Posted by: wordrunner | September 1, 2014

September 1, 2014

Dear Literary Folk,

September has traditionally been the month to launch a new literary year with the twin events of the Sonoma County Book Festival and the Petaluma Poetry Walk.

This is our first year in a long time we won’t be gathering the tribes for the annual Book Festival. What a great run we had! Many thanks to all those in our literary community who worked (and played) to bring us together each September in an eclectic mix of writers, readers, publishers, book vendors, book lovers, rappers, and artists.

PetalumaPoetryWalkOur other September literary event is still going strong: the delightful moveable feast of poetry and music known as the Petaluma Poetry Walk, founded by writer, artist, and former Sonoma County Poet Laureate Geri Digiorno. This year’s Walk will begin on Sunday, September 21, 11 AM at the Seed Bank in Petaluma, then will proceed to five other venues downtown before ending up at the Aqus Café. Readers include Beverly Burch, Donna Emerson, John Johnson, Dick Bakken, Adelle Foley, Jack Foley, Michelle Baynes, Geri Digiorno, Nancy Keane, Joyce Jenkins, Jeanne Powell, Kim Shuck, Molly Fisk, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Nancy Daughterty, Nancy Long, Eileen Malone, Katherine Hastings, Ron Salisbury, Lynn Watson, Clara Bellino, Marvin Hiemstra, Kirk Lumpkin, and David Madgalene.

For a full list of readers, venues, and bios, here’s the link:

“Get Lit” Literary Reading Series
Last month, the Literary Update post included a feature on the monthly reading series at the Aqus Café (Rivertown Poets: A-Muse-ing Mondays), and a mention of a reading series Kara Vernor and Dani Burlison are hosting in Petaluma, called “Get Lit.” For this month’s post, Kara Vernor composed this short feature to introduce the literary community to her monthly series.

“Get Lit” happens the fourth Wednesday of the month, 7:00-9:00 p.m., at the Corkscrew Wine Bar in Petaluma (100 Petaluma Blvd. N.). Three featured writers read during the first hour and open mic readers follow during the second, which is sometimes kicked off by a comedian or musician. Get Lit is a free and 21+ event that aims for lively, funny, heartbreaking and real, and the Corkscrew Wine Bar’s intimate space narrows the traditional divide between readers and the audience. September’s reading—featuring Molly Giles, Peg Alfred Pursell, and Siamak Vossoughi—will be the last one that takes place at Corkscrew until January 2015. October’s reading, entitled “Misfortunes in Love and Life: A Comedy / Storytelling Event,” will be held at the Elbo Room in San Francisco as part of SF Lit Crawl, and then Get Lit will break for the holidays in November and December. More info at facebook/GetLitReadings.

Heyday Books Celebrates 40 Years
Malcolm MargolinJust today, The San Francisco Chronicle included an article about Berkeley-based Heyday Books, celebrating its 40th Anniversary. Founded by Malcolm Margolin, Heyday published stories no one else has told–from native peoples and newly arrived immigrants, stories about the delicate Calliope hummingbirds and 14,000 foot peaks, to the explorations of California’s most original thinkers, poets, and visual artists. The anniversary is marked by Kim Bancroft’s new book The Heyday of Malcolm Margolin: The Damn Good Times of a Fiercely Independent Publisher,

Margolin is author of several books, including The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco–Monterey Bay Area, named by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the hundred most important books of the twentieth century by a western writer. He has received dozens of prestigious awards, including the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fred Cody Award Lifetime Achievement from the San Francisco Bay Area Book Reviewers Association, and a Cultural Freedom Award from the Lannan Foundation. He helped found the Bay Nature Institute and the Alliance for California Traditional Artists.

I especially like the way Margolin characterizes the common element in Heyday’s 350 titles: “‘The kitchen voice,’ the authentic unself-conscious voice that provides a window into the real lives of people who’ve contributed to our history and culture.”

