Posted by: wordrunner | April 1, 2014

April 1, 2014

Dear Literary Folk,

It’s April—National Poetry Month! Yes, it can be cruel, if you happen to be Poet Laureate and have more invitations to read than you can possibly accept, or if you find yourself at the receiving end of an April Fool’s prank. In case of the latter, may you be blissfully delighted by any such high spirits.

Speaking of which, one of my favorite April Fool’s pranks is known as the Jovian-Plutonian gravitational effect. As reported on Wikipedia, in 1976, British astronomer Sir Patrick Moore told listeners of BBC Radio 2 that unique alignment of two planets would result in an upward gravitational pull making people lighter at precisely 9:47 am that day. He invited his audience to jump in the air and experience “a strange floating sensation.” Dozens of listeners phoned in to say the experiment had worked, among them a woman who reported that she and her 11 friends were “wafted from their chairs and orbited gently around the room.”

Here in Sonoma County, April looks like a feast of riches, as one look at the calendar page will reveal. Among these are book launches, writing conferences, readers’ theater, writing retreats, music and poetry, calls for submission, and invitations to sit quietly at home and write.

The first two announcements are especially time-sensitive, as they have April 1 deadlines. I hope this post arrives in time for you to come down from your round-the-room orbit and settle back at your computer or nestle into your writing chair.

I Knew I was a Feminist When . . .
Have you got a story, essay, poem, photo, or B &W artwork on this theme? If so today, April 1, is the deadline for the Sitting Rooms 2014 publication. For details, visit

California Poets in the School’s 50th Anniversary
In honor of its 50th anniversary, California Poets in the School’s is publishing a celebratory book called Poetry Crossing, edited by Sonoma County’s own Phyllis Meshulam. Poets who contributed their poetry lessons include Francisco Alarcón, Ellen Bass, Robert Hass, Juan Felipe Herrera, Brenda Hillman, Jane Hirshfield, Ted Kooser, Gary Snyder, and many others. Whether you’re looking for a way to spark your own creativity, or lessons that will bring poetry alive to young people, you’ll be delighted with this collection. If you’d like to make a contribution to the kickstarter campaign and reserve your own copy, today is the deadline. Check out this link:

Two Poets Laureate at the Sitting Room
Katherine HastingsTerry EhretYou’re all invited to join our new Poet Laureate, Katherine Hastings, and me for a reading at the Sitting Room on Saturday, April 12, from 2-4 p.m. There will be tea and tasty treats, as well as an opportunity to tour the Sitting Room’s collection, which includes a very intimate and delightful poetry room. Besides an afternoon of poetry, you’ll be able to find out more about Katherine’s Digging Our Poetic Roots project and how you can get involved. For details about this, visit the Poet Laureate’s News page of this month’s update.

Honor the Earth with “Idle No More”
Idle No MoreApril is the month we celebrate Earth Day, and in honor of our home planet, the Arlene Francis Center is hosting an exciting event with the grassroots movement “Idle No More” on Wednesday, April 9, 7-9 p.m. at the Arlene Francis Center, 99 6th Street, Santa Rosa. Idle No More was founded in Canada just over a year ago by Indigenous women resisting the government’s breaking of treaties, the resource exploitation of First Nations land, tar sand extraction and the many pipelines required to transport the sludge. The vision of the movement revolves around Indigenous Ways of Knowing rooted in Indigenous Sovereignty to protect water, air, land and all creation for future generations. There will be drumming by the Native Resistance Drum Group, music to be announced, and a presentation and discussion of Idle No More with Jess and Nina. This is a fundraiser for Idle No More – $10 donation suggested, but no one turned away. Information – 707-575-8902. Sponsored by the Peace & Justice Center of Sonoma County, Healdsburg Peace Project, 100 Thousand Poets for Change, 350 Sonoma County, and Green Party Sonoma.

Redwood Writers Conference
From Pen to PublishedComing up this month on Saturday, April 26, 8:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m is the 2014 Redwood Writers Conference, “From Pen to Published.” The conference will be held this year at the Bertolini Student Center at Santa Rosa Junior College. John Rothmann and Dana Gioia will be keynote speakers. For more information about the conference schedule and registration, go to and click on the “Conference” tab.

Thoughts on the Drought (or the rain!)
Back in January, I invited members of the literary community to send me their thoughts on the California drought, and each month, I have featured those I’ve received at the end of the new post. Given the recent glorious rain, it may not feel that we’re still in drought conditions, but, of course, we are. For April, I’m pleased to share poems by Sonoma County authors Arlene Mandell, Carol Wade-Lundberg, and Jodi Hottel.

If you have a short piece (250 words or less) on this subject, please send them to me at Use the subject line “Thoughts on the Drought.”

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Click here to download a pdf of most of the pages on our website.


After a Violent Rain Storm
by Arlene Mandell

Surrounded by vast acres of state forest
blanketed in valley fog, my yard is strewn
with downed branches. Hands protected
by worn gloves I lift the rotted wood
filling two trash cans, then toss a branch
to the dog.

Resting on the back steps, I listen
to the winter creek rushing downhill
breathe in the rich loamy scent . . .
and realize that for centuries
trees have toppled, turned to compost
on this mountainside.

I haul the cans to the road, whistle
for the dog and head inside for tea
and biscuits to reward my sincere
but trifling efforts.


Drought Year at Putah Creek
by Carol Wade Lundberg

The river sleep beneath
rock & sand
random rusted cans, a

lone silt-crusted tire
& surprising
eruptions of desert flowers

in the gray gravel bed.
The river waits:
from rocky cliffs

six feet above the ghost
of last year’s
waterline, the covert

trickle of an underground
spring. Cows
sniff out its salacious

Ephemera, plodding
down dusty
hills through the rounded

canopies of live oak
false clouds
of dust rising from

their mammoth hooves
to lick its
meager promise. Watching

from the cover
of the ridge
we try to

(remember the penitential words that will)

call it forth


by Jodi Hottel

ashen trees
jaundiced hills
against stark blue horizon—
my eyes too
are thirsty

At Last
by Jodi Hottel

Olive trees wave their limbs—
rain washes the dust
from their thousand eyes.

