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SOL literary readings present Sharon Conklin and Sandra Gulland

By Deborah Kent Stein

On Thursday, February 21, the Sol Literary Series will present readings by two outstanding San Miguel writers, Sharon Conklin and Sandra Gulland. The readings will take place at the Café Santa Ana in La Biblioteca at 4:30pm. Both writers are longtime San Miguel residents and are active members of the town’s literary community.

SOL Literary Series
Thu, Feb 21, 4:30-5:30pm
Cafe Santa Ana
La Biblioteca
Reloj 50A
80 pesos

While very different in subject matter and focus, Conklin and Gulland share a fascination with worlds beyond their personal experience. Conklin evokes the struggles of a Mexican boy who fights his way out of poverty, while Gulland carries her readers back to the glittering courts of Napoleon Bonaparte and Louis XIV.

Conklin comes to writing from a blend of careers. She is a photographer and has worked in the world of weaving and textiles. She is intrigued by the ways textiles reflect the cultures in which they are created; she wrote her master’s thesis on Bakuba cloth in Zaire. When she moved to San Miguel in 1991, she immersed herself in Mexican culture. She photographed the people and landscape as a way to understand “the depths and intricacies” of the country where she was living.

Back in her college days, Conklin was traumatized by the scathing criticism of a writing professor who gave her D’s and F’s on compositions. Thanks to healing through a series of writers’ workshops, she describes herself today as “a recovering word-a-phobic.” “Working in writing groups in San Miguel has been extremely helpful,” she says. “It keeps me going.” For Conklin, writing and photography work hand-in-hand. “I write because I photograph,” she says.

Conklin will read from her novel in progress. The work draws upon stories of growing up in Mexico, most gathered from her Mexican husband and from a close family friend. An excerpt, The Crossing, appeared in the March 2012 issue of Sol Literary Magazine.

Gulland grew up in Berkeley, California, and emigrated to Canada in 1969. In 1972, while working as an editor with the Canadian publisher Methuen, she happened to read a biography of Empress Josephine. “What a life!” she exclaims. “One of the things that amazed me was that when she was a teen, it was predicted that she would be married, then widowed, and then become ‘more than a queen.’ This prediction is documented.” The more she read, the more fascinated Gulland became. Once she determined to write a historical novel based on Josephine’s life, she embarked upon two decades of meticulous research. She even learned French so she could read primary source material and discuss Josephine and her times with French historians.

Gulland’s first novel, The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine Bonaparte, was published in 1995. It was followed by Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe (1998) and The Last Great Dance on Earth (2000), completing a Josephine trilogy,

In the course of her research on Josephine, Gulland read about Louise de la Vallières, mistress to King Louis XIV. Once again, she became enthralled with a fiery, passionate woman of a historic era. Her fourth novel, Mistress of the Sun, was published in 2008

Gulland’s forthcoming novel, In the Service of the Shadow Queen, is scheduled to appear in the spring of 2014. It centers on the life of Claude des Oeillets, handmaid to divas during Louis XIV’s reign. It encompasses the world of the theater, the world of the French court, and, intriguingly, the world of black magic. Currently Gulland is at work on a pair of young-adult novels about Hortense, the daughter of Louise de la Vallières. “I have the feeling I’ll be in the Sun King’s court forever,” Gulland remarks.

When she plans a novel, Gulland constructs a massive timeline. She identifies the main character’s social network — all of the people she knows and the people who they know in turn. She determines where each of these characters is and what he or she is doing at every point in the novel. Layer by layer, she builds the world that the book will bring to life.

Gulland’s years of research have paid off in dazzling literary success. Her novels have sold in 15 countries and have been translated into 13 languages. Her work embodies her motto: “Overnight success takes 25 years.”

Sandra Gulland is a well-established writer; Sharon Conklin is a newcomer to the profession, beginning to emerge with her own distinctive voice. Together they offer a program you won’t want to miss!


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