The Writers' Lunch: How to Craft the Coming of Age Story | Mechanics' Institute

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The Writers' Lunch: How to Craft the Coming of Age Story
moderated by Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte

Friday, October 20, 2023 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm

This event will be conducted via Zoom. Register and you will be emailed the Zoom credentials.

Join Mechanics' Institute for a discussion on How to Craft the Coming of Age Story with three moving authors - Dera R. Williams, Daniel Babka, and Isidra Mencos. This event will be moderated by Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte.

Dera R. Williams is a life-long Oakland resident whose family was a part of the Great Migration movement. As a family historian, Dera researches and writes her family history as well as mentors others. Her fiction, nonfiction, and memoir writings have been published in over two dozen publications. She is writing a Great Migration novel, Serving Tea at Miss Belle’s, and has published a preview of her upcoming collection of childhood stories, In My Backyard: Stories of Growing Up in Oakland. As a current Oakland Voices fellow, she is engaging in media digital storytelling about her beloved city. Dera is a member of AfroSurreal Writers Workshop, Black Girl Write, and Women Who Submit organizations. Exploring the relationship between myth and oral and family history, Dera honors the voices of her ancestors.

Daniel Babka grew up in the small town featured in his soon to be released coming-of-age story, Lightning Bugs And Aliens. He served in VISTA, the domestic Peace Corps, attended law school and a theological seminary, worked as a community organizer, and managed housing in New York City’s toughest neighborhoods - before moving to California. His debut novel, No More Illusions, was described by Kirkus Reviews as “…A strong start to a new series…accomplished, ambitious crime fiction launching a sensitive, complex hero and a promising array of supporting characters…a multilayered tale that has shades of California noir à la Chinatown” (the 1974 movie starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, recognized by AFI as among the greatest films in American cinema history). Daniel has two grown children and lives in the Northern California foothills, not far from his two granddaughters.

​Isidra Mencos is the author of Promenade of Desire—A Barcelona Memoir, which has won a Silver Medal for Multicultural Nonfiction from the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2022, among other honors. She holds a PhD in Spanish and Latin American Contemporary Literature from the University of California, Berkeley, where she taught Spanish language, literature, and creative writing. Her essays and articles have been published in Diálogo, WIRED, Chicago Quarterly Review, Front Porch Journal, The Penmen Review, and Stirring Literary Journal, among others. Her essay, “My Books and I,” was listed as Notable in The Best American Essays 2019. Originally from Spain, Isidra lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Award-winning author and Pushcart Prize nominee Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte is an Oakland multidisciplinary writer whose autobiographical and fictional short story collections, along with her lyrical and stunning poetry, artfully succeed in getting across deeper meanings about the politics of race and economics without breaking out of the narrative.  Her writing has been variously described as “rich in vivid imagery,” “incredible,” and “great contributions to literature.” Her first novel, Betrayal on the Bayou, was published in June 2020 and a poetry collection she has written with her daughter Dr. Angela M. Boutte, titled No Poetry No Peace™, was published in August 2020 and is the namesake of the No Poetry No Peace™ series at the Mechanics Institute of San Francisco. Her in progress novel first chapter, “The Burden Keeper,” was the 2021 fiction category winner for the San Francisco Writers Conference writing contest anthology. An inaugural Oakland Poet Laureate runner-up, she is also a popular, teacher, literary reader, presenter, storyteller, curator, and emcee/host for literary and poetry events. Find out more at

The Writers' Lunch is a casual and virtual brown-bag lunch activity on the 3rd Friday of each month. Look forward to craft discussion, informal presentations on all forms of writing, and excellent conversation.

Join us, share and learn!


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