Posted by: wordrunner | March 1, 2014

March 1, 2014

Dear Literary Folk,

I’m writing to you from Seattle where this year’s Associated Writing Programs (AWP) conference is underway. Among the featured presenters are Annie Proulx, Coleman Barks, Gary Snyder, Ursula LeGuin, Tobias Wolf, Amy Tan, Joy Harjo, Jane Hirshfield, Bob Hass, Sherman Alexie. In addition to these luminaries, there are many fellow Sonoma County writers in attendance. I’ll update with photos and a roll call as the conference unfolds.

Women’s History Month
Here are a few of the literary ways to mark this remembrance and celebration.

Saturday, March 8, noon-2:00 p.m. Redwood Writers hosts the next Library Open Mic at the Santa Rosa Central Library, 211 E St., Santa Rosa. The theme in March is “Women,” in honor of International Women’s Day, which is on the day of the reading. The general public is invited to sign up to read. For more information about Redwood Writers or this event, go to For directions or information about the library, call (707) 545-0831 or go to

Sitting Room Annual Publication Deadline Extended to April 1.
Sitting Room invites you to contribute to their annual publication. The theme for 2014 is When I First Realized I Was a Feminist. We are not going to define the term, but simply invite accounts of the first time you realized you were a feminist. All ages and genders are welcome to contribute, in prose, poetry, or black-and-white illustration. Here’s our style guide and publication address. We have received several 2-3 sentence responses, similar to those click moments featured in early issues of Ms. So if you don’t want to create a full-page account, then feel free to submit a CLICK! For details, visit

Monday, March 17, 7:00 p.m. On St. Patrick’s Day, Sonoma County’s Poet Laureate Katherine Hastings will be the featured reader at the Crossroads Irish American Festival in San Francisco. The venue will be Bookshop West Portal, 80 West Portal Avenue, San Francisco. An evening of Irish Soda Bread, drinks and poetry:

Saturday, March 29, 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The Women’s National Book Association-San Francisco Chapter is hosting its annual Pitch-O-Rama in San Francisco at the Women’s Building, 3543 18th St. (between Guerrero & Valencia Sts.) . You will have an opportunity to pitch your book to 12 literary agents, publishers and editors. The morning includes a free pre-pitch training session when writers will receive training; a two-hour, one-on-one pitch session; and mentoring throughout the pitch session. For for more information and to register, please see the WNBA’s website: The fee is $65 for members and $75 for nonmembers.

Thoughts on the Drought
Last month, I invited you to send me your thoughts on the California drought. We’ve all felt the drought in our bones for weeks before the official declaration. Has the weather drawn from you an essay? a poem? a rant? A lament? If so, please send me what you’ve written.

You can send me your thoughts to Please write Thoughts on the Drought in the subject line. Try to keep contributions under 250 words.

I received two responses in February, which I share with you below.

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update


A beautiful young father, an Acoma Pueblo Indian tour guide at his tribe’s museum, told me how he had played in a creek near Santa Fe as a child. Now, he said, it’s dry and my daughter can’t enjoy it. I know whose fault that is.

A day later, I was at the Santa Fe Plaza walking slowly past the jewelry offerings. Many of the Pueblo Indians came from hours away to sell their gorgeously crafted pieces. But I literally stuck up my nose from their unwashed smell. Culture clash, I’d supposed.

Now I soon will be unwashed and smelly. It’s all a question of available water.

—Susan Spaulding

Light Rain

Such a wondrous sound
after an absence of months,
rain tumbling down
in holy hush.
Whatever she touches
sighs in deep thanks.
Pores open wide, roots
wriggle, unfurl, drink
their fill, let the rest
stream in swells.

We pray you, return
again and again. Our
parched earth is bereft,
people afraid. Thank
you dear Earth for
seeing our needs, may
we meet yours before
we’re pushed to plead .
Water our hearts with
fresh, bountiful springs.

—Raphael Block


Click here for a pdf that contains most of the pages on the website, updated for March 2014.

Posted by: wordrunner | February 1, 2014

February 1, 2014

Dear Literary Folk,

It’s a strange non-winter we’ve just passed through with searing frost, but without rain or snow, the driest year on record in California History. Like an answer to a prayer, light rains darkened the thirsty ground this past week, and a modest snowfall is coming down in the Sierras as I write these words. I’m heading up to Hope Valley today for a little snow-shoeing, grateful I won’t have to clamber about on bare rock. But we know it’s not enough.

Thoughts on the Drought
We’ve all felt the drought in our bones for weeks before the official declaration. Has the weather drawn from you an essay? a poem? a rant? A lament? If so, please send me what you’ve written. I’m thinking of including these in next month’s post.

You can send me your thoughts to Please write Thoughts on the Drought in the subject line. Try to keep contributions under 250 words.

Poetry Out Loud
Coming up on tomorrow evening, February  2, is the annual Sonoma County Poetry Out Loud Competition. If you’ve never been, consider adding this to your weekend plans. The program features high school students who have memorized poems for recital. It’s a chance to hear poetry returned to its oral form, the words coming alive in remarkable ways; even familiar pieces by Robert Frost or Emily Dickinson can sound entirely new in their delivery.

The program runs from 6:30 to 9:30 at the Glaser Center, 547 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa. Free admission. Details on County News page.

Record-a-Poem on SoundCloud
Record-a-PoemMaybe you have a favorite poem you’ve learnt by heart, or simply love to hear read out loud? The Poetry Foundation has created the Record-a-Poem group where everyone is invited to post audio recordings of their favorite poems.

Here’s the link with samples to listen to and instructions for uploading your own favorite poem recording:

Rumi’s Caravan
Rumi’s Caravan is returning to the Glaser Center in Santa Rosa Saturday, February 8 for its 13th season. Critics have called this “the premier poetry event of the year for the North Bay.” The evening begins with a 5:45 PM reception of Persian appetizers and wine, followed by a 7:00 PM performance of poetry in the ecstatic tradition accompanied by middle eastern music.

