Two successful authors and Central
Valley natives want Merced to realize that this area is fascinating
enough to explore.
possible to develop a writing career here, and the Valley presents a
cornucopia of unique subjects -- from farming and ethnic diversity to
isolation and methamphetamine production, says Patricia Wakida, 37, a
Fresno writer now based in Oakland.
She will join colleague Mas
Masumoto of Del Rey, who mixes his interests in organic farming and
writing, for a presentation open to the public at 7 p.m. Thursday at
the Merced Mulitcultural Arts Center.
This free event is meant to
be a conversation, not merely a one-sided lecture, said Masumoto, 53.
Audience members should feel free to ask questions and contribute their
Both writers have deep roots in the Valley and the
Japanese-American community, which have profoundly influenced their
work. Although they plan to speak about their heritage, a focus of the
presentation is to let potential authors know that they can find
creative options right here at home. "People have a really low value of
where they live, and that comes at a great expense," Wakida said. "They
say, 'There's nothing here.' But there are plenty of things I grew up
Her impression of the Valley's smells, faces, air and
horizon inspired her writing. As a yonsei, or fourth- generation
Japanese-American, she takes much from her family's heritage in
Hiroshima and her grandparents' time in internment camps during World
Most of her work is nonfiction. Some of her books include
"Only What We Could Carry: The Japanese American Internment Experience"
and "Highway 99: A Literary Journey Through California's Central
Valley." She also worked as development director for the nonprofit
publisher Heyday Books in the Bay Area.
It was important to bring
in writers for this event who were both nationally known and locally
rooted, said Jared Stanley, a lecturer for the UC Merced Writing
Program, which invited Wakida and Masumoto to appear. Their talk is
part of the university's reading series that started on campus last
"We decided to bring some readings to the larger
community," Stanley said. "Get them thinking about how to bring a
different perspective on writing to Merced."
who are interested in the story of the Valley and its changes will
attend, Masumoto said. He wants to share an insider's perspective on
writing, which not only includes how a writer works, but why and how.
third-generation Japanese-American, or sansei, was also influenced by
his family's heritage. "I weave it all into my writing," he said. "It's
like baggage a writer carries with them. It's like having a ghost --
sometimes a friendly one."
Food is also a large part of his
work. Besides being a nonfiction creative writer, Masumoto also works
as a peach and grape farmer. He combines both his interests by writing
pieces about growing food, and mixes in the topics of family, unity and
He is a columnist for the Fresno Bee, has written for
USA Today and the Los Angeles Times and published such books as
"Country Voices" and "The Oral History of a Japanese American Family
Farm Community." His essay, "Epitaph for a Peach," won the 1995 Julia
Child Cookbook Award in the Literary Food Writing category.
His newest book is titled "Heirlooms," which he will be signing on Thursday.
is currently working on a biography of San Francisco's City Lights
Books co-owner Shigeyoshi Murao. Not only is she excited about sharing
her work with Merced, but looks forward to collaborating on Thursday's
presentation with Masumoto. "He and I have similarity," she said.
And she hopes anyone who attends their talk realizes their own similarities with respected Valley authors.