County News Archive


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.)


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.


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.

Go Fund Petaluma Poetry Walk

The annual Petaluma Poetry Walk, which takes place every September all over downtown Petaluma, needs to raise funds for the event. A grant from Poets & Writers provided in previous years was not available at all in 2018; this year it’s been reinstated, but for only $500. The Sitting Room has once again generously stepped up to the plate by providing an umbrella of non-profit status to qualify the Walk for fundraising on GoFundMe. All you poetry lovers can step up, too, at: You may also mail a check to PO Box 526, Petaluma, CA 94952-0526. This year the Walk takes off on September 15, 11 a.m. at the Hotel Petaluma. Updates will be posted at:

Update on 2019 Poetry Out Loud Contest in Sonoma County

The winner of the Sonoma County, February 11, 2019 Poetry Out Loud contest was Zoya Ahmed, a 10th grader from Maria Carrillo High School. She went on to make it to the final round of competition at the statewide finals in Sacramento in March, only one of about 15 students out of 51 to advance. The California Arts Council, for the first time this year, invited county champions to submit an original poem of their own for a new “Poetry Ourselves” contest. And Ahmed came in first in the state in this contest. You can read more about her, and even read her winning poem at this link to the Press Democrat article:

Books & Brews at Santa Rosa Central Library
Saturday, June 8, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.

The Sonoma County Public Library Foundation invites you to a fundraiser for our library system. Get a chance to experience the Santa Rosa Central Library at night with a beer in hand. The new Director of the Sonoma County Library, Ann Hammond, will give her vision of the future of the library system. We will share exciting projects the Foundation is funding and innovative new ideas from Library staff, including an electric piano, blender bike, and more! Come play the piano, ride the bike, drink some beer, nibble some appetizers, and enjoy your local public library. We’ll see you there! Santa Rosa Central Library 211 E St, Santa Rosa. $75 Ticket price includes entry to the event along with beer and appetizers.

Favorite Poem Community Reading
Saturday, May 11, 2019, 2:00 p.m.

Free event at Sebastapol 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, 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, 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 Jodi Hottel 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, but entries should be received no later than April 14.

This is our 16th 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.

Sonoma County Public Library Foundation Needs Directors!

Do you love the library and want future generations to love it as well? Become a board member on the SCPLF. Join a dynamic group that supports the library system as well as other organizations and programs that promote enthusiasm for reading and literacy. They have monthly meetings and serve two-year terms. For more information, contact: or visit website,

Healdsburg Literary Guild Seeks New Literary Laureate

The Healdsburg Literary Guild invites applications for the position of Healdsburg Literary Laureate 2018-2020. The Healdsburg Literary Laureate is a writer honored for the quality and body of his or her work. The writer promotes Healdsburg as a center for the literary arts.

Healdsburg’s current Literary Laureate is Russ Messing who will serve until December 31, 2018. Past Laureates include, Doug Stout, 2000–2001, Armando Garcia-Dávila 2002–2003, Penelope La Montagne 2004–2005, Chip Wendt 2006–2007, Vilma Ginzberg 2008–2009, and Stefanie Freele 2010-2011, John Koetzner 2012-2013, and Gabriel Fraire 2014-2015.   Ted Calvert is currently president of the Healdsburg Literary Guild.

Interested writers from the Healdsburg, Cloverdale, Geyserville and Windsor zip codes are asked to submit the following material: writer’s resume/CV; five pages (samples) of his or her work; and a maximum of a 500-word statement of his/her vision of the Healdsburg Literary Laureate’s responsibilities and activities. In this statement, please describe what you would hope to accomplish in the years 2019–2020, share your thoughts about how the literary arts can be a tool to build a multicultural community, and tell us if you read/write/speak other languages. We want the writer to create the position in collaboration with the Guild.

Eligible candidates will be invited to read from their works on the evening of Wednesday, January 9, 2019, from 6:45 – 8:45 p.m. at the Healdsburg Regional Library, 139 Piper Street, Healdsburg.

The 2019-2020 Healdsburg Literary Laureate will be selected on the basis of two elements: a review of all the applications by the Guild Board and participation in the Evening of Laureate Candidates’ Readings on January 9, 2019.

The position of Healdsburg Literary Laureate carries a $500 stipend, payable in two annual installments of $250 each.

Application guidelines can be found at the Healdsburg Literary Guild’s website,  Interested writers should send application materials by email to no later than December 20, 2018.

2018 Industry Poetry Prize

Elizabeth Carothers Herron was short-listed this summer for the 2018 Industry Poetry Prize from Frontier Poetry.

California Poets in the Schools Finds New Home & Executive Director in Sonoma County

California Poets in the Schools (CalPoets), a nationally renowned, 54-year-old nonprofit organization moved its headquarters from San Francisco to Santa Rosa, California in July, 2018 and named Meg Hamill, a Santa Rosa resident, as the new Executive Director. CalPoets serves 28,000 youth throughout California each year and is one of the nation’s largest, literary artist-in-residency programs.

The organization’s move to Sonoma County reflects the fact that local schools, parents and philanthropists place an incredibly high value upon arts education for kids. By the numbers, Sonoma County is one of CalPoets’ largest and most well-funded counties in the state, offering a top-notch literary arts education to nearly 4,000 Sonoma County students from 30 different schools each year – many from high priority neighborhoods as called out by the Portrait of Sonoma County.

In Sonoma County, CalPoets is generously supported by local funders such as Creative Sonoma, the Community Foundation of Sonoma County and the Sonoma County Vintner’s Foundation. In addition, CalPoets in Sonoma County was recently awarded $17,100 from the California Arts Council in order to fund long-term creative writing residencies in 11 Sonoma County schools for the 2018-19 school year.

CalPoets in Sonoma County provides meaningful opportunities for twelve Poet-Teachers to live and work in their local Sonoma County communities. Current and recent Poet-Teachers include Iris Jamahl Dunkle and Gwynn O’ Gara, past Poets Laureate of Sonoma County.

Newly appointed Executive Director Meg Hamill joined California Poets in the Schools as a Teaching Artist in 2007 and became the Area Coordinator for Sonoma County in 2013. Meg has over 20 years of leadership experience at national and regional educational nonprofits including Teach For America, LandPaths and Save the Bay. Hamill now has her eye on CalPoets’ future and its local and statewide presence:

“I believe deeply in the power of our work to change lives. We will continue to provide exemplary poetry lessons and activities that encourage young people to develop empathy and respect for one another. We will also seek to form partnerships and collaborate with other arts organizations and educators to meet the diverse needs of our children locally, regionally and across the state. We have our work set out for us — to ensure that our visionary organization remains at the cutting edge of our field, with deep roots and broad support.”

Meg looks forward to building relationships with the CalPoets’ Board, Poet-Teachers, partnering schools and its network of donors and friends who have helped support and encourage CalPoets’ mission for over five decades.

More information at:

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.

Also at the Sitting Room: Birds, Blooms and Butterflies:
Four Artists Celebrate Nature

Depictions of the natural world have inspired artists throughout time. We are pleased to have work by Krista Anandakuttan, Nina Antze, Joyce Libeu and Joanne Page currently on display at the Sitting Room. Stop by and take a moment to enjoy these beautiful drawings and learn more about the great tradition of botanical illustration. Visit 2025 Curtis in Penngrove.

how Her a Flower, A Bird, A Shadow

Indies Book of the Year Awards Finalist

Show Her a Flower, a Bird, a Shadow, a short story and hybrid prose collection by Peg Alford Pursell, has been selected as a 2017 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards Finalist. Winners will be announced on June 15, 2018. The book was also honored by Poets & Writers magazine’s “Five over Fifty” annual feature in December 2017.

Who Will Be Sonoma County’s 10th Poet Laureate?

Deadline for nominations: November 7, 2017

Nominations are now open for Sonoma County’s 10th Poet Laureate. The 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. The Poet Laureate often participates in official ceremonies and readings. The Sonoma County Poet Laureate serves for two years (2018-2019).

The Poet Laureate Selection Committee is made up of representatives from each of the five County Supervisory Districts, and from Sonoma State University, Santa Rosa Junior College, Sonoma County Library, and Sebastopol Center for the Arts, the Literary Arts Guild and the previous poets laureate. Each member of this panel has demonstrated knowledge of and an active commitment to, the life of poetry in our county.

The Selection Committee is pleased to announce that starting this year, the Poet Laureate will be awarded a $1,000 stipend in addition to his or her title.

The new Poet Laureate will be announced in December, 2017

Consistent with tradition, the Sonoma County Poet Laureate will not have a formal job description but will be encouraged to develop an agenda promoting poetry and the literary arts in Sonoma County. Organizers of various community events in Sonoma County may invite the poet laureate to participate in their events.

Please download the submission requirements and application form from the Center for the Arts’ website at

For more information contact Cynthi Stefenoni at or call the Sebastopol Center for the Arts at 707-829-4797.

WTAW Press Inaugural Chapbooks

WTAW Press has published its inaugural chapbooks, February 8, 2017. All four limited edition chapbooks are available on the website at Interviews with chapbook authors Jenny Wu and Amelie Prusik may be read at WTAW Press has also announced its first full-length titles to be published September 8, 2017. Submissions will open for the 2017 reading period on June 15. To learn more about WTAW Press and stay up on current developments, sign up for the newsletter at WTAW Press is a 501(c)nonprofit based in Santa Rosa, the publishing arm of Why There Are Words, a national neighborhood of reading series founded in 2010 in Sausalito with branches in New York City, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Austin, and Portland (with more to come in 2018).

A Message for Sonoma County Poets and Writers

Poet Christopher Soto is researching the life of Sonoma poet Paul Mariah. He’s been working with the Poetry Foundation and they have created a page for Paul’s bio. Some of you may remember Paul as a gentle, kind and energetic soul who often read at the Russian River Writer’s Guild in Sebastopol. He was generous with advice and support. Paul created one of the first gay presses, Manroot, in the 70s. Christopher is also in process of finding a home for Mariah’s work, and has possibly found one at Brown University.

Any of you who have any of Paul Mariah’s works, or if you have any reminiscences, or any other information that might add to the archive at Brown or the Poetry Foundation page, please do contact Christopher at

Littoral Press Poetry Prize

Sonoma County poet Carol Ciavonne’s poem “The Bird Life” has won the Littoral Press Poetry Prize, judged by Troy Jollimore. Suzanne Maxson of Sebastopol received an honorable mention for her poem “Movement.” The prize is 50 broadsides by Lisa Rappoport, a book artist and letterpress printer who has sponsored this contest for nine years.

Sonoma County author places 2nd in EVVY Literary Contest

Charles Markee’s middle grade novel Maria’s Beads just took 2nd place as a junior fiction category book in the prestigious Colorado Independent Publisher’s Association (CIPA), 22nd annual EVVY literary contest. See EVVY is a nickname for Evelyn Kaye, the woman who founded CIPA.

Juniper Prize awarded to Sonoma County author Joan Frank

University of Massachusetts Press’ Juniper Prize for the Novel has been awarded to Sonoma County author Joan Frank for her novel All the News I Need. Joan Frank is the author of five books of fiction and a book of collected essays. Her novel Make It Stay won the Dana Portfolio Award. Her story collection, In Envy Country, won the Richard Sullivan Prize, the Gold ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award, and was named a finalist for the California Book Award. Frank’s essay collection, Because You Have To: A Writing Life, won the Silver ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award.

Sonoma County Poet Honored

Donna Emerson will read her winning poem “First Day of Kindergarten and Eleven Years Later,” on February 6th at the annual Allen Ginsburg 2015 awards ceremony at the Poetry Center in Paterson, New Jersey.

Sonoma County Poetry Out Loud Contest

On February 15, 2016, the 10th annual Sonoma County Poetry Out Loud competition took place at the elegant Glaser Center in Santa Rosa. POL is a nationwide poetry recitation program for high school students. It’s implemented first at the classroom level, then school-wide, county-wide, state-wide contests take place. It works much like a spelling bee, and winners eventually progress to the Nationals and compete with other champions from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Melissa Lozano of Rancho Cotate HighEvery year our county-wide contest becomes more expert and competitive. This year’s winner is Melissa Lozano of Rancho Cotate High. There was actually a tie for first place in terms of raw scores. When that occurs, we look at the “overall performance” score. Shea Dorrell of Piner High School came in just one point behind, using that metric. Our third place winner was Arthur Timpe of El Molino and fourth was Victoria Ward of Maria Carrillo.

By the time this goes to press, the statewide competition will have already taken place. But if you would like a taste of this rich experience, consider coming to Word Temple on March 26. Dana Gioia, our new California Poet Laureate and founder of POL during his leadership of the National Endowment for the Arts, will be presenting, accompanied by two of our county finalists!

The schools involved this year are: Analy, Casa Grande, Creekside, El Molino, Elsie Allen, Maria Carrillo, Montgomery, Piner, Rancho Cotate, Rincon Valley Christian, Roseland Collegiate Prep, Roseland University Prep, Santa Rosa, Sonoma Academy and Tech High.

%d bloggers like this: