Posted by: wordrunner | March 2, 2017

March 1, 2017

Dear Literary Folk,

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

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

For a new anthology, Sixteen Rivers Press is seeking unpublished poems that respond to the cultural, moral, and political rifts that now divide our country: poems of resistance and resilience, witness and vision,that embody what it means to be a citizen in a time when our democracy is threatened.

Poets are encouraged to interpret this call broadly. We welcome voices raised in passion and in praise, whether lyrical, philosophical, visionary, or personal. Because we hope to create a wide-ranging conversation among the poems, this anthology will combine submitted contemporary work with previously published poems from other periods of unrest and upheaval.

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 Submit 1 to 3 unpublished poems, totaling no more than 3 pages, either online by Submittable or by regular mail.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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

DIESEL, A Bookstore
5433 College Avenue
Oakland, CA 94618

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

The Albatross

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

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

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

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

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-Editor

Posted by: wordrunner | February 1, 2017

February 1, 2017

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


Dear Literary Folk,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Literary Highlights

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

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

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

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

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

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

February’s Poem:
Wendell BerryEnemies
By Wendell Berry

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

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

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

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

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

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


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | January 2, 2017

January 2, 2017

Dear Literary Folk,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good Bones

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


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | December 1, 2016

December 1, 2016

Dear Literary Folk,

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

Send Us Your Thoughts

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

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

Joining Voices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poem for December

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

Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-Editor


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

Trump Tower, Las Vegas
Genesis 11

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

Posted by: wordrunner | November 1, 2016

November 1, 2016

Dear Literary Folk,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Poem for November

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

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

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

Terry Ehret
co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | October 2, 2016

October 1, 2016

Dear Literary Folk,

skeletons-day-of-deadOctober promises to be a great month for remembering our dead, celebrating our local living authors and artists, and stepping into unknown through science/speculative fiction in Sonoma County. We’ve always enjoyed a vibrant literary calendar of short story, novel, and poetry, but I am happy to give a special shout-out this month for the genre that explores what isn’t, but might be—the subjunctive at its most imaginative.

Celebrating the Blended Worlds of Science and Fiction
sci-fi-imageAt the Sitting Room, on Saturday, October 8, Jean Hegland and Susan M. Gaines, founding director of the Fiction Meets Science Program at the University of Bremen, talk together about their common interest in a recent evolution of fiction about science and scientists. The conversation, from 2-4 PM, will be facilitated by Raye Lynn Thomas. Susan and Jean will tell us about some of their favorites of the many novels in that category that are written by women and/or that focus on female scientists. For more information, phone 795-9028, or visit the website:

Mid-October, on Wednesday, October 19, Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma hosts “Brave New Worlds,” emerging and established sci-fi, speculative fiction, horror, and fantasy authors. The debut novella by Portland writer and musician Nathan Carson, Starr Creek, is set in 1986 rural Oregon, where strange occurrences unveil an alien world inhabiting the Oregon woods. The event begins at 7 PM at 140 Kentucky Street, Petaluma.

Then, at the end of the month, on Friday, October 28, Copperfield’s Books will host celebrate the book launch of local favorite and award-winning editor/publisher Ross Lockhart’s anthology, Eternal Frankenstein. The event is also at 7 PM, location: 140 Kentucky Street, Petaluma.

“Colors of Life”: El Día de los Muertos, Petaluma
day-of-dead-poster-2016This year’s month-long celebration of El Día de los Muertos opens this evening with an artist’s reception at the Petaluma Historical Library and Museum for the exhibition of the work of Carlos Villez. The reception is from 6-8 PM at 20 4th Street in Petaluma.

The opening ceremony will be on Sunday, October 2, 12-4 PM at the St. Vincent de Paul Church Plaza, 35 Liberty Street. There will be music, dance, food and a Health Fair. The celebration closes with a candlelight procession with giant puppets, starting at Water Street Bistro at the Petaluma River footbridge, ending at the Petaluma Historical Museum on Saturday October 29th, 6:00 – 10:00.

For those of you who don’t know about this tradition, 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 honored 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. Central to the celebration is the creation of ofrendas or altars, bearing pictures, lighted candles and traditional items including marigolds, bread, water fruit, favorite foods of deceased family members. The ofrenda honors the loved one who has died and welcomes them back for the celebration. 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.

