By Kathryn Lang-Slattery
Three women authors will share their stories of the writing life at the American Association of University Women’s (AAUW) 32nd Annual Literary Luncheon to be held at the Surf and Sand Resort on March 16. This year the speakers will be best-selling author of “White Oleander,” Janet Fitch; novelist Sejal Badani; and Anita Hughes, a local author of women’s romantic fiction.
Originally from Australia, Dana Point resident Anita Hughes, won her first writing prize from a local Sydney periodical at the age of eight. “That was like turning on the tap,” she said. “I began submitting stories to Seventeen Magazine and haven’t stopped writing since.” Hughes writes an average of two books a year, and recently has added publication of a Christmas Holiday novel to her writing agenda. Her novels deal with women’s issues such as friendship, mother-daughter relations, finding meaning, and always romance. She usually begins with a location that appeals to her (her most recent book is set in Montecito) and a story idea that grows as the writing progresses.
Women’s issues are also important in the fiction of Sejal Badani, an attorney who left the law to pursue writing full time. Her first novel, “Trail of Broken Wings,” a tale of domestic violence, jumped to immediate success on the Amazon bestseller list. Her 2018 book, “The Storyteller’s Secret,” recounts two intertwined stories, a modern woman’s search for answers and her grandmother’s search for fulfillment in WWII India. Badani, like Hughes, knew at a young age she was going to be a writer. At the age of six, after reading a book by Judy Blume, she shared her dream with her sister. “I had a difficult childhood,” Badani confided. “Reading and writing were my escape…[studying] the law was empowering…and it made me a better writer.” Badani is currently working on two projects, a YA novel under the pseudonym Sage Sask, “The Circle: Taken,” written in conjunction with her three teenage children, and a literary novel, “The Last Dream,” that tells a universal story of friendship, love and finding ourselves when faced with hardship and loss.
We are proud to offer as our third luncheon author, Jane Fitch, whose first novel, “White Oleander,” was a bestseller, an Oprah Book Club selection, and the basis of a movie starring Michelle Pfeiffer. Besides essays, short stories, and another novel, “Paint It Black,” Fitch has spent the last 10 years working on her recently released epic, “The Revolution of Marina M.” Like many of Fitch’s characters, Marina M. uses art, in her case poetry, to express difficult feelings. “I originally wrote the first 13 chapters of the novel in verse,” Fitch says. She switched to prose when she felt she needed the full palette of writer’s skills to convey details, but when she faced difficult themes, Fitch switched back into verse where “a single line can be like one brush stroke.” A voracious reader, she averages two books a week and endeavors to read only books that energize her to write. In the same vein, she does all her own research. “It’s not what you’re looking for, it’s about what you find,” Fitch said. “Research isn’t just about looking for facts, it’s also to stay immersed in that world [of the time and place of the novel].”
Always interested in what other writers are reading, I asked all three of these ladies to share a favorite book or two. Fitch expressed her love of James Baldwin and mentioned two of her more recent reads, the powerful novel, “Ava,” by Carol Maso, and “Death and other Holidays,” by Marci Vogel. Hughes told me she is especially fond of Somerset Maughan, though her current favorite novel, “Life after Life,” was written by another English author, Kate Atkinson. Badani recently enjoyed reading “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah, but she says the one book she thinks all writers should have on their bookshelf is “On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King.
The varied works of these three authors and their takes on the struggles and rewards of the writing life should make the AAUW Literary Luncheon and fundraiser this coming March 16 an event worth attending. AAUW’s mission is to advance equity for women and girls through advocacy, education and research. Money raised at the luncheon supports scholarships to Laguna Beach High School graduating seniors, middle school girls attending a summer science camp, and returning women students at Saddleback College, Orange Coast College, Laguna College of Art + Design and UCI.
The Surf & Sand Resort is located at 1555 South Coast Highway in Laguna Beach. Doors open at 11 a.m. for a no-host bar, a silent auction, opportunity drawings, book sales and to meet the authors. The luncheon and program run from 11:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $100. For more information, contact [email protected], 949-494-5789, or go to aauw2-lagunabeach.org