Another Quarantine Edition

We have another piece by our President and Queen, Laura Hernandez, this week!

If social distancing has you writing a little more than usual and you would like to share a piece or two with the wider world, we would be glad to help you share it. Submission guidelines will follow Laura’s piece.

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I’m not one of those people who believe dreams Mean Something.  I studied this when I got older, and it confirmed what I’d always believed: Dreams are what you are afraid of, come to get you when you are laying down with your eyes closed.

I got to thinking about this again when I heard CNN journalist Chris Cuomo talking to his brother, Andrew (you know, the Governor of NY). During his first night of Chingonavirus, Chris had fever-dreams about his brother. In the dream, Andrew was coming at Chris, dressed in a “ballet outfit” which I assumed was a new costume.  (For Andrew, not Chris. Not that I think Chris wears a ballet outfit, but I’m just trying to make a copy-editor-clearness point.) Andrew came at his brother in his ballet outfit, with a wand in his hand (Andrew not Chris) and told Chris he was going to take this (Chingonavirus) away with a wave of his wand.  Chris is still sick, so Andrew can’t do everything.

This whole episode got my Favorite Sister, Patty and me talking/texting about our fever dreams. When we were kids, all six of us, passed around colds/flu, measles (both kinds), chicken pox, mumps and the poops and vomits round and round, so there were fever dreams.

My recurring fever dream (which I still get when I have a bad fever) is that Patty is 5 and I am 6 and I am driving us to the beach in the large family station wagon with the wood on the sides. We lived near the beach, Malibu when it was still a swamp, and so that part was believable.  The part that is not believable, is of course, I couldn’t see over the steering wheel. That did not, would not stop me. I did what I could do, what I could reach, and that was working the pedals on the floorboard. Steering was not necessary. It was a dream, not a documentary. Patty was very encouraging, but she wasn’t steering either. She was even shorter than me at 5 years old. But as in all my Big Ideas and Adventures, Patty was right there with me, cheering.  We never crash and we do get to the beach. Sometimes we drove to the Clover Leaf burger stand that was at the perilous left hand turn from Mulholland to Las Virgenes Road, on the way to the beach.  LV Road was the only road to the beach unless you took Topanga Canyon, but we didn’t have to do that. The point is, it was an easy drive.

The first time I had that dream, at 6, I marveled, when I woke up, that I knew there were pedals on the floorboards of a car. I mean, how did I know that when I couldn’t see that in real life?  My dad was not a good Explainer Guy. He was Angry Daddy most of the time, so he would not have patiently explained how a car worked to his 6 year-old girl child.  I had been riding horses for a couple of years by then, and he had taught me, but I got that bunch of skills mostly by having a feel for it, not because he shouted orders from the ground. Although he certainly did that. He had books about horses, but not about cars. I could read by then, mostly, and also looked at the horse pictures and the rider pictures to see how to hold my body and where my hands and feet should be.  But I didn’t know that about a car driving. My dad or mom had their hands at 10 and two, but I couldn’t see their feet if I was looking at their hands.

So, what were Patty and I afraid of in the dream?  What we (I) were always afraid of: getting caught by our parents. Not that we’d (she’d) always get spanked. That would be me. But we were more afraid that they would stop us from getting to the beach.  Patty and I had two little sisters and a baby brother by that time, and although we liked the new baby, the twins were opera-loud, constantly crabby, irrationally needy and no fun at all. We wanted, needed, to escape and not be stopped.

One of Patty’s dreams, when we were older, was on the night before her wedding. She was 17.  In her dream she asked me to take her to the beach, instead of going to her wedding. And I did. If she would have told me about that dream the next day, we would have done it. And our lives would have been so different.

I also had a truly fearful fever dream when I was a kid (that I still get).  I am about 7 (taller and more able to drive a car), and I’m running down a creek near my house (which, natch, I’m not supposed to play in).  I’m running along the flat stones, trying not to get too wet. And someone is chasing me, calling my name.  It’s my dad and I know to keep running. He’s mad, really mad, but he doesn’t sound like he is. He’s calling my name, wanting me to stop and let him catch up, but I know better. I keep running. And running. And he never catches me. Ever.

And that’s the thing about dreams: you have to keep doing what you’re doing, driving to the beach or running to not get caught, and stay alive.

Nowadays, I write in dreams in my stories sometimes. Since I’m writing about law school while I’m doing murder cases at the Public Defenders Office, it would be easy to write about being in front of others in class, not dressed properly. I don’t do the easy way. What my Big Fear was then, was talking in front of these people, that professor, and saying Something Stupid. Which never actually happened, but it didn’t stop me from having that dream. Fever optional.

