Noozhawk Talks: Santa Barbara Writers Blend Talents, Wine Experiences

For Reka Badger, left, and Cheryl Crabtree, writing the California Directory of Fine Wineries was a labor of love — and red wine.  (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

For Reka Badger, left, and Cheryl Crabtree, writing the California Directory of Fine Wineries was a labor of love — and red wine. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Leslie Dinaberg: The California Directory of Fine Wineries book is quite lovely and takes you on a journey through 58 wineries in Santa Barbara County, San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles. How did you decide which wineries to include?Cheryl Crabtree: (Our editor) Tom Silberkleit picked them.LD: Do you know how he picked them?Reka Badger: He tasted all over the place.

CC: He researched heavily.

RB: He chose them for the wine and the quality of the destination.

CC: It had to have a double package … these were destination travel pieces more than wine experiences. He definitely did his homework.

LD: Both of you have written extensively about wine. Tell me about some favorites you discovered in the course of writing the book.

RB: I thought Whalebone’s wines were really good. There was something about knowing their stories that added such a dimension to tasting the wine, too. The guy who owns Whalebone, Bob Simpson, was an obstetrician, and he lost his fingers in a hunting accident and had to do something else. He got involved with vineyards by doing something that was similar to what he did as a doctor, using equipment. They were raising cattle, as well, so they were already kind of farmer types. Then he planted some vineyards and grapes. He’s so devoted to farming … and I liked their wines.

I thought Calcareous Vineyard was a wonderful story — those two sisters (Dana Brown and Erika Messer), and I thought the wines were really nice. Those Zinfandels really showed what you could do with zin. Their pinot … there really is pinot up there in the right spot. I could go on and on.

LD:: What about you, Cheryl? Did you have any discoveries?

CC: I did discover probably one of the best wineries here, Kenneth Volk Vineyards.

LD: Really?

CC: Kenneth Volk is a pioneer in the wine business. He started Wild Horse Winery up in Templeton. He was one of the first and he’s very academic.

RB: He loves to talk about it. He loves to tell you about it.

CC: He’s a scientist, but he loves experimentation. What happened with Wild Horse is, it got a little too big for him and he wanted to return to making just the wines he really wanted to make and experiment with. He’s got 16 or 20 different wines. Some are really unusual ones, from really unusual varietals. Those wines were really good. I loved seeing how much he loves to get his hands dirty and experiment. It’s like a kid with a chemistry kit.

LD: Is this book something people would use to map out their wine-tasting destinations?

RB: It gives a series of really good starting points. I think the purpose is to get people out there, give them an idea of what they might find, and then from there, they can do their own exploring. It’s not a comprehensive guide, but it can point you to some of your favorites and to some that you don’t know.

CC: And to make it seem accessible, because a lot of people who don’t come from California especially think, oh, it’s only for connoisseurs. But that’s not the case at all. The photos really show that. Just normal people learning about wine in a very informal, casual way.

LD: Let’s say, for example, Reka: Where would you take a friend from out of town if you were to go wine tasting?

RB: That’s a really tough one. I would want them to stay five days and we would go to five different regions.

LD:: Really?

RB: Yes. Because there’s a lot of driving involved in the western Paso Robles area, near Whalebone. Vina Robles emerged full-blown from the soil with all of this stacked stone and expensive state-of-the-art stuff, which I steer clear of usually. They usually look too fancy for me, but it was a fabulous experience.

Where we would go would depend on whether we were going to taste some wine or we were going to stop and have a picnic. L’Adventure is at the end of the road. It’s this crazy French guy (Stephen Asseo) who didn’t want to be restricted to the Bordeaux requirements for blending. He wanted to develop blends around cabernets, so he came over here and bought that property. It’s an adventure just getting there. If you want to take a ride and see some country, I would want to go out there. If it’s a short time, I would go someplace a little closer. If there’s no time at all, go down to downtown Paso Robles and just do the downtown.

CC: Same thing, downtown Solvang and downtown Santa Barbara, the Urban Wine Trail. If you have little time, I would focus on those because you can still taste some great wines and walk.

LD: Do you guys have a favorite wine? You mentioned you like reds, Reka.

RB: I do, but depending on the weather and what I’m doing and the time of day. Mornings I prefer champagne, definitely. Late afternoon hot, I love a real crisp rose; I really like the roses a lot, but I do like a red.

LD: What about you, Cheryl?

CC: Pinot Noir. There are several great Pinot Noirs from the Santa Rita Hills. Those are stellar. Kris Curran; anything she touches is wonderful. And she is married to Bruno D’Alfonso, who was (the winemaker) at Sanford for a long time. They now have their own label, D’Alfonso-Curran Wines, but she also is the winemaker for Foley. She works wonders; it doesn’t matter who she’s working for, just find Kris Curran. And she and Bruno have a tasting room in Solvang, too.

LD: I’ll have to remember that.

CC: She is incredible. And so is Bruno. They are, he’s a pioneer also. They helped pave the way. He was the one who crafted Sanford wines for years. But my favorite is Alma Rosa Chardonnay. That’s what we always buy.

RB: Is it pretty affordable?

CC: It’s $11.99 at Costco.

LD: Where’s your favorite place to enjoy a glass of wine?

RB: I have a zero gravity chair, and I sit out on the patio and I kick my feet up and that’s about it. How about you, Cheryl?

