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Malibu Writers Circle keeps its members’ creativity flowing

Robert Kerbeck, founder of the Malibu Writers Circle, is pictured on the set for “Connected,” a film based on a short story he wrote. Chris Willard/
Barbara Burke, Freelance Reporter
12:02 am PST January 11, 2017

“Writing in English is the most ingenious torture ever devised for sins committed in previous lives,” James Joyce once wrote.

Like many, if not most, of Joyce’s statements, as well as his works, the remark was a double entendre. 

He referred to how frustrating it was at the time for an Irish author to get published in Britain.

However, he also alluded to how frustrating it was to write so as to clearly communicate.

The angst. 

The loneliness. 

The often overwhelming frustration a creative visionary who is struggling to express herself experiences.

The blank page stares at a writer as she strains to create a story, to bare her soul, to portray a scene in images that exactly evoke the essence of what she is trying to communicate.

Joyce was not alone in struggling to find just the right words and phrases to portray images for his readers in order to make a work come to life.

“There is nothing to writing,” Ernest Hemingway quipped. “All you do is sit at a typewriter and bleed.”

No matter how accomplished or prolific they are, writers — whether they are novelists, belletrists, or playwrights — need support and helpful feedback as they develop imagery, find the right voice, ponder how to finesse the subtleties of plots and subplots, create characters that come to life, fascinate and surprise, and as they edit, edit, edit. 

Incongruously, writers concurrently need to find the solace to write, but a collaborative community to consistently create. 

The Malibu Writers Circle provides an oasis of support and camaraderie for accomplished area writers in many genres who need input as they write, re-write, develop plots and maneuver their way on the often arduous journey from thinking of a wonderful story idea, to creating it, finalizing it, and then submitting the written work to editors and publishers. Then, after all that toil, a writer needs support as they await word on whether the story will be published.  

They also need to network and attend community readings and other events where she can share her works. 

The Malibu Writers Circle fills all those needs. 

However, it is not a beginning writers group.  

Conversely, is it not merely a venue for ephemeral, merely academic diatribes or colloquies amongst the cognoscenti or literati.

No, this is a place for one to roll up their sleeves and incrementally submit drafts of works to accomplished, many times oft-published, colleagues who provide insightful and fruitful suggestions regarding how to hone a work from a beginning draft to a final form that is ready for publication.

“A few years back, I had an idea for a novel, but this time I actually started writing it,” said Robert Kerbeck, founder of the Malibu Writers Circle. “I quickly realized I needed people to read my writing in order to determine what worked and what did not. Thus, the Malibu Writers Circle was born.” 

Since the Writers Circle began, more than 100 writers have come to the meetings, using the workshop format to complete novels, short stories, plays, screenplays and pilots. 

“Our members have seen their plays produced Off-Broadway, their teleplays on TV, and their fiction and non-fiction published in dozens of literary journals,” Kerbeck said. “Members of the Malibu Writers Circle have won major awards, scholarships and contests.” 

John Struloeff, director of the creative writing program and associate professor of creative writing and English at Pepperdine’s Malibu campus, is one of the extremely accomplished writers who benefits from participating in the Malibu Writers Circle.

Struloeff is the chairman of both the selection panel and the laureate committee for the newly approved Malibu Poet Laureate.

He has a daunting curriculum vitae that impresses, indeed intimidates, and manifests his many talents.

Struloeff has been published in the Atlantic Monthly, the Literary Review, and the Southern Review

He was a Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford University, a Sozopol International Fiction Fellow, and a NEA Literature Fellow in poetry. 

Author of “The Man I Was Supposed to Be,” Struloeff also has two book manuscripts under review: “Anna: A Biographical Novel of Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy” and “The Shadow Waters: Poems.”  

Prolific in poetry and fiction alike, Struloeff is the perfect example of a member of the Malibu Writers Circle. 

He comes to contribute, converse and collaborate. 

Among many other accolades, Kerbeck was selected for mentorship by the managing editor of the prestigious Tin House based on his short stories, 15 of which have been published in the last year. His non-fiction piece based on his experience with O.J. Simpson was featured on Narratively, and his personal essay about his father, George Clooney, and Yoko Ono can be read in Word Riot

Kerbeck will soon publish his story, “A Dish Best Served Warm.” 

Kerbeck’s first play “Putin and the Snowman,” ran Off-Broadway this summer as part of the 29th annual Strawberry One-Act Festival, and has just been picked up for another run by the Manhattan Repertory Theatre.

His first novel, “The Ballad of Mr. Jack,” is currently in agent circulation.  

Throughout all their crescendos of creativity, members of the Malibu Writers Circle find that the group’s meetings provide a real-time creative, collaborative incubator as they struggle with spinning a yarn, and as they sweat and toil through the many drafts and re-drafts.

“We critique in a positive, but honest manner focusing on what we liked, what we loved, and what could be improved,” Kerbeck said. 

Struloeff finds the caliber of writers in the Malibu Writers Circle to be impressive and stimulating. 

“The Malibu Writers Circle has provided a much needed supportive space and offered very helpful insight and feedback for my current projects,” Struloeff said. “I use their meeting deadlines to force myself to keep producing new chapters of my novel.  There are no excuses for being idle when you’re in a group like this.”

The “group like this” consists of multi-talented members who create in several fora and media.

For instance, Kerbeck, who is a member of The Actors Studio, has worked extensively in theater, film and television, appearing in lead roles in major shows, and earning several awards, including an L.A. Weekly award and a Drama-Logue award. 

It was only relatively late in his life that he set about seriously pursuing a career as an author.

However, like many who create, Kerbeck can pivot back and forth from one medium to another.

His short story, “Connected,” is being made into a film and started shooting in December. 

Kerbeck stars as the father in the story.

Davis, his up-and-coming actor offspring, plays his son. 

The creative talents of the father and son literally jump out at an observer watching filming on the set. 

Kerbeck finds himself in the enviable position of acting out his own written work.  

For his part, young Davis is amazed at the difference between acting on the stage in a play in Malibu public schools and shooting a film.

“I couldn’t believe how many people were working on the set,” Davis said. “It’s so different from the theater. We never got to do a scene straight through once. They were always filmed in bits and pieces.”

The Malibu Writers Circle is there at every stage of developing the bits and pieces of the yeoman’s work involved in telling a tale, illustrating a scene, and bringing to life stories, plays and poems that entertain, educate, and enthrall.

Malibu is a mecca for creative souls, visionaries, and thought leaders.

However, to create, one must combine the ocean’s solace and rhythms with the energy one can only muster from interacting with other, like-minded and similarly talented colleagues.

The Malibu Writers Circle provides a venue for writers to find that perfect alchemy and balance between the quiet that is necessary for one to reflect and create, and the synergy that is essential to being able to collaborate and consistently produce copy. 

For more information, contact Robert Kerbeck, founder of the Malibu Writers Circle at Writers must submit a sample of their fiction in advance of attending a meeting and the group is by invitation only.