All proceeds will go to benefit the Climate Protection Campaign. Tickets are $25 and can be bought online at

In the Mood for Love?
On Sunday February 9, 1:30-3:30 p.m. The Healdsburg Literary Guild presents Annual Poetry Valentine. Twenty-one poets chosen after a call for love poems will be reading their selections, accompanied by chocolate goodies, at the Guild’s annual love-gift to the community.  A chapbook of the poems, titled Love by Any Other Name, will be available for purchase, proceeds to the Guild. At the Bean Affair, 1270 Healdsburg Avenue. FREE and open to the public. Info:

Digging Our Poetic Roots
roots-bookOur new Sonoma County Poet Laureate Katherine Hastings invites you all to participate in her project called “Digging Our Poetic Roots.” Katherine will regularly select a number of poems over the two-year period to share electronically with our local and invite Sonoma County to respond with poems of their own. Everyone is invited to participate — experienced and inexperienced, young and old. For details about the project and how you can sign up to participate, visit the Poet Laureate News page.

Call for Poetry Manuscripts
For those of you with poetry manuscripts in the drawer, Sixteen Rivers Press announces that the deadline for submissions for the 2013 manuscript competition has been extended! Manuscripts will now be accepted up to March 1, 2014 both online and through regular mail. All other submission guidelines still apply. Please see complete guidelines at

Here are two poems for the season: “The Drought,” by Gary Soto, and “Tenderness and Rot,” a poem about love, by Kay Ryan

gary_sotoThe Drought

The clouds shouldered a path up the mountains
East of Ocampo, and then descended,
Scraping their bellies gray on the cracked shingles of slate.

They entered the valley, and passed the roads that went
Trackless, the houses blown open, their cellars creaking
And lined with the bottles that held their breath for years.

They passed the fields where the trees dried thin as hat racks
And the plow’s tooth bit the earth for what endured.
But what continued were the wind that plucked the birds spineless

And the young who left with a few seeds in each pocket,
Their belts tightened on the fifth notch of hunger—
Under the sky that deafened from listening for rain.

Gary Soto, “The Drought” from The Tale of Sunlight
(Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1978).
Copyright © 1978 by Gary Soto.
Reprinted with the permission of the author,
Source: Poetry (June 1977).

KayRyanTenderness and Rot

Tenderness and rot
share a border.
And rot is an
aggressive neighbor
whose iridescence
keeps creeping over.

No lessons
can be drawn
from this however.

One is not
two countries.
One is not meat

It is important
to stay sweet
and loving.

Source: Poetry (January 2002).

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

A pdf of most of the pages on the Update website may be downloaded here.

Posted by: wordrunner | January 3, 2014

January 1, 2014

January 2, 2014

Dear Literary Folk,

Midnight in Paris (on a clock)New Year's Day brunch 2014A new year opens with so much to celebrate! Yesterday, I enjoyed the company of 40+ writers and friends welcoming 2014 with poetry, good food, and wonderful conversation. The evening before, New Year’s Eve, I re-watched Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. I have always been drawn to those eras when creative communities thrived—The Romantics in the early 19th Century, Paris in the 20’s, the Beats in the 50’s, the garage-band rock scene of the 60’s. But right here, right now, we are all lucky to be part of such a generous community. No doubt 2014 will give us many occasions to come together for readings, performances, publication parties, workshops, conferences, forums, friendly gatherings for coffee or tea in this spontaneous collaboration of the literary arts.

Thanks to Bill Varnaw
January marks the two-year anniversary of Bill Vatnaw’s term as Sonoma County Poet Laureate, and what a fine literary ambassador he has been! He has been as omnipresent as a person can be, short of cloning, attending readings and book festivals all over the county and beyond, and presenting his own brilliant work alongside the writers in the county he has befriended and supported. His project to set poems by Sonoma County writers in bronze has taken some intriguing and perplexing twists, which he’ll be continuing to follow in the months ahead. Hopefully he’ll keep us posted.

Sonoma County’s New Poet Laureate
Katherine HastingsCongratulations to Santa Rosa poet Katherine Hastings, Sonoma County’s Eighth Poet Laureate. I think you’ll all agree that Katherine’s presence in our community is one of the reasons Sonoma County is such a terrific place to be a writer. Her well-known projects include the  WordTemple Poetry Series, which she founded  in 2005.  In this series  she brings  established poets,  including several  U.S.  and California State Poets  Laureate, together  with  local poets.  She has hosted  the companion WordTemple program  on KRCB  FM since 2007. And has recently launched  the WordTemple Arts & Lectures  series, in which pairs of writers  read and discuss  their work  together  and then take questions from the audience. She is the author of Nighthawks, Cloud Fire, and several chapbooks, including Updraft.

Katherine will be proclaimed as Poet Laureate by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors at their meeting on January 14, 2014. Look for her Poet Laureate Post, which will be a regular feature of the Literary Update starting in February.

Poet Laureate Reception January 19
You are all invited to join the Poet Laureate Selection Committee in honoring Katherine at a reception on Sunday, January 19, at 2:00 pm at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, 282 S. High Street, Sebastopol, CA 95472. For information visit

Thank you, Jo-Anne!
Before I write another word, let me first extend my heart-felt gratitude to Jo-Anne Rosen, my co-editor of the Sonoma County Literary Update. As you know, she keeps the website current, sifts through all the announcements, and compiles each monthly newsletter that goes out to 300 or so subscribers. I get the more prominent position of writing the most of the monthly posts, but the daily, behind-the-scenes work is hers. She is a treasure. Her WordRunner Press publishes a quarterly online chapbook series of fiction, poetry and memoir, and her website includes a special page of tips for those of you considering a self-published chapbook project. If you haven’t already, take a moment to visit her website at

Would You Like to be a Guest Blogger?
For the past nine years, I’ve been creating the monthly posts for the Literary Update, in the past few years with the help of my co-editor Jo-Anne. Often Jo-Anne and I wonder how we might make these posts more lively and varied so we’re getting a wider view of the Sonoma County literary scene. We began during Gwynn O’Gara’s term with the Poet Laureate News, and last month added Ed Coletti’s post on the Sonoma County in Print page. We’ve also tossed around the idea of inviting members of the literary community to take a month as guest blogger, and this seems like a perfect time to launch such a project.

