Interview by Catharine Bramkamp
Herma Lichtenstein, the newly elected WNBA-SF Chapter Treasurer, is not only a writer, she’s designed and built libraries, the clear places of worship for all writers.
“Libraries are remarkable buildings. They take on a life of their own, especially in communities that are growing. When I started the library project in Dublin, there was an existing library in the community, but it was a very tired building, small, dark and a little hunched over if buildings can hunch. What I learned most about the project was to listen to librarians. They really have seen it all and are a wealth of knowledge. The result of all the listening was a vibrant, bright, welcoming new facility. The month it opened the attendance more than doubled and continued to grow. I always thought it was great that people actually lined up at the front door waiting for it to open.”
It seems a rather large leap from architecture to writing stories, but Herma feels there is much crossover in the disciplines.
“I’m still a Project Manager and writing entails a lot of project management. There are all those voices in your head to keep track of! I discovered fiction writing as a result of an absentee husband. No, we didn’t get divorced, he took a position that put him on the road two weeks a month. I found myself looking for a hobby in the rainy season and took a stab at writing. Five years later I had several novels in various states of completion, a screenplay, and a bunch of short stories queued up in my computer.”
From those writing projects came a larger project. “I made friends with another terrific author and we decided to form a publishing company, Panverse. We both liked quirky novels and found many of our author friends didn’t fit neatly into any genre category. We were seeing a lot of talent pushed aside because of marketing concerns. We had a handful of really great authors, some we knew and some who came by way of the slush pile. I still keep in touch with them, especially Bonnie Randall and TL Morganfield. They’re great writers and accomplished ladies with wicked senses of humor. Then as it does sometimes, life got in the way and I had to put down the proverbial pen. That was 2013 and I’m just now getting back to the process.
“I’m honored to be the treasurer for WNBA-SF Chapter. It’s a great organization and the mission is still so very relevant today. I think that women have found access to many places in society — I believe I’m a good example given my profession. This may make it seem as though we’ve ‘arrived’ but I know from experience that it’s a daily battle to be heard. I have tons of contractor stories to prove it!
“Good old-fashioned peer pressure got me to look at the organization. A mutual friend of board member Cathy Turney and me suggested I’d be a good fit. Multiple emails, some cajoling and a wonderful event for the Afghan Women’s Writing Project made me say yes.
“I was at the San Francisco Writers Conference several years ago and one of the speakers said: ‘It is the best of times and it is the worst of times for publishers today.’ I think he was correct. There is so much competition for eyeballs with social media, television, online entertainment and marketing that it’s hard to get above the noise. It’s also very easy to self-publish, a wild west arena that just now seems to be settling out.
“Right now I’m working on several writing projects: a young adult story about John Muir, a screenplay about a tour for the disabled through the Southwest, and finding an agent for a novel set in post-Roman Britain. Think Game of Thrones meets the real world. I said I liked quirky stories.”
Herma Lichtenstein is an advocate of the creative process in whatever form it takes. With a background in design, she recently managed capital projects for the City of Dublin and the Athenian School in Danville. An avid reader and writer, in 2013 she started Panverse Publishing. The company focused on publishing cross genre works. She lives in Pleasant Hill with her husband, a dog, and two cats who hate the dog.