• Gini Grossenbacher

    Author, American Historical Fiction


    Writing Instructor.


    Book Reviewer.




    Novelist and historian Gini Grossenbacher is one of California’s most respected and sought-after creative writing coaches and educators. She is a prominent literacy activist and developed an award-winning and innovative curriculum for the teaching of literature and the language arts in school districts and private academies across Northern California. Gini is a sought-after speaker and literary critic who has frequently appeared in print and broadcast media on the subject of great authors and the joys of historical fiction.


    Gini is a liberal arts graduate of Lewis & Clark College, one of the oldest institutions of higher education in the American West, has done postgraduate work in European history and Italian literature in ancient Perugia, and has a master’s degree in educational governance from one of the nation’s most important and prolific postgraduate campuses for school and university leadership.


    Gini is also a lifelong forensic historian with a special hands-on interest in the recovery of women’s narratives too often neglected in the stories nations and great cities tell about their origins. She has done in-place literary and historical research across five continents and wandered back alleys and elegant high streets from Bangkok and Kyoto to Singapore, from Mexico City and Martinique to Caracas, from London and Paris to Rome and the medieval hills and historic towns where Francis and Clare of Assisi reinvented European monasticism.



    Memberships and Affiliations


    California Writer's Club, Sacramento Branch 

    Historical Novel Society, NorCal & Sacramento Branch

    Romance Writers of America 

    Sacramento Valley Rose

    Amherst Writers & Artists (Affiliate)

    Editorial Freelance Association




  • Testimonials

    Love in your heart isn’t put there to stay. Love isn’t love till you give it away.  Oscar Hammerstein II


    Gini is one of the best authors I know at building character and setting. Her meticulous research allows her to pick just the right details to really make her places and people come alive.


    Ian Wilson, Writer, Sacramento, California

    April 6, 2016




    Gini writes careful, engaging, detailed stories/novels of people in historically-accurate fiction. Whether in the 1850s California, WWII Europe, or an American boarding house in the hard-scrabble Great Plains, her characters are engaging, spirited, and a bit saucy in their ways. If intrigue, deception, some amorous glances, a sharp mind and adventurous spirit, are your stuff, go find her books, and enjoy!


    Robert Pacholik

    President, Action-Adventure Press, Sacramento, California

    October 10, 2015


    Writing Instructor, Gini's AWA Workshops & Manuscript Review Groups

    The environment was very welcoming and positive from the very beginning. I felt like a community was established immediately. I felt "in the group" and welcomed. I want to keep writing. I felt like I could really do this--write. I want more of your guidance!

    --Bethany King, participant, Ashland Writers Retreat, Elk Grove Writers & Artists, October 2016


    I loved the setting, the Chanticleer B & B. The openness to write and to feel that what we wrote was valuable. What stayed with me was the knowledge that when we put our pen to the paper, I am always surprised at what comes out.

    --Kathleen Taylor, participant, Ashland Writers Retreat, Elk Grove Writers & Artists, October 2016.


    I like that you (Gini) are a professional writer and experienced writing teacher. What stays with me is the continuity of the class and the development of a "library of pieces." I love the mutual friendships and caring, and knowing the others' voices.

    --Amanda Williams, participant, Elk Grove Writers & Artists, May 2016


    About the Flash Fiction class: The subject "flash fiction" allowed me to use my imagination and become more comfortable writing fiction pieces. What was strong was learning to write quickly--no time to over-analyze or re-do, over-think, etc. Very valuable! I learned to make up and write stories quickly and to let my imagination grow with each new piece.

    --Kris Schoeller, participant, Elk Grove Writers & Artists, May 2016


    Flash fiction taught me to take out unnecessary words. My writing became stronger in fewer words. Flash fiction forces you to keep the pen moving. It is amazing what can escape your brain and land on that blank piece of paper. I would like to take another flash fiction class.

    --Kathleen Torian Taylor, participant, Elk Grove Writers & Artists, May 2016


    This has been a fun class. Learning about flash fiction and reducing a short story, still having all the elements of what the writer wants to convey. I liked the You-Tube films, the book with the many sample stories, and I liked sharing our writings the most.

