A Message From the President: April, 2013

I was drawing a blank for ideas for this month. Then I looked at the calendar. April? April! What better than a selection of literary hoaxes in honor of April Fool’s Day? So with a guffaw or two, here goes.

In 1903, a document called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was published in Russia, outlining a plot by the Jewish people to take over the world. Throughout the subsequent decades, the document was used to justify violence against Jews, even after it was discovered to be a hoax in 1921. Henry Ford famously referred to the document in his anti-Semitic newspaper in the 1920s.

Part of the popularity of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code came from the possibility that much of the novel was based on truth. At the beginning of the novel, Brown lays out a number of “facts” upon which the book is based. Many sources, however, contend that some of Brown’s facts are actually based on a hoax. The Priory of Sion, the secret society in Brown’s book, was actually invented in the 1950’s, the debunkers say, by Pierre Plantard. Plantard created false documents that connected him to the supposed illustrious secret society and then planted those documents in the French national library. The authors of the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail used the documents as part of the research for their book; Dan Brown based his research for The Da Vinci Code on Holy Blood, Holy Grail.

After Davy Crockett died in 1836, a supposed posthumous autobiography was published, entitled “Col. Crockett’s Exploits and Adventures in Texas, Written by Himself.” Turns out it was actually written by playwright and novelist Richard Penn Smith, who wrote it in under 24 hours.

In 2008, “Margaret B. Jones” published a book called Love and Consequences, a supposed memoir of her life as a poor, half-Native American foster child in LA. The New York Times exposed that Margaret B. Jones was actually Margaret Seltzer, a wealthy white woman who grew up with her biological family. “I thought it was my opportunity to put a voice to the people who people don’t listen to,” she said. Publisher Riverhead pulled all of her books the week after publication.

In 1970, author Clifford Irving proposed an autobiography of the reclusive Howard Hughes to McGraw-Hill, saying that he was in contact with Hughes. Irving proceeded to forge letters and fake interviews, thinking that Hughes would not speak up. Finally, in 1972, before the book was published, Hughes denounced Irving, who was found guilty of fraud.

In 1983, the German magazine Stern bought and published a story on what they claimed were Hitler’s diaries. Not wanting the story to leak, Stern did not have World War II experts examine the documents, though they made it past two historians. The diaries were exposed as fake shortly after going public and both the editor who procured them and the forger spent 42 months in prison.

Larry Watters,

Writers Forum President

A Message From the President: March, 2013

I hope everybody has cleared their weekend for the special off-site Writers Forum Meeting featuring Keith Raffel at Shasta College Saturday, the 9th of March. This is another in a line of programs that we are sure makes it worthwhile to be a member.

But enough on that; the March Writers Forum newsletter & this site have plenty of him and this event.

I’ve been thinking about motivation and writing. Sometimes I have a lot of topics/ideas running through this old head; then there are the days that the well runs dry (and most times I never remember the better ideas). I have nothing but admiration for those journalists that meet deadlines on a daily basis. Scott Mobley of the Record Searchlight was one of those. Among his duties was to write the normally dull weather forecasting/recapping articles. With a MFA in Writing under his belt, he’d inevitably make them exciting.  I miss his style. Heck, even the boring (but exciting in person) antics at City Hall meetings were a joy to read. Some peeps got it, some don’t.

We have officer elections coming up. Normally they are held at the March meeting, but since that meeting will be attended by many, many non-members (note my positive attitude) it was decided to postpone the elections to April. We should have a full slate to present, but if any lurkers are thinking about getting involved, please contact me.

Oh, and start planning/writing for the June Members Read Around. It’s never too early to start sorting through those words you’ve penned and fine tune them.

See ya.

Larry Watters,

Writers Forum President

A Message from the President: January, 2013

As I watch the snow drift down, I am ‘trying’ to compose my January Message from the President. I really want to keep it simple and light. Ah, thought I; Seasonal Parodies. Why not?

So, staying under the plagiarism radar (though I think it could be labeled outright stealing), here are some.

For the social media peeps:

On the 12th day of Christmas my Facebook gave to me:
12 dopes I’m blocking
11 friends just watching
10 corny topics
9 busted barbies
8 friends complaining
7 stalkers stalking
6 party invites
5 drama queens
4 game requests
3 photo tags
2 friends-a-pokin’
& a creep who won’t stop in-boxing me.

For Star Trek Groupies (Chestnuts Roasting, yadda yadda):

Klingons roasting on an open fire,
Scotty’s beaming up some gifts.
Yuletide carols being sung by Uhura,
The Enterprise, it slowly drifts.
Everybody knows that Chekov really likes eggnog,
Spock prefers some Vulcan Tea.
Sulu takes a break from the helm to
Put milk & cookies by the tree.

