Posted by: wordrunner | March 1, 2018

March 2018

Dear Literary Folk,

Here’s the news for March!


Poetry Out Loud in Sonoma County

by Phyllis Meshulam

I know I said this last year, but this year actually was the 11th annual Poetry Out Loud (POL) Sonoma county-wide competition. If you’re not familiar with it, POL is a nationwide poetry recitation program for high school students. It starts in the classroom when students choose poems from an online anthology to memorize. It proceeds all the way to nationwide contests in Washington D.C. in April each year. The idea for the program came from Sonoma County’s Dana Gioia during his time as head of the National Endowment for the Arts. For the first time this year, our event took place at the Sonoma County Central Library, a very welcoming and upbeat venue. It happened on the evening of February 12.

Sarah ConcelloSarah Condello has represented Analy High School for three years in the county-wide Poetry Out Loud competition. This year she took away top honors at our local contest and she will represent Sonoma County on March 18 at the Crest Theater in Sacramento (4 pm) and on March 19 in the State Capitol Assembly Chamber where rounds 2 and 3 will take place, starting at 8:30 that morning. Sarah’s selected poems are “The Mortician in San Fancisco” by Randall Mann, “Where the Wild Things Go,” by D. Gilson, and “Epitaph” by Katherine Philips.

Diana Macias of Casa Grande High School was our runner-up, Mia Fleisher-de-Kozan of Santa Rosa High School came in 3rd, and Nayelli Rios of Roseland University Prep was 4th. There were twelve high schools participating.

Sarah writes of her experience, “Poetry Out Loud has fostered my growth from a shy, frightened Freshman to the confident person who I am today. I have vastly improved my speaking skills and read some beautiful poetry along the way.”


Watch for These March Calendar Events

There are several readings coming up this month I’d like to give a special shout-out for.

Ed CollettiDonna EmersonEd Colletti and Donna Emerson will be reading on Saturday, March 10, 1:30-3:30 p.m. at Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma. The reading will celebrate Ed’s new poems and Donna’s first full-length poetry book, The Place of Our Meeting. Hosted by Susan Bono. At 140 Kentucky Street, Petaluma. For more details, see:

Abigail Samoun Children’s Book Publishing Process Revealed on Thursday, March 15, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Writers Forum presents Abigail Samoun at Copperfield’s, 140 Kentucky St. Free. Details:

Kathleen WinterDean Radar



Poets Kathleen Winter, Dean Rader, and Phyllis Meshulam will be reading on Saturday, March 17, 7:00 p.m. as part of WordTemple Poetry Series at Sebastopol Center for the Arts, 282 S. High St., Sebastopol. Santa Rosa poet Greg Randall hostsDetails forthcoming at:

Know Me HereReading for the anthology Know Me Here on Saturday, March 24, 7:00 p.m. Copperfield’s Books in Novato The evening will be emceed by Terry Ehret. For those anthology poets who would like to participate in the reading, please contact Terry at Copperfield’s is located at 999 Grant Avenue in Novato.

Local Summer Writing Conferences

March is a great time to be thinking about attending a writing conference this summer. Luckily, we have two in neighboring Mendocino and Napa Counties that are terrific. I’ve attended both multiple times, both as a participant and a presenter, and can highly recommend the experience for writers at all stages in their careers.

Napa Valley Writers Conference facultyJuly 29-August 3 Napa Valley Writers Conference. Applications are open now through April 1, 2018.

Faculty for the 2018 conference include Camille Dungy, Brenda Hillman, Jane Mead, and Carl Phillips, and fiction writers Lan Samantha Chang, Lauren Groff, Mat Johnson, and Howard Norman. For application information and details, visit the website at

August 2-4  Mendocino Coast Writers’ Conference. This is a vibrant gathering that offers morning workshops in a wide range of genres, relevant to differing experience levels—from a dedicated emerging writers’ workshop to a juried-in master class. Afternoons are packed with craft seminars, pitch panels, one-on-one consultations, and open mics; and every evening offers an opportunity to enjoy the camaraderie and connection that make this conference, in the words of a 2016 participant, “life changing.” An add-on or stand-alone publishing bootcamp is offered the day after the conference for all those interested in learning more about the business-end of writing.

