Like a Good Story?

Today we have some book reviews by Writers Forum member Steve Westall.

steve-westell-ovalI thought it would be fun to pass along a sentence or two recap of books I’ve read over the last few weeks.  Maybe another member might do the same for next month’s newsletter.

We all use different approaches in selecting reads.  Personally I enjoy just about everything…A good story is a good story, ya know. I read the book reviews in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal religiously every week, occasionally watch “The Book” on CSPAN, listen to “Nancy’s Bookshelf” on NSPR, and of course my reader friends always have recommendations.  I take my picks to Amazon for pricing…never buy a hardcover unless it’s on sale at Costco.  Amazon Prime Membership (free shipping) is a great deal if you buy any quantity of books.  I don’t buy anything without price checking Amazon first….So here we go…

  1. Cutting For Stone: Abraham Verghese. Story of love, betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles and orphaned twin brothers whose fates are intertwined.  Set in post war Ethiopia. A book I never would have selected off the shelf. Extremely well crafted.  5 Stars
  2. The Nest: Cynthia Sweeny. Tension in a dysfunctional New York family that had made a pact to split a wealthy sibling’s fortune to repay a loan that he had taken from the family trust (Nest).  Good story but I thought amateurishly written.  Shows how an author that has close friends in the publishing business  (Harper Collins) and the WSJ Books Section… gets a book published that might have been difficult otherwise.   3 Stars
  3. The House of The Spirits: Isabel Allende.  Triumphs and tragedies in three generations of a political Latin American family.  Story of love and revolution.  Excellent primer on developing characters for novice writers. I felt the skillful construction of the story was better than the actual story.  4 Stars
  4. The Zebra Striped Hearse; The Chill; The Far Side of the Dollar. Ross Macdonald. Three Mystery novels from a series of detective stories around central character Lew Archer written in the 1950’s.  I’m not a detective story fan but these are so well written you can’t stop reading.  5 Stars
  5. Killing The Rising Sun: Bill O’Reilly – Martin Dugard.  I really like Dugard’s  easy read writing style. All the “Killing” books have been extremely well researched. For history impaired people they are a great catch up on eighth grade history.  Martin does all the work and Bill adds the hype.  Hard not to sell a million copies when your title is before the public every night seven days a week.   3 Stars
  6. Breaking Through Power: Ralph Nader. No Ralph is not dead.  This short book just came out the middle of September.  A very well documented analysis of what the politicians refer to as the “top 1%”.  It’s alarming to see the power that a mere 500 U.S. families have over all of us.  I’m not a fan of political books but this one’s more of a layman CPA’s view of what happens in a society controlled by money and wealth (Plutocracy).  Great outline of how Democracy works…good read for every concerned American.  5 Stars

Steve Westall

If you would like to submit a piece for our website, newsletter, or both, please send it to:

We accept original short fiction or poetry, essays, reviews, or news reports of interest to the Redding writing community. We also accept photos!

Looking for Poets

Pile of well worn notebooks

The Writers Forum encourages folks to find a local writers group for support in your writing endeavors. Our last monthly meeting was devoted to examining writers groups: how to find them, how to get the most out of them, and common mistakes with writers groups. You can find some local groups, or form your own group, by clicking on the ‘Critique Groups‘ button above. Here is a request by one local poetry group looking to add members.

Please remember that each group is a voluntary gathering of writers. Writers Forum does not monitor each group, and none of the groups are official extensions of the Writers Forum. Therefore, Writers Forum does not endorse any individual writers groups.

The Seventh Sense Poetry Group was formed in Redding in 1981 when seven women answered a newspaper notice entitled “Closet Poets, Come on Out!” and out they came with their shoe-boxes of poems and other writings; the kind of box that each would grab, along with family photos, in case of fire or flood.

The name “Seventh Sense” created itself when we noticed something important was lacking when one of us couldn’t attend our weekly, writing “session.”  We finally realized that the seven of together created another “sense” beyond our recognized five senses and even beyond the sixth sense many of us possess. Together we formed a “Seventh Sense” hence the name.

Each week we would gather at someone’s home, take out our writing tablets (made out of paper), be given a “title” and then have 20 minutes or so to write, ending up with seven different perspectives of the same title.

The titles were thought up by our Title Lady (me) and over the years, we’ve been challenged (good for the brain) by the titles:  Mojave Telephone Booth, The Back of Grandpa’s Neck, I’ll Plant Flowers, The Night the Moon Fell Down, That Far-Away Look, Bessie’s Bra, The Poet With No Readers and on and on.

Another unique part of us writing together was that no critiques could be offered unless someone asked for it. No one did. We could go home and clean up the messy lines and scratched-in changes on our paper but the essence of what flowed out of us in those 20 minutes or so, remained intact, uncluttered by praise (although we didn’t object to it) nor by a disapproving eyebrow (we turned our eyes away).

Now, 35 years later, only four of the original seven remain but we still call ourselves the Seventh Sense Poetry Group out of respect and love for the original group; everyone’s still together in our hearts. We stopped our writing sessions for several years because life sent us in too many directions but just recently we started writing again, this time once a month.  In spite of being called “elderly” we’ve found out that amusing and amazing stories and poetry still fly out of our shriveling brains and we’ll probably all be together until we’re not.

If you are interested in coming to our next meeting, Nov. 5th (Sat.) at 10:30, send me an e-mail at and type Seventh Sense in the subject line and I’ll send driving directions to our meeting place.


Jan Saremi, Title Lady

Let’s Go Virtual!

Howdy, everybody!

I’d like to take a minute to remind everybody of Writers Forum’s on-line presence.

Since you are reading this, you obviously know about our blog/website. What you might not know is that we are also active on Facebook. We will likely be even more active in the future on Facebook. There will be daily updates on things of interest to Redding area writers. I also believe it will be easier for members to interact with each other there.

On Sunday, I posted this pic:


…along with an invitation for others to post pics of their relaxing spots to write. Go ahead! Share away!

This morning I discovered that our friend Simon Wood, a thriller author who has given two popular and successful presentations to Writers Forum, has just sold Book #1,000,000. I shared that to the Writers Forum’s Facebook page.

While everything that appears here on the blog will post to the Facebook page, not everything from the Facebook page will appear here. It’s the different nature of the two sites.

I encourage everybody to go to the Facebook page, check it out, and get involved. Comment on posts. Post pics from your phone. Talk with each other!

And again, in case you missed it, here is how you get there…





See you there!




This Saturday: Revise Like a Pro

Here is a reminder that the Writers Forum monthly meeting is this Saturday, October 8, at 10:30 at All Saints Episcopal Church, 2150 Benton Drive.

This presentation will explore a variety of revision techniques that will allow writers to see their work with fresh eyes and a new perspective. What happens after the first draft of a novel can be the most difficult part of the writing process. What works? What doesn’t?

ellen1Presenter Ellen Jellison will discuss three easy steps in making the revision process less painful:

  • The Four Basic Elements to your Narrative,
  • Response to Literature,
  • Questioning Strategies

Ellen Jellison earned her degree in Anthropology from Chico State University. She has worked as an Archaeologist for the U.S. Forest Service and as a teacher of English and History in middle school in the Redding area. She now writes middle grade and young adult fiction, and is a member of SCBWI, the Historical Novel Society, and Sisters in Crime. As a teacher turned writer, Ellen understands the importance of revision, or as stated in Latin, revisare, meaning “to look at again.”