As much as I was afraid in law school, (everyone there was previously The Smartest Person in The Room), I had to keep studying, keep answering Smug Professor Whoever, take tests, write motions for court, pay a mortgage, get food, go to work, go to the jail to see my guys, keep going to save a life, save my life. And not let my teenage boy die from All the Stuff in The World. There was no one to save me but me. So, I did it.  I just kept going. A no-option shark who also kept a boy alive.

During these scary times, and I am scared, we have to keep going. We have to get food, pay bills, write some kind of stuff, try not to say Something Stupid, and keep going whether we are wearing a ballet outfit or not.


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Letter from Your Queen During the Time of Chingonavirus

Here is an open letter from our Writers Forum President and Queen, Laura Hernandez. It is a strongly worded letter because times like these demand strong words. That’s what we do as writers. We give words that help those around us get through hard times. Trying times. Laura shares from the heart and digs deep into her heritage to find those words.

If you have written to help get through our time of isolation and would like to share your writing with Writers Forum readers, we would love to help you. Please send them to me, George Parker, the WF newsletter editor and webmaster. You can reach me at:

writersforumeditor@gmail.com

And now for Laura…

 

First of all, my title of the virus is not Asian, it’s a slang on the F Word in Spanish.  It is an inside joke of sorts that I will share with you, because I’m a smart ass, as well as a writer, and I think you ought to know.  In modern Mexican urban and traditional culture, we think we are at the bottom of Fate’s Priorities. We think that is funny because that’s how we cope with a country full of riches as well as generational, historical, perpetual corruption that is Mexico. If you can’t laugh, you are truly doomed. So, we laugh. We sing, we dance, we cook things that take a long time, we eat. We are The People Who Are ‘Effed. And now we all are ‘effed. Chingona.

Just in case you wonder where I am: I’m at work.  The courthouse is deemed “essential” so here the ‘eff I am. In the basement law li-berry. Don’t come and visit because the Marshals will tell you if you don’t have a current case on the desk of a judge right now, go the ‘eff home. Or they tell you something like that.  The first thing the courts did two weeks ago ahead of the Governor, was to ask the California Judicial Council to make it okay for jury trials to be suspended. If you were in one or on one, go ahead, but no new ones.

I thought that would promote a “sale” on criminal cases, you know “door busters,” a get-out-of-jail-sale promotional that came with “ankle jewelry” to free-up the current cases that had to be arraigned within 48 hours of arrest and send them the ‘eff home. Hard to tell about that yet.

Your traffic ticket hearing is also cancelled. Your divorce is put on hold. Your criminal appeal is on hold. The governor has stayed any evictions for 90 days. Your rent isn’t on hold but your “get the hell out” is on hold. Your ability to protest is on hold. Your butt is on legal hold.  Law in the Time of Chingonavirus.

The judges are still here, hearing cases and are nervous and jarred and yet, sit on the bench to do their sworn duty. They have families and need to get home eventually every day to try and get stuff done. The clerks, a skeleton crew, are here processing papers, and like me, dealing with phone calls, business invoices and making deposits to keep county and courts going behind the scenes. Scenes of people and process, trying not to scream outside of their heads.

Judges like the guy who lost his home in the Carr fire (and his piano) and had to sentence one of the looters during that catastrophe, the judge whose husband has diabetes and is home scared, the Family Law Facilitator who comes to work every day in her play clothes and behind her locked office door is answering frantic e-mails from worried people with only one staff member to help her. She hasn’t slept in two days. My heroes, all.

The Marshals at the door ask everyone what they have come to the courthouse for, and send them away to consult the many white papers stuck on the glass doors of the courthouse entrance referring to phone numbers and the court website (www.shastacourts.com. ) You have to type in the stupid “w”s because they set it up old school and you won’t get anywhere without them). This has discouraged the hobby-ists who wander around looking for cases and inspiration for their too-early retirement and the Homeless who lie about “having a case” in order to access a warm spot inside any public building for the day.  The public libraries are closed, closed early on, so Homeless are wandering around in neighborhoods new to them. They know something’s up, but they aren’t too sure what it is.

Lawyers come into the law li-berry to check out books and leave quickly. Lawyers are the only people who can check out books because I keep a copy of their bar cards and actually call the bar if books aren’t returned on time. Civilians can stay in here and read all day.  Not today because you have no case before the court now. Every time the door opens here in the basement, I jump. It is the entrance of disease, germs and infection coming in behind me. I have hand sanitizer here that I have brought from home because my work stash has run dry and there is none to be had in Redding online or in a store.

