Posted by: wordrunner | August 1, 2017

August 2017

Dear Literary Folk,

praying mantisThe dog days are here, an odd expression which always makes me think of dogs lying about in the summer heat and slow time, and kids poking each other, bored out of their skin. Technically, those dogs are the constellations Canis Majore and Canis Minore, which the Greeks and Romans connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, mad dogs, and bad luck. Well, I’d say we’ve had them all, including the howling and snapping and tail-chasing of the “mad dogs” in Washington. It just keeps getting weirder and weirder, doesn’t it? The best part of this time of year, if you’re lucky, is losing track of what day it is. And, although we may not have fireflies here on the West Coast, it’s been a bumper season for praying mantises, and when was the last time you remember seeing one of those?

About summer, John Koethe wrote:

It’s like living in a light bulb, with the leaves
Like filaments and the sky a shell of thin, transparent glass
Enclosing the late heaven of a summer day, a canopy
Of incandescent blue above the dappled sunlight golden on the grass

Total Solar Eclipse This Month
solar eclipseWhile not a literary event, the upcoming solar eclipse is worth getting out your eclipse goggles and pinhole camera obscura boxes. During a total solar eclipse, a very rare phenomenon, the moon completely obscures the sun so that only the sun’s corona is visible for a few seconds, sometimes for two minutes. A total solar eclipse will be visible along a roughly 67-mile wide path across the U.S. on August 21. This will be the first such event to cross the country in 38 years. Even more significantly, this is the first coast-to-coast eclipse in 99 years. Let this be an opportunity to commemorate the phenomenon in writing. Send us your eclipse-inspired poems and prose for our next Literary Update!

For a slide show of the 12 best places to view the eclipse, check out this

New Publications by Sonoma County Writers
The Literary Update has a whole page devoted to publication announcements, literary journal and magazine publications, chapbooks, and full-length collections. Check out Sonoma County in Print for news about recent publications we’d like to celebrate. Here are just a few.

Know Me HereFirst, I’d like to offer my congratulations to our Poet Laureate Emerita Katherine Hastings on the publication of her newest anthology, a collection of poetry by women called Know Me Here. This collection features some of the finest poets writing today, including many Sonoma County writers Gwynn O’Gara, Elizabeth Herron, Iris Dunkle, Jodi Hottel, Maya Khosla, Kathleen Winter, and Toni Wilkes. I am lucky to find myself among the pages with these fine poets. Check the calendar page for the upcoming book launch in September.

Another new book worth celebrating is Writing as a Path to Awakening by Albert Flynn DeSilver, former Sonoma County resident and current Marin County Poet Laureate. The book is about an embodied inter-connected approach to creativity and writing—helping us reignite the joy, fun, spontaneity, and wisdom in our practice and process of writing.

Phyllis Meshulam also has a new collection of poems, Land of My Father’s War, and will be reading from this collection on Monday, August 7 at 6:15 as part of the Rivertown Poets series at Aqus Café. Phyllis will be joined by Andrena Zawinkski.

And finally, the Sitting Room in Penngrove will host a book launch for Voyeur, by Jodi Hottel, at 7:00 PM, Friday, August 25.

If you are a Sonoma County writer with a book or chapbook newly published, let’s help you celebrate! Just send your announcement to Book announcements are posted in the order received.

West Side Stories
Being a fan of the oral tradition and storytelling, this event from our monthly calendar caught my eye: West Side Stories Petaluma, at Sonoma Portworks, 613 2nd St, Petaluma. True personal stories. You don’t have to, but if you want to tell a story, just toss your name in the hat. Ten tellers max. get chosen to tell a 5-minute true story based on the evening’s theme: A Fish Out of Water. Sounds like a lot of fun! The date and time for this is Wednesday, August 2, 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Redwood Writers at the County Fair
While you’re checking out the goats and pigs, or puzzling the exact nature of cotton candy, check out the Redwood Writers booth in the EC Kraft Building for the eleven-day run of the Fair. Author meet & greets, book signings, and other publishing professionals will be on hand to answer questions about editing, marketing, social media, indie publishing, and all aspects of getting one’s book to the market place.

Two Summer Workshops to Stretch Your Writing Range
Prose Writing Workshop at the Sitting Room
Dan Coshnear will lead four Saturday morning writing workshops, starting on Saturday, August 12, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the Sitting Room (short fiction or excerpts from longer works, memoir, personal essay).

Drawing and Writing
And here’s something unusual: Creative Life II: Bones & Bridges, Writing for Artists; Drawing for Writers. Writing & Drawing Workshop with J. Ruth Gendler, Berkeley writer and artist. This intriguing workshop will be held on Tuesday, August 22, noon to 2:30 p.m. at the Healdsburg Center for the Arts.

“Just Getting Started”:
Sam Shepard, Author, Playwright and Actor, 1943-2017
Sam Shepard, the celebrated avant-garde playwright and Oscar-nominated actor, died last Thursday at his farm in Kentucky. He was 73. Drama Critic Jack Kroll called Shepard “Poet Laureate of America’s Emotional Badland.” Shepard is the author of 44 plays as well as books of short stories, essays and memories, and he won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 for his play, Buried Child. His plays, True West and Fool for Love, were also nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in 1983’s The Right Stuff.

Peter Marks wrote that Buried Child took on “the harrowing fragility of family bonds.” Shepard himself spoke of the impossibility of escaping this buried part of ourselves: “It’s very difficult to escape your background. You know, I don’t think it’s necessary to even try to escape it. More and more, I start to think that it’s necessary to see exactly what it is that you inherited on both ends of the stick: your timidity, your courage, your self-deceit, and your honesty — and all the rest of it.”

Shepard also famously hated endings—the contrived dramatic ones which lure us with “the temptation toward resolution” that he considered “a terrible trap.” Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote, “I once asked Sam what he’d like as an epitaph. He answered right away, without hedging for a moment: “That he always wrote like he was just getting started.”

Poem for August
Though best known for his stage plays and screenplays, Sam Shepherd also wrote poetry, and here is one from Hawk Moon, his collection of short stories, poems, and monologues

I keep waking up in whoever’s
Body I was last with
Who’s this?
Arms like a Viking
Rolled bull muscles
Hair down to here
I’m enough of a stranger as it is.

Hawk Moon, Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1973

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-Editor


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