New book portrays rambunctious childhood in Seal Beach and on Catalina Island

The book “Potluck: Little Stories From a Big Table” by Paula Thomas. Courtesy photos

“Start the New Year laughing.” That’s the advice of California native and author Paula Thomas, whose new book takes readers on a heartwarming and hilarious tour of the small-town beach cities she knew in her youth.

“Potluck: Little Stories From a Big Table” features a selection of family-friendly, entertaining and relatable stories about a rambunctious childhood on Catalina Island, in Seal Beach, and other places.

The author reportedly had a knack for embarrassing herself and a gift for telling those gut-busting stories to keep her friends in stitches. Acting out the ridiculous situations she got herself into became theater for family and friends, and now, you get to laugh along. The book is available in paperback at Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

When you grow up with six siblings in a tiny beach cottage, “You have to do something to survive.” Telling funny stories about her idiotic antics and the tender events that filled her life, kept her friends in stitches and kept the author sane.

When she won an essay contest in the 8th grade, she saw writing as the outlet she was looking for. At the urging of friends and family, the prolific writer of technical projects, has written her first collection of personal stories.

The talents of Thomas’s sisters Cynthia and Kay are the focus of one story in “Potluck.” Cynthia was a songwriter and accomplished pianist, and Kay often provided vocal accompaniment. The music that emerged from the family’s piano became the soundtrack to a rousing adventure.

Indeed, the author didn’t know what to expect when her gifted siblings became instant celebrities in the 1950s. The pair were “discovered” after performing an original musical composition — “Bermuda” — on LA’s local talent program, “Peter Potter’s Search for a Song.” Thomas creatively explores what it’s like for a child suddenly in the shadow of Hollywood fame.

The story of her siblings’ overnight success is just one of the intriguing tales found in “Potluck.” In another story, Paula relates the daring and outlandish antics of Alan, her future husband, who roamed the Island wild and free, like the buffalo that make the island their home.

Although Catalina Island is just off the coast of LA, it is light years from “civilization” and Alan’s capers in Catalina’s iconic Casino building attest to that.

As a whole, the book provides a glimpse into the experience of growing up in a large family tucked into in a small cottage just steps from the beach. Readers can hop in a literary time machine and see what life in Southern California was really like in the ’50s.

Reviews of “Potluck” all point to the book’s positive message. “Humor, heart and a humble spirit … ‘Potluck’ will bring back your childhood memories [and] remind you of your own siblings … with tears of laughter running down your cheeks,” says Lana Harriger Nicol, a longtime Orange County resident. Vicki Prelesnick, teacher and forty-year veteran of the Orange Unified School District, calls the book “great, funny, entertaining, touching, spiritual and meaningful.”

In promotion of “Potluck,” Thomas has book signingsplanned in Seal Beach on Feb. 17 and on Catalina Island on March 10.

More information on the author, including an events calendar, can be found at and her website,