If you’d like to try your hand at writing a monthly post, let me know. Send me an e-mail at, and we’ll see what we can work out.

Sonoma County Writers Published in Journals
As announced in December, poet Ed Coletti is hosting a new feature of the Sonoma County Literary Update that recognizes local authors whose work is published in literary journals. You’ll find these announcements on our Sonoma County in Print page.
If you have a publication in a literary journal within the last 30 days you’d like to announce, send the following information to Ed at

Your name
Title of the piece
Name of the journal and date of publication (issue/volume)
Link to journal’s website (if available)

Writers Critique Group at Aqus Cafe
I often get queries from local writers looking for a supportive critique group, and I’m happy to say, there is one starting up at the Aqus Café this month on Tuesday, January 21, 10:00 a.m. The group will meet every 3rd Tuesday at Aqus Cafe, 189 H St. Petaluma. Contact: Kathy Andrew,

A Sampler of Upcoming Literary Events

Please check out the January calendar of events page for all the readings, workshops, and events. I’ve noted these that are especially worth your attention.

Friday-Sunday, January 17 thru 19, 7:30 p.m. Evolution of a Woman. This readers’ theater production is the creation of eight local women who were inspired to write their own show after working together in The Vagina Monologues. After a sold out run at the Art Center in Petaluma last spring, these talented women are bringing the show to Clear Heart Gallery, 90 Jessie Lane, Petaluma. Friday and Saturday tickets: Sunday tickets:

Sunday, January 19, 1:30 p.m. Third Sunday Salon featuring Jean Wong reading from her recently released book, Sleeping with the Gods, and Donna Emerson reading from her recent chapbook, Following Hay. At the Bean Affair in Healdsburg. Details at:

Friday, January 24, 7:00 p.m. Celebrate the launch of Nighthawks with author Katherine Hastings, Sonoma county’s new Poet Laureate for 2014-2016. Reading, Q & A, book sales and signing. Admission is free, but all donations gratefully accepted.  Occidental Center for the Arts, 3850 Doris Murphy Court (Graton Rd and Bohemian Hwy. in Occidental). Further information: 707-874-9392, or website:
Instead of just one poem for the new year, I’m passing along the New Year’s Poem page from the website of the Academy of American Poets. Happy 2014!

Poems for the New Year

clockEighteenth-century Scottish poet Robert Burns may well be most famous not for a poem he wrote, exactly, but for a poem he wrote down. According to Burns Country, a comprehensive website devoted to the poet, Burns, in a letter to an acquaintance, wrote, “There is an old song and tune which has often thrilled through my soul. You know I am an enthusiast in old Scotch songs. I shall give you the verses on the other sheet… Light be the turf on the breast of the heaven-inspired poet who composed this glorious fragment! There is more of the fire of native genius in it than in half a dozen of modern English Bacchanalians.”

That song was a version that Burns fashioned of “Auld Lang Syne,” which annually rings in the New Year at parties across the world, though most often sung out of tune and with improvised lyrics, as it has been described as “the song that nobody knows.” Though the history of the authorship of the poem is labyrinthine and disputed, Burns is generally credited with penning at least two original stanzas to the version that is most familiar to revelers of the New Year.
Here are the first two stanzas as Burns recorded them:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

Chorus.-For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

Undoubtedly, some rousing version of the Scottish song echoed through the New Year’s night near where Thomas Hardy wrote his haunting goodbye to the ninteenth century, “The Darkling Thrush.” Dated December 30, 1900, which signaled the end of the century in Hardy’s view, the poem intones a much more somber sense of the end of one time and beginning of another. Consider the last lines of the opening stanza, which set a grim scene:

The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

But century’s end, for Hardy, was possibly an arbitrary marking, too, and there was hope to be found, in the form of the sudden song issued from a thrush’s voice, a “full-hearted evensong / Of joy illimited.”
For centuries, it has been the charge of Britain’s Poet Laureate to write a poem to ring in the New Year. Laureate Nahum Tate established this practice, having written eight New Year odes between 1693 and 1708. And the phrase “ring out the old, ring in the new” first comes from another laureate’s pen, Lord Alfred Tennyson, from his most well-known poem, “In Memoriam”:

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Finally, Kobayashi Issa, a great practitioner of the haiku form, approached the new year with a sense of humility and reverence:

New Year’s Day—
everything is in blossom!
I feel about average.

Here is a short list of New Year’s poems to call on after the clock strikes midnight on December 31:

“New Year’s Day Nap” by Coleman Barks
A Song for New Year’s Eve“ by William Cullen Bryant
Auld Lang Syne“ by Robert Burns
The Old Year“ by John Clare
“One Year ago—jots what?” by Emily Dickinson
At the Entering of the New Year“ by Thomas Hardy
The Darkling Thrush“ by Thomas Hardy
“A New Year’s Gift, Sent to Sir Simeon Steward” by Robert Herrick
“New Year’s morning” by Kobayashi Issa
“New Year’s Day” by Kobayashi Issa
“New Year’s Morning” by Helen Hunt Jackson
“On a New Year’s Eve” by June Jordan
“New Year on Dartmoor” by Sylvia Plath
Te Deum“ by Charles Reznikoff
Archaic Torso of Apollo“ by Rainer Maria Rilke
The Passing of the Year“ by Robert W. Service
“New Year’s Eve” by Robert W. Service
In Memoriam“ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

- See more at:

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

A pdf of most of the pages on the Update website may be downloaded here.

Posted by: wordrunner | December 1, 2013

December 1, 2013

Got Publications? Let Sonoma County Literary Update Help You Celebrate!

Dear Literary Folk,

This month, the Literary Update is launching a new feature. Many Sonoma County writers are published each month in local, national, and international literary journals. We’d like to recognize these publications, provide links (when possible) to read the pieces and to highlight these journals as well.