You know that McCoy’s a doctor,
He’s not Santa Claus or even a redshirt.
And every single crewman will make their case
To prove if Santa really can breathe in space.

And so I’m offering this simple phrase
To Captain Kirk and all his crew,
Although it’s been said many times, many ways,
Merry Christmas to you!

And it would not be complete without Pogo’s Deck the Halls version (thanks to Walt Kelly):

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,

Walla Walla, Wash, and Kalamazoo!

Nora’s freezin’ on the trolley,

Swaller dollar cauliflower Alleygaroo!

Don’t we know archaic barrel,

Lullaby Lilla Boy, Louisville Lou.

Trolley Molly don’t love Harold,

Boola Boola Pensacoola Hullabaloo!

And finally for those that don’t like winter, yet complain during the summer, there is (Let it Snow):

Oh, the weather outside is frightful
and I hope it cools by nightfall
how I hate this warm weather so
summer blows
summer blows
summer blows

The mercury just ain’t stoppin’
but I wish that it was droppin’
how I hate the sun’s fiery glow
summer blows
summer blows
summer blows

Then it finally turns to night
when its late, things are not quite as warm
but then when the sky grows light
it will get hot, true to form

Perspirin’ but not dryin’
as I sweat, I think I’m dyin’
and I wish that the temps were low
summer blows
summer blows
summer blows

Whew! Done! See ya January 12th for another fabulous meeting as Charlie, Linda, Robb and Jim return as short story panelists.

Larry Watters,

Writers Forum President

A Message from the President: December, 2012

Phew…another very successful Authors Fair is under our belts. Or, to keep it in a Writers Forum vein, “on the bookshelf.” We had fewer authors than last year, but more full tables and more all day sign ups. Books were sold; one table sold out of what they brought (18!). Hailing from Chico to Lookout (in Modoc County), they networked and made friends with other authors.

We ran the popular First Sentence Contest again this year with two categories.  There were 14 adult entries and 4 child entries. A remote panel of judges picked their top three favorites, and the votes were tabulated electronically.

The winning adult author was one of the presenting authors, member Janice Austin Bates, with “If it hadn’t been for the terrible burn scars on Emily’s face, most people wouldn’t have noticed her.”  The winning child author was Betsy Allred, age 7, with “On one sunny day there were two girls who became best friends while playing hide and go seek.” Each wins a $25 Gift Card from Barnes & Noble.  Congratulations, Janice and Betsy!

The December meeting is one of our semi-annual gatherings where members do 5-minute readings of their work; either past, published or in work, as long as it is yours, you can read it.

I have some tips.

  • It is not a contest to see how much you can read in 5 minutes. Slow down, and enjoy it. Put some feeling in to it. This would be an excellent time to put to voice what you gleaned from Robb Lightfoot’s excellent presentation in October.
  • Practice your selected reading. Time yourself. Remember, 5 minutes only, including introduction or scene-setting. No “just another few sentences” allowed. When time has elapsed, everybody starts clapping. And remember, if you are cut off before you finished your reading, take heart in that you can submit it in its entirety to our Newsletter Editor, Ed Sulpice, at writersforumeditor@gmail.com. This is where no time limit applies.
  • This is also our annual holiday potluck; finger foods are recommended, but if you do bring non-finger food, please ensure it is not sloppy. No BBQ ribs!

One more note: Our Scholarship Fundraiser buyout of Riverfront Playhouse for Leading Ladies by Ken Ludwig is Thursday, February 7, 2013. Tickets are only $15.00.  This farce centers on two down-on-their-luck Shakespearean actors, Leo Clark and Jack Gable. The pair discovers that Florence, an older ailing woman, has been unable to find Max and Steve to include them in her multi-million dollar inheritance. They decide to pose as Max and Steve only to discover that “Max” and “Steve” are actually “Maxine” and “Stephanie.” Undaunted, they continue on in drag. Tickets will be on sale at meetings, or contact any board member.

Meanwhile, between the sugar plums dancing in your head, and the seven swans a’swimming, have a blessed holiday season, and keep the fingers to the keyboard.

Larry Watters, Writers Forum President

A Message From the President: November, 2012

Greetings all.

As we are in the final days of getting our act together for the 8th Northern California Authors Fair on Saturday, November 10, at the Mt. Shasta Mall, I thought something light would be just what Doc ordered (and it doesn’t require much thinking on my part).