CC: Well, I haven’t gotten out much except to my patio, but if I could my favorite view is Ellwood Bluffs. But I’m not sure you can bring wine up there.

RB: Well, if you’re discreet. (Laughs)

CC: That’s where I would go if I had the time. Anywhere with a view around here is not hard to find. Have you ever been to Clautiere Vineyard in Paso Robles? The tasting room has wigs and you put the different wigs on and be whoever you are, wander around the grounds with these wigs and it’s like a French cabaret.

LD: What a hoot. I’ve never heard of that.

RB: You know winemakers are all eccentrics, really.

CC: They really are.

LD: The other part of this is I ask you two a few questions about yourselves. So, Reka, what else do you like to do when you’re not working?

RB: One of my favorite things is to dig holes and plant things. I love to get out there with a shovel and a hat and dig holes and plant. I’m an irrepressible gardener. I love to read, I love to swim, I like to travel but I don’t get to do enough of that now. When the wine runs out I like a nice cold Bombay Martini straight up.

CC: If I had time I would have a list of things that I used to do.

RB: What’s at the top of the list?

CC: Travel. I love to walk the dog and enjoy Santa Barbara. All of these wonderful open spaces that we have. We’re so lucky to be able to have that. Every day we can go to the Douglas Preserve or Hendry’s Beach or the Bluffs or the burned-out trails, but they’re kind of fun still; it’s unusual. It’s a different look but it’s interesting. Also, recently I’ve begun to really like watching water polo.

RB: Isn’t it weird to be interviewed? It’s very strange to be on the other side.

CC: Yeah, it’s peculiar.

LD: If you could pick three adjectives to describe yourself, what would they be?

RB: Gorgeous, confident, wealthy. Put that.

CC: You can think of those for us.

RB: Yeah, just look at us. Curious, driven; those are the only two I can think of.

CC: Stubborn, persistent.

RB: I think we’re going to go with two adjectives each since there are two of us.

Vital Stats: Cheryl Crabtree

Born: July 21, in ancient times, San Francisco

Family: Husband Chris; sons Cameron, 15, and Colin, 10; Lightning the Jack Russell terrier and cats Pepper and Lorraine

Civic Involvement: Hope School District Educational Foundation, volunteer for kids’ sports teams

Professional Accomplishments: BA Stanford University with Honors in humanities and comparative literature; graduate studies in comparative literature at New York University. Moved to Santa Barbara in 1983 to work for EF (Education First). “When the headquarters (and my writing job) moved to Boston in the late ‘80s, I decided to freelance until I found a ‘real’ job. Two decades later, I still don’t have a real job, but I’ve written tons of things.” This includes co-authoring the first edition of The Insider’s Guide to Santa Barbara; working for Fodor’s Travel Publications updating the Central Coast and Monterey Bay chapters in Fodor’s California guidebook since 2001; co-authoring Hometown Santa Barbara (with Noozhawk’s Leslie Dinaberg and Zak Klobucher, and Nancy Ransohoff and Starshine Roshell) and co-authoring California Directory of Fine Wineries. Story editor/writer Montecito Magazine, writer for Santa Barbara Seasons/Custom Media and writer for the Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau’s new Santa Barbara visitor’s magazine.

Best Book You’ve Read Recently: Deeply Rooted: Unconventional Farmers in the Age of Agribusiness by Lisa M. Hamilton; Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson; The Little Book by Selden Edwards

Little-Known Fact “I spent a year in Norway as a high school exchange student and speak Norwegian. Heia Norge!”

Vital Stats: K. Reka Badger

Born: June 12, midcentury last, in Monterey Park

Family: Married 21 years to Jon Budac; two cats and a ball-crazy whippet

Civic Involvement: Creston Garden Club, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, former board member Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association

Professional Accomplishments: BA in cultural anthropology from UCSB. “I have worked a lot of different jobs, including driving a cab, making documentary films, building models for an animator, painting houses, writing celebrity bios and managing winery tasting rooms. Currently, I write weekly wine, food and garden-related columns (for the Santa Barbara News-Press and the Santa Maria Sun), and consider the publication of this book a landmark accomplishment.”

Best Book You’ve Read Recently: Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett; Mother of Pearl, by Melinda Haynes; The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck

Little-Known Fact: “I managed a little copy kiosk at the edge of the UCSB campus way back when and was among Kinko’s first handful of employees.”

Originally published on on August 2, 2009.

Noozhawk Talks: Leslie Dinaberg Sits Down With Amy Kovarick

Amy Kovarick (courtesy photo)

Amy Kovarick (courtesy photo)

As a wife, mother and life coach, Amy Kovarick is a master of multitasking, and she’s helping others find balance in their lives, too.

By Leslie Dinaberg

Wife, mother, life coach, counseling psychologist, radio host and author of Baby on Board: Becoming a Mother Without Losing Yourself, Carpinteria-based Amy Kovarick knows a lot about multi-tasking.

Leslie Dinaberg: So you got started as a life coach after leaving the corporate world?

Amy Kovarick: Yes. I got married at 39 and Matt was born when I was 40, so it was a tremendous change. And finding where the ambitious kind of career Amy fit now with all of these other hats was part of my journey. One company I have, Empowered Motherhood, ( is very much about that. How do you keep close to yourself and true to who you are and yet bring your best to your kids?

… that’s kind of the heart of coaching, whether it’s Empowered Motherhood where it’s a mother community … or my private coaching practice ( where I work with people across the country. The coaching part, no matter who I’m working with, is looking at that balance across your life.

