B’nai Shalom, Diablo Valley Hadassah and
Contra Costa Jewish Book & Arts Festival
for including this author and
Brenda Corrigan Went Downtown
in “Story Tellers: Writers On Writing”
Thursday, November 6, 10 am
How do writers conceive their stories and bring them to life?
Join local authors to learn how their recent novels
evolved from concept to print.
Donna Kaulkin (Brenda Corrigan Went Downtown)
Debbie Cohen (Keeper of the Scale)
Leslie Rupley (Beyond the Silk Mills)
Thursday, November 6, 10 a.m.
Congregation B’nai Shalom
74 Eckley Lane, Walnut Creek, CA 94596
“Story Tellers: Writers On Writing” is sponsored by
B’nai Shalom and Diablo Valley Hadassah
for UNDER ONE TENT
Contra Costa Jewish Book & Arts Festival 2014-2015
Locally, Bookshop Benicia held an event on Sunday, October 13. Thanks to proprietor Christine Mayall, and to Kristine Mietzner who organized everything and invited her writing workshop to join us. Sunday in Benicia by the water — heaven!
Also in October, I had the great pleasure of visiting the Lafayette Seniors’ Book Club, at Lafayette Recreation Hall. Thank you to fellow writer Barbara Baratta, who invited me, and the lovely women who engaged me in a stimulating two-hour discussion about our girl Brenda and her friends and family.
“If a child hears fine music from the day of his birth and learns to play it himself, he develops sensitivity, discipline and endurance. He gets a beautiful heart.” — Violinist Laurie Carlson, who teaches violin to young students using the Suzuki way.
I’ll read a chapter or two of Brenda at International Night on Saturday, November 16, 6 – 11pm at The Keys.
HOT OFF THE PRESS: A reading planned for May 6 at the American News Women’s Club in Washington, DC, has been postponed. I was president of ANWC, 1999-2000, so I look forward to seeing old friends and colleagues.
Reprinted with permission from The Benicia Herald
By Kristine Mietzner
September 17, 2013
FINISHING A BOOK PROJECT takes talent and persistent effort. Author Donna Kaulkin and I shared many hours in the same writing group a few years ago, at a time when she was starting “Brenda Corrigan Went Downtown,” a novel she completed earlier this year.
Donna’s work of fiction is set in an imaginary suburb near San Francisco, a place not unlike our town. She will read and sign copies of her debut novel next month in Benicia, and she answered my questions about her intriguing tale.
What inspired you to write “Brenda Corrigan Went Downtown”?
The idea for the story evolved over a long period of time. I suppose the final catalyst to sit down and write the novel came on Super Bowl Sunday 2009, when I was walking alone on a nearby trail and found that no one was around. I felt vulnerable. I recalled that a woman had been raped and murdered on one of our trails a few years earlier. In my book, Brenda is attacked on Super Bowl Sunday, but not murdered. The story that evolves encompasses many subjects that interest all of us: family dynamics, friendship, romance, violence against girls and women, violence generally, and PTSD.
How much of the story is drawn from your life experiences?
“Brenda Corrigan Went Downtown” is fiction. It is not autobiography. I certainly never knew anyone like the psychopath who attacks Brenda; I’ve never been to Rwanda or Saudi Arabia; I never traveled on a posh Boeing 747 owned by a sheik; I was never a secret agent, nor did I ever sleep with one, to my knowledge. That said, we write what we know. I have been in aviation since 1984 — aviation is what I know — so Brenda and her husband are in aviation. There are other instances drawn from my experience, but more are drawn from what I have observed in the lives of others. For instance, I never had a daughter, so this mother-daughter relationship grew out of what I’ve noticed in friends’ interactions with their daughters.
How do you find time to write? Do you write on a schedule or wait until the muse inspires you?
I am at my computer by 8:30 each day to do a monthly newsletter covering the aviation industry. I spend my mornings doing that, then take a break and work on creative writing in the afternoon. I am blessed with an ability to concentrate deeply on my work. My friends and family respect my deadlines and I get a lot done. As for the muse, in retrospect I understand that she has been with me since I was a little girl, tapping my shoulder impatiently, urging me to write write write. I have always been a writer, for work and for my own pleasure. I always kept a journal. My poems and stories have appeared in anthologies, and two plays were performed in staged readings. “Brenda Corrigan Went Downtown” is my most ambitious project.
In regard to the woman losing her beauty/the facial damage in this story, what are your feelings about plastic surgery for an accident or assault victim?
Plastic surgery is a necessity for people with damage due to assault or accident, and thankfully there are so many new methods that can help an injured person live a normal life.
Why did you decide to go with self-publishing instead of looking for an agent and a traditional publisher?
I am an impatient sort and realized I could publish my book very quickly. I also like to be master (mistress?) of my own universe, and by self-publishing I could choose my own cover, my own title, my own editorial style — in traditional publishing the average author has little say in those matters. The publishing industry is changing rapidly. Self-published books are selling well, even appearing on bestseller lists. The stigma of self-publishing is a thing of the past.
Where do you get your ideas?
For most of the writing on my blog, “Donna Tells Stories,” my ideas come from prompts in a weekly writing workshop. The Amherst Method is used; we are given a word or sensory item, then we write for 20 minutes. The pieces that result are terse, alive. The workshop, called Hummingwords, is led by Cynthia Leslie-Bole in Orinda.
Are you writing another novel?
So many of my readers say they didn’t want the story to end, so there is a temptation to continue to write about some of these characters — I know them so well and love them. But I probably will try something new. I suppose one day the perfect theme will appear to me, the timing will be right and I’ll be at it again.
Donna Brookman Kaulkin will read from her novel, “Brenda Corrigan Went Downtown,” Oct. 13 at 2 p.m. at Bookshop Benicia, 636 First St.
Had a great time with members of Walnut Creek Presbyterian Church at Splash!, their annual book event organized by Lisa Vande Wege, Director of the Women’s Ministry. We sat poolside in the amazing backyard of Julie Andrews, and talked about Brenda and the writing process, and what a lively discussion it was!
Matters of faith were in the forefront and these very intelligent women had much to say about Brenda’s final choice. Some expressed beautifully the role that faith might have played in Brenda’s recovery. Others said they understood Brenda’s decision—that it made sense in her particular circumstances. I told them that when I created Brenda’s friend Rose and gave her a bedrock faith in God and her traditions, I was thinking of Rose Kennedy, President Kennedy’s mother. Mrs. Kennedy never gave in to despair, despite the tragic losses she (and we) suffered. Nor does our Rose, an orphan of the Holocaust.
And of course we spoke of violence and the terrible crime that catapults the story from a carefree walk in the park to a tale of recovery and loss. So many readers write to me about violence they’ve suffered, either as children or adults. They tell me the ways the book touched and helped them. This is gratifying. I didn’t set out to do this. I only meant to tell one woman’s tale. But that tale is universal. Violence against girls and women, unfortunately, is part of our lives; it is not just on our TV screen, in faraway places. It is in our homes and schools, in cities, in suburbs, on farms, in factories, and, as we well know, on military bases and in churches.
I was thrilled to donate my stipend to Arm of Care, a local organization that uses creative arts to restore and empower girls who have been exploited. ARM founder and president Amy Lynch joined us for this fine evening.
Excerpt from an interview with Janice De Jesus
Contra Costa Times, October 4, 2013
“People who knew me knew that all my life I wanted to write a novel,” Kaulkin said. “And out it all came.”
Just after Kaulkin moved to the East Bay from Washington, D.C. where she raised her family, she heard about a woman who had been raped and killed on one of the local trails.
“The news shook me; my heart ached for her and her loved ones, for women and girls everywhere who are raped, maimed, battered, murdered. I didn’t know this would be a theme in the novel I would finally write but that is what happened,” Kaulkin, now of Walnut Creek, wrote on her website.
Kaulkin, who’s enjoyed a long editorial career including time as managing editor for U.S. Pharmacopoeia, and as an editorial director for McGraw-Hill’s aviation group, said she welcomed the creative freedom of crafting a novel. Aside from getting to know Brenda, the main character, through her journal entries, her daughter and her friends, readers will also get to know the supporting characters.
“All of the characters really developed lives of their own,” said Kaulkin, who rewrote a play she wrote about China’s Empress Wu as a musical with composer Michael Kaulkin (her son). “The Ghost of Wu” was a finalist in an East Bay competition, received staged readings in Los Angeles, and several songs were performed by Not Quite Opera in San Francisco.
“I didn’t plan the life of each character ahead of time. I allowed them to each have their own voices.”
The author said that readers often wonder if her book was “autobiographical.” She said the novel isn’t based on her own experience and that while the story was reported on the news, Kaulkin fictionalized another woman’s real-life experience.
“We have to create our own safe haven in our lives with family and friends,” Kaulkin said.
Readers will get to know the character’s lighthearted side through her journal entries, her dreams and her friends. Mount Diablo is also a character in the novel, she said.
“I loved writing my novel. I laughed and cried just like a reader would,” Kaulkin said. “Sometimes I forget I was the one who wrote it.”
the publication of
Brenda Corrigan Went Downtown
by Donna Brookman Kaulkin
Sunday, May 19, 1 pm
Champagne and Nibbles
Reading / Signing
Hope you can come / Please invite friends
276 Village Square
Orinda, CA 94563
(Orinda Books is near Lafayette Reservoir and
other heavenly places for walks and outdoor beauty.)