Posted by: wordrunner | March 1, 2020

March 2020

Dear Literary Folk,

Over the past month, my co-editor Jo-Anne Rosen has been working on upgrading our website so that you will no longer see ads popping up when you access the Literary Update online. Thanks to Jo-Anne for her extraordinary webmaster skills, and for those of you in the literary community who have made donations we could put to use paying for these upgrades. If you’d like to contribute to keeping the Literary Update humming along, or have an announcement you’d like posted in the next Update, contact Jo-Anne at

Remembering Susan Swartz
Susan SwartzLong time journalist, author, radio commentator, and public speaker, Susan Swart died unexpectedly on February 25. Her vivid personality and voice for feminist issues and local journalism inspired us, challenging us to find a way to make a difference in our own communities.

The Press Democrat, Swartz’s journalistic home, included an article last week about Susan’s contributions as a writer and advocate. Here’s the link, if you missed it:

Besides her many columns in the Press Democrat, she also wrote books, including Juicy Tomatoes, focused on the true stories of a group of women 50 and older, and Laughing in the Dark, based loosely, she said, “on late-night discussions I’ve had through the years with friends over the scary and the silly.”

Though Swartz struggled with depression the past year, especially after the death of her husband and fellow journalist Bob Klose, her stepdaughter Greta Klosevitz remembers Susan as “an example of how to love and how to take care of each other, and how to find the joy and beauty in life.”  

Geri DiGiornoTribute to Geri Digiorno
There will be a celebration of the life and work of Geri Digiorno at the Phoenix Theater on Sunday, March 29, from 1-4 PM, with an open-mic for anyone who would like to read a poem in remembrance, speak briefly about Geri, or share one of her poems. Geri passed away in December, 2019, and a special remembrance of Geri appeared in the January Literary Update. Geri’s daughter Michelle will also be posting on FaceBook one of Geri’s poems each day in March, leading up to the celebration.

Reminder: Favorite Poems Community Reading Deadline March 8
Last month’s post included information about the Favorite Poems Community Reading coming up on April 5, 2020. If you’d like to read or recite a poem for this event, please send an e-mail to Gwynn O’Gara at Deadline is approaching!

Sonoma County is Looking for Youth Poet Laureate—Deadline March 13.
Sonoma County California Poets in the Schools plans to follow the lead of the nations, the state, and sister counties in acknowledging a student who has achieved excellence in poetry, allowing them to be a leader for the county in raising the profile of poetry and developing its audience. Specifically, They’re looking for a student between the ages of 13 and 19, a resident of Sonoma County, who has demonstrated a commitment to literary arts and community engagement through participation in volunteer and community services, clubs, afterschool activities, and extra academic activities. This is a one-year term with a $500 stipend. For details about how to apply, see the Community News Page of the Literary Update, or contact

One Hundred Thousand Poets for Change Presents Time For A Change!
Time for Change muralOn Sunday, March 22, 2-4 PM, there will be a fundraiser for community oversight of our local law enforcement at The Peace & Justice Center of Sonoma County, 467 Sebastopol Ave., Santa Rosa. The Wroth family, whose son was killed by local law enforcement, will be joined by featured readers from across Sonoma County and beyond, including Kym Trippsmith, Jose Luis Gutiérrez, Vilma Ginzberg, Ernesto Garay, Paul Nicholson,  Juanita J. Martin,  Corlene van Sluizer,  Michael Arcangelini, Phyllis Meshulam, Terry Ehret, Ana Salgado, and John Johnson.

It’s Up to Us : Sonoma County’s Second Climate Summit
March 15 2020, 1:30-6 PM, Odd Fellows Hall, 545 Pacific Ave., Santa Rosa
The summit is a call to action, a call to connect, a call to build on common ground. We call on concerned community members, students, and Sonoma County climate activist groups to attend.

We are the decision-makers and leaders of the local and global changes we must create.

