Thursday, June 21 , 2018, 5:12 pm | Fair 66º

 
 
 
 

CALM Helps Celebrity Authors Feel Write at Home at Annual Luncheon

Guests of honor at Saturday's fundraiser include Sue Grafton and Jean-Michel Cousteau, plus a few local writers

What’s a big-time author like Sue Grafton doing hanging out in the hallway outside the Grand Ballroom of Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort in Santa Barbara? The same thing environmentalist Jean-Michel Cousteau was doing, along with life coach Jack Canfield and award-winning writers Susan Straight and Jane Hamilton — raising funds for one of the community’s favorite nonprofits, Child Abuse Listening and Mediation.

“I love this organization. I truly do,” said Grafton, whose stories feature an alternate-world version of Santa Barbara.

Grafton, Cousteau, Canfield, Straight and Hamilton were this year’s guests of honor at CALM’s Celebrity Authors’ Luncheon, and they were hard at work Saturday signing copies and talking with the hundreds of appreciative fans who showed up at the fundraiser.

But they weren’t the only writers at the event. Guest authors, including locals Brooks Firestone, Maria Chesley Fisk and Starshine Roshell, were also on hand to sell and sign their works.

The event, one of a kind for Santa Barbara, drew about 600 guests and supporters, with its luncheon and interview session, where the authors — about 19 in all — talked about their work and things related to their writing.

“It’s like you’re jumping on a fast-moving train,” emcee Andrew Firestone said of the energy of the event.

For all the festiveness, however, the people attending were there to support a serious cause.

“We’re an organization whose sole purpose and mission is the assessment, prevention and treatment of child abuse,” CALM Executive Director Cecilia Rodriguez said.

She said there are about 5,000 reports of suspected child abuse made in Santa Barbara County every year. But while not all of the reports can be confirmed as child abuse, she said, they are only the incidents that are heard about. Many others go unreported.

Definitions of child abuse have grown to include incidents in which the child is exposed to violence, even though it is not directed at the child, and is not physical.

“That can hurt and traumatize a child more than physical abuse,” said Rodriguez, explaining that taking away a child’s sense of security can lead to long-term damage.

CALM started 40 years ago, founded by nurse Clair Miles in response to the death of a baby by his father who was under extreme stress. Twelve years later, it merged with another nonprofit agency that offered complementary outreach services. Today’s CALM reaches both children and their parents, and covers child sexual abuse/incest and early intervention for stressed families. Rodriguez said the number of parents coming to CALM has grown since the recent economic downturn.

Richard and Maryan Schall were honored with the Claire Miles Award at Saturday’s event.

Twenty-five years ago, two women from the CALM Auxiliary, Sharon Bifano and Stephanie Ortale, decided to put together a literary event to raise money for the organization.

“We had about a third of the ballroom; now we have the whole thing, ” Ortale said. Back then, there were 150 guests and it brought in about $200. The 25 years of the Celebrity Authors’ Luncheon was the subject of a short slide show during the meal, and the photos reflected the event’s growth.

Noozhawk contributing writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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