    --Lorna Rae Warrington, participant, Elk Grove Writers & Artists, May 2016




    I have belonged to various critique groups over sixteen years of writing fiction, but Gini Grossenbacher's "Writers of Elk Grove," an Amherst Writers and Artists Affiliate, has been the most beneficial due to her professionalism and leadership. Each month, my gratitude increases for the honest feedback and guidance I receive from members of this group. Using Gini's own words, "I consider our AWA manuscript review to be the garden where our new plants are tended as they flower."

    --Margaret Duarte, Independent Writing and Editing Professional, Elk Grove, California

    April 13, 2016, Margaret worked directly with Gini at Elk Grove Writers & Artists, An Amherst Writers & Artists Affiliate




    I've been a member of Gini's writing group for three years. She has been extremely helpful and encouraging in memoir, prose and poetry, and currently working on flash fiction. I am now a member of her advanced manuscript group. Before meeting Gini, I did most of my writing alone in my office. I have found that writing with the group gives me instant feedback. Gini has inspired me to move forward toward getting my writing published.


    Kathleen Taylor, Writer, Elk Grove, California

    April 18, 2016




    I consider Gini to be a master of creative writing and recommend her to anyone. She is a natural leader in our manuscript critique group with remarkable resiliency. She proven she can communicate smoothly with people from different backgrounds and cultures. She's been a wonderful encouragement to to me as a new writer. Her overall advice has helped to develop my writing craft toward a whole new level. I'm very impressed with her knowledge in writing structure, dialogue exchange and how available she is for writers to network with her online.

    Lorna Norisse, Webpage Writing Consultant, 2016




    A true inspiration. What was strong was the time spent writing together and sharing. Amazing how much writing we do in such a short amount of time. Thank you for a wonderful writing experience.

    Kathleen Torian Taylor, 2015




    I loved the atmosphere in your house--being able to move around to write . Strong prompts. Your leadership and moving us along was gracious and needed--thanks! What will stay with me: Writing with my fellow writers was once again wonderful--the time passes so quickly.

    Christine Templeton, 2015


    Writing/Editing Coaching

    We meet at Peet’s Coffee.

    Will Gini think I haven’t listened to her advice? She gives me a four-page critique, and then orally reviews the progress made in the current draft. We discuss character, touching on gestures and how to include backstory. We refine methods to reveal the relationship of the protagonist to others.

    We move on to story arc, the crisis, escalation.

    Ah, the ending. I’ve gotten the inevitable result of the protagonist’s character flaws, but not enough surprise.

    Gini ends the meeting with more encouragement; she praises my work to move towards a professional standard of writing.

    I leave ready to write more, write better. Gini’s developmental edit is more than a professional service; it’s gift of her care for my work and for me.


    Judy Vaughan, Elk Grove, California

    June 1, 2015

    Book Reviews

    Gini is a longtime reviewer for the Historical Novels Review, having contributed many beautifully written reviews since 2008. Not only do her reviews clearly express her thoughts on the strengths and/or weaknesses of each book (in 300 words or fewer!), but they’re also engaging to read. Gini has a wide range of historical knowledge and reading interests, and her enthusiasm for history is evident throughout her work.


    Sarah Johnson, Professor of Library Services, Eastern Illinois University,

    Book Review Editor, Historical Novels Review

    And here’s your reviewer link if you need it: https://historicalnovelsociety.org/reviewer/liz-allenby/

    Writing Organizational Leadership

    As John F Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” When I joined the California Writers Club – Sacramento Branch, my first contact was with the VP of Membership— none other than Gini Grossenbacher. Immediately I noticed that Gini was highly motivated, ethical and possessed a strong passion about writing and her willingness to help others become successful. Her effervescent smile and easy going personality was catching while setting a great example for the organization. Leadership is unlocking people’s potential and Gini does this on a daily basis with fellow writers and friends. It is a pleasure to know and work with Gini.


    Michael Brandt, Writer, Speaker, Global Adventurer 2016



  • Who Am I?

    Follow Gini as she meanders through life and finally finds the true purpose--writing!

