Between the Lines: Western Writers of America ride into Sacramento

In a coup for Sacramento, the 51st annual Western Writers of America convention will ride into town June 24 and stay until June 28, and the public is invited. The posse will make camp in the Doubletree Hotel, 2001 Point West Way.

There, 70 writers will participate in a smorgasbord of Western-centric panel discussions, presentations and special events. Four of the heaviest hitters on hand will be Anne Hillerman (“The Spider Woman’s Daughter”), whose late father, Tony Hillerman, wrote the Navajo Tribal Police mystery series; Kirk Ellis, co-writer of the miniseries “Into the West” and Emmy-winning screenwriter for “John Adams”; Johnny Boggs (“Poison Spring”), author of 63 Westerns; and Chris Enns of Grass Valley, a screenwriter and author of 28 nonfiction Westerns (“Love Lessons From the Old West,”

The centerpiece will be the Spur Awards ceremony, hosted by Clu Gulager (“The Tall Man”) and Jim Beaver (“Deadwood”). The Spur is the Pulitzer Prize of the Western genre. Tickets to the Spur Awards Banquet are $50 each.

History presentations will include the Pony Express, the California Trail, the Modoc War and Gold Rush entertainers. For aspiring writers, how-to sessions will cover biography, fiction, screenplays, book marketing and research sources. The keynote address will be “Chinese Inclusion in Telling Western Stories” by Liping Zhu.

Two book-signings are scheduled. One is June 25 at the East Meets West Hoedown, a mixer with appetizers and wine from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Pagoda Building, 429 J St., ($50). The other will be at 2 p.m. June 28 at Barnes & Noble, 6111 Sunrise Blvd., Citrus Heights; (916) 853-1511.

Individual panels are priced a la carte, starting at $30. Attendees can pay at the Doubletree registration desk. For details, registration and more information: (530) 477-8859,, or email

Poems and poets

A quartet of poets who call themselves the Tough Old Broads will read from their works in a special event. Former Sacramento poet laureate Viola Weinberg (2000-02) will join three other poets of note – Kathryn Hohlwein, Annie Menebroker and Victoria Dalkey, the Sacramento Bee’s art correspondent.

“We’ve known each other for 40 years, but this will be a first,” Weinberg said. “Between us, over 200 years worth of poetry has been written and published, along with more than 20 books, four animated families and a lot of gray hair. We have seen each other through difficult and beautiful times (marked by) tragedies and celebrations, and we still lived to write.”

Poet and publisher (Poems For All) Richard Hansen will distribute hand-made mini-books with a sampling of the group’s poems, “a little taste of each poet,” he said. Also, poet Sandy Thomas of the poetry center will have a book “on the phenomena of the Tough Old Broads,” Weinberg said.

The event is sponsored by the Sacramento Poetry Center, and will be at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the Verge Center for the Arts, 625 S St., Sacramento; (916) 448-2985.

Jog those memoirs

Writing coach Jennifer Basye Sander, author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing,” runs the annual Write by the Lake memoir workshop at Lake Tahoe. The next one is June 27-29; for details, email her at

Meanwhile, her new book, “There’s More You Should Know,” is a hands-on “prompt” journal and guide for those who want to tell the stories of their lives (Skyhorse, $17, 208 pages).

“It’s a journal with questions and blank pages for lengthy answers,” she explained. “If you hope to have an audience for your memoir that’s larger than your family and friends, keep in mind that the ones that do succeed have all been carefully shaped. The fact is, we don’t really read memoirs in order to learn about someone else’s life so much as we read to see what we can draw from their experiences and apply to our own lives.”

Past lives

Fifteen years ago, Quentin Grady of Lincoln spent so much time traveling for business on airplanes that he began digging deep into history, a point of interest. Soon, the seeds of a tale began to sprout, and he escalated the process.

“I would end up spending a lot of time (with) reference books at libraries and (at historical sites) from eastern Ohio into Canada, and built that into a story,” he said.

The result is the first two books of what was supposed to have been a trilogy, but now he’s planning two more books after that. Together, the self-published “The Ghost Eagle” ($15) and “The Moon Promise” ($14.69) total more than 1,450 pages. They’re available at and at Grady’s website, The third book, “The Falcon Queen,” is due in September.

The story is set during the French and Indian War (1754-63). It follows Montreal fur trader Philippe Gerrard, who travels to France to rescue his son from the clutches of “a vengeful marquis,” who sends an assassin after them. History and adventure permeate the tale.

Grady served as a Navy officer on nuclear subs in the 1970s, then worked in senior management in the computer software industry.

Read on the beat

Pioneering musician Johnny Barbata is well-traveled in the rock ’n’ roll world, first as a band member, then as a session musician. At one time or another in the 1960s and 1970s, he was the drummer for the Sentinals, the Turtles, Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. He was a session musician for Grace Slick, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, Dave Mason and others, with “over 60 albums to my ‘uncredited’ credit,” as he puts it.

His autobiography, “Johnny Barbata: The Legendary Life of a Rock Star Drummer,” is $35 at his website, Or you can save some time by meeting him at his book-signing, noon to 5:30 p.m. June 26 at Skip’s Music, 2740 Auburn Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 484-7575.