Posted by: wordrunner | July 1, 2020

July 2020

Dear Literary Folk,

I want to begin this month’s post with a statement of solidarity, composed by our Poet Laureate Phyllis Meshulam, in collaboration with the Poet Laureate Committee.
The burden borne by people of color in this country is almost incomprehensible to those who haven’t experienced it. Sonoma County’s Poets Laureate and the Poet Laureate Selection Committee stand with the Black Lives Matter movement and others who want to re-imagine society, to expose racist roots wherever they might be, to challenge systemic racism within the power structure and to hold accountable those given the authority to use lethal force. We understand the urgency of addressing these centuries-old problems. We pledge to participate in this process, holding inclusive and topical events, amplifying the voices that need to be heard to make change, regularly including relevant work from a diverse community of poets in our readings. We believe that poetry can help us march in others’ shoes.Listen to an excerpt from “Accidental” in Incendiary Art, by Patricia Smith: “My children/ are blasted daily out of their own/ names, paying with breath for the sin/ of pockets. And wallets. And bottles./ And phones. And toys.”Or listen to an excerpt from “By the Way” in American Sunrise by Joy Harjo: “That’s how blues emerged, by the way—/ Our spirits needed a way to dance through the heavy mess./ The music, a sack that carries the bones of those left alongside/ The trail of tears when we were forced/ To leave everything we knew by the way—”
We also pledge to support groups like Reclaim Our Vote, My Brother’s Keeper, Undocufund and NAACP by volunteering, donating and spreading the word.

Phyllis Meshulam
Maya Khosla
Gwynn O’Gara
Bill Vartnaw
Sandra Anfang
Cynthi Stefenoni
Iris Jamahl Dunkle
Ernesto Garay
Kim Hester Williams
Clara Rosemarda
Terry Ehret
Rebecca Patrascu
Gail King
Kathleen Winter
Arthur Dawson
Cynthia Helen Beecher

Back in April, the Sonoma County Poet Laureate Committee proudly announced the selection of Phyllis Meshulam as Sonoma County Poet Laureate 2020-2022. Her term runs from April, 2020 through March, 2022. You’ll find the full introduction presented in the April Post But let me highlight the reasons we chose Phyllis from a field of four gifted and well qualified finalists.
Every Poet Laureate is a Sonoma County resident whose poetry manifests a high degree of excellence, who has produced a critically acclaimed body of work, and who has demonstrated a commitment to the literary arts in Sonoma County. Our new Poet Laureate steps up at a time when many of us are turning to the arts to find hope and resilience. We are traveling through such difficult times, without much of a compass, other than the generous, vital, and creative spirit we all share. It was the committee’s feeling that Phyllis’s work, imbued as it is with her passion for justice, sensitivity, and inclusiveness, would provide this important leadership.
Poet Laureate Virtual Gala Reception, Sunday, July 12th

Maya KhoslaZoya AhmedPhyllis Meshulam

The Sebastopol Center for the Arts, along with the Poet Laureate Selection Committee, invites the public to a virtual reception on July 12, 2020 at 4 PM. We’ll be honoring our outgoing Poet Laureate, Maya Khosla, our new Laureate, Phyllis, and the recently selected Youth Poet Laureate, Zoya Ahmed.
Register for the online reception on the SCA website at sebarts. org. For interviews, please contact Phyllis Meshulam directly at or 707-486-7450.
RSVP: Poet Laureate reception July 12th 4 pm
Poet Laureate Anthology Project and Writing Prompts

One of the projects Phyllis has proposed for her Poet Laureate tenure is to create an anthology from members of our community:  poems probing obstacles we face in aligning our society with the needs of the planet as a whole and all its inhabitants. The concept of this book takes some of its inspiration from Joanna Macy’s “the work that reconnects.” Macy, an environmental activist and translator of Rilke, starts with the concept of “gratitude,” then moves to “honoring our pain for the world,” then “seeing with new eyes.”

Archived on Phyllis’s Poet Laureate News page are the prompts to get you started writing.

When you have a piece ready, send it as an attachment in a word document Times New Roman or comparable font at 12 points, to this email:

Workshops Moving to Online Modes

Local writers who have been teaching workshops in memoir, fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry have moved their workshops to online formats. Some are even offering their workshops free of charge. Many thanks to Jo-Anne Rosen, who has kept up with the literary events and workshops in their new online incarnation, and presented these in detail on the Calendar Page and Workshops Page. Here are a few upcoming and ongoing workshops I recommend:

