Posted by: wordrunner | December 1, 2019

December 2019

Call for Nominations for Sonoma County Poet Laureate

Opens December 1, 2019


Dear Literary Folk,

The Sebastopol Center for the Arts and the Poet Laureate Selection Committee invite you to send us nominations for the Sonoma County’s 11th Poet Laureate 2020-21.

The Poet Laureate is a Sonoma County resident who has demonstrated a commitment to the literary arts in the County. The Poet Laureate often participates in official ceremonies and readings and receives a $1,000 stipend.

If you know someone you’d like to nominate, or if you’d like to be considered for this prestigious post, you can find information about requirements and application instructions on the Sebastopol Center for the Arts website at

All nominees will be considered for the position. The new Poet Laureate will be announced in March, and the new term will begin in April, 2020.

Maya KhoslaMaya Khosla, our current Poet Laureate, has brought her passion for habitat restoration science to her position as Sonoma County’s literary ambassador. In the aftermath of the recent wildfires, Maya’s work has helped educate the public about how natural environments and human communities recover after devastating disasters. The readings and projects she has sponsored across the county in our communities and schools have also offered healing and solace to those affected by the fires. Check her monthly PoetLaureate’s News page on this website:

Bill Vartnaw, Katherine Hastings, Iris Dunckle

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
Maya Khosla, current Poet Laureate


Creativity Workshops for Kids 9-14

Three Raven Gate, Brian R. MartensBrian Martens is teaching a one-day class in creativity for kids age 9 to 14 at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts (SCA) on Dec. 3, 2019, from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Brian’s first book of poetry is entitled Three Raven Gate: Haiku and Other Poems. Brian will use the haiku form in his class as an example of creativity and challenge the kids to write a few and discuss them. He will also break the kids into small groups and challenge them to come up with some creative ideas they can present to the other groups.

If you have any kids ages 9 -14 in your family including grandkids, or know of some friends’ kids who might be interested, please contact Julie at the SCA at 707-823-1511, and she can help you with registration.

You can also bring kids the day of the class and register them at that time. If you choose to do that, you should arrive at SCA no later that 3:15 p.m. to complete the registration. The class cost $47.50. SCA is located at 282 S High St.


Creative Writing Classes at Santa Rosa Junior College

Many of you know of my plans to retire from SRJC in 2021. SRJC has offered me a chance to teach English 4ABC, a multi-genre, multi-level creative writing class in the

Spring Semester 2020. I would love to have you join me for this!

This class meets on Friday morning, 9-noon, so I will not be offering my usual Friday writing workshop at the Sitting Room.

You can register at this link:

If you need help with the registration process, you can talk to someone in Admissions and Records at (707) 527-4685.

English 4ABC: Creative Writing with Terry Ehret
Fridays, 9am to noon, January 17 through May 22, 2020
Santa Rosa Junior College
1501 Mendocino Avenue, 1614 Emeritus
Sections 4278, 4281, 4286

3 Units ($138)

In this Creative Writing class, open to beginning and experienced writers, we will cover various styles and techniques in imaginative literature: poetry, fiction, memoir, voice and dialogue. In class, we will begin with some playful loosening-up exercises, examine how both traditional and experimental writers have approached their craft, and discuss the students’ own writing in a supportive workshop format. Out of class, students will keep a writing journal, attend readings of local and visiting writers, and create a personal portfolio of their work. Guest writers will be invited share their creative process and experience with the class

Other Creative Writing Classes are available at the Junior College. Check here for days/times/instructors:


December Memoir Writing Workshops

4 Friday Mornings beginning December 6, 11:00 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Alchemy of Memory: Creative Writing As Spiritual Practice with Clara Rosemarda. Fee $160. Email or call for address: 707-567-7117 or Details on Workshops page.

Sunday, December 8, 2:00–4:30 p.m. Writing About Family: The Craft of Memoir, Dorothy Rice. Redwood Writers Club monthly meeting in the Empire Room at the Flamingo Resort & Spa, 2777 Fourth Street, Santa Rosa. Cost: $5 for members, $10 for nonmembers. Details:


Two Holiday Literary Favorites

Two Holiday Classics: A Christmas Memory / A Child's Christmas in WalesCelebrating their 10th Year! Petaluma Readers Theater presents A Christmas Memory and A Child’s Christmas in Wales.

Petaluma Historical Library & Museum
20 Fourth Street, Petaluma

$15 Museum members, $18 nonmembers. Tickets Available here.

Petaluma Arts Center
Thursday December 12 & Friday December 13 @ 7pm
Tickets available through the Center. Click here.


Sixteen Rivers Press Announces Call for Manuscripts

As of November 1, Sixteen Rivers Press is open to submissions for full-length poetry manuscripts.

The press is on a three-year production cycle. A manuscript accepted in this cycle would be published in April 2022.

Before you submit, read the guidelines on the Submissions page.


Poem for December

The times are nightfall, look, their light grows less
by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)

hopkins_0The times are nightfall, look, their light grows less; The times are winter, watch, a world undone: They waste, they wither worse; they as they run Or bring more or more blazon man’s distress. And I not help. Nor word now of success: All is from wreck, here, there, to rescue one— Work which to see scarce so much as begun Makes welcome death, does dear forgetfulness.  Or what is else? There is your world within. There rid the dragons, root out there the sin. Your will is law in that small commonwealth…


Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update co-editor

Posted by: wordrunner | November 1, 2019

November 2019

Dear Literary Folk,

It has been a harrowing week plus for all of us in Sonoma and Napa counties, including Terry Ehret who was without power for several days and hosting three evacuees. She is not able to write this month’s post. On this beautiful morning after the night before—the first night the Kincade Fire did NOT grow—most of us are thankful to be alive and in our own homes, reconnected with friends, and not freezing.

One writer friend who lives close to the burn zone still doesn’t know if her home has survived. She and her husband evacuated with two horses, a dog, a cat and a laptop with her novel in progress on it. I feel a guilty privilege to have survived the week in a section of Petaluma that never lost power, along with two evacuees, a dear friend who was also with me during the Loma Prieta Quake, and this time her grandson. We had a wonderful time on both occasions. And last night children old and young thronged D Street in Petaluma for a massive and gleeful celebration (or collective sigh of relief)—more trick or treaters than any of us had ever seen. 

Our literary calendar this month is slenderer than usual since some contributors were unable to make the publication deadline. Of note in November:

Celebrate Chester Aaron’s life on Sunday, November 3, 3:00 p.m. at the Occidental Center for the Arts. See our calendar or for details.

Rising from the AshesOn November 10,  2:00-5:00 p.m. Rising from the Ashes Two Years Later: The Heart of Poetry — A Commemoration. Free poetry reading and gathering featuring poets Poets Laureate Emeriti Iris Jamahl Dunkle, Gwynn O’Gara, Bill Vartnaw, and many other poets from across the county. Maya Khosla will host. Sebastopol Center for the Arts. Refreshments will be served. More info at:

Later the same day, Sunday. November 10, 8:00-9:30 p.m., check out the Penngrove Market Reading Series at 10070 Main Street, Penngrove. Featured readers: Anita Jackson, Virginia Duan, and Marilyn Skinner Lanier. Open mic to follow. Upcoming dates and featured readers:

Last but not least in November, you aspiring novelists out there can sign up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) at https://www.nanowrimo.orgIt’s free! The Santa Rosa Library is sponsoring NaNoWriMo “Come Write-In” events on Monday nights from 6:00-8:30 p.m. Event details:

Stay safe and strong,

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

Posted by: wordrunner | October 1, 2019

October 2019

Dear literary folk,

Remembering Beatrice Lagos
Beatrice LagosOur literary community has lost an accomplished poet, memoirist, and novelist, and one of the most important bilingual poets writing in California. Beatriz Lagos was born in Argentina in 1931, during the years of successive military dictatorships. She moved to Petaluma in 1976, and lived here till her death on September 5, 2019. She was a Professor of Spanish Literature and Argentine Literature and History, graduated in Buenos Aires. She was also a graduate of Sonoma State University and UC Berkeley, and taught at Santa Rosa JC, Berkeley, Santa Cruz, and Sonoma State University.

Beatriz was devoted to the literary community, giving readings throughout the county, helping with the Bilingual Poetry on the Bus Program, Petaluma Poetry Walk, and Art after Dark Evenings; organizing and emceeing the Poetry of Remembrance Community Reading; and coordinating the Poem in Your Pocket events for National Poetry Month. For her extraordinary passion and talent, she was twice nominated for the Sonoma County Poet Laureate. But less widely known are Beatriz’s publications and work as a literary ambassador beyond our local community. In the years I came to know Beatriz, she spoke with great pleasure about living in Spain from 1990-1997, where her “House of the Poets” in Hita became a mecca for visiting poets from all over the world. She was proud to have been invited by The World Congress of Poets to attend the congresses in San Francisco, Madrid, Florence, and Greece with Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso, Nicanor Parra, and many others. You may know her two collections in English, The Great Petaluma Mill and Love and Wine Poems (both now out of print), but she also published three historical novels, her memoirs, and six collections of poetry in Spain and Mexico. In 2009, AACHE published Beatriz´s Selected Poems in English and her Poemas Selectos en español. 

October Literary Highlights
October offers many opportunities to come together as a literary community. Here are a few, but you’ll find many more on the October calendar page.

Watershed Environmental FestivalWatershed Environmental Poetry Festival
On Saturday, October 5, the annual Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival will be held at Civic Center Park in Berkeley. Featured readers include Patricia Smith, Ann Fisher-Wirth, Sonoma County Poet Laureate Maya Khosla, Joshua McKinney, Kim Schuck, and young poets from the California Poets in the Schools Program. The day begins at noon and runs till 4:30. Local publishers will exhibit their books, and the stage events will also include music. The event is free. Poetry Flash is the sponsor. Location is the corner of MLK Jr. Way and Center.

Fall 2019 SRJC’s Work of Literary Merit is Thoreau’s Walden
Walden book coverIn a time of environmental crisis, it seems most fitting that Santa Rosa Junior College’s English Department has selected Walden, by Henry David Thoreau, as the Work of Literary Merit for Fall 2019 and Spring 2020. For two semesters, many English classes will be reading this book together, and the English Department is sponsoring a series of lectures, which are open to the public. The lectures are held in Newman Auditorium on the Santa Rosa Campus from noon-1:00 PM.

Here is the schedule for the Walden Events coming up in October and November.

Wednesday, October 9,  12-1 pm: “Waking Up in Walden.” Terry Mulcaire

Wednesday, November 13 12-1 pm  Ed Castellini

Monday, November 18, 12 noon – 1 pm
“Making Walden: How Thoreau Went About It.” Mitchell Breitwieser

Mitchell BreitweisWalden is the well-known and much-loved story of Henry David Thoreau’s “life in the woods,” as he put it in the subtitle. The story of Walden itself, the book, is much less familiar, but equally intriguing, at least for me, because it shows the growth in Thoreau’s understanding of what had happened to him while he lived alone by the side of the pond during the years after he had returned to town. He knew from the first that what he considered to have been a great experiment had changed him for the better, reconciling him with his own life by providing a sense of direction, and he set pen to paper to encourage others to attempt to do something similar. But writing the book ended up taking eight years, running through seven drafts, as he attempted to keep pace with his deepening comprehension of what had happened within him during those two years of solitary self-exploration. I will try to tell the story of the book, and to persuade you that knowing that story will enhance your appreciation of the story that is told in the book.

Letter Press Printing Is Alive and Well in Sonoma County

Three events coming up at North Bay Letterpress Arts. The first is fundraiser on Sunday, October 6, 2:00-5:00 p.m. at Hopmonk Tavern, where a special menu and libations will be served, featuring speaker Kathleen Walkup, a silent auction and raffle, and other fun & games. Lunch will be followed by a reception and champagne toast up the road at the printshop. The goal is two-fold: 1) to raise funds to launch a youth printing program and 2) to sustain the NBLA organization. Details and registration:

The second event is an afternoon with Pat Nolan on Sunday, October 20, 2PM. Join Pat Nolan in celebrating Philip Whalen’s birthday, the publication of Volume Two of Pat’s Selected Poems, Notebook Keyboard, as well as meandering digressions covering his 50 plus year odyssey as an outlier’s outlier, poet, translator, editor, and as a publisher, from the days of the mimeograph revolution to handmade craft books to desktop print on demand publishing, blogging, and twitterture. Books will be available for sale. The event is free but donations are always appreciated. NBLA/Iota Press 925D Gravenstein Hwy S., Sebastopol (behind BeeKind).

The third event is a hands-on workshop in Letterpress Poetry Printing with Eric Johnson of Iota Press on Saturday, October 26, 1:00-5:00 p.m. Typeset a short poem or quotation and they’ll print it on a platen press. A chance to explore some of the refinements of type design and the mechanical delights of the vintage presses. Touching on the history of typographic treatments of poetry. Cost: $75. No previous experience needed. Details and registration:

LitQuake Is Coming

Thursday, October 10 through Saturday, October 19, San Francisco’s 20th Litquake. Featuring Tobias Wolff, Ann Patchett, Jane Hirschfield, Jeanette Winterson, Michelle Tea and many more. Details at:

Poetry of Remembrance/Poesía del Recuerdo Community Reading
On Friday, October 18, from 6:00 to 8:00 PM, members of the community are invited to attend the annual “Poesía del Recuerdo/Poetry of Remembrance” celebration. We are pleased to announce that this year’s event will take place at the Connie Mahoney Reading Room in the library on the SRJC Petaluma Campus, 680 Sonoma Mountain Parkway, Petaluma.

Our featured presenters include Forrest Gander, recipient of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for poetry, who will read poems in Spanish and English; artist and sociologist Irma Vega Bijou who will share poetry and art honoring José Guadalupe Posada, whose “Calavera Catrina” came to symbolize Día de los Muertos in Mexico; and poet and Spanish teacher Jabez Churchill, who will offer more bilingual poetry and songs. The event will be hosted by Sonoma County Poet Laureate Maya Khosla.

Those who wish to honor the memory of a departed loved one are encouraged to bring something—a photo or personal item—that can be placed on a community altar for the evening.

Those who would also like to be part of the community reading are welcome to present a brief poem or statement, in Spanish, English or other language. After the event, you will be invited to post your poem or remembrance in the Petaluma Regional Library of Sonoma County until November 2, the final day of Día de los Muertos. If you are interested in reading please contact John Johnson:

This event is part of the Día de los Muertos Petaluma celebration, featuring community altars, sugar skull workshops, music, dance, and a procession with giant puppets.

Admission is free. Traditional refreshments will be served. For more information about this or other Día de Los Muertos events, check out Facebook at El Día de Los Muertos Petaluma.

Poetry and Music in Albany
On Friday, October 25, 7:00 p.m. Sebastopol poet and book artist Renée Owen will read her work, accompanied by Brian Foster on shakuhachi flute. Renee will be joined by poets Chuck Brickley and Bruce Feingold, at the Fourth Friday Formal Reading series in Albany, presented by Calliope: East Bay Music and Arts. The event includes an open reading period and an interview with the poets. St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, 1501 Washington Avenue, Albany.

Celebrate Sixteen Rivers Press’s 20th Anniversary!
Every fall, Sixteen Rivers hosts a Benefit Reading, but this year, we are throwing a party and inviting all our friends to be our guests.

Join us for an afternoon of wine, hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction, and readings by Sixteen Rivers poets to celebrate twenty years of publishing fine poetry and to thank our donors, subscribers, advisors, friends of the press, and lovers of poetry for making it all possible.

The event is Sunday, November 3 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Mill Valley Golf Clubhouse, 267 Buena Vista Avenue, Mill Valley, California 94941. The event is free, but to help us anticipate the number of guests, we request that you RSVP. You can to this by going to and click on Register in the upper right-hand corner.


Poem for October

Walden Pond and Thoreaux's cabom


Daybreak, Swimming Walden
by Barbara Swift Brauer

I step forward at water’s edge, another step,
crouch and launch face-first into the liquid dark.

First light rides the ripples as I begin the practiced pull
hand over hand. I stroke and breathe

and think of the boatmen ferrying souls
across the rivers of the underworld,

of Michael crossing Jordan, and imagine
saints moving with me across the colorless depths.

The difference between a pond and a lake
is a matter of opinion (a lake may be larger),

but this morning Walden is a pond and a lake
and a river all at once. I am here and everywhere.

When have I been so immersed, so central
to the heart of things? The water brightens,

echoes the sky, blue on the crest of a wave,
cloud-yellow the next. The circle of the forest

grows distinct. Sun tops the trees,     
full flooding the pond.


Narbara Swift BrauerBarbara Swift Brauer is a freelance writer living in San Geronimo, California. Her poems have appeared in journals and anthologies as well as in art exhibitions and installations. Her poetry collections At Ease in the Borrowed World (2013) and Rain, Like a Thief (2019) were published by Sixteen Rivers Press. With portrait artist Jackie Kirk, she is coauthor of the nonfiction book, Witness: The Artist’s Vision in “The Face of AIDS” (Pomegranate Artbooks, 1996).



Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update co-editor

Posted by: wordrunner | September 1, 2019

September 1, 2019

Dear Literary Folk,

Geri DigiornoSonoma County Poet Laureate Emerita Geri Digiorno is celebrating her recent move with a grand book sale. Please help support one of Sonoma County’s literary treasures by calling her daughter, Michelle Baynes, to learn how you can purchase books from Geri’s extensive art and literary collection. 707 326 3773

Reading at Pepperwood Preserve Saturday, September 7
Sonoma County Poet Laureate Maya Khosla will host a reading featuring three Sonoma-based poets: Forrest Gander, winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize, Greg Mahrer and Kathleen Winter. The reading will begin at 4 PM at the Preserve’s Dwight Center at Pepperwood Preserve.


Many of you know about Maya’s Legacy Project, and this reading will be part of the series. Feel free to arrive a few minutes early to enjoy the view and the refreshments. The Dwight Center is surrounded by grasslands, oak woodlands and conifers that have experienced phenomenal regeneration since the 2017 fires.

Maya will also be reading at Aqus Café with Camille Norton on Monday, September 2 at 6:16 PM, and on Saturday, September 14, at 2:00 PM, she will conduct poetry writing exercises, share writing tools, and read from her work. Northwest Santa Rosa Library, 150 Coddingtown Ctr., Santa Rosa.

Reading Series at Penngrove Market
On Sunday, September 8, 8:00 PM, check out the Penngrove Market Reading Series with featured readers Tom Walsh, Sheila Bare, and Claire Hennessy. Open mic to follow. Anyone can sign up for the open mic upon arrival, and as many people will read as time allows. Please limit your reading to five minutes. All genres welcome.Location: 10070 Main Street, Penngrove.

Marianne RogoffExploring Narrative Medicine
Starting on September 10, and running for 4 consecutive Tuesdays, Marianne Rogoff will present “Writing to Release: Narrative Medicine.” Workshops will be held at 6-7:30 p.m Petaluma Arts Center, 230 Lakeville Street, Petaluma. See Workshops page for details.

Printing, Print Making, and Book Art
This month, three workshops will offer writers a chance to learn how to bring words and visual design together, as well as how to present words as art. The first of these is on Saturday, September 14, 1:00-5:00 p.m. Letterpress Fundamentals, With Eric Johnson (Iota Press). North Bay Letterpress Arts, 925-D Gravenstein Hwy South, Sebastopol. The second is on Saturday, September 28, 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Monoprinting: Lasting Impressions, with Jami Taback. Monoprints incorporate craft(wo)manship, painting and printmaking. And the third is on Sunday, September 29, 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. The Portfolio Album, with Derek Bacchus. If you’d like to make a beautiful book that allows you to showcase individual pieces of art, or a collection of photographs, this portfolio album is the perfect way to instantly assemble your work — the album’s unique spine pockets allow you to slip in your work with ease.

Find out more about these workshops on the calendar page.

GoFundMe for the Petaluma Poetry Walk
Petaluma Poetry WalkThe Annual Petaluma Poetry Walk is coming up on Sunday, September 15 with a great line-up of venues and readers, including many Sonoma County folk: Forrest Gander, Maya Khosla, Iris Dunkle, Bill Greenwood, Barbara Quick, Phyllis Meshulam, Raphael Block, and many more! For the complete list of the day’s readers, times, and locations, visit the Walk’s website

While you’re there, consider making a donation to help support the Poetry Walk by visiting the GoFundMe Campaign or by mailing a check or money order to: P.O. Box 526, Petaluma, CA 94953. 

Special thanks to Kevin Pryne for setting up the GoFundMe account, and to The Sitting Room, which has generously offered to be the nonprofit sponsor for this fundraising campaign.


“Holding Hands in the Dark”: 100 Thousand Poets for Change Reading September 29
(Feature provided by Susan Lamont)

This year is the 9th annual 100 Thousand Poets for Change reading. This year’s theme – my theme, there is no international theme – is “Holding Hands in the Dark” —the value of community and the sharing of our artistic gifts in dark times. As a friend says, we’re active in the struggle to preserve life on Earth, but whether we succeed or fail, let’s rise or fall holding hands. We need each other.

This year’s reading will be on Sunday, September 29th, 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. Like last year’s reading, it will be held in my backyard (2214 Creekside Rd.) in Santa Rosa with light refreshments (contributions welcome). Last year we had a lovely, relaxed sharing and such an experience feels important in times like these.

If you would like to read (poem, story, nonfiction) — your work or someone else’s — play a piece of music or display a piece of artwork, just let me know. I’ll let folks know what their allotted reading time is once I know how many readers there are. I am hoping to record the event.


Calls for Submission
My co-editor, Jo-Anne Rosen, maintains our “Calls for Submission” page on the Literary Update, which is quite extensive. I encourage you to check it out. If you have a call for submissions or a contest of interest to Sonoma County writers, send it to

Here are three I recommend this month:


Poem for September






September Tomatoes

by Karina Borowicz

The whiskey stink of rot has settled
in the garden, and a burst of fruit flies rises
when I touch the dying tomato plants.
Still, the claws of tiny yellow blossoms
flail in the air as I pull the vines up by the roots
and toss them in the compost.
It feels cruel. Something in me isn’t ready
to let go of summer so easily. To destroy
what I’ve carefully cultivated all these months.
Those pale flowers might still have time to fruit.
My great-grandmother sang with the girls of her village
as they pulled the flax. Songs so old
and so tied to the season that the very sound
seemed to turn the weather.

Karina BorowiczKarina Borowicz was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. She earned a BA in history and Russian from the University of Massachusetts and an MFA from the University of New Hampshire. Borowicz spent five years teaching English in Russia and Lithuania, and has translated poetry from Russian and French. Her first collection of poetry, The Bees Are Waiting (2012), won the Marick Press Poetry Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Poetry, the First Horizon Award, and was named a Must-Read by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. Her second book, Proof (2014), won the Codhill Poetry Award and was a finalist for the National Poetry Series and the Nightboat Press Poetry Prize. Borowicz lives with her family in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts.


Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-editor

Posted by: wordrunner | August 1, 2019

August 1, 2019

Dear Literary Folk,

I’m writing from Saint Helena, home of the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference. I’m here attending the workshop on literary translation, led by Howard Norman.

I first attended the Napa Conference way back in the early 80s, when it was a poetry conference (the fiction week was added later, then the two weeks combined). The director was Dave Evans, and the first years of the conference were held on the Napa Campus. I was a young poet, still in graduate school with a six-month-old baby and no publications to my name. The conference introduced me to fellow poets who would eventually become members of a quarterly writing group and the founders of Sixteen Rivers Press. My first teachers at Napa were Robert Hass and Carolyn Forché (see if you can recognize them in the photo below).

Napa Valley Conf early daysFrom the get-go, Evans insisted on the egalitarian practice of faculty and participants producing new work and workshopping only poems written during the conference week. This was pretty radical in the early days of writing conferences. Participants put their names in a hat for the opportunity to read their work along with the faculty poets. It was a wild and wonderful ride! I returned at least two more times during the 80s, and was invited back for the conference’s publication panels twice; this year was my first time back as a participant-writer since those early years.

I’ve already seen many Sonoma County literary folk here for craft talks or readings throughout the week. Friday morning is the final day of the conference, but if the update gets to you in time, you can join in for the Thursday afternoon craft lecture and the evening reading. The craft lecture starts at 1:30 PM. Fiction faculty Julie Orringer’s talk is called “The Crossroads of Circumstance: Why Setting Matters.” Lectures are $25 or $15 for students. The evening’s reading features Howard Norman along with participant readers. The reception is at 6 PM, reading at 6:30 at the Saint Helena Campus of Napa Valley College. Readings are $20, free for students. Location: 1088 College Ave, St Helena.

Some of the highlights of the week so far include a reading by Jane Hirshfield and Lan Samantha Chang, deep in the grotto theater at Clos Pegase Winery; an introduction to CD Wright’s documentary poetry, presented by Forrest Gander—intellectually fascinating and emotionally charged; the unexpected conversations over breakfast and lunch; and a sunset reading by Eavan Boland and Julie Orringer in the rose garden at Mondavi. My translation partner John Johnson and I have made the acquaintance of Katherine Lim who is a fiction writer working on a novel about a fictional “lost year” in the life of Grace Kelly.

Petaluma poet (and this year’s Pulitzer Prize winner) Forrest Gander is on the faculty, and Sonoma County poet laureate emerita Iris Dunkle is part of the staff here at the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference. Kudos to her and all the folk who make this rich festival of literary arts possible.

Go Fund Petaluma Poetry Walk
Petaluma Poetry WalkSpeaking of rich literary festivals, last month’s update included the invitation to the literary community to support the annual Petaluma Poetry Walk. If you missed the announcement last month, here’s another opportunity to help out. The Sitting Room has extended its non-profit status to facilitate the GoFundMe campaign, so your contribution to them will go directly to the Poetry Walk: You may also mail a check to PO Box 526, Petaluma, CA 94952-0526. The 2019 Walk is on September 15, and begins at 11 a.m. at the Hotel Petaluma. To see the full line-up of poets and musicians, visit

Novato Copperfield’s New Writing Group with Jean Stumpf
You all know about Marlene Cullen and Susan Bono’s The Write Spot: Jumpstart Writing Workshops at the Petaluma Copperfield’s. Now Copperfield’s in Novato is offering a Writer’s Circle on the second Tuesday of the month at 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM in August and September.

The “Time for Your Stories” Writer’s Circle is a writer’s group which provides a space to inspire and support beginning and seasoned writers. Per Jean Stumpf: We use timed prompts to help you to get your ideas flowing and your pen moving. The prompt could be a word, a phrase, a poem, an excerpt from a book, an object, or a picture. When writing in this free-style manner, you can write whatever you want: truth, fiction, or memoir. This process helps you explore your first thoughts, and then put them into words on the page. We write for 15-20 minutes on each prompt. The emphasis is writing down your first thoughts and on the story you want to tell. This is not a class about the technical aspects or craft of writing. It is about generating ideas and getting started on your stories. Writers are given the opportunity to read one freewrite aloud to the group. Reading aloud enriches your writing experience. In order to maintain a nonjudgmental space for everyone, there is no feedback in this group except for clapping. $10 per session. Event Location: 999 Grant Ave, Novato

Turn Your Book into a Podcast?
Mark CokerCreating podcasts of our extensive collection of publications is an idea that my colleagues and I at Sixteen Rivers have been kicking around as a way to expand our audience and enhance our website. If this idea interests you, too, consider learning more at a workshop called “Podcasting for Authors : Turn Your Book into a Podcast.” This is a Redwood Writers Academy workshop and will be held at the Flamingo Hotel, 2777 Fourth Street, Santa Rosa. The presenter is Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, a free service that makes it easy to publish an ebook and get that book distributed to retailers and public libraries. You can find out more on the Calendar page, or visit Mark’s website:

More Highlights of the August Calendar

Redwood Writers at the Fair
RW will have a booth all 11 days of the Sonoma County Fair. Stop by the booth in the E.C. Kraft Building and meet the authors, buy a book and check out author, marketing and publishing services. The fair runs from Thursday, August 1 through Sunday, August 11, 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Why There Are Words presents “Wilderness” at Studio 333 in Sausalito. Journey into the wild with a thrilling night of readings from six accomplished authors on the theme of “Wilderness”: Daphne Kalotay, Kim Magowan, Valerie Nieman, Mike Smith, Alex Tilney, and Beth Winegarner. Thursday, August 8, 7:00 p.m.

Two Chances to Catch the Marin Poetry Center’s Marin Traveling Show
• Thursday, August 8, 7:00 p.m.: Nancy Cavers Dougherty, Donna Emerson, Patricia Nelson, Jeanne Fanning Santangelo and Susanne West read at the Novato Library, 1720 Novato Blvd., Novato.
• Tuesday, August 27, 7:00 p.m. Marin Poetry Center’s Marin Traveling Show: Sandra Anfang, Catharine Clark-Sayles, Susan Gunter, Marvin R. Hiemstra and Jeanne Rana read at Rebound Bookstore, 1611 4th St, San Rafael.

Northern California’s 30th Annual Two Autumns Reading
Sunday, August 25, 1:30-4:30 p.m. Featured readers, some from out of state, are Terry Ann Carter, Garry Gay, Jessica Malone Latham and Paul Miller. The commemorative chapbook will be available for purchase at the event. Location: 868 Kearny Street (North Beach area) in SF (public parking lot within 1 block).

Poem for August
Here’s a poem that Howard Norman read at the Napa Conference as part of his craft lecture on the epistolary relationship he had with W.S. Merwin. You can read Norman’s “On My 42-Year Correspondence with W. S. Merwin on Poetry Daily’s link to Lit Hub:

Variation on a Theme

Thank you my lifelong afternoon
late in this season of no age
thank you for my windows above the rivers
thank you for the true love you brought me to
when it was time at last and for words
that come out of silence and take me by surprise
and have carried me through the clear day
without once turning to look at me
thank you for friends and long echoes of them
and for those mistakes that were only mine
for the homesickness that guides the young plovers
from somewhere they loved before
they woke into it to another place
they loved before they ever saw it
thank you whole body and hand and eye
thank you for sights and moments known
only to me who will not see them again
except in my mindʻs eye where they have not changed
thank you for showing me the morning stars
and for the dogs who are guiding me

— W.S. Merwin, from his book The Moon Before Morning (Copper Canyon Press, 2014).
Copyright © 2014 by W. S. Merwin.


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | July 1, 2019

July 2019

Dear Literary Folk,

Terry is unable to prepare this month’s literary blog; she’s on vacation in Colorado visiting her five-month-old grandson, a totally wonderful excuse. Meanwhile, back on the Sonoma County literary scene, we have plenty to entertain us, too. Here are some highlights.

Hot Summer Nights at Copperfields
Redwood Writers Club and Copperfield’s Books are hosting a series of four readings by a total of 16 club authors on July 9, 16, 23 and 30, At At Copperfield’s Books, Montgomery Village, 775 Village Court, Santa Rosa. More details:

Writers Forum News
On July 18, Susan Bono will be conducting a Writers Forum workshop on Imperfection and the Art of Memoir. Perfection may be a recipe for happiness, but it would make for a terrible personal narrative. Memoir is all about imperfection, from our choice of subject matter to the way we portray ourselves as narrators. Explore with Susan how what you don’t know can help you. At Petaluma Copperfield’s (6:30 p.m.). Free. Details:

The Write Spot: MemoriesOn June 14, the Argus Courier reported that The Write Spot: Memories, edited by Writers Forum facilitator Marlene Cullen, was the number one bestselling book in Petaluma for the week of June 3-9, topping the Mueller Report. Congratulations, Marlene. Read about it here:

Sonoma County in Print
The Tubbs Fire – A Story of Survival and RecoveryAmong the books released in June 2019 is Robert Koslowsky’s The Tubbs Fire – A Story of Survival and Recovery. Koslowsky recounts his family’s harrowing escape from California’s most destructive wildfire and their traumatic experiences on the road to recovery. Insurance company barriers, government coercion and over-eager debris removal contractors, obstructionist political leaders, and excessive rebuilding regulations played a major role in their heart-wrenching decision to abandon their beloved Santa Rosa homestead. A tale of desperation and perseverance, The Tubbs Fire – A Story of Survival and Recovery, illuminates the setbacks and day-to-day triumphs on the Koslowsky family’s journey to recovery. More details at:

Go Fund Petaluma Poetry Walk
Petaluma Poetry WalkThe annual Petaluma Poetry Walk needs to raise funds to facilitate the event. The Sitting Room has generously stepped up to the plate by providing an umbrella of non-profit status to qualify the Walk for fundraising on GoFundMe. All you poetry lovers can step up, too, at: You may also mail a check to PO Box 526, Petaluma, CA 94952-0526. This year join the Walk on September 15, 11 a.m. at the Hotel Petaluma. Updates will be posted at:

More Poetry! More!
Friday, July 12,
 7:00 p.m. Poetry reading at Sebastapol Copperfield’s featuring Sonoma County Poet Laureate Maya Khosla. Drawing from personal history, ancestry, and explorations ranging from the Bay of Bengal to the Sierra Nevada, the Cascade Mountains, and beyond, Khosla takes readers of her book All the Fires of Wind and Light.into worlds that are among “the best-kept secrets of our forests.”Also reading will be Barbara Swift Brauer, author of Rain, Like A Thief,and Camille Norton, author of A Folio for the Dark. Copperfield’s, 138 Main Street, Sebastopol. More details:

5th Annual COME TO KNOW THE POETS—an afternoon reading on Saturday, July 27, 3:00 p.m. by poets Rebecca del Rio, Kristy Hellum, Pat Nolan, Larry Robinson and Vilma Olsvary Ginzberg, hosted by Sashana Proctor. Beautiful food and classical guitar. Monte Rio Community Center, $17 per person. Call Sashana Proctor for reservations/directions/questions: 707-632-5761.

Wishing you balmy summer days with beaucoup books!

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

Posted by: wordrunner | June 1, 2019

June 1, 2019

Dear Literary Folk,

Happy summer! I remember some years ago, I met a fellow writer newly arrived in Sonoma County, who asked me “Where are all the writers?” I was just then getting the Literary Update off the ground, and all I could think of as an answer is “Everywhere!” Take a look at our Sonoma County Writers Directory page, if you have any doubts. And if you aren’t listed there, send us a photo and bio, and how to find you, if you want to be found. E-mail to

I’ve gathered here a bit of the June news from around our creative county.

Petaluma Poet Forrest Gander wins the Pulitzer Prize
Forrest GanderBorn in the Mojave Desert in Barstow, California, Forrest Gander grew up in Virginia and spent significant years in San Francisco, Dolores Hidalgo, Mexico, Eureka Springs, AR, and Providence, RI. He married the poet C.D. Wright with whom he has a son, Brecht Wright Gander. Forrest Gander holds degrees in both geology and English literature and teaches at Brown. He is the author of eleven books of poems and two novels, plus multimedia collaborations and distinguished translations.

Be WithGander won the Pulitzer for his latest collection of poem, Be With, which includes a series of elegies on the loss of his wife and partner of more than thirty years, who died suddenly in her sleep in 2016; a long multilingual poem examining the syncretic geological and cultural history of the U.S. border with Mexico; and reflections on his mother dying of Alzheimer’s.

Dan Chiasson of the New Yorker writes of Be With, “It is a self-suturing wound, equal parts bridge and void.”

Here’s a link to Forrest’s website:

Looking ahead to the fall’s poetry events, Gander will be the featured reader at the Poesia de Recuerdo/Poetry of Remembrance Community Reading. Details about this will be in September’s Literary Update.

Congratulations to Maya Khosla and Happy Birthday to the Sitting Room!
Our Sonoma County Poet Laureate, Maya Khosla, has been awarded a California Humanities for All grant. Along with her previously awarded Creative Sonoma Grant, the Humanities for All funding  will help her continue her work taking students out into the field for writing, reading and recording sessions, and will also support the readings and events that are part of her Poet Laureate project.  Check out Maya’s Poet Laureate Page for details about how her project is unfolding.

Maya will also be a featured reader at the annual Sitting Room Birthday Party on Sunday, June 2, 2-5 PM.

Also reading will be Rosemary Manchester and Eloise Van Tassell. Plus conversation, creativity and cake. More details about the birthday party readings, workshops, book groups, and more at:

Remembering Linda Gregg
Linda GreggLast month, the Marin Poetry Center hosted a tribute to award-winning American poet Gregg’s life and work with poems and stories from poets and friends. Robert Hass, Brenda Hillman, Forrest Gander, Jane Hirshfield and other poets and friends.

Linda was raised in Marin County, went to Francis Drake high school, and earned her BA and an MA from San Francisco State University. Her books include In the Middle Distance (2006); All of It Singing: New and Selected Poems (2008), a Los Angeles Times Favorite Book of 2008 and winner of the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award; The Poets & Writers’ Jackson Prize; Things and Flesh (1999), finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Award for Poetry; Chosen by the Lion (1995); Sacraments of Desire (1992); Alma (1985); and Too Bright to See(1981).

Linda Gregg died on March 20, at the age of seventy-six.  I have selected a sample of her work for the June poem at the end of this post.

Rivertown Poets celebrates its Sixth Anniversary
On Monday, June 3, come out for a reading at Aqus Cafe (189 H Street in Petaluma). The featured readers are husband/wife duo of Chappell and Dave Holt. They’ll be breaking with our purely poetic tradition to offer a program of highly original music and spoken word.  The show gets underway at 6:15 p.m, and open mic follows the features. Come early for good seats and an open mic slot.

Book & Brews and Open Mic the Santa Rosa Central Library
Two events in June will turn the spotlight on our Central Library in downtown Santa Rosa. The first is Books & Brews, a fundraiser for the library system on Saturday, June 8, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. This is a chance to experience the Santa Rosa Central Library at night with a beer in hand. (And I’ll bet you haven’t done that before!) Play giant Jenga in the courtyard, test out the electric piano, take a spin on the blender bike. $75 ticket price includes entry to the event along with cider, beer, and appetizers.

And then on Saturday, June 15, 3:00-5:00 p.m., the library will kick off its Inaugural Open Mic at the Forum Room. Music, poetry, comedy, spoken word, and more. Refreshments and snacks will be provided. All ages welcome. Slots are 5-10 minutes long and space is limited, so please register in advance. An electric piano is available for performers.

Santa Rosa Central Library is located at 211 E St, Santa Rosa. Check the calendar page for details about how to sign up for these events.

Writing For Our Lives: Narrative/Poetic Medicine
Narrative /Poetic MedicinePicasso once famously said, “One day the sight of a painting will cure the pain of a toothache.” Well, maybe he didn’t say it—my Google search turned up nothing—and we all know what an unreliable narrator memory can be. But the idea of art having a curative effect is not new.

Now there is a formal study of this called Narrative /Poetic Medicine. I have been hearing about this from a physician friend who just earned her MA degree in this new field from Dominican.

Here’s what Dominican University’s Program says about Narrative Medicine.

The term “Narrative Medicine” typically applies to the inclusion of literary study as an integral part of the education of caregivers. In these programs, medical students, doctors, and other caregivers practice the art of attentive listening through the close reading of creative literature. Close reading trains caregivers to follow clues to a patient’s illness that may not have a physical symptom, to listen for subtexts and hear significant metaphors within the patient’s narrative. Close reading also helps to nurture the qualities of empathy and compassion, qualities that have traditionally been nurtured by the arts and humanities.

On Sunday, June 9, 3:00-5:00 p.m. Occidental Center for the Arts’ Book Launch Series will present Writing For Our Lives, An Anthology of Prose & Poetry by the Women’s Writing Group at the Forestville Wellness Center, embodying the concept of Narrative Medicine. OCA is located at 3850 Doris Murphy Court, Bohemian Hwy at Graton Rd. Check the calendar page for details.

Off the Page Readers Theater presents Borderlines
We often find ourselves on the brink of crossing over to …… a new plan, a new relationship, another town-state-country. What drives us there? What keeps us here? Explore with us what local writers have to say about this theme,in stories and poems: Laurel Aiona, Robin Beeman, Guy Biederman, Armando García Dávila, Jodi Hottel, James Howe, Phyllis Meshulam, Megan O’Hara, Sara Saulsbury, Lisa Shulman.

Borderlines has three performances. The first two are Friday June 28 and Saturday June 29, 8:00 p.m. at Copperfield’s Books, Montgomery Village, Santa Rosa. Tickets at the door: $15 general, $10 students. The third is on Sunday, June 30, 3:00 p.m. at Abacus, 101 South Main St, Sebastopol.

Redwood Writers—Crow: In the Light of Day, In the Dark of Night
CROW: In the Light of Day, In the Dark of NightRedwood Writers is proud to present its 2019 Poetry Anthology, enhanced by our local artists, which expresses the heart and talent of our community. Redwood Writers Poetry Anthology depicts the rich and varied aspects of life in Sonoma county. In addition, it has a special section devoted to five poets who received the Sonoma County Award of Merit distinction. We believe this anthology is truly something to crow about. Les Bernstein and Fran Claggett-Holland, editors; Christine McDonald, cover artist; interior art, Warren Bellows.

Check out more new Sonoma County publications on the Writers in Print page:


Poem for June
You can hear an audio of Linda Gregg reading this poem at


All that is uncared for.
Left alone in the stillness
in that pure silence married
to the stillness of nature.
A door off its hinges,
shade and shadows in an empty room.
Leaks for light. Raw where
the tin roof rusted through.
The rustle of weeds in their
different kinds of air in the mornings,
year after year.
A pecan tree, and the house
made out of mud bricks. Accurate
and unexpected beauty, rattling
and singing. If not to the sun,
then to nothing and to no one.

“Elegance” by Linda Gregg. Copyright 2008 by Linda Gregg. Reprinted from All of It Singing, Graywolf Press, 2006


Terry Ehret, co-editor
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update


Posted by: wordrunner | May 1, 2019

May 1, 2019

May 1, 2019

Dear Literary Folk,

April’s National Poetry Month was spectacular here in Sonoma County and beyond. The calendar page turns, and before we can catch our breath, it’s May. I read over the upcoming month’s events, but I really must direct you to that page to see for yourself the interesting array of workshops, readings, performances lined up for the weeks ahead.

I try to feature different programs and genre in each month’s posts. But if you think your particular genre has been underrepresented, you’re probably right! Send us your announcements! Jo-Anne and I promise to do our best to give each the spotlight.

I’ll start this month by giving a shout-out to all those Sonoma County folk who have recently published work and/or books. Check out our Sonoma County in Print page: And let us know when you have work in print to celebrate.

Three May Events that Bend/Blend the Genres

Patti Trimble’s Penelope Poems
Patti TrimblePenelopeA terrific example of multi-genre performance is coming up on Thursday evening—Patti Trimble’s The Penelope Poems: an old-new story told in spoken word, presented by Humanities West at the Commonwealth Club, San Francisco, Thursday, May 2 at 6 p.m. The text draws on the beautiful ancient epic, weaving themes of old history —heroes, women on islands, how literature creates us, death, and fidelity—into our impossible here and now. A two-person chorus adds comments by BCE and 21st- century thinkers. Musician Peter Whitehead plays compositions on home-built flutes, zither, and song. Julia Whitehead sings beautifully about Penelope’s bad dream, the Sirens, and love. Maya Khosla, Sonoma County Poet Laureate, adds her voice to the chorus! Details at:

treePoetry and the Spirit of Trees
Current Sonoma County Poet Laureate Maya Khosla and Poet Laureate Emerita Gwynn O’Gara will present their work Saturday, May 18, 2:00-3:00 p.m. in the studio of painter Corrine Haverinen, whose Asian-influenced work celebrates the calming spirit of trees. The event will include Mary Vaughan’s Bird Cut-Outs, and refreshments. In Santa Rosa’s SOFA district, Backstreet Studios, Studio E, 312 South A Street, Santa Rosa.

The Heart of the Goddess: Art, Myth, and Meditations
In May we might remember our own mothers, or be remembered as someone’s mother. Earth is our great mother, and holding the feminine divine sacred is a tradition that long predates the worship of male gods. On Sunday, May 19, 3:00-5:00 p.m. Occidental Center for the Arts’ Book Launch Series: Hallie Iglehart Austen’s The Heart of the Goddess: Art, Myth, and Meditations of the World’s Sacred Feminine. Readings, slide show, music, and guest, Joan Marler, archaeomythologist. Free event. OCA is at 3850 Doris Murphy Court, Bohemian Hwy at Graton Rd.

Sonoma Valley Authors FestivalSonoma Valley Authors Festival 2019
This weekend, May 2-5, The Lodge at Sonoma Renaissance Resort & Spa hosts authors from around the world will discuss their books, their lives, and a variety of topics and include fiction and non-fiction, biographies, history, politics, adventure, medicine, and science. For more information:

And on Saturday, May 4, 5:00-7:30 p.m., as part of the Sonoma Valley Authors Festival, Billy Collins, former U.S. Poet Laureate, and Jon Meacham, noted Presidential Biographer and Pulitzer Prize-winning author will be reading at Sonoma Plaza, West Spain & 1st Street West, Sonoma. The event is free!

Favorite Poems Community Reading
Last month in the April Post, Jodi Hottel invited the literary community to send her a poem you’d like to read or recite for the Favorite Poem Community Reading. This is a free event at Sebastapol Center for the Arts on Saturday, May 11, 2:00-4:00 p.m. If you’re one of the presenters, huzzah! If you’re a fan of poetry, come along and join the celebration. Refreshments will be served. 282 S. High Street, Sebastopol. Special thanks to Jodi for organizing this year’s event.

The Pointe Patrol and the Tubbs Fire
Here’s a new voice on the Literary Update scene: Earik Beann. On Friday, May 17, 7:00 p.m. Copperfield’s Books in Montgomery Village presents Earik Beann with his new book Pointe Patrol. During the October 2017 Tubbs Fire, the fire department was completely overwhelmed and had to let many houses burn rather than waste resources in trying to protect them. During this chaos, a vigilante fire force sneaked back into the mandatory evacuation zone. The “Pointe Patrol” saved their neighborhood, and this is their story.

City Lights PoetsNBLA Features Berrigan, Caples, and John Coletti
North Bay Letterpress Arts once again brings cutting edge poetry to the North Bay on Sunday, May 19, 7:00 p.m. Edmund Berrigan, author of More Gone (City Lights, 2019), Garrett Caples, editor of the Spotlight Poetry series at City Lights Books, and John Coletti, author of Deep Code will read their poems. North Bay Letterpress Arts, 925-D Gravenstein Hwy So., Sebastopol (next to Handline & behind Bee Kind).

How to Keep Readers on the Edge of Their Seats
I’ll admit, most poets don’t have the knack. It’s hard enough to get our characters to talk or walk across the room, which might take a couple of hundred pages. The real problem may be that poets don’t actually want their readers to turn the page. We’d rather them savor the sounds, the rhythms, the undercurrents, the innuendos. As Kenneth Koch wrote in his poem, “One Train May Hide Another”:

In a poem, one line may hide another line,
As at a crossing, one train may hide another train.
That is, if you are waiting to cross
The tracks, wait to do it for one moment at
Least after the first train is gone. And so when you read
Wait until you have read the next line—
Then it is safe to go on reading.

So when a poet (like me) wants to break the lyric spell and slip into narrative fiction, we often need to go to the experts. Lucky for you, Amanda McTigue and Jordan Rosenfeld are right here in Sonoma County this month. Whether you’re an experienced writer of fiction, a novice, or a visitor from another genre altogether, here are two workshops worth your time.

Amanda McTigueAmanda McTigue: Character Through Action / Character As Action
Amanda McTigue offers a workshop on what actors and directors can teach writers. $5, members; $10, nonmembers. Sunday, May 19, 2:00–4:30 p.m. Redwood Writers presents Flamingo Conference Resort & Spa, 2777 Fourth Street, Santa Rosa. Details at:

Jordan Rosenfeld How to Write a Page-Turner: Master the Art of Tension.
Jordan RosenfeldTension in novels is the heart of conflict, it keeps readers guessing, and characters on their toes. Join Jordan Rosenfeld, author of nine books, for a fun workshop on Saturday, May 25, 3:00 p.m. at Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma You don’t have to have a manuscript in progress to enjoy this workshop. Workshop + book = $21. Copperfield’s Books, 140 Kentucky Street, Petaluma.

There are more workshops on memoir and fiction you can check out on the Workshops page:


Poem for May

Cristinia AptowiczFor Mother’s Day, here is “My Mother Wants to Know if I’m Dead,” by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz.

My Mother Wants to Know if I’m Dead

ARE YOU DEAD? is the subject line of her email.
The text outlines the numerous ways she thinks
I could have died: slain by an axe-murderer, lifeless
on the side of a highway, choked to death by smoke
since I’m a city girl and likely didn’t realize you needed
to open the chimney flue before making a fire (and,
if I do happen to be alive, here’s a link to a YouTube
video on fireplace safety that I should watch). Mom
muses about the point of writing this email. If I am
already dead, which is what she suspects, I wouldn’t
be able to read it. And if I’m alive, what kind of daughter
am I not to write her own mother to let her know
that I’ve arrived at my fancy residency, safe and sound,
and then to immediately send pictures of everything,
like I promised her! If this was a crime show, she posits,
the detective might accuse her of sending this email
as a cover up for murder. How could she be the murderer,
if she wrote an email to her daughter asking if she was murdered?
her defense lawyers would argue at the trial. In fact,
now that she thinks of it, this email is the perfect alibi
for murdering me. And that is something I should
definitely keep in mind, if I don’t write her back
as soon as I have a free goddamn second to spare.

Copyright © 2018 by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz.
This poem originally appeared in How to Love the Empty Air (Write Bloody Publishing, 2018).


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update


Posted by: wordrunner | April 1, 2019

April 1, 2019

Literary Update Post for April 1, 2019

AWP 2019

I just got home Sunday afternoon from a 4-day gathering of the writing tribes, known as AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs).  This year’s event was in Portland. It was a kick to see so many Sonoma County folk there, as we passed each other going and coming from readings, workshops, panels, receptions, wandering the seemingly endless booths at the Book Fair, or waiting in line for a breakfast scone and latte at Citizen Baker.

As the conference wound to a close Saturday night, attendees began asking each other, “What was your favorite AWP moment?” The question bounced around among the writers on the light rail to the airport and on the morning flights out of Portland back to the Bay Area.

For some it was hearing Ilya Kaminski and Tess Gallagher, Jericho Brown, or Joy Harjo singing, chanting, drumming, and fluting her way through Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light; for others it was the wit and humor of the keynote speaker Carlson Whitehead, the tenderness of love poems in a time of despair; or a quiet moment away from the crowds, swapping life stories with a complete stranger. My favorite moment (among many) was watching Peter Elbow listening to writer after writer thank him for his Free-Writing technique, which taught so many of us to turn down the volume of the inner critic and fill our pages with words. When Elbow published Writing Without Teachers back in 1973, he gave many writing teachers like me a way to bridge creative and critical methods, and especially to help breathe life back into the expository academic essay. He’s not a literary superstar, but he’s the reason so many writers discovered their voice and word-joy.

Next year’s AWP will be in San Antonio, Texas. I’ll be there, with a book of translations to debut.

April is National Poetry Month!

National Poetry MonthThe Academy of American Poets inaugurated National Poetry Month in 1996 and since then, it has grown to be the largest literary celebration in the world. This year’s poster features artwork by a high school student: tenth grader Julia Wang from San Jose, California, who has won the inaugural National Poetry Month Poster Contest. It incorporates lines from the poem “An Old Story” by current U. S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith.

Here are a few things you might do to celebrate National Poetry Month:

Favorite Poem Community Reading, Saturday, May 11, 2 PM

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

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

Please send an email to Jodi Hottel at Include the subject “Favorite Poem Reading” in the subject heading. Send your name, phone # and email address, and submit your selection in either Word or a web link. Be sure to include the name of the author of the poem. There is no entry fee, but entries should be received no later than April 14.

This is our 16th annual event. The event is free, and refreshments will be served. Whether you submit a poem to share or not, we invite you to come to what is sure to be a wonderful celebration of the community’s love of language. SCA is at 282 S High St, Sebastopol.

The Role of the Arts in Regeneration after the Fires

The Press Democrat ran a front-page article in Sunday’s paper on the healing power of the arts in times of natural disaster. Our current Sonoma County Poet Laureate, Maya Khosla, is pictured there, along with visual artists and musicians. I know many artists and writers tragically lost their creative work to the flames, and the article spotlights some of these. But it also examines how art itself allows an expression of loss and grief that can be paralyzing until communicated. As Sonoma County poet Dana Gioia puts it, “The fires terrified everyone, and people are slightly ashamed of their deepest fears. What art does is pre-empt normal conversation and go right into our deepest psyches. It doesn’t have to ask permission. Songs, art, and stories all communicate things under the surface to this cross-section of society in ways that nothing else can.” If you missed the article, here’s the link:

 Dance Performance and Poetry Event,  April 6

Virginia Matthews, dancer and choreographer, presents dance works enriched by language in the forms of memoir, poetic prose and poetry.  She has collaborated with Sonoma County poets, Raphael Block and Kyle Matthews creating two group pieces responding to their poems, “Spring” and “Walkabout.”  The poets will be reading their works and are joined by Marin County poet, Carol Griffin and musician, David Field.  In addition to Ms. Matthews, guest artist Nancy Lyons will be performing a work as well. The dancers include Chinshu Huang, Amelie Huang-Chen Grahm, Chelley BonDurant, Liz McDonough and Kellye McKee.

The event is Saturday, April 6, 4-6 PM at Dance Palace Cultural and Community Center, 503 B Street, Point Reyes Station. $15.00 general, $10 students/seniors.

The Art of Crossing Genres: A Presentation by Iris Dunkle

Thursday, April 18, 6:30 p.m. Writers Forum presenter Iris Jamahl Dunkle will talk about research and the art of crossing genres. While researching Charmian Kittredge London, Dunkle discovered that encounters with these personal documents made her want to write poetry and so alongside her biography of Charmian, a manuscript of poems was produced. Dunkle will talk about how research can inspire both long biographical work and short lyric poems. Iris Jamahl Dunkle is the recent past Poet Laureate of Sonoma County. Free. Copperfield’s, 140 Kentucky St. Petaluma. Details:

Sonoma Valley Authors Festival May 3-5

Gather your family, select a seat or bring a picnic blanket to the historic Sonoma Plaza. Saturday, May 4, 5:00-7:30 p.m., Authors on the Plaza, will feature Billy Collins, former U.S. Poet Laureate, and Jon Meacham, noted Presidential Biographer and Pulitzer Prize-winning, bestselling author.

Location: Sonoma Plaza, West Spain & 1st Street West, Sonoma

For information about all the Festival events and authors, use this link:

Remembering W.S. Merwin

WS MerwinLast month, the poet, translator, and twice U.S. Poet Laureate W. S. Merwin died at the age of 91. Merwin has been an influence on several generations of writers. The Poetry Foundation Website offers a great sampler of Merwin’s poems, which he altered in form and style with each book. He wrote tender lyrics, myths and dream-tales in the fabulist style, experimented with the potency of white space/silence, and what rises to hold the poem’s meaning in the absence of punctuation. According to the PF biography of Merwin,  “For the entirety of his writing career, he explored a sense of wonder and celebrated the power of language, while serving as a staunch anti-war activist and advocate for the environment. A practicing Buddhist as well as a proponent of deep ecology, Merwin lived since the late 1970s on an old pineapple plantation in Hawaii which he has painstakingly restored to its original rainforest state.” Annika Neklason’s article “The Poet of Premature endings” is another great way to explore Merwin’s work, if you’re not familiar with it.

Poem for April
Merwin first published “Foghorn” in 1955, the year I was born. I discovered it in 1992 in a composition text I was using, and it has long been one of my favorites .


Surely that moan is not the thing
That men thought they were making, when they
Put it there, for their own necessities.
That throat does not call to anything human
But to something men had forgotten,
That stirs under fog. Who wounded that beast
Incurably, or from whose pasture
Was it lost, full grown, and time closed round it
With no way back? Who tethered its tongue
So that its voice could never come
To speak out in the light of clear day,
But only when the shifting blindness
Descends and is acknowledged among us,
As though from under a floor it is heard,
Or as though from behind a wall, always
Nearer than we had remembered? If it
Was we who gave tongue to this cry
What does it bespeak in us, repeating
And repeating, insisting on something
That we never meant? We only put it there
To give warning of something we dare not
Ignore, lest we should come upon it
Too suddenly, recognize it too late,
As our cries were swallowed up and all hands lost.

— W.S. Merwin, from The Drunk in the Furnace (Macmillan, 1960), also found in the National Book Award-winning Migration: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2004).


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | March 1, 2019

March 1, 2019

Dear Literary Folk,

Here is your Literary Update for March 1, 2019

Fire and Rain
Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of CaliforniaNavigating the wild rains and atmospheric rivers this past month has inspired me to give another shout-out to a timely anthology of poetry Fire and Rain, Ecopoetry of California, edited by Lucille Lang Day and Ruth Nolan. The collection includes so many fine poets, including local writers Iris Dunkle, Donna Emerson, Gail Entrekin, Catharine Lucas, Elizabeth Heron, and Barbara Quick.

About this collection, former California Poet Laureate Al Young wrote, “I went back to soulful, pristine, early James Taylor to make sure I was feeling the wet, cleansing urgency of Lucille Lang Day and Ruth Nolan’s burning anthology. Anthology, ecology, mythology, and all the ‘ologies’ boil down to four-letter words—sacred kissing cousins—love and life.”

Here’s a link if you’d like to order:

Al YoungSide Note: As many of you already know, Al Young suffered a serious stroke last weekend. Al’s son Michael posted the news on FaceBook, and has provided recent updates. Al has some paralysis, but is improving. Here’s what Jack Foley reported after visiting Al this week: “It was a very pleasant and heartening visit. Al was tired but very responsive and alert and even able to speak a little. . . . I told him I loved him but not to take that in the wrong way. He said, ‘I won’t.’ He maintained himself with the elegance which is always a part of his character.”

Kathleen Fraser (1935-2019)
Kathleen FraserSan Francisco poet, teacher, editor, and essayist Kathleen Fraser passed away on February 5. In the early ‘80s, I had the good fortune to study with Kathleen at San Francisco State; she was my thesis advisor, and sat on my orals committee where we shared a mutual love of the Italian poet Montale. Kathleen was also one of the first advisors of Sixteen Rivers Press twenty years ago. The first semester I studied with her, I showed her a traditional sonnet sequence I was working on. She read each carefully and thoughtfully, then turned to me and said, “Well, you can certainly write sonnets. Now what are you going to do?” Kathleen introduced me to the poetry of Jorie Graham, Mei-Mei Berssengrugge, Russell Edson, and Barbara Guest; she published my first essay on Gertrude Stein in Feminist Poetics, and another on the lyric in HOW(ever); and she taught me how to hear my own hesitant voice behind what she called “the shadow forms of patriarchal poetry.” She saw her work as “making textures and structures of poetry in the tentative region of the untried,” always looking for the news beyond the boundaries and ways to give language room to say more. The Poetry Foundation offers this tribute—a good introduction to Kathleen’s life and work, if you aren’t familiar with her:


Two Poetry and Music Collaborations

Dana GioiaPoet Meets Pianist: Poet Dana Gioia, former chairman of the NEA and California Poet Laureate, will perform in collaboration with renowned jazz pianist Helen Sung. The event is on Sunday, March 10, 4:00–6:00 p.m. The artists are donating their time and talents in support of Healdsburg Jazz, and the venue is the unique Geyserville home and sculpture gardens of the Voigt Family. $250 per person, tax deductible. More information at:

Ed Coletti will read from his full-length poetry collection Apollo Blue’s Harp And The Gods Of Song on Saturday March 16, 4:30-6:30 p.m. at SoCo Coffee, 1015 4th St., Santa Rosa. His grandson Justin Coletti will provide dynamite music with Steve Shain accompanying on bass. Ed’s book is his homage to and impressions of jazz, rock, classical, and blues music. More details and ordering info: Sonoma County Books in Print


Six Winning Plays
Off the Page Readers Theater presents five performances of the winning plays from the Redwood Writers short-play contest. There will be laughter, tears, love, divorce, and maybe a death or two! Playwrights include Samantha Alban, Laura McHale Holland, Paul McCormick, Harry Reid, Jean Wong, and Natasha Yim. Check the calendar page for details. Here are the dates and locations:

Friday, March 22, and Saturday, March 23, 7:30 p.m. At Copperfield’s Books, Montgomery Village, Santa Rosa.

Sunday, March 24, 3:00 p.m. At Abacus, 101 South Main Street, Sebastopol.

Sunday, March 31, 3:00 p.m.  At Church of the Oaks, Page and West Sierra Avenue, Cotati.


Poem for March

Here’s a poem for all our Literary Folk in the path of the floods, especially Guerneville, Sebastopol, and the Russian River area. The poet is Sonoma County’s former poet laureate, Mike Tuggle, from his collection The Motioning In (2014). Mike lived in Cazadero, so he knew a thing or two about rain. Mike passed away in June 2017.



I am standing here in the steady rain in the goat pen,
goat shit and mud up to my ankles,
my sweet pregnant does on the dry ledge beneath the overhang
looking at me as if I’m responsible.
They’ve had enough. Eighty-five inches already
and more here and coming and it’s almost the second week in June.
The greens I planted in late April are mildewing,
the tall stalks of garlic have become flaccid and pale;
even the yellow warbler who sings his heart out every spring
has lost his enthusiasm.

The rain stops abruptly and a hopeful small gleam
of sunlight slips through the northwest,
the Pacific wind swells up and starts the taller firs
singing and swaying and for a moment the sun reaches out
and pours down.

In the flush of sudden exhilaration
I remember Diane Schuur, the blind jazz singer and pianist
literally singing the sun out several years ago
at the jazz festival.
fog and clouds had hung all morning over the celebrants
at the river, a steady drizzle.
As Diane sang those sad love songs and rousing blues
she made us forget about the weather.
and on the final line of her closing number,
“A Foggy Day in London Town,” the clouds began to part
and the sun broke through, right on its heavenly cue:
“Was a foggy foggy day the sun was shining everywhere.”

Looking up expectantly, I watch the clouds swallowing the sun,
rain whispers across my face.
Mariah, the boss goat, honks at me.
Six long, curved Nubian faces look out hopefully,
fixing me in their encouraging stare.
Come on, man, you can do it! Where’s your song?

Knowing my limitations
and lacking the grace of ritual
or prayer, I raise my arms
to the heavens
and make the ultimate
futile, human gesture:

“God damn it to hell, I’ve had enough!
My goats have had enough
and the ground won’t hold anymore!
Bring back the sun!”

The answer is rain so hard it hurts,
pouring in the abruptly stilled air straight down,
as if to pound me into the ground or drown me.

— Mike Tuggle


Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-editor

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