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  • Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine

Writers’ Salon Features Local Authors

by Kathleen Reynolds

Every quarter, for a nominal fee, the public is invited to attend a Writers’ Salon to meet and mix with local authors, listen to them read from their work and afterwards mingle over wine and light bites. The setting is the historic stone building that houses the colorful and eclectic Jessel Art Gallery on Atlas Peak Road.

“Jessel Miller graciously offered her gallery for the launch of my first novel, which was a lot of fun and well attended,” says Sasha Paulsen, writer of two novels, wine books and the former Napa Register’s Features Editor for almost 25 years. “People loved the beautiful setting. When my second novel came out, Jessel again said she’d like to host. I suggested that it would be great to invite several other authors. Five authors came and the turnout was phenomenal.”

“We realized it was something people wanted, and we decided to make it a regular event. Napa author Lenore Hirsch is known as someone who gets things done and she stepped in to organize. With author Paul Franson, we brainstormed the names of other writers we could invite.”

The first salon was October of 2022, followed by salons in February, May and July of 2023. The next scheduled event is October 7 starting at 5:00 pm. For $10 (children are free) to cover the cost of set up, staffing and refreshments, attendees meet the authors, listen to them discuss and read excerpts from their books, ask questions and enjoy wine and snacks while having their books autographed.

The origins of a “salon” date to the royally sanctioned Paris Salon, the official art exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts beginning in 1667. Exhibition at the Salon de Paris was not only a mark of royal favor but was essential for any artist to achieve success in France. The French word for “living room” is also salon, which inspired a different style of gatherings in Paris in the 19th century, when hostesses competed to bring storytellers to their homes to inspire intellectual and social life.

Authors who have read at Napa’s Writers’ Salon include Linda Sheehan, Marianne Lyon, Henry Michalski, Rob Bundschu, Michael Waterson, Barbara Toboni, Jessel Miller, Sasha Paulsen, Lenore Hirsch, Paul Franson, Amber Starfire, Paul Wagner, Aletheia Morden, Rebecca Levy-Gantt and Rebecca Lawton.

“It’s a fun and interesting evening,” says Sasha. “Authors could spend a lot of money on fancy marketing for their books, but I think that books sell by word of mouth.”

“The audience is made of folks who’ve already read the book, people discovering new authors and those who may want to write a book of their own. Unpublished authors can get inspired hearing how others find time to write, their writing habits and other practical ideas.”

“Lots of people feel like they have a book inside their head, but the publishing scene is not interested in opening doors for new writers. Editors want a sure thing, like a book by Prince Harry. Some writers struggle for years to find an agent and publisher. They learn they can write their book, self-publish and put it out there.”

Sasha continues, “For those who are seasoned writers, attending these events is an opportunity to step out and connect with other writers. Writing is a solitary activity. Here you can meet those who read and love books. I always learn something or say, ‘Wow; I didn’t know this person was in Napa Valley.’ Everybody has a different story.”

Lenore Hirsch is a retired educator, novelist and the founding president of the Napa Valley Writers, a branch of the California Writers Club.

“The Writers’ Salon inspires new writers. It connects them with other people or perhaps into a critique group. The primary goal is to never give up; keep writing. They hear from authors what went wrong in a work and how they fixed it, their writing practice or an idea for a book. It attracts readers, too, who are interested in meeting real authors.”

“The salons have been lovely with time before and afterwards to talk to the authors and get their books signed. Jessel takes the readers’ books on consignment and creates a space for them.”

Sasha agrees and says, “Jessel is supportive of artists and has been generous to share her space with other artists, including writers. She has an idea a minute and is so talented herself. She creates a world where everyone is welcome. To rent space for the Writers’ Salon would have been impossible.”

Jessel Miller herself has written and illustrated six books and is working on a novel.

“The written word is art; the same with music,” says Jessel. “I loved hosting the signing and reading of Sasha’s books and wondered why we weren’t sharing this with the community? We only have so much time in life to do what needs to be done. They design the programs and get the writers; I supply the space.”

“People are hungry for this,” she continues. “It’s so cool to watch everyone in the room sitting and listening. We’ve had 70 attendees at times. Where otherwise would writers have a major stage? We do whatever we can do to enhance the art.”

What do the creators want people to know about the Writers’ Salon?

“It’s not just the literary crowd,” says Lenore. “It’s for everyone with an open mind to new stories and new people. It’s a magical place; we’re not a stuck up or snobby crowd; we welcome everyone.”

For more information or to RSVP | 707.257.2350



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