California Writers Club HISTORY


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.


In 2003, the California State Assembly officially declared the third week in October each year as California Writers Week.

We invite all authors and readers to celebrate with us. Check your local branch’s website in October for sponsored events

California Authors of Note

The following authors were selected for the California Writers Club Joint Legislative Resolution in 2003.

  • Gertrude Atherton (1857-1948)
  • Mary Austin (1868-1934)
  • Raymond Barrio (1921-1996)
  • Delilah L. Beasley (1872-1934)
  • Raymond Chandler (1888-1959)
  • Ina Coolbrith (1841-1928)
  • Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961)
  • Bret Harte (1836-1902)
  • Jack London (1876-1916)
  • Joaquin Miller (1837-1913)
  • William Saroyan (1908-1981)
  • John Steinbeck (1902-1968)
  • George Sterling (1869-1926)
  • Mark Twain (1835-1910)

The Story Behind California Writers Week

For several months in early 2003, with the expert help of Anthony Folcarelli, the Central Board of the California Writers Club worked to establish California Writers Week. The plan was successful and on September 4, 2003 at 10 a.m., California Writers Club members gathered on the Assembly floor in Sacramento to receive a Joint Legislative Resolution from Assemblyman Tim Leslie. The Resolution is endorsed by the California Library Association.

Our Day in Sacramento

Former CWC President Barbara Truax (holding resolution) with Assemblyman Tim Leslie and Anne Marie Gold, member of the executive board of the California Library Association and head of the Sacramento Library.

Central Board Representatives join Barbara on the Capitol Plaza for a photo op.


The whole gang joins Barb outside the capitol. Left to right: Dianne Levy, Marin branch president and CWC webmaster; Dave Sawle, Berkeley branch representative; Carol McConkie, Redwood branch president; Jeremiah O’Brien, Marin branch representative; Bill Baldwin, South Bay branch president and Central Board representative, CB Secretary; Amy Peele, Marin branch; Anthony Folcarelli, Sacramento branch and Special Consultant to the Central Board; Tom Adams, Sacramento branch representative and CB Vice President, Jackie Krug, Sacramento branch; Marilyn Smith Murphy, Sacramento branch. Front: Teresa LeYung Ryan, Peninsula branch; Beth Tigner, Sacramento branch; Shirley Adams, Sacramento branch; Barbara; Octavia Simien, Sacramento branch president.

Photographs by Dianne Levy and Don Truax.

Text of California Legislature Assembly Resolution

By the Honorable Tim Leslie, 4th Assembly District; the Honorable Joseph Canciamilla, 11th Assembly District; the Honorable Guy S. Houston, 15th Assembly District; the Honorable Bill Maze, 34th Assembly District; the Honorable Gene Mullin, 19th Assembly District; the Honorable Joe Nation, 6th Assembly District; the Honorable Patricia Wiggins, 7th Assembly District; the Honorable John L. Burton, President Pro Tempore of the Senate; the Honorable Nell Soto, 32nd Senatorial District; and the Honorable Jackie Speier, 8th Senatorial District; Relative to the


WHEREAS, The California Writers Club was founded in 1909, with Jack London, Ina Coolbrith, George Sterling and others as members; and

WHEREAS, California’s literary tradition dates back to the works of Mark Twain, Bret Harte, Mary Austin, Nobel prize and Pulitzer prize winner John Steinbeck, Delilah L. Beasley, Joaquin Miller, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Barrio, Gertrude Atherton, Raymond Chandler, Pulitzer prize winner William Saroyan and a great many others, and

WHEREAS, The California Writers Club honors all California writers, past and present, and continues to nurture the talents of new writers as well as established authors, and to provide a forum for the sharing of their writing experience, and

WHEREAS, The California Writers Club’s mission is to teach, mentor and encourage all writers for the good of our society; and

WHEREAS, California libraries are the forum where the writing of Californians is preserved and provided to the public, and

WHEREAS, the California Writers Club encourages all California libraries to showcase the works of California writers through displays, author programs and reading clubs; and

WHEREAS, The California Writers Club urges all educational institutions to place more emphasis on developing the writing and reading skills of everyone; and

WHEREAS, The California Writers Club is observing the third week in October as California Writers Week; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED BY ASSEMBLY MEMBERS TIM LESLIE, JOSEPH CANCIAMILLA, GUY S. HOUSTON, BILL MAZE, GENE MULLIN, JOE NATION, AND PATRICIA WIGGINS AND PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE OF THE SENATE JOHN L. BURTON AND SENATORS NELL SOTO AND JACKIE SPEIER, That they recognize the third week in October as California Writers Week, and encourage the people of the State of California to reflect upon the contributions that California writers have made to humankind.