Ed Coletti will be hosting this particular new page. If you have a publication in a literary journal within the last 30 days you’d like to announce, send the following information to Ed at

Your name
Title of the piece
Name of the journal and date of publication (issue/volume)
Link to journal’s website (if available)

This also gives me the opportunity to remind those of you with chapbook and book-length publications to send your announcement to the Literary Update for its Sonoma County in Print Page:

Include a book cover image (jpg), brief book description, and information on how your readers can find out more about you and your work or order a copy. Please send this announcement as plain text, preferably in an email (no flyers, pdfs or docs with special formatting).

Here is a sampler of some of the literary events happening around the county and beyond this month.

Amy TanCopperfield’s Presents Amy Tan
Monday, December 2, 7:00 p.m.
Copperfield’s in Petaluma presents Amy Tan, reading from The Valley of Amazement. Location:140 Kentucky Street. Details:

A Child's Christmas in WalesTwo Chances to See A Child’s Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas
Performed by The Rebound Players.
Thursday, December 5, 7:30 p.m. at the Falkirk Cultural Center, 1408 Mission, San Rafael. Admission $3.00 Marin Poetry Center members, $5 non-members
Saturday, December 7, 7:30 p.m. Rebound Bookstore, 1611 4th St, San Rafael. Admission free.

Eric Johnson demonstrating letterpress at Iota PressIota Press & Co-op Holiday Open House
Sunday December 8th, 2:00 to 6:00 p.m.
Iota Press & Co-op hosts a Holiday Open House. Location: 925c S. Gravenstein Hwy., Sebastopol. They’ll have many new books and cards on display for gifts. . .and there will be an opportunity to print on the old presses. Details:

Virgin of Guadalupe with border of roses Alabanzas a Tonantzin / Praises to Tonantzin
December 15, 6:00-8:30 p.m.
Our friends Theresa Whitehill and Jabez Churchill up in Ukiah are hosting a special evening in honor of the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Readings are in Spanish and English, with some translation back and forth. All are welcome to bring offerings of poetry, music, and refreshments. Location: Grace Hudson Museum, 431 South Main Street, Ukiah. Details:

Sigurd Olson at QueticoI usually end with a poem for the month. This time, I want to share a wonderful prose piece by an author whose work I discovered while visiting Ely, Minnesota. Sigurd F. Olson was an award-winning conservation activist and best-selling author who lived in Ely most of his life. This piece was excerpted from The Singing Wilderness, one of his many books, available in bookstores or from the University of Minnesota Press. You can read the essay in its entirety at this link:

In this excerpt, the author describes ice skating under the northern lights. Enjoy!

Terry Ehret, co-editor

To download a pdf with most of the pages on the Sonoma County Literary Update site, click here.


A Sense of Place: Northern Lights

The lake lay like a silver mirror before me, and from its frozen surface came subterranean rumblings, pressure groans, sharp reports from the newly forming ice. As far as I could see, the surface was clear and shining. That ice was something to remember here in the north, for most years the snows come quickly and cover the first smooth glaze of freezing almost as soon as it is formed, or else the winds ruffle the surface of the crystallizing water and fill it with ridges and unevenness. But this time there had been no wind or snow to interfere, and the ice everywhere was clear—seven miles of perfect skating, something to dream about in years to come.

Hurriedly I strapped on my skates, tightened the laces, and in a moment was soaring down the path of shifting light which stretched endlessly before me. Out in the open away from shore there were few cracks—stroke—stroke—stroke—long and free, and I knew the joy that skating and skiing can give, freedom of movement beyond myself. But to get the feel of soaring, there must be miles of distance and conditions must be right. As I sped down the lake, I was conscious of no effort, only of the dancing lights in the sky and a sense of lightness and exaltation.

Shafts of light shot up into the heavens above me and concentrated there in a final climactic effort in which the shifting colors seemed drained from the horizons to form one gigantic rosette of flame and yellow and greenish purple. Suddenly I grew conscious of the reflections from the ice itself and that I was skating through a sea of changing color caught between the streamers above and below. At that moment I was part of the aurora, part of its light and of the great curtain that trembled above me.

Those moments of experience are rare. Sometimes I have known them while swimming in the moonlight, again while paddling a canoe when there was no wind and the islands seemed inverted and floating on the surface. I caught it once when the surf was rolling on an ocean coast and I was carried on the crest of a wave that had begun a thousand miles away. Here it was once more—freedom of movement and detachment from the earth.

Down the lake I went straight into the glistening path, speeding through a maze of changing color—stroke—stroke—stroke—the ringing of steel on ice, the sharp, reverberating rumbles of expansion below. Clear ice for the first time in years, and the aurora blazing away above it.

From “Northern Lights,” The Singing Wilderness, by Sigurd Olson

Posted by: wordrunner | November 2, 2013

November 1, 2013

Dear Literary Folk,

Daylight Savings ends this weekend and we move to a quieter, darker season. Some ongoing groups will not be meeting until the new year. There is still plenty of literary activity in the county, but no major events have been reported. I think November is a good time for writers to be writing, a quiet stretch before the holidays are on us.

Perhaps that is why November is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). If enough people are interested, Georgette de Blois of UUCSR Writers will make arrangements for a meeting place to write 50,000 word novels in 30 days. Contact: See also According to this website, there are over 1650 authors in Sonoma County who are at least thinking about writing a novel in November! The idea seems to be that writing in groups with a deadline would be motivating. I have my doubts; writing has always been a solitary preoccupation for me. Still, this could be a good month to start writing something new (and long). It could be in the air somehow — the muse of novels, novellas or maybe longish stories.

Alice MunroA propos which, as a Canadian born, writer of short fiction, I am especially thrilled that the Nobel for literature was awarded to Alice Munro. If you are unfamiliar with her work, find the October 21 issue of the New Yorker, where her story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” was reprinted. It may still be available online. It was the basis for the film Away From Her (2006).

