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Writers Share the Stories Behind Their Books at CALM’s Celebrity Authors Luncheon

Event draws hundreds of supporters and raises more than $100,000 in support of the nonprofit dedicated to preventing and treating child abuse

Special guest interviewer Hank Phillippi Ryan, left, and celebrity authors Francis Schultz, Gregg Hurwitz and Meg Waite Clayton were center stage at the CALM Auxiliary’s 30th annual Celebrity Authors Luncheon at The Fess Parker in Santa Barbara.
Special guest interviewer Hank Phillippi Ryan, left, and celebrity authors Francis Schultz, Gregg Hurwitz and Meg Waite Clayton were center stage at the CALM Auxiliary’s 30th annual Celebrity Authors Luncheon at The Fess Parker in Santa Barbara. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

The halls of the east wing of The Fess Parker Resort quickly filled with more than 500 supporters during the CALM Auxiliary's 30th annual Celebrity Authors Luncheon benefiting the nonprofit Child Abuse Listening Mediation (CALM).

Based in Santa Barbara, the agency focuses solely on preventing, assessing and treating child abuse and family violence.

The popular event raised more than $100,000 in support of the organization, and provided an opportunity for guests to mingle with an impressive array of local and national authors.

“It was an honor seeing the entire community come together in support of CALM's vision to create a world where child abuse no longer exists,” said Alana Walczak, CALM's new CEO.

“In particular, I was inspired by the passionate work of the CALM Auxiliary, a group of 50 compassionate and intelligent women who managed all aspects of the event — in 2016, but also for the past 30 years. What an accomplishment!”

Celebrity author Gregg Hurwitz took a break from signing autographs for a line of adoring fans who patiently waited while holding his latest novel, Orphan X, to share with Noozhawk the inspiration behind his successful writing career.

“Writing was the only thing that I ever wanted to do, and I wasn’t allowed to watch much television as a child so all that I could do was read,” he said. “I was reading 10 to 15 books a week growing up.”

Hurwitz explained that his parents allowed him to occasionally watch sports and Alfred Hitchcock films, which he proudly divulged “represents 90 percent of my personality.” He wrote his first mystery when he was in the fourth grade, illustrated in crayon.

The dedication to his craft paid off. Fast forward decades later, and Hurwitz is a major force in the mystery crime-thriller genre. He’s now a New York Times bestselling author of 15 thrillers, with the film rights to Orphan X recently picked up by Warner Brothers Studios, which hopes to cast producer Bradley Cooper as the main character, Evan Smoak. Hurwitz will pen the adaptation.

Evan Smoak is an orphan turned trained assassin for a government black-ops program, with a dash of humanity, who evolves into modern-day super hero and carries out pro-bono assassinations for people whose lives are at-risk and desperate for help.

“Evan fights to save ordinary lives using his own moral compass that he learned from his mentor, Jack, who trained him,” Hurwitz said. “He’s a combination of my entire career in a lot of ways. I wrote a lot of standalone novels because it takes a lot of time to find a character that you want to live with. In Evan, I found someone unique that I was so engaged with that I thought I could spend more time with him than I do with my family, or with anyone else, because that’s what winds up being the norm when you’re a writer.”

CALM Celebrity Authors Luncheon founding co-chair Sharon Bifano, left, Eve Bernstein and Susan Miles Gulbransen.Francis Schultz, former on-air host of Southern Living Presents and an esteemed journalist who has written for the Wall Street Journal, Town & Country and The New York Social Diary, combined her talents and sublime interest in art, decorating and fashion into a tastefully crafted memoir infused with a highly compelling personal life story.

Inspired by Francis’ House of Beautiful Column, The Bee Cottage Story: How I Made a Muddle of Things and Decorated My Way Back to Happiness, now in its sixth printing, offers a fresh approach to other interior design books.

The author decides to purchase, refurbish and decorate a run-down East Hampton cottage where at the time she thought would be a perfect place to begin her second marriage — a dream that ended abruptly in a broken engagement.

Picking up the pieces, Schultz tapped into what she learned from the experience and her life in general. Working through the pain, she embarked on a spiritual journey of personal exploration, design, renovation and decorating that is all reflected in the colorful pages of the memoir.

“It’s kind of scary and embarrassing to put yourself out there and it’s not all pretty, but all of our lives are messy in places and we are not proud of everything that we’ve done in places and times in our lives,” Schultz said in a smooth North Carolina drawl. “And so, I think that people somehow like to hear that and how other people like myself get through it on a wing and a prayer, and a laugh or two. That laughter part is very important.”

Schultz went on to further explain the unique connections represented within her experiences.

“There is a powerful connection between the house and the heart,” she said. “A house is a reflection of who lives there. It’s an open book in some ways. You immediately know who they are and what their priorities are, and what they care about and don’t care about. It’s interesting and fun. Don’t you think?”

CALM CEO Alana Walczak and Board Trustee Ed McKinley.Bestselling author of The Wednesday Sisters, Meg Waite Clayton, takes readers on a courageous and historic journey in her new novel, The Race for Paris, a story of two ambitious female reporters thrust into the turbulent and dangerous forefront of World War II. Journalist Jane Tyler and photographer Olivia “Liv” Harper are determined to become the first female American war correspondents to cover the allies liberation of Paris from the Nazis during WWII, following D-Day.

Although the novel is fiction, Clayton gives readers a detailed, historic glimpse into what life was like for female war correspondents who faced sexism and prejudice from male colleagues on the front lines. Yet, they remained motivated to derail the influx of bureaucratic and gender barriers inflicted upon women in their quest to document history in the midst of wartime.

Clayton, a history and psychology major and former lawyer, said various female journalists who served in the military during that era, including Margaret Bourke-White, inspired the novel. Bourke-White was the first female war correspondent allowed to work in the combat zones during World War II, whom she described as “a pioneering woman of journalism.”

“The reasons beyond these female characters going to war very much draws from all sorts of personal histories,” Clayton said. “I’ve read Martha Ellis Gellhorn’s letters, Margaret Bourke-White’s autobiography. And, I was also able to find some of Lee Miller’s articles before they were edited by her publishers and published. She was one of the real-life inspirations behind the story.”

Clayton went on to say that the female journalists covering war zones at the time were unknown heroes who risked their lives everyday doing what they loved, with some of them killed in action.

“These were courageous and really extraordinary people, and I think that they have largely been forgotten,” Clayton said. “Part of what I hope my novel will do is remind people that they were there, and that women as much as men did an extraordinary job not only in that war but all wars.”

Since 1986, CALM Auxiliary women board members have collectively raised more than $1 million to help children and families across Santa Barbara County recover from the impact of the emotional and physical devastation caused by abuse.

Founded in 1970, CALM is the only nonprofit agency in the county focused solely on preventing and treating child abuse and family violence through comprehensive cutting-edge programs.

Upcoming CALM events include an “I Will Not Be Silent” open house in Santa Barbara this Wednesday, April 13. “I Will Not Be Silent” is a public awareness campaign to draw attention to the fight against child abuse.

On April 28, the annual dinner Ladies Get Loud for CALM will be held in Santa Maria.

Walczak summed up the need for events such as these and the efforts of CALM.

“There are too many children in Santa Barbara County that don't have the safety, security and support they need to live a healthy life,” Walczak said. “CALM has the resources and expertise to make a profound impact, and our goal is to be able to serve many more children and families in the coming years.”

Click here for more information about CALM, or call 805.965.2376. Click here to make an online donation.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

More than 500 guests came out to support CALM at the 30th annual Celebrity Authors Luncheon.
More than 500 guests came out to support CALM at the 30th annual Celebrity Authors Luncheon. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

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