Our Laguna

Barbara Diamond

A little more than 100 years ago women were told that higher education

was unhealthy for them. A group of healthy women with college degrees

scoffed at the notion and in 1881 founded the American Assn. of


University Women. Their mission was educational equity for women and

girls, and that hasn’t changed in 119 years.

Thurston Middle School students Julianne Reed and Casey Serra are the

most recent beneficiaries of the mission. They will attend the Tech Trek


Science Camp for Girls this summer, their participation will be funded by

the association’s Laguna Beach Foundation.

Janette Mestre introduced the girls to the association members and

guests who attended the 15th annual Literary Luncheon Saturday at the

Surf & Sand.

“Tech Trek was started five years ago to foster junior high school

girls’ interest in science and technology,” Janette said. “The first camp

was held at Stanford University and we sent one girl. The camps are now


held at various universities and we have sent two girls to each one.”

The luncheons are held to showcase women authors and to raise funds

for the foundation.

“We have more people here than ever before: 160,” said foundation

co-President Carol Reynolds.

Five women writers were featured Saturday: Chamaine Craig, Connie

Merritt, Gina Nahai, Adrienne Sharp and May Wale Brown.

May was a resident of Treasure Island until it closed. Her book, “Cat


Chats,” is a collection of the columns she wrote for a local newspaper.

It is her second book.

Her first book was a personal memoir of her years as a script

supervisor and continuity coordinator for movies and television. She

worked on every script for the long-running “Bonanza.”

May’s introduction to cats came in Hollywood. She was reading a script

when a paw suddenly appeared on the page -- a big paw, with claws,

attached to a big body. With “really bad halitosis.” Fortunately, a

trainer was standing by. May was happy to escape with her life.

May’s next experience with a feline was the gift of a small “bit of

fluff,” given to her to ease the recuperation of a broken leg.

“My husband said, if that’s a cat, I will put it in the lobster trap.

I hate cats,” she said. “The kitten promptly landed on his shoe and went

to sleep, the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

The book contains 70 illustrations by Fred Holland, husband of

association branch member Gretchen Holland. The last illustration is a

crying cat.

Grants and fellowships to UC Irvine’s master’s in fine arts writing

program enabled Chamaine to research and write her critically-acclaimed

first book, “The Good Men.” It is about the Albigensian Heresy in

medieval France and had a six-week run on the Los Angeles Time bestseller


Gina was born of Jewish parents in Iran. She was raised in Switzerland

and Los Angeles. Her first book, “Cry of the Peacock,” was based on her

family’s history in Iran.

Her second book, “Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith,” was the story of

Iranians in America after the Islamic Revolution. It was a national


Her most recent novel is “Sunday’s Silence.” It deals with the power

of faith told through the story of a cross-cultural love between a Jewish

girl and an Appalachian snake handler.

“White Swan, Black Swan: Stories” explores the world of ballet from

the viewpoint of a former dance student. Adrienne began to study ballet

at age six. It dominated her life for the next 12 years. She had the

right body, the determination, the stamina and the willingness to starve

herself for her art -- students were weighed every Monday.

Connie came to Laguna Beach as a bride and a nurse. Her husband, a

firefighter, was killed in an automobile accident when she was 26.

“My father had died when I was 11 and I mushed those two deaths

together and began to believe that men leave,” she said.

“Men leave. So I dated to excess -- every womanizer, every workaholic,

every dysfunctional man from Long Beach to San Diego.”

She finally realized she was setting up herself for disillusion.

Her books on love and work include “Finding Love (Again!),” and “The

Taming Guidebook Series.” She is a contributor to “Chocolate for a

Woman’s Soul” and “God’s Vitamin C for the Spirit of Women.”

Signed copies of the authors’ books were sold at the luncheon.

Proceeds from the luncheon will benefit the American Assn. of

University Women’s nonprofit Educational Foundation, which provides

fellowships and grants for women and publishes important research

promoting educational equity.

The Luncheon Committee included members Jean Brotherton, Louise

Fleenor, Karen Dennis, Beverly McComb, Madeleine Peterson, Joan Collins

and Katie Haven, who was in charge of the silent auction. Diane Logan

created the floral centerpieces and the bouquets presented to the


Among the local businesses that donated to the auction were Canyon

Lodge, American Grill, Hotel Laguna, Inn at Laguna, Laguna Playhouse,

Latitude 33, Len’s Wine Cite and Splashes Restaurant.

Luncheon guests included Councilwoman Toni Iseman, who has announced

her candidacy for a second term; Johanna Felder, longtime supporter of

the Laguna Art Museum; jeweler Patti Jo Kiraly, daughter of Carol

Reynolds and wife of author/playwright Sherwood Kiraly; Kimberly Salter,

president of the Laguna Beach Woman’s Club; Nancy Farrand, a board

member of the Community Service Program Youth Shelter in Laguna Beach;

Joanne Culverhouse, principal of El Morro Elementary School and Pat

Jamieson and Peggie Thomas, who administer the association volunteers in

the school’s tutoring program.

Also present were Lee Winocur Field, president of the Community Clinic

Board of Directors; Libby Coleman and Carol Hanke, museum docents; Anne

Berry, association branch president-elect; Carol Redford, former El Morro

bilingual aide; Dee Perry, an El Morro teacher; Diane Reed and Mark

Serra, parents of the 2002 Tech Trek girls; as well as Hani Feller,

Eleanor Finney, Barbara Garrett, Charlotte Masarik and Laura Tarbox

* Our Laguna is a regular feature of the Coastline. Contributions are

welcomed. Write to Barbara Diamond, P.O. Box 248, Laguna Beach, 92652,

hand-deliver to 384 Forest Ave., Suite 22; call 494-4321 or fax 494-8979.