Speakers: Daily Acts Executive Director Trathen Heckman, Tayse Crocker of North Bay Organizing Project, Cory O’Gorman of Sonoma State University, Sonoma County Poet Laureate Maya Khosla, Elizabeth Kaiser of Singing Frogs Farm, Steve Birdlebough from Transportation and Land Use

Coalition, Youth Leaders from Sunrise Movement, Youth Leaders from Schools for Climate Action including Kate Roney, Woody Hastings Environmentalist of the Year, County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins.

Writing Groups for Novelists?
Most poets I know have a group of fellow poets with whom they share new work and get constructive feedback and publishing suggestions. However, it can often be hard for novelists to find such a writing group. A quick look at our Writers’ Connections Page of the Literary Update shows only a couple of writers/writing groups dedicated to supporting novelists.

If you’re looking for a novel-writing critique group, one place to begin is Redwood Writers. This group offers professional services, workshops, contests, and events to support writers in all genres. Here’s the link to their website:

It’s also helpful to attend a local Writing Conference, such as Mendocino Coast Writers’ Conference, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, or Napa Valley Writers’ Conference (all three are accepting applications now). Often ongoing groups spring from these experiences, both in-person and online.

If you are part of a group that is open to new members, or if you are a novelist in search of a group, send me your name and contact information I’ll put you in touch with each other: Even better, send your group’s information to Jo-Anne Rosen to add to the Writers’ Connection Page:

Upcoming Events at the Sitting Room

Writing Workshop with Patti Trimble
new inquiry, new listening
Patti TrimbleSaturdays 2-5 p.m., March 7, April 4, May 2
How many conversations—personal, political, social—do we hold in our intelligent creative minds? How do our doubts and certainties, facts and fictions, lyric imaginations and deep concerns live, in reality, side by side? And when we write, how do we dignify the real relationship of things? In three free workshops we’ll address the complexity of writing today. And we’ll write together, merging genres and finding language to braid whatever: personal experience and expertise, uncertainty, imagination, world events, facts, fiction. With practices for thoughtful inquiry and for listening through for the power of personal revelation and wisdom. Join us for one or three. No charge and all levels welcome.

Saturday, March 14, 2-4: Gail Newman and Barbara Baer—Jewish Women in History
Blood MemoryAward-winning poet Gail Newman has worked for many years as a poet-teacher with California Poets in the Schools and is a Museum Educator at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. She has published two books of poems by children, Dear Earth and C is For California, and Inside Out, a book of lessons for high school teachers. She was the co-founder and editor of Room, A Women’s Literary Journal. A collection of poetry, One Worldwas published in 2011 by Moontide Press. She will read from her forthcoming book about the Holocaust, Blood Memory.

The Ice Palace WaltzIn Barbara Baer’s The Ice Palace Waltz, two Jewish immigrant families—rough and ready westerners and smooth ‘our crowd’ New Yorkers—come together in a family saga amid the financial and political turmoil of early 20th century America. Barbara,  a journalist and small press publisher, bases her multi-generational saga on remembered stories from her family and much research. She doesn’t think fiction falsifies fact, but rather adds more ingredients to a recipe that deepens the flavors.      

Mark your calendars for these Sitting Room events in April and May:
Saturday, April 25, 2-4: Experiences that Shape Us: Interior and Exterior Landscapes
Saturday, May 9, 2-5: Poetry: Maya Khosla, Ellery Akers, Patti Trimble, Rosa Lane
Saturday, May 16, 1-4 p.m.: Dreams: A Source for Poetry & Prose–Salon and Workshop with Meredith Sabini

Honoring WWII Women War Correspondents
Healdsburg author Jeane Slone presents a slide show in celebration of Women’s History Month, honoring women war correspondents who achieved equal rights by facing extreme danger to get the scoop on the war overseas for the folks at home. Highlights of the slides include women war correspondents who were hit by Junker planes in a B-17 Flying Fortress, documented the liberation of Buchenwald concentration camp, or immediately following the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, photographed “Disease X.” 