October was a whirlwind of literary events. Please do read Bill Vartnaw’s moving description of the October 25, El Dia de los Muertos readings at the Petaluma Art Center in his most recent post (

Throughout November readings are scheduled for several local, self-published authors at Copperfields Books (see for details). There will be a book launch for Marylu Downing’s Tales from the West Pole at the Occidental Center for the Arts on November 17. Steamy Sonoma County presents its second reading of erotic poetry on November 15 at Gaia’s Garden, Santa Rosa. “Tellebration” or storytelling for children and adults takes place November 16 at the Glaser Center.

Stay warm, cozy up with a good book. Or write one!

Jo-Anne Rosen
Sonoma County Literary Update

A pdf of most of the pages on the SoCo Lit Update site may be downloaded here.

Posted by: wordrunner | October 2, 2013

October 1, 2013

Dear Literary Folk,

After two years as Sonoma County’s literary ambassador, Bill Vartnaw will hand the poet’s laurels to a new Poet Laureate. Who Will Be Sonoma County’s 2014-2015 Poet Laureate?

Don Emblen

Bromige-DavidEhret-Terry1014.Lit.Laureates-OGaraGeri DiGiornioMike TuggleBill Vartnaw

The answer to that depends on you. The poet laureate is selected by a committee of representatives from each of the supervisorial districts of Sonoma County, as well as the poets who have served as laureates over the past decade. If you are interested in being considered for this honor, or if you know of a poet who you think will serve the community well in this role, nominations are now open.

The Poet Laureate is a Sonoma County resident, whose poetry manifests a high degree of excellence, who has produced a critically acclaimed body of work, and who has demonstrated a commitment to the literary arts in the County. The Poet Laureate often participates in official ceremonies and readings. Our laureate roll call includes Don Emblen, David Bromige, Terry Ehret, Geri Digiorno, Mike Tuggle, Gwynn O’Gara, and, of course, our current laureate Bill Vartnaw.

The Poet Laureate will not have a formal job description but will be encouraged to develop an agenda promoting poetry and the literary arts in Sonoma County. Organizers of various community events may invite the Poet Laureate to participate in their events. There is no stipend or compensation for this position.

Deadline for nominations is October 31, 2013 and the new Poet Laureate will be announced in December.

Download the submission requirements and application form from the Center for the Arts’ website at or email  For questions please contact Linda Galletta at or call the Center for the Arts at 829-4797.

El Día de los Muertos and the annual Poetry of Remembrance Community Reading

Day-of-Dead-Poster-2013This year’s theme for the month-long celebration of El Día de los Muertos is “Tree of Lives/Arbol de Vidas.” Among the many events is the annual Poetry of Remembrance/ Poesia del Recuerdo bilingual community reading. This will be held on Friday, October 25 from 5:30 to 9 PM. If you’d like to volunteer to help, read a poem in honor of a loved one, or attend the evening’s program and pot luck supper, contact any of the following:

Besides these annual and biannual events, the October Calendar is quite busy. Here is just a taste of what’s happening this month. For a complete listing of events, check out the calendar page.

Saturday, October 5, at 2:00 pm, Phyllis Meshulam and Raphael Block will be poetry and music on the theme Healing the Earth, at Petaluma Library, 100 Fairgrounds Drive.

On Thursday, October 3, 10, 17,and 24 at various locations, there will be readings and events on the theme of “Changing Hurt to Hope: Writers Speak Out Against Domestic Violence.” Check the calendar for details or Contact: Michelle Wing, (707) 478-1460 or

Thursday, October 17 (and October 18, 19, 24, 25, 26), 7:30 p.m. Petaluma Readers Theatre and Tiny Lights Publications present “Haunted: Chilling and Thrilling Stories,” directed by Lorin Bell. Clear Heart Stage, 90 Jessie Lane, Petaluma. Tickets ($10) for “Haunted” are available at The Mail Depot, 4th & C St, Petaluma; Soft Shell, 10 Kentucky St, Petaluma; online at; or at the door.

Saturday, October 26, 7:00 p.m. WordTemple Arts & Lectures presents Transforming Terror — Remembering the Soul of the World. In Conversation: Susan Griffin and Judy Grahn, reading from their books and in conversation with the audience. Sebastopol Center for the Arts, 282 S. High Street, Sebastopol. For more information go to

And finally, here is an October poem to welcome the autumn rains, harvest, and mellowing light.

Terry Ehret, co-editor

To print and read a pdf of almost all the pages on this blogsite, click here.

Poem in October

by Dylan Thomas

landscape in WalesIt was my thirtieth year to heaven
Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbour wood
And the mussel pooled and the heron
Priested shore
The morning beckon
With water praying and call of seagull and rook
And the knock of sailing boats on the net webbed wall
Myself to set foot
That second
In the still sleeping town and set forth.

My birthday began with the water-
Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name
Above the farms and the white horses
And I rose
In rainy autumn
And walked abroad in a shower of all my days.
High tide and the heron dived when I took the road
Over the border
And the gates
Of the town closed as the town awoke.

A springful of larks in a rolling
Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with whistling
Blackbirds and the sun of October
On the hill’s shoulder,
Here were fond climates and sweet singers suddenly
Come in the morning where I wandered and listened
To the rain wringing
Wind blow cold
In the wood faraway under me.

Pale rain over the dwindling harbour
And over the sea wet church the size of a snail
With its horns through mist and the castle
Brown as owls
But all the gardens
Of spring and summer were blooming in the tall tales
Beyond the border and under the lark full cloud.
There could I marvel
My birthday
Away but the weather turned around.

It turned away from the blithe country
And down the other air and the blue altered sky
Streamed again a wonder of summer
With apples
Pears and red currants
And I saw in the turning so clearly a child’s
Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother
Through the parables
Of sun light
And the legends of the green chapels

And the twice told fields of infancy
That his tears burned my cheeks and his heart moved in mine.
These were the woods the river and sea
Where a boy
In the listening
Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his joy
To the trees and the stones and the fish in the tide.
And the mystery
Sang alive
Still in the water and singingbirds.