… I’ve got folks who come for career issues, relationship issues, health issues, really right across the board. But it always comes down to balance, which one is falling off the load and have you even stopped to think about where you fit in and what you want, what’s interesting to you nowadays?

LD: It sounds like we could all use some of that.

AK: (Laughs) I think the best coaches are the ones that truly believe they don’t have answers for someone. They think you know deep down inside what’s best for your life and are good at just bringing out who you are. But the tricky part or the tough part about coaching is that there’s all that self-reflection and kind of the touchy feely part, coupled with a bunch of accountability and action items. That’s what drew me to coaching was the combination of the soft side with the no nonsense lets move side.

LD: What kinds of people typically come to you?

AK: A good example is the owner of this restaurant (Corktree Cellars in Carpinteria). She didn’t need to be fixed, she didn’t have a problem, she had a goal … I’ve worked with a lot of entrepreneurs, both men and women and a bunch of executives. I do corporate contracts where the corporation is paying me to coach some of their top leadership in reaching their peak performance if you will. But what I love about that is it is still the same, it’s one on one, there’s nobody there on the phone but them and I’m not working with their board of directors or their boss, it’s still weaves in issues from across their life.

I have a new woman that took on her first president role and so she’s been VP, she’s been this and that, but she’s a mom, she’s got two kids and she’s got all of the issues with that, plus she’s a new female president, in a new company that she doesn’t know these people, a bunch of men that are working for her and reporting to her and the coaching with her is full of all of the things you would imagine.

There are a lot of practical business things but there is the okay, how do you show up and be your full self and be as bold as you want to be and don’t be afraid of stepping on toes, but yet be effective. That’s what I love about my work.

One of my favorite long-term clients was a young girl going through college in New York and her father was footing the bill because he wanted her to be very successful. There’s a different kind of pace of just really working through her journey of becoming an adult and she’s graduated and is down in Australia at the Great Barrier Reef, she’s a conservation biologist.

… So the dreams differ, one wants to be the best leader, one wants to open a restaurant, one wants to be a marine biologist, so it sounds very different, different ages and walks of life, but it is all the same thing of who are you, what do you want to do, how are you going to get there–and that’s what fascinates me. That’s what keeps me in it is every person is different and no two coaching sessions look alike.

LD: In a way it sounds like what writing does, you sort of get to live other lives because you’re finding out so much about what other people are doing.

AK: Yes. And I get I thrive on one on one, real conversations, not a lot of superficial stuff. I’m terrible at networking or parties where you have to just chitchat. That’s my worst thing. So when I get to do my coaching, these people share a lot. And they come pretty unguarded, even my tough male executives.

LD: Do you get people that are motivated to change something?

AK: Yes. Change, grow. It’s people who even though they all look so different on the surface, the common thread is this desire to grow, to not just be successful because it’s not always about people wanting monetary success, it’s this almost fierce desire to not be static, to not stay the status quo. They want to keep pushing out their barriers, and some people for sure come with a problem, come with I’m really unhappy at work, I’m really unhappy in my relationship, I would like to meet someone, I would like to lose 50 pounds. Sometimes there is a very specific problem and they are all willing to look at themselves to take responsibility. By the nature of no one is going to hire me and pay my fees if they are a victim. … People who show up and want to work with me, they’re serious about their life.

… Often I get asked, well how is this different than therapy … the big difference is therapy often is about healing or fixing and it often goes into the past and the whys. How did I get here? Whereas coaching is about where are you now. Coaching is much more about present and future and very seldom do I go to the whys or what happened with your parents. That’s just not part of the conversation even though that’s really valuable but it’s not what I do.

LD: If you could be invisible anywhere in Santa Barbara, where would you go and what would you do?

AK: If I could get into my husband’s head. He’s a very private guy and as he said last night, “you know more about me than anyone in my entire life has every known.” But it’s like pulling teeth.

Vital Stats: Amy Kovarick

Born: Newport, Rhode Island, April 23

Family: Husband Mike Musson; Stepdaughters Layla, 20; Fina, 18 ; and Meli, 15; and son Matt, 2-1/2.

Professional Accomplishments: Author of “The Empowered Mother,” host of the radio show “Empowered Mother,” MA in Counseling Psychology, PCC (Professional Coach Credential), member of the International Coach Federation, has worked with hundreds of people in North America helping them reach their dreams.

Best Book You’ve Read Recently: Age of Turbulence, by Allen Greenspan

Little-Known Fact: I was in the Air Force and worked at the Pentagon.

Originally published in Noozhawk in July 2008. (Click here to read the story online.)

Leslie Dinaberg Sits Down With Renee Grubb

Renee Grubb

Renee Grubb

When Renee Grubb and Ed Edick founded Village Properties in 1996, they strove to create a community-conscious real estate agency. Part of that dedication to Santa Barbara involved creating the Teacher’s Fund, a nonprofit that makes it easy for teachers to get much-needed financial support for schools. Now Grubb is paying that community-minded spirit forward even further. As the new chair of the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce, she has already begun raising scholarship money for at-risk students.

LD: Let’s start with real estate. How is the market right now? Is it a good time to buy?

RG: Well the market is good. I’ve been busy because the number of sales has increased, but this in the last two and a half weeks. … One of our agents yesterday in the meeting gave a number of how many properties went this year so far, and that’s back from January, and three quarters of them went in the last two and a half weeks. So all of the sellers and the buyers who have been, rightly so, a little nervous about the market, are definitely getting off of that and making offers.

LD: So does that mean it’s a good time to buy right now because prices are lower?

RG: Yes. There are deals and the time to buy is when somebody isn’t already making an offer on a property or something, A lot of people they say, “Oh I want to go back and see it three or four times,” and then by the time they go back and see it the third or fourth time there’s either an offer on it or it’s gone. But we’re seeing more multiple offers. There was a property on Sea Ranch, just outside of Hope Ranch. They put it on the market for $1,990,000. It was kind of a fixer and it had something like 12 offers. It went for $300,000 over the asking. I was like what was that all about. We’re starting to see some of that happening again.

LD: Have you always worked in real estate?

RG: No. Before I got into real estate I was pretty much just raising my children but before that I was in the medical industry. I was actually an assistant for an ophthalmologist.

LD: How did you come to start the Teacher’s Fund? I always thought you must have been a teacher before you went into real estate.

RG: Not me, but teachers can make the best real estate agents because they’re already attuned to service and caring … The Teacher’s Fund started in 2002. When we started Village we made a decision that we were going to pretty much support children and children’s causes because you know, you get so many requests. …What happened was we were doling out money for this and that $50 for that and $500 for that … and then one day we hired a PR person. It was really her idea. Her son had come home from kindergarten and he had this long list of things that he had to bring to school. So she said to this teacher … “How do kids bring all of this if their parents can’t afford it?” The teacher said, “Well I make sure every child has the same. I buy it.” So that’s where the idea came from.

… We started out doing just pretty much South County elementary schools, kindergarten through sixth grade, and we were being able to manage that but we weren’t getting very many donations. We did a couple of fundraisers but then Orfalea Family Foundation actually saw in the South Coast Beacon, that wonderful editorial on the Teacher’s Fund, and they called us and they said “Hey we’re interested in that.” I will be forever grateful for that.

LD: That’s wonderful that Orfalea is working with you.

RG: Since Orfalea came aboard we have gone countywide and we’ve gone to junior high, so we are really covering a lot of classrooms … As of this year, I didn’t count the last month, but we have funded $450,000 to 1,090 classrooms since we started and we’ll definitely hit the $500,000 mark this year.

LD: You’re chairing the Chamber of Commerce too.

RG: I’ve been on the board for four years … a lot of people come and ask for endorsements. … This year we are trying to be supportive of the city with the green awareness we’re trying to inform business people so that they are aware of the different ways that they can do that within their businesses and their homes. So we’re kind of pushing that a little bit, I am also trying to support as many of the new businesses in town as possible.

At my installation on January 31st, we decided that we were going to try to raise some funds for at-risk students. The scholarship is called “Chance for Change,” and we set it up with the Santa Barbara Scholarship Foundation, … it’s basically for students … who choose the better path, rather than going into a gang. … We had a speaker, we had a young man who, his brother is in jail and his dad left him when they were kids, you know pretty typical thing, he was raised by his mom and his sister… so he’s being sent through school by a scholarship and he came and spoke.

We had decided that we would try to raise $20,000, which would send five young people to City College for two years. We talked about it and had this young man speak and raised $114,000 that night.

…. It’s just been amazing. It was 250 people in the room and we had donations from as high as $20,000 down to $100, and it felt like almost everybody in the room gave something. It was great. It was an amazing evening.

LD: He must be a great speaker.

RG: I’m telling you, he was so sincere and you knew and his mom was there. It was very exciting. They were just like in amazement that we were able to do that in one evening, but that just shows the generosity in this town.

LD: If you could be invisible anywhere in Santa Barbara, where would you go and what would you do?

RG: Well this is going to sound silly, but I love movies and if I see movies a year in a theatre I’m lucky, so I would love to be able to go to the movies and not have to worry about my cell phone and in the middle day. I would love to do that. That would be just a real treat for me.

Vital Stats: Renee Grubb

Born: January 22, Long Beach, CA

Family: Husband Ed, Daughters Erin and Natalie, and grandchildren Sydney (6), Kelsey (3), Hope (2) and Luke (18 months)

Civic Involvement: Chair of Chamber of Commerce, Founder of the Teacher’s Fund, Montecito Union Education Foundation, Business and Technology Awards Committee, California Association of Realtors Director, Budget and Finance Committee for Santa Barbara Association of Realtors, City of Santa Barbara Infrastructure Financing Task Force.

Professional Accomplishments: Co-Founder and Owner of Village Properties, has sold real estate in Santa Barbara since 1983.

Little-Known Fact: “My husband and I have been married 37 years and we’ve lived in 32 homes. So we fixed and flipped. And I’ve been in my current house ten years, so you can imagine how many houses we lived in.”

Originally published in Noozhawk on March 10, 2008.

Noozhawk Talks: One on one with David Starkey

David Starkey (courtesy photo)

David Starkey (courtesy photo)

Spending five minutes chatting with David Starkey is enough to make any writer feel like a slacker. The Poet-Playwright-Nonfiction Author-Editor-Santa Barbara City College Professor-Television Show Host is a busy guy. It’s no wonder that family members–he is a father/stepfather to eight children–mime him typing on a keyboard when they play Charades.

Leslie Dinaberg: What are you doing these days?

