Santa Barbara has been known as a writing community for decades with famous authors such as , , or , among others. Their works have often been on bestseller lists. Today’s writers still fill our county with a wide variety of published works.
This summer of 2020 is no exception. Want childhood fiction? Try with his unique book Interested in the personal life of a birding professional knowing 501 birds with Central California Coast at the top? Check out “Story of a Santa Barbara Birder.”
Curious about a talented group of writers together? Find the “Santa Barbara Literary Journal: Volume 5” magazine published by (Angela Borda) and filled with a talented range of authors.
Lentz said she always thought of writing about her family’s rich history and how as a little kid they led her to studying birds. She became an expert over decades while writing, teaching and leading birding hikes in many areas. Five published books on Central California birding have provided us with much engaging information about nature. Most are still being printed.
Until recently, she supervised the major annual . This year, the 120th Audubon count found the frequent number of different birds (203) within 24 hours, the third-largest evaluation in the country.
Why, then, is her book a memoir, not more of a bird information book?
Lentz said what turned her around almost two years ago to write it was a sudden, life-threatening disease with rapid onset.
“Before that, I felt my life and my birding experiences were not important enough to warrant a book,” she said. “The contrast between my ‘old’ life and my ‘new’ one was dramatic. One aspect ‘before’ and ‘after’ didn’t change: my love for birds and nature, and the way I found solace and healing in both.
“After the hospital stay, I went to my computer and began writing. It was the book I wanted to write, all about my own life and experiences with birds.”
The beginning of the story is in part about her family. Her father, a well-known author, grew up on Santa Barbara County’s huge, historical , where his father managed the area. Living there led her father and then her to find endless back mountain trails not necessarily open to the public.
Her mother grew up differently, with her family living thousands of miles away in Italy. Her father was a famous Western novelist with the pen name . Both families claimed fame but in different ways.
“In the book, you will come to a passage where I wrestled with doing a family memoir vs. one that featured my own experiences,” Lentz said. “I had many versions of a family memoir, but my ancestors were overpowering. Their fame and achievements weren’t mine, and yet here I was writing about them. So, I put it all aside and wrote the book about me that I’d never have produced had I not been through the ‘fire,’ so to speak.”
In spite of her illness, the book was finished and published in August.
“I was fortunate that my disease is slow-moving,” she said. “Suddenly, I felt the urgency to let other people know what had happened to me, and why the nature all around us has benefits beyond appreciation. Looking back on it, I wrote the book I’ve always wanted to. Sometimes the melding of family and birding adventures works in the book, and sometimes it may not, but I wrote it with my heart and soul.”
She also discussed in the book how she writes: “Writing came naturally to me. I like moving sentences around, describing things, putting it all down on paper. For years I kept diaries. In college, I was good at research papers and liked to rummage around in books — both old and new. Throughout my life, I’ve been a constant reader. Reading and writing go together, and birding lends itself to both.”
Her book is now available at , and .
The literary magazine “Santa Barbara Literary Journal: Volume 5” has a unique theme — wild mercury. Editor Silver Webb shared the reason for choosing it.
“It is derived from a quote,” she said. “In referring to the sound he wanted for ‘Blonde on Blonde,’ he called it ‘that thin, wild mercury sound.’ Since everyone at our ‘Lit Jo’ is a Bob Dylan fan, and the name of each issue also has a celestial component, we went with wild mercury.
“It’s a tip of the hat to a dynamic creator who is not afraid to fail and has been creatively productive for six decades. I often think that if I write one story as good as Dylan’s worst album, I’ll still be doing pretty well as a writer!”
Many excellent local writers contribute to “Lit Jo.” Among the examples are the “Ode to the Schorren” poem by Laure-Anna Bosselaar and “The Man in the Chicken Suit” short story by Shelly Lowenkopf. Artist Mary Heeber designed the cover work.
“Volume 5” is available in Chaucer’s, Tecolote and Amazon.
“It’s important at the moment to know where and when readings and events are not possible,” Webb said.
One of the biggest fears many children live with is not getting food. Schools across the country often provide meals for those who have not had breakfast, and other meals. The students then work in the classroom far better.
Talkin, chief executive officer of the , has long been aware of this problem. It’s the topic of his latest book, “Lulu and the Hunger Monster.”
“I wanted to write about food insecurity from a child’s perspective. ‘Lulu and the Hunger Monster’ was developed as a result of my experiences over years of working with food-insecure families with young children. I saw how much stigma was a key issue in preventing kids from getting help,” Talkin said.
“I hope that Lulu will help kids learn to get over their fears and ask for help. In the book, Lulu is a brave girl who is trying to help herself and her mom face a monster called Hunger.”
As a result, Talkin said, “This book first empathizes and then inspires children into action with practical steps to counter food insecurity amongst their classmates.”
It is available at Chaucer’s, and Amazon. Check for more information.
— columnist — a Santa Barbara native, writer and book reviewer — teaches writing at the and through the . . The opinions expressed are her own.