Jeane has four presentations scheduled:
Thursday, March 5, 6:30 p.m.,St. Helena Public Library, 1492 Library Lane, St. Helena
Sunday, March 22, 3:00 p.m., Central Library, 211 E Street, Santa Rosa (545-0831).
Wednesday, March 25, 6:00 p.m., Healdsburg Library, 139 Piper St.,

One Acts in Guerneville
Wednesday, March 25, 7:00-8:30 p.m. and Saturday, March 28, 2:00-3:30 p.m.
The River Friends of the Library presents one-act plays by local writers and famous authors. March opens with “Hipster Hobos” by D. M. Larson about our too well connected world. “The Christmas Truce” by Aaron Shepard is a reminder that most people are innately good, even though their leaders may not be. Then there will be a special featured reading from local poet Sashana Kane Proctor. The final play will be “Three Skeleton Key” by George Toudouze which is pure suspense. Guerneville Regional Library, 14107 Armstrong Woods Road.

Plagios/Plagiarisms, Volume One Is Now Available
Platio/PlagarismsMany of you know that John Johnson, Nancy Morales, and I have been working on a project to translate the work of Mexican poet Ulalume González de León. The first volume is now available through Sixteen Rivers Press, and we have an ever-growing schedule of book launches, readings, and events to celebrate.

To learn more about the author and read some sample poems, use this link:

Though our official pub date is April 2, 2020, you can order your early-bird copy of Plagios/Plagiarisms, Volume One, right now. Just click on this link:

If you’re planning to attend AWP in San Antonio, March 4-7, we’d love to see you there. We’ll be sharing a booth at the Book Fair with Poetry Flash (#1720), and there will be a panel/reading on the Book Fair Stage on Friday, March 6, 1:45 pm to launch Plagios/Plagiarisms. Check the calendar page or e-mail me and I’ll send you information about upcoming readings and events closer to home:

Poem for March
Claudia RankineFor this month’s poem, I’ve selected an excerpt from Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric. I recommend reading this with Situation Video #5, a collaboration with Rankine’s husband, photographer John Lucas, at


February 26, 2012/In Memory of Trayvon Martin

My brothers are notorious. They have not been to prison. They have been imprisoned. The prison is not a place you enter. It is no place. My brothers are notorious. They do regular things, like wait. On my birthday they say my name. They will never forget that we are named. What is that memory?

The days of our childhood together were steep steps into a collapsing mind. It looked like we rescued ourselves, were rescued. Then there are these days, each day of our adult lives. They will never forget our way through, these brothers, each brother, my brother, dear brother, my dearest brothers, dear heart—

Your hearts are broken. This is not a secret though there are secrets. And as yet I do not understand how my own sorrow has turned into my brothers’ hearts. The hearts of my brothers are broken. If I knew another way to be, I would call up a brother, I would hear myself saying, my brother, dear brother, my dearest brothers, dear heart—

On the tip of a tongue one note following another is another path, another dawn where the pink sky is the bloodshot of struck, of sleepless, of sorry, of senseless, shush. Those years of and before me and my brothers, the years of passage, plantation, migration, of Jim Crow segregation, of poverty, inner cities, profiling, of one in three, two jobs, boy, hey boy, each a felony, accumulate into the hours inside our lives where we are all caught hanging, the rope inside us, the tree inside us, its roots our limbs, a throat sliced through and when we open our mouth to speak, blossoms, o blossoms, no place coming out, brother, dear brother, that kind of blue. The sky is the silence of brothers all the days leading up to my call.

If I called I’d say good-bye before I broke the good-bye. I say good-bye before anyone can hang up. Don’t hang up. My brother hangs up though he is there. I keep talking. The talk keeps him there. The sky is blue, kind of blue. The day is hot. Is it cold? Are you cold? It does get cool. Is it cool? Are you cool?

My brother is completed by sky. The sky is his silence. Eventually, he says, it is raining. It is raining down. It was raining. It stopped raining. It is raining down. He won’t hang up. He’s there, he’s there but he’s hung up though he is there. Good-bye, I say. I break the good-bye. I say good-bye before anyone can hang up, don’t hang up. Wait with me. Wait with me though the waiting might be the call of good-byes.

Originally published in Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2014). Copyright © by Claudia Rankine.


Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-Editor


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