David Starkey: Right now I’m working on a book length memoir. … I just finished writing a creative writing textbook, which combines four genres, poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction. I have three books of poetry out in the last year and a book, Living Blue in the Red States … that I edited. It’s about progressives living in conservative parts of the country.

LD: Are you able to incorporate it into your teaching at City College?

DS: I haven’t yet. If we had a class on political writing or something like that I might. … I wrote a play about Alzheimer’s. We had a stage reading at this little theatre in Ojai, Theatre 150. …. It is called Crossing the Bar.

LD: Do you have somebody in your family that has Alzheimer’s?

DS: No. I read an article in the LA Times about this camp outside San Francisco where people who are caretakers take their loved ones who live with them up for a weekend so they can get a break, because it’s so overwhelming. … The caregivers are together, the Alzheimer’s patients are together and they finally join up at the end. And a hidden conflict is that this woman has made a deal with her husband that if she finally goes too far she wants him to kill her. So the play is him trying to make up his mind whether or not to go through with it.

LD: Sounds really interesting.

DS: It seemed to me like there was a kind of crazy poetry in a lot of the ways that you hear people with Alzheimer’s speaking. It sounds almost like avant-garde poetry. …

LD: Are you still hosting the Creative Community Show (on Santa Barbara TV Channel 21)?

DS: Yeah, we just won another award. There’s a body that all the community and educational access stations belong to, nationwide, and they submit shows and the last two years it’s won the best talk show in the country.

LD: Congratulations.

DS: Yeah. I’m not sure what the competition is, but it’s a neat thing. … What I enjoy about this is meeting interesting people and getting a chance to talk to them.

LD: Coming from Chicago to Santa Barbara, what’s your take on the cultural arts scene here?

DS: … I think it’s pretty lively for a small town. It’s extraordinary. I know that some of the artists that I speak with say that we’re a community that claims to embrace the arts and yet ultimately it’s more lip service than not. I don’t know. As a poet I don’t really expect to get much money anyway, so it’s not that big a deal to me. There happen to be a lot of people to interview for my TV show, so that’s nice. But I do think that we have a pretty thriving community and even if there are problems.

LD: How do you do all these different things? Do you just never sleep?

DS: I guess I get enthusiastic about things, and I think I’m pretty good at finishing off. So if I have an idea that kicks around with me for a while, I’ll just look for ways to make sure it happens.

LD: Just the fact that you’re showing me these four books that you’ve had published in the last year and the play and you’re in a band (with poet Barry Spacks) and you’re teaching and you have a pretty young daughter, it’s impressive. That’s a lot to get done.

DS: I guess I feel when I get enthusiastic about something I just follow it. And I guess I get enthusiastic about a lot of different things.

LD: That’s great.

DS: And you know a lot of the things that I do are things that can be accomplished in real time in a relatively short span of time. So for instance, to write a poem and to revise it, you can do that in small chunks of time. … I try to make sure that I get a little something done every day. I think that’s important when you’re working on a really long project. When I wrote that creative writing textbook I tried to do that. School inevitably gets in the way, grading papers and stuff like that.

LD: I know how hard it is to work with kids in the house. The idea of writing something where your deadlines are self-inflicted is very impressive to me.

DS: You sort of feel like you want to finish it so badly, because if you don’t do it now you know you never will … there’s obviously gender issues involved in this. When I was with my first wife she worked and I was at home a lot with the kids and while they would ask me for things a little, I think I was able to ignore them in a way that a mom can’t. Or to address them more quickly … I guess that’s partly the way that my mind works. It can focus really intently on a task and then switch off and then switch back on, and I know that some others don’t work that way.

LD: What do you like to do when you’re not working?

(Loud laugh from wife Sandy in the other room) Work.

DS: To me that’s not work. Since I was a little kid, I wanted to be a writer. So that’s what I want to do, that’s my thing. And it might seem like work or it might seem like a way to get me out of this family (laughs).

LD: So seriously, what else do you like to do?

DS: I spent a lot of time on the City College Creative Writing Program where he is the director). I got some release time this year, so we have a website, if you could put that in your story I’d be grateful. … I’ve been Fundraising for that. We’ve got some generous donors that put some money in to bring writers to campus to fund contests. …

LD: What kinds of students are in the creative writing program?

DS: There’s a real community college profile–you’ve got the person with the PhD in English literature and the person who’s never written anything who’s just signed up because it fit into their class schedule. It’s always interesting that way.

Vital Stats: David Starkey

Born: June 28, 1962, in Sacramento, CA

Family: wife Sandy, children Elizabeth (23), Carly (21), Stephen (15), Miranda (6) and stepchildren, Serena (24), Andrea (20), Julia (17) and John (10)

Civic Involvement: Creative Community Show, SBCC Creative Writing Program

Professional Accomplishments: Seven small press books of poems, editor and contributor, four full length plays produced, three plays with staged readings, five 10 minute plays, professor of English and Director of Creative Writing program at SBCC

Little-Known Fact: That he has so many children and step children (8 in total)

Originally published in Noozhawk on November 28, 2007

Leslie Dinaberg Watches a Game With John Maloney

Courtesy by Naypong

Courtesy by Naypong

Think herding cats is tough? Try organizing 2,900 kids into 268 teams, then dispersing them among 25 fields for games and practices each week. Once the kids are settled, then try keeping their parents in line. Sound like a challenge? It’s all in a day’s volunteer work for AYSO Commissioner John Maloney.