A range of scholarships are available to make the conference accessible to writers from diverse backgrounds and to reward writing of outstanding merit. Each scholarship is awarded on the basis of merit to a recipient who meets the eligibility criteria of that scholarship.

Conference faculty include Elizabeth Rosner, Susan Bono, Indigo Moor, Linda Joy Meyers, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Vanessa Hua, Shanthi Shekaran, Elizabeth McKenzie, and others. Registration opens March 1: For details, check out the website:

Poem for March

Lucille CliftonMarch is Women’s History Month and February was Black History Month. As I write this, straddling the two occasions, I offer this short poem by Lucille Clifton. To hear it in the poet’s own voice, click here:

Let there be new flowering

let there be new flowering
in the fields let the fields
turn mellow for the men
let the men keep tender
through the time let the time
be wrested from the war
let the war be won
let love be
at the end

* * *
“Let there be new flowering” from good woman: poems and a memoir 1969-1980 by Lucille Clifton. Copyright © 1987. Reprinted with the permission of BOA Editions, Ltd.

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update co-editor

Posted by: wordrunner | February 1, 2018

February 2018

Dear literary folk,

Poetry Out Loud Returns
Poetry Out LoudThe annual Poetry Out Loud County-wide competition returns this month on Monday, February 12 from 6-9 PM. The event this year will be in a new location: Forum Room, Central Library, 211 E. St., Santa Rosa. As in years past, the evening will feature high school students from across the county, and promises an engaging evening of timeless poetry and inspiring recitations. Check the County News page for details.

Fire-Relief Fundraiser at Bird and Beckett
Poet laureates at Bird and BeckettOn January 14, California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia joined four Sonoma County Poets Laureate—Gwynn O’Gara, Iris Dunkle, Bill Vartnaw, and myself—for a reading at Bird and Beckett Bookstore in San Francisco to raise funds for writers in our county who lost their homes in the October fires. The first money raised at last month’s event will go to Ed Colletti, Sally and Shane Weare, Lynne Trombetta, Karl Frederick, and Arthur Dawson. The laureate team is planning future readings, and we’d like to know of any writers we can add to our list. Please send their names and contact information to

The Super-Blood-Blue-Moon
blood moonI hope you all were able to catch the “Lunar Trifecta” yesterday morning. If January’s moon inspired you to write, please send us your poems, stories, or essays to include in next month’s update.

Remembering Three Great Writers
This past month we have lost three writers whose work has had a profound influence on the literary world, albeit in different ways: John Oliver Simon, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Nicanor Parra. It’s likely you’ve heard of LeGuin and may be familiar with her work. On the days following her death, there were many tributes to her life on air and in print, but quite possibly you aren’t as familiar with Simon and Parra. I’ll provide a brief (and somewhat personal) introduction to each, with links to discover more.

John Oliver SimonJohn Oliver Simon was one of the legendary poets of the Berkeley Sixties. A fifth-generation Californian born in New York City in 1942, he wrote his first poem under a full moon in 1956. While at Cal and after, he was active in the Free Speech Movement and in the famous struggle to liberate Berkeley’s People’s Park. As an educator, Simon has devoted himself to teaching children to write poetry. He was a teacher and board member with California Poets in the Schools, and in 2013, he was named the River of Words Teacher of the Year by former US Poet Laureate Robert Hass. Simon was also a noted translator specializing in contemporary Latin American poetry.

I knew John as a colleague in the California Poets in the Schools Program, and found his passion for translation a source of admiration and inspiration, especially since he came to this aspect of his poetic work at age 40. It reminds us all not to set aside what we love. Nurture it, and it will find a way into our lives at the right time.

John passed away on January 16 at the age of 75. His life and work will be celebrated in a memorial this Saturday, February 3, at 2 p.m. Location: Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave., Oarkland. To learn more about John Oliver Simon, check this link:

Ursula LaGuinAt the moment I learned about Ursula K. LeGuin’s death, I had just left my classroom where I’d been telling my students about her visionary writing and my great pleasure in having the chance to study with her. Like many of LeGuin’s readers and students, I felt the loss personally and deeply. Some of us who met her at Flight of the Mind on the banks of the wild MacKenzie in the Oregon Cascades remembered her whimsical humor, her measured wisdom, and her inspiration. But most of all, we felt a shared gratitude for the way she made us feel the work we were doing was important. LeGuin passed away on January 22. She was 88.

When JJ Wilson and Karen Petersen offered me the chance to present a one-day workshop on LeGuin last year, I couldn’t have been more delighted. Among the examples of her work I shared last March were her 2014 speech for the National Book Awards and her haunting short story “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” You can hear these in audio/videofiles at these links:

You can browse LeGuin’s website for samples of her novels, stories, essays, and poems, as well as links a host of other resources:

Nicanor Segundo Parra SandovalThough perhaps lesser known in the U.S., the third writer we have lost is the Chilean poet, mathematician, and physicist Nicanor Segundo Parra Sandoval. Parra, a contemporary of Pablo Neruda, Cesar Vallejo, and Gabriella Mistral, was the son of a schoolteacher and came from a family of performers, musicians, artists and writers. He taught theoretical physics and published dozens of books.  He described himself as an “anti-poet,” due to his distaste for standard poetic pomp, his colloquial style and tone, and his controversial political stance: he was disillusioned with Chile’s socialist president, Salvador Allende, but also took aim at the human rights abuses carried out by the rightist regime of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. His first collection, Poemas y Antipoemas (1954), written while he was studying cosmology at Oxford University, is now a classic of Latin American literature, one of the most influential Spanish poetry collections of the twentieth century. Last week, the New York Times posted an excellent article on Parra, which you can find at this link:

My own acquaintance with Parra’s work came indirectly from a poem by Carolyn Kizer, “October 1973,” which begins, “Last night I dreamed I ran through the streets of New York/Looking for you, Nicanor,” and concludes with these lines:

And the connection is broken, because I wake up,
in this white room, in this white silence,
in this backwater of silence
on this Isla Blanca:
Nicanor, Nicanor,
are you, too, silent under the earth,
Bother? Brother?

When I read this at the annual Poetry of Remembrance Community Reading a few years ago, confessing I couldn’t identify the person invoked by name, “Nicanor,” local poet Beatrice Lagos told me about this great writer whom she had known. Parra died on January 23 in Santiago de Chile, at the age of 103.

On that day, friend and poet Peggy Shumaker responded on her Facebook page with these simple words: “We lived in the time of Ursula LeGuin and Nicanor Parra.” I would add John Oliver Simon’s name to that list of great writers we were privileged to know in our time.

Poem for February
In memory of Ursula K. LeGuin, I’ve chosen this poem from her collection Finding My Elegy: New and Selected Poems 1960-2010 (Houghlin Mifflin Harcourt, 2012), and her essay “The Election, Lao Tsu, a Cup of Water,” posted on her website in the days after the 2016 election.

American Wars
By Ursula K. LeGuin

Like the topaz in the toad’s head
the comfort in the terrible histories
was up front, easy to find:
Once upon a time in a kingdom far away.

Even to the dreadful now of news
we listened comforted
by far time-zones, languages we didn’t speak,
the wide, forgetful oceans.

Today, no comfort but the jewel courage.
The war is ours, now, here, it is our republic
facing its own betraying terror.
And how we tell the story is forever after.

The Election, Lao Tzu, a Cup of Water

Americans have voted for a politics of fear, anger, and hatred, and those of us who oppose this politics are now trying to figure out how we can oppose it usefully. I want to defend my country, my republic. In the atmosphere of fear, anger, and hatred, opposition too easily becomes division, fixed enmity. I’m looking for a place to stand, or a way to go, where the behavior of those I oppose will not control my behavior.

Americans are given to naming enemies and declaring righteous war against them. Indians are the enemy, socialism is the enemy, cancer is the enemy, Jews are the enemy, Muslims are the enemy, sugar is the enemy. We don’t support education, we declare a war on illiteracy. We make war on drugs, war on Viet Nam, war on Iraq, war on obesity, war on terror, war on poverty. We see death, the terms on which we have life, as an enemy that must be defeated at all costs.

Defeat for the enemy, victory for us, aggression as the means to that end: this obsessive metaphor is used even by those who know that aggressive war offers no solution, and has no end but desolation.

The election of 2016 was one of the battles of the American Civil War. The Trump voters knew it, if we didn’t, and they won it. Their victory helps me see where my own thinking has been at fault.

I will try never to use the metaphor of war where it doesn’t belong, because I think it has come to shape our thinking and dominate our minds so that we tend to see the destructive force of aggression as the only way to meet any challenge. I want to find a better way.


My song for many years was We Shall Overcome. I will always love that song, what it says and the people who have sung it, with whom I marched singing. But I can’t march now, and I can’t sing it any longer.

My song is Ain’t Gonna Study War No More.

Though we’ve had some great scholars of peace, such as Martin Luther King, studying it is something Americans have done very little of.

The way of the warrior admits no positive alternatives to fighting, only negatives — inertia, passivity, surrender. Talk of “waging peace” is mere glibness, you can’t be aggressively peaceful. Reducing positive action to fighting against or fighting for, we have not looked at the possibility of other forms of action.

Like the people who marched to Selma, the people who are standing their ground at Standing Rock study, learn, and teach us the hard lessons of peace. They are not making war. They are resolutely non-violent. They are seeking a way out of the traps of anger, hatred, enmity. They are actively trying to get free, to be free, and by their freedom, free others as well.

Studying peace means in the first place unlearning the vocabulary of war, and that’s very difficult indeed. Isn’t it right to fight against injustice? Isn’t that what Selma and Standing Rock are — brave battles for justice?

I think not. Brave yes; battles no. Refusing to engage an aggressor on his terms, standing ground, holding firm, is not aggression — though the aggressive opponent will always declare that it is. Refusing to meet violence with violence is a powerful, positive act.

But that is paradoxical. It’s hard to see how not doing something can be more positive than doing something. When all the words we have to use are negative — inaction, nonviolence, refusal, resistance, evasion — it’s hard to see and keep in mind that the outcome of these so-called negatives is positive, while the outcome of the apparently positive act of making war is negative.

We confuse self-defense, the reaction to aggression, with aggression itself. Self-defense is a necessary and morally defensible reaction.

But defending a cause without fighting, without attacking, without aggression, is not a reaction. It is an action. It is an expression of power. It takes control.

Reaction is controlled by the power it reacts against. The people who at present claim to be conservatives aren’t conservatives at all, they are radical reactionaries. The position of the reactionary is not that of the agent, but that of the victim. The reactionary tends always toward paranoia, seeing himself as the obsessive object of vast malevolent forces and entities, fearing enemies everywhere, in anyone he doesn’t understand and can’t control, in every foreigner, in his own government.

Many contemporary Republicans have permanently assumed the position of victim, which is why their party has no positive agenda, and why they whine so much.

The choice to act, rather than react, breaks the paralysis of fear and the vicious circle of aggression, frees us go forward, onward.


We have glamorized the way of the warrior for millennia. We have identified it as the supreme test and example of courage, strength, duty, generosity, and manhood. If I turn from the way of the warrior, where am I to seek those qualities? What way have I to go?

Lao Tzu says: the way of water.

The weakest, most yielding thing in the world, as he calls it, water chooses the lowest path, not the high road. It gives way to anything harder than itself, offers no resistance, flows around obstacles, accepts whatever comes to it, lets itself be used and divided and defiled, yet continues to be itself and to go always in the direction it must go. The tides of the oceans obey the moon while the great currents of the open sea keep on their ways beneath. Water deeply at rest is yet always in motion; the stillest lake is constantly, invisibly transformed into vapor, rising in the air. A river can be dammed and diverted, yet its water is incompressible: it will not go where there is not room for it. A river can be so drained for human uses that it never reaches the sea, yet in all those bypaths and usages its water remains itself and pursues its course, flowing down and on, above ground or underground, breathing itself out into the air in evaporation, rising in mist, fog, cloud, returning to earth as rain, refilling the sea. Water doesn’t have only one way. It has infinite ways, it takes whatever way it can, it is utterly opportunistic, and all life on earth depends on this passive, yielding, uncertain, adaptable, changeable element.

The death way or the life way? The high road of the warrior, or the river road?


I know what I want. I want to live with courage, with compassion, in patience, in peace.

The way of the warrior fully admits only the first of these, and wholly denies the last.

The way of the water admits them all.

The flow of a river is a model for me of courage that can keep me going — carry me through the bad places, the bad times. A courage that is compliant by choice and uses force only when compelled, always seeking the best way, the easiest way, but if not finding any easy way still, always, going on.

The cup of water that gives itself to thirst is a model for me of the compassion that gives itself freely. Water is generous, tolerant, does not hold itself apart, lets itself be used by any need. Water goes, as Lao Tzu says, to the lowest places, vile places, accepts contamination, accepts foulness, and yet comes through again always as itself, pure, cleansed, and cleansing.

Running water and the sea are models for me of patience: their easy, steady obedience to necessity, to the pull of the moon in the sea-tides and the pull of the earth always downward; the immense power of that obedience.

I have no model for peace, only glimpses of it, metaphors for it, similes to what I cannot fully grasp and hold. Among them: a bowl of clear water. A boat drifting on a slow river. A lake among hills. The vast depths of the sea. A drop of water at the tip of a leaf. The sound of rain. The sound of a fountain. The bright dance of the water-spray from a garden hose, the scent of wet earth.

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update


P.S. A special request from Jo-Anne Rosen:
I plan to be away twice this year on month-long travels and am hoping someone in the literary community might volunteer to update the WordPress blog site and monthly MailChimp newsletter in my absence. This would include monitoring our email account (it’s on gmail) and posting announcements on the blog site. I’ll be glad to train some computer-savvy writer in your home or at an Internet cafe. I’ll likely be gone from last week in April to last week in May, and again in September/October. So there’s time to learn the process. And possibly share tasks in the future. Write to me at, if interested.

Posted by: wordrunner | January 2, 2018

January 2018

Dear Literary Folk,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Moon for Our Daughters

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

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

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

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

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


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

Posted by: wordrunner | December 1, 2017

December 2017

Dear Literary Folk,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poem for December

The Place
by Paul Zimmer

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

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

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | November 1, 2017

November 2017

Dear Literary Folk,

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

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

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

Location: 282 S. High Street, Sebastopol.

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

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

The following local writers have lost their homes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you have questions,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Poem for November

Santa Rosa Rising
by Tonya Ward Singer

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

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

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

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


Terry Ehret
co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: literaryfolk | October 18, 2017

Post for October 17, 2017

Dear Literary Folk,

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

Rising from the Ashes Reading

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

Redwood Writers Extends Its Anthology Deadline

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

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

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

With love,

Les Bernstein, Fran Claggett , and Linda Loveland Reid

Feathers on Fire/ Pirka v Ohni

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

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

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

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

Posted by: wordrunner | October 1, 2017

October 2017

Dear Literary Folk,

Who Will Be Sonoma County’s 10th Poet Laureate?
Nominations are open for Sonoma County’s 10th Poet Laureate. The Poet Laureate is a Sonoma County resident whose poetry manifests a high degree of excellence, who has produced a critically acclaimed body of work, and who has demonstrated a commitment to the literary arts in the County. The Poet Laureate often participates in official ceremonies and readings and will serve for two years (2018-2019).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few of the latest publications.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For submission guidelines, check this link:

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


by Phyllis Meshulam

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

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

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

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

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


Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-Editor

Posted by: wordrunner | September 1, 2017

September 2017

Dear Literary Folk,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Poem for September

Final Eclipse
by Fran Claggett

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

when the sun
during the hunt

the mastodon
found refuge
in the wide open

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

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

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

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

and you know
you are


Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-Editor


Posted by: wordrunner | August 1, 2017

August 2017

Dear Literary Folk,

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

About summer, John Koethe wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hawk Moon, Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1973

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-Editor

Posted by: wordrunner | July 2, 2017

July, 2017


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

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

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

Susan Kennedy wrote this about Mike’s passing:

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

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


A featurette by Iris Dunkle, Sonoma County Poet Laureate

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

The Motioning In
by Mike Tuggle

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

The Question
by Mike Tuggle

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


Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-editor


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