I had the opportunity to spend a weekend in Angels Camp, a rustic old mining town nestled in the Gold Rush area of the Sierra Nevada Foothills on State Highway 49. I was attending an assembly at Frogtown USA Fairgrounds. If this seems oddly familiar, but you can’t quite place it, think Mark Twain and his short story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”

The Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee is one of the longest running events in the State of California. Its earliest roots date back to 1893, held that year in Copperopolis; the fair eventually found a permanent home outside of Angels Camp.  In the spirit of the old movie classic “State Fair,” the Calaveras County Fair is a blend of entertainment, exhibits, livestock, arena events, great food and our signature event, the Frog Jump. This piece of Americana will have you “Leaping” to return year after year.

In 1933 the California Fish and Game Commission became involved in order to regulate and protect the welfare of the California bullfrog. In 1995 the Board of Directors of the 39th District Agricultural Association adopted the Frog Welfare Policy, underscoring the Fair’s commitment to treat the frogs in a humane manner. Professional Frog Teams travel from all over the state to compete. Past champions get to camp at our beautiful Frog Pond. If you are looking for some tips on how to jump, find one of our Frog Teams.  They are true professionals! The Jumping Frog Jubilee is held the 3rd weekend of every May.

The world record of 21’ 5” was set in 1986 by Rosie the Ribeter.

On the left is where the celebrated frogs cavort; right is the arena where frog roping and bucking frogs events are held. On the hills in the background is where the froggies graze, and out-of-frame to the left is the pond where VIP frogs hang out. Of historical note is the World Record is 21’5″.

A Message From the President: June 2012

I am so pleased with the Scholarship Committee’s choices for recipients of our two $500 awards. I had the opportunity to sit in on their process of selecting winners. I was present as an active participating observer (my words). And their final choices were fantastic. Rudi Yniguez is graduating from Shasta High, and Triet Dinh Nguyen from Enterprise.

I had the opportunity to speak to each of their English instructors. There was pride in their voices, and in their follow-on emails I could sense that it was not a momentary swelling of gladness. Triet’s teach is Trent Copland who has spent twenty-five years teaching English as a Second Language to refugees with up to one hundred spread out through five classes. These days he only has one class of five. To have one of those five win a scholarship…well, like I typed, “…it was not a momentary swelling…” Rudi has Shane Kikut as her instructor, and was he was similarly grateful.

You can read their submissions in the May newsletter or later this month as special Member Monday postings.

Meanwhile, I have been finding it tough to find my muse for writing. I really had to be kicked in the ass to get this out. I have recently been re-visiting 3 Word Wednesday where each week three words are posted, and peeps are encouraged to use them as prompts. Ranging from short stories to poems, my favorite challenge is to compose a single sentence that makes sense. Run by my buddy Thom G (who has carried it from Redding, to NYC, and now to Buffalo, Wyoming), it has a world-wide following.

There are other kick-in-the-butts too. One is Write On! Online that “brings community to writers throughout the world.” They have articles, reports, newsletters, and monthly goals that you set and report on progress. They also have a presence on Face Book (who doesn’t these days?).

What is your favorite online site for writing? Let me, er, us know, by leaving a comment.

Until then, I will keep turning over the stones looking for my muse.

Larry Watters,

Writers Forum President

A Message from the President: May, 2012

I hear that Kate Bourland and Alicia McCauley really sparked some interest in Blogging and our new revamped Website. “I hear,” because I was unable to attend their presentations at the April General Meeting due to a conflict in my “should not be so full” schedule. Days and weeks before the service assembly, I was fearful of being “stuck in Lodi again.”

Well, fear not. Lodi is a nice place to be stuck in. Lodi is best known as the Zinfandel Capital of the World, though its first national recognition came via the Creedence Clearwater Revival song “Lodi” whose key title lyrics are oft-repeated. Settled in the late 1800s, Lodi today is a thriving community of over 60,000 with numerous parks.

But before the Lodi experience, I was pleasantly pleased with the stormy night turnout for our buyout of Riverfront Playhouse for Lend Me a Tenor. Directed by our own Jennifer Levens, the cast was extremely tight with their lines, raucously funny, and a delight to watch. And of course, being writers, we did get the punch lines quicker than other audiences would have (or so I was told after the show by cast members).

On deck for May is a special program put together by our Program Chair Sharon Owen; special in that she is involved with the local chapter of Sisters in Crime that promotes the professional development and advancement of women writing crime fiction with over 3000 members in forty-eight chapters world-wide.

Lastly, a reminder that June is our twice-a-year gig that members get to read their work; whether from the dusty archives of your basement, a work-in-progress to get feedback, or special “just for that occasion” poem or prose, you have 5 minutes from your first breath. So get hopping.

Larry Watters,

Writers Forum President