  • Marlene Cullen’s online writing event on Wednesday, July 8, 6:30 p.m., hosted by Aqus Café
  • Margaret Caminsky-Shapiro’s Sonoma County Writing Practice, Mondays at 2.00 p.m. and 6.00 p.m. and Tuesdays at 9.15 a.m. and 6.00 p.m.
  • Sher Christian’s Workshops and Intuitive Coaching on Fridays, 11:30 am to 12:30 pm
  • Writer’s Forum: Brenda Knight will talk about how to navigate the hurdles of book publishing, Tuesday, July 14,  6:30 p.m.
  • Writer and instructor Stacey Dennick will present tips on how to create dynamic dialogue Wednesday, July 15, 6:30-8:30 p.m, sponsored by Aqus Foundation. 
  • Memoir Class with Suzanne Sherman
  • Christine Walker’s Writing Courses and YouTube Videos
  • Jordan Rosenfeld—Free classes, writing groups & editing: jordanwritelife (at) gmail (dot) com

Readings and Book Launches Are Also Online

Rivertown Poets features Paul Watsky and Crystal Ockenfuss. Followed by Open Mic Monday, July 6, 6:15 p.m.

Book Passage presents Joan Frank reading from Try to Get Lost. Wednesday, July 8, 7:00 p.m.

Global Open Mic: Dan Brady, host of Sacred Ground Open Mic Series, has put together a list of readings around the world you can attend without leaving your home. You can find the constantly evolving list of Virtual Venues at this link: And if you have an event to post on the Global Open Mic list, here’s how you can do this:

So many authors have released books this spring and summer, without the usual reading tour and book launches that help bring these new works to the public’s attention. If you have a new book, let us help you promote it!

Kathleen Winter’s Transformer

Kathleen Winter: TransformerKathleen WinterKathleen is author of three poetry collections, including Transformer (March 2020), selected by Maggie Smith for the Hilary Tham Collection at The Word Works Press. Winter’s second book, I will not kick my friends, won the Elixir Poetry Prize, and her debut collection, Nostalgia for the Criminal Past, won the Texas Institute of Letters Bob Bush Memorial Award and the Antivenom Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared in The New Republic, The New Statesman, Poetry London, Agni, Cincinnati Review, Tin House, Michigan Quarterly Review and other journals. She has received fellowships from Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Dora Maar House, James Merrill House, Cill Rialaig Project and Vermont Studio Center. Her awards include the Poetry Society of America The Writer Magazine/Emily Dickinson Award and the Ralph Johnston Fellowship at University of Texas’s Dobie Paisano Ranch. Winter is an associate editor at 32 Poems. She teaches creative writing at Santa Rosa Junior College and Sonoma State University.

If you’d like to read some of the poems in Transformer and/or order a copy for yourself, here’s the link:

Ida Rae Egli’s New Novel, Krisanthi’s War: in Hitler’s Greece

In Hitler's Greece: Ida Rae EgliIda Rae EgliResearching and writing Krisanthi’s War: in Hitler’s Greece has been Ida Egli’s project for many years;  finally it has been released by local publisher McCaa Books and is available on or at The Kindle version is also available on Amazon.
Three women struggle to survive in Hitler’s Greece. The war takes them to near starvation and to a violence they could not have imagined, but also to romance, love, babies being born, to village humor and the bravery of local resistance fighters. By working together they have a chance of surviving, though the costs to themselves, to family, and to Greece are high.
“When I first read Ida Egli’s novel of Greece in the time of Hitler, I was drawn in immediately and knew it was a masterpiece. It ranks up there with The Great Gatsby, Cold Mountain, Suite Francaise, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and Moby Dick. It conveys three wonderful love stories (no! four), amidst the horrors of war that women have to endure, and to be clever enough to survive, moving through hanging bodies in the streets of Athens, and the slaughters of simple villagers on the island of Rhodes. Krisanthi’s War is a novel among the best in American fiction.”
                                                   —Neal Metcalf, author of The Pure Gamble and Loving Lady Chatterley
Some of the proceeds from book sales will be used to set up a fund to aid Greek families struggling with the pandemic and the poor Greek economy. 
Here is the link to take a look at Ida’s novel and order your own copy:

Poem for July

Lucille CliftonLucille Clifton’s birthday was just a few days ago. On June 27, she would have been 84. In the early days of shelter-in-place, when we were singing Happy Birthday to make sure we were washing our hands for 20 seconds, a meme circulated on the Internet proposing reciting this poem while hand-washing. This was before the Black Lives Matter protests erupted in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, with their invitation to re-examine our identities, our assumptions, the racism that is so tightly woven into our history and society. Reciting this poem every day might move us all in the direction of empathy and necessary change.

won’t you celebrate with me

won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

from The Book of Light (1992)

You can find Clifton’s poem and many other poems of resistance and resilience in the anthology America, We Call Your Name, published in 2018 by Sixteen Rivers Press.

Here’s the link to read some sample poems and/or order a copy:

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update


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