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

Posted by: wordrunner | April 1, 2017

April 1, 2017

Dear Literary Folk,

Happy spring to you all on this glorious April morning! April is, of course, National Poetry Month, so there’s much going on the lift the spirit and inspire the writer in you, whatever your genre.

Alison LutermanFor example, Oakland poet, playwright, essayist, and activist Alison Luterman will be interviewed by Irwin Keller on Thursday, April 6, 7-8:30 at 85 La Plaza, Cotati. Luterman and Keller will discuss “how we live our lives to the fullest, and how we tell our stories – turning our days into poetry, written sometimes in ink and sometimes in flesh and blood, breath, and action.” For more information or to register for this event, check out this link:

Later in the month, on Saturday, April 15 at 6:30 p.m., the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference is marking National Poetry Month with a Celebration of Poetry featuring California’s poet laureate, Dana Gioia, and Bay Area authors at the Napa Valley College Upper Valley Campus, 1088 College Ave., St. Helena. Among those joining Gioia will be Sonoma County Poet Laureate Iris Dunkle; Caroline Goodwin, who served as San Mateo’s first poet laureate; Rachel Richardson, author of two poetry books and co-founder of Left Margin Lit; David Roderick, San Francisco Chronicle poetry columnist, author, and co-founder of Left Margin Lit; and Napa County Poet Laureate Beclee Newcomer Wilson.

If you can’t make it to St. Helena on tax day, then consider catching Joyce Carol Oats at 7:00 p.m., Santa Rosa’s Copperfield’s Bookstore. Oates will be reading from her latest, A Book of American Martyrs.

Then on Tuesday, April 25, 6:00 p.m. Copperfield’s Books and Redwood Writers present their Spotlight on Fiction with Crissi Langwell’s novel The Road to Hope at Copperfield’s Montgomery Village.

And a final highlight from our extensive calendar of April events is Independent Bookstore Day, a one-day national party that takes place at indie bookstores across the country on Saturday, April 29. The event will be held locally at Copperfield’s Montgomery Village at 10 a.m.

Poetry Contest for Sonoma County History
Our current Poet Laureate, Iris Dunkle, has announced a poetry contest for adults and youth, sponsored by the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, on the topic of Sonoma County History. The deadline for submission is May 1, 2017. Check Iris’s Poet Laureate page for all the details.

More Suggestions for Celebrating National Poetry Month
The Academy of American Poets has a great list of says to celebrate National Poetry Month. You’ll find the complete list at this link:

Favorite Poems
Among their recommendations is to pick a poem and memorize it, a tradition honored every year by the annual “Favorite Poems” evening. In honor of National Poetry Month, the Sebastopol Center for the Arts will be hosting its annual Favorite Poems event the afternoon of Sunday, April 9 from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. If you would like to read or recite your favorite poem, please send a copy to Larry Robinson at, and include a short statement of why it is your favorite. The only restriction is that the poem cannot be one of your own or that of a family member. We have usually been able to fit most submissions into the program but we may not have room for long poems.

Poetry and Film
Another recommendation from the Academy of American Poets is to watch a poetry movie. Here are two suggestions:

In theaters right now, look for a remarkable film called Paterson. The film presents a week in the life of a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey, who is himself named Paterson. Besides driving bus, he also writes poetry, which one critic says “slip across the screen like water.” The film’s title alludes to William Carlos Williams, whose epic poem Paterson was in turn inspired by the works of Ezra Pound, James Joyce, and Hart Crane. The poems featured in the film were actually written by Ron Padgett, a still-living poet with roots in the “New York School.”

There is also a wonderful film about Robert Bly, called A Thousand Years of Joy. The film’s website says, “A Thousand Years of Joy charts Bly’s singular path from farmer’s son on a wintry Minnesota farm to radical anti-Vietnam War activist to wild man of the 1990’s men’s movement.” If you missed it, you can view the film at

Who’s Your Literary Best Friend?
The Sitting Room’s Call for Contributions to their Annual Publication: As Edward Mendelson reminds us, “A reader who identifies with the characters in a novel […] is performing one of the central acts of literary understanding.” (The Things That Matter, a study of seven women writers.) Are there times in your life when you have turned to a literary character for comfort and company – an imagined friend who sticks with you through thick and thin? Or indeed, an adversary, someone who gets under your skin, who reminds you of some of the shapes of evil?

The Sitting Room invites contributions and will publish all that adhere to the theme and format guidelines in their 2017 publication, celebrated in June at the Sitting Room’s annual birthday party. The deadline is April 15. For details and guidelines, visit the Sitting Room Website:

Remembering Rich Benbrook and Tomcat
Sadly, Sonoma County has lost another of our literary lights, Rich Benbrook, who founded the art and literary magazine Tomcat in the 90s. Many poets appeared in Tomcat, and if any of your readers were among those Rich supported, and would like to send me your thoughts, I will hold a special place in the May 1 Literary Update to honor and remember Rich’s contributions to our literary community.

Get Lit in Petaluma Has a New Home and Night
Get LitFormerly at the Corkscrew Wine Bar, Get Lit, a quarterly reading series hosted by Dani Burlison and Kara Vernor, is moving to Aqus Cafe. Join them Thursday, April 13, from 7:00-9:00 for the launch of their new location with featured readers Dave Madden (San Francisco), Amy Elizabeth Robinson (Santa Rosa), and Jeremy Benson (Napa). An open mic during the second hour will follow the featured readers, so bring something to share (five minute limit). Get Lit is a free event that hosts emerging and established writers and aims for lively, funny, heartbreaking, and real. Past readers have included Molly Giles, Guy Biederman, Stefanie Freele, Shirin Yim Bridges, Glen David Gold, and many others. More info at

Sixteen Rivers Has Extended Its Deadline the Upcoming Anthology to May 15, 2017
All I have is a voice / To undo the folded lie.
—W. H. Auden, “September 1, 1939”

For a new anthology, 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. Because we hope to create a wide-ranging conversation among the poems, this anthology will combine submitted contemporary work with previously published poems from other periods of unrest and upheaval.

Submission period: February 15–May 15, 2017. Submit 1 to 3 unpublished poems, totaling no more than 3 pages, either online by Submittable or by regular mail. We expect to complete our selection by September 30, 2017; our scheduled publishing date is June 2018. Payment for publication will be two copies of the anthology.

Note: This book will be nationally advertised and similar in scope and design to our first anthology, The Place That Inhabits Us, now in its fourth printing.

Poem for April

For this month, here’s one of my favorite spring poems.

Cherry Blossoms
By Toi Derricotte

I went down to
mingle my breath
with the breath
of the cherry blossoms.

There were photographers:
Mothers arranging their
children against
gnarled old trees;
a couple, hugging,
asks a passerby
to snap them
like that,
so that their love
will always be caught
between two friendships:
ours & the friendship
of the cherry trees.

Oh Cherry,
why can’t my poems
be as beautiful?

A young woman in a fur-trimmed
coat sets a card table
with linens, candles,
a picnic basket & wine.
A father tips
a boy’s wheelchair back
so he can gaze
up at a branched
All around us
the blossoms
flurry down

          Be patient
you have an ancient beauty.

                                                   Be patient,
                               you have an ancient beauty.

From The Undertaker’s Daughter, by Toi Derricotte, 2011, University of Pittsburgh Press.

Posted by: wordrunner | March 2, 2017

March 1, 2017

Dear Literary Folk,

Your Voice, Too, Is Needed: Call for Poems for a New Anthology

16 Rivers PressAll I have is a voice / To undo the folded lie.
—W. H. Auden, “September 1, 1939”

For a new anthology, 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. Because we hope to create a wide-ranging conversation among the poems, this anthology will combine submitted contemporary work with previously published poems from other periods of unrest and upheaval.

Submission period: February 15–April 15, 2017. Submit 1 to 3 unpublished poems, totaling no more than 3 pages, either online by Submittable or by regular mail. We expect to complete our selection by September 30, 2017; our scheduled publishing date is June 2018. Payment for publication will be two copies of the anthology.

Note: This book will be nationally advertised and similar in scope and design to our first anthology, The Place That Inhabits Us, now in its fourth printing.


A Local Literary Treasure: The Writers Forum
Featurette by Marlene Cullen

Marlene CullenWriters Forum founder Marlene Cullen is thrilled to announce that Writers Forum will now be free at their new location: Copperfield’s Books, 140 Kentucky St. Petaluma.

Writers Forum meets the third Thursday of the month, March through October, 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm. The Forum is a unique opportunity for participants to share ideas and explore the many facets of writing. Workshops are led by a variety of speakers presenting information about the craft and the business of writing.

Note: The March 16 Forum will meet from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Representatives will provide information about writing conferences in the North Bay. Presenters include Mendocino Coast Writers’ Conference, Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, Redwood Branch of The California Writers Club Conference, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) for San Francisco North and East Bay Region Oktoberfest Fall Conference, Sonoma County Writers Camp, Writing by Writers.

No rsvp nor sign-ups ahead of time. Bring a notebook and a pen.

Marlene Cullen used to help Susan Bono with Writers Sampler in Sebastopol. She often thought it would be wonderful to have the same program in Petaluma. She kept waiting for someone else to start it. When no one did, she thought, “I could do that.” So she did!

Presenters for 2017: Elizabeth Stark on Building a Writing Practice, Skye Blaine on Memoir, Eric Elfman, Alford Pursell on Flash Fiction,Teri Sloat on The Evolution of a Story, Cameron & Co. Cameron Kids on Children’s Publishing.


Women in Science Fiction
Sitting Room Salons
with Kim Hester-Williams and Terry Ehret

You might say that women have been writing Science Fiction since 1818, the year Mary Shelley published her novel, Frankenstein. Certainly their numbers have been increasing in recent decades and this Spring we’ve invited Kim Hester-Williams and Terry Ehret to hold salons on two of their favorite contemporary authors, Octavia Butler and Ursula K. Le Guin. Please join us to learn more and bring your own favorites to share.

octavia_butler__www_davidanthonydurham_com_-180x180Saturday, March 11, 1:00-4:00 p.m.: Kim D. Hester Williams presents “In The Huntington With Octavia”: What I Learned And Why Everyone Should Read The Work Of Octavia E. Butler

ursula_leguinSaturday, March 18, 2017 1:00-5:00 p.m.: Terry Ehret presents “Fishing In The Ocean Of Story”: The Visionary Worlds Of Ursula K. Le Guin

Details available at the Sitting Room Website:
The Sitting Room
2025 Curtis Drive
Penngrove, CA 94951


Seryna Bonacorso of El Molino High School
Sonoma County’s Poetry Out Loud Winner
Featurette by Phyllis Meshulam

bonacorsoOn February 13, 2017, at the lovely Glaser Center in Santa Rosa, we held the 11th annual Sonoma County Poetry Out Loud competition. POL is a nationwide poetry recitation program for high school students. It starts first at the classroom level, when a teacher assigns the memorization of a poem from the online anthology. Then school-wide, county-wide and state-wide contests take place. Winners eventually progress to the Nationals and compete with other champions from all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

This year we had eleven schools competing locally. Four judges have the very difficult task of evaluating performances based on physical presence, voice and articulation, appropriateness of dramatization and evidence of understanding. A fifth judge monitors accuracy. Our panel of distinguished judges was: Armando Garcia Davila, Terry Ehret, Penelope La Montagne, Larry Robinson and Lisa Shulman, with Ed Coletti acting as emcee.

Our 2017 winner is Seryna Bonacorso of El Molino High School who recited “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens, and “Albatross” by Kate Bass. Second place winner was Cristina Avelar of Maria Carrillo High School with “Zacuanpapalotls” by Brenda Cárdenas, and “I Felt a Funeral in my Brain” by Emily Dickinson. In third place was Shea Dorrell of Piner High School with “Hysteria” by Dionisio Martinez and “Eros Turannos” by Edwin Arlington Robinson.

The statewide competition will take place in Sacramento on March 12 and 13, where Seryna will be representing Sonoma County. The Nationals will occur between April 24th and 26th in Washington D.C.

Phyllis Meshulam is the author of Doll, Moon and editor of Poetry Crossing: 50 Lesson Plans for 50 Years of California Poets in the Schools.


Remembering Susan Sibbet
sibbet-poet sibbett-grtblue_sliderSome of you may have known Susan Sibbet, a poet and teacher who was passionate about writing as food for the soul, and who brought her gifts to California Poets in the Schools for many years until her death three years ago. She also was one of the founders of Sixteen Rivers Press. I’m honored to be part of a tribute to Susan, hosted by Poetry Flash, at DIESEL, A Bookstore in Oakland. The date is Sunday, March 5th at 3 p.m. I will be joined by Steve Gilmartin, Nina Lindsay, Carolyn Miller, and LeeAnn Pickrell.

DIESEL, A Bookstore
5433 College Avenue
Oakland, CA 94618

Poem For March
Kate BassOne of the poems Seryna Bonacorso recited at the Poetry Out Loud Competition last month was “The Albatross,” by Kate Bass. The poem was deeply moving and skillfully delivered by Seryna. I had not previously heard of Kate Bass, so I checked out her bio on the Poets.Org website: British poet Kate Bass was born in north London. She studied chemistry at Edinburgh University and worked for the Patent Agency in London before studying illustration at Anglia Polytechnic University. She lives in Cambridge, England, with her family and works as an illustrator.

The Albatross

When I know you are coming home
I put on this necklace:
glass beads on a silken thread,
a blue that used to match my eyes.
I like to think I am remembering you.
I like to think you don’t forget.

The necklace lies heavy on my skin,
it clatters when I reach down
to lift my screaming child.
I swing her, roll her in my arms until she forgets.
The beads glitter in the flicker of a TV set
as I sit her on my lap
and wish away the afternoon.

I wait until I hear a gate latch lift
the turn of key in lock.
I sit amongst toys and unwashed clothes,
I sit and she fingers the beads until you speak
in a voice that no longer seems familiar, only strange.
I turn as our child tugs at the string.
I hear a snap and a sound like falling rain.

— Kate  Bass, “The Albatross” from The Pasta Maker. Copyright © 2003 by Kate Bass.

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-Editor

Posted by: wordrunner | February 1, 2017

February 1, 2017

Be Recognized For Your Literary Journal Publications—Submit these each month to Ed Coletti:


Dear Literary Folk,

It’s a Twilight Zone Kind of World Right Now
Trump Twilight ZoneAs ungrounded as many of us feel in the first weeks of Trump’s presidency, there are many ways we can stay engaged, stand together, and make our voices heard. Write your state and federal representatives, stand together with others when protesting or resisting is necessary, and consider adding your name to the document “It Won’t Happen Here”: a call to the officials of Sonoma County to protect the community from discriminatory orders and laws. You can find out more at this link:

If the recent events have inspired you to write, New York Times op-ed writer Nicholas Kristof is calling for Trump poems in any form as part of a Trump Poetry Contest. Here’s the link for that. There are already more than 1,500 poems posted.

Kristof explains his purpose: “I’d like to invite readers to submit their poems about Donald Trump and his administration. My hope is that the entries will be good enough that I can weave together a column of the best ones. That means that short poems are best, so that I can use several. I’m fine with anything from haiku to limericks, just no epics. The poems can rhyme or not, as you prefer, but they do have to be your own work, and your submission means that you agree to let me publish them in The Times.”

love-winsCelebrate Diversity with 100 Thousand Poets for Change
Closer to home, Sunday, February 26, 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. 100 Thousand Poets for Change Celebrates Sonoma County’s Diversity. As the Trump administration seeks to turn us against each other, we will celebrate the diversity of communities in Sonoma County and stand in support of each other! Gaia’s Garden Restaurant.

Jo-Anne Rosen’s Selected Fiction
rosen_slideCo-editor of the Literary Update, Jo-Anne Rosen, will be reading Tuesday, February 28, 6:00 p.m. Copperfield’s Books and Redwood Writers Spotlight on Fiction: In What They Don’t Know: Selected Fiction, Rosen probes the lies and secrets—the “fictions”—of a surprising cast of characters, from bewildered adolescents to elderly lovers. Presented with humor, dignity, and a keen, dispassionate eye, the actors in these 18 beautiful, often sad stories carry with them complex histories of desire and pain, always longing for what they can’t (or shouldn’t) have. At Copperfield’s Montgomery Village, 775 Village Court, Santa Rosa.

February is Poetry Out Loud Month
poetry-out-loud_2016Poetry Out Loud’s county-wide high school poetry recitation contest is scheduled for Monday, February 13, 6:30–9:30 p.m. The schools involved this year are Analy, Casa Grande, Creekside, El Molino, Elsie Allen, Healdsburg, Maria Carrillo, Piner, Rancho Cotate, Roseland University Prep, Santa Rosa, Sonoma Academy and Tech High. The event is FREE, and will be held at the Glaser Center in Santa Rosa. Sonoma County has always had a fabulous line-up of students for this event. It’s an evening of inspiration and hope.

Other Literary Highlights

For a short month, we have lots of other events coming up. Here are some that caught my eye.

Rivertown Poets will feature a poet-and-musician duo, award-winning poet Diane Frank and cellist Erik Ievins. Open mic will follow the features, with a limit of three minutes per reader. Monday, February 6, 6:15 p.m.

block_raphaelRaphael Block and guitarist David Field will present work from Raphael’s new book, Strings of Shining Silence: Earth-Love Poems, at Book Passage, Corte Madera on Sunday, February 12, 1:00 p. m.

bojanowski_slideMarc Bojanowski, bestselling author and Santa Rosa native, will present his second book, Journeyman, a visceral, muscular, and exquisitely crafted state-of-the-nation novel about an itinerant carpenter who rediscovers the magnitude of finding home. Wednesday, February 15, 7:00 p.m. Copperfield’s Montgomery Village.

And to the south in Marin County, Marin Poetry Center features Sixteen Rivers poets Gerald Fleming, One, and Lynne Knight, Again. Falkirk Cultural Center, Thursday, February 16, 7:30 p.m. Jerry and Lynne are long-time members of Sixteen Rivers Press.

Details about these and many other February events on our Calendar Page.

February’s Poem:
Wendell BerryEnemies
By Wendell Berry

If you are not to become a monster,
you must care what they think.
If you care what they think,

how will you not hate them,
and so become a monster
of the opposite kind? From where then

is love to come—love for your enemy
that is the way of liberty?
From forgiveness. Forgiven, they go

free of you, and you of them;
they are to you as sunlight
on a green branch. You must not

think of them again, except
as monsters like yourself,
pitiable because unforgiving.

Wendell Berry, “Enemies” from Entries: Poems. Copyright © 1994 by Wendell Berry.
Source: Indivisible: Poems for Social Justice (Norwood House Press, 2013)


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | January 2, 2017

January 2, 2017

Dear Literary Folk,

newyears2017photo-4newyears2017partyOnce again, poets, writers, and friends gathered at our home in Petaluma on New Year’s Day to invoke our creative energies in a poetic embrace of 2017. Healdsburg poet Vilma Ginzberg summed up the day eloquently in wishing us a year of a thousand acts kindness for which there is no inoculation. If you’d like to be included on the e-mail invitations for this annual New Year’s Poetry Pot-luck, you can e-mail me at

New Year Updates
Some of the Sonoma County Literary Update pages are in need of their own update, including Writers’ Connections, Ongoing Groups/Open Mics, Calls for Submission (ongoing) and Workshops (ongoing). Co-editor Jo-Anne Rosen has done some initial housekeeping and would like to thank Karen Pierce Gonzalez for her preliminary investigations. We post whatever comes our way, but we’d love if if readers out there in the literary community would help us to keep these pages more current and interactive. Please contact us if this appeals to you or if you notice any expired links or out-of-date information.

Farewell to Two Great Poet-Musicians
David MeltzerOn New Year’s Eve, poet David Meltzer left us to join the great host of writers and musicians, actors and leaders who have gone before us in 2016.

Meltzer wrote more than 40 volumes of poetry, among them Arrows: Selected Poetry 1957—1992, Name: Selected Poetry, 1973-1983 and Beat Thing. His nonfiction work includes Reading Jazz, Writing Jazz, When I Was a Poet and most recently Two-Way Mirror: A Poetry Notebook, a collection of anecdotes and quotations published by Oyez Press in 1977 and rereleased by City Lights Publishers in 2015. For those of you who don’t know David Meltzer’s work, a great place to start is the Poetry Foundation’s page:

Poet Diane de Prima has said, “David Meltzer is a hidden adept, one of the secret treasures on our planet. Great poet, musician, comic; mystic unsurpassed, performer with few peers.” Lawrence Ferlinghetti has called Meltzer “One of the greats of post-World War Two San Francisco poets and musicians. He brought music to poetry and poetry to music!”

Here’s an excerpt from his 2011 When I was a Poet:

I was an Acrobat
a Tightrope Walker
keeping balance
in my slippers
on a wire above
Grand Canyon
Inferno Vertigo
Oh I did prance the death-defying dance
whereas now
death defines each second
of awaking

To view a video of David Meltzer reading the full poem, recorded this past September, check out this link:

leonardcohenThe other great poet-musician who left us in November is Leonard Cohen. Cohen’s work needs no gloss here. I will only say that his lyrics and his honesty were an inspiration to many of us. I first heard “Bird on a Wire” when I was about 12 years old, and it became a kind of anthem for me. Judging from the outpouring of tributes and testimonies to Cohen’s life and work in the days following his death (one day before our tumultuous election day), I venture to say that Leonard Cohen was and will always be the soul of a generation.

January Events Worth Noting
Tonight, Monday, January 2, Rivertown Poets will feature North Bay poets M.J. Arcangelini and Crystal Ockenfuss. Open mic will follow the features. Signups start at 5:45 p.m., and the readings at 6:15. The Aqus Café hosts at 189 H Street in downtown Petaluma.

Youth Poetry Slam takes place on Saturday, January 7, 7:30 p.m. at Art Center Ukiah, 201 South State Street, Ukiah.

For those of you with a book in search of an agent, mark your calendar for Sunday, January 8, 2:30-4:30 p.m. Redwood Writers presents Agents’ Day & Pitchfest. At the Flamingo Hotel, 2777 Fourth Street, Santa Rosa.

Our Sonoma County dramatic arts community, Off Page Readers Theater, marks the new year on Friday, January 20, 7:30 p.m., with its Winter 2017 show, Family Matters, performing work by local authors: Sandra Anfang, Joe Arcangelini, Catharine Bramkamp, Armando Garcia-Dávila, Craig Harris, John Johnson,Chuck Kensler, Nancy Long, David Madgalene, Hilary Susan Moore, Megan O’Hara, Linda Saldaña, Jean Wong. Mockingbird Books, 6932 Sebastopol Ave, Sebastopol.

And finally, this event caught my eye as something we can all benefit from: Saturday, January 21, 7:00 p.m. Copperfield’s Bookstore (138 Main Street, Sebastopol) features Mark Coleman discussing his new book, Make Peace with Your Mind: How Mindfulness and Compassion Can Free You from Your Inner Critic.

These and many more events for January and February can be found on our Calendar Page, with many thanks for Jo-Anne Rosen, who keeps the calendar and our website up to date.

Poem for January
The poem I’ve selected for January 2017 is called “Good Bones,” by poet Maggie Smith. This poem unexpectedly went “viral” in the aftermath of the Orlando shootings and in the months of tragedies that followed, including the November election.

Maggie Smith is the author of The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison (Tupelo Press, 2015), winner of the Dorset Prize, and Lamp of the Body (Red Hen Press, 2005), winner of the Benjamin Saltman Award.

Good Bones

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | December 1, 2016

December 1, 2016

Dear Literary Folk,

Good morning, AmericaIt seems like a very different world from the one we knew when I composed my last post. Then the times seemed dark, even dire, but the election has shifted something fundamental in our lives. More than ever we need to summon our voices to speak our hopes and our fears. Let our collective music rise to meet the times we are in. In the words of Rumi, “Don’t go back to sleep!”

Send Us Your Thoughts

Through these dry, drought years, I invited you to send the Literary Update your poems and prose on living in the drought. I published one of these each month. We’re not out of the drought yet, although some kind hand of nature has brought us much-needed rain.

Now I invite you to send Jo-Anne and me your poems, short prose, photos, and art on these difficult and worrisome times. Perhaps together we will find a way to rekindle the light.

Joining Voices

Much is going on in our literary community and beyond. Some of you are attending meetings, readings, and rallies to voice your concerns. Others are writing letters to the editor, composing petitions, drafting resolutions to create or reaffirm sanctuary in our cities and on our campuses. Many of you are planning to attend the Million Women March in Washington on January 21st. And some have headed to North Dakota to support the Standing Rock opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline (

All good work. I thank and bless you for it!

When I launched the writing workshop on political poetry back in September, I chose to call it “Singing in Dark Times,” an homage to Bertholt Brecht, who knew a thing or two about the need for artists to be engaged in their times. The calendar for December is rich with literary events, readings, and workshops to keep us singing in the dark times ahead. I’ve selected a few to highlight.

Susan HagenFriday mornings, December 2, 9 and 16, , 11:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m. “Writing as a Healing Practice” Co-Ed drop-in writing circle with author and writing guide Susan Hagen. This gentle, supportive, earth-based healing circle fosters self-awareness and personal growth. Open to all adults. No reservations needed, no writing experience necessary. DROP IN at Sonoma County Healing Academy (SoCoHA), at Gravenstein Station, 6741 Sebastopol Ave., Suite 120, Sebastopol, across from Coffee Catz patio. Suggested donation $20-$40 per session.

xmas-walesFriday, December 9 and Saturday, December 10, 6:30 p.m. Petaluma Readers Theatre benefit for Petaluma Arts Council. Two Holiday Classics: Dylan Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” and “A Christmas Memory” by Truman Capote. Tickets $10-12. Available at Petaluma Arts Council, 230 Lakeville St., Petaluma.

Dunkle-directoryFriday December 9, 7:30 p.m. The Famous Forgotten Women: A reading with Tamam Kahn and Iris Jamahl Dunkle. Edgehill Mansion, Dominican University.

foust-rebeccaSunday, December 11, 2:30-4:30 p.m. Redwood Writers present Rebecca Foust: How Poetry and Prose Practices Nurture Each Other. Flamingo Hotel, 2777 Fourth St, Santa Rosa. The general public is invited, $10. For details, go to

Clara RosemardaSunday, December 18, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. A WINTER’S TALE: A One-Day Writing & Meditation Workshop with Clara Rosemarda. Fee $120 ($95 if registered by December 12th); $50 deposit holds your space. Workshop is held in a comfortable home near Downtown Santa Rosa. Contact Clara: 707-578-2081 or

Poem for December

In closing, I offer you a poem written by Kaitlin Deasy, one of the participants in the political poetry workshop at the Sitting Room this fall.

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-Editor


Kaitlin DeasyKaitlin Deasy grew up in Northern California and attended the University of California at Berkeley where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. She currently resides in Sonoma County and works as a massage therapist. Her poems have appeared in the West Marin Review, West Trestle Review and Wild Violet Literary Journal.

Trump Tower, Las Vegas
Genesis 11

Our multilingual anthem
rises 58 floors in hot air
Nothing is impossible! &
clings to the ceilings —-
only those who look can
see they engineered a
tower without windows
they gave us gilded pools
to wade in while we mou
nt our nakedness, they
took the sun as our priso
ner so we can unknow
night, our soothsayer;
they hide the clock, they
wait until the ceilings beg
in to weep & our babble
becomes rain. Security
locks all exits, tower flood
ing. We hear them say
from the other side of the
walls: you are your own
death.This is the only lang
uage you may share.When
they open the doors
our  bodies  fill  the  streets

Posted by: wordrunner | November 1, 2016

November 1, 2016

Dear Literary Folk,

day-of-deadAs I write, the candles in the jack-o-lanterns are sputtering out and a soft drizzle is falling in the dark. Here in Petaluma, the Halloween action is on D Street, so not too many trick-or-treaters at the door. The rain kept many indoors as well. Here in P-town, as in Santa Rosa, Sonoma, and other county venues, we’re also celebrating Day of the Dead (El Día de los Muertos) on Tuesday and Wednesday, November 1 and 2.

Congratulations to Bob Dylan!
bobdylanIn October, we were all surprised, some happily so, to learn that singer-songwriter Bob Dylan had won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Controversial as that decision was, I’m delighted that the award recognizes the common root of poetry and music, and the powerful transformative effect Dylan’s music has had on a generation and more.
One summer, I visited both Swansea, Wales and in Hibbing, Minnesota: childhood homes of Dylan Thomas and Bob Dylan, respectively. Bob Dylan, of course, changed his name from Bobby Zimmerman—a fact I trot out only by way of introducing this month’s poem by Diane Sher Lutovich, called “Dancing at Bobby Zimmerman’s Bar Mitzvah.” Scroll down, and you’ll find this at the end of this month’s post.

Healdsburg’s new Literary Laureate
On Saturday, October 22, the Healdsburg Literary Guild hosted a Night of Laureate Candidate Readings to select a new Healdsburg Literary Laureate. Four candidates vied for the honor of representing the community from Jan. 1, 2017 to Dec. 31, 2018. The authors were Russ Messing, Richard Perce, Ken Dalton, and Arte Whyte. Congratulations to Russ Messing, farmer and owner of Deergnaw Olive Oil. Messing, an evocative poet, has published two volumes of poetry.

Interested in Joining or Starting a Writers’ Group?
Just the other day, someone asked about starting a writers’ group in the county, wondering if there was a way to announce this. Indeed, there is. The Literary Update has a page devoted to writing groups of all sorts, but it hasn’t been updated lately, and so may not have caught your notice. I’m thinking this would be a good time to do so.  If you are looking for a group, or would like to invite others in the literary community to join your writers’ group or network, Check out our Writers’ Connection Page and send us an announcement to If you’d like to help us revise and update this page, send us an e-mail, and we’ll be happy to work with you!

Rivertown Poets
Lucille Lang Day. Photo by Marissa Bell Toffoli (2013). Taken Dec 20, 2013.

I’m always happy to plug the Rivertown Poets series at Aqus Café on the first Monday of the month. The November 7th reading features Lucille Lang Day and Casey Fitzsimmons. Each monthly reading includes a very lively open mic. Try to come a little earlier–the open mic list fills early. Signups start at 5:45 p.m. The café is open for food and beverages at 189 H Street in downtown Petaluma. Check the Calendar page for details, or Contact: Sande Anfang,
Lucille Lang Day. Photo by Marissa Bell Toffoli (2013)

November is “National Novel Writing Month”
Snoopy’s Writers Presents…”NaNoWriMo Write In” Every Monday in November from 1:00-4:00 pm in the Party Room and Tuesdays thru Sundays 9 am – 5 pm in the Cafe. The Warm Puppy Cafe, Snoopy’s Home Ice, 1667 West Steele Lane, Santa Rosa. Write a 50,000 word Novel in 30 days. Midnight Oct 31 to Midnight Nov 30. ATMOSPHERE – Pleasant, Creative, stimulating, good food, coffee, Friendly Service. WRITERS – Beginner, Advanced, Published Author. Bring computer, pens and notebooks. BYOL – Buy your own lunch. Georgette or Dawn


West Sonoma Book Faire
Do you miss the great years of the Sonoma County Book Festival? Well, Sonoma County is having a book fair again. The first annual West Sonoma Book Faire takes place on November 10, 6:00-9:00 p.m., at the Sebastopol Grange, 6000 Sebastopol Ave. (Hwy 12). Free admission. There will be author’s booths, a poet’s table, readings, a raffle to support the  Sonoma County Library Foundation, food & drink bar, and more.

Upcoming  Healdsburg Literary Guild Readings
jeanhegland-smallAuthor Jean Hegland will be in conversation with Ray Holley… Jean’s latest book is Still Time and her novel Into the Forest was asdapted as a film starring Ellen Page that was in theaters in summer 2016 and was released recently on DVD in October 2016. Wines by Bluenose Wines will be featured following the talk. The event will be at SHED on November 10th, 2016 at 7 pm. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear Jean, a local and world-renowned author. Get tickets ($15) online at:

The Poetry of Ulalume Gonzalez de Leon
For those of you in the north county who’ve been following the translation project I’ve been working on with John Johnson and Nancy Morales, I’m pleased to announce that the three of us will be presenting our translations of the Mexican poet Ulalume Gonzalez de Leon. The Healdburg Literary Guild will graciously host this reading on Sunday, November 20, at 1:30 at the Bean Affair in downtown Healdsburg, 1270 Healdsburg Avenue. This event is free!

Poem for November

Dancing at Bobby Zimmerman’s Bar Mitzvah
dianelutovichbiophoto-1by Diane Sher Lutovich

What were they thinking
those children in 1954; he,
the blue-eyed son wrapped in
a wrinkled tallis, his yarmulke levitating
on that huge head of curls; the blue-eyed
girl tripping in new high heels,
back and shoulders bare
as an invitation.
Evening shone tender, blue
from inside, lighting up the town
as if the sun had refused to fully set.
The Androy Hotel, perched between
ore dumps and open pit mines, on Hibbing’s
one main street, its Crystal Lounge
Awash with his aunts, uncles—Irenes,
Slyvias, Labels, Mikeys—all congratulating,
guzzling champagne, wrapping their dreams
around the bar mitzvah boy,
all to the beat
of sambas and rumbas
imported from Duluth;
chandeliers reflecting
light in a hundred directions
rousing people who’d been hibernating
for years. His mother beamed
over her blue-eyed boy who’d go far–
medical or law school she predicted.
He looked dazed or
ashamed, kept his feet shuffling, fingers tapping,
eager to leave for somewhere else
I, too, couldn’t wait for those big-city lights,
attentive boys who knew how to dance, kiss.
No one would have guessed
how far we’d run after
the champagne was gone,
the guests coerced to their cars, homes,
and we had licenses of our own. But it was as far
From Hibbing—its open pit mines, its mounds
of red topsoil, winters of icy caves, and
summer nights sweet and fragrant as forget-me-nots–
as we could.

from What I Stole, by Diane Sher Lutovich, Sixteen Rivers Press, 2013.

Terry Ehret
co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

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