Posted by: wordrunner | January 2, 2018

January 2018

Dear Literary Folk,

Help Us Choose Who Will Be Sonoma County’s 10th Poet Laureate.
Our first task for the new year will be to resume the search for a new Poet Laureate of Sonoma County. As a result of the October fires, the deadline for has been extended to January 15, 2018. You can nominate a fellow Sonoma County poet, and self-nominate, if you’d like the opportunity to serve. Check the County News Page for details about the nomination process. All nominations are welcome, and those the Poet Laureate Selection Committee received back in October and November will be considered equally with those that come in this month.

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

New Year’s Poetry Brunch
New Year's Day brunchNew Year's Day brunch, ElenaAs in years past, about 40 friends and writers gathered at our home on New Year’s Day to welcome the new year with conversation, a pot-luck brunch, and a sharing of poems. Some have been coming to this gathering for years, like young Elena, who has grown up with the tradition; others were new to the event. It’s always an inspiring mix.

Carol Hoorn, who’s been a regular at the event for years, shared these thoughts: Listening to words that spoke of New Year's Day brunch (Carol Hoorn)pain, sorrow, loss, courage, integrity, awareness of Nature’s beauty and its ability to both threaten, and at times destroy lives, as well as to heal and bring joy, acknowledgement that human kind holds these same elements. Words that motivate and inspire each of us to live fully and completely, each on our own journey, each desiring a kinder, gentler, compassionate world, ever increasing civility and caring that all lives, world wide, human, animal, plants and the inanimate, receive nourishment and encouragement.

If you’d like to receive an e-mail announcement of this next year, let me know, and I’ll add you to the list. You can contact me at

January is a Month for Celebrating the Spoken/Performed Word
This month, several events focus on the many fine storytellers in our community, in the oral, dramatic, and written traditions. You’ll find details about these and more on the Calendar Page.

Books on Stage at Cloverdale PAC
Cloverdale Performing Arts Center launches an expanded “Books on Stage” event, “Telling the Story,” as a part of its 2018 “Building the Community through the Arts” season. The event is Wednesday, January 10, 7:00 p.m. “Telling the Story” brings the ages-old tradition of oral story-telling, currently undergoing resurgence and re-invention, to the stage.

“Connections” by Off the Page Readers Theater
We’re all connected by blood, friendship, location, history or just plain curiosity. Why do we need the connections? What do they mean? We have no idea…. but we’re here to show you what 12 local writers have to say about the theme. Featuring the work of: Sandra Anfang, Robin Beeman, Susan Bono, John Christian, Sher Lianne Christian, Chuck Kensler, Susanna Solomon, Elizabeth Stark, Michelle Wing [now in New Mexico], Rebecca Young Winslow, Brooke Harris Wolff [now in Los Angeles], Natasha Yim. Music by Hank Levine. Friday, January 19 and Saturday, January 20, 7:00 p.m. At Copperfield’s Sebastopol. On Friday, January 26 and Saturday, January 27 at Copperfield’s Santa Rosa, musician Pi Jacobs opens the show.

Read Aloud! at the Sitting Room
The Sitting Room invites you to a special event at 7 PM on January 20. Roberts Road Readers is an informal group that has met for over 25 years to share the Spoken Word. They invite you to come and read, or just listen, and become a regular participant. The program is unplanned. People may bring a poem or two, a morsel from a novel or nonfiction essay, a private rant, or some original writing. There may even be a short play. Try to keep your selection at 10 minutes or less. Otherwise, no rules. It’s a great way to enjoy language and learn about new writers and books. Or do your knitting while being entertained in a new way. We start with a potluck at 7, and break for dessert. Questions? E-mail Clarice Stasz.

Wolf Moon, Blue Moon, Blood Moon
super moonThe first full moon of the year is named after howling wolves. In some cultures, it is known as the Old Moon, Ice Moon, and Snow Moon. Last night’s Wolf Moon (on the night between 1 and 2) was a supermoon, and the closest the moon will come to the earth in 2018. Another lunar event will come on January 31, the second full moon in the one month, referred to as a Blue Moon. This blue moon will actually be blood-red in color, since there will be a lunar eclipse that night when the moon passes through the shadow cast by the earth. If this month’s moons inspire you to write, please send us your poems, stories, or essays to include in next month’s update. Your solar eclipse and fire poems can be perused on the update archives, as can your drought poems from years past.

Poem for January
Because January is bringing us a lunar show, and because we’re all experiencing a profound cultural shift in awareness about the treatment of women, for January’s poem, I’ve selected “Moon for Our Daughters,” by Annie Finch.


Moon for Our Daughters

Moon that is linking our daughters’
Choices, and still more beginnings,
Threaded alive with our shadows,

These are our bodies’ own voices,
Powers of each of our bodies,
Threading, unbroken, begetting

Flowers from each of our bodies.
These are our spiraling borders
Carrying on your beginnings,

Chaining through shadows to daughters,
Moving beyond our beginnings,
Moon of our daughters, and mothers.

Copyright © 2016 by Annie Finch. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 9, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.


A fulfilling and creative new year to all of you,
Terry Ehret,
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | December 1, 2017

December 2017

Dear Literary Folk,

Sonoma County’s Revolution of Compassion
Rebecca Solnit and Peter CoyoteLast Wednesday evening, November 29, Copperfield’s in Petaluma hosted a reading and conversation with Rebecca Solnit and Peter Coyote, which was also a fund-raiser for, a nonprofit assisting undocumented victims of the recent fires.

Solnit read from her 2010 book A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster, and Peter Coyote, now a resident of Sebastopol, spoke of his experiences in the 1960’s with The Diggers, an anarchist activist group in the Haight-Ashbury.

The focus of the evening was the spontaneous altruism and activism that arises from disaster: people coming together to help in ways that circumvent the red-tape of government or institutions. Coyote exhorted Sonoma County to look at the devastation of the fires as an opportunity to radically redefine our relationship to community, to government, and to each other. Solnit and Coyote invited those in the audience who experienced first-hand this revolution of compassion to share their stories, suggestions, and questions about how to move forward without losing the vision of community forged by the fires.

Solnit spent some time in Sonoma County in the aftermath of the fires, and wrote a piece for the New Yorker , which not only brought the scope of the fires to the nation’s attention, but also spotlighted Sonoma County’s remarkable community of kindness. Here’s the link, if you’d like to read it:

In the Wake of the Firestorm
Arch in Tubbs Fire burn areaI want to extend my personal thanks to all who helped organize the “Rising from the Ashes” community poetry reading last month; to the members of our literary community who read their poems and shared their experience of exile and loss; to Jean Wong and Marc Helfman for their moving rendition of Mozart; and to the standing-room-only crowd that came together on November 12 to hold a space of comfort and shared strength.

Deadline for Sonoma County Poet Laureate Nominations Extended
NEW DEADLINE for nominations: January 15, 2018

Due to the destruction and disruption of the fires which recently ravaged Sonoma County, the nomination period for Sonoma County’s 10th Poet Laureate has been extended to January 15, 2018.  This change was made after serious deliberation by the Poet Laureate Selection Committee out of concern for those in the literary community still dealing with the impact of the firestorm.  Nominations already received will be considered equally with those to come. The 10th Poet Laureate will be presented to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors in March and to the public at the beginning of April, 2018. The position includes a stipend of $1,000.

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.

