Debbie Croft: Author Marylin Hayes-Martin, Sonora Writers Group and Tuolumne Writers Retreat

08/26/2014 11:38 AM

08/26/2014 11:39 AM

A weekend of literary performances, writers’ workshops and more are scheduled for next month.

The annual Tuolumne Writers Retreat will be held Sept. 26-28. At the event, participants will also enjoy an evening of open mic prose and poetry. In addition, book signings, Gold Rush history, local entertainment and appetizing meals await writers – all in beautiful Columbia State Historic Park.

The deadline for early registration is Sept. 12. Registrations will be accepted through Sept. 22. Festivities on Saturday evening are open to the public.

Contact www.sonorawriters.org for class descriptions, retreat schedule and registration info, or contact Blanche Abrams at (209) 288-4950 or blanche@sonorawriters.org.

The retreat is sponsored by Sonora Writers Group, which meets the second Saturday of every month. For details, call Jill Klajic-Ryan at (209) 743-8097.

After watching Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Lalita Tademy, the author of “Cane River,” in 2001, Marylin Hayes-Martin read the book and realized she too had a story to tell. Around the same time her sister, author Jill Klajic-Ryan, moved to Sonora from Los Angeles. Hayes-Martin suggested they start a writers group.

Nine years ago Hayes-Martin made her first attempt at writing. Her historic novel “Common Thread, Uncommon Women” was published last year. “I gleaned from Sonora’s best writers,” she said.

The historical family saga spans four generations of her family, from the Civil War to World War II. “I started working my book’s ending first, because that’s where my memories are,” she said. “Then I worked my way back.”

Hayes-Martin and her ancestors are Cherokee. “They survived some of America’s most difficult times,” she said.

She believes that because of their heritage, courage and strength, they were able to cope with unbelievable hardships and still find joy.

The story begins with her great-grandmother Minerva Cooper. In a cabin in White County, Ark., her husband left Cooper alone with two young children, to fight in the Civil War. The nearest neighbor lived 2 miles away. At night she would burn tree limbs in the doorway to scare the wolves when they came prowling.

Before Hayes-Martin was born, her parents left Arkansas in 1930 and moved to Arizona to pick cotton. While her mom was pregnant with her, the house they lived in blew up due to a stove fire. The family lived under a tree for six months.

“My uncle brought my mom back to Arkansas, so she wouldn’t have to give birth under a tree,” she said.

Hayes-Martin was almost 11 years old when her family left Arkansas again and moved to Turlock. She has lived in Tuolumne County for 14 years.

After attending writers group meetings, she began working on the memoir. During three trips to Arkansas, she interviewed elderly relatives and visited the familiar places of her childhood.

Editor Blanche Abrams marked her manuscripts with lots of red, and always sent her home to rewrite. “But she brought my book to life,” Martin said.

She also credits Bill Manville of the New York Daily News. After taking a few of his writing classes, she got so discouraged she stopped attending. Two years later, she went back with her rewritten story in hand. He was thrilled with her progress.

Of the 67 manuscripts her publisher sent to Kirkus for review, hers received the most praise: “An absorbing, warmly written historical tale.” Her writing style has been compared to John Steinbeck and Jeannette Walls.

Hayes-Martin presented her novel to the local Cherokee band a few weeks ago. “It was very well received,” she says.

They connected her to other bands in the state.

She sent a copy to former President Bill Clinton’s foundation in Little Rock, Ark., where he grew up. She also sent a copy to Oprah Winfrey. The book is available at www.amazon.com.

The author gave me a copy and at the time of writing this column, I’ve read the first three chapters. “Common Thread, Uncommon Women” is hard to put down – a gripping story well crafted.

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