Leslie Dinaberg: When did you start volunteering with AYSO?

John Maloney: I started as a referee a long time ago, when I was 12.

I grew up around soccer. I played in college (at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA) and then when my youngest daughter Meghan started playing I started to ref and just went on from there, so that’s 12-13 years.

LD: And what was it like then?

JM: We had about 2,500 kids back then…we used to practice all over town and games were all over town. We didn’t have UCSB back then, Girsh Park didn’t exist, so on a given Saturday you had kids (all over town). You would have about one or two fields per location so it was tough getting goals set up and making sure we had refs at each field.

LD: What a huge logistic nightmare.

JM: We probably have actively involved over 20 people to help make things happen. Each age group has administrators that run it.

LD: How do people begin as volunteers?

JM: They start out coaching, and then they say “Have you guys ever thought of …” and we say, “No, how would you like to…” Suggestion is a great foot in the door to being a volunteer.

…We’ve got referee administrators for both genders. Making sure we have refs. …(There’s our) picture day coordinator, our volunteer coordinator, ….our party angels, that run the volunteer party at the end of the year. … People find things they like, you get them doing it and you try to get them to do it for five or six years so you get some consistency, and it helps.

LD: Do people generally stay for the life of their child’s involvement?

JM: Generally but … we get a lot of people who stick around after their kids grow up.

LD: What are the biggest challenges you face?

JM: There aren’t enough fields … we’re by far the largest youth sports organization in town. And for most kids it’s just from the week after school starts until the week after Thanksgiving, but for the talented kids that want to keep playing we have all-stars and that goes all the way to June or July.

LD: After all these years of involvement, do you think the girls and boys teams behave differently?

JM: Oh, absolutely. I’ve coached both and yeah, there’s a difference. You motivate them differently. In AYSO you don’t yell at kids, you try to keep it positive, but you can discipline a boy differently than a girl. … But both are really rewarding, especially this age group (8-10) because you see so much improvement throughout the year. You look at the first game and the last game and there’s a huge improvement. I just love to see kids when it starts to click for them.

LD: Do you have any tips for parents to be a better soccer/sports parent?

JM: Just watch. Every year we have problems with parents … the cheering stuff is good, but the parents that try to get into coaching that aren’t coaches … we get some that stand behind the goal and talk to the kids. We get some that counteract what the coach is trying to tell them to do. That’s kind of frustrating sometimes.

LD: I assume you’re not going to be the commissioner forever and ever and ever.

JM: Not if my wife has anything to say about it.

LD: What kind of advice would you give to your successor?

JM: Get a lot of people to help you, and don’t let things get to you. We’ve talked about mostly good stuff, but there’s stuff that I have to deal with every year that’s not too pleasant. We’re dealing with almost 3,000 kids, and 6,000 parents, and we’ve got divorces, restraining orders, one parent on the other, child protection issues come up.

LD: What’s your favorite thing about AYSO?

JM: What everybody says on the board is, “If I got paid I’d quit. You couldn’t pay me enough to ref this game with some of these parents. It’s a good thing I do it for free.” The board members get a really rough time at time. We’ve had these new coaches get hit with some of these parents who are just high maintenance…

For every little bad thing there’s like 20 good things. There’s so much. When you watch these kids just having a blast and get so excited at the end of the game is the best.

Name: John Maloney

Born: New London, Connecticut

Family: Wife Valerie and daughters Meghan, 17, and Carleigh, 14.

Civic Involvement: AYSO Commissioner; Sunday School Teacher at Holy Cross Church; runs the Society of Professional Engineers’ Math Counts Program for Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties

Professional Accomplishments: Electrical Engineer, owner of JMPE Electrical Engineering and Lighting Design with offices in Santa Barbara and Bakersfield.

Little-Known Fact: John’s first job after college was as a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey clown.

Originally published in Noozhawk

One on one with Rachael Steidl

Rachael Steidl (courtesy photo)

Rachael Steidl (courtesy photo)

Recognizing the need for a centralized place for parenting information in Santa Barbara, Rachel Steidl created, which quickly became an indispensable resource for parents when it launched in 2002. Part Internet portal, part calendar and part bulletin board, today her business not only serves locals, it’s also the model for 18 other cities that have licensed the technology.

Leslie Dinaberg: How did SBParent start?

Rachael Steidl: I was watching the frustration of how much work it was for parents to find resources. When I looked into it and tried to find out why it was so hard to get information, one of the things I realized was that advertising is so expensive and most businesses can’t afford to do it. My goal was to bring all of that word-of-mouth information under one central spot by making it affordable for businesses and nonprofits.

LD: How is ParentClick different than SBParent?

RS: Prior to (starting ParentClick) we were getting a lot of inquiries from people wanting to know how to get something like this going in their community. So we looked at what we had done over the last three years and decided that we could help fast forward them getting to where SBParent has gotten to by not having to do so much of the learning. So we created ParentClick. What we do is provide service agreements to these territory owners, which builds the technology for them, the website, gives them training and ongoing support, but they are in actuality their own business.

LD: So is it a franchise?

RS: It’s not a franchise in the sense that they have their own business name, their own business model, they set their own pricing. … We’ve also expanded services … for people who don’t have it in their city …we added travel with kids, children’s book and movie reviews, the recipe club and articles.

LD: Have you found that the other sites are different from Santa Barbara?

