Success Story Saturday: Laura Hernandez

Welcome back to Success Story Saturday.  As often as possible, we’re featuring Writers Forum members who have been published, won writing contests, or have otherwise found recent success as writers.  Writers Forum members, we want to celebrate with you so please send your success stories to  

Today we’re celebrating with Writers Forum board member Laura Hernandez.  Congratulations, Laura!

New Mystery Writer Wins the 2013 Helen McCloy/MWA Scholarship

New York, NY – May 9, 2013 – Mystery Writers of America announces the recipients of the 2013 Helen McCloy/MWA Scholarship for Mystery Writing: Laura Hernandez of Redding, CA, and Lee Summerall of St. Petersburg, FL. Each will use her $500 scholarship award to offset tuition for advanced classes to further develop her writing skills.

The talent demonstrated by Ms. Hernandez received one of the highest scores from this year’s panel of judges.  Laura Hernandez worked on a team to defend accused murderers during law school and has written several stories based on her experiences. In her stories, the people in jail accused of murder are not always who you would expect them to be. She found the key to their defense, and the real mystery of each murder trial, was not about who had committed the crime, but why it had been done at all.

The purpose of this annual scholarship competition is to nurture talent in mystery writing. Each candidate qualifies by submitting a mystery-writing sample in the form of the first three chapters of a novel or nonfiction, or three short stories or a script. Candidates also provide details about the educational programs they will attend, 2 letters of recommendation, and an essay explaining their interest in mystery writing. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. No fee is required; neither is membership in Mystery Writers of America.

Applicants are judged by a committee of MWA members, each a published author in the field of crime. This year’s judges are: Julie Hyzy, New York Times bestselling author of 6 White House Chef Mysteries and 3 Manor House Mysteries, most recently Fonduing Fathers and Grace Among Thieves; Randy Rawls, author of 8 mysteries in 3 series, with Hot Rocks as his latest from Midnight Ink featuring South Florida P.I. Beth Bowman; Aileen G. Baron, archaeologist and author of The Gold of Thrace, an international hunt for antiquities thieves, and The Scorpion’s Bite, 3rd in the Lily Sampson archaeological mystery series; and editor Chris Roerden, author of the Agatha Award-winning Don’t Murder Your Mystery and its all-genre edition, Don’t Sabotage Your Submission. The scholarship program chair is Meredith Cole, award-winning author of Posed for Murder and Dead in the Water, and writing instructor at the University of Virginia.

Details and official application form for the 2014 scholarships are posted by July 4, 2013, on the website of Mystery Writers of America, For frequently asked questions and tips for applying, email Entries must be postmarked by February 28, 2014.

Writers Forum Scholarship Winner: Kayla Mitchel

We’re taking a break from the typical Member Monday to introduce you to Kayla Mitchel, our 2013 Writers Forum scholarship winner.  Here’s Kayla on school and her writing life.  Congratulations, Kayla! 

Kayla Mitchell-web“I am currently taking chemistry, calculus, philosophy, roots of contemporary issues, and a physics seminar. My favorite by far is philosophy; I love thinking and questioning, and that is exactly what that class is for. I am also excited for my physics seminar. Even though it is only once a week, we get to hear from many of the professors about their research. Every week it reminds me why I am so excited to go into astrophysics. There are actually a surprising number of astrophysics students at this school, so for once I am not the only one. The campus is beautiful, and while it may be one big hill, it sure has a great view from the top. The people here are very kind and open, as it is a fairly small town. All in all, I am glad I chose to come to Washington State University.
As far as my writing, the new environment has given me a lot of inspiration. Being outside has always made me content and thoughtful, and being here gives me more opportunities to simply go outside, sit under a tree in the shade, and write. I still attempt some poems, as I would love to improve on them, but mostly, as always, I write whatever is in my heart. With so many new faces, writing is familiar, and I can write anything I cannot yet say to the people I have met. I am hopeful that  I will form some long-lasting friendships here, perhaps some among the many aspiring astrophysicists I mentioned. But most of all, I am hopeful for the future in general. I believe I will learn a lot from not only my professors and classes but also from my friends, my surroundings, and maybe even myself. I know I want to be an astrophysicist, study the stars and how the universe works, and I really believe that this school is my next step. Who knows? I may even find myself among the stars. At this point, it feels like I can make my life whatever I want it to be.”