Members Resolution No. 2170.     Dated this 4th day of September, 2003.

Honorable Tim Leslie, 4th Assembly District
Honorable Guy S. Houston, 15th Assembly District
Honorable John L Burton, President Pro Tempore of the Senate
Honorable Nell Soto, 32nd Senatorial District

Tim Leslie, District 4. Roseville
Guy Houston, District 15. Livermore

John Burton, District 3. San Francisco
Nell Soto, District 32. Ontario

Joe Canciamilla, District 11. Martinez
Bill Maze, District 34. Visalia
Gene Mullin, District 19. San Mateo
Joe Nation, District 6. San Rafael
Pat Wiggins, District 7. Santa Rosa

Jackie Speier, District 8. San Mateo

Here’s an excerpt from Oaklandish suggesting that Joaquin Miller was Oakland’s first hipster.

Joaquin Miller: Oakland’s First Hipster?

Over the past year, I’ve overheard Oakland natives complaining about the influx of hipsters moving to Oakland. However, this trend is as old as the city itself. Poseurs have been coming to the East Bay since the pioneer days. Today we honor one of these famous poseurs, Joaquin Miller, on his 175th birthday.

Although the West was won decades earlier, Joaquin Miller still chose to dress like a gun-toting, flamboyant cowboy. In this photo, he’s standing on a box of Winchester bullets, with a revolver and decorated rifle. To top if off, he’s in a leather fringe jacket and leather fringe pants.Joaquin Miller was known as the “Poet of the Sierras,” and lived in a white cottage he called “The Abbey” in the Oakland hills from 1886 to his death in 1913. He earned his fame as an eccentric poet who told tall tales, and as a fashion icon. His house and hillside monuments now make up Joaquin Miller Park. Looking closer at this early Oakland fashionista, let’s examine his portrait from the early 1900s.

More in Oaklandish.

Joaquin Miller Park


In 2010 the California Writers Club brought back its tradition of hosting a picnic at Joaquin Miller Park in Oakland.
Joaquin Miller Park.

CWC Collection
Bancroft Library

The California Writers Club archives its historic original papers at the Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, one of the largest and most heavily used libraries of manuscripts, rare books, and unique items in the United States.

The collection contains club correspondence, meeting minutes, photographs, scrapbooks, and clippings, and is stored part onsite, part offsite. Advance notice is required for use. The CWC marked its centennial by presenting a time capsule recording the changes unfolding in the world of publishing. It is scheduled to be opened in 2035 in commemoration of Mark Twain’s bicentennial.

Also included in the collection is material documenting the origins of Woodminster Amphitheatre and Writers Memorial Grove, an early CWC project in Joaquin Miller Park, Oakland, CA.

The Bancroft additionally maintains papers of early California writers associated with the CWC, among them Gertrude Atherton, Ina Coolbrith, and Jack London.

For information about accessing these resources, visit, email, or phone 510-642-6481.


by Joaquin Miller

Behind him lay the gray Azores,
Behind the Gates of Hercules;
Before him not the ghost of shores,
Before him only shoreless seas.
The good mate said: “Now must we pray,
For lo! the very stars are gone.
Brave Adm’r’l, speak; what shall I say?”
“Why, say: ‘Sail on! sail on! and on!’”

My men grow mutinous day by day;
My men grow ghastly wan and weak.”
The stout mate thought of home;
a spray Of salt wave washed his swarthy cheek.
“What shall I say, brave Adm’r’l say,
If we sight naught but seas at dawn?”
“Why you shall say, at break of day:
‘Sail on! sail on! and on!’”

They sailed and sailed, as winds might blow,
Until at last the blanched mate said:
“Why, now not even God would know
Should I and all my men fall dead.
These very winds forget their way,
For God from these dread seas is gone.
Now speak, brave Adm’r’l; speak and say”
He said: “Sail on! sail on!, and on!”

They sailed, they sailed, then spake the mate:
“This mad sea shows his teeth to-night;
He curls his lips, he lies in wait,
With lifted teeth, as if to bite:
Brave Adm’r’l, say but one good word;
What shall we do when hope is gone?”
The words leapt like a leaping sword:
“Sail on! sail on! sail on! and on!”

Then, pale and worn, he kept his deck,
And peered through darkness.
Ah, that night Of all dark nights!
And then a speck —
A light! a light! a light! a light!
It grew, a starlit flag unfurled!
It grew to be Time’s burst of dawn.
He gained a world; he gave that world
Its grandest lesson: “On! sail on.”