    Success in Circuit

    Tell all the truth but tell it slant —

    Success in Circuit lies…

    In my youth I meandered the streets of Venice, Rome and Florence, around me images and stories of Michelangelo, Botticelli, Leonardo. I wanted to write their tales. I traveled through Civil War Battlefields and visited George Washington’s house at Mount Vernon. I wanted to write those stories. I traveled the highways and byways of southern California and Arizona. The Grand Canyon stretched away in the distance, the interplay of light and dark, reflecting millennia of erosive magnificence. I wanted to write those stories.

    Now at long last, having reached the culmination of so many points of my life, I’ve found the voice to write the stories I’ve always wanted to tell, stories that get at the core of what it meant to be a woman growing up in the world in an earlier time. History prevented women from achieving their potential; all around them the society, the laws, the mores of the world held them down.


    But in order to get to that point, my route was circuitous. After graduating in English from Lewis and Clark College, I did postgraduate work in Italian in Perugia. “La, la, la, live for today.” Kids I knew were experimenting with lifestyle changes, breaking out of the “little boxes, made of ticky tacky.” Instead of following their parents’ career paths, they were backpacking around Europe, sleeping in hostels, parks and trains. It was a bohemian time when we sampled art, music, food, and wine.


    On my return to America I trained to become a travel agent. I figured I’d find an inexpensive way to see more of the world. And I did. The glittering temples of Bangkok, the tatami mats of Kyoto, a rickshaw ride in Singapore followed. More meandering in Hawaii and Mexico. More desire to tell stories, but something held me back. What was it? I searched some more. The crystalline waters of the Caribbean, haciendas in Venezuela offered their stories but it was not yet time.


    …Too bright for our infirm Delight

    The Truth's superb surprise


    More rambles followed

    And then came the call.

    Some might say it was spiritual, or Dickens might say it was indigestion after a ghostly visitor. I sat in my car eating lunch one day and the thought arose, “You must do more with your life. Do something for others.” I still wanted to tell my stories; in fact, they were building quite a skyscraper in my head.


    So, I left the world of trips and tickets and became a high school English teacher, and there I stayed, quite content to help students craft and submit college essays, counsel them when they were discouraged, and elucidate the finest points of Walt Whitman. I wrote curriculum, got a Masters in Education, and enjoyed years of teaching highlights, receiving a certificates of recognition from my top students. Student emails, Facebook posts and phone calls have continued as the years pass. Many former students tell me they remember my class as one of their favorites, and one even taught his own children a favorite poem because “Mrs. G. did and you should know it too.”

    For twenty-eight years I wrote with my students, attended university courses every summer with the California Literature and Writing Projects, and I modeled the writing process from start to finish, carrying home bundles of essays for commentary each night. I went early, stayed late and tutored student groups on weekends. More meandering to England, France and Italy, during summer breaks, but as time went on the wool-gathering for my own writing was gaining more urgency. And I was teaching American literature, I was reading works by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Emily Dickinson. I was showing my students images of the clothing, the dress, the hair, the lifestyle, Frederick Douglass, slavery, and in my head I wanted to leave teaching, but keep my own writing close about me, like a rolled up map.


    Then it was time. My time. I left teaching.

    Now the call to write was more of a yell. The pull, the voice saying you must write this novel. You must write many novels.


    For whom,? I asked the dark night.


    The answer came in the multicultural voices of my students. For us. For your students, for everyone who has been ever been a student, for everyone who loved history and the way you make history come alive in the literature of each time period. Write in the way you talk about Longfellow’s wife’s skirts catching on fire and her dying in his arms before their fireplace in Cambridge. In the the way you tell us about Virginia Woolf pocketing stones and walking into the River Ouse. The way you tell about touching Emerson’s walking stick at his house in Concord, Mass. That is what you must do.


    But not in someone else’s voice. In your voice. And you have a voice—after all. Bring us the silent voices, enliven the voices of those long dead, breathe life into them so we may understand and learn from their foibles, their mistakes, their heroism. In order to see that our generation’s struggles are nothing new.


