The year 1996 delivered wild successes to some literary toilers, while others are left hoping for a better year to come.
On the retail front, the big-guy bookstores have come to Santa Barbara and Ventura, but so far the independents are still in business.
It has been a banner year for celebrity authors. Fans have seized the opportunity of looking into the eyes of Maya Angelou, William Peter Blatty ("The Exorcist"), Ray Bradbury, Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), Jack Canfield ("Chicken Soup"), Deepak Chopra, Ana Castillo, Susan Isaacs, lawyers Gerry Spence and Alan Dershowitz, Sue Grafton, Faye Kellerman, Clarissa Pinkola Estes ("Women Who Run With the Wolves"), poet Philip Levine, Bob Keeshan (TV's Captain Kangaroo), Elmore Leonard, Dennis Miller ("Rants") Beatrice Wood, Armistead Maupin, Laura Schlessinger (radio guru), James Redfield ("The Celestine Prophecy") and even those of a British royal, Princess Margaret's son Viscount David Linley.
Local distinguished authors have shared their experiences and signed books at seminars, conferences and in bookstores. They are too numerous to name. We are honored and enriched by the hundreds of men and women of letters and the publishing houses who have put down deep roots here.
We also set a wonderful example in that so many well-published writers meet regularly over morning coffee or lunch and welcome into their ranks the neophytes who need advice and inspiration.
Further opportunities for aspiring writers to mingle with established authors are provided by writing organizations, which host meetings and seminars throughout the year and include members at all levels of the profession. Contact the following for information:
* Gold Coast Fiction Writers, a chapter of Romance Writers of America, 1956 San Tropez Circle, Oxnard 93035.
* National League of American Pen Women, Box 1485, Simi Valley 93062.
* Screenwriters Assn., P.O. Drawer 1410, Santa Barbara 93102.
* Small Publishers, Artists & Writers Network, Box 2653, Ventura 93002-2653; chapters in Santa Barbara, Thousand Oaks and Ventura.
* Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators, Santa Barbara/Ventura chapter, 1001 Hillview Lane, Simi Valley 93065.
* Ventura County Writers Club, Box 1821, Camarillo 93011; provides critique workshops for all writing disciplines.
In celebration of Kwanzaa, the African-American cultural festival, Eloise Greenfield, author of a number of children's titles that focus on the black experience, and illustrator Jan Spivey Gilchrist will present their new book, "For the Love of the Game: Michael Jordan and Me," at 1:30 p.m. today in Adventures for Kids, 3457 Telegraph Road, Ventura.
In Santa Barbara
The Earthling Bookshop and Cafe will be open today and at 1 p.m. New Year's Day, at 1137 State St., to offer bargains and continuing hospitality to their loyal customers.
A merry New Year to all and most sincere thanks for your encouraging letters. They are deeply appreciated. Now for my New Year's wish: Please, dear publicity people, include full addresses, dates and contact phone numbers in your releases.
Frances Halpern is co-host with Jon O'Brien of "Beyond Words" at 10 a.m. Sundays on KCLU 88.3 FM, Ventura County's National Public Radio station.