RS: It’s up to each territory whether they want it to make money and if they’re going to do sales, but to me, no matter what–and I have committed to this since the day I started, whether I was getting a check or not–is there will always be information for parents so that it’s not a waste of their time. Some territories are definitely stronger than others in terms of the consistency with which they are posting information.

But on SBParent, new information is going up every single day. When I was in Greece this summer I was posting information … we just don’t ever stop, because to me it’s a business, but we always look at it from the parent perspective.

… I would rather talk a potential owner out of doing the site than take a check from them for the wrong reasons.

LD: Is it still mostly a solo operation?

RS: Locally Julie Sorenson helps me, and she is really a huge, huge part of SBParent. But ParentClick has been solo. But we’re hiring.

… My daughter said to me the other day, “Mommy,” because she always told me she’s going to do my site when she grows up. She says, “I don’t know if I’m going to do when I grow up. I just think it’s too much work.”

LD: How and when do you work?

RS: My standard working hours, now that all my kids are in school, are really 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. I’ve gotten really disciplined, even though I still work out of the home, at not working on anything going on in the home–just working.

From 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. are my mom hours and then from 8 p.m. to midnight are usually work hours again. … My kids’ biggest complaint is my pulling up to pick them up from school on my cell phone, because I am literally doing calls until I pick them up. One of the things I tell a lot of the territory owners, as wonderful as it is working from home and as wonderful as it is being your own boss, it’s no less work–actually I think it’s a lot more juggling–it’s just that you get to control what those hours are.

I would not change it for the world because I get to be at all my kids’ things. … To me it’s worth working at night to be able to have that time with the kids during the day.

LD: Do you ever think it would be easier to have a job with set hours?

RS: Sure, but the funny thing is that even on my worst day where I’ll look at the big picture and go, did I make a mistake growing the company, did I make a mistake starting a business, I look at how it’s affected people and the emails we get or the great conversations with some of our territories, and I think you know what–I love what I do.

Vital Stats: Rachael Ross Steidl

Birthdate and place: 7/17/70, Los Angeles

Family: Twins Ashley and Whitney (9) and Emily (5); husband Jamie.

Civic Involvement: Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, Board President; Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara, Oversight Committee; Santa Barbara Foundation, Katherine Harvey Fellows; Junior Philanthropists, Fund for Santa Barbara; Hope School PTA.

Professional Accomplishments: Goleta Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year, 2007; 40 under 40, Pacific Coast Business Times; is now licensed in 18 cities, with more on the way.

Little known fact: Rachael’s parents had a great cookware store in Santa Barbara in the late 70s-80s called D. Crosby Ross, which was a cross between a Pottery Barn and a Williams Sonoma.

Originally published in Noozhawk

Noozhawk Talks: One on One With William Macfadyen

Bill Macfadyen (courtesy photo)

Bill Macfadyen (courtesy photo)

Soft-spoken, with a courtly politeness that seems more Southern than Southern California, William (Bill) Macfadyen doesn’t exactly conjure up images of your typical work-into-the-wee-hours, Red Bull-drinking, pimply-faced Internet entrepreneur. But with this week’s launch of Noozhawk, Santa Barbara’s first comprehensive, free online newspaper, he’s aiming to be the local daily on everybody’s lips–and laptops.

Leslie Dinaberg: Tell me about Noozhawk?

William Macfadyen: It is a community newspaper without the paper. There are two parts to it: it will be professional reporters, like yourself, doing original reporting on news, business, sports, real estate, nonprofits, schools. So there will be original content that we provide on the site, and then the real hook to the site will be to get the community involved through contributions from what I’m calling community contributors.

LD: Do you mean blogs?

WM: No, what we want to do is tie Noozhawk into the community by getting involved with all the networks that exist within Santa Barbara, communities within the community. That would mean a church or a club sports program or a school or a nonprofit or a business even …They can tell the story, submit their stories to Noozhawk and then we can help them get that word out about their organization.

LD: Will there be some way for readers to distinguish whether they are reading something from a member of an organization versus a professionally written and reported story?

WM: Yes, because the consumer needs to know what’s professional objective reporting, and what is a contribution from somebody who has an agenda … when it comes to a small nonprofit group or a school, they’re just really enthusiastic about their mission and want to get that word out. I think a community newspaper is uniquely suited to tell that story and we think Noozhawk will be able to do that in a way that a [printed] community newspaper, with all of its infrastructure, can’t possibly tell or afford.

LD: Explain the economics of that. Why is it easier to do that online?

WM: It’s so much easier to do that online because the Internet is infinite space. It’s basically free. There’s not an artificial or arbitrary limit on paging or a time.

LD: Will there be an editorial page?

WM: Noozhawk itself won’t take editorial positions or make endorsements on candidates or projects, what we want to do is foster debate on community issues that aren’t being covered or serviced anywhere else in town.

Santa Barbara is the greatest community in the world but we do have some really big challenges ahead of us: housing, transportation, the change in demographics, all of those issues are crying out for some kind of community dialogue and it just isn’t there. So what we want to do is offer a place where people can have that debate and discuss those issues and ask the questions that need to be asked, and maybe through that process we can help develop some solutions to some of those challenges.

LD: One of the things that I hear from people that are relying on the Internet now for most of their local news is that “it’s out there but there’s so much other stuff to sift through.”