For a schedule of the month’s events, visit their website on Facebook:

A Reading from Jean Hegland’s Still Time
Jean Hegland Still TimeLast month, Sonoma County celebrated with Jean Hegland the local premier of the film adaptation of her novel Into the Forest. Last year, Jean debuted her newest novel, Still Time. On Friday, October 7 at 7 PM, the Occidental Center for the Arts will host a special reading from Jean’s moving novel about memory, Shakespeare’s green worlds, and the gift of second chances. Location: 3850 Doris Murphy Way, Occidental.

Ellen Bass and W.S. DiPiero Read for Sixteen Rivers Benefit
Ellen BassSimone DiPieroYou are all cordially invited to join Sixteen Rivers Press at our annual fall benefit, this year featuring Ellen Bass and W.S. DiPiero. The date is Saturday, October 8, 3-6 PM. You’ll enjoy a beautiful fall afternoon at an elegant private home in Berkeley, gourmet refreshments, and the opportunity to hear two extraordinary poets in an intimate setting. Tickets are priced at four levels, beginning at $25. Proceeds will go to the support of Sixteen Rivers Press and the publication of our books. Tickets are available from Brown PaperTickets:

Love On! With 100 Thousand Poets for Change
100 Thousand Poets for Change invites you to be part of a celebration of love, called “Love! Aimer c’est du désordre, alors aimons! (Love is messy, so love on!),” and will take place on Friday, October 28. Susan Lamont, who has been emcee-ing and coordinating the 100 Thousand Poets for Change readings, writes this “featurette” about the event.

Rita HayworthThe next reading is Friday, October 28th and the theme is love. We’re emphasizing the complicated side of love  though you can do hearts and flowers, if you want. The theme is inspired by a mural on a wall in Montmartre, Paris, which features Rita Hayworth saying, “Aimer c’est du désordre, alors aimons!” (Love is messy, so love on!) I took a photo of it when I was there a few years ago. If you’d like to read and see your name on the flyer, just let me know. So far I have Dixon Wragg, Donna Emerson, Connie Madden, Michael Browne, Elaine Holtz and Ken Norton.

Music at this reading will be provided by Ralph Park, who sings songs of love in Italian, Russian and more. It was hearing him sing at The Redwood Café that inspired this theme.

This will be the last reading of the year. We’re considering switching to the 4th Sunday afternoon of the month beginning next year. January’s theme will be “Working Class Blues.”

And, for those of you who teach poetry, please offer this opportunity to your students and everyone else please share this with your poetry-loving friends.

Poem for October

by Rainer Maria Rilke
(translated by Robert Bly)

Autumn leafThe leaves are falling, falling as if from far up,
as if orchards were dying high in space.
Each leaf falls as if it were motioning “no.”

And tonight the heavy earth is falling
away from all other stars in loneliness.
We’re all falling. This hand here is falling.
And look at the other one. It’s in them all.
And yet there is Someone, whose hands
infinitely calm, are holding all this falling.

Die Blätter fallen, fallen wie von weit,
als welkten in den Himmeln ferne Gärten;
sie fallen mit verneinender Gebärde.
Und in den Nächten fällt die schwereErde
aus allen Sternen in die Einsamkeit.
Wir alle fallen. Diese Hand da fällt.
Und sieh dir andre an: es ist in allen.
Und doch ist Einer, welcher dieses Fallen
unendlich sanft in seinen Händen hält

Maria Rainer Rilke (September 11, 1902, Paris)


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | September 1, 2016

September 1, 2016

Dear Literary Folk,

Welcome to September, the new-year month for all students and academics, and for those who celebrate Rosh Hoshanna and Yon Kippur. Time to don the straw hats and white dresses one last time before Labor Day. And, of course, time to check the literary calendar. It always feels like the start of a new writing year when the Petaluma Poetry Walk rolls around. More about that below.

First, Jo-Anne and I send our hearty congratulations to local authors who have had their work published recently in books or journals. You can discover more on our Sonoma County in Print page ( Special thanks to Ed Coletti, who keeps our announcements of local writers publishing in literary journals up to date.

A tip of the hat to Charles Markee whose middle grade novel Maria’s Beads just took 2nd place as a junior fiction category book in the prestigious Colorado Independent Publisher’s Association (CIPA), 22nd annual EVVY literary contest.

