Sunday, September 17, 2017

"First Blush: North State Writers 2017 Anthology"




North State Writers (northstatewriters.com), a chartered member of the California Writers Club, has published "First Blush: North State Writers 2017 Anthology" ($13.95 in paperback from CreateSpace; also for Amazon Kindle). Twenty writers contributed thirty-eight short pieces and poems, with the cover by master illustrator Steve Ferchaud.

The book begins with T.B. O'Neill's "The Court Martial of Darren Sweet," an unsettling tale of the Vietnam War. "Now, understand," the narrator says, "I'm completely out of my comfort zone here." Part of the delight of the anthology is watching writers stretch, exploring new themes or coming at familiar ones from different directions. Cathy Chase offers a Hmong narrator in "The Flight To The Mekong River"; Joan Goodreau characterizes her son's diagnosis of autism as a tornado in "The Eye Of The Storm"; in "The Parade," William Douglas writes, "Late Sunday night, Billy and Allen stole an elephant."

In "Stroke Of A Pen" N.J. Hanson types a twisted tale of horror, and Mary Jensen offers a vehicular confession; Thatcher C. Nalley explores mental illness in "Pray Tell," and Steven J. Thompson poetizes in "White Or Red, Darling?" Michael Richards writes of home, and Vietnam.

Gail Stone has a racing tale featuring a 1970 split bumper orange Super Sport Camaro; her mother, Carol J. Gray, remembers "The Glass Roof" and her Rose Marie Reid bathing suit; Andrea Lavoy Wagner, in the poem "Fists," observes "Violence creates victims/ but it also creates conquerors." Linda Sue Forrister has an "October Epiphany," Margie Yee Webb writes of "Cat Mulan," N.L. Brumbaugh explores the King Tut Exhibit; and Eric Miller tells us "Wife Trumps Husband At Christmas" (if you want a new weed-eater, read this first).

Cara Gubbins writes of manatees in "The Release," Dan Irving offers a non-fiction biography of Yukon explorer James Foster Scott; Kathleen T. Hiatt tells the tale of a horrible car accident in "Sibling Rivalry"; Ken Young provides the first chapter of the second book in his "King's Frog Hunter" high fantasy trilogy.

"In the gloom of the Dudoon Bog," Young writes, "a lone rider weaved carefully between stagnant ponds, searching for a safe trail." In this anthology, the trails are rarely safe.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

"The Birds Of Bidwell Park: Expanded Edition"



"When you try to identify birds," writes Roger Lederer, renowned ornithologist and Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences at Chico State University, "you have to look at them in a new way. There is typically no one characteristic that distinguishes one bird from another; it's a set of characteristics. … All birds have feathers, beaks, scaled legs, tails, and wings. But the variation in those parts, plus the coloration and patterning of the feathers, makes each species unique and most are easy to identify."

What better place to practice this "new way of seeing" than within Chico's jewel, an enduring legacy of John and Annie Bidwell. To that end, Lederer and artist-wife Carol Burr, Professor Emerita of English at Chico State, have updated their classic guide. "The Birds Of Bidwell Park: Expanded Edition" ($19.95 in paperback from Stansbury Publishing) adds five species to bring the total to 91.

The book is available locally at Bird In Hand, Made In Chico, ABC Books, Bidwell Mansion visitor's center, C Bar D Feed And Seed, and also at the Snow Goose Festival January 24-28, 2018.

The guide contains Burr's pen and colored-pencil illustrations, a map of the park, and brief tutorials on the parts of a bird and how to get the most out of birdwatching. Each page devotes itself to a species, with information on seasonal viewing and where in the park the bird is most commonly seen.

I learned of the new edition of the book through email (not a tweet), with the author noting the additions: Phainopepla ("shining robe"), Eurasian Collared Dove (their call sounds like "cuk-COO-cook"), Great Egret, Nashville Warbler (seen in the park "on their migration from Southern Texas" and elsewhere), Downy Woodpecker ("the smallest of all North American woodpeckers"). "The Eurasian Collared Dove," Lederer observes, "has become quite common even though there were none in Chico when the first edition of this book came out in 2010."

Lederer recommends beginners "go out in the field with folks who know the birds. If you don't have a friend who does, contact the local Altacal Audubon Society or Big Chico Creek Nature Center."

Get the book, then go and look.


Sunday, September 03, 2017

"Open Your Studio: Nine Steps To A Successful Art Event"



Melinda Cootsona (melindacootsona.com) is a Bay Area painter and art teacher with family in Chico. Over the years she's gained experience in hosting or participating in Open Studio events; that's where the public is invited to meet the artist, see the artist's domain, and view and purchase selected works. But there's much more to it than putting out a sign that says "the artist is in!"

Cootsona has distilled her advice into a no-nonsense manual that guides the artist into the business side of things. "Open Your Studio: Nine Steps To A Successful Art Event" ($14.95 in paperback from RedDot Press; also for Amazon Kindle) "is a step-by-step guide written to encourage artists to participate in Open Studios."

It's timely help--and motivation--for those preparing for the 30th annual Chico Art Center Open Studios Art Tour (OSAT) October 21-22 and October 28-29. There's a preview exhibition October 6-29, a reception, and more (see facebook.com/CACOSAT2017).

What Cootsona wants to do is demystify the "commerce" side of art. "Selling your own art," she writes, "can be done successfully without 'selling out' or compromising your integrity."

What should the artist show? "Put your best/favorite pieces at one end and arrange them down to your least favorite. Try to be objective in looking at the quality" and then "show only your best work."

"It will hang on someone's wall and they will remember you when they see it. How much they like the art determines if they'll return. So, if you need to eliminate some of your pieces because you don't feel they are as strong, do it!" Make sure the presentation is "cohesive"; eliminate those works that don't seem to "fit" with the others.

The chapters on pricing are worth the cost of admission. Key ideas: "Never price a work according to your own emotional attachment to it"; "always be consistent with your pricing, no matter what your medium"; and "discounting your work cheapens it."

Cootsona gets into some nitty-gritty details but reminds artists to "create what you want to create and what speaks to you … people will see passion in your work."

And they will be moved.