What’s Been Said About “The Gathering Basket”
Author breaks free with first novel
By R. Scott Gerdes
(The Taos News – August 2003)
Ghosts and wicked visions haunt Annamarie Iver’s sleep. Like a video loop gone mad, Annamarie’s nightmares have followed her most of her life. Happenstance brings her to Taos, N.M. counselor/dream therapist/shaman, Rosemary Quintana.”
So begins the journey of a Northern New Mexican woman who seeks release from her dark tormentors in the first novel penned by Dixon resident Charmaine Coimbra.
Coimbra, a former journalist from California, will read from her book, “The Gathering Basket,” Monday (Aug. 11), 7 p.m., at the Embudo Valley Library in Dixon, located about 26 miles south of Taos. A library benefit will follow — of which 10 percent of sales of the book will go to the library.
Coimbra’s writing career took off with The Antelope Press in Palmdale, Calif., where she wrote features, columns and served as assistant editor specializing in women’s issues. The people she met along the way and the stories she wrote about them have served as a composite to illustrate some of the women’s issues she raises in her novel. Coimbra also took pieces from her own memories to enrich the story’s characters.
“I’ve had a rich and varied life with a wealth of life experience,” she said. “I used my Catholic school training as part of my character’s personality. I was definitely around in the ’60s and I’ve lost many loved ones to untimely deaths. As ‘The Gathering Basket’ story developed, I gathered my feelings and emotions to express what I thought my characters would feel. That was an awesome experience in creativity.”
The character of Rosemary — who was born from a combination of many people — is the author’s favorite, so much so that Coimbra became emotionally attached to her.
“I cried when (Rosemary) finished her work with Annamarie,” Coimbra confessed. “She’s a no- b.s. kind of woman, intelligent, sage, well educated and highly sensitive.”
While she admits her story has its dark moments, Coimbra said there are positive images she attempted to engage: “Faith and truth are two of the most important elements of healing and survival.”
Coimbra found that writing fiction created some self-imposed obstacles of which she learned to break down over the five years spent on the novel.
“My first drafts were very short. I didn’t think I had enough in me to conjure up a hundred million words or so,” she shared. “Then a former news colleague e-mailed me with something like, ‘You’ve already written a million words as a news person, so what’s a hundred million more?’ My biggest challenge was making things up. Journalism is about the truth, and crossing the line of truth was something I had to work on. I can’t begin to count the number of drafts and rewrites — even up to this proof. But once I broke out of the reporting box, this project became so much fun that I can’t wait to get into my next fictional tale.”
Her next fictional tale will more than likely include Rosemary. “I think she’ll be back,” Coimbra said of her main character.
She is at work on a nonfiction book titled “We Were the California Girls” of which she admits to being more comfortable. The work is a collection of Coimbra’s newspaper columns, essays and opinions.
“It’s the writing genre that I have used for more than 20 years,” she explained. “Back to my former colleague who said I’ve all ready written a gazillion words, well, I kept all those words (clips) in boxes. I spread them out on my dining room table and found a story, an American story.”
Her feature stories have been published my many newspapers and magazines, including the Los Angeles Times. Coimbra also spent six years as a public relations specialist for country music stars and entertainment venues. A couple of years after getting married in 1986, she and her husband, Clif, bought a Santa Fe bookstore and ran it until it was sold in 1994. It was then that Coimbra began writing what has evolved into “The Gathering Basket.”
“This delightful little novel features one of the most interesting pieces of cover art I’ve ever encountered on a book, a toddler cowboy on a clearly very patient pony, fully equipped with enough fancy leather equipment to make it the match for any souped-up Schwin Deluxe bicycle ridden by Pee-Wee Herman. The narrative explores the life of a girl coming to maturity in the 1980s, and is wonderfully readable–its style resembles that of a popular novel from the 1930s .”