Taurean Horn Press Also Celebrates 40 Years
Bill VartnawOn Thursday, September 11, at 7:30 p.m., Taurean Horn Press will celebrate its 40th anniversary at Many Rivers Books & Tea, 130 S. Main Street, Suite 101, Sebastopol. Founder Bill Varnaw will be reading with Avotcja, whose With Every Step I Take Taurean Horn published last year. Besides publishing so many great local writers, Bill Vartnaw is a fabulous poet who served as Sonoma County Poet Laureate from 2012-2013. He currently helps coordinate the Petaluma Poetry Walk, among his many generous contributions to our Literary Community.

Sixteen Rivers Celebrates 15 Years
Still a newcomer by comparison with Taurean Horn and Heydey’s 40 years, the Bay Area Poetry Publishing Collective Sixteen Rivers Press celebrates its 15th year this October. Inspired by the same egalitarian, non-hierarchical ethos that Taurean Horn and Heyday embody, Sixteen Rivers is a non-profit, all-volunteer collective press, with the goal of bringing into print beautiful books that reflect the voices of the greater SF Bay Area.

Ryan-KayAs one of the founders of the press, I’d like to extend a personal invitation to each of you to help celebrate our anniversary with a garden party and reading in a beautiful garden in Marin County, featuring Kay Ryan, Sixteen Rivers advisor and former U.S. poet laureate.

We’ve changed our annual fundraiser to a Sunday-afternoon event, October 5, 3:00-5:00 p.m., with tickets beginning at $25. The garden party and reception will be catered with outrageously good food and drinks; there will also be a silent auction, and books by Kay and press members will be available for purchase.We hope you’ll join us for this special garden party.

You can purchase tickets and get driving directions to the event at Brown Paper Ticket Site:

Sept. 27th is the next Global Event Day!
100,000 Poets for ChangeThree years ago, Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion sent out the following invitation: “Do you want to join other poets, musicians, and artists around the world in a demonstration/celebration to promote peace and sustainability and to call for serious social, environmental and political change?” The response was international and overwhelming, launching the 100 Thousand Poets for Change Movement.

On Friday, September 26, and Saturday, September 27, musicians, photographers, artists, and writers will be gathering in their communities all over the world to be the change they want in the world. Locally, there are events in Healdsburg, Petaluma, and Santa Rosa. To find out more or sign up to participate, check out the website at or send an e-mail to You can also follow their blog at

Thoughts on the Drought
Since January, I’ve been inviting the Literary Update readers to send me their poems, stories, essays, and anecdotes on the drought. This month Sebastopol writer Patrice Warrender sent in her poem, “Autumn drop of apples, crackle of bone-dry grass.” Along with that, I am including “The Last Drought,” by Lee Perron, which Larry Robinson featured two days ago in his daily poetry e-mails.

Please send me your thoughts on the drought. Photos and artwork, too!

Congratulations to this month’s newly published authors in Sonoma County. See who’s in print at

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update co-editor



Autumn drop of apples, crackle of bone-dry grass

Exhausted by the last hot breath
of autumn, parched hills pale
against a blue sky, unburdened
by clouds. A solitary vulture
sweeps the sky, fingered wings
stirring still air for ripe scent of
what’s been left behind. It circles
once, twice,
drops down to wheel low
over a deserted orchard, where
a scraggy doe noses the dust
of drought. The deer bolts.

The bird gathers its wings, soars
up to circle the sky.

—Patrice Warrender


The Last Drought

Winds that bring no clouds
clouds that carry no rain
falling rain that doesn’t reach the ground

I grieve bitterly for the home that has been lost

tonight outside: sounds of rain, of a thin
brief rain falling to the piteous earth—
voices tender as ghosts
that claim neither present nor future

yet the memory of a birth-right to rain
lingers— crystalline, flawed
reaching across synapses
that are already doomed by delusion

we are dispossessed
we wait
but we are owed nothing by the sky.

— Lee Perron, © 2014.

Posted by: wordrunner | August 1, 2014

August 1, 2014

August 1, 2014

Dear Literary Folk,

Sunday, August 3, two wonderful literary events occur back-to-back. You could attend both, traffic allowing. From noon to 4 PM is the annual Poets’ Picnic in Benicia Park. Juanita J. Martin will host this event with readings by local poets laureate. The location is the gazebo area of the park on Military/First Street in Benicia.

The second event takes place Sunday evening: Redwood Café’s First Sunday Poetry and Music Series, hosted by Geri Digiorno. You’ll have a chance to hear Dorianne Laux, Joseph Millar, Al Young with vocalist and pianist Sarah Baker and bass player Jan Martinelli. The performances begin at 5 PM, 8240 Old Redwood Hwy in Cotati.

Joseph MillarGeri DiGiorno and Al YoungSarah BakerDorianne Laux





Then on Monday, August 4, Rivertown Poets at Aqus Café will offer an evening with Giovanni singleton and Roy Mash. Listeners and poets are invited to attend the free event and bring a poem or two to share during the open mic. Open mic signups will begin at 6:30. The café is open for food and beverages. It is located at 189 H Street in downtown Petaluma.

I featured this series briefly in last month’s post, but since then I’ve had the pleasure of attending. What a great series and venue! The combination of featured readers and open mic create a delightful sampler of local writers and their work. In fact, the open mic in July included several young poets who were absolutely terrific. I hope some of the younger writers in the county will consider coming down to Aqus on Monday and making the Rivertown Poets part of their regular circuit.

Sandra Alfang, the series director and emcee, prepared this featurette to aquaint Literary Update readers with the series.

Rivertown Poets
aqus-cafeRivertown Poets is a monthly poetry series held on the first Monday of each month at the Aqus Café, 189 H Street in Petaluma. Each reading showcases the work of two feature poets, and is followed by an open mic. Host Sandra Anfang started the series in June of 2013. She aims to create an ambiance where seasoned poets mingle with new or little-known writers to celebrate the spoken word. Her goals are to create a space of safety and acceptance for new and experienced poets and their work, and to introduce listeners to the many dimensions of the poetic genre. Occasionally, there is musical accompaniment to the poetry. The series is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Sandra at or (650) 888-7875.

Sandra Anfang is a teacher, poet and visual artist who recently moved to Sonoma County. She is the author of four poetry collections and several chapbooks: Crown of Thorns, Promptly, String Theory, and Dreaming of Inertia. Sandra has been published several times online in The Shine Journal, and has two poems in the current edition of Poetalk. She has featured at Bird and Beckett, Florey’s Book (Pacifica), and the Aqus Café in Petaluma.

Get Lit in Petaluma!
Join hosts Dani Burlison and Kara Vernor on the 4th Wednesday of every month for the Get Lit reading series at Corkscrew Wine Bar in Petaluma. On August 27 the featured readers are Daniel Coshnear, Stefanie Freele and Lily Mazzarella.

Tribute to Don MacQueen
Don MacQueenColleague, poet, editor, publisher Brian Boldt wrote me last month about the passing of Don MacQueen.

Don was a central part of Sonoma County’s literary scene in the ’80s and ’90s, helping with the Russian River Writers’ Guild with Marianne Ware and others. It offered a lively reading series, quarterly newsletters, and occasional poetry collections, notably A Stone’s Throw, a major anthology of local poets of the day.

Don McQueen as ShakespeareDon also helped edit Rich Benbrook’s feisty quarterly “The Tomcat,” worked as an editor with Susan Bono’s “Tiny Lights,” and helped with Brian Boldt’s “Green Fuse.” His terse, witty poetry appeared in virtually every local publication in those days.

Don MacQueen, 88, died in June in Eugene, Oregon, at his daughter’s home, on his terms, exactly the way he lived his life. His family said that his last, whispered words were to a hospice worker, who assured him that everything was taken care of and all right now. Don’s reply: “Really, what about Iraq?” We certainly shall not look upon his like again.

—Brian Boldt

I spent ten days in July in the High Sierras where the combination of tinder-dry landscape and lightning storms has already launched several fires. I’ve been featuring poems, essays, and anecdotes by Sonoma County writers on the drought. This month Arlene Mandell sent in her poem, “In the Third Summer of the Drought.” Along with that, I am including Robinson Jeffers’s “Fire on the Hills.”

Please send me your thoughts on the drought. Photos and artwork, too!


In the Third Summer of the Drought

Deep in our woods, deer, rabbits
bobcats prowl in dry creek beds
rattlesnakes slither

while we take shorter showers
grumble over shriveled plantings
cringe at the horrific world news

then wake to another tranquil
August morning.

—Arlene Mandell


Fire On The Hills

The deer were bounding like blown leaves
Under the smoke in front of the roaring wave of the brushfire;
I thought of the smaller lives that were caught.
Beauty is not always lovely; the fire was beautiful, the terror
Of the deer was beautiful; and when I returned
Down the black slopes after the fire had gone by, an eagle
Was perched on the jag of a burnt pine,
Insolent and gorged, cloaked in the folded storms of his shoulders.
He had come from far off for good hunting
With fire for his beater to drive the game; the sky was merciless
Blue and the hills merciless black,
The somber-feathered great bird sleepily merciless between them.
I thought, painfully, but the whole mind,
The destruction that brings an eagle from heaven is better than mercy.

—Robinson Jeffers


Congratulations to this month’s newly published authors in Sonoma County. See who’s in print at

Terry Ehret, co-Editor
Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | July 1, 2014

July 1, 2014

Dear Literary Folk,

You’d think that things would be quiet in the literary community midsummer, but the calendar is surprisingly busy, and with many interesting events. Here are some highlights. You’ll find more information about each on the calendar page.

aqus-cafeThose of you who live in Petaluma are probably familiar with the Aqus Café. More than a coffee establishment, Aqus is a cultural hub, a community center, with art on display, live jazz, folk music, Irish/Celtic music, trivia games, poetry readings, movie nights, and more.

In 2006, John Crowley, originally from Dublin, opened Aqus Cafe to provide a shared space for gatherings in this spirit of people sharing, connecting, and just getting to know each other. Since then, hundreds of people gather each day at the Café, creating a culture of community that has spread beyond the Café walls. Check out Aqus’s website, where you’ll find all kinds of information, including a calendar of Aqus events, how to become an Aqus member, and a newsletter with announcements and community happenings.

In the past year, a wonderful poetry series, called Rivertown Poets A-Museing, has launched. And on Monday, July 7, at 6:40, my dear old friend Alison Luterman will be reading with Sandra Anfang. The featured readers will be followed by an open mic. If you’d like to be part of the open mic reading, come at 6:30 to sign up. For more information:;

Aqus is located at the Foundry Wharf, 189 H Street.

I’d like to keep posting your responses to our shifting climate and current drought. 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.

This month, Redwood Writers and Copperfield’s Books in Montgomery Village, Santa Rosa, have teamed up for three evenings called Hot Summer Nights. The first of these is Tuesday, July 8, 7:00-8:00 p.m. when the theme is “Love and Poetry” with featured readers Michelle Wing, Patricia Nelson, Juanita Martin, Pamela Taeuffer and Kay Mehl Miller. Then on Tuesday, July 15, 7:00-8:00 p.m., the theme will be “Short Stories,” with featured readers Jean Wong, Jo Lauer, Kate Farrell and Sunny Lockwood. The July series finishes up on Tuesday, July 29, 7:00-8:00 p.m. when the topic is “Fiction” and the featured readers are Jeane Slone, Julie Winrich, Thonie Hevron and Lenore Hirsch.

The Sebastopol Senior Center launches its first Open Mic on Thursday, July 10, 1-3 PM. Call 829-2440 to sign up. Location: 167 High Street, Sebastopol.
Later that same day, 7:00-9:00 p.m., Cloverdale Performing Arts Center presents Books on Stage with Sonoma County Poet Laureate Katherine Hastings and novelist Gil Mansergh. Location: 209 North Cloverdale Boulevard, Cloverdale.

On Friday, July 11, 7:00-9:00 p.m., you can enjoy a double book launch featuring Donna Emerson & Phyllis Meshulam at Occidental Center for the Arts, 3850 Doris Murphy Ct.,Occidental.
Bibliophoria Artwalk gets under way on Saturday, July 12, 9:00 a.m. This is a book and print lover’s 2.5 mile round-trip walk exploring the many book resources of Sebastopol.

And here’s something new: “Critters and Creators,” a free reading, RiskPress Gallery, 7345 Healdsburg Ave., Sebastopol on Friday, July 18, 6:30-8:00 p.m. Featured readers are Iris Dunkle, Jodi Hottel, John Johnson, Carol Wade Lundberg and Phyllis Meshulam. They will read in the midst of the critters created by Jann Aanestad and Nancy Winn.

Wellspring-LabyrinthFor many years, Wellspring Renewal Center in Anderson Valley hosted a writing retreat on the banks of the Navarro River. When I was teaching there, I used to lead the writers in building a seven-circuit labyrinth. The stones would stay in place until the river rose in the winter, carrying them downstream towards the sea. Thus, the building of the labyrinth became an annual event.

riversbendWellspring closed a few years ago, but the retreat facility is still there, now reopened as River’s Bend Retreat Center. If you can’t get away to the Mendocino Coast Writer’s Conference or the Napa Writers’ Conference, but would like some creative writing time, consider booking a personal retreat. Here’s the website for more information:


July’s Poem: For this month, I’m featuring two poems that express a love of home-country in different ways.

Emma Lazarus 1849–1887

Emma LazarusEmma Lazarus was born in New York City to a wealthy family and educated by private tutors. She began writing poetry as a teenager and took up the cause — through both poetry and prose — against the persecution of Jews in Russia during the 1880s. Lines from her sonnet “The New Colossus” were engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in 1903.


The New Colossus
by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Source: Emma Lazarus: Selected Poems and Other Writings (2002)

Lawrence FerlinghettiLawrence Ferlinghetti is a poet, playwright, editor, and painter, perhaps best known as the founder of City Lights Pocket Bookshop (now City Lights Books), San Francisco, and editor of City Lights Books, 1955—present.


I Am Waiting
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I am waiting for my case to come up
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting for someone
to really discover America
and wail
and I am waiting
for the discovery
of a new symbolic western frontier
and I am waiting
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right
and I am waiting
for the Age of Anxiety
to drop dead
and I am waiting
for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe
for anarchy
and I am waiting
for the final withering away
of all governments
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Second Coming
and I am waiting
for a religious revival
to sweep thru the state of Arizona
and I am waiting
for the Grapes of Wrath to be stored
and I am waiting
for them to prove
that God is really American
and I am waiting
to see God on television
piped onto church altars
if only they can find
the right channel
to tune in on
and I am waiting
for the Last Supper to be served again
with a strange new appetizer
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder
I am waiting for my number to be called
and I am waiting
for the Salvation Army to take over
and I am waiting
for the meek to be blessed
and inherit the earth
without taxes
and I am waiting
for forests and animals
to reclaim the earth as theirs
and I am waiting
for a way to be devised
to destroy all nationalisms
without killing anybody
and I am waiting
for linnets and planets to fall like rain
and I am waiting for lovers and weepers
to lie down together again
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the Great Divide to be crossed
and I am anxiously waiting
for the secret of eternal life to be discovered
by an obscure general practitioner
and I am waiting
for the storms of life
to be over
and I am waiting
to set sail for happiness
and I am waiting
for a reconstructed Mayflower
to reach America
with its picture story and tv rights
sold in advance to the natives
and I am waiting
for the lost music to sound again
in the Lost Continent
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting for the day
that maketh all things clear
and I am awaiting retribution
for what America did
to Tom Sawyer
and I am waiting
for Alice in Wonderland
to retransmit to me
her total dream of innocence
and I am waiting
for Childe Roland to come
to the final darkest tower
and I am waiting
for Aphrodite
to grow live arms
at a final disarmament conference
in a new rebirth of wonder

I am waiting
to get some intimations
of immortality
by recollecting my early childhood
and I am waiting
for the green mornings to come again
youth’s dumb green fields come back again
and I am waiting
for some strains of unpremeditated art
to shake my typewriter
and I am waiting to write
the great indelible poem
and I am waiting
for the last long careless rapture
and I am perpetually waiting
for the fleeing lovers on the Grecian Urn
to catch each other up at last
and embrace
and I am awaiting
perpetually and forever
a renaissance of wonder

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “I Am Waiting” from A Coney Island of the Mind. Copyright © 1958 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation,

Congratulations to this month’s newly published authors in Sonoma County. See who’s in print at

Terry Ehret, co-Editor
Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | June 1, 2014

June 1, 2014

Dear Literary Folk,

A few days ago, we lost Maya Angelou, a woman of great mind, heart, and soul. She joins many other bright poet-lights on the other side of the veil. Perhaps in that sense, her work has only just begun. I love this picture of her taken by Chester Higgins in1969, illustrating what Catherine Taylor describes an “enlightened grace.” Here is a bit of that grace in words:

Maya Angelou“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.” I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Last month’s post sent some of you thinking about summer writing, travel, and workshops. But for me, the days of reading and writing at my own leisure don’t begin until June. The June calendar of events, workshops, and conferences is full of opportunities. Here are some highlights, along with a few updates from the May post.

Two Local Conferences
We are very lucky to have two excellent conferences just over the Sonoma county borders. Registration is open for both the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference, July 30-August 2; and the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, July 27-August 1, 2014. Here are the links to their websites: MCWC:; NVWC:

Three Summer Retreats
Writing Retreat with Pam Houston in Santa Cruz Mountains: June 13-15, 2014:
Point Reyes Writing Retreat with Patti Trimble and Susan Bono, Friday, June 13, 6:00 p.m. to Monday, June 16, 2:00 p.m.
Tracing the Path: Exploring Your Spiritual Journey through Memoir & Craft, a one day women’s retreat in Sebastopol with Noelle Oxenhandler and Susie Stonefield Miller. Sunday, June 22, 2014, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Happy Birthday, Sitting Room!
The Sitting Room opens its doors on Sunday, June 8 2-5 PM for its annual birthday party and reading from the 2014 publication: I Knew I Was a Feminist When . . . . For a list of upcoming Sitting Room events and workshops, visit the website:

Free Sitting Room Workshop
dulac_medea and the fire dragonsLa LhoronaTo thank the Sitting Room for being such an important, supportive, creative space for writers, poet Terry Ehret, storyteller Cathryn Fairlee, and poet-musician Jabez Churchill present a one-day free workshop on the myth of Medea and the legend of La Llarona, on Sunday, June 22, 9 AM to 4 PM. Film, performance, music, pot-luck lunch, discussion, and writing prompts. Contact to reserve a spot.

Bibiophoria III
Thursday, June 12, 6:00-7:30 p.m. is the official kick off of Bibliophoria III with the opening of three book arts exhibits, at Sebastapol Center for the Arts: At 282 S. High Street, Sebastapol. More details:

The Art of the Fantastic
Thursday, June 12, 7:00 p.m. Why There Are Words Literary Reading Series welcomes readers from The Fabulist (, a journal for fables, yarns, tales and fantastical art. Studio 333, 333 Caledonia Street, Sausalito. For complete details including the authors’ full bios, see:

Thoughts on the Drought
Though we enjoyed the late spring rains, our hills are turning their summer gold, and our driest year in California history continues. I haven’t received any “thoughts on the drought” poems or essays this month, but here’s one from former U.S. Poet-Laureate Billy Collins, sent last month by Larry Robinson.

Water Table

It is on dry sunny days like this one that I find myself
thinking about the enormous body of water
that lies under this house,
cool, unseen reservoir,
silent except for the sounds of dripping
and the incalculable shifting
of all the heavy darkness that it holds.
This is the water that our well was dug to sip
and lift to where we live,
water drawn up and falling on our bare shoulders,
water filling the inlets of our mouths,
water in a pot on the stove.
The house is nothing now but a blueprint of pipes,
a network of faucets, nozzles, and spigots,
and even outdoors where light pierces the air
and clouds fly over the canopies of trees,
my thoughts flow underground
trying to imagine the cavernous scene.
Surely it is no pool with a colored ball
floating on the blue surface.
No grotto where a king would have
his guests rowed around in swan-shaped boats.
Between the dark lakes where the dark rivers flow
there is no ferry waiting on the shore of rock
and no man holding a long oar,
ready to take your last coin.
This is the real earth and the real water it contains.
But some nights, I must tell you,
I go down there after everyone has fallen asleep.
I swim back and forth in the echoing blackness.
I sing a love song as well as I can,
lost for a while in the home of the rain.
 — Billy Collins

Congratulations to this month’s newly published authors in Sonoma County. See who’s in print at

Terry Ehret
co-Editor, Sonoma County Literary Update


Posted by: wordrunner | May 1, 2014

May 1, 2014

Dear Literary Folk,

Right now is a great time to be thinking about summer writing, travel, workshops, and conferences to move whatever you’re working on (or avoiding working on) a little further out into the world. The Workshops and Conference pages have the upcoming offerings, and you can access either of both in a click. Space may be limited, so best to register soon.

We are very lucky to have two excellent conferences just over the Sonoma county borders. Registration is open for both the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference, July 30-August 2; and the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, July 27-August 1, 2014. Here are the links to their websites: MCWC:; NVWC:

Summer Retreats
Writing Retreat with Pam Houston in Santa Cruz Mountains: June 13-15, 2014:

Point Reyes Writing Retreat with Patti Trimble and Susan Bono, Friday, June 13, 6:00 p.m. to Monday, June 16, 2:00 p.m.

Tracing the Path: Exploring Your Spiritual Journey through Memoir & Craft, a one day women’s retreat in Sebastopol with Noelle Oxenhandler and Susie Stonefield Miller. Sunday, June 22, 2014, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

New Workshops
Dan Coshnear’s popular writing and editing workshops return to the Sitting Room: 5/10, 5/17 & 5/24, 5/31. 9:30 to 12:30 Saturday mornings. Contact or 707-869-0329.

Poet Terry Ehret, storyteller Cathryn Fairlee, and poet-musician Jabez Churchill present a one-day free workshop on the myth of Medea and the legend of La Llarona, on Sunday, June 22, 9 AM to 4 PM. Film, performance, music, pot-luck lunch, discussion, and writing prompts. Contact to reserve a spot.

No time to get away to write?
Check out Katherine Hastings’s Poet Laureate Page, where each installment of her “Digging Our Poetic Roots” project is featured. You can stay wherever you are and enjoy the mini-workshop for free. This month’s topic is Ekphrasis (not to be confused with the sound your cat makes coughing up a fur-ball!)

And just for fun!
Thursday, May 8, 8:00 p.m. Conspiracy of Beards present the Songs of Leonard Cohen performed by an a cappella men’s chorus and poet Rusty Rebar at the Mystic Theatre, 21 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma.

Saturday, May 10, 10 a.m.-noon. Redwood Writers hosts the next Library Open Mic at the Santa Rosa Central Library, 211 E St., Santa Rosa. The theme in May is “Young at Heart,” in honor of Older Americans Month. The general public is invited to sign up to read.

Happy Birthday, Sitting Room!
The Sitting Room opens its doors on Sunday, June 8 2-5 PM for its annual birthday party and reading from the 2014 publication: I Knew I Was a Feminist When . . . . For a list of upcoming Sitting Room events and workshops, visit the website:

Writing and Travel
I’m looking for five fellow writers and travelers to join me on a return trip to enchanted Wales in the summer of 2015. Dates have yet to be set, depending on the schedules of the travelers. That’s more than a year away, I know, but this is the time to give it some thought. I’ll be taking sign-ups this fall. You can visit the website for itinerary, accommodations, costs, etc. at Contact me at if you’re interested.

Thoughts on the Drought
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. This month’s poems are by Jonah Raskin and Lilith Rogers.

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.

Drop of Rain
by Jonah Raskin

I have watched the world
unfold in a drop of rain,
watched the raindrop
kiss the earth,
the earth embrace the solitary drop
as you and I, as he and she,
take turns,
as the world returns,
as dawn and dusk collapse the sun,
as the river enters the sea,
as the soil exhausts and renews itself,
as you and I, and he and she,
take turns
on altars and in fields,
as the silver slither of the moon
rises over the dry dry valley and as
the world unfolds in a drop of rain.

After the First Rain of the Season
by Lilith Rogers

I was hanging out
in the redwoods
down the road
from here
and I could feel
and even—
it seemed to me—
to taste
their happiness.

This wasn’t just a light fog
these trees had to work hard
to harvest
with their thin little needles
high up at their tops
and send all the way down
to their roots.

This was a REAL rain
that fell and fell
and just a few hours after
the rain has started
these happy trees
are already free
of roadside dust
and shiny
with new life.

Oh, and now
I’m further down the road
in amongst some oaks and firs
and they seem happy, too.
But not as exuberantly so.

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

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