The Wild Vine Writers — a group of women authors based in Livermore — recently published its second book with a goal of helping their community.
The authors worked together over Zoom during the pandemic to create, polish and publish “Two Truths and a Lie.” The book is a collection of shorts stories, essays and poetry. All proceeds will go toward the Connie Clark Memorial Scholarship Fund for reentry students at Chabot College. Clark was a member of the Wild Vine Writers before her passing.
“Some of (Clark’s) writing is in this book, and she very quietly polished it up and made it publishable before she died,” explained Linda Milanese, an original charter member.
Author Julie Orvis noted Clark’s death in October 2019 was hard on the group, pausing their work on the book. They had picked up their pens once more in March when the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything.
“Prior to COVID, we met once a month,” said contributor Peggy Schimmelman. “Then because of the book, we decided we should meet weekly, and it proved to really be a focal point through COVID for me. It was something to look forward to every week. It was social contact . . . along with all the writing, so it really has helped me get through the COVID phase.”
The rest of the group expressed similar sentiments, noting that focusing on their book helped them come through a difficult year and bring them all closer together, despite not meeting in person.
“Once a week, we could actually escape reading the headlines,” said Danielle Cunningham, who joined the Zoom meetings from her home in Scotland. “You can write about COVID and what’s going on inside yourself 100%, but these meetings okayed us not to think about it for an hour or two; it was ok not to stress about it, it was ok not to feel sad about it.”
Author Carla Hanson is one of the founding members. A former high school English teacher in the Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District, she began the writing group in 2007, and they have now published two books together.
“You know, with a group like that, people join and go away, but this particular group has been writing together for four years,” Hanson said. “I am a certified Amherst Writers and Artists writing facilitator, and that’s a wonderful protocol for writing, and we follow the guidelines in our group.”
The group dubbed itself the Wild Vine Writers before publishing its first book in 2017, “Long Stories Short,” a collection of stories of 100 words or less. Proceeds from that title went toward purchasing books for Tri-Valley Haven. The tradition of giving has been continued in the group’s new publication.
The group finished “Two Truths and a Lie” over the summer and published in August. With their book making its way into hands and onto shelves, the Wild Vine Writers is taking some time before launching their next project. They are still a group of six, as Clark’s spot was recently filled with a new face, and they will continue to meet one morning a week for writing prompts and companionship. But no definite plans have been made for a third title.
“We are friends, so the couple hours we spend on Zoom each week has been wonderful,” said Orvis. “Then you walk away from that and it gives you focus and a project that’s positive to work on during the week and you feel productive in a time when things are hard.”
The women developed questions for book club discussion of the pieces in the anthology. For more information, visit jockoriverwriters.org/wild-vine-writers. Books are also available at Towne Center Books, 2375 Railroad Ave., Suite 100, in Livermore. Call 925-292-5200 for more information.