There is construction going on across the street with noise and swinging steel girders (A Moving Monument to Future Personal Injury) for a big new courthouse. I walk past it every day from where I park. It’s proving to be an attractive nuisance as of Monday when a young man (not homeless) decided to climb to the second story rails. He was arrested by about 6 Marshals. He did not go quietly. He was wearing shorts and a clean t-shirt and I suspect he was bored in confinement. Now he will have a court case to occupy his time. Maybe ankle jewelry.

People are not staying the ‘eff at home.  They go out every day for toilet paper. Raley’s clerks told me they get an early morning delivery Every Freakin’ Day of toilet paper and within MINUTES during the Senior Hours, it’s GONE.  Stop doing that. Stop imagining that the U.S. gets toilet paper from China and the supply chain is broken. The U.S. has made toilet paper for American markets since 1890 and we know how to do it without sending out for Asian parts. You will always have toilet paper if you just calm the ‘eff down.

My second, necessary job dried up completely, but I still have firewood and propane. We will all get a Stimulus Check in a couple weeks, magically deposited if that’s how you filed your taxes. Treasury Dept of the U.S. just said that seniors who don’t file taxes will still get a check without having to file a claim or additional tax form.  Paper checks if you didn’t file electronically will be another 4 weeks coming, but they are coming. Calm the ‘eff down. I say this to myself, too.

Yes, go on walks. But choose your time well. Today I got gas before work and there were 5 different cars and trucks going off in different directions with ATVs and Toy Haulers attached. If they were gassing up that early in the morning, they are going somewhere far, taking their germs with them because they don’t have symptoms yet. They’ll go to other gas stations and stores in other places. And they don’t give a caca they are spreading Chingonavirus around.

There are people coming from other geographical areas to walk/bike on our trails, too. They are bored, cabin-fevered, and don’t have to be at work during the week. I pass 12-15 cars on the Quartz Hill Trailhead parking lot every day at 4:30, different ones every day, and there isn’t a real spot in the dirt for all of them. This trail is narrow and not wide enough for two people to walk past each other without stepping off into the brush. If I showed you the five-feet projection models of forcible breathing that extends droplets from your mouth outward, like the kind you spit out when you walk for a while, you would never leave the house until June. And wearing a mask only protects people from your germs. It doesn’t keep you from getting theirs. It also keeps masks from health service personnel, and they need them more than you do now. Just know that walking crowded trails is not making you healthier.  If the parking lot is too full, go the ‘eff home. Hokey Pokey in your driveway. Pretend no one is looking.

Get just the essentials. I’m going out for toilet paper tomorrow.  Cover me. But know I’m packing, too.

Don’t listen to the Daily Briefing live, because of the Too-Many Distortions and False Optimism that have to be corrected later. Do listen to Dr. Fauci. Experts have been saying for months that infected people without symptoms can spread this to you. One person with a microphone says he didn’t know that. And he’s not telling you the truth. He knew.

Correct wrong information by your friends on Facebook for a few minutes. Block the other people. Then go do something else off-line.

And writing? How you doin’?  You’d think that writing a story about a serial killer case I worked on in the dead river city and realized I kind of knew him before he was my client and my ex-boyfriend became his attorney; would be exciting enough to keep my interest.  But I find it very hard to concentrate in the Time of Chingonavirus. Reading is hard, too. I look at news websites like an ADHD info junkie. Which I think I am. Now.

I have a Master’s Degree in Medical Anthropology and have studied epidemiology cross-culturally and historically over time. This is all different. It’s a new virus, not known to man before. Vaccination is a year away. The only way to kill it is to let it die a lonely death. We can only do that by staying the ‘eff home.

 

NOTICE TO ALL WRITERS FORUM MEMBERS

We have been advised by All Saints Episcopal Church that due to the coronavirus outbreak, our regular meeting room, Eaton Hall East, will not be available for gatherings until further notice.

To cooperate with current guidelines regarding the spread of this infection, the board of Writers Forum has decided to suspend our regular monthly meetings until this pandemic is no longer a threat to the health of the public. At this time, we do not plan to hold general meetings during the months of April through August of 2020.

It is our hope that we can reschedule our special event with Dr. Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell for September 12, 2020. We will continue to update our members with emails and notices on our website as more information becomes available.

Your Queen will be writing you encouraging letters and providing some nourishing homework assignments to aid you. If you are sipping some Inspirational Beer, or Quarantinis, you may have to read this again.

Please stay safe and take comfort in your writing.

The Board of Directors of Writers Forum

Updated! March Program: Working Stiffs: Get Your Murder Scene Right

THIS PROGRAM HAS BEEN POSTPONED WITH THE HOPE THAT WE CAN RESCHEDULE IN SEPTEMBER. WE WILL PROVIDE UPDATES ABOUT MEETINGS AS THE CURRENT CORONAVIRUS SITUATION EVOLVES.

 

WRITERS FORUM PRESENTS A SPECIAL EVENT

WORKING STIFFS: GET YOUR MURDER SCENE RIGHT

MARCH 14, 2020 ~ 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

IN THE MCCONNELL FOUNDATION HEADQUARTERS MEETING ROOM

800 Shasta View Drive, Redding CA

 

Judy Melinek, M.D. and T.J. Mitchell are the New York Times bestselling co-authors of the memoir Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner (Scribner, 2014).

First Cut (Hanover Square, January 2020) is their debut novel, launching a forensic-noir detective series with a plot that involves opioid traffickers in San Francisco.

Photo by Amal Bisharat

Dr. Melinek began training as a New York City forensic pathologist two months before the September 11 terrorist attacks. She performed autopsies, investigated death scenes, and counseled grieving relatives. She was a medical examiner in San Francisco for nine years, and today works as a forensic pathologist in Oakland and is internationally known as a medico-legal consultant.

T.J. Mitchell, her husband and co-author, is an author with an English degree from Harvard who worked in the film industry before becoming a stay-at-home dad and novelist. They live and work in San Francisco, where they are writing Cross Cut, the second book in the Jessie Teska series. Cross Cut is coming from Hanover Square in January 2021.

Attendees should be aware that there will be graphic photos during this presentation so that writers can accurately portray the work of a forensic pathologist in their stories.

THE EVENT IS FREE TO MEMBERS OF WRITERS FORUM. THE PUBLIC IS WELCOME AT $20 PER PERSON. BOOKS WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE AT THE EVENT OR IN ADVANCE AT REDDING BARNES & NOBLE.

MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC MUST RSVP BY MARCH 11 VIA EMAIL:

writersforummembership@gmail.com or writersforumprogramchair@gmail.com

PLEASE BE PREPARED TO PAY $20 AT THE DOOR: Cash, check or money order. No credit cards. Checks and money orders payable to Writers Forum.

 

 

 For details visit www.reddingwritersforum.com or email writersforumprogramchair@gmail.com

March Program: Working Stiffs: Get Your Murder Scene Right

Writers Forum presents a special program in March.

We are pleased to announce a presentation from co-authors Judy Melinek, MD and T.J. Mitchell.

 

WRITERS FORUM PRESENTS A SPECIAL EVENT

WORKING STIFFS: GET YOUR MURDER SCENE RIGHT

MARCH 14, 2020 ~ 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

IN THE MCCONNELL FOUNDATION HEADQUARTERS MEETING ROOM

800 Shasta View Drive, Redding CA

 

Judy Melinek, M.D. and T.J. Mitchell are the New York Times bestselling co-authors of the memoir Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner (Scribner, 2014).

First Cut (Hanover Square, January 2020) is their debut novel, launching a forensic-noir detective series with a plot that involves opioid traffickers in San Francisco.

Photo by Amal Bisharat

Dr. Melinek began training as a New York City forensic pathologist two months before the September 11 terrorist attacks. She performed autopsies, investigated death scenes, and counseled grieving relatives. She was a medical examiner in San Francisco for nine years, and today works as a forensic pathologist in Oakland and is internationally known as a medico-legal consultant.

T.J. Mitchell, her husband and co-author, is an author with an English degree from Harvard who worked in the film industry before becoming a stay-at-home dad and novelist. They live and work in San Francisco, where they are writing Cross Cut, the second book in the Jessie Teska series. Cross Cut is coming from Hanover Square in January 2021.

Attendees should be aware that there will be graphic photos during this presentation so that writers can accurately portray the work of a forensic pathologist in their stories.

THE EVENT IS FREE TO MEMBERS OF WRITERS FORUM. THE PUBLIC IS WELCOME AT $20 PER PERSON. BOOKS WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE AT THE EVENT OR IN ADVANCE AT REDDING BARNES & NOBLE.

MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC MUST RSVP BY MARCH 11 VIA EMAIL:

writersforummembership@gmail.com or writersforumprogramchair@gmail.com

PLEASE BE PREPARED TO PAY $20 AT THE DOOR: Cash, check or money order. No credit cards. Checks and money orders payable to Writers Forum.

 

 

 For details visit www.reddingwritersforum.com or email writersforumprogramchair@gmail.com

Welcome to Writers Forum, 2020

2019

We had a great time in 2019, didn’t we? We heard great writing from our members at two Read Arounds. Writers Forum member and past president George Winship taught us what an editor, or a book doctor, can do for our manuscripts before we even submit them to agents or publishers. Professional editor Heather Cuthbertson taught us how to write a winning query letter. Our own Alicia McCauley taught us a prewriting exercise called ‘cubing,’ and also provided us with a cool soundtrack for future Writers Forum presentations. Shasta College instructor Jessica Fletcher Wiechman shared her insights into screenwriting. Author Lezlie Winberry shared her knowledge and experiences from attending writing conferences. Chico poet, author, and speaker Susan Wooldridge gave a delightful presentation on writing poetry. Writers Forum Program Director Sharon Owen shared insights on what editors expect us to know about word processors and the formatting of our manuscripts before submitting. Writers Forum Newsletter Editor George Parker demonstrated Scrivener, a word processor alternative to Microsoft Word that is designed specifically for novelists, poets, and play/screenwriters. Last year also saw the return of a major event the Writers Forum had not been able to provide for several years: the Authors Book Fair. Then, just in time for Christmas, we saw our published anthology of Writers Forum authors, River’s Edge: Volume 1.

Which event did you get the most out of in 2019? Post a reply!

2020

This year looks just as fun!

Of course, we will have our biannual Read Arounds.

Our January meeting is already behind us. Writers Forum member and author Linda Boyden showed us how to collect our poetry and build our own chapbooks. Next month, former Writers Forum member and editor Jen Higley will show us how we can use WordPress to create our own author’s websites.

Our March meeting will be a huge event. Forensic pathologist and author Judy Melinek, MD will be presenting on her first novel, First CutFirst Cut was only released on January 7, making it literally a new book, and it has already  been gaining 5-star reviews on Amazon. It is her first novel, but her second book. Her first book, Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner, is the story of her life as a rookie forensic pathologist in New York City. She started that job two months before the 9/11 attacks. All of our Writers Forum meetings are open to the public, but we are expecting such interest for this one that we are changing our venue for the event. It will be held at the McConnell Foundation Conference Room, at the McConnell Foundation’s Lima Ranch facility at 800 Shasta View Drive. There will be a small charge for admission for the general public to this event, but Writers Forum members will, of course, get in for free as a part of their Writers Forum membership. Seating in this room is limited to 70 seats, which is larger than our usual venue, but you will need to RSVP to reserve your seat, even as a Writers Forum member.

We are also planning to have another Authors Book Fair in 2020. This will be at the same location as the 2019 event: the Holiday Inn Convention Center on Hilltop Drive. We are looking forward to a bigger event this year, with more advertising and more authors selling books. We invite all of you who have books to sell to attend. If you don’t have a book to sell right now, you could, if you have a manuscript. George Winship, Linda Boyden, and others have been teaching us over the last year about how we could get our own books published online. Let’s make use of that!

We will also put together River’s Edge, Volume 2 in 2020. Start preparing your short stories, essays, and memoir pieces now!

 

And there is even more in store for 2020!

What are you looking forward to the most from Writers Forum in 2020? Post a reply!

 

See you at the meetings.

 

Geo.

It’s November! Ready For NaNoWriMo?

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Yes! It is less than two weeks to the kick off for the 2019 NaNoWriMo, which is of course, National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo is the endurance race to get 50,000 words of a project down on paper. Or on your hard rive.

The writing project is usually a novel, but it doesn’t have to be. There are categories for  just about any genre you would write.

Go to the NaNoWriMo website by clicking here, create a free account for yourself, and then explore the options. Create a profile, organize a project, or search for your community. You do not have to be alone in this race.

The objective to to write, write, write every day in November. To meet the 50,000 word goal, one has to write just over 2,500 words every day. (Edit: Oops. Sorry. It’s only 1,667 words per day.) The trick to this is to never edit in November. Get those words down on the page! October is for editing!

For the first time in several years, there is a Redding Area Municipal Liaison who is coordinating events for NaNoWriMo participants in the area. You can see that they have several events already scheduled throughout the month.

NaNoWriMo Events

The Kick Off event will be next Tuesday, October 29, at the downtown From the Hearth, at 6:30 at 1427 Market St Promenade. Click here for more details on the Kick Off Event. It looks like seven people are signed up for it right now, so you will meet other motivated area writers. You can also find others in the Redding area who are participating by checking out the Redding regional page at the NaNoWriMo website by clicking here.

If you have never tried NaNoWriMo, I highly encourage you to give it a shot. I participated a couple of years ago. I did great the first two weeks, but then ran out of gas. Even though I did not reach the 50,000 word goal, I did end November with 23,856 words that I did not have on November 1. You cannot lose in this proposition.

Thanks,

Geo.

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