Creative tales from Rocklin authors

Barton, Winkelhake publish their works
By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Placer Herald and Press Tribune editor
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Two Rocklin women took inspiration from their own life events, put pen to paper and have entered the world of publishing.

Stephanie Winkelhake’s short story about her childhood pet has found a home in the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” collection, while Jen Barton’s moving short story about a woman in a dangerous convalescent home is drawing readers in an online writing competition.

Barton, who has lived in Rocklin for nearly six years, is the author of “Moving On Up,” a fictional account of a woman in a low-rent convalescent home unable to communicate her need for a “treasure” hidden in her dresser. Barton neatly snaps between Anne Mercer’s past – snapshots of romance, family and her husband’s illness – and her reality, a world of elder abuse and an ever-aging body.

The story is in a competition called “America’s Next Author,” an online contest in which writers are judged based on reader votes and critiques by publishing experts. Currently, “Moving On Up” is ranked No. 26 out of more than 350 stories. Voting is open to all, and the top 12 authors will move to the final rounds in December, competing for a $5,000 prize and the chance to be published.

Barton is also the author of “Fiona Thorn and the Carapacem Spell,” a young adult novel about, as Barton described her, “an ornery girl who knows her way around explosives.”

“When her best friend is imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, she decides she has to break him out of jail, and along the way she runs into three princesses,” Barton explained. “They all have to work together, and she has to figure out how to deal with them.”

Barton said she book was born out of a long car ride with her daughter, Emma, and three young friends. Bored, the girls asked Barton if she would tell them a story, and she suggested they come up with their own story. The girls started weaving the tale of Fiona, and Barton, inspired by their creativity, wrote the story, with a fire under her to finish quickly, as one of the girls had cancer. While the girl has since passed away, Barton said she was able to get “Fiona Thorn” written in time for her to read it before she died.

The Fiona character is based on Barton’s daughter, Barton said, and the book is the first in what will be the “Fiona Thorn” series. It’s self-published via Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace, and is available in e-book and paperback.

Barton was recently awarded an honorable mention for "Fiona Thorn and the Carapacem Spell' in the Southern California Book Festival. 

As she continues to promote herself and receive feedback on “Moving On Up,” Barton said she enjoys reading the critiques of her book – good or bad, she said, feedback is always important. And as for the future, she said she’ll continue the “Fiona Thorn” series and work on different writing endeavors.

“There are so many ideas for books and projects,” she said. “It’s just a matter of listening to what character is screaming the loudest in my head.”

To read Jen Barton’s story “Moving On Up” and vote for her to be “America’s Next Author,” visit


A doggone good story

Winkelhake is a newcomer to Rocklin, but not to storytelling. The daughter of a military history author, she has been writing novels since 1997.

Her debut novel, “The Matter of Souls,” was a finalist in the young adult category for the Golden Heart Awards, a national award for unpublished manuscripts, and she’s at work on another young adult novel, “Following You.” Winkelhake said that book is a paranormal young adult novel about a teen with a terminal illness who starts to see her dead ex-boyfriend.

Her most recent work is a short story almost too funny to be believable. “Do Not Machine Wash” is featured in “I Can’t Believe My Dog Did That,” a collection of canine memories that’s part of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” collection.

Winkelhake tells the story of the time she and her family came home to find their sheepdog, Heidi, stuck in the washing machine.

“We have no idea who she even jumped up there, to this day,” Winkelhake laughed. “She was wrapped around the agitator, so we kind of lifted her out and we just broke down in laughter once we figured out she wasn’t hurt.”

Heidi was quite a character, Winkelhake remembered, playing soccer with the boys in the backyard and getting into plenty of trouble – Winkelhake remembers one time when her mother had to write a note explaining to her teacher that, yes, the dog did in fact eat her daughter’s homework.

The family had Heidi until the week before Winkelhake graduated from college, providing a long dog’s life of memories. And man’s best friend is still an important part of Winkelhake’s life – she and her family recently welcomed a new member of the family: Baxter, a mini-Australian shepherd.

Winkelhake offered some advice for aspiring authors: “Don’t give up, and keep working at the craft, and find other writers out there, because it can be a long path to publication, but it doesn’t have to be a lonely one.”

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