Posted by: wordrunner | December 1, 2020

December 2020

December 1, 2020
Dear Literary Folk,
We’re in the last month of 2020, a strange year in so many ways. Despite the necessary social distancing with masks, I am grateful in this pandemic year for the chance via Zoom and other technologies to continue teaching, to be in more regular contact with family, to rethink my priorities and my often unconscious assumptions, and to enjoy a low-key holiday season. Staying away from stores means less exposure both to the virus and to the holiday hype. I also have had the pleasure of extending my COVID-pod to include my daughter, son-in-law, and grandson, who have temporarily moved here from Denver.
2020 in Six Words
The NYT recently asked readers to send in what they were grateful for in 2020 in just six words. Here are a few examples:

The crinkling eye above the mask.
Sunny mornings, a window facing east.

5329 games of solitaire, won 5286.
Postcards crossing the country — real mail.
Never been social; now I’m good.
Healthcare workers. Healthcare workers. Healthcare workers.

If any of you are game for this, send to me or Jo-Anne your 2020 thoughts in six words. We’ll include some of these in the January Literary Update. Please include “2020 in Six Words” in your subject line.

Terry Ehret:
Jo-Anne Rosen:
My wish for you all: Stay home if you can. Stay safe and healthy. We can do this!

Maya Khosla’s All the Fires of Wind and Light selected for 2020 PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award
All the Fires, poems, Maya KhoslaMaya KhoslaPEN Oakland, called “The Blue Collar PEN” by The New York Times, is honoring Maya Khosla’s All the Fires of Wind and Light with the Josephine Miles Literary Award.

PEN Oakland’s annual awards ceremony is scheduled to take place online via the Oakland Public Library Rockridge Branch on December 5, 2020, from 2PM-5PM PST.

The award ceremony will be a public event; info on broadcast at Oakland Public Library.

Jo-Anne Rosen’s Story Nominated for Pushcart Prize
It is Pushcart season—that time of year when independent presses and journals nominate the best of their year’s publications for recognition. The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses series, published every year since 1976, is the most honored literary project in America. Those nominees whose work is chosen for a Pushcart Prize are published in Pushcart Press’s annual anthology. Many Sonoma County authors have been nominated this year, including Literary Update editor Jo-Anne Rosen for her story “At the Casino with Two Jacks,” published this past summer by Big City Lit. You can read more about the Pushcart Prize at this link:

Congratulations to Jo-Anne and to all who have been nominated!
You can read Jo-Anne’s story at this link:

Support Sonoma County Authors with New Publications
Every month, I spotlight one or two new publications by Sonoma County authors. But the Sonoma County in Print page provides quite an impressive list of new books by our local writers. Please consider giving the gift of a book to your friends and relatives, and at the same time supporting writers who’ve had the challenge of bringing out new books in a pandemic year, without the usual in-person book launches, salons, and celebrations.

Here are two new publications I recommend:An Affront to Gravity

Steve Trennan—An Affront to Gravity: Poems and Salutations
“In this remarkable collection, Trenam is able to transform empty and blank spaces into places of worship that entice the reader to leave “the dark corners of our rooms” to experience not only the world that he creates through these poems, but also the ways in which art, music, dance, and poetry are rooted ‘at the heart of things.’” —Megan Merchant

Joan Frank—The Outlook for Earthlings
The Outlook for Earthlings. Joan FrankThe Outlook for Earthlings considers the limits of friendship—and of witnessing. It asks how we may finally measure a life—and who should do the measuring.

The novel has been warmly praised by significant voices: Peter Orner, Julie Buntin, Joan London, and Elizabeth Rosner among them. ForeWord Reviews summarizes: “With technicolor period details, intense reflections, and devastating acuity about women’s compromises in love, The Outlook for Earthlings is an elegant elegy.

