Posted by: wordrunner | March 1, 2016

March 1, 2016

Dear Literary Folk,

I’m taking advantage of “leap day” to prepare this post for March, wishing that this were a National Holiday—one when everyone, even those in retail, would have the day off to do whatever joyful thing they wanted. Like the old April Fool’s tradition, or the notion of Sabbath, it seems a very useful concept: a day when we take a break from our own restless pursuits to pause and delight in this miracle of creation, of which we are each a part.

Hattie McDanielIf you were watching on Sunday, you know that this year’s Academy Awards ceremony was marked by many speeches acknowledging the absence of black actors/actresses in the running for top awards. In light of this, it’s interesting to note that on leap day in 1940, Hattie McDaniel became the first African American to win an Academy Award for her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind. When she arrived at the hotel where the ceremony was held, McDaniel was escorted, not to the table where Selznick sat with the Gone with the Wind contingent, but to a small table set against a far wall, where she took a seat with her escort and her agent. With the hotel’s strict no-blacks policy, Selznick had to call in a special favor just to have McDaniel allowed into the building. Some progress. Not enough. Check out this link to a video of the presentation of the award and McDaniel’s acceptance speech:

Poetry Out Loud participants 2016Leap Day, 2016 is also the date for the California State Poetry Out Loud Competition, held in Sacramento. As I write this, we don’t know the results yet, but Phyllis Meshulam has sent us her feature about the Poetry Out Loud competition and the results of the 2016 Sonoma County competition. Phyllis is a poet-teacher and area co-ordinator with California Poets in the School Program, and has been shepherding this annual event for ten years. Many thanks to her and all the classroom teachers, poet-mentors, fellow judges, emcee Larry Robinson, and to many the volunteers who make this possible. Thanks also to Jerry Meshulam for the photos. And, of course, kudos to all the high school students who participated!

I have included one of the poems recited this year, “The Larger,” by Joanie Mackowski, as our poem-for-the-month at the end of this post.


On February 15, 2016, at the elegant Glaser Center in Santa Rosa, we held the 10th annual Sonoma County Poetry Out Loud competition. POL is a nationwide poetry recitation program for high school students. It’s implemented first at the classroom level, then school-wide, county-wide, state-wide contests take place. It works much like a spelling bee, and winners eventually progress to the Nationals and compete with other champions from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Melissa Lozano of Rancho Cotate HighEvery year our county-wide contest becomes more expert and competitive. This year’s winner is Melissa Lozano of Rancho Cotate High. There was actually a tie for first place in terms of raw scores. When that occurs, we look at the “overall performance” score. Shea Dorrell of Piner High School came in just one point behind, using that metric. Our third place winner was Arthur Timpe of El Molino and fourth was Victoria Ward of Maria Carrillo.

By the time this goes to press, the statewide competition will have already taken place. But if you would like a taste of this rich experience, consider coming to Word Temple on March 26. Dana Gioia, our new California Poet Laureate and founder of POL during his leadership of the National Endowment for the Arts, will be presenting, accompanied by two of our county finalists!

—Phyllis Meshulam

heglandJeanOn Monday, March 7, Sonoma County poet, memoirist, novelist, and teacher Jean Heglund will be launching a three-part series through Santa Rosa Junior College’s Community Education Program calledBringing Fiction to Life.” In addition to exploring important elements of fiction such as character, conflict, plot, and point of view, both beginning and experienced writers can expect to discover inspiration for new stories and/or learn more about stories they are currently working on.  Class fee: $146. You can register at (707) 527-4372 or

Jean Hegland’s most recent novel is Still Time (Arcade/Skyhorse, 2015). A film version of her first novel, Into the Forest, premiered at the 2015 Toronto international Film Festival.

Sons of NoirOn Sunday, March 20, 2:00 to 4:00 pm.  Occidental Center for the Arts Book Launch: Sons of Noir: Murder and Mayhem by San Francisco North Bay Writers. Edited by Ed Coletti and David Madgalene, readings from the short story anthology by contributing writers, Jonah Raskin, Pat Nolan, Ed Coletti, David Madgalene, Gary Brandt, and Waights Taylor Jr. Q&A, book sales and signing. Refreshments served. Free admission, donations gratefully invited. OCA: 3850 Doris Murphy Way, Occidental, CA. For more info: or 707-874-9392.

As seen on a Sussex Directories Inc site

Private Lives Private LiesLooking ahead to April, mark your calendars for the upcoming performances of  “Private Lives Private Lies,” an original play by Sonoma County author Dianna L. Grayer about the struggles and joys from the perspective of eight LGBTQ characters. The show will take place during the weekend of April 1 – April 3, 2016, at the Graton Community Club, Main & N Edison, Graton, CA. Friday and Saturday performances are 7 PM, Sunday matinee at 2 PM. Tickets are $20 and are available online at Brown Paper Tickets – – and at the door.

And on Saturday, April 2, plan to drop by an all-day literary event (10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.), the Second Annual Sonoma County Local Author Showcase and Symposium at the Rohnert Park-Cotati Regional Library, featuring a wide variety of local authors who work in many genres, ranging from romance to investigative reporting, poetry to fiction, children’s literature to local history, plus a panel on The Business of Writing, hosted by Creative Sonoma. A list of authors (speakers and exhibitors) and more details are at:

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update



The Larger
by Joanie Mackowski

I don’t know how it happened, but I fell—
and I was immense, one dislocated arm
wedged between two buildings. I felt some ribs
had broken, perhaps a broken neck, too;
I couldn’t speak. My dress caught bunched
about my thighs, and where my glasses shattered
there’d spread something like a seacoast, or maybe
it was a port. Where my hair tangled with power lines
I felt a hot puddle of blood.
I must have passed out,
but when I woke, a crew of about fifty
was building a winding stairway beside my breast
and buttressing a platform on my sternum.
I heard, as through cotton, the noise of hammers,
circular saws, laughter, and some radio
droning songs about love. Out the corner
of one eye (I could open one eye a bit) I saw
my pocketbook, its contents scattered, my lipstick’s
toppled silo glinting out of reach.
And then, waving a tiny flashlight, a man
entered my ear. I felt his boots sloshing
the blood trickling there. He never came out.
So some went looking, with flares, dogs, dynamite
even: they burst my middle ear and found
my skull, its cavern crammed with dark matter
like a cross between a fungus and a cloud.
They never found his body, though. And they never
found or tried to find an explanation,
I think, for me; they didn’t seem to need one.
Even now my legs subdue that dangerous
sea, the water bright enough to cut
the skin, where a lighthouse, perched on the tip
of my great toe, each eight seconds rolls
another flawless pearl across the waves.
It keeps most ships from wrecking against my feet.
On clear days, people stand beside the light;
they watch the waves’ blue heads slip up and down
and scan for landmarks on the facing shore.

Source: Poetry (October 2003).

Joanie MackowskiJoanie Mackowski’s (b. 1963 ) collections of poems are The Zoo (2002) and View from a Temporary Window (2010). A teacher at the university level for many years, she has worked as a French translator, a journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area, and a juggler. She currently teaches at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Her poetry is marked by precise details and attention to the sounds of language; the lines of her poems echo with slant and internal rhymes. Sometimes eerie and often grounded in scientific facts, her poetry scrutinizes insects, plants, animals, and the self.


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