Meet the AAUW Laguna Beach Luncheon Authors
by Kathryn Lang-Slattery

   Three women authors will share their stories of the writing life.  This year the speakers will be best-selling author of White Oleander, Janet Fitch, novelist Sejal Badani, and Anita Hughes, a local author of women’s romantic fiction.


    Women’s issues are also important in the fiction of Sejal Badani, an attorney who left the law to pursue writing full time. Her first novel, Trail of Broken Wings, a tale of domestic violence, jumped to immediate success on the Amazon Bestseller list.  Her 2018 book, The Storyteller’s Secret, recounts two intertwined stories, a modern woman’s search for answers and her grandmother’s search for fulfillment in WWII India. Sejal, like Anita Hughes, knew at a young age she was going to be a writer.  At the age of six, after reading a book by Judy Blume, she shared her dream with her sister. “I had a difficult childhood,” Sejal confided. “Reading and writing were my escape. .  . [studying] the law was empowering.  .   . and it made me a better writer.” Badani is currently working on two projects, a YA novel under the pseudonym Sage Sask, The Circle: Taken, written in conjunction with her three teenage children, and a literary novel, The Last Dream, that tells a universal story of friendship, love and finding ourselves when faced with hardship and loss.


   We are proud to have Janet Fitch, whose first novel, White Oleander, was a best seller, an Oprah Book Club selection, and the basis of a movie starring Michelle Pfeiffer. Besides essays, short stories, and another novel, Paint It Black, Janet has spent the last ten years working on her recently released epic, The Revolution of Marina M.  Like many of Fitch’s characters, Marina M. uses art, in her case poetry, to express difficult feelings.  “I originally wrote the first thirteen chapters of the novel in verse,” Fitch says. She switched to prose when she felt she needed the full palette of writer’s skills to convey details, but when she faced difficult themes, Janet switched back into verse where “a single line can be like one brush stroke.” A voracious reader, she averages two books a week and endeavors to read only books that energize her to write. In the same vein, she does all her own research. “It’s not what you’re looking for, it’s about what you find,” Janet says. “Research isn’t just about looking for facts, it’s also to stay immersed in that world” [of the time and place of the novel]. 


   Originally from Australia, Dana Point resident Anita Hughes, won her first writing prize from a local Sydney periodical at the age of eight.  “That was like turning on the tap,” she says. “I began submitting stories to Seventeen Magazine and haven’t stopped writing since.”  Anita writes an average of two books a year, and recently has added publication of a Christmas Holiday novel to her writing agenda. Her novels deal with women’s issues such as friendship, mother daughter relations, finding meaning, and always romance. She usually begins with a location that appeals to her (her most recent book is set in Montecito) and a story idea that grows as the writing progresses.  

   Always interested in what other writers are reading, I asked all three of these ladies to share a favorite book or two.  Janet Fitch expressed her love of James Baldwin and mentioned two of her more recent reads, the powerful novel, Ava, by Carol Maso, and Death and Other Holidays, by Marci Vogel.  Anita Hughes told me she is especially fond of Somerset Maughan, though her current favorite novel, Life after Life, was written by another English author, Kate Atkinson. Sejal Badani recently enjoyed reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, but she says the one book she thinks all writers should have on their bookshelf is On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King.

   The varied works of these three authors and their takes on the struggles and rewards of the writing life should make the AAUW Laguna Beach Literary Luncheon and fundraiser on March 16 an event well worth attending.