In 2009 the California Writers Club celebrated
its 100th birthday! Today, with 21 robust branches, CWC is the
largest writers organization in California, and the oldest continuously
active such institution in the nation. The Central Coast Writers
branch of CWC received its charter in July, 2002 and is proud
to represent the California Writers Club on the Central Coast.
The California Writers Club grew from the literary
movement in the San Francisco Bay area where the circle at the
Coppa Club included Jack London, poet George Sterling and short
story writer Herman Whitaker. From these informal gatherings
came the Press Club of Alameda, a faction of which in 1909 formed
the California Writers Club. Austin Lewis, an English civil
libertarian, was the first president. The Club incorporated
in 1913, choosing as its motto "Sail On!" from Joaquin
Miller's poem Columbus with the goal of promoting the fellowship
and personal and professional growth of writers.
Between 1912 and 1914, active membership grew
from 60 to 118. Early honorary members included Joaquin Miller,
Songs of the Sierra, environmentalist John Muir, Ina Coolbrith
(first California poet laureate), and journalist Charles Fletcher
Lummis. Others included Jack London, an occasional speaker at
the Club, and his friend George Sterling. In the 30s, historical
novelist and feminist Gertrude Atherton, A Daughter of the Vine,
and Kathleen Norris, Certain People of Importance, were admitted
as honorary members.
Large banquets and elegant affairs characterized
club activities in the 1920s and 1930s. In the early 1920s,
Berkeley poet Charles Keeler, The Simple Home, served as president
and encouraged more emphasis on poetry and dramatic arts. The
Club expanded in Northern California during these decades.
The Club soon began publishing members' works.
WEST WINDS, a hardcover collection of fiction illustrated by
California artists, was published in 1914, and went into eight
printings. Jack London and Rebecca N. Porter were among its
contributors. WEST WINDS: A Book of Verse, came out in 1925,
with poetry by Ina Coolbrith, George Sterling, Edwin Markham,
Charles and Ormeida Keeler, and seventy other members. Six years
later WEST WINDS 111: A Book of Fiction, was published with
contributions by Agnes Morley Cleveland, No Life for a Lady,
and Charles Caldwell Dobie, San Francisco Tales. Other poetry
collections followed during the 1930s.
The Club tradition of planting trees to honor
California writers and poets began in 1930. The "Writers
Memorial Grove" at Joaquin Miller Park in Oakland is on
land which originally belonged to Miller, who dreamed of establishing
a memorial for artists and writers there. The first trees planted
honored Joaquin Miller, Bret Harte, Charles Warren Stoddard,
South Sea Idyls, Edward Roland Sill, A Fool's Prayer, Ina Coolbrith,
Jack London, Mark Twain, Charles Fletcher Lummis, and Edwin
Markham. The Berkeley Branch has since added trees in recognition
of Dashiel Hammett, Gertrude Stein, and historians Will and
Ariel Durant. In the 1940s, the site was named "Woodminster"
and expanded by the addition of an amphitheater.
At the 1939-1940 Golden Gate International Exposition
on Treasure Island, the Club presented weekly literary talks
which were well received. As an outgrowth of these literary
events, the Club sponsored its first Writers Conference in Oakland
in 1941. By the 1950s these educational meetings had become
annual affairs. Today, many branches sponsor their own conferences,
workshops, and all have regular member programs.
After 100 years, the State-wide members of California
Writers Club continue to "Sail On!" exploring new