HALF A CENTURY WITH
Southwest Manuscripters was the bright offspring of the fading Los Angeles
Manuscripters born early in the 20th Century. In the fall of 1949, Hermosans
Ramoncita O'Connor, Zella Allison, Kay Snow and Walt Darby founded the new
group whose combined years make it the longest-active writers organization west
of the Rockies. I came aboard a month later, in time to hear the fabulous first
speaker, Ray Bradbury, tell of his newly minted Martian Chronicles.
Mona O'Connor, the first president, was no feminist; she bowed hastily to
the group vote for Sam Stewart, balladeer and editor of The Daily Breeze, and
succeeding male presidents including science fiction writers Mark Clifton,
Raymond Banks and Maurice Ogden. Men prevailed during those early years
while women rounded up the speakers and cookies and coffee each meeting.
Clark Stadium in a frequently fog-filled valley in Hermosa was the meeting place
for several decades.
While never spending a penny, Southwest Manuscripters induced top-notch
writers to come and talk. Rod Serling, Adela Rogers St. John, Frank Riley,
Hannibal Coons and many other popular fiction and non-fiction writers came.
Before the Love Boat was launched into its two-generation career, SWM presented
the author. Linda Bloodworth, of later TV and Clinton fame, told members of her
first break as a screenwriter.
And every year we could snag him, Ray Bradbury came back.
Careers began and were helped along in Manuscripters. When first class
postage was just three cents, many of us, inspired by the monthly sales reports of
fellow members, submitted our early efforts and gained a foothold. Jimmie Butler
presided while he wrote best-selling hi-tech novels. Dave Kenny wrote humor and
whimsy while wielding the gavel. When the ladies finally left the kitchen for the
presidency, Wanda Smith and Rustie Brown and Ellen Doukoulas were all
productive writers. My own sales were scattered shots through magazine-dom, but
I got my book momentum through my membership. SWM was the seed for local
writing courses long before college extension courses made such study available.
- Edith Battles