Posted by: wordrunner | January 2, 2022

January 2022

Happy New Year to all our literary folk!

I hope you are managing to stay healthy in this next twist of the pandemic. As 2022 begins, I hope our friendships will thrive, our creativity flourish, and our democracy survive the challenges to its integrity.

cabinThis is the second New Year’s Day without the annual gathering of writers at my home in Petaluma. It’s always been a highlight of my holiday season, and I miss hosting the potluck of poems and good food. I have felt the absence of such gatherings these past two years, and imagine most of you do, too.

If we can catch a break between storms, this New Year’s, my husband Don and I will be up at our cabin in the Sierra, digging out from the plentiful December snowfall. We’ve hired a crew to help us find the steps and the front door. More snow is in the forecast, of course, but we’ll work on keeping that path to the front door clear.

Call for Submission for Women Artists Datebook
The Syracuse Cultural Workers is one of my favorite organizations. I’ve featured them here before because I admire the work they do to support art as a form of cultural activism: Founded in 1982, SCW is a progressive publisher committed to peace, sustainability, social justice, feminism and multiculturalism. In addition to posters and calendars, cards, and t-shirts, they publish each year a Women Artists Datebook, which couples poetry and visual art. Here in Sonoma County, we have some mighty fine women artists and poets. I’ve had the honor and the pleasure of seeing several of my poems in the Datebook over the years, and I hope you’ll consider submitting your work. The deadline for the 2023 Datebook is January 15, 2022. Here’s the link to learn more about SCW: And here’s the link for the submission guidelines:

Jordan RosenfeldJordan Rosenfeld on Writing Emotional Scenes
Former Sonoma County author and writing teacher Jordan Rosenfeld will present a workshop on “How to Evoke Emotion in Every Scene on Saturday, January 15, 1:00-2:45 p.m. The Workshop is sponsored by the Redwood Branch of the California Writers Club. Presentation will be virtual only, via
Zoom. For details, costs, and registration, visit

Book Launch for Dan Coshnear’s Separation Anxiety
In December’s post, I gave a shout-out to Dan Coshnear’s new collection of short stories. If you missed his reading last month, you have another chance to hear him read on Sunday, February 27, 3:00-4:30 p.m. Occidental Center for the Arts (rescheduled from January 16, due to Covid restrictions). Details:

Online Creative Writing Workshop with Raina León
Raina LeonThe Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing program at Dominican University of California is hosting an online creative writing workshop — “On Future Worlds”— presented by educator/writer/coach Raina León, professor of English Education at St. Mary’s College, on Tuesday, January 25, from 6-8 p.m. via Zoom. To register for the event, which is free and open to the public, follow this link:

In this workshop, presenters will read news articles that explore potential crises and imagine what inner and outer worlds might emerge, ones that are about flourishing and collective organizing and possibility. The workshop will study science fiction (in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and visual arts) alongside the news to inspire generative writing from a place of artivism for preservation and action.

es Bernstein’s New Book Loose Magic
Loose Magic / Les BernsteinMany of you from the Sitting Room workshops and from the Redwood Writers know the potent, enigmatic, minimalist jewels of Les Bernstein’s poetry. In November, Finishing Line published her latest collection, Loose Magic. About these poems, Rebecca Foust says, “How to chronicle a lifetime? If it can be done at all, it must be in poems like this, written straight from the heart and spanning a decade, plainspoken, and lyrical with authentic and earned emotion. You can read more about Loose Magic and order your own copy at this link:

Les is a winner of the 6th annual Nazim Hikmet Festival and a Pushcart Prize Nominee for 2015. Her poems have appeared in journals, presses and anthology in the U.S.A. and internationally and her chapbooks Borderland, Naked Little Creatures and Amid the Din were published by Finishing Line Press. She has been the editor of Redwood Writer’s anthologies for the last five years and was also the editor of the Marin High School Anthology 2018.

If you’d like to hear Les reading her poems, tune in on Tuesday, January 25, 7-8:30 pm, when she will be the special guest poet with Poetic License Sonoma. Registration is required to receive the
zoom link. Fee: $5 Details and registration:

Nominations for the next Sonoma County Poet Laureate Opening Soon
The Sebastopol Center for the Arts and the Poet Laureate Selection Committee will be accepting nominations this spring for Sonoma County’s 12th Poet Laureate. The Poet Laureate is a Sonoma County resident who has demonstrated a commitment to the literary arts in the County. The Poet Laureate often participates in official ceremonies and readings and receives a $1,000 stipend.

If you know someone you’d like to nominate, or if you’d like to be considered for this prestigious post, check with the Sebastopol Center for the Arts website at Nomination forms and guidelines will be available soon.

Two New Book Stores on the Russian River
Russian River Books & Letters is a newly opened bookstore in Guerneville (next to Coffee Bazaar) on Armstrong Woods Rd. Pat Nolan reports it’s a terrific “well-lighted” space with plenty of new titles in all genres. Stay tuned for special events including music, readings, open mics, book clubs, and writing workshops. The proprietor, Michael, is very interested in promoting local authors. He can be reached at or 707-604-7197 Details:

Poet’s Corner Book Store in Duncans Mills, a “charming curated book shop,” is the smallest bookstore in the county. Open since November 2020. Details:

Notable Writers We Have Lost in 2021
We’ve been blessed to be alive during such a great era of writing. So many writers with their unique and diverse voices have found their home in print. This year, many of our literary heroes passed away, and their voices will be sorely missed. But their influences live on in us and in the poems, stories, novels, memoirs, and essays we are inspired by them to write. Here’s a short list of authors who left us in 2021. For a more comprehensive list, here’s a link to the NYT article.

Poet, publisher, at Beat-era legend Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who opened the famous San Francisco bookstore City Lights in 1953, died on February 22 at the age of 101.

Polish poet and dissident Adam Zagajewski died on March 21 at the age of 75.

Children’s literature legend Beverly Cleary died on March 25th at the very impressive age of 104.

Larry McMurtry, the storyteller and subversive mythmaker of the American west who was best known as the author of Lonesome Dove, died on March 25 at the age of 84.

Al Young, American poet, novelist, essayist, screenwriter, and professor, died on April 17 at the age of 81.

Pulitzer prize winning poet Stephen Dunn
died on June 24, which was his 82nd birthday.

The Italian novelist, critic, scholar, and legendary publisher Roberto Calasso, whom The Paris Review once described as “a literary institution of one,” died on July 28. He was 80 years old.

Poet, translator, antiwar activist, and
Minnesota cultural icon Robert Bly died on November 21 at the age of 94.

Anne Rice, the prolific and beloved author of gothic novels, most famous for her 1976 debut Interview with the Vampire and its sequels, died on December 12 at the age of 80.

bell hooks, essential feminist thinker, died on December 15 at the age of 69.

Joan Didion, iconic essayist who explored culture and chaos, died on December 23 at the age of 87.

Donations to the Sonoma County Literary Update always Welcome!

Most of you know that the SCLU began during my tenure as Sonoma County Poet Laureate, 2004-2006. It has continued largely through the behind-the-scenes efforts of Jo-Anne Rosen. We volunteer our time, happily so, but there are some expenses to keep the website going, most recently an update that keeps the Update free of advertisements.

For those who regularly announce their workshops, readings, or services here, a donation of $10 to $20/year is requested to keep the update and its website going. Donations from regular readers are welcome, too. For details contact the editor Jo-Anne Rosen at

Poem for the New Year

For Calling the Spirit Back from Wandering the Earth in Its Human Feet

by Joy Harjo

Put down that bag of potato chips, that white bread, that bottle of pop.
Turn off that cellphone, computer, and remote control.
Open the door, then close it behind you.
Take a breath offered by friendly winds. They travel the earth gathering essences of plants to clean.
Give it back with gratitude.
If you sing it will give your spirit lift to fly to the stars’ ears and back.
Acknowledge this earth who has cared for you since you were a dream planting itself precisely within your parents’ desire.
Let your moccasin feet take you to the encampment of the guardians who have known you before time, who will be there after time. They sit before the fire that has been there without time.
Let the earth stabilize your postcolonial insecure jitters.
Be respectful of the small insects, birds and animal people who accompany you.
Ask their forgiveness for the harm we humans have brought down upon them.
Don’t worry.
The heart knows the way though there may be high-rises, interstates, checkpoints, armed soldiers, massacres, wars, and those who will despise you because they despise themselves.
The journey might take you a few hours, a day, a year, a few years, a hundred, a thousand or even more.
Watch your mind. Without training it might run away and leave your heart for the immense human feast set by the thieves of time.
Do not hold regrets.
When you find your way to the circle, to the fire kept burning by the keepers of your soul, you will be welcomed.
You must clean yourself with cedar, sage, or other healing plant.
Cut the ties you have to failure and shame.
Let go the pain you are holding in your mind, your shoulders, your heart, all the way to your feet. Let go the pain of your ancestors to make way for those who are heading in our direction.
Ask for forgiveness.
Call upon the help of those who love you. These helpers take many forms: animal, element, bird, angel, saint, stone, or ancestor.
Call your spirit back. It may be caught in corners and creases of shame, judgment, and human abuse.
You must call in a way that your spirit will want to return.
Speak to it as you would to a beloved child.
Welcome your spirit back from its wandering. It may return in pieces, in tatters. Gather them together. They will be happy to be found after being lost for so long.
Your spirit will need to sleep awhile after it is bathed and given clean clothes.
Now you can have a party. Invite everyone you know who loves and supports you. Keep room for those who have no place else to go.
Make a giveaway, and remember, keep the speeches short.
Then, you must do this: help the next person find their way through the dark. 

Reprinted from Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 2015 by Joy Harjo.

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-editor


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