And there could I marvel my birthday
Away but the weather turned around. And the true
Joy of the long dead child sang burning
In the sun.
It was my thirtieth
Year to heaven stood there then in the summer noon
Though the town below lay leaved with October blood.
O may my heart’s truth
Still be sung
On this high hill in a year’s turning.

Dylan Thomas, “Poem in October” from The Poems of Dylan Thomas.
Used by permission of David Higham Associates, London as agents for the Trustees of the Copyrights of Dylan Thomas.

Source: Poetry (February 1945).

Posted by: wordrunner | September 2, 2013

September 1, 2013

Dear Literary Folk,

The seasons turn and we’re once more on the threshold of autumn, with its Indian summer days, long afternoons of amber light, the air full of seed puffs, spinning like tiny gods on their many white arms. Scorpio descending, Orion ascending, and that moment yet to come when the light and dark are held in balance.

The end of August arrives, bringing some of us back from travels; some have already started a new semester of classes; some are just now launching themselves on journeys, wisely heading out as the summer tourists return; some are keeping an eye on the vast plumes of smoke and acres of fire burning in the sacred ground of Yosemite; some are celebrating the end of summer at Burning Man in Nevada.

Look Betty, that's where they have the Poetry Walk!Sonoma County Book FestivalIn Sonoma County, autumn has its own traditions. For its eighteenth year, the Petaluma Poetry Walk returns, Sunday the 15th, followed closely on September 21st with Sonoma County Book Festival in a new location—Santa Rosa Junior College’s Bertolini Student Center and Quad, beside Doyle Library. On Sunday, September 22, 1:00-5:00 p.m. Haiku Poets of Northern California gather for their annual Two Autumns Reading. Katherine Hastings opens yet another amazing program at WordTemple, both live readings and on-air interviews.

100 thousand poets for changeFinally, as the month draws to an end, the legacy of the Occupy Movement gives us once again a series of  100 Thousand Poets for Change global movement taking place around the world in over 100 countries. Events will be held locally September 27-29 in Healdsburg and Santa Rosa: a march for peace, a night of music, a dance party, a barbecue. You can check out the details and schedules for all of these events on the Calendar page of this website, or by clicking on these links:

SeamusHeaneySusan SibbetToday, I also want to pay tribute to two poets whose work has touched me and many people very deeply. The first is Irish poet and Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney (1939-2013), who passed away on Friday, August 30; the second is Susan Herron Sibbet (1941-2013), poet, novelist, and guiding force behind California Poets in the Schools, who left us Saturday, August 31. They will be making beautiful poetry together as they step over the threshold between body and spirit, and we, who miss them so, can in our own creation of beauty and love “sing them awake.”

In their memories, I offer a poem by each. The first is “Postscript,” written by Seamus Heaney. I first read it standing on the Flaggy Shore in West Ireland where the poem is set. It’s from his 1996 collection The Spirit Level. The second is “Voice,” by Susan Herron Sibbet, the opening poem from her 2004 collection No Easy Light.

Seamus Heaney

And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightening of flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully-grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park or capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open


Susan Herron Sibbet

my voice
struggling with light
too light     two lights
these nights
sleeping without

we make our own light
two lights
two voices

this light night
giving voice
voice giving shadow

the voice a shadow
two what the brain
being everywhere
all over the body

voice    light
shadow     voice
still this voice


Terry Ehret

For a pdf version of most of the pages on the Sonoma County Literary Update site (for September 2013), click here.

Posted by: literaryfolk | August 1, 2013

August 1, 2013

Dear Literary Folk,

IMG_0206Bore da! Good day from Wales! I’m writing this post from the Brown’s Hotel in Laugharne, a coastal village west of Swansea best known as the home of Dylan Thomas. The Brown’s Hotel was one of his favorite pubs. It also happens to have Internet access, which hasn’t been easy to find here. I don’t have much news of Sonoma County to share, so I’ll rely on Jo-Anne and Bill Vartnaw to keep you up to date on the August readings, workshops, and literary events. But I can give you a glimpse of the writer’s life in Wales where I’m leading a small group of poets and writers on a literary tour and writing retreat.

Today the 7 writers traveling with me went to Thomas’s house on Cymdonkin Drive in Swansea, as well as the Dylan Thomas Centre. Then we drove to the old farm of Fern Hill where we took turns reading the verses of that wonderful poem.

IMG_0434Back in Laugharne, we went to the Boathouse where Thomas lived with his wife and children, and spent some time writing there, having the place largely to ourselves. The sun came out after a day of on-again, off-again rain, lighting up the estuary below the Boathouse all the way round the curve of the by to the castle the stands under Sir John’s Hill. Tomorrow we will walk the path up Sir John’s  Hill which Dylan Thomas described in “Poem in October,” and we’ll conclude our stay here with a visit to the grave and a farewell reading of “And Death Shall Have No Dominion,” “Do Not Go Gentle,” and “Poem on His Birthday.”

IMG_0374Besides our stay in Laugharne, we’ve been to Hay-on-Wye, an entire village of bookstores. One was set in a passageway between two buildings, and it calls itself Book Passage. It reminded us of home. We’ve visited Castles in Conwy  and Caernarfon, ridden the small-gauge railways in North Wales, including one that  runs beside our 300-year-old farmhouse on the shores of Bala Lake, and the two-car steam engine that  chugs impossibly up the slopes of Mount Snowdon. Then we climbed down, with spectacular views opening up as we came through the clouds  or the wind lifted them aside. After we descended, we went to Pen-Y-Gwyrd, a pub where Sir Edmund Hillary and his team gathered during their time training to climb Mount Everest. There we read Wordsworth’s description of climbing Mount Snowdon by moonlight.

Next week, we’ll be visiting Gerard Manley Hopkins’s territory in the Elwy and Clwyd valleys, including a visit to San Bueno’s, the Jesuit monastery where he studied and began writing his ecstatic poetry.

The Welsh love their poets. We feel very welcome here. We’ll conclude our stay with a visit to the Welsh Arts Festival called the Eisteddfod, with competitions in music, dance, and poetry. We’ll be there for the  gathering of the Gorsedd of the Bards as they chose the writer of the best free-verse poem.

Terry Ehret

For a pdf version of most of the pages on the Sonoma County Literary Update site (for August 2013), click here.

Posted by: wordrunner | July 1, 2013

July 1, 2013

Dear Literary Folk,

Terry Ehret is on a temporary hiatus from this blog post, so we are offering Bill Vartnaw’s newest and newsy column here instead. After reading this, check out the calendar, county news, and workshop and conferences pages for more of summer’s literary offerings, including Redwood Writer’s Authors Launch Celebration on July 14, Off the Page (a readers theater performance of work by local authors) on July 25-27 in three locations, a panel discussion of the “wild new world of publishing” at the Occidental Center for the Arts on July 12, and one county to the east, the 33rd Napa Valley Writers Conference with readings open to the public from July 28-August 2. And more…

And now, here’s Bill!

* * *

Bill VartnawIt’s hot! Hope every one had a great Solstice!

Sorry, my blog didn’t appear last month. I had a few things to say too, (I’ll say them below) but I was dealing with mortality, mine & others, & wasn’t going online, didn’t get Jo-Anne’s message & lost track of what day it was. I got bit by a tick. The medical lab says it was not a Lyme tick, but I had to wait two weeks, ingesting anti-biotics twice a day, before I found out. I am relieved now, am thinking about writing a poem about it, possibly in the tradition of John Donne’s “The Flea,” a bit darker, though I haven’t done it yet. I’m still learning the lesson.

Last month, Petaluma started a new poetry open mic at Aqus Cafe, co-ordinated by Sandra Anfang, on the first Monday of the month. That would be tonight, if you are reading this on Monday, July 1st. The featured readers are Carol Dorf and Dawn McGuire. Carol Dorf is fascinated with the boundaries between disciplines — mathematics and poetry—- prose poetry and lineated poetry. She is poetry editor of Talking Writing where she writes about issues in contemporary poetry; and she teaches mathematics. Dawn McGuire is a neurologist and author of two poetry collections, Sleeping in Africa and Hands On. McGuire has won several poetry awards, including the Troubadour Prize (UK), the National League of American Pen Women, and the 2011 Sarah Lawrence/Campbell Corner Academy of Language Exchange Poetry Prize for “poems that treat larger themes with lyric intensity.”

Last month, Sandra featured herself with Gail Newman, a San Francisco poet I had hadn’t heard in many years. I enjoyed their work. It was a short reading, due to a new art exhibit being hung at the cafe that night & probably a memo not being seen by the right persons, but showed plenty of promise, as they say. I’ll definitely be there tonight.

* * *

A Sonoma poet who refuses to be identified, & quotes Kierkegaard a lot, tells me that there is a new open mic in Sonoma at Readers’ Books, starting on July 13th from 5 to 7 pm. Those of you who are not familiar with Sonoma, Readers’ Books is a half block east of the plaza, at 130 East Napa Street. They are asking for a $5.00 donation to help pay for their new reading patio where the new open mic will be held. That’s worth a look. Kiitos.

* * *

While I’m on July readings, & this is not an open mic, on Sunday, July 7th at the Redwood Cafe in Cotati, from 5 to 7 pm, there will be a Judy Stedman Writing Tribute with Lynn Camhi, Godelieve Uyttenhove, Gail Calvello, Caroline Brumley, Donna Emerson and Geri Digiorno reading poems by & about the late SRJC poet & teacher. These are women who were in a writing group with Judy. Sarah Baker will provide the music for the evening.

* * *

One of my biggest gaffes, don’t let me count the ways, was not responding to an email to help save the Sonoma County Book Festival until after the due date had been reached. According to their Kickstarter url, they reached their goal on the last day. Thank you everyone! I would have felt awful if that would have happened on my watch. I used to love to go the San Francisco Book Festival when I lived in the city, it was a huge event & one day it ceased to exist. I understand that it’s happening again, but it was gone for over a decade. I don’t want that to happen here. I found an address on the Sonoma County Book Festival Facebook site: P.O. Box 159, Santa Rosa, CA 95402. I will send a small donation, as well as ask for a table for Taurean Horn Press, & invite you to do something similar if you didn’t know & are so inclined. This is what I’ve found out from their online sources:

  •  The 2013 Book Festival on Saturday, September 21, is moving to the outdoor courtyard at the Santa Rosa Junior College in Santa Rosa so all of the Festival offerings are in one spot (and it’s a beautiful spot!).
  •  We are partnering with our local independent bookseller, Copperfield’s Books, to bring an amazing line-up of nationally acclaimed authors while still showcasing our wonderful local authors.
  •  We’ll continue to provide presentations, workshops, and a slew of children’s activities in an all-day event that you won’t want to miss and that will remain absolutely FREE.

* * *

Since I’ve mention one September event, I may as well as mention another near & dear to my heart, the Petaluma Poetry Walk is on Sunday, September 15th this year. It looks to be a very good one, here’s the line up as of today:

  • Au Cocolat
    Barbara Swift Brauer/Gerald Fleming/Jodi Hottel
  • Riverfront Gallery
    Jamie Asaye FitzGerald/Glenn Ingersoll/Kathleen Winter
  • Apple Box 1
    Michelle Baynes/Yvonne Baynes/Geri Digiorno/Nancy Keane/surprise poet
  • Apple Box 2
    Raphael Block/Diane Frank/Steward Florsheim
  • Copperfields
    Avotcja/Judy Grahn
  • Phoenix Theater
    Kim Shuck/Bill Vartnaw/Nancy Wakeman
  • Petaluma Museum
    Jennifer Barone/Martin Hickel/Lynn Watson
  • Aqus Cafe
    Neeli Cherkovski/David Meltzer/Julie Rogers

I hope you will find/make time to come. I haven’t mentioned 100 Thousand Poets for Change, Check it out too.

Stay cool.

Bill Vartnaw
Sonoma County Poet Laureate 2012-2013


For a pdf version of most of the pages on the Sonoma County Literary update site (for June 2013), click here.

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