Another hats-off to the Sitting Room, recently featured in the Argus Courier. If you missed it, here’s the link:

Shakespeare & Stein Walk Into a BarWe also send our congratulations to Sonoma County poet laureate emerita Katherine Hastings whose third collection, Shakespeare & Stein Walk Into a Bar (Spuyten Duyvil, NYC) will debut in a book launch at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. She will be joined by New York poet Lee Slonimsky reading from Consulting with the Swifts — New & Selected Poems and Sonoma County poet Sandra Anfang, author of Looking Glass Heart. The poets will be introduced by Sonoma County poet laureate Iris Jamahl Dunkle. All this happens on Saturday, September 24, 7:00 p.m.

On a sad note, Sonoma County has lost one of its own, poet, short story writer, and teacher Carol Wade Lundberg. Carol taught English and creative writing at Santa Rosa Junior College and in private workshops. She was a talented writer, a kind and thoughtful friend, and an inspiring presence in our literary community. She passed away on August 11 as the Perseid meteors were lighting up the sky. Originally from Wisconsin, Carol lived in Penngrove and authored several books of poetry including Secret Life (1993), Heresies of Love (2000), and most recently, Inciting Riot (2013). One of Carol’s award-winning poems is featured at the end of this post. Scroll down to read that.

In honor of Carol’s life and work, the monthly Rivertown Poets Reading Series in Petaluma will be dedicated to Carol. Series director Sandra Anfang invites us to “bring a poem of Carol’s for open mic, or say a few words about the gifts she leaves behind.” After the open mic, enjoy featured readings by Greg Mahrer and Kathleen Winter. The reading is on Monday, September 5th, 6:15 p.m. at the Aqus Cafe,189 H Street in Petaluma.

Rumi’s Caravan
Sebastopol poet Larry Robinson teams up with fellow poets Doug Von Koss, Barry and Maya Spector, Kay Crista, and Carol Bower Foote for Rumi’s Caravan on Saturday, September 10. Along with a team of musicians, these presenters create “A Poetic Converstion,” by reciting inspirational verse from around the world. Location: 390 27th Street, Oakland, $15 advance/$25 at the door, doors open 6:30 p.m., show 7:00. Details at

Into the Forest by Jean HeglandThe Film Adaptation of Into the Forest makes its Sonoma County Debut
Starting on Friday, September 16 and concluding on Thursday, September 22, there will be daily screenings of Patricia Rozema’s film adaptation of Jean Hegland’s novel, Into the Forest, at the Rialto Cinema, Sebastapol. Q&A conversations with Jean after the Saturday (9/17) 7:10 p.m. and Sunday (9/18) 1:15 p.m. shows.

21st Annual Petaluma Poetry Walk on Its Way
Petalulma Poetry Walk September 18, 2016Once again, downtown Petaluma will be host to a day of poetry readings on Sunday, September 18, starting at the Seed Bank at 11:00 a.m. and ending at Aqus Café from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Here’s a partial list of featured readers: Barbara Brauer, Nina Lindsay, Dave Seter, Ed Mycue, Cathryn Shea, Duane Big Eagle, Kevin Gunn, Juanita Martin, Daniel McKenzie, Al Young, A.D. Winans, Geri Digiorno, Rebecca Foust, Mike Tuggle, Iris Jamahl Dunkle, and more. Emcees include Terry Ehret, Sande Anfang, Carl Macki, Gwynn O’Gara, Phyllis Meshulam and David Magdalene. Venues and reading details at:

Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival
WaterShed.LOGO_21st Annual Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival features will be on Saturday, October 1, at Civic Center Park in downtown Berkeley, one block west from Berkeley BART. Readers include Jane Hirshfield, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Juliana Spahr, Pireeni Sundaralingam, Wes “Scoop” Nisker, and more; California Poets in the Schools students read led by poet-teachers John Oliver Simon and Maureen Hurley; more readings by poet/biologist Maya Khosla, poet Judy Halebsky, former Sonoma County Poet Laureates Katherine Hastings and Bill Vartnaw, and Nevada City eco-poet Chris Olander; We Are Nature Open Mic, (to read, enter lottery on site at noon); with hosts Richard Silberg and Kirk Lumpkin and music by The Barry Finnerty Trio.

