Author’s Fair Writers Forum…
Its mission is simple: to promote the craft of writing as an art and as a profession. To do that, the Redding-based Writers Forum meets once per month (sans July and August) to talk about the nuts and bolts of the craft, discuss different genres and help fellow scribers get over any roadblocks in their project. This model works for them, considering the Writers Forum has been together for more than 40 years now.
It began in 1981, the same year the Shasta County Arts Council and Riverfront Playhouse were formed. At this time, a woman also moved into town who was running ads in the newspaper for her writing critique services. One of its original members, Sharon Owen, noticed there were a few writing critique groups all over the city, as well as a writers’ group that met in a cottage owned by the City of Redding. They joined together, becoming the Redding Writers Group.
Somewhere down the line, the group asked its members/supporters to suggest a name that had a broader scope to make it more inclusive to not just Redding writers. The new Writers Forum was born, and its membership ballooned up to 120 members at one point. Membership took a hit during COVID but is coming back with the re-emergence of the Authors Faire to take place in downtown Redding this November.
As one of its two original members left (she’s also served as past president and program director), Owen recalls some of the Writers Forum’s major accomplishments and how it has evolved over the years. “One thing we’re proud of is something we did in 1987 to celebrate Redding’s centennial year. We had been an organization for six years by that point. Mayor Barbara Gard came to us and asked if we wanted to write the pageant for the auditorium that held 2,400 people. Even though the Writers Forum had never done anything like that before, we said we could do it,” Owen says.
Six members wrote a two-act musical with nine themes, telling the story of Redding’s history in the Gold Rush, the Union Pacific railroad, World War I, the Great Depression, fire and more. “It was Redding’s coming-of-age story,” Owen says. All three performances sold out.
Ken Putnam was the director who also ran the theater program at Shasta High School, and the performance had 21 actors and 15 chorus members.
“It took the entire community coming together to make it happen and brought huge satisfaction for us. My memory is still full in bringing back that experience,” Owen says.
The Writers Forum gathers on the second Saturday of each month at the Pilgrim Congressional Church on Foothill Boulevard. Meetings include presentations that dive into the trials and tribulations of a certain genre or navigating the business of publishing.
One year they flew in Nancy Kress, fiction editor for the Writer’s Digest, and they’ve also hosted Michael Larsen, a top authors’ coach/literary agent in San Francisco. “We’ve had national-level, top-notch speakers,” says Writers Forum President Jennifer Levens. Two meetings are read-arounds, where members bring their work and read it aloud to the rest of the group.
The Writers Forum is open to those looking to get published or anyone just looking to get their work out there. Owen has six mysteries on the market, Linda Boyden has had numerous children’s books published, Charlie Price won the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for his young adult mysteries, and Steve Brewer writes humorous mysteries and has 17 traditionally published books. “A lot of books have gone full sail in Barnes & Noble’s local authors’ section,” Levens adds.
The Writers Forum has hosted the Authors Fair since at least 2005 and is excited to bring it back on November 11. “It’s such a gift for writers because it’s a minimal fee to participate and you don’t have to be a member; you just pay for a table. We found out about a lot of writers that way, who’ve later joined,” says Owen, adding that people have come from all over California and Oregon.
The biggest fair hosted 35 authors. “Authors really have to find our audience ourselves… it’s hard to find a venue and there are not many independent booksellers. People think that novelists are rich, but it’s a tough business,” Owen says.
For aspiring writers to published authors, it helps to have the support of the Writers Forum to help one take their craft to the next level. “We’ve always believed that if you think it’s possible to do, then do it. We don’t limit our thinking to what this organization can do,” Owen says. “The main lesson we’ve learned is, ‘if you build it, they will come’,” she adds. •