I met CW Spooner at my bi-monthly critique group. My first inkling regarding this man’s writing prowess was his comments about submittals. They were–and are–cogent, pithy, and spot-on. It was another group member who told me he’d published a book so I invited him to share.
Chuck was born and raised in Vallejo, California. He is the author of ’68 and a collection of short stories called Children of Vallejo. His writing has appeared in Spitball – The Literary Magazine of Baseball, and The Storyteller. His poems, memoirs, short stories, and book reviews appear regularly in the Monday Update, a weekly newsletter. After a forty-year career in information technology, he retired to Orange County to pursue his passions for golf, jazz, homegrown tomatoes, and grandchildren (not necessarily in that order).
Vallejo’s loss is my gain. I’ve had the great joy of working with Chuck on our mutual love of writing. If you read his blog, you’ll get a good sense of the friendly, approachable style that marks his stories in “Children of Vallejo“.
When did you begin writing ‘Children of Vallejo’ and what got you started?
I wrote the first story, “The Good Sailor,” in 2003. Earlier that year, I had confided to my best friend that I’d always wanted to be a writer. The reply was, “So what’s stopping you?” I realized I had no answer for that question, and so I sat down at the keyboard and began.
What is ‘Children of Vallejo’ about?
The stories are about growing up in my hometown, Vallejo, California. They begin around 1946 and extend through the mid-seventies. Vallejo was the home of Mare Island Naval Shipyard—the city founded in 1850, the shipyard in 1854—and like many Navy towns, it has a colorful history. I like to say that Vallejo is a good place to be from.
There are thirty-seven stories in your collection. Do you have some favorites?
That’s like picking favorites from among my five children, but here goes: “The Good Sailor,” because it reminds me of my dad; “Celebration,” because it’s about my brother; “Party Crashers” was the first accepted for publication; two baseball stories, “High and Tight” and “Game Over,” were also accepted for publication; and “Cody’s War” received strong reviews from people I respect. What I enjoy most is that each reader seems to find his or her own favorites.
What is your marketing plan?
I’ve never had one. Many of these stories were published in the Monday Update, a weekly newsletter that is distributed electronically to about 1,400 readers. The subscribers are graduates of the high schools in the Vallejo area. It is a natural community of interest, and many MU readers bought the book when it was published in 2012. So, Jacqui, your generous hosting will be my first venture outside of the Vallejo sphere of interest.
You have also published a novel titled ’68. What is that about?
I’ve always been fascinated with the many earth-shaking events that took place in 1968—the Tet Offensive, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, riots at the Democratic National Convention, the seizing of the USS Pueblo by North Korea, and on and on. My novel tracks several families as they live—and hopefully grow—through that chaotic year.
Your blog is titled “The Rejected Writer’s Journal.” Why did you choose that title?
Initially, it was tongue-in-cheek. I knew that when I started submitting stories to prospective publishers, I would receive a pile of rejection notices, and I figured that would be my validation as a writer. The very first rejection I received was from The Storyteller, a quarterly publication based in Arkansas. It was written by the editor and encouraged me to keep trying. I was thrilled! My wife actually framed it for me. Later, The Storyteller published “Party Crashers,” one of my favorite stories.
Tell me about your writing space.
I am a minimalist and my writing space reflects that. No mess, no clutter. Just my laptop and two cups to hold tools, one labelled “Oy Vey!” and one labelled “Chutzpah.” They remind me, respectively, of impending deadlines and to always be bold.
More inspiring authors:
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of dozens of books on integrating tech into education, webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, adjunct professor of technology in education, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.