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

Looking for Local Alternatives to Amazon?
During the pandemic, I’ve grown more inclined to shop online, and often the course of least resistance is shopping Amazon. It’s undeniably convenient, but also undeniably unsustainable. I’ve been looking into alternatives, and found this website, which is a good start:

If you ‘re looking for a way to decrease your dependence on Amazon as a source of books, supporting local independent bookstores, such as Copperfield’s, Readers’ Books, Treehorn Books, and Many Rivers Books and Tea. Some are open limited hours during this pandemic, but all offer curbside pick-up. Consider supporting these local businesses for your own reading pleasure, as well for holiday gifts.

Copperfield’s Books:
Treehorn Books:
Readers’ Books:
Many Rivers Books and Tea:

During this pandemic, the libraries have retooled their services to the Sonoma County community, including curbside pick-up, digital checkouts of eBooks and eAudiobooks, and online classes. They are also expanding their Spanish-language digital resources. And if streaming movies at home has kept you hooked on Amazon, the library has an alternative for streaming movies. You can learn more about the library’s services on the County News page. Sonoma County Libraries:

December Readings and Author Events
Check out this month’s calendar page for listings of these and other December events.

Sixteen Rivers Presents

Sixteen Rivers presentsOn Sunday, December 6, at 3 p.m., Sixteen Rivers Press presents the second reading in their ongoing series. December’s featured poets are Faylita Hicks and James Cagney.

Faylita Hicks is a poet, essayist, and interdisciplinary artist born in Gardena, CA, and raised in Central Texas.  Their work has been featured in Adroit, American Poetry Review, The Cincinnati Review, F(r)iction, HuffPost, Kenyon Review, Longreads, Palette Poetry, Poetry Magazine, The Rumpus, Slate, Texas Observer, Texas Monthly, VIDA Review, and others.

Oakland native James Cagney is the author of Black Steel Magnolias in the Hour of Chaos Theory, winner of the PEN Oakland 2019 Josephine Miles award. His poems have appeared in Poetry Daily, The Maynard, and Civil Liberties United, among other journals. To buy his book, visit, and to read more of his writing, go to

Tune in if you can!  The Zoom link is

Rivertown Poets
Founder and Director of Rivertown Poets, Sandra Anfang will be reading on Monday, December 7, 6:15 p.m. with Casey FitzSimons and Johanna Ely. The program includes an Open Mic Reading (3 minutes per reader). Join the meeting at: or just show up at Click on “Weekly Poetry Reading.” No password needed. 

SLAM 2020:
Teen Poetry Slam Saturday, December 12, 3:00-5:00 p.m. See County News for details.

Book Passage Presents Three Conversations with Authors:

  • Zeyn Joukhadar in conversation with Catherine Hernandez, Sunday, December 6, 4:00 p.m.
  • Jane Smiley in conversation with David Francis, Saturday, December 12, 4:00 p.m.
  • David Harris in conversation with Peter Coyote, Sunday, December 13, 4:00 p.m.

Phyllis MeshulamCheck out Phyllis Meshulam’s Poet Laureate Page
Consider contributing to Phyllis’s ongoing Poet Laureate Project. Phyllis is collecting poems for a county-wide anthology. You can see the current and past writing prompts/themes at this link: And if you have some poems you would like to share with her, please send as attached files, using this email:

Poem for December
One of my favorite local authors with an international audience is Kay Ryan, who served as US Poet Laureate 2010-2012. In one of her early collections, Elephant Rocks, she included a poem that I’ve thought of often. It speaks to the Nativity tradition, but also to the impulse to steal and claim for one’s own the labors or accomplishments of others. In this post-election limbo, the poem has even more meaning for me.
Kay Ryanby Kay Ryan
From the Greek for 
woven or plaited,
which quickly translated
to basket. Whence the verb
crib, which meant “to filch”
under cover of wicker
anything–some liquor,
a cutlet.
For we want to make off
with things that are not
our own. There is a pleasure
theft brings, a vitality
to the home.
Cribbed objects or answers
keep their guilty shimmer
forever, have you noticed?
Yet religions downplay this. 
Note, for instance, in our
annual rehearsals of innocence,
the substitution of manger for crib
as if we ever deserved that baby,
or thought we did.

@Kay Ryan,
Elephant Rocks, Grove Press, 1996


Terry Ehret,
Sonoma County Literary Update co-editor


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