WM: That’s kind of where this whole concept came in because anecdotally many, many people in town have come up with their own routines to find out what’s going on in their community. …The problem with that is … you’re not trained to go out and search for the news. …You’re not a journalist. And the news delivery really should be brainless … it should just magically show up on your doorstep, in your driveway, in your inbox, wherever, and you shouldn’t have to go looking for it. … What we’re trying to do is pull that all together and then basically be a one stop shop for people to get their news and then move on with their day. … There is no newspaper of record or information source of record. Noozhawk aims to change that.

LD: Where does the name Noozhawk come from?

WM: News hawk is slang for a newspaper reporter, so we just had a little Web 2.0ish fun with the news end of it and named it Noozhawk. Plus hawks are flying everywhere and they see everything.

LD: Why are you personally doing this?

WM: Because I’m not qualified to do anything else.

I’m too old for the Dodgers, although they could use me. I’m personally doing this because I’m very committed to Santa Barbara. I’m proud to live here. I love this community and I don’t like the fact that it’s not being served by its media. I think I know how to put together a quality news product, and I know I know the community, and what I’m trying to do is marry those two and fill a void.

LD: Why will this succeed when other start-up news ventures have failed?

WM: I have no idea what you’re talking about. (Laughs) Henry Ford said, “Failure is an opportunity to start anew only more intelligently.” And that’s what I am doing. I would not have undertaken this endeavor without the Beacon experience and part of that is, I think the Beacon was a fantastic newspaper. Certainly it served its readers very well. … But it failed as a business because we weren’t able to connect with the advertisers quickly enough. And so with Noozhawk, the genesis and evolution of that has been the opposite. I started out talking to advertisers first.

LD: So it feels like they are ready to embrace the Internet?

WM: That’s interesting because when we had the Beacon and we talked about the web part of it, the readership just wasn’t there yet … That dynamic and that whole attitude has changed. What I found in talking to those advertisers is that when I went back to them last fall and started talking to them about this project, their reaction was, “I’m done with print, it no longer works for me, it’s all about the Internet. Internet, Internet, Internet.”

When I first had the idea, older readers, retirees, who had been the core newspaper readers for generations, were resistant to the concept. …Then as time went on, and the Santa Barbara situation kind of deteriorated, I was finding even at the retiree level, the former newspaper reader level, those people were saying, “You know what. I’m actually finding my news online and it’s not that bad. I don’t really miss that routine.” Plus it’s environmentally friendly

LD: Are there any other models or any other communities that are already doing this kind of thing successfully?

WM: Not that I could find with a successful advertising model. … For this to succeed, the business community needs to support it and see it as a worthwhile endeavor that’s effective for their needs.

Without going into the details, I think Santa Barbara has some unique circumstances that are lending themselves to this idea here at this time. That said, I think you need to have some authenticity, and you need to really know the community. And I think we have some advantages in that area. The folks we have involved really know this community. Both Jim Farr (former publisher of the Goleta Valley Voice and Noozhawk’s Operations Manager) and I, obviously, were both community newspaper publishers. We don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things in the political spectrum but we’re both passionate about this community and want the best for it, and I think we have a certain respect and credibility in the community, at least in the business community.

LD: What’s the business model? How will this venture actually make money?

WM: Advertising revenue. It’s advertising supported, it’s free to use. We’re asking people to register for the daily email that goes out, but the idea would be that advertising is paying for the site in most cases.

LD: What about if the people at the table next to us were talking about Noozhawk, what would you want them to be saying?

WM: We want them to be talking about it all the time, like my gosh, it’s the most effective, more informative source for news and Information I’ve ever seen. I think at its heart, we want them to recognize Santa Barbara within Noozhawk’s website, The community that they know, we want to make sure that it’s reflected on the site.

It’s a great community, you know, I know it, everybody knows it, but too often it’s just invisible.

LD: What do you know now that you wish you would have known when you started the Beacon?

WM: You know, I thought when we started the Beacon that I really knew Santa Barbara and I didn’t. I had lived here at that time about 17 years, and just didn’t quite know or appreciate how interconnected everything was. And I think partly through the Beacon and partly through the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce, I think I have a great understanding and greater appreciation of how it all works, which is why I’m confident about Noozhawk’s success.

LD: When you’re not working, what do you like to do?

WM: It’s Dodgers Baseball and it’s killing me now.

LD: If you had to sum yourself up with just three adjectives, what would they be?




LD: Is there anything else you want to tell our readers?

I would say that Noozhawk is as much about them, actually is more about them than it is about our community, and so for them to take ownership of the site and get involved, our community will benefit, because at the end of the day, they have more knowledge about what’s going on in the community collectively than any single news source does individually. We really want their involvement.

Vital Statistics: William M. Macfadyen

Born: Sept. 8, 1960, Chicago

Family: Wife, Missy; children, Will, Colin and Kirsten; one Alaskan malamute

Civic Involvement: Board chairman, Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce; board secretary, Regional Legislative Alliance; board member, Coastal Housing Coalition and Santa Barbara Community Housing Corp.; past senior warden, All Saints By-the-Sea Episcopal Church

Professional Accomplishments: Co-founded the late South Coast Beacon newspaper, recipient of the California Newspaper Publishers Association’s General Excellence Award in its first year of eligibility; charter member, American Copy Editors Society

Little-Known Fact: Grandfather, Jack Macfadyen, founded the Malibu Times newspaper in the 1940s

Originally published in Noozhawk on October 16, 2007. Here’s the link to the original story.