Iris Dunkle’s Project and Reading: Documenting the Stories from the Fire
Because of the April date for the installation of the new Poet Laureate, whoever that may be, in the months ahead, Iris Jamahl Dunkle will be partnering with the Sonoma Historical Society, the Sebastopol Center for the Arts and other partners to collect stories about the fire and write poems based on the stories.  If you have a story you would like to share, or, if you are interested in participating in this project, please email:

Sonoma County Wildfires Anthology – Call for Submissions
This call for poetry and photography is from haiku poet Jessica Malone Latham and community activist and environmental advocate Kristin Maharg Suarez. The anthology aims to give Sonoma County residents a forum to share their voice and create a breathing piece of history. Deadline for submissions is December 31, 2017. Please see Calls for Submissions page for details.

Upcoming Literary Events
Check out our calendar page for listings of literary events for December and January. Here are two I’d like to give a special shout-out to.

On Saturday, December 9, 2:00 p.m. and Sunday, December 10, 6:00 p.m., The Vocal Conspiracy, an older adult readers theatre company, presents its premiere show, A Vocal Conspiracy Holiday, at the 6th Street Playhouse Studio Theatre. Tickets $10.00. See details on the calendar page for purchasing tickets.

And on Monday, December 11, 6:00-8:30 p.m., you’ll have a chance to dine with local authors at Gaia’s Garden, 1899 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa. Come join us to hear six authors read from their latest books. For reservations: or 544-2491 minimum $5.00 food purchase.

And don’t forget the Great Dickens Christmas Fair, running weekends through December 17, an annual event at the Cow Palace in Brisbane, where you can enjoy the literary characters from Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” and other Victorian figures in live, interactive performances. My own personal favorite activity at the fair is to listen to Charles Dickens reading from his classic Christmas tale in various locations throughout the recreated London. This year, he was introduced by Lewis Carol, reciting “The Walrus and the Carpenter. It’s great fun! Here’s the link for upcoming dates and tickets:

NEA Translation Grant
Earlier this year, Trump’s proposed budget left the NEA with only enough funds to close up shop. Fortunately, our Congress pushed back and restored funds for the NEA to award fellowships grants for creative writing and for translation.

I’m pleased and honored to announce that the project I submitted for translating Plagios, the poems of Mexican poet Ulalume Gonzalez de Leon, has been awarded a grant. I’ll share this honor and the $12,500 award with my co-editors, Nancy J. Morales and John Johnson.

These funds will help support our translation work. We aim to publish the first volume of Plagios in 2020.

Writer’s Almanac Comes to an End
An unfortunate fallout from the astonishing shift in consciousness regarding sexual harassment of women is that we’ve lost one of the shining beacons of literacy in our county: The Writer’s Almanac, hosted by Garrison Keillor.

For years, I’ve started my day with poetry posts from the Almanac, along with the “Poem a Day” from, and Larry Robinson’s inspirational poetry selection of the day—which always seems to touch some nerve inside I didn’t even know I was feeling. My diet will be thinner now. The poem I’ve selected to end this month’s post appeared on the Writer’s Almanac on October 23.

When I read Paul Zimmer’s poem, the images called to mind the miracle of spontaneous kindness Solnit documents in A Paradise Built in Hell, as well as the vision of Paradise as a realm of light which Dante offer us. I salute our community for rising so selflessly and generously to meet the needs of others during the fires and in all the weeks since. Here’s to holding that vision of the revolution of compassion in our days, weeks, years ahead.

Poem for December

The Place
by Paul Zimmer

Once in your life you pass
Through a place so pure
It becomes tainted even
By your regard, a space
Of trees and air where
Dusk comes as perfect ripeness.
Here the only sounds are
Sighs of rain and snow,
Small rustlings of plants
As they unwrap in twilight.
This is where you will go
At last when coldness comes.
It is something you realize
When you first see it,
But instantly forget.
At the end of your life
You remember and dwell in
Its faultless light forever.

“The Place” by Paul Zimmer from Crossing to Sunlight Revisited. © The University of Georgia Press, 2007.

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | November 1, 2017

November 2017

Dear Literary Folk,

Ed Coletti's buddha, after the fireJo-Anne and I produced a rare mid-month Literary Update in the midst of the fire and ashes of October’s tragedy. Today’s post follows up on the fire’s effect on our literary community, as well as our resilient and creative response to it. The photo of the Buddha amid the ashes is by Ed Coletti, who lost his home when the flames roared through the Fountaingrove area in the early morning hours of October 9.

“Rising from the Ashes—the Heart of Poetry”
Please mark your calendars for Sunday, November 12, 1-2:30 for a community reading at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. The afternoon event will feature Iris Dunkle, our poet laureate; the poetry of local writers who lives were upended by the fires, some who lost their homes to the flames; young writers; and music by Jean Wong and Marc Helfman. You’ll find the names of many of the readers included in the list below.

Refreshments will be available. The event is free. Sponsored by WordTemple with organizing help from Iris Dunkle, Terry Ehret, Katherine Hastings, Larry Robinson, and 100 Thousand Poets for Change.

Location: 282 S. High Street, Sebastopol.

There are so many who were deeply affected by the fires. I present here a list of those who contacted Jo-Anne and me, or who I’ve been in e-mail touch with. Reacting to the outpouring of support from the community, one of these fire victims, Arthur Dawson of Glen Ellen, wrote, “I’ve lost my house, but not my home.”

If you or anyone you know has been displaced by the fire and in need of assistance, let us know how we can help. You can contact us at

The following local writers have lost their homes:

Arthur Dawson, one of our CalPoet Teachers lost his Glen Ellen home in the fire and his niece has established a campaign:

Ed and Joyce Coletti: looking for a permanent rental and / or purchase situation. Preferably Santa Rosa. Anywhere from Windsor to Petaluma okay.

Charles Markee
Sally and Shane Weare
Lynn and Mark Trombetta
Jane Mead

Countless others were evacuated and lived for a week or more, anxiously awaiting the fate of their homes. Some of these evacuees include Jodi Hottel, Greg Randall, Toni Wilkes, Jackie Hallerberg, Kathleen Winter, Amy Elizabeth Robinson, Maya Khosla, Clare Morris, Vilma Ginzberg, Jean Wong, Mark Helfman, Stephanie Moore, Tonya Ward Singer, Sarah Amador, Eve Goldberg, Wray Cotterill, Laurel Harper.

Tonya Singer has a blog in which she recounts her experiences during the fires. You can check this out at this link: Her poem “Santa Rosa Rising” appears at the end of this post.

Ways to Help
In relation to losses in the fires, Jamie Fitzgerald, at California Poets& Writers, has offered to post any gofundme campaigns or fundraisers for writers on her California listserve. She can be contacted at the LA P&W office,

You might also consider making a contribution to Poets In Need, a non-profit organization founded in 2000 by Board Members Michael Rothenberg, Norman Fischer, and Leslie Scalapino. Lyn Hyjenian, Hal Bohner, and Suzi Winson.

Poets In Need is a non-profit (501(c)3) organization. Donations are tax-deductible.
Poets In Need
PO Box 5411
Berkeley, CA 94705

Extended Deadline for Redwood Writers Anthology
Editors Fran Claggett, Les Bernstein, and Linda Loveland Reid have announced an addition to their 2018 anthology. They will open the anthology with a section devoted to poems that will be a testimony to the recent fires. They have extended the submission date to November 15th. For submission guidelines, use this link:

If you have questions,

Sonoma County Wildfires Anthology – Call for Submissions
This call for poetry and photography just came in from haiku poet Jessica Malone Latham and community activist and environmental advocate Kristin Maharg Suarez. The anthology aims to give Sonoma County residents a forum to share their voice and create a breathing piece of history. Deadline for submissions is December 31, 2017. Please see Calls for Submissions page for details.

Sonoma County in Print
Authors with recent journal publications, please send the relevant information to, rather than to Ed Coletti.

Upcoming November Events
Dark Land, Dark MirrorJonah Raskin launches Dark Land, Dark Mirror, his new noir, murder mystery, at Readers’ Books, 130 E. Napa, Sonoma, Thursday, November 9, 7:00 p.m. Free and Open to the Public. Books will be for sale.

Please check the calendar page for a complete listing of events throughout the county and beyond. Here are a few I’d like to spotlight.

Friday, November 10, 7:00 p.m. Interrupted Geographies Book Launch. Iris Jamahl Dunkle at Copperfield’s Books, 138 N Main St., Sebastopol. More details at:

Saturday, November 11, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. First of four weekly writing workshops with Dan Coshnear at the Sitting Room. See Workshops page for details.

Sunday, November 19, 1:30 p.m. Phyllis Meshulam is featured, reading from her new book, Land of My Father’s War, along with students Rebecca Pugmire and Azul Galvan. Free. Healdsburg Literary Guild Series, The Bean Affair in Healdsburg, 1270 Healdsburg Ave. Open mic follows.

Sunday, November 19, 3:00-5:00 p.m. Occidental Center for the Arts Book Launch Series. The Ballet Lover by Barbara Baer exposes the beauty and cruelty in the professional world of ballet, the intense performances, the backstage intrigues, and the stars, Rudolf Nureyev and Natalia Makarova. OCA: 3850 Doris Murphy Way, Occidental, CAFor more info: or 707-874-9392.


Poem for November

Santa Rosa Rising
by Tonya Ward Singer

southward ash
heaven help you
destroy safety
heavens drop
western region
the whole land

fighting brothers
go back. LOOK!
save us from death
our lives your lives
GO!– family, anyone
with you–AWAY!

fighting over
you may go back
you will be strong
look over Jericho
house, land destroyed
you show kindness
father, mother, brothers
treat you kindly
let the house go

With blessing
your strength will equal heavens
your safety secure
new glorious you
from mourning, now wisdom
hands to all
mighty deeds


Terry Ehret
co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: literaryfolk | October 18, 2017

Post for October 17, 2017

Dear Literary Folk,

Writers in Need
This has been a difficult, anxious time for us all in Sonoma County, but our hearts go out especially to those in our community who have lost their homes in the fires. Jo-Anne and I would like to get a list of those of you who could use help of any kind. Please e-mail us at if you or someone you know is in need. Let us know specifically how the community can help you.

Rising from the Ashes Reading

Some of us in the literary community (Susan Lamont, Iris Dunkle, Larry Robinson, Katherine Hastings, and myself) are interested in organizing a “Rising from the Ashes” reading to share your stories and poems. Date, time, and location are all still in the works. Those of us on the Poet Laureate Selection Committee are also trying to think of some way that we can help the community come together in these extraordinary times. Please stay tuned for details as the plans evolve. Let us know if you’d like to be part of this.

Redwood Writers Extends Its Anthology Deadline

To our dear Sonoma poets, our hearts are heavy. In these short days so much has happened. So very much is changed forever. We feel the anthology would not fully represent Sonoma without poems that speak to these days.

We would like to open the anthology with a section devoted to poems that will be a testimony to what we all have experienced. You may have lost everything or you may have been fortunate to live where the fires did not reach. Yet somehow we all must try to find comfort and equanimity.

We invite you to send up to 3 additional poems per poet.It is fine if you have already submitted. Please feel free to  submit these additional poems. We have extended the submission date to November 15th.

With love,

Les Bernstein, Fran Claggett , and Linda Loveland Reid

Feathers on Fire/ Pirka v Ohni

My niece Andrea, who lives in Prague, is offering an original work of art she painted in response to the Northern California fires. If you’d like to help, one way to do this is to bid on the painting. She will donate all the money to us to help our writers in need, and she will ship the painting anywhere in the world. It’s called “Feathers on Fire/ Pirka v Ohni,” 100x70cm , mixed media on canvas 2017.

The painting is for sale, and the money will go directly to help those in our immediate community in need. Currently the bidding is at $200. If you are interested in bidding, click here to e-mail the artist, or you can contact her through her website. She will ship the painting anywhere in the world.

While the immediate danger from the fires seems to have passed, the work of rebuilding homes, lives, communities is just beginning.

Our hearts are with you,
Terry Ehret
Jo-Anne Rosen
Co-editors, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | October 1, 2017

October 2017

Dear Literary Folk,

Who Will Be Sonoma County’s 10th Poet Laureate?
Nominations are 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 the County. The Poet Laureate often participates in official ceremonies and readings and will serve for two years (2018-2019).

The Poet Laureate 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.

Deadline for nominations is November 7, 2017 and the new Poet Laureate will be announced in December.

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.

Nomination forms are available on the Sebastopol Center for the Arts website: Send the completed forms to or call the Sebastopol Center for the Arts at 707-829-4797.

El Día de los Muertos
This Year’s Theme: Amor sin Fronteras/Love Without Borders

Opening Ceremony Sunday, October 1, 2017 – 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
El Día de los Muertos 2017Join in this lively celebration of remembrance highlighting the arts and culture of Latin America. El Día de los Muertos is a ritual celebration from México, Latin and South America in which the spirits of dead loved ones are invited to visit the living as guests. Observed in Mexico on Nov 1st and 2nd, this tradition reflects the belief that death is part of life, and so, instead of sadness this is a time of remembering and rejoicing.

As celebrated in Petaluma for the past 9 years, the observance presents an opportunity for cross-cultural sharing and a unique partnership between the Latino and Anglo communities.The events kick off today with the opening ceremony at St. Vincent de Paul Church Plaza, and continue throughout the month, ending with a candlelight parade on November 3rd. For details about the events, photos, videos, and more, visit the Facebook page:

Sonoma County in Print
Sonoma County Literary Update is happy to celebrate new publications by members of the writing community. Many of these appear on our “Sonoma County in Print” page, but you may not realize we also announce publications in literary journals and magazines as well (with thanks to Ed Coletti!). Check out this page and send us your news!

Here are a few of the latest publications.

Tom Walsh — Bless Me Father
Bless Me Father is a new mystery thriller by Sonoma County author Tom Walsh. The novel is published by Melange Books and more info is available at

The Write Spot Anthology: Discoveries
The Write Spot Anthology: DiscoveriesMarlene Cullen invites the literary community to the anthology release of The Write Spot Anthology: Discoveries on Sunday, October 22, 2 pm, at Copperfield’s, 140 Kentucky St, Petaluma. Anthology participants will read excerpts from the anthology. The anthology features eleven writers who turned their freewrites into polished pieces. Each piece includes a prompt that inspired the writing. The anthology includes information about freewrites and how to use writing prompts. It’s a personal and portable writing workshop!Available now at For more information, check out Marlene’s website:

Redwood Writers 2017 anthology: SonomaSonoma: Stories of a region and its people
This anthology from award winning local writers includes nearly 50 works of nonfiction, fiction and poetry. Each piece is set in a wondrous land of rugged coastline, river valleys, hillside vineyards, and redwood forests. And each tells a distinctly Sonoma story. Purchase at Redwood Writers meetings or

Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival in Berkeley
Come celebrate writers, nature, and community at the annual Watershed Festival. This year’s event is on Saturday, October 7, noon-4:30 pm. It’s held at the Civic Center Part in Berkeley, at MLK Jr.Way and Center. The event is free. For more information about the poets, musicians, and exhibits at the Poetry Flash website:

Three Days of Spoken Word!
Friday, October 13, 3:00 p.m. to Sunday, October 15, 3:15 p.m.
Three-day Inaugural Wine Country Spoken Word Festival. The Wine Country Spoken Word Festival is hosting local storytellers as well as national and international spoken word artists and poets at various locations in Petaluma for a community-wide celebration all weekend long. Featured artists, schedules and tickets at:

Congratulations to Sonoma County poet and environmentalist Maya Khosla!
Maya KholsaSixteen Rivers Press is delighted to welcome new author-member Maya Khosla. Maya’s efforts to film and create awareness about the high value of post-fire forests can be viewed at:; and a rough-cut from her 2014 efforts can be viewed at: Her field efforts have been supported by Patagonia and the Sacramento Audubon Society. She has written Web of Water: Life in Redwood Creek; Tapping the Fire, Turning the Steam: Securing the Future with Geothermal Energy; and Keel Bone (Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize from Bear Star Press) and has received writing awards from Flyway Journal, and Headlands Center for the Arts.

Maya is joined by Camille Norton, winner of the 2004 National Poetry Series and teacher at University of the Pacific. Her manuscript—A Folio for the Dark—and Khosla’s—Song of the Forest After Fire—were chosen in Sixteen River’s 2016–17 open-submission call for full-length manuscripts from Northern California poets.

Hungy for a Good Ghost Story?
Friday, October 27, 7:00 p.m. An Evening of Ghost Stories at Copperfield’s Books with Ross Lockhart and Friends. Edited by Copperfield’s own Ross E. Lockhart, Tales from a Talking Board examines auguries, divination, and fortune telling through devices like Ouija boards, tarot cards, and stranger things. Event attendees are encouraged to “come as you were”: dress as your favorite famous or literary ghost for a spirited costume contest! Petaluma Store, 140 Kentucky Street, Petaluma. Details:

Sixteen Rivers Fall Benefit and Call for Submissions
Sixteen Rivers Press invites you to our 2017 Fall Fundraiser. Join us at a private home in Sausalitofor an afternoon of wine, hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction, and a reading by acclaimed poet Jane Hirshfield. The benefit offers an opportunity to meet the members, enjoy an inspiring reading in an intimate setting, and support this non-profit poetry publishing collective, which gives writers in the greater San Francisco Bay Area a chance to learn the book publishing process from the inside out, and to include their voices to our regional poetry scene. The benefit is on Sunday, November 5, 2017 from 2 to 5 p.m. Location: 80 Cloud View Road, Sausalito. For tickets, go to: $40 (Brook), $75 (Stream), $100 (Tributary), $150 (River), or $250 (Watercourse) per person  Seating is limited, so Sixteen Rivers recommends getting your tickets in advance, though they will also be selling them at the door, space allowing.

Do you have a book-length poetry manuscript? 
Sixteen Rivers welcomes poets with book-length manuscripts to enter our annual competition, which is how we bring new members into the press, usually two per year. Details and submission guidelines are available at our website at this link:

Matrix Magazine’s 2018 Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry
Insomniac Press and Matrix Magazine are pleased to announce the 2018 Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry is now an international prize and we are currently accepting submissions. This year’s judge is the critically acclaimed poet, Johanna Skibsrud.

The winner receives a trade paperback contract with Insomniac Press, which will include the publication of their manuscript, advance on royalties, and representation and distribution.

The prize is awarded annually to the best poetry manuscript by an emerging writer (a writer who has published two or fewer books). Each year, the winning manuscript will be selected by an established poet in cooperation with Insomniac Press and Matrix magazine.

For submission guidelines, check this link:

Poem for October
In August, following up on the total solar eclipse, I invited members of the literary community to send in their prose or poetry on the eclipse theme. Last month, we had a beautiful poem by Fran Claggett, which you can check out in the archives. This month, Phyllis Meshulam sent us her “Apoca-clipse,” which you see here. Phyllis recently published Land of My Father’s War, Cherry Grove Collections. Details on the Sonoma County in Print page:


by Phyllis Meshulam

Rivers of fire rush the gorge.
Underground bomb rattles Earth.
Nebulae of gales and rain
drown city-states and island nations.
I am in preventive mourning
for one small mobile home.

Flee, revisit the moment
when star, moon, planet aligned…
when dark fruit bat
nibbled peach sun.
Black mask
then slid over its face.
So the foil-colored glasses revealed.

Gravel pull-out, a few other seekers.
Birds plunged into a bristling field.
At last the farmer across the way stopped
disking, kicking up plumes of dust.
Cold wind rose.

Morning turned dusk all at once,
blue opal with two star sparks.
Seekers shrieked.
Dark moon snapped into place,
ringed in silver flames’ embrace…

Now I stick that diamond pin
into my mental universe,
long to bend it, wear it like a ring.


Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-Editor

Posted by: wordrunner | September 1, 2017

September 2017

Dear Literary Folk,

Petaluma Poetry Walk in its 22nd Year
September again, and that means the Petaluma Poetry Walk is in the wings, ready to delight. This year’s Walk will be held on September 17 from 11 AM to 8 PM, starting at the Seed Bank on Petaluma Blvd, proceeding to the Riverfront Art Gallery, Cultivate, North Bay Café, Copperfield’s Books, the Phoenix Theater, the Petaluma Historical Library and Museum, and concluding  at Aqus Café. Bill Vartnaw, Geri Digiorno and their team have put together a great line-up of writers at each venue, with a special tribute to the late David Bromige at the Phoenix at 4 PM. All events are free and within walking distance. Mark your calendars, and check the Poetry Walk’s website for the full list of readers, as well as the generous sponsors who keep this premiere literary event going:

eclipse cookiesLast month some of us saw cloudy skies; some of us got partial eclipse views; enjoyed eclipse cookies and the multiple crescent shadows cast by the dappled sun in the leaves.  But the lucky and brave few who ventured north were treated to a total eclipse that was surely as beautiful and inspiring to you as it was terrifying to generations past. I invited those in our literary community to write about their experiences to send in their work, and Fran Clagget responded to the call with her original poem, “Final Eclipse,” included at the end of this post. I’d be happy to include others, so if your eclipse poem or essay is still in process, please send it along when it’s ready.

“Summer into Fall” with Rivertown Poets
Monday, September 4, 6:15 p.m. Rivertown Poets will be changing the usual format this month to include three poets who will share their work in a spontaneous, read-around salon style, loosely focused on the theme “Summer into Fall.” Poets Bill Vartnaw and Larry Robinson will join Sandra Anfang for this reading. It’s Labor Day, but what better way to finish off a long weekend and kick off the month of September? After the potato salad has glazed over and the political chatter has ended, join us at the Aqus Cafe for an evening of distraction, depth, and delight. Open mic follows the features.

Know Me Here Make its Debut
On Saturday, September 23, the Sebastopol Center for the Arts will host a book launch for Katherine Hastings’s newest anthology, a collection of poetry by women called Know Me Here. Come join the party! We’ll be celebrating the work of many Sonoma County writers, including Gwynn O’Gara, Elizabeth Herron, Iris Dunkle, Jodi Hottel, Maya Khosla, Kathleen Winter, and Toni Wilkes, but the anthology also features Ellen Bass, Gillian Conolely, Molly Fisk, Brenda Hillman, and many, many more. You can buy a copy of the anthology at the reading, or at this link:

The Right Story at the Right Time 
Occidental Center for the Arts is hosting a book launch for recently published novel The Right Story at the Right Time by Marianna deCroes. The event will be Sunday, September 24 at 2:00 p.m. Growing up is hard work. Well-chosen stories can help children by tapping into their capacity for imagination. Free admission, all donations gratefully invited. Selected readings, Q&A, 90-minute workshop, book sales & signing. OCA, 3850 Doris Murphy Way, Occidental.

Syracuse Cultural Workers Call for Art and Poetry
Make Art Not WarSometimes it’s a challenge to find a place to publish work that has a political edge to it. But if you’ve been “singing in dark times,” consider the Syracuse Cultural Workers, who every year put out a call for any/all who identify as women to submit their art and poetry. I’ve had poems selected for their Women Artists Datebook several times, and this group is really a pleasure to work with. They also pay, which these days is a rarity.

Why I March“We seek art that instigates activism, art that challenges the powerful, that sustains and educates, celebrating our efforts for justice and peace. Our mission is to help sustain a culture that honors diversity and celebrates community; that inspires and nurtures justice, equality and freedom; that respects our fragile Earth and all its beings; that encourages and supports all forms of creative expression.”

They even know how to use the serial semicolon. What’s not to like in that? You can find out more about their submission guidelines and dates at their website, where you’ll likely find other things to like, including their Peace Calendar and the book Why I March:

New Names on the Peace Wall
Living Peace WallSusan LamontSpeaking of marching and peace, I want to congratulate writer, photographer, activist, and original free-spirit Susan Lamont who was honored last Sunday, along with 4 other activists, and now has her name added to the Living Peace Wall in Sebastopol, created and designed by  Michael Gillotti. Many of you know Susan from her work with the Peace and Justice Center and the monthly 100 Thousand Poets for Change readings at Gaia’s Garden, which she has hosted for several years, or you have followed her many letters and editorials in the Press Democrat.

The other four movers and shakers in our community who were honored along with Susan include Holly Near, Don and Dee Schilling, and Charles Kiteky. Such fine company!

In her speech, Susan said, “Quite a few years ago, I held a gathering at which each person told their story of how they became an activist. Every story was different and inspiring. I recommend that people get together for the same purpose. You’ll enjoy it.” I think that’s a great idea, not only for community building, but also for good story-telling.

Time Again to Nominate a New Poet Laureate for Sonoma County
Hard to believe, but this fall, the Poet Laureate Selection Committee will be sending out a call for nominations for the Sonoma County Poet Laureate 2018-19. Iris Dunkle, our current Poet Laureate, has brought her love of local history to this position, which is something of a literary ambassador to the community. Check her monthly Poet Laureate’s News page on this website:

Candidates must be residents of Sonoma County, whose poetry manifests a high degree of excellence, who have produced a critically acclaimed body of work, and who have demonstrated a commitment to the literary arts in Sonoma County. If you know someone you’d like to nominate, or if you’d like to be considered for this prestigious post, stay tuned for announcements to come from the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. I’ll follow up with links in the October Post of the Sonoma County Literary Update.

Previous Poets Laureate of Sonoma County:
Don Emblen, 2000-2001
David Bromige, 2002-2003
Terry Ehret, 2004–2005
Geri Digiorno, 2006-2007
Mike Tuggle, 2008-2009
Gwynn O’Gara, 2010–2011
Bill Vartnaw, 2012-2013
Katherine Hastings, 2014-15
Iris Dunkle, 2016-17


Poem for September

Final Eclipse
by Fran Claggett

That first eclipse
shuttered the sun
its colors purpled
the skydark air
stars trembled
and the people stood still

when the sun
during the hunt

the mastodon
found refuge
in the wide open

the people watched
the mountain
fall into the water
as the penumbra
darkened the plain
between the shadow
of the moon
and the hidden sun

birds searching
for their nests
swept the sky
in great scarves
of ravened geometry
and the people
covered their eyes

eons later
what does it matter
to know that exotic particles
operate against the wishes
of gravity
when you see
the world
you have lived in
all these years
before your eyes

you scan
the sky for birds
but they have all flown
toward the moon

and you know
you are


Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-Editor


Posted by: wordrunner | August 1, 2017

August 2017

Dear Literary Folk,

praying mantisThe dog days are here, an odd expression which always makes me think of dogs lying about in the summer heat and slow time, and kids poking each other, bored out of their skin. Technically, those dogs are the constellations Canis Majore and Canis Minore, which the Greeks and Romans connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, mad dogs, and bad luck. Well, I’d say we’ve had them all, including the howling and snapping and tail-chasing of the “mad dogs” in Washington. It just keeps getting weirder and weirder, doesn’t it? The best part of this time of year, if you’re lucky, is losing track of what day it is. And, although we may not have fireflies here on the West Coast, it’s been a bumper season for praying mantises, and when was the last time you remember seeing one of those?

About summer, John Koethe wrote:

It’s like living in a light bulb, with the leaves
Like filaments and the sky a shell of thin, transparent glass
Enclosing the late heaven of a summer day, a canopy
Of incandescent blue above the dappled sunlight golden on the grass

Total Solar Eclipse This Month
solar eclipseWhile not a literary event, the upcoming solar eclipse is worth getting out your eclipse goggles and pinhole camera obscura boxes. During a total solar eclipse, a very rare phenomenon, the moon completely obscures the sun so that only the sun’s corona is visible for a few seconds, sometimes for two minutes. A total solar eclipse will be visible along a roughly 67-mile wide path across the U.S. on August 21. This will be the first such event to cross the country in 38 years. Even more significantly, this is the first coast-to-coast eclipse in 99 years. Let this be an opportunity to commemorate the phenomenon in writing. Send us your eclipse-inspired poems and prose for our next Literary Update!

For a slide show of the 12 best places to view the eclipse, check out this

New Publications by Sonoma County Writers
The Literary Update has a whole page devoted to publication announcements, literary journal and magazine publications, chapbooks, and full-length collections. Check out Sonoma County in Print for news about recent publications we’d like to celebrate. Here are just a few.

Know Me HereFirst, I’d like to offer my congratulations to our Poet Laureate Emerita Katherine Hastings on the publication of her newest anthology, a collection of poetry by women called Know Me Here. This collection features some of the finest poets writing today, including many Sonoma County writers Gwynn O’Gara, Elizabeth Herron, Iris Dunkle, Jodi Hottel, Maya Khosla, Kathleen Winter, and Toni Wilkes. I am lucky to find myself among the pages with these fine poets. Check the calendar page for the upcoming book launch in September.

Another new book worth celebrating is Writing as a Path to Awakening by Albert Flynn DeSilver, former Sonoma County resident and current Marin County Poet Laureate. The book is about an embodied inter-connected approach to creativity and writing—helping us reignite the joy, fun, spontaneity, and wisdom in our practice and process of writing.

Phyllis Meshulam also has a new collection of poems, Land of My Father’s War, and will be reading from this collection on Monday, August 7 at 6:15 as part of the Rivertown Poets series at Aqus Café. Phyllis will be joined by Andrena Zawinkski.

And finally, the Sitting Room in Penngrove will host a book launch for Voyeur, by Jodi Hottel, at 7:00 PM, Friday, August 25.

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

West Side Stories
Being a fan of the oral tradition and storytelling, this event from our monthly calendar caught my eye: West Side Stories Petaluma, at Sonoma Portworks, 613 2nd St, Petaluma. True personal stories. You don’t have to, but if you want to tell a story, just toss your name in the hat. Ten tellers max. get chosen to tell a 5-minute true story based on the evening’s theme: A Fish Out of Water. Sounds like a lot of fun! The date and time for this is Wednesday, August 2, 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Redwood Writers at the County Fair
While you’re checking out the goats and pigs, or puzzling the exact nature of cotton candy, check out the Redwood Writers booth in the EC Kraft Building for the eleven-day run of the Fair. Author meet & greets, book signings, and other publishing professionals will be on hand to answer questions about editing, marketing, social media, indie publishing, and all aspects of getting one’s book to the market place.

Two Summer Workshops to Stretch Your Writing Range
Prose Writing Workshop at the Sitting Room
Dan Coshnear will lead four Saturday morning writing workshops, starting on Saturday, August 12, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the Sitting Room (short fiction or excerpts from longer works, memoir, personal essay).

Drawing and Writing
And here’s something unusual: Creative Life II: Bones & Bridges, Writing for Artists; Drawing for Writers. Writing & Drawing Workshop with J. Ruth Gendler, Berkeley writer and artist. This intriguing workshop will be held on Tuesday, August 22, noon to 2:30 p.m. at the Healdsburg Center for the Arts.

“Just Getting Started”:
Sam Shepard, Author, Playwright and Actor, 1943-2017
Sam Shepard, the celebrated avant-garde playwright and Oscar-nominated actor, died last Thursday at his farm in Kentucky. He was 73. Drama Critic Jack Kroll called Shepard “Poet Laureate of America’s Emotional Badland.” Shepard is the author of 44 plays as well as books of short stories, essays and memories, and he won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 for his play, Buried Child. His plays, True West and Fool for Love, were also nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in 1983’s The Right Stuff.

Peter Marks wrote that Buried Child took on “the harrowing fragility of family bonds.” Shepard himself spoke of the impossibility of escaping this buried part of ourselves: “It’s very difficult to escape your background. You know, I don’t think it’s necessary to even try to escape it. More and more, I start to think that it’s necessary to see exactly what it is that you inherited on both ends of the stick: your timidity, your courage, your self-deceit, and your honesty — and all the rest of it.”

Shepard also famously hated endings—the contrived dramatic ones which lure us with “the temptation toward resolution” that he considered “a terrible trap.” Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote, “I once asked Sam what he’d like as an epitaph. He answered right away, without hedging for a moment: “That he always wrote like he was just getting started.”

Poem for August
Though best known for his stage plays and screenplays, Sam Shepherd also wrote poetry, and here is one from Hawk Moon, his collection of short stories, poems, and monologues

I keep waking up in whoever’s
Body I was last with
Who’s this?
Arms like a Viking
Rolled bull muscles
Hair down to here
I’m enough of a stranger as it is.

Hawk Moon, Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1973

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-Editor

Posted by: wordrunner | July 2, 2017

July, 2017


Mike TuggleIt is with deep sadness that we note the passing of former Sonoma County Poet Laureate, Mike Tuggle. As a poet, a mentor, and a friend, he touched many of us in the literary community. He will be long remembered and deeply missed.

I first met Mike and his second wife, Susan Kennedy, when I began working with the California Poets in the Schools Program in 1991. Over the years, our paths crossed often at poetry readings and literary gatherings, especially during the years he served as Sonoma County Poet Laureate. Then in 2011, Mike’s book of poems What Lures the Foxes was selected for publication by Kelly’s Cove Press, coming out simultaneously with my book, giving us many more opportunities to read our poems together. Mike had a deep appreciation for music and rhythm, which he brilliantly harnessed in his poetry. He had a gentle wisdom, accentuated by his lovely Oklahoma/Texas drawl, and a calming presence I always appreciated.

Mike was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1939, and grew up in West Texas. He lived in Sonoma County from 1981 until his death on June 18, 2017. He taught with the California Poets in the Schools Program from 1971-2003. His publications include Cazadero Poems, co-authored with Susan Kennedy, Absolute Elsewhere, The Singing Itself, What Lures the Foxes, and most recently The Motioning In.

Susan Kennedy wrote this about Mike’s passing:

His last day was a full one, like his Sagittarius nature loved. First to his open mic in Guerneville, then to the Cazadero Farmer’s Market and the General Store, checking in with the lovely ladies. Then a visit from his grandchildren with Grandma Margo before they went swimming at the creek below his cabin. Then watching a movie with Jai, a favorite activity. That was the last time anyone spoke to him. When he was late showing up for Father’s Day dinner at Lilah and Ishi’s, Ishi and the kids drove up and found him, lying on his couch with an incredibly peaceful, profound look on his face. When I asked Jai what movie they had watched he said “It was about an old man who waiting to die and then he did.” He was suffering greatly with all his infirmities and we are ultimately grateful that he has been released from them although we are all grieving very hard, facing the big hole he leaves in our lives.

About poetry, Mike said “A good poem hurts you a little,” and while that is certainly true of Mike’s poetry, there is also a warm, honest, and guileless vision that takes you by the arm and walks you through our common human experiences of loneliness, coupling, uncoupling, grief, and pure animal joy. At the end of this month’s post, I have included two poems from his most recent collection.


A featurette by Iris Dunkle, Sonoma County Poet Laureate

Dana GoiaIt is with great pleasure that we will be welcoming Dana Gioia, Poet Laureate of California and former chair of the National Endowment for the Arts for a reading in Marijke’s Grove at Paradise Ridge Winery (see July 16 on calendar).

“Gioia concerns himself with every aspect of his craft: its traditions, its movements toward and away from rhyme and meter, and its ancient roots in the sound of the human voice . . . Gioia is clearly a poet whose words are heard, whose positions ignite debate, whose work constantly and unflinchingly searches out new ways to counter what he calls ‘our sentimental, upbeat age.’” —from the American Book Award citation for his poetry collection Interrogations at Noon.

Iris DunkleMr. Gioia will be joined by Iris Jamahl Dunkle, Poet Laureate of Sonoma County, as well as student champions from Poetry Out Loud. Both Mr. Gioia and Ms. Jamahl Dunkle will be available to sign books after their readings.

Poetry is the sculpture of language, words coming together to form an artful display of emotion, truth, and beauty. That’s why we’re so excited that this event will be taking place within our current sculpture exhibition, Geometric Reflections, at Paradise Ridge Winery. We hope to see you there!



The Handmaid’s Tale at the Sitting Room
The Handmaid's TaleBook club at the Sitting Room discusses Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale on Wednesday, July 19, 2:00-4:00 p.m. The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel from Canadian author Margaret Atwood, set in a near-future New England in a totalitarian theocracy that has overthrown the US government. The Handmaid’s Tale won the 1985 Governor General’s Award and the first Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1987; it was also nominated for the 1986 Nebula Award, the 1986 Booker Prize, and the 1987 Prometheus Award. The book has been adapted into a film (1990), an opera (2000), a TV series (2017), and other media. The Sitting Room Book Group meets the third Wednesday of every month from 2 to 4 pm. All are welcome. No fee. Details of this month’s discussion at:

Hot Summer Nights at Copperfields
Along with its many other author readings and events, Copperfields in Montgomery Village, Santa Rosa is hosting a series this summer called “Hot Summer Nights.” Each of these will feature four Redwood Writer’s Clulb authors reading from their newly published books. f you check the calendar for this month, you’ll find the complete listing for these:

The first is on Tuesday, July 11, 7:00-8:00 p.m., featuring William Haigwood, Davenport; Marian Lindner, The Witch Lineage; S.C. Alban, A Life Without Living; Roger DeBeers, Murder is Forever.

The second is on Tuesday, July 18, 7:00-8:00 p.m., featuring : Jan Ogren, Choose Life: Poetry, Prose and Photography; Dorothy Rice, The Reluctant Artist: Joe Rice 1918-2011; Kay Mehl Miller, Ring Around Reality; John Freedom, Heal Yourself With Emotional Freedom Technique.

The third is on Tuesday, July 25, 7:00-8:00 p.m., featuring: Alex Moores, Living in Water; Susanna Solomon, More Point Reyes Sheriff’s Calls; Cathy Wild, Wild Ideas—Creativity from the Inside Out; Jean Wong, Hurtling Jade And Other Tales of Personal Folly.

Get Lit at the Aqus Cafe
Some of you may be familiar with the quarterly reading series called Get Lit, hosted by Dani Burlison and Kara Vernor, and now at its new venue at the Aqus Café. On Thursday, July 13, 7:00 p.m, Get Lit will feature Brian Boldt, Frances Lefkowitz and Lorelle Saxena. An open mic follows (five minute limit). Aqus Cafe, 189 H Street, Petaluma.


TuscanyLast month, Jo-Anne Rosen mentioned that I would be away in June, and for the first two weeks, I had the pleasure of leading a small group of travelers on a literary tour and writing retreat in Tuscany. We stayed in a private villa south of Florence, visiting various hill towns in Chianti, as well as Sienna and San Gimignano. We had three days touring the city of Florence, then headed off for a weekend in Ravenna. One of the literary focuses of the tour was Dante, and several of the travelers had been reading Dante’s Inferno and Purgatorio with me at the Sitting Room. Though Florence was Dante’s beloved home, Ravenna is the town that welcomed him in exile, where he wrote the Divine Comedy, where he died and is buried. On our return, we visited the sanctuary of La Verna, high in the Apennines, and Bramasole, the home of Francis Mayes in Cortona. In our final days we visited Assisi.

TuscanySome mornings and evenings, we wrote together in the salon of the villa or out on the terrace. Other days our writing was “plein air,” set in an inspirational spot, such as the woods of La Verna, the cloister of San Marco in Florence, or beside the tomb of Dante in Ravenna.

If you think a literary tour and writing retreat like this would suit you, send me an e-mail at, and I’ll put you on an e-mail list for future announcements. You can see these and more images/details of the Tuscan Literary Tour and Writing Retreat on my Facebook Page:

I have led literary tours in West Ireland and Wales as well. You can find more information using these links:


These two poems are by Mike Tuggle, who passed away on July 18, 2017. These can be found in Mike’s most recent collection, The Motioning In: New and Selected Poems, published by Petaluma River Press.

The Motioning In
by Mike Tuggle

Sometimes in the side of this hill a small tree
catches a small breeze and all by itself dances,
circular ripple of leaves and branches
while the trees all around stand perfectly still.
This green moving within the still body of green
is like a calling-unto, a motioning in.
A great yearning to merge with what you are seeing fills you,
pulls you out of your singular body into your greater one.
Where you become for a moment those huge fir trunks
glimmering purple and blue in the shadows,
that maple ablaze with a bright old light.
But just for a moment.
Afterwards you are filled with sadness,
a green foreknowledge of death.

The Question
by Mike Tuggle

How do you want to die, Buppa?
my four-year-old granddaughter asked me.
Well I don’t want to die, I told her,
but I guess I will one day.
So how do you want to when you do?
I was lying back on the sofa
and she was rubbing my feet with lotion.
I didn’t have to consider long
as I watched her strong, chubby fingers
squeezing my toes, the question still
hovering between us.
Like his, I told her.
Just like this.


Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-editor


Posted by: wordrunner | June 1, 2017

June 2017

Dear Literary Folk,

I am filling in for Terry Ehret, who is in Italy for the month of June. She’ll be in Florence and Tuscany for two weeks of teaching and leading a group of writers followed by two weeks in Venice and Cinque Terre. How beautiful is that! Ah well, it is beautiful here, too. The oleanders are in bloom outside my window. And as usual, the literary scene is lively, not only in our county but across the bay.

Bay Area Book FestivalOf note:  The Third Annual Bay Area Book Festival takes place in downtown Berkeley the weekend of June 3-4. Highlights include over 200 authors, 100 literary events and 200 exhibitors, including children’s activities. On Saturday, June 3, 10:00-11:15 a.m. Sonoma County author Joan Frank will moderate a panel at the Book Festival, First Books: What It Took to Get There. For a schedule, list of exhibitors and more information go to:

WordTemple is launching a book on Saturday, June 24, 7:00 p.m. for Gregory W. Randall, a Sonoma County poet celebrating his first full-length collection, A Cartography of Selves. Mark your calendars now for a party and reading at Sebastopol Center for the Arts, 282 S. High St., Sebastopol. Refreshments will be served.

Off the Page Readers TheaterDon’t miss Off the Page Readers Theater’s summer show, BOLD MOVES, showcasing the work of local writers, actors and directors.  You will have three opportunities to watch this troupe perform on Friday, June 9 or Saturday, June 10, 8:00 p.m. at Copperfield’s Santa Rosa, Montgomery Village Shopping Center, or on Friday, June 16, 8:00 p.m. at Subud Hall, 234 Hutchins Avenue, Sebastapol. Dana Goia, poet laureate of California, has contributed two poems to this show. The other featured authors are: Shayna Billings, Susan Bono, Sher Lianne Christian, Armando García Dávila, Jodi Hottel, Chuck Kensler, Jo-Anne Rosen, Sarah Saulsbury, Michelle Wing and Jean Wong. Actor-directors are: Pat Hayes, Kathleen Haynie, Richard Koman, Hilary Moore, Jeff Savage, Spencer Sherman and Winona Wagner.  Preshow music performed by Hank Levine. More details:

The Barlow in SebastapolAnd on June 17, check out the First Annual Sebastapol Lit Crawl. Sebastapol opens its doors from Main Street through The Barlow and back again. There will be readings in bookstores by seasoned writers, emerging poets and writers on stage in a beer garden and a range of written works in progress read out loud for the first time in a cafe. More information at

Sonoma County Authors in Print:
Congratulations to authors with new books in print as well as those with poems or stories published in journals.  See below for details or the Sonoma County in Print page for updates. Authors, please do notify us when you have a book published or Ed Colletti ( if your work has appeared in a journal or anthology.

Are you looking for places to submit your stories and/or poems? Check out, or  subscribe to the Creative Writers Opportunity List ( CRWROPPS listserv) at There are always new calls on these sites. Our Calls for Submissions pages features local as well as national opportunities for publication.

Wordrunner eChapbooksPetaluma-based Wordrunner eChapbooks will be reading mini fiction collections for its fall publications, starting June 1 and closing July 31. (Disclaimer: This lit journal is published by me and a few writer friends, and we hope you are reading it! We now have 30 echapbooks in print.).  Two collections will be selected for publication online and in epubs. Authors are paid $100 plus royalties for Kindle or Smashword sales. Stories by authors awarded Honorable Mentions will be considered for publication in our annual themed anthology, spring of 2018. Submission fee: $5. To see what we are looking for, please peruse fiction collections at: For detailed guidelines and submissions link:

The deadline for Redwood Writers Club Screenplay Contest is June 27. The contest is open to residents of Sonoma, Napa, Marin, Mendocino, Lake, Humboldt and Solano counties. Fee for California Writers Club members is $8; nonmembers, $12. First prize: $100; Second prize: $50; Third prize: $25. Details and submission flier:

Suzanne Sherman is accepting submissions for the next book in the 100 Years in the Life Series, “Teenage Girls! Coming of Age Through a Century.” The story length limit is 2,000 words. Deadline is August 1. More details at:

Looking for Inspiration?
Thanks to Sher Christian for this tip on writing prompts and inspiration.

The Time Is Now offers a weekly writing prompt (a poetry prompt is posted on Tuesdays, a fiction prompt on Wednesdays, and a creative nonfiction prompt on Thursdays) to help you stay committed to your writing practice throughout the year. For prompts, go to: Poets & Writers also offer a selection of books on writing—both the newly published and the classics—to check out for inspiration, plus advice and insight on the writing process from the authors profiled in Poets & Writers Magazine. And don’t miss Writers Recommend, which includes books, art, music, writing prompts, films—anything and everything—that has inspired other authors in their writing.

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere
ZZ PackerI recommend for your reading pleasure the best short fiction collection I’ve come across since falling in love with Alice Munro’s books, and that is ZZ Packer’s  Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. Packer was a Stegner Fellow in fiction at Stanford University and was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship for fiction, among many other honors. She currently teaches in San Francisco State University’s Creative Writing department. The stories are funny, deeply compassionate and sometimes terrifying page-turners. The language never fails to astonish me. Here’s a brief sample—these excerpts from “Speaking in Tongues” are the observations of an adolescent girl about to be punished in church for “laughing at Jesus”:

Soon someone would begin jangling a tambourine and the choir would sing. Robin-breasted women would swell their bosoms, inhaling God…

Sister Gwendolyn held her hands behind her back, sharking around Tia as best she could without her haunches threatening to unpry books from the shelves.

I’ll never forget those robin-breasted women inhaling God! Or Aunt Gwendolyn sharking around! I’d sell my Aunt Gwendolyn  (if I had one) to write lines as good as these.

ZZ Packer will be leading a workshop at the Napa Valley Writers Conference this summer. See our Conferences/Retreats page for details.

Happy solstice everyone.

Jo-Anne Rosen
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | May 1, 2017

May 1, 2017

Dear Literary Folk,

Remembering Benbrook and Kyger
In March, two fine poets left our company. In last month’s post, I mentioned the poet Richard Benbrook. The other local poet who passed away in March is Joanne Kyger. I’d like to take a moment to remember both.

Richard Benbrook was an Arkansas native, but he made Petaluma his home in his youth, and then again from 1985 till his death last month at the age of 69. In the SF Bay Area, he worked in design, published a poetry and literary magazine for several years, The Tomcat, and was an award winning political cartoonist for the Petaluma Argus Courier. He was one of us, an original, charismatic figure who brought warmth, whimsical humor and insight to this quirky town, and smiles to everyone who knew him. You’ll find a moving tribute to Richard at this link:

Joanne Kyger, a student of philosophy and literature, began her artistic career as part of the San Francisco Renaissance and the emerging Beat Movement. She lived in Japan with Gary Snyder, her husband at the time, and traveled in India with Snyder, Allen Ginzberg, and Peter Orlovsky. She eventually returned to California, settling in Bolinas, where she lived and wrote until her death last month at the age of 82.

In their tribute to Kyger’s work, Michael McClure and Ray Manzarek write that she was “one of the major experimenters, hybridizers, and visionaries of poetry.  Kyger is very much a poet of place, with a truly strong voice — delicate, graceful, and never wasteful; her poems explore themes of friendship, love, community, and morality, and draw on Native American myth as well as Asian religion and philosophy. Kyger’s love for poetry manifests itself in a grander scheme of consciousness-expansion and lesson, but always in the realm of every day.”

Kyger published more than 20 collections of poetry. If you’re looking for an introduction to her work, you might check out  On Time: Poems 2005 – 2014 (Citylights 2015). I have included one of her poems from this collection at the end of this post.

Calls for Submission
Our Calls for Submission page on the Literary Update regularly announces upcoming contests and journals looking for poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, and sometimes artwork. I encourage you all to take a moment to browse this page. I also realize that some of you in the literary community have your fingers on more pulses than do I or Jo-Anne Rosen, my co-editor. If you’re reading this and thinking, yeah, that page could be much better, drop an e-mail to me or Jo-Anne (  We’d love to incorporate your wider knowledge and familiarity with local, national, and international opportunities to publish. Here are two I’m plugging:

California State Poetry Society logoThe California State Poetry Society is sponsoring a poetry contest, deadline June 30, with cash prizes and publication in California Quarterly’s journal. Poems can be submitted online or in snail-mail, and there is a small reading fee. For more information and guidelines, check out their website at

There is also still time to submit poems for consideration for Sixteen Rivers’ Upcoming Anthology. The new deadline is May 15. Sixteen Rivers Press is seeking unpublished poems that respond to the cultural, moral, and political rifts that now divide our country: poems of resistance and resilience, witness and vision, that embody what it means to be a citizen in a time when our democracy is threatened.Poets are encouraged to interpret this call broadly. We welcome voices raised in passion and in praise, whether lyrical, philosophical, visionary, or personal. For details and guidelines, visit this link:

Literary Highlights
Here are some of the many upcoming literary events around the county. You can find details about these and many more on our calendar page.

Monday, May 1, 6:15 p.m. Rivertown Poets feature Sonoma County poets Katherine Hastings and Paul Greenberg at Aqus Cafe, 189 H Street in Petaluma

Mondays, May 1, 8, 15, 22, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Jumpstart writers meet at Copperfield’s Petaluma on the first four Mondays of each month, excluding August and December. Workshops are facilitated by Susan Bono and Marlene Cullen, alternating months. Creative prompts are used to inspire writing. Bring a notebook and a fast-moving pen. All writers are encouraged to come. ($15 per workshop).

Saturday, May 6, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Writing the Watershed with Elizabeth Herron at the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation in Sebastopol. Elizabeth has a history of watershed writing and publication and taught both Creative Writing and Ecological Identity for over a decade at Sonoma State University. Writing exercises and time outdoors at the beautiful Laguna Foundation.

Saturday, May 6, 2:00 p.m. An Hour Of The Spoken Word & Live Music with poet Jonah Raskin reading from his book, AURAS, accompanied by stand-up bass player, Steve Shain. Location: Rincon Valley Library, Santa Rosa.

Sunday, May 21, 1:00-4:30 p.m. Sonoma Festival of Light and Rhymed Poetry, Trinity Episcopal Church, 275 East Spain St., Sonoma. Contact: Patricia Bradley at


Poem for May

Joanne Kryger's kitchen window

Joanne Kyger’s Kitchen Window © Donald Guravich


by Joanne Kyger

To the small field of daffodils
while doves and sparrows
pass overhead

Stars as grand citizens of the sky
appear near dazzled moon
Still possible to read
Under its full light

The doors of the little palace open
messages go out
What happened last night?

It was that meteor flashing
like a runaway gazelle
down the coast.

April 27, 2013

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