CONCORD, CA (Aug. 28, 2023) — A chance meeting at the library got Concord resident Ana Galvan writing her first novel. She arrived at the library for a workshop on pruning roses and ran into a friend who encouraged her to come to a creative writing class.
That happened in 2014; now Galvan has written 16 books and poetry collections and teaches her own classes on writing. Her latest book is “Meet Me at Chicote” (Amazon 2021), a historical fiction novel based on her grandfather – who worked as a barman at the famous Madrid cocktail bar on the Gran Via.
In its early days, Chicote was frequented by artists, writers and bullfighters, including notables such as Ernest Hemingway, Frank Sinatra and Salvador Dalí. The bar has been there almost 100 years now and is a protected landmark.
“I was discussing Hemingway’s books with one of my students when we came across a short story called ‘The Denunciation,’ where the setting is this famous Spanish bar Chicote,” said Galvan. “I told my student that my grandfather worked there, and it was at that moment that it dawned on me that my grandfather may have known Hemingway … or served him a cocktail.”
Galvan became hooked on the 1930s in Spain, and her story was born with a lively cast of characters who visit this bar in the pre-Spanish Civil War era. In researching the book, she found a recipe for a cocktail from the bar called “the Galvan,” named for her grandfather by owner Perico Chicote. She also found photographs of her grandfather with Perico and of Perico with Hemingway.
The Amazon description of the book reads: “More than 200 characters meet on a cold night at the bar Chicote. Unbeknownst to the revelers, Death is lurking among them. ‘Meet Me at Chicote’ is the story of Spain in 1935, told in vignettes through the eyes of the characters who lived in an era of turmoil, desperation and hope.”
Galvan, who was born in Madrid, came to the United States in 1993 to learn English and never moved back. She earned two master’s degrees and went to work at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab.
“But it was not my passion. I’m not interested in working inside a lab all day. I like to be around people,” said Galvan, who found her passion through writing.
She and her husband moved to Concord in 2005 because she missed the warm summers she remembered from her childhood in Spain.
Galvan has a unique talent for being able to translate all her books from English to Spanish. “A bilingual person can translate better by getting the essence and mood correct without trying to translate the words literally,” she noted.
She also helps others get their stories written down by teaching creative writing through Mt. Diablo Adult Education. The next course (taught in English) begins Sept. 14.
Her goal is building a community of writers and helping each to get a full book written by using the Pomodoro technique. Visit mdae.mdusd.org for a class schedule.
She also leads a Spanish Book Club at the Ygnacio Valley Library the first Tuesday of each month. See ccclib.org for more information.
She is currently working on her next novel, “One Spanish Night,” which features supernatural and fantastic vignettes.
You can purchase “Meet Me at Chicote” on Amazon.
Kara Navolio is a freelance writer, telling stories of real life heroes and interesting people for several local newspapers since 2015, including The Pioneer and Lamorinda Weekly. She is also the editor of a local magazine, Northgate Living, and her debut children’s picture book Everybody Can Dance! was released by Brandylane Publishers, Inc. in May 2019. She has lived in Walnut Creek with her husband for 30 years and is the mom of two now grown children.