    As Lightning to the Children eased

    With explanation kind


    I heard their voices and then I watched my paths converge, rather than diverge, in Robert Frost’s yellow wood. My travels continued to loom large, but now the spiritual landscape had changed. My explorations became purposeful, meant to immerse me in the setting, time, and point of view for the novels I would write.


    I rambled through Fells Point Baltimore, gazing at the Broadway Market, then turned back to see the water glistening in the Inner Harbor. I stood in front of New Orleans’ St. Louis Cathedral in the heat of the day. Sweat trickled down my back and I closed my eyes, hearing the blending sounds from another era. The clip clop of carriages, the shouts of stevedores loading bales of cotton onto steamboats, the Voodoo chants whispering under the magnolias at Jackson Square. I lurked on street corners in Chinatown, San Francisco, observing red paper lanterns and listening to Cantonese chatter in the shops. My characters began to emerge. I found my madam Brianna there, along with Edward, her love, Emma, their freed slaves, and the French prostitute Celeste, Jeannette, and all the others.


    My current path blends my past and present, since as Tennyson says in Ulysses, “I am a part of all that I have met.” I love teaching small groups of adults and running critique and manuscript coaching sessions. I write with others, but now I also write along my path. My literary research continues to take me to new places A fellow writer, Scott Thomas Anderson, said recently at the California Writer’s Club that we writers must immerse ourselves in surroundings.


    It took me more writing, more discoveries to set manageable goals into my pathways What does a person like me do when she’s interested in so many things? Would I write about musicians? Visual artists? Dancers? Crafstpeople? Kings? Queens? Then at a Historical Novels Society Conference a few years ago, I heard novelist Christy English say, “Write from your heart. Find your passion. Stick with it.” I realized that I had been submerging my own story material all those years when my path in the yellow wood had not been clear. Now, it lay before me. I needed time to cultivate such broad advice, to put it into a manageable form.


    One day in the middle of a cleansing walk with my dog Murphy I saw it clearly and plainly. I would write two series of novels. One about the struggles of everyday women, the underclass, the downtrodden, the abandoned, kicked aside in Victorian America. I would base their stories on true events, yet I would infuse characterizations with life and imagination so that the current readership would be able to relate, to learn, to feel the events in the stories.


    But then another call came at the same time, much like the kickings of a fraternal twin in the womb. I had heard so many World War II stories when I lived in Europe. Surprising stories about American women performing heroic acts, their stories untold because they had been spies, and their identities protected, even after their deaths. They fascinated me.


    I wondered what made those women choose to risk life and limb in the resistance against Hitler, not only on foreign soil, but also surprisingly in American cities? What kind of women would even trade their bodies in exchange for information? What kind would endure torture or imprisonment in the face of discovery by the Nazis, and because of their covers, whose deaths would go unreported?


    So, I went to Poland, Hungary, and the Czech republic, imagining the feelings of these women who joined forces with the network of underground agents in foreign countries to disable communication lines, gather intel to send back to our Allies. Some of those women even led normal lives as part of a diplomatic corps, raised their children, assumed housewifely identities as wives of military attaches at various embassies. Yet they were information gatherers? How many were there? Who were they? I was on a mission to gather their tales.


    The Truth must dazzle gradually

    Or every man be blind —


    I walked the Jewish quarter in Warsaw, witnessing the only wall remaining of what was the largest Jewish settlement in Poland, smashed by the Germans, and then by the Russians in WWII. I gazed at piles of shoes, shorn hair, suitcases and toys divested by the Jewish prisoners before they entered the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau. I knew then the answer to what made those women choose to risk life and limb. And in the whispers of that shrine I gained the final push I needed. I came home, my resolve stronger than ever to write my second series on the women behind the lines in WWII.

    My novels lay ahead, beckoning. I am writing at least four in each series, I belong to the Romance Writers of America, The Editorial Freelance Association, and the Historical Novel Society. I’ve served on the board of the California Writers Club. I know the support and training offered by such groups, plus the comraderie of their members, shores me up, and inspires me to continue. I write book reviews as Liz Allenby for the Historical Novel Society in order to stay current on recent publications in the genre. I have given readings at my local library. When called upon, I have served as panelist and presenter at the California Writers Club and the California Capitol Book Festival. I have made two appearances on TSPN Tv in Jackson California as a panelist on the show “Writers, Books and Beyond.” I attend national conferences of Historical Novel Society, in Albany, NY, San Diego, CA and Denver, Colorado. I continue to build my social media networks on Linked In, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. And I write blogs on my website, www.ginigrossenbacher.com


    It is a joyful life. The path is clear, the sun is bright, and this is what I am meant to do.

    --Gini Grossenbacher





    “Tell all the truth but tell it slant,” by Emily Dickinson.


  • Aesthetic Statement

    Why I write.

    Me at five: Christmas, in my Annie Oakley outfit, holding my Mickey Mouse guitar

    The Past is History


    As the youngest child of older parents, I spent a lot of time alone. When there were no children to play with, books were my best friends.


    I would sit in my Annie Oakley Christmas outfit, my parent’s high bookshelves looming above me. I would paw through artist print books. My favorite paintings included Renoir’s The Boating Party and Van Gogh’s Starry Night. I thumbed through encyclopedias and looked at the pictures. I remember women wearing hats with feathery plumes, and men with bowlers. They enlivened my stories and peppered my dreams. My mother taught me to read, and at three I discovered Dr. Seuss. My childhood books included Robin Hood, The Secret Garden, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, and Pippi Longstocking. Throughout my school years, I drafted friends to play various parts in those tales. We used my older sisters’ old prom dresses and long petticoats for costumes. We took their plastic jewelry, safety-pinned their skirts, and slathered their lipstick on our faces.


    My life’s journey led me far from home, but everyone and everything I encountered had the potential to be a character or part of a scene in a novel. A gondolier in Venice, a Catholic priest in Rome, a street sweeper in Hong Kong: all were food for the garden my imagination tended. I created and acted out scenes in my mind, whether or not I wrote them down. Later as a teacher, I wrote with my students every day, and their stories inspired me to continue writing my own.


    The Fisherman's Cottage by Ralph Todd  (1856-1932)


    Tomorrow’s a Mystery



    Long before there ever was an information super-highway, a library full of books and magazines was the next best thing. Today we share our poems and stories on small screens, communing with other writers and readers. A person may read a novel on their television, their phone, their tablet, or their Google glasses. Who knows what shape books will take in the future? No matter how rapidly our systems transform, words and language will remain our universal technology.


    We Only Have Today…

    Before I am ashes and dust, I have a mission to give form and voice to the stories inspired by the days I sat cross-legged on my parents’ rug. Writing allows me to unite the past and the present versions of myself. In this art form I seek truth in its purest expression. In the arms of the present, I work day by day on my novels and accept the wisdom of fellow writers in the Amherst Writers and Artists environment.


    I want to catch the sliver of light between the caterpillar and the leaf.

    Landscape, Sierra Foothills

  • My Blog

    See the latest news & reviews from the Elk Grove/Sacramento/Amador writing communities and beyond!

  • Elk Grove Writers & Artists

    An Amherst Writers & Artists group for writers of all skill levels.

    About Elk Grove Writers & Artists

    This Amherst (AWA) Creative Writing Workshop Series helps writers expand their craft through developing a unique voice. In an AWA workshop, writers gain confidence in a supportive, small community of peers. Groups generate first draft writing, then choose excerpts to publish in our chapbook, The Plume.


    Our writers improve as they practice techniques of creative writing, applied across genre to creative non-fiction, autobiography, journals, fiction or poetry. Many work on their own writing projects during the scope of the course. The group meets once a week on Tuesday afternoons or Wednesday mornings. In addition we have a manuscript review group meeting on the first Thursday of the month.


    Want additional information? Check out the schedule and get more details on the Meetup.com site.


    In addition to small classes, one-on-one creative writing coaching is also available.

    About the AWA Method

    Five essential affirmations of Amherst Writers & Artists (AWA), according to Pat Schneider, AWA founder and author of Writing Alone and With Others:

    • Everyone has a strong, unique voice.

    • Everyone is born with creative genius.

