Posted by: wordrunner | July 1, 2019

July 2019

Dear Literary Folk,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you balmy summer days with beaucoup books!

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

Posted by: wordrunner | June 1, 2019

June 1, 2019

Dear Literary Folk,

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a link to Forrest’s website:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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


Posted by: wordrunner | May 1, 2019

May 1, 2019

May 1, 2019

Dear Literary Folk,

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

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

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

Three May Events that Bend/Blend the Genres

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Poem for May

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

My Mother Wants to Know if I’m Dead

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

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


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update


Posted by: wordrunner | April 1, 2019

April 1, 2019

Literary Update Post for April 1, 2019

AWP 2019

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

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

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

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

April is National Poetry Month!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Role of the Arts in Regeneration after the Fires

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

 Dance Performance and Poetry Event,  April 6

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

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

The Art of Crossing Genres: A Presentation by Iris Dunkle

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

Sonoma Valley Authors Festival May 3-5

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

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

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

Remembering W.S. Merwin

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

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


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

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


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | March 1, 2019

March 1, 2019

Dear Literary Folk,

Here is your Literary Update for March 1, 2019

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

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

Here’s a link if you’d like to order:

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

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


Two Poetry and Music Collaborations

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

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


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

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

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

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


Poem for March

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Mike Tuggle


Terry Ehret
Sonoma County Literary Update Co-editor

Posted by: wordrunner | February 1, 2019

February 2019

Dear Literary Folk,

My thanks to Jo-Anne Rosen for stepping in to write the January Literary Update post. My husband and I were busy hosting our annual New Year’s Poetry Brunch and then off to Denver to await the arrival of our grandson (baby Connor, born January 12).

Sometimes people wonder who ends up on the invitation list for the New Year’s Brunch. The answer is anyone who asks. If you’d like to be added to the e-mail list for next year’s New Year’s Poetry Brunch, send me a request at

Among those who have joined the gathering over the years is Sonoma County poet Clare Morris, who will be reading with Judy Bebelaar on Monday, February 4 in the Rivertown Poets Series at Aqus Cafe, 189 H Street in Petaluma. The reading begins at 6:15. Details about open mic are in the February Calendar of Events.

Women's March 2019, PetalumaOn arriving back in town from Denver, we were in time for our town’s first Women’s March—a diverse line-up of speakers and an impressive turnout. Women’s Marches were held throughout the county, the state, the nation, and even in countries around the world. In honor of the ongoing struggle for a more inclusive society, I’ve chosen a poem for this month by Audre Lorde. You’ll find it at the end of this post.

Remembering Mary Oliver (September 10, 1935 – January 17, 2019)
The Thursday Mary Oliver died, I brought one of her poems to my composition students at SRJC. The poem was “The Journey.” I figured they already knew “Wild Geese” and wanted to offer them a poem that might speak to the kinds of hard choices young people have to make as they set out tentatively on their life’s journey. I was surprised to discover that not a student had heard of Mary Oliver! How wonderful, I said. I get to introduce you to her poetry.

Mary OliverI have always appreciated Oliver as an inspirational poet with a gift for writing personally and intimately about nature since I first read her Pulitzer Prize winning American Primitive (1983). That same year at Centrum Writing Conference at Fort Worden, I saw her out early every morning walking alone. My friends and I invited her to join us for dinner one evening; she smiled shyly and declined. We could see how much she guarded her solitude and we respected that. That was way back in 1984. In the years after that, I read her poems that circulated in my writing groups, but it wasn’t until I found her wonderful prose poems in White Pine (1994)that Oliver’s work opened up for me. And although many of her fans wondered about the spiritual direction of her more recent work, I found the collection Thirst (2007) to be very brave. Contemporary poetry doesn’t often deal directly with religious questions or the wrestling with angels.

In a Facebook post, Marin poet Rebecca Foust recommended an essay on Mary Oliver by Catherine Pierce, who admits that she had not seriously read Oliver’s “accessible poems of praise” until a student asked her to recommend some poetry that was uplifting. Pierce reexamines her previous judgment of the value of Oliver’s work and commits “to incorporate more poems of wonder and solace into my teaching, and to work more consciously to show students that these subjects aren’t off-limits for writers.” Here’s a link to the article: On Mary Oliver and Resisting Poems of Gladness – The Millions

This past year, I’ve been teaching workshops at the Sitting Room which focus on contemporary American women poets. Some writers in the workshops have requested that we study Mary Oliver. After reading Pierce’s article (and another interesting one about what Oliver’s poetry means to a young lesbian writer), I decided to rearrange my syllabus to include Oliver’s work, along with Audre Lorde, Lucille Clifton, and Joy Harjo. I’m looking forward to the chance to discover some of her less famous poems and to reconsider the range of her work, her vision, and her voice.

Getting the Word Out About Your Work
Book Passage in Corte Madera will host a Literary Salon: How Writers Get the Word Out, with Linda Watanabe McFerrin in conversation with author Ann Steiner, Ph.D. This will be Monday, February 4, 7:00 p.m. Location: 51 Tamal Vista Dr. Corte Madera. Check the calendar page for details.

Sonoma County Poetry Out Loud, February 11
Sonoma County Poetry Out Loud contestantsTime again for the annual Poetry Out Loud Contest. Sonoma County high school students participate in a national recitation program, initiated by the National Endowment for the Arts. You’ll hear oral interpretations of great poems by students from Analy, Casa Grande, Creekside, El Molino, Elsie Allen, John Muir Charter, Maria Carrillo, Petaluma, Piner, Rancho Cotate, Roseland Collegiate Prep, Roseland University Prep, Santa Rosa, Sonoma Academy, and Windsor.

The county winner will advance to the state competition. There is no cost to the school or the students to participate. Poetry Out Loud is sponsored by NEA throughout the country, and in all of California by the California Arts Council and in Sonoma County by California Poets in the Schools, Creative Sonoma, Sonoma County Vintners Foundation, and Clover Sonoma.

This year’s event is on Monday, February 11, from 6:00 – 9:00 pm in the Forum Room, Central Library, 211 E. St., Santa Rosa. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Phyllis Meshulam, 707-486-7450.

Local Historian Michael Morey at Occidental Center for the Arts.
Michael MoreyIn honor of Black History Month: OCA Book Launch Series presents local historian Michael Morey’s Fagen: An African American Renegade in the Philippine-American War. In 1899, David Fagen, a Buffalo Soldier, gains fame as a Filipino revolutionary. The event is on Friday, February 15, 7:00 p.m. 3850 Doris Murphy Court, Bohemian Hwy at Graton Rd. See the calendar page for details.

An Afternoon with Barbara Henning and Maureen Owen
Sunday, March 3, at 3 PM, North Bay Letterpress Arts hosts nationally acclaimed poets Barbara Henning and Maureen Owen on the final leg of their cross country reading tour from NYC to the Bay Area. Come hear them read and relate their adventures at North Bay Literary Arts, 925-d Gravenstein Highway South Sebastopol, California (behind Bee Kind). The event is free but donations are gratefully encouraged.

Barbara Henning and Maureen Owen
Poem for February

Audre LordeFrom the House of Yemanjá
by Audre Lorde

My mother had two faces and a frying pot
where she cooked up her daughters
into girls
before she fixed our dinner.
My mother had two faces
and a broken pot
where she hid out a perfect daughter
who was not me
I am the sun and moon and forever hungry
for her eyes.

I bear two women upon my back
one dark and rich and hidden
in the ivory hungers of the other
pale as a witch
yet steady and familiar
brings me bread and terror
in my sleep
her breasts are huge exciting anchors
in the midnight storm.

All this has been
in my mother’s bed
time has no sense
I have no brothers
and my sisters are cruel.

Mother I need
mother I need
mother I need your blackness now
as the august earth needs rain.
I am

the sun and moon and forever hungry
the sharpened edge
where day and night shall meet
and not be

Audre Lorde, “From the House of Yemanjá” from The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde. Copyright © 1997 by Audre Lorde. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | January 2, 2019

January 2019

Dear literary folk,

Terry is traveling this holiday season, and I’m covering her beat this first month of 2019. Here’s a sampling of what we can look forward to on the literary front in January:

The Last Devadasi by Barbara BaerBarbara Baer’s new book The Last Devadas will be launched Sunday, January 13, 3:00 p.m. at Occidental Center for the Arts. Passionate and forbidden love clashes with tradition and caste in a changing India. Selected readings, Indian dance troupe performance, Q&A, book sales and signing. Exotic refreshments. Admission free, all donations gratefully accepted. Wine and beer for sale, refreshments by donation. OCA is located at 3850 Doris Murphy Court, Bohemian Hwy at Graton Rd. and is wheelchair accessible. For more info: 707-874-9392 or

Off the Page Readers TheaterOur local readers theater, Off the Page, will present their new show, “What Goes Around…” on Friday and SaturdayJanuary 18 and 19 (7:00 p.m.) at Copperfield’s Books in Santa Rosa, and on Sunday, January 20 (3:00 p.m.) at Abacus in Sebastapol. (See calendar for details.) Off the Page is a Sebastopol-based readers theater group dedicated to supporting the works of local writers and actors. Musical opening by Patrick Michael McCarty and the stories, plays and poems of these writers: David Beckman, Malena Eljumaily, Jeremy Mitchell, Peter Moller, Margo Perin, Laurie Reaume, Jo-Anne Rosen, Linda Saldaña, Lisa Shulman, and Bright Winn. Copperfield’s Books, 775 Village Court, Montgomery Village, Santa Rosa. Abacus is located at 101 S. Main St., Sebastopol. Tickets at the door: $15 general, $10 students.

Sunday January 20, 2:00-4:00 p.m. Fiction and Poetry Mixer at Sebastopol Center for the Arts, 282 High Street, Sebastopol. Ron Thomas will be featured reading from his recently published novel, I Want To Walk You Home. Devika Brandt, Donna Emerson, and Helen Heal will read poetry.

Sonoma County in Print: We were not notified of any new books being published in December, which is not unusual at end of year, but congratulations to several authors who were published in literary journals. See for details. Please do let us know when you’ve got a poem, story or book newly in print. And do check the Calls for Submission page for publishing opportunities.

Rites of PassagePetaluma-based Wordrunner eChapbooks will be considering fiction, memoir/CNF and poetry for the spring 2019 anthology, to be published in April 2018. The theme is Upheavals—any disruption or disturbance of the natural order of things. (Disclaimer: I publish this hybrid chapbook-literary journal, along with a few writer-colleagues, three times annually.) As always, we are looking for emotional complexity and clear, uncluttered writing, and we’d be very pleased to publish local authors. Readings are blind. Submissions are open January 1 to February 28, 2019. Authors are paid. We are proud of our 35 issues to date, some of which are also available in ebook format. Take a look at for top-notch writing, all of it free online. Guidelines and submission link are at

Wishing all of you a creative and joyous new year,

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

Posted by: wordrunner | December 1, 2018

December 2018

Dear Literary Folk,

On a River Winding Home
On a River Winding HomeFor at least 20 years, I’ve been enjoying the photography of Petaluma artist Scott Hess. Like a good poem, his photos often teach me to see what I’d otherwise overlook. Some of you may enjoy his work on Facebook, and if so, then you know that he has recently teamed up with writer John Sheehy to produce a fabulous collection of photos and stories about local landscape and history: On a River Winding Home. (

Dine with the Authors
I hope you’ll check out Scott’s Facebook page for this book and catch the opportunity to “Dine with the Authors” 6-8:30 p.m. on Monday, December 10 at Gaia’s Garden in Santa Rosa. Scott, John, along with Susanna Solomon, Alissa Hirshfeld-Flores, John Joseph O’Brien, and Kitty Wells, will be reading from their latest published books. You’ll need reservations, so check the calendar page for all the details.

Reverberations at Sebastopol Center for the Arts
Just a reminder that if you haven’t had the chance to view the art and poetry exhibit at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, you can catch the last two days of Reverberations: A Visual Conversation this weekend. This unique exhibit pairs over 40 works of art with original poems inspired by the art. Artists include Francis Bacon, Enrique Chagoya, Viola Frey, Robert McChesney, Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso, and many of the poets are from Sonoma County, including Katherine Hastings, Maya Khosla, Gwynn O’Gara, Barbara Hirschfeld, Nancy Dougherty, and Fran Claggett. The range of styles, both of the artists and the poets, is astonishing. The exhibit closes on December 2. Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday to 12 pm to 5 pm.

Make Art Not War
Women Artists Datebook/Syracuse Cultural Workers
One of my favorite publishers is a company called Syracuse Cultural Workers, a progressive publisher committed to peace, sustainability, social justice, feminism and multiculturalism. I like them for many reasons, but most of all, for the respectful way they treat their artists and writers.

Syracuse Cultural WorkersHere’s what the term “Cultural Workers” means to them: “First, that the task of creating culture in a society is not the work of an elite, highly-paid few—which has become the case in our mass-market society. . . . Second, that people who create culture are legitimate workers who deserve to be recognized and valued for their work, not ‘patronized.’ Third, that the process of creation is based in a desire to improve the lives of people not to just turn a profit. Fourth, that all of us, in some way, are capable of being cultural workers if we can only free ourselves from ‘I’m not talented’ paralysis that elitism and competition produce in our capitalist society.

I’ve been fortunate to have poems published in years past in their annual Women Artists Datebook, and so when I recently received their call for submissions for their 2020 datebook, I wanted to pass this along to the literary folk of Sonoma County.

They include in every edition up to 16 pieces of visual art and 15 pieces of poetry by ANY women (including LGBTQIAA). They pay their contributors for their work, unlike most poetry publications.

Here’s the link to find out more about Syracuse Cultural Workers and check their submission guidelines:

Fire and Rain at Iota Press
Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of CaliforniaThis Sunday, December 2, Iota Press in Sebastopol hosts a poetry reading with Iris Dunkle, Donna Emerson, Gail Entrekin, Catharine Lucas, Elizabeth Heron, and Barbara Quick, who will be reading their poems from the new anthology, Fire and Rain, Ecopoetry of California, edited by Lucille Lang Day and Ruth Nolan. The reading is 2:30-4:30 p.m. Iota Press is located at 925 Suite D, Gravenstein Highway.

Writing and Collage with Susan Hagen
Also on Sunday from 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., local writer Susan Hagen and collage artists Susanne Petermann will lead a workshop “Image and Word: Writing and Collage for Women,” a dynamic combination of collage-making and writing practice that opens a door to the inner life. All art materials are included. Check the calendar listing for details.

December Story-Telling Events
Sher Lianne Christian will host Story Time Open Mic at Hardcore Coffee in Sebastopol on Wednesday, December 5, 2:00-3:00 p.m. Bring a 5-minute story to share. Location: 81 Bloomfield Rd, on the corner of 116 and Bloomfield in Sebastopol. Details on the calendar page.

And on Wednesday, December 5, 7:30 p.m. West Side Stories Petaluma presents the GrandSlam at the Mystic Theatre, Petaluma, where you’ll hