County News

County News

The Update welcomes announcements of interest to the Sonoma County literary community. Send text only (no attachments or PDFs please) by noon on the last day of the month to: No workshops, classes or readings, please. (Those are posted on the calendar or workshops pages.) An archive of announcements may be found at:


Phyllis MeshulamSonoma County’s Newest Poet Laureate

Welcome to our new Poet Laureate, Phyllis Meshulam. A long-time resident of Sonoma County, she has published four collections of poetry, most recently Land of My Father’s War, which won the Artists’ Embassy International Award. Her work has appeared in many literary journals and anthologies, including Ars Medica,; Bullets into Bells; Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace; and What Redwoods Know. Phyllis is also the editor of Poetry Crossing, CalPoet’s 50th anniversary lesson plan book, an inspirational resource for writers and teachers. 


Sonoma County 2020 Poetry Out Loud winners

Poetry Out Loud 2020 winnersCongratulations to Sonoma County 2020 Poetry Out Loud winners! Jessica Spano (center) from Petaluma High School took first place honors in the Poetry Out Loud competition on February 10th at the Central Sonoma County Library. First runner up was Hazel Jacome (left) from Piner High School and Megan Roman (right) from Analy High School took third place. All thirteen county contestants offered stellar recitations of great poems.

Jessica represented Sonoma County at the State finals on March 15th and 16th, which were held as a virtual event. The Poetry Outloud state champion is from Sacramento County and the Poetry Ourselves first-place winner from Napa. Details at:

Many thanks to the partners and sponsors who helped to make the 2020 Sonoma County Poetry Out Loud program a success: Creative Sonoma, National Endowment for the Arts, California Arts Council, Sonoma County Vintners and the Santa Rosa Symphony.


Announcing the Search for a Youth Poet Laureate for Sonoma County

Sonoma County California Poets in the Schools plans to follow the lead of the nation, the state and sister counties (Alameda, Los Angeles and Ventura) 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.


  • This student should be between the ages of 13 and 19.
  • They must be a county resident who expects to remain in the county between May of 2020 and May of 2021.
  • They should also have demonstrated their commitment to literary arts and community engagement through participation in volunteer and community service, clubs, after-school activities, and extra academic activities.
  • California Poets in the Schools will implement this as a regional partner of Urban Word, the nation-wide program.
  • The Youth Poet Laureate will serve a one year term and is expected to participate in at least four public functions.
  • YPL will receive a $500 stipend and a publishing contract for a chapbook of their work, or an anthology that includes their work and that of other finalists.
  • A grant to support this program has already been obtained from the Bill Graham foundation.


  • YPL nominations may come from any organization or individual.
  • Application (available at must be submitted by March 13 to or, if student has no means to apply online, to California Poets in the Schools – Youth Poet Laureate Submission, PO Box 1328, Santa Rosa, CA 95402
  • With the application, three of the student’s poems must be submitted, totaling no more than ten pages.
  • For finalists, an adult sponsor will be required to provide a letter of support.
  • A committee of respected local poets will review applications and choose finalists.
  • Finalists will be asked to attend a judging session so that their ability to present their poems effectively (as well as writing good poems) can be assessed.

The winner will be announced in late April.

The inauguration will occur on May 2, from 2:00–4:00 p.m., in conjunction with a county-wide poetry reading by youth at the Santa Rosa Central Library.

For more information, please contact


Favorite Poem Community Reading

Sunday, April 5, 2:00 p.m.
Sebastopol Center for the Arts

The Sebastopol Center for the Arts will once again host a Favorite Poem Community Reading. Modeled on the readings initiated by former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, and hosted locally by Jodi Hottel and Larry Robinson, this event will bring together a wide range of people and poems into one memorable event.

You are invited to submit a copy of your single favorite poem, famous or otherwise, one that is not written by you, a friend or relative, but one that you have read, perhaps many times, or learned by heart, and to which you feel a personal attachment, along with a brief statement about the poem’s significance in your life. The poem and introductory statement should take no more than 3 minutes for you to read or recite.

Please send an email to Gwynn O’Gara at Include the subject “Favorite Poem Reading” in the subject heading. Send your name, phone # and email address, and submit your selection in either Word or a web link. Be sure to include the name of the author of the poem. There is no entry fee, and entries should be received no later than March 8.

This is our 17th annual event. The event is free, and refreshments will be served. Whether you submit a poem to share or not, we invite you to come to what is sure to be a wonderful celebration of the community’s love of language and poetry.


WordTemple Redux!

Sonoma County poet laureate emerita, Katherine Hastings, has morphed WordTemple — her former reading series and radio program — into a blog with, in part, the intention of bringing California and New York poets (and beyond) together. The initial blog featured a poem from Jodi Hottel’s recent chapbook, Out of the Ashes. Most recently, poems from Rochester poet Charles Cote’s full length collection, I Play His Red Guitar, are posted along with a statement by Cote on how these poems arrived after his teenaged son died of cancer. If you would like to check out the blog, go to Katherine would love for you to subscribe.


Sonoma County Poetry Out Loud — Our 14th year of county participation!

This oral recitation competition of famous poetry is sponsored through generous funding from the CAC, California Poets in the Schools, Creative Sonoma and the Vintners Foundation.

When:  Monday, February 10, 2020
Time:  6:00-9:00 p.m.
Where: Downtown Santa Rosa Library
               211 E. Street, Santa Rosa, CA
Emcee: David Beckman
Admission is free.
We are excited to have students from twelve Sonoma County high schools competing:  Analy, Casa Grande, Creekside, El Molino, Maria Carillo, Petaluma, Piner, Rancho Cotate, Roseland Collegiate Prep, Roseland University Prep, Santa Rosa, and Sonoma Academy.
For questions, please contact: County Coordinator, Jackie Huss Hallerberg,


Awards and Nominations

Donna Emerson‘s poem “Long Distance” has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by the  Marin Poetry Anthology, where it was published in September, 2019.

Gwynn O’Gara‘s poetry manuscript Clio’s Daughter With Head on Fire has won 1st Place and a $1,000 grant—the 2019 Shirley Holden Helberg Grant for Mature Women (35 and older)—awarded by the National League of American Pen Women, Phil Memmer, Judge. The manuscript is also a Finalist in The Faulkner Society 2019 Poetry Collection Contest. Gwynn was Sonoma County Poet Laureate in 2010-2011.

Peg Alford Pursell‘s A Girl Goes into the Forest has been long-listed for the Northern California Golden Poppy Book Awards. Her story “In the Beginning” (included in the book) has been nominated by The Gravity Is the Thing for the 2020 Best American Short Stories anthology, the 2020 Pushcart Prize anthology, and the 2019 Best of the Net anthology, and The Museum of Americana nominated “A Man with Horses” for the 2019 Best of the Net Anthology.


URGENT: The Free Bookmobile of Sonoma County Needs a New Bookmobile

The beloved big green truck must be phased out due to new CA air quality regulations. Good bookmobiles are scarce out there on the used market and new ones are extremely expensive. So they’re going to build their own and have already tracked down a great base model box truck to convert. Please consider making a generous donation toward this goal! All the money will stay local as Sonoma County vendors are lined up to do the conversion work. Read more about it and make a donation here: If you prefer to send a check, please make it out to “Free Bookmobile” and mail to:
Free Bookmobile
PO Box 1402
Santa Rosa, CA 95402


Winners of “Discovered: Emerging Artists of Sonoma County” Program Announced

Exhibition to open November 22, 2019 at Museum of Sonoma County.
Ten Sonoma County artists are being recognized through the fifth “Discovered Awards for Emerging Visual and Literary Artists of Sonoma County” program, produced by Creative Sonoma and funded by Community Foundation Sonoma County. Five visual and five literary artists were selected from a pool of applicants from all corners of the County. Literary arts winners are: Leilani Clark (Santa Rosa), non-fiction; Ernesto Garay (Sebastopol), poetry; Chelsea Rose Kurnick (Windsor), poetry; Joy Lanzendorfer (Petaluma), fiction; and Nicole Irene Zimmerman (Penngrove), non-fiction. Literary Runners-up: Sean Marks (Petaluma), non-fiction; Shawna Swetech (Forestville), poetry; Elizabeth Nordlinger (Sonoma), fiction; Cass Pursell (Santa Rosa) fiction; and Loretta Carpio Carr (Sonoma), non-fiction.


Meeting Space!

The Sitting Room community library would like Book Groups to know that they would be welcome to hold their meetings here. There is comfortable seating for up to 10 people and parking too. We are open from 9 to 5 Mondays – Saturdays, but are happy to make arrangements for other time slots also. If interested in arranging a trial meeting, please call us at 707 795-9028 or email us at The atmosphere is right (and people wont have to straighten up their houses for the occasional occasion). We are right next to Sonoma State University at 2025 Curtis Drive, Penngrove, 94951. Check out our website: for directions and to get a feel for the place.

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  1. […] 24. To find out who’s reading and presenting at these events, click on each, or visit the County News page of the Literary Update (printed below in this email). This is the time for nominations for […]

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