John:

JOHN PUTNAM – I Loved My Dad.

John Putnam - Berkeley Author

I loved my Dad.

We spent hours together when I was young, trampling through the woods. He was an experienced outdoorsman and a crack shot. I tagged along behind carrying the same beat up old air rifle he had learned to shoot with, but I couldn’t hit the side of the barn.

We went to the lake a lot and rode around in the boat he built in the basement, either fishing or water skiing. Dad could lift that boat into the back of his 1951 Chevy pick-up all by himself, it fit exactly, no trailer required. It was the most amazing boat I’ve ever seen. Sometimes he let me drive, both the boat and the truck. I was on top of the world.

He was a calligrapher. He could reproduce with a pen or brush any letter in any size or font that you can find today on your computer and do it absolutely perfectly, an artist with letters. Today it’s a lost art.

And all too soon he was gone. I miss him a ton.

Years later I started writing books. I picked a time and place for my novels where men still walked through pristine forests and where the waterways, and the steam and sailboats that plied them, were immensely important. I write about the California gold rush.

But writing is not an easy job. It’s hard, lonely work. Like my Dad’s calligraphy every word must be perfect. Writers need the help, companionship and support of other writers. And so did I.

That’s when I met Alon.

Just like me, Alon needed feedback on his novels and had started a group of like-minded people who still get together regularly and share their work. Over the years we’ve all grown into much better writers, thanks to Alon.

Now don’t get me wrong, Alon doesn’t remind me of my Dad at all. Well, maybe they are about the same height and I’m not counting the deep desire of each of them to shape their words as perfectly as can be, although in a much different way, but, like with my Dad so long ago, Alon is leading the way through the dark and confusing forest of the book world and I’m stumbling along behind.

When he asked me to write something for California Writers Week I was flattered. “Remember, my blog is pretty political,” he warned me.

 I knew he was thinking of my books, the first one happens at the very start of the gold rush. There were few towns and politics was primitive. In Hangtown Creek when a woman flees from a sadistic drunk only the men who have come to love her can help her.

Warning: Side Effects include camping trips in NorCal and gold fever.

 But things changed real fast in California and along with the honest, hard working miners came gamblers, crooks, and every corrupt politician in need of a new job. “Hey,” I said. “Politics in the gold rush was something you wouldn’t believe, except it really seems a lot like today. In 1851 all across California, and especially in San Francisco, people revolted against the corruption and took the law into their own hands. It was years before they straightened things out. I have a lot about it in my blog.”

 “That’s great,“ he said. “I’ll look forward to it.”

 I’ve met all kinds of folks in my life but I’m pretty sure that this would be a better world if more of them were like Alon and my Dad.

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Kemble Scott – California Writer

I have already written about Kemble Scott and apologize (only slightly) that I am adapting a previous post. If we are celebrating California Writers Week and I am using this opportunity to focus on authors who write about San Francisco, then I think this post is even more relevant today.

SoMa stands for South of Market area. Riding on the riches of the dot com era, suddenly wealthy young people moved into fashionable lofts in a neighborhood that was known for the darker side of life. Many of the side streets are actually named after the prostitutes that frequented them.

SoMa remains an area of contrasts – one street boasting trendy clubs and organic grocery stores, while another is dark and used to sell drugs. Living and cruising the neighborhood are people who are pushing the limits of social norms, in terms of sexual practices and lifestyles and Kemble captures the atmosphere so well.

A different perspective on San Francisco

But Kemble is more than just your average author. If he has an ego from his gleaned success it was never on show when he addressed the California Writers Club. He took the opportunity to share with us his astonishing success as an ebook author and generously offered advice to other writers in a friendly and humble way. He shared his mistakes as well as his successes and I felt it was genuinely important to him to ensure that when someone asked a question that they got the best answer he could give. 

Since his novel, SoMa, was anything but mainstream, Kemble found it difficult to attract reviews. So he came up with this great idea to post short clips on You Tube of the different areas in San Francisco that the book explores. The 25,000 views of these clips helped create a following so when the book was launched it went straight into the Bestseller lists. Here is Chapter One. Be prepared – you will probably want to check chapter 2, 3 and so on.

Kemble often mentions his writers group helping to keep him real. When he told his group that people advertise in Craigslist’s Bay Area ‘roommate wanted’ section to meet prospective partners, two members of the group admitted that they had found their partners in this way.

SoMa can be hard reading. What keeps you involved is the knowledge that these fictional characters exist, and exist in our city. It is the story of desensitized people who are searching for emotion, and they need to seek this in ever increasingly challenging and dangerous ways. It recognizes that this generation is overloaded with choice, with communicating through screens multitasking and absorbing images and data.

Kemble has another similar novel that challenges our views of sexual practice. The Sower, like SoMa, is really well written, with characters that stay with you long after you finish the final pages. His writing also helps paint another layer in the many textures of the San Francisco tapestry.

Here is Kemble’s speech to Google employees.

 ——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Christopher Moore – As Left Coast As They Get

When Christopher Moore offers a book signing in San Francisco, people flock to hear and meet him. When he launched his last novel, Fool, more than 300 hundred people lined up around the perimeter of Books Inc eager to have him sign copies of their books or to exchange a word. I had gone hoping for a little chat…some chance!

But Moore didn’t become a cult hero in San Francisco because of his parody of Shakespeare (Fool) or even the book that launched him, the irreverent and hilarious tale at the first 30 years of Jesus’ life (Lamb). What has enabled Moore to gain such status here are his three books about vampires in San Francisco.

The Man – as funny in person as on the page.

Please don’t bother if you want to be terrified, or if you seek Stephanie Meyer romance. Christopher Moore wrote the book (excuse the pun)  on how to create characters, bind them to a city, and have people begging for more. This is why I chose to write about him during California Writer’s Week and on Saturday for my “Writer’s Corner.”

At the book launch that I just mentioned, the questions were not about either his latest book or Lamb, it was all about the books that bound him to our city, and why we claim Christopher Moore as one of our authors, even though he lives in SoCal.

A Dirty Job, Bloodsucking Fiends – A Love Story, and (after he released Fool) Bite Me, all contain three vital ingredients: a vivid city, engaging characters, and that extra ingredient – in Moore’s case, his wicked sense of humor.

With such a combination, Christopher Moore came up from Santa Barbara and conquered the heart of our fair city. He deserves his place in my California’ Writer’s Week.

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: