December 2016  Newsletter 

by Kathleen Thomas

I don't know about you, but I'm still reeling from the election results. Still living from my heart after Veterans Day, the anniversary of The Day Kennedy Died, and one of the most fulfilling days of my month - Thanksgiving.
We're writers. We write. I've been writing quite a bit more this month than recently. My head and heart are so full of emotions that I click at the keys just to see the words in front of me as I work at making sense of it all.
It's hard to ignore the political and diplomatic rancor in our community and in the world. Where and when we choose to speak up, write up, and stand up, it's up to each of us to decide. And decide we must. Writers add to the dialogue of each and every day's appearance, today as ever before.
There are people in this community of ours who wonder each day where their next meal is coming from. Some of our neighbors don't know from day to day where they will be sleeping when the night gets cold. Sick people stay sick longer when they have no healthcare provider. Families wake up and go to sleep in fear, wondering if their kids are safe as they go off each day to school. 

My hope is that we all want to involve ourselves in providing a world of positive experiences to our neighbors, whether it is help at the food bank, adding our voices to bring art into the classrooms of all children, advocating for political change, or providing an open mic for people to speak up and speak out.
We are writers. We have a lot to write about. You all have so much to offer: novels, short stories, memoir, poetry, and creative non-fiction. I've seen some of it. It's beautiful.
Write those pages. Share those stories. Learn to do it better. Teach me. 
Holidays are upon us, with a new year around the bend. Where will your words fall this month, and the next, and the next? 

Who will hear them? I hope I do.


According to all accounts, NVW's very first Author Support Roundtable was a great success. Each small group had an allotted time for presentation and to have their questions answered. 

Roundtable groups started early and finished at the very last possible minute. Our participants wanted to go longer - to share and hear more. In my book, that's the mark of success. 

Thank you everyone for your enthusiasm in being part of something new at NVW!


Members and Guests
Holiday Party

December 11, 2016;  3-5 p.m

Please RSVP prior to 12/4/16 by calling
707-287-1585 (Wright's Photography)

What Would Napa Valley Writers  Be 
Without Authors and Writers?

Members of Napa Valley Writers are invited to display their published books, talk with others, and offer books for sale at our monthly meetings.  Especially now, in time for the holidays. 

Doors open at 6:30. Browse, network, and gather with our local writers. If you're interested in this opportunity to showcase your books, please contact Sarita Lopez, NVW Publicity Chair.

From the Prologue of 

I tug out a misshapen box, held together by layers of duct tape, and inhale sharply when I see what's inside: letters, notebooks, and diaries from the '30s and '40s. I unearth more boxes of letters to and from my mother.

Correspondence between Mom and Jack Carr during World War II. Yellow envelopes labeled by years in my mother's uneven scrawl. As I work my way through the boxes, I feel elated and incredibly sad. Here in my hands is history-the legacy of one woman's experiences and view of life. Perhaps more than one life, if you count all the letters written to Jackie. A life now reduced to pages stuffed into dusty boxes and locked away in a dark room.

"You guys don't mind if I keep all these boxes of old letters, do you?" I ask Mike and David, when they come searching for me. I say it casually, but my heart is thumping hard against my ribcage. I will fight for the boxes if either of them objects. But David shrugs and Mike says no, he doesn't mind.

They are mine.

...In these boxes, I wonder, will I find justification for my pain and anger and loss? Will what she's written match what I remember, or will I discover that I've been wrong? I am hungry to find out how she wrote about herself, how she wrote about me, and where I fit into her life. The unexpected possibility of discovering, of coming to understand, of forgiving my mother causes me to tremble.

Then another question occurs to me: if I find here the mother I thought I'd lost, will that discovery heal me? Will it be enough to resolve my inner conflict with her? Will I finally be able to let go of my disappointment and anger, and love her for who she was, or will I still long for the mother I believed she should have been?

NVW would like to again thank 
Ambera NVW member, for her recent productive workshop. Reviews were universally positive, noting Amber's skill and professionalism, effectiveness of exercises, the utility and relevance of the instruction.

If you'd like an excerpt from YOUR book featured in this newsletter, please send your request with a short Word document excerpt and a jpg of your book cover to Sarita Lopez.



1. I am a former professional actor who has appeared in theater, a few TV episodes and a pilot, and a lot of commercials.

2. I served two terms as mayor of the (very, very) small city of Bradbury in Southern California, and was on the city council for nine years.

3. I currently serve as the Board Secretary for Sunrise Horse Rescue, a rescue and sanctuary for abused, neglected and abandoned horses that is currently headquartered at Tamber Bey winery in Calistoga.

4. The "straight" job I retired from in 2014 was serving as the Idaho State Director for The American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific.

5. I once had a summer job in a sort of circus act at the original Marine World when it was in Redwood City, in which I rode a water buffalo, a Brahma bull, a camel, and a very pissed-off llama. I am not making this up.


We learn by wit or guile
the lay of the land,
which way the wind blows,
but thoughts of Death,
our own or others,
we push aside
to ruminate about another day.
When friends disappear around Time's Corner,
there's the Christmas message
or postcards from vacation places,
a surprise drop-in visit or a call by cell phone:
See you later,
I'll send the recipe,
Write me how you liked the book,
Drop by when you're next in town.
Nothing definite, but assurance of continuity.
No thought of that Ditch
we all stumble into someday.
No conscious knowing
there will always be a last goodbye.

by Charlotte Stark

For Grover Washington, Jr.
From Borrego Springs on a dusty windy day - March 28, 2016

You bring molten sound,
Sax exhaling magic
Spinning sanguine ribbons of mellow
A musical landslide of rubies and roses

You bring green sound,
Germinating growth like the flame tipped ocotillo,
Or the supplicant Joshua tree
Rising from soft desert sands
A musical landslide of emeralds

You bring magic
Sparkling like the universe of stars
Canvassing the blackness of night
Over desert creatures
A musical landslide of diamonds
A mystical thrust of sound.

by Alicia Schooler-Hugg

Wisteria blooms hang
Heavy, fragrant in the sun,
Tended by bees.

Pollen mines merely -
Or voluptuaries
Singing of Paradise?

Were I a bee, I would crawl
All day among the petals
And never return to the hive.

by Susan Prudhomme

Rolling rhythmically through peaks and troughs
steamship surges foamy water churning
spraying deckhands on journey down
Canada's eastern seaboard
carrying a cargo, fish and timber
bound for much larger markets.

Swaying in crew quarters, a black and tan
trunk adorned with M. McD in cream paint
under black leather handle.
Grandfather Murdock worked ships,
settled down a carpenter in California.
His name means seaman in Celtic.

Trunk now a table sits below
a window near our hearth.
Panels lacquered to a black sheen
dark tan leather strips with tiny rivets
corners have ball-like brass fittings.
Handles show fine cracks.

A skeleton key opens the front lock,
each side secured by a latch.
Thin blue pinstriped paperboard
trays lift out; one a hatbox.
Inside this Prince Edward Island
relic were letters from the past.

Stashing the trunk in basement,
Grandfather hid messages to
a brother in France for the Great War.
One returned stamped "deceased".
Secrets slowly emerge. Setting my mind
adrift, salt air hovers over our room.

by Jim McDonald


Congratulations to NVW member Catherine Maire who has two poems appearing in the November issue of "  The Light Ekphrastic". This online journal is published quarterly and is dedicated to the creation of new written and visual artworks through collaboration between artists.
Local History: 
Two Book Reviews 

by Lauren Coodley

   Too often, it's the arrivals who end up telling the stories. People who were born in a small town like Napa once was, are often too modest or busy to write memoirs of their childhoods. Happily, that's beginning to change and two recent publications may hopefully be a sign of more tales to come.
   In The Adventures of the Squeezebox Kid, Ray Guadagni reclaims and redefines Napa from the viewpoint of his Italian neighborhood in East Napa. Interestingly, it's the Fifties which resonate, like the theatricals organized by the neighborhood girls, a phenomenon I recognize from my own very different childhood.
   A local historian can mine a wealth of critical information from the details of this book: the stores on each block of downtown Napa, the restaurants where teenagers lingered, the neighborhoods before there was a freeway. Guadagni deftly threads these descriptions into his poignant narrative of growing up in a family so poor that they could not buy their own home even though houses sold for $8,000-$20,000.
   America was great when everyone made union wages: "I was making more money than I could believe" by playing accordion as a member of the musician's union and boxing food at the Napa Grocery Center as a member of the Retail Clerks union. On these incomes, plus a job at Kaiser Steel, Guadagni was able to buy a house for his mother, send himself to college and to law school. Read this memoir for a vivid recreation of what life was like for boys in Anytown, USA as well as for the particulars of what Napa was, before it was discovered.
   Ray Guadagni has a wonderful chapter on visiting the Napa County Fair. Read that along with Paula Amen Judah's poems describing her experience with the very same fair but through eyes of a girl.
   Her first book of collected poems, Anoranza (Spanish for yearning), is a rich and intimate tribute to her Napa: hunting in Knoxville with her policeman father, riding the bus on Coombsville Road, listening to the radio on Hoffman Avenue, walking with her mother down Brown Street, playing guitar at Red's Pizza.
   Her attention to detail and her haunting recollections of a town that remains and yet is utterly different provide exactly what we need to understand a particular girlhood in a particular time and space: the same Napa of the 1950s that Ray Guadagni recalls in his very different memoir.

Lauren Coodley began her career tutoring students for the GED and teaching night school psychology at the local junior college. She invented and taught classes ranging from women's history to overcoming math anxiety. She was the first tenured woman to teach history and the only woman to be elected three times as Division Chair of Social Sciences. Since her retirement in 2010, she is caring for her grandsons and continuing her writing career. Her books include: Napa Valley Chronicles, 2013,  Napa Valley Farming (co-written with Paula Amen Judah) 2011; The Land of Orange Groves and Jails: Upton Sinclair's California 2004; Napa: The Transformation of an American Town, 2004;  California: A Multicultural Documentary History, 2008 and Upton Sinclair: California Socialist Celebrity Intellectual, 2013/


There are a number of positions open in NVW's leadership team, some requiring only a teeny-tiny amount of time. We also have critical openings in the newsletter editorial staff. We need you!

If you are interested in learning more and helping out, please contact me at your convenience or talk to me at our next meeting.

Thank your for your help!

interim newsletter editor

   Happy Holidays 
to all our NVW writers 
and supporters.   


December 14
7-9 p.m.

Special Guest Speaker 
Joe Retherford

This young author lost his eyesight in a hunting accident when he was just seventeen years old.

The unique circumstances of his journey were larger than life and begged him to write his first book.  Joe's writing style elicits a humble and humorous portrayal of the otherwise tragic reality of vision loss. 

You won't want to miss Joe's talk about the motivation to write his book, the process of overcoming adversity and how he learned the new skills he needed to produce it. He believes that losing his sight is the best thing that has happened to him.

Joe will share his insights about the importance of humor, his belief in living life to the fullest, his desire to give back to the blind community and connect with others who suffer from depression.and how to do it right the first time around.



Mike Bartos 

...lived in South Carolina for ten years. Life there inspired his fiction, including his first novel BASH (Bay Area State Hospital). Mike believes that being a psychiatrist has given him a backstage pass to witness the richness of human drama. Bartos will read an excerpt from his novel.

NVW guest speakers and member authors will showcase their books for your holiday gift giving.

Napa Valley Writers, a branch of the California Writers Club, holds monthly meetings at Napa Valley Unitarian Universalists Church Sanctuary, 1625 Salvador Avenue, Napa.

Cost at the door: $8 for guests, $5 for CWC members. Full time Students with ID, free.

For more information, contact Publicity Chair Sarita Lopez or see Napa Valley Writers. Always open to the public.

Coming January 11, 2017


...will be making her second appearance at Napa Valley Writers. We are excited to welcome her as our first speaker in the new year.

 Details to follow on  Jordan's program.




Five Things About Me

1. My first foray into journalism was when I wrote a teen gossip column for my eighth grade school newspaper called "The Snoop Scoop."

2. While pregnant, I walked a picket line in the social worker strike of 1967 against the Sacramento County Social Services Dept. Many of my fellow workers were arrested for "illegally picketing." These arrests were later overturned by the California Supreme Court.

3. Although I'm afraid of heights, I rode in a hot air balloon from Napa to Sonoma where the pilot barely missed landing on a turkey farm.

4. My husband Michael and I have been married fifty three years in spite of scoring poorly on a compatibility test we took when we were engaged.

5. Before I became a senior citizen myself, I worked as a social worker serving the elderly in a program called Adult Protective Services.

Our three editors have been working with member writers on their submissions and will have made final selections by the end of November.

In October, we welcomed writer, publisher, photographer, and business consultant Roger Lubeck to our creative team. A vice president of Redwood Writers, Roger edited and designed that branch's 2016 anthology, Untold Stories: From the Deep Part of the Well, and has agreed to design our book, too. As we prepare to launch our inaugural publication, Roger's experience and insights are already proving invaluable.

We are also pleased to report that local writer and TV host Tony Kilgallin has agreed to write the book's foreword. Production will accelerate in the new year.

Meanwhile, there's still time to suggest a name for the debut edition of the NVW anthology, so please pass your ideas along to me as soon as possible. Thank you, everyone, for your efforts.

--  Doug Brozell, Project CoordinatorFeatured Article

Napa Valley Writers Open Mic 1/8/17 @ Napa Bookmine, Napa CA

Open Mic

Napa Bookmine
964 Pearl Street / Napa

January 8, 2017
3 to 5 pm

Please come early to sign up for your time to read.  One of our most popular signature events!


Two NVW members are hoping to join a critique group. One of them favors a 'poetry only' group, the other is open to any genre. If you can help, please contact Critique Group Coordinator  Bernhold Rankenburg.

For other writers not part of a critique group who wish to know more, or are considering joining a group, please contact Bernhold at the above email address or talk with him at our next meeting.

Additionally, your NVW Board would like to invite all our critique group members to consider hosting open mic readings in various community venues.

If you're interested in bringing more readers and writers together in a variety of venues in the Valley, please contact Kathleen Thomas.

In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light
In summer quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.

I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree.
Or hear the grown-up people's feet
Still going past me in the street.

And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?

Robert Louis Stevenson
NVW Website Changes Coming Soon

Napa Valley Writers is an online resource for you to learn more about this writers club, our members, and activities. You can point others to the site to learn more about NVW. Interested readers and writers can become a member on the Join Us page. Our members are provided space on the Members page to showcase their writer bio/profile. Have you seen yours lately? NVW Members

Do you have updates for your member profile? If so, please send them to webmaster Michael Wycombe. Michael is updating the site with a whole new look and all the latest information.

If you have questions, or need assistance with your bio, please contact our Publicity Chair Sarita Lopez
Napa Valley Writers Survey Results

Thank you to everyone who took time to complete our recent survey of members.

The top three genres our members want to learn more about are:
  Literary Fiction 
Craft topics of interest were broad in scope: 
 Story Arc

Leaders In the realm of Art Form:
Short Story 
 Creative Non-Fiction 

2017 is coming around the bend and Program Chair Doug Brozell is looking to fill these needs with appropriate guest speakers and workshops. Please pass along your  suggestions to him.


Most of us know the story of Pearl Harbor and the events of December 7, 1941. 

Fewer know the story of the Battle of Wake Island which began the very next day. My dad shipped over to Wake in August '41, long before I was born. He was on Wake Island as one of 1200 civilians hired by Morrison-Knudson to construct a military base. The civilians went to Wake expecting to be shipped home long before the war would affect them. They were accompanied by approximately 500 Marines and Navy personnel. 

At the end of the 15-day siege, with no help from allied or U.S. forces, this small group of defenders was surrounded & captured by the Japanese -- but not before the civilian-military partnership sank two Japanese destroyers and destroyed at least 28 aircraft.

Forty-nine U.S. Marines were killed, two were MIA. Three U.S. Navy personnel, at least 80 U.S. civilians were killed in action, and twelve civilians were wounded.   Approximately 820 Japanese were killed and more than 300 were wounded. 

Most of the American captives, including my dad, were later shipped off the island to prison camps where they would live or die until 1945. Ninety-eight men were forced to stay on Wake Island as Japanese slave labor and were later murdered by the Japanese. 

Please add a second pause to your remembrance on December 7th. One for my dad and his comrades on Wake. Thank you.

submitted by Kathleen Thomas

Online Poetry Workshop with Sonoma County Poet  Laureate, Iris Jamahl Dunkle 
Napa Valley College
ENGL-203-70411 Poetry Workshop 1

Join us for a weekly online gathering of poets who will read and write about poetry. Optional in-person class available. 

For more information, contact Iris Jamahl Dunkle.
Apply for the workshop:  Apply Here.


...Our thanks to the leadership & members of Arts Council Napa Valley, Arts Associaton Napa Valley, and Napa Valley Writers Conference for your continued collaboration in our arts partnerships.

...Thank you to everyone at Napa Bookmine for your support of our writers and readers

...Our thanks to the Boys and Girls Club of Napa Valley for their monthly donation of NVW Board meeting space.

We are eager to receive your newsletter submissions. Please keep poetry to 24 lines or less. Other articles of interest, including short prose, should be approximately 300 words or less. Exceptions will be considered. Show me what you've got. We're always interested in photos, current events, news of interest to writers, new publications, conferences, etc.

Please send your submissions no later than the 15th of each month to be included in the next month's newsletter.

Please contact me when you have questions, suggestions, and yes, even complaints. 

Thank you.

Interim newsletter editor

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