A Note from the Webmaster: If you’re a Writers Forum member in good standing and would like to be featured on Member Monday, please send your submission to Submissions should be 75-750 words, appropriate for all ages and error free. Please include a short bio, a headshot and any related links. The author retains all rights and gives permission to Writers Forum to publish their submission on the website and/or in the newsletter. Thank you!

Scholarship Committee Meeting: Help Wanted

The Writers Forum Scholarship Committee will be meeting Tuesday May 7th at 6pm at Yaks on Hilltop.  Writers Forum members are invited to attend and read this year’s submissions from local high school seniors.  Please come and help Writers Forum Director at Large Laura Hernandez choose this year’s winning piece.  For more information please email Laura at:

Leading Ladies at Riverfront Playhouse

Writers Forum is hosting our annual buyout night at Riverfront Playhouse.  The featured play is Ken Ludwig’s Leading Ladies, directed by our very own Jennifer Levens.  The play is February 7th at 7:30pm-just in time to take your sweetheart out for Valentine’s Day or to treat your own heart to some hilarious theater!  Tickets are $15.00 each.

Last April we had an absolute blast at Lend Me A Tenor, also written by Ken Ludwig and directed by Jennifer Levens.  I can’t remember ever laughing so hard at a play!  I’m laughing right now just thinking about it.  While I take a moment to compose myself, here’s a little more about the Leading Ladies:

“Leading Ladies is a comedy about two English Shakespearean actors, Jack and Leo, who find themselves so down on their luck that they are performing “Scenes from Shakespeare” on the Moose Lodge circuit in the Amish country of Pennsylvania. When they hear that an old lady in York, PA is about to die and leave her fortune to her two long-lost English nephews, they resolve to pass themselves off as her beloved relatives and get the cash. The trouble is, when they get to York, they find out that the relatives aren’t nephews, but nieces! Romantic entanglements abound, especially when Leo falls head-over-petticoat in love with the old lady’s vivacious niece, Meg, who’s engaged to the local minister. Meg knows that there’s a wide world out there, but it’s not until she meets “Maxine and Stephanie” that she finally gets a taste of it.”

Then gather your friends for a great night of local theater.  Here’s what reviewers said about author Ken Ludwig’s Broadway production of Leading Ladies:

“Ludwig’s newest comedy is so funny, it will make sophisticated and reasonable men and women of the 21st century cackle till their faces hurt.”
The Houston Press

“Leading Ladies is consistently funny – indeed, increasingly hilarious as it progresses.”
The Houston Chronicle

“Leading Ladies is a highly combustible and continuously hilarious new comedy by Ken Ludwig, Broadway’s reigning comic writer.”
The Cleveland Plain Dealer

In case you’re still not convinced to join us, here’s a short clip from the actors at the Greenville Little Theater:

All ticket sale proceeds go to the Writers Forum Scholarship fund.  We hope to award at least one $500 scholarship to a local senior who excels in writing and is continuing their education at a college or university.  It’s only because of ticket sales that we’re able to make this scholarship possible.  So thank you for supporting young writers and local theater.

Tickets can be purchased at our January Writers Forum meeting.  If you’re unable to attend the January meeting and would like to purchase tickets, please leave a comment here or contact the Writers Forum at (530) 515-4828.  Checks can be made out to Writers Forum and mailed to:

Writers Forum

P.O. Box 492282

Redding, CA 96049-2282

See you at the theater!

Member Monday: Le Bon Hiver by Rudi Yniguez

Welcome back to Member Monday.  In case you missed it in our May newsletter, it’s my delight to introduce you to the second recipient of the Writers Forum Scholarship.    Rudi Yniguez is a recent graduate of Shasta High School.  Please be sure to take a moment to leave a comment or two for this up and coming writer after reading the winning piece.

Le Bon Hiver

By Rudi Yniguez

Adam locked himself in his father’s cabin for seven months because that was the  only thing that made sense. It was a dense winter, a long thick couple of months that seeped under doors and through cracks in the windowsills, but he never seemed to mind. He’d come to make music. Armed with a guitar and keyboard he fought the silence with notes and words. He battled his inner demons because he was too scared to face the world around him. That’s what Emma said. That he was using the music to hide behind, to escape from a normal life. I assume she was right, but never asked.

Each Wednesday I set out across the snowy wasteland to bring him food and supplies. As far as I know this was the only human contact he had that year, if you can call it that. He never spoke, seemed anxious to return to his hermit’s cave and forget that he depended on us, on me. Wisconsin made it easy to forget. The frozen lake outside his window was the only thing visible for miles except white expanses of nothing. Sometimes, walking to his cabin even, I forgot that I wasn’t alone in this world. I imagined my knocks would seem futile on the cracked wooden door, a plea for company that would go unanswered because there was no one to answer it, until his padded footsteps crescendoed towards me and a ink-splotched hand extended itself towards my basket. He hesitated to open the door enough to let me see past his skeletal frame and unkempt beard into the room behind him. I imagined it was messy, him not allowing Emma to tidy up as she was being paid to do, but I never made an attempt to prove this. Old age had gleaned any curiosity I had left from my bones, and left me content to simply be, and allow others to do the same. If only it had done the same for Emma.

“There’s something wrong with that boy, not wanting a tidy room and clean sheets to live in. ” she said one night as we slipped beneath our faded quilt.

“Maybe he just wants his privacy.” I said, knowing that it she was right, but still feeling the need to protect him.

“To do what? He’s writing songs, not saving the world.”

“Maybe they’re the same thing.” I turned out the lights.

One day I arrived to find him on the porch, smoking a cigarette. He looked so out of place outside of the cabin, and yet so much more comfortable. He protected the cigarette with calloused hands stained blue, red, and green.

“A project I’m working on,” He said when he saw me looking.

“Ah. How’s it coming along?”

“It’s coming. At least it’s coming.”

I followed the gaze of his Sinatra blue eyes to the frozen lake. They hadn’t left its hazy surface since I’d arrived, seemingly entranced with its quiet mystery, its expanse of cloudy blue.

“Do you think the fish know they’re trapped under there?” He asked.

“You mean by the ice? I suppose they know it’s there, but what difference would it make? They wouldn’t go up to the surface either way.”

“They probably wish they could, now that they know they can’t. I bet its awful down there, that they all feel like prisoners, waiting for it to thaw.”

“Maybe. I guess we’ll never know.”

The cigarette fell from his hands and he crushed the sparks with the heel of his boot. Taking the basket from me, he turned and walked inside, humming a melody that reminded me of a Celtic hymnal with all the religion missing.

The next week I returned, carrying a basket of salami, bread, cheese, and apples, the only things he ever requested. My knock resounded empty on the door, left for the first time unanswered. I waited patiently for a couple minutes, feeling the cold festering in my worn boots and the wind wearing on my exposed face. I thought about leaving the basket on the stoop, then realized that its contents would freeze in these conditions. The door wielded to my fingertips, as if yearning to be opened and yet having been too shy to ask in the past. The quiet dark of the one room cabin was a relief from the blinding white outside. Everything looked clean and normal until I turned on the lights. It was then that I noticed the walls. Every surface in the cabin had been painted on, written on, glorified. Murals of angels, demons, gardens, and skies, quotes in calligraphy, and what could have been entire symphonies filled every once open space with vibrant color and music. Ceiling, walls, and floor were not spared. I couldn’t decide if it was genius or insanity, but the beauty of the spectacle stopped me from passing judgment. I stood in awe for what must have been ten minutes before realizing that Adam wasn’t there. As I set down the basket on the table, his note made itself apparent. “Check the Lake.”

Some say he did it to escape his father’s disappointment. Others said he must have slipped along the icy banks. I don’t know who to believe, and I’m not sure I have to believe anyone. It took them three days to find his frozen body, the ice groaning protests beneath the bow of the search boats as they scanned the floor with nets. It took his father two more days to hear the news and arrive to collect his belongings.

“Who found him missing?”

“I did, sir.”

“Has the cabin been thoroughly cleaned?”

“Emma washed the sheets and windows before you came, but we tried to leave
things as they were …. ”

“I’d like to see it now.”

Initially he refused to walk, complaining of asthma until I told him there was no other way there in this weather. There was no sound except the crunching of our boots and his heavy breathing. I let him walk in first, out of respect, and hesitated to follow, not wanting his presence to alter my feelings about the cabin. He scanned the room quickly, I assumed taking in the murals and notes, the final remnants of his only son. Finally he turned to me, a look of impassiveness and loathing streaking his features.

“Throw out his belongings and paint the walls. I’ll be expecting visitors in April, and they cannot see it like this.”

It took me three days to gather the courage to do as he asked. Emma came with me; opened the windows and door to rid it of the musty smell pervading and of any trace left of the musician. She stood next to me as she took in the paradise he had created within these walls, the beauty he had summoned to scare away the darkness. Squeezing my hand, she walked towards the bed and began emptying the drawers. I turned towards the first wall, dipped my brush into the white lacquer, and began to paint.

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