    • Writing as an art form belongs to all people, regardless of economic class or educational level.

    • The teaching of craft can be done without damage to a writer’s original voice or artistic self-esteem.

    • A writer is someone who writes.

  • Book Reviews








    Illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith for R.L. Stevenson "A Child's Garden of Verses," 1905

    Since 2005, Gini has published numerous book reviews under the pen name

    Liz Allenby and Gini Grossenbacher in the Historical Novels Review, a publication of

    the Historical Novel Society.

    Broken Music

    By Marjorie Eccles 

    Not a Simple Suicide


    Broughton Underhill, England. The death of young Marianne Wentworth, found in the lake on the Oaklands Park estate, haunts this novel. The narrative flashes back and forth between 1919 and the drowning in August 1914. The story dips in and out of the war years, following the lives of Francis Wentworth and his motherless children – Nella, Amy, and William – as they grieve, love, and serve their country. Enter former police sergeant Herbert Reardon returning home after the war. Aware of the original investigation, Reardon never feels satisfied that Marianne’s death was a simple suicide. So he begins to wonder when a maid dies in the lake in the same place as Marianne. He retraces the flirtations between Marianne and four young men, including a gypsy and an Austrian boy with suspicious alliances at the outbreak of war. His discovery of Marianne’s notebook provides the possible key to both drownings and the discovery of a long-concealed affair.


    Marjorie Eccles is an established mystery novelist. Her work has been serialized on British television, and her novels are acclaimed. This is a well-crafted, detailed novel which draws the reader in slowly. Eccles presents Broken Music – the world before and after the Great War, and its impact on an English country town, all the while focusing on the drowning of Marianne and the questions that ensued. Her traditional style provides rich narration and literary imagery. Eccles embeds clues along the way which delightfully culminate in the epilogue as the reader gasps and says, “Ah, now I see.”



    Stars, Stripes and Peace Symbols

    Comeback Love

    By Peter Golden


    Told through a series of past and present episodes, Comeback Love focuses on the theme of timeless love. Aspiring journalist Gordon falls in love with Glenna, a ravishing medical student, during the late 1960s heyday of free love, drugs, and civil rights. As Gordon struggles to make sense of his place in New York City, he and Glenna develop an attachment common to the free spirits who proclaimed “live for today.” As she finishes work on her M.D., Gordon tries to make sense of their lives together showing the “almost truthfulness” of couples afraid of long-term commitment, yet longing for it at the same time. Their youthful zest and enthusiasm is tempered by their parents’ lives, which are more conventional but more confused than their own. The novel slips back and forth among their various reencounters over fifty years, carefully blending those mysterious elements in love affairs that seem to mock the passage of time, and yet transcend it all the same.


    Those who experienced the military service in Viet Nam, the fight for women’s reproductive rights, and the thrills of Woodstock will recognize the powerful forces mirrored in Gordon and Glenna’s experiences. Peter Golden’s period references to drugs, sex, and rock and roll are accurate and compelling. Through his characters, Golden brings to life the enduring influence of the Stars and Stripes with a peace symbol stamped on it.

  • Gini's Novels

    Works in progress.

    © Marek and Ewa Wojciechowscy / Trips over Poland, via Wikimedia Commons

    The Embassy Pearls

    1938-42: Warsaw, Poland and Washington, D.C.


    An ambassador's wife goes undercover to lure men into divulging secret intelligence from their foreign embassies. In the meantime, she falls in love with one of them. Surprising twists and turns, based on historical events.


    First in the series called "The Swallows." Follows the incredible secret stories of women spies, both inside and outside the U.S. during WWII.


    Current progress: Drafts are in critique reviews with my writing groups.

    Madam of My Heart

    1850's Baltimore, New Orleans, and San Francisco. A seasoned gambler tosses a coin to win the attention of an abandoned seamstress. She knows nothing of his world, but she is soon to find out, like it or not. A passionate love story based on historical fact.


    First in the historical fiction series, "The American Madams." Based on the adventures of infamous madams who rise from poverty to power and influence in the 19th century.


    Completed manuscript available for your consideration.

  • Contact Gini

    I'd love to hear from you!

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