Sixteen Rivers Annual Benefit Reading and Anniversary Party
Sixteen Rivers Press is holding its annual benefit on Saturday, October 8, 2016, 3:00-6:00 p.m., featuring poets Ellen Bass and W. S. Di Piero. Tickets are priced at four levels, beginning at $25, and proceeds will go to the support of Sixteen Rivers Press and the publication of our books. Tickets are available from Brown Paper Tickets:

Literary Tour and Writing Retreat in Tuscany, June 1-14
In June of 2017, I will lead a two-week literary travel and writing retreat in Tuscany. We’ll explore the city of Florence, using the art, architecture, landscape, and literary history of the city as an inspiration for writing. I plan to include day trips to Fiesole, Siena, San Gimignano, Assisi, as well as an overnight trip to Ravenna. Most days will begin with a writing exercise or will include plein-air writing out in the Tuscan landscape. Besides writing, travelers may choose from among a variety of activities: bike riding in Chianti, musical concerts, and a 3-day pass to the museums and galleries of Florence.

If you’d like more information, check out the website at


Poem for September

published by Calyx Press, Oregon

Eating History
by Carole Wade Lundberg

We know the stories:
The king is dead; long
live the king. And
farther back in time
—if not in evolution—
sons who slay fathers
feast on their hearts
hoping to ingest some
secret power. Each

woman in her secret
heart acknowledges
the corollary: Daughters
of ancient queens
drinking mother’s
power with her blood.

Tragic tales, stuff of
gothic novels, the worst
sort of magical thinking
but take that gothic shovel
and unearth the allegory:
Find yourself at the kitchen
table with your daughter;
note with sudden clarity
how she probes your thoughts,
your history, your motives
like a sleuth uncovering
the crime that is her

life (and which you
have allowed to occur
without clues)

Think also about those
endless conversations
she has had with her
sisters—out of your
hearing certainly, but
fully transcribed by
your intuition—

those conversations
in which they explore
with urgent cruelty
the separate truths
of their history
dissecting, digesting
with words the Mother,
the Father, Life
before singular
and stellar event
of their own births

feeding each other
bits of information
as if the outcome
of some crucial
epiphany depended
upon their ingesting
each scrap.

Remember how even now
when your sisters
come to visit—grey
haired as aging queens
—the litany of succession
begins: “Did you know?”
Did she tell you?”

devouring with each
mouthful of streusel
each bite of tuna
casserole, the particular
rag, bone, hank of hair
that placed us here.


Terry Ehret, co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | August 1, 2016

August 1, 2016

Dear Literary Folk,

Mammoth LakeI had the pleasure and the luxury of spending most of July away in the mountains at our little cabin on Serene Lakes, among the granite heights and lakes of Mammoth, at the fabulous art museums of LA, and messing around at Disneyland, Universal Studios, Griffith Observatory, and La Brea Tar Pits. I followed both conventions when I could, mostly stunned by the repeatedly offensive statements coming from Trump and those who try to sweep up the mess after him. You’d think the Democrats would find this election a cake-walk, and yet—well, we are living through strange times, indeed.

As I mentioned in last month’s post, this may be a good time for us to bring a vision of political consciousness and vigilant witness to what we write. To explore this, I plan to offer a workshop on Mondays this fall at the Sitting Room in Cotati, focusing on political poetry. By studying poems by Shelley, Yeats, Akhmatova, Levertov, Rich, and more, we’ll try to figure out how to speak our truth in a way that isn’t rhetorical and didactic—a difficult needle to thread. And on Fridays, we’ll continue our study of one of the world’s great political poems, La Divina Comedia of Dante, moving from Inferno to Purgatorio. There are still a few seats open in each workshop. You can find details on the workshop page, or you can contact me at if you’d like to get on the e-mail list.

For a preview of what we will be reading in the Political Poetry workshop, scroll down to the poem for August: “I Think It Rains,” by Wole Soyinka.

Grammar Lives!

best-grammar-millerMost of you know I’m a great fan of grammar and the beauty of its invisible architecture of the written and spoken word. I realize diagramming sentences is a long-lost art, and the distinction between lie and lay, who and whom may be hopelessly muddled. Fortunately, Arlene Miller will be offering a grammar workshop on Saturday, August 6, at 1:00 p.m. Miller is the best-selling author of The Best Little Grammar Book Ever! Her witty presentations make grammar and language fun and interesting as you learn to speak and write with confidence and avoid common mistakes. The workshop will be at 1:00 p.m. at Copperfield’s Books on 140 Kentucky Street, Petaluma. Details:

Tuggle and Patrascu at Aqus Café

mike-tuggle (1)Rebecca PatrascuOn Tuesday, August 9, 6:15 p.m. Rivertown Poets features Mike Tuggle, Sonoma County Poet Laureate Emeritus, and Rebecca Patrascu, past winner of The Pinch Literary Award. Open mic will follow the features, with a limit of three minutes per reader. Try to come a little earlier–the open mic list fills early. Usually the Rivertown Poets present on the first Monday of the month, so please note this chance of schedule. The café is open for food and beverages at 189 H Street in downtown Petaluma. Contact: Sande Anfang, Details:

Two Autumns Haiku Reading

In haiku tradition, autumn is the season of farewells, which is the premise of a poem by Shiki:
yuku ware ni todomaru nare ni aki futatsu

for me going
        for you staying—
        two autumns

At the close of the month, Sunday, August 28, the Haiku Poets of Northern California, will host their 27th Annual Two Autumns Reading, the longest running haiku reading series outside of Japan, featuring readings by four of the best haiku poets writing in English today: Robert Gilliland (Texas), June Hopper Hymas (San Jose), Michele Root-Bernstein (Michigan), and Michael Sheffield (Kentfield). A commemorative chapbook edited by Sebastopol poet Renée Owen, with cover art by Australian poet & sumi-e painter Ron Moss, will be available for purchase. Refreshments, networking & book sales available before and after the reading. The reading will be held from 1:00-4:00 p.m. at Fort Mason (room C-205) in San Francisco. For more information, check out the website:

Featured Writer this Month—Susan Hagen

hagen_susanEvery month, our calendar features writing workshops for women with Susan Hagen, whose focus is on writing as a healing art. One of these workshops caught my attention: “Help! I’ve Got a Book in Me and I Wanna Get it out!”  Susan will offer this practical, hands-on workshop on Saturday, August 13, 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. to help writers make progress on their stories or books, or simply to explore their lives through writing. Her goal is to help writers generate new material in a safe, supportive community of soulful, spiritual, like-hearted women. Beginning, experienced, and exploring writers of all genres are welcome. The cost is $57 in advance.

Susan Hagen is co-author of the award-winning post-9/11 book, Women at Ground Zero: Stories of Courage and Compassion. After publication in 2002, many of the women rescue workers featured in the book said that telling their stories was the beginning of their healing from the trauma of 9/11. Since then, Susan has made it her life’s work to help others give voice to the stories of their lives. As a writing mentor and coach, she tends the fire, spirit, and heart of the writer, incorporating meditation and earth-based practices into her workshops, retreats, and coaching services. As a published author, former newspaper reporter, and organizational journalist, Susan also offers editorial services for people, businesses, and organizations doing good work in the world.

If you’re interested in Susan’s workshops, or would like to know how to purchase her book, contact her at; or visit her website at

Poem for August

In this season of drought—both literally and figuratively—I offer you a poem by Wole Soyinka, a contemporary Nigerian writer and the first African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature (1986). A selection of his work appears in the anthology Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness, edited by Carolyn Forché (Norton 1993).

Forché includes  this information about Soyinka’s life:


Soyinka was arrested in 1967 for attempting to effect a compromise between the Hausa government of Nigeria and the rebelling Ibo leaders of the Biarfa secession movement, and was imprisoned for almost two years, one of which was spent in solitary confinement. As chair of literature at the University of Lagos, he was later accused of trying to seize the radio station and dismissed. He chose political exile from Nigeria, and spent time with the Royal Court Theatre in London and the Yale Repertory Theater in New Haven, Connecticut. He has periodically been visiting professor at the universities of Cambridge, Sheffield, and Yale. A fierce defender of personal freedom, he has written poetry, novels, autobiography, and essays with major themes of exile and return.

I Think It Rains

I think it rains
That tongues may loosen from the parch
Uncleave the roof-tips of the mouth, hang
Heavy with knowledge

I saw it raise
The sudden cloud, from ashes. Settles
They joined in a ring of grey; within,
The circling spirit

Oh, it must rain
These closures on the mind, binding us
In strange despairs, teachingPurity of sadness

And how it beats
Skeined transparencies on wings
Of our desires, searing dark longings
In cruel baptisms

Rain-reeds, practiced in
The grace of yielding, yet unbending
From afar, this your conjugation with my earth
Bares crouching rocks.


Terry Ehret
co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | July 1, 2016

July 1, 2016

Dear Literary Folk,

Coming Soon Trump Circle in HellIn the past weeks, we’ve lost so many in Orlando, Instanbul, and in places that aren’t highlighted in the headlines. We’ve watched Trump step up as the Republican’s presumptive nominee (God help us!), and the Democrats sitting down in protest on the floor of the House as the NRA continues to dictate our political agenda in Washington.

Now may seem a good time to bring a vision of political consciousness and vigilant witness to what we write. To explore this, I plan to offer a workshop on Mondays this fall at the Sitting Room in Cotati, focusing on political poetry. By studying poems by Shelley, Yeats, Akhmatova, Levertov, Rich, and more, we’ll try to figure out how to speak our truth in a way that isn’t rhetorical and didactic—a difficult needle to thread.

And on Fridays, we’ll continue our study of one of the world’s great political poems, La Divina Comedia of Dante, moving from Inferno to Purgatorio. Sign-ups for both will open later this month, but you can contact me at, if you’d like to get on the e-mail list.

Remembering Adelle Foley

AdelleFoleyTop of my news this month is the recent passing of Adelle Foley on June 27. Adelle was a poet, a social, neighborhood and arts activist, and, for the past twenty years, a member of the administration of AC Transit. She was half of a performance-poetry team, along with her husband Jack Foley; together they performed duets of Jack’s poems and Adelle’s haiku.

In 1989, she began to write poetry. Her chosen form was haiku, which she wrote in the traditional 5-7-5 syllables. One of her most memorable, “Learning to Shave: Father Teaching Son,” concerned her son, Sean, born in 1974: “A nick on the jaw / The razor’s edge of manhood / Along the bloodline.” Her books include Along the Bloodline and Fennel in the Rain—a collaboration with Jack. A final collection is forthcoming in 2016. Beat poet Michael McClure wrote, “Adelle Foley’s haikus show us humanity. Their vitality and imagination shine from her compassion; from seeing things as they truly are.”

In the eighties and nineties, I was experimenting with composing and performing poems for multiple voices, along with creative partners Susan Sibbet and Steve Gilmartin. This is how I came to know Adele and Jack. Adelle’s warmth, humor, and engaging smile made us feel like fellow conspirators in the art of the collaborative poem, and I will always be grateful for her inspiration.

Missing Gor Yaswen

gor-yaswenMany of you know that our literary community lost Gor Yaswen in March, and may have participated in the tributes to his life an work at Gaia’s Garden, where he had read just days before his death, at a memorial held in May in Petaluma, and most recently at Off the Page Readers Theater, where one of his poems was performed.

Gor died in a motorcycle crash on March 2 at the age of 78. “He was a poet, writer, artist, teacher, dancer, and lover of nature’s beauty. His prolific art reflected a deep study of his own life, unique vision of Spirit in nature and among people, and hopes for human possibility. RenewalHe leaves a multi-faceted community of writers, performers, students, and friends, who mourn the loss of his singular presence.”

I knew Gor initially from his monthly notices in the Literary Update. Later, I realized that he and I were colleagues at Santa Rosa Junior College, where he was an adjunct faculty member in the college’s Industrial and Trade Technology Program, and where we worked on union issues for adjuncts. He published many books and chapbooks over the years. You can find a sample of Gor’s prose, poems and drawings, at his blog: His art is available on

Some Highlights of Our July Events

In “Mining Metaphors,” you can explore the physical and psychological experience of writer’s block and other body-related metaphors in a writing and movement workshop facilitated by local writer and educator Sharon Bard. This will take place on Saturday, July 9, 10:00 a.m to 3:00 p.m., at The Sitting Room, 2025 Curtis Drive, Penngrove. Details on Workshops page.

Founder of Rivertown Poets, Sande Anfang is celebrating the publication of Looking Glass Heart at Aqus Cafe in Petaluma. Tuesday, July 12, 6:15 p.m. Sande will be reading from her book, along with Poet Laureate Emeritus Bill Vartnaw. Location: 189 H Street in downtown Petaluma. Details:

Two workshops explore the intersection of writing, psychology, character, and symbols. The first is on Saturday July 16, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.: A Study of Character Through the Enneagram of Personality for Writers & NonWriters with Clara Rosemarda.. See Workshops page for more details. The second is on Saturday, July 23, 9:00 a.m. -4:30 p.m. “Women Writing around the Medicine Wheel” with author & writing guide Susan Hagen. This is the first of a four-part series exploring the south/summer/child within us all. For more information, check out the website at

I’m heading off for a couple of weeks in the mountains where I’ll be out of cell phone and Internet access. Alas, I won’t be here to enjoy many of the July literary events. But I will leave you with a poem for the summer by Gor Yaswen.

Terry Ehret
co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update


by Gor Yaswen

This is what is,
for the artists
in greatest numbers:
we work on “air”,
as angels do,
and air must sustain us.
More fine than that;
we labor on
the very matrix
air but fills.
What we do
is invisible to most,
and unprovable to any.
We perform works
with no rewards
of outer nature;
go unthanked by those
whose “air” we charge
and are treated
as the angels;
un-seen nor believed.
Our lives may seem shambles,
as we shift about
in constant struggle
to maintain ourselves,
but once-a-while
we’re transcendent;
loft from the labor
of our living
toward Enormity,
and are brought back
with nothing won,
but all changed,
and as we thus dance
upon the horizon
of hills which confine
usual living,
we sometimes strike
noble silhouettes
of inspiration to others
against the fervent flush
of an awesome sky,
and cause some
to look up,
where they can see it:
this “air” we’ve altered.

Posted by: wordrunner | June 2, 2016

June 1, 2016

Dear literary folk,

June is the month of weddings, graduations, promotions, retirements, as well as the happy segue into summer. Time to read, relax, attend writing conferences and workshops, dust off that languishing manuscript. And, of course, what would summer be without the annual Sitting Room birthday party?

Sitting Room Birthday Party and a Chance to Ride The Waves

Each year, the Sitting Room invites writers to contribute to their annual publication, which is a collection of poems, stories, and essays on a designated theme. This year, the theme was “ Marriage in Literature and Life.” Part of the birthday celebration is a chance to hear selections from the publication shared in the delightful garden setting. A beautiful cake and other refreshments will be provided.

The birthday celebration is this Sunday, June 5, from 2-5 PM. The Sitting Room is located at 2025 Curtis Drive, Penngrove. If you’re coming, JJ Wilson and Karen Petersen ask that you park in the Church of Christ Church parking lot on the corner of Petaluma Hill Road and Curtis Drive.

The Sitting Room also hosts book discussion groups and writing workshops through the summer. On June 15 the discussion will be on Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. And then on June 25, starting at 9:30 AM, JJ Wilson will lead a day-long program called “How to Read The Waves.” For the full summer schedule and details on the “teasers” here, check the website link:

Off the Page Readers Theater

On Friday, June 3, Off the Page Readers Theater presents its new show, “Lost and Found,” featuring work by eleven local writers: Sandra Anfang, Susan Bono, Robert Feuer, Jodi Hottel, Jo-Anne Rosen, Jeff Savage, Susanna Solomon, Susan Starbird, Michelle Wing, Gor Yaswen, and Amanda Yskamp. At Mockingbird Books, 6932 Sebastopol Ave., Sebastopol. $10 at the door. Additional performances on June 10 in Sebastapol and June 11 in Cotati. See our calendar listings and Facebook page: Off the Page Readers Theater

June Featured Writer: Marlene Cullen

Last month, Jo-Anne and I included in our monthly post a book review of Iris Dunkle, our new poet laureate’s, recent publication. We don’t have a book review page, though the idea is intriguing. This prompted an e-mail from Marlene Cullen, letting us know that she has a column for book reviews on The Write Spot Blog. She says she is always looking for book reviews: “I’m not looking for summaries, rather why the person liked the book,” Marlene says. For more information, check out Marlene’s website at

Marlene was instrumental in getting the Sonoma County Literary Update launched, back in the early days of my term as poet laureate, and I’m always grateful for her ongoing contributions to our literary community.

Cullen-MarleneFor those of you who don’t know Marlene, here’s a snippet from her Wikipedia entry:

Marlene Cullen is a writing workshop facilitator, writing coach, editor and producer of Writers Forum, a monthly literary program. She is a writer of short stories, memoir, poetry and creative non-fiction. Her writing workshops provide essential elements for successful writing. Fulfilling her passion for writing and sharing with others, she has created unique writing environments such as Jumpstart, Writing and Art Collage Workshops and Revision Workshops, where participants often experience transformational changes. Marlene has led workshop discussions, edited anthologies, and has worked as conference supervisor.

Lend Poetry Flash a Hand

I’m not sure you know about Poetry Flash’s Kickstarter campaign, which was organized to overhaul the custom-built software supporting the website. If you can help out, any donation will be much appreciated by Joyce Jenkins, Richard Silberg, and all the dedicated staff and volunteers who keep the Flash flashing.

Here’s the Kickstarter link:

And if you haven’t visited the Poetry Flash website in a while, it’s definitely worth a look:

Northern California Book Awards

Top of the news you’ll find there are the winners of this year’s Northern California Book Awards. Essayist, novelist, poet, and playwright Susan Griffin received this year’s Fred Cody Award for Lifetime Achievement Often called an eco-feminist author, her time spent as a child in the High Sierras and along the coast of the Pacific Ocean shaped her awareness of the earth and ecology. Here are the winners in other categories:

NCBR Recognition Award
California’s Wild Edge: The Coast in Poetry, Prints, and History, Tom Killion with Gary Snyder, Heyday

NCBR Groundbreaker Award
The Dying Grass: A Novel of the Nez Perce War, William T. Vollmann, Viking

All This Life, Joshua Mohr, Soft Skull Press

General Nonfiction
The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government, David Talbot, Harper

Creative Nonfiction
Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World, Jane Hirshfield, Alfred A. Knopf

Times Beach, John Shoptaw, University of Notre Dame Press

Translation in Fiction
The Complete Stories, Clarice Lispector, translated from the Portuguese by Katrina Dodson, New Directions

Translation in Poetry
Marie de France, Marie de France, translated and edited from the Medieval French by Dorothy Gilbert, Norton Critical Editions

Children’s Literature, Younger Readers
In a Village By the Sea, Muon Van, illustrator April Chu, Creston Books

Children’s Literature, Older Readers
Delicate Monsters, Stephanie Kuehn, St. Martin’s Griffin

Translation Project Resumes!

translation-project-EhretMany of you know that Nancy Morales, John Johnson and I have been translating the poems of Mexican poet Ulalume Gonzales de Leon for about two years. We have presented our collaborative work at the Petaluma Poetry Walk, the Petaluma Arts Center, and the Sitting Room, so some of you have heard us read her enigmatic, playful poetry—her aerial dance of words. Last October, it looked as if we’d lost the translation rights, which set us back in our bid for translation grants, as well as our ongoing publications in journals and online.


Foto: Rodulfo Gea

But, miracle of miracles, Ulalume’s daughter contacted us, and last Saturday, we met her and her brother, along with other family members at Nicholson Ranch Winery. The winery’s owner, Deepak Gulrajani, graciously hosted the meeting. With the family’s support and enthusiasm, we’re back on the project! For the three of us, this is a dream come true. We look forward to bringing her poetry, short stories, and essays to you in a bilingual editions in the years ahead.


Poem for June

Richard WilburI’m fond of sonnets and the extraordinary variations poets can bring to this traditional 14-line poetic form. Here’s on I recently discovered, by the great Richard Wilbur.

Born in New York City in 1921, Richard Wilbur is the author of numerous books of poetry and the recipient of the Wallace Stevens Award.

June Light

Your voice, with clear location of June days,
Called me outside the window. You were there,
Light yet composed, as in the just soft stare
Of uncontested summer all things raise
Plainly their seeming into seamless air.

Then your love looked as simple and entire
As that picked pear you tossed me, and your face
As legible as pearskin’s fleck and trace,
Which promise always wine, by mottled fire
More fatal fleshed than ever human grace.

And your gay gift—Oh when I saw it fall
Into my hands, through all that naïve light,
It seemed as blessed with truth and new delight
As must have been the first great gift of all.


Terry Ehret
co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »