The informal gatherings of Jack London, poet George Sterling and short story writer Herman Whitaker, among others, eventually formed the Press Club of Alameda. In 1909, a faction of the membership split off to form the California Writers Club with Austin Lewis, an English civil libertarian, as the first president. Under the leadership of Dr. William S. Morgan, a quarterly bulletin was started in 1912, and California Writers Club incorporated in 1913, choosing the motto “Sail On!” from Joaquin Miller’s poem, “Columbus.”
Early honorary members included Jack London, George Sterling, John Muir, Joaquin Miller, and the first California poet laureate, Ina Coolbrith. The first WEST WINDS, a hardcover collection of fiction by members, was published in 1914 and was illustrated by California artists. Since that time three other WEST WINDS have been published. “Writers Memorial Grove” at Joaquin Miller Park in Oakland celebrates California’s great writers with the planting of trees. The first tree was planted for Joaquin Miller. Bret Harte, Charles Warren Stoddard, Edward Roland Sill, Ina Coolbrith, Jack London, Mark Twain, Charles Fletcher Lummis, and Edwin Markham are so honored as well as Dashiel Hammett, Gertrude Stein, and historians Will and Ariel Durant.
The first California Writers Club Conference was held in Oakland in 1941. Today, one-to-three day conferences are held by various Club branches around California. Each attracts from 100 to 400 writers and each conference hosts editors, authors and publishers from all over the United States presenting lectures, workshops, and panel discussions on all aspects of writing.