The California Writers Club dates back to the turn of the last century literary movement in the San Francisco Bay Area.
In the early 1900s writers including Jack London, poet George Sterling and short story writer Herman Whitaker gathered informally at the Coppa Club in the old Montgomery block in San Francisco.
From these gatherings came the formation of the Press Club of Alameda and a faction split off to form the California Writers Club. Austin Lewis, an English civil libertarian, was the first president in 1909.
The club incorporated in 1913 and chose the motto, “Sail On!” from Joaquin Miller’s poem, “Columbus” (see below). The California Writers Club logo was designed by Perham Nahl at the time of incorporation. (Nahl, a noted American visual artist, also designed the award-winning Hercules poster for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.) The CWC original wood cut is kept by the Secretary of the California Writers Club.
By 1915, the membership had grown and, along with London, Sterling and Whitaker, honorary members included Ina Coolbrith, Charles Lummis, Edwin Markham, WC Morrow, John Muir, Joaquin Miller and Charles Keeler.
Today, California Writers Club has about 1,800 members in 22 branches all around California.
Marin branch was chartered with CWC in 1999 and has been meeting at Book Passage in Corte Madera ever since.
Visit the California Writers Club website: CalWriters.org
Columbus by Joaquin Miller
“Sail on!,” the motto of the California Writers Club, derived from the poem by the nineteenth century California author Joaquin Miller
Behind him lay the gray Azores,
Behind the Gates of Hercules;
Before him not the ghost of shores,
Before him only shoreless seas.
The good mate said: “Now must we pray,
For lo! the very stars are gone.
Brave Adm’r’l, speak; what shall I say?”
“Why, say: ‘Sail on! sail on! and on!'”
My men grow mutinous day by day;
My men grow ghastly wan and weak.”
The stout mate thought of home;
a spray Of salt wave washed his swarthy cheek.
“What shall I say, brave Adm’r’l say,
If we sight naught but seas at dawn?”
“Why you shall say, at break of day:
‘Sail on! sail on! and on!'”
They sailed and sailed, as winds might blow,
Until at last the blanched mate said:
“Why, now not even God would know
Should I and all my men fall dead.
These very winds forget their way,
For God from these dread seas is gone.
Now speak, brave Adm’r’l; speak and say”
He said: “Sail on! sail on!, and on!”
They sailed, they sailed, then spake the mate:
“This mad sea shows his teeth to-night;
He curls his lips, he lies in wait,
With lifted teeth, as if to bite:
Brave Adm’r’l, say but one good word;
What shall we do when hope is gone?”
The words leapt like a leaping sword:
“Sail on! sail on! sail on! and on!”
Then pale and worn, he kept his deck,
And peered through darkness.
Ah, that night Of all dark nights!
And then a speck —
A light! a light! a light! a light!
It grew, a starlit flag unfurled!
It grew to be Time’s burst of dawn.
He gained a world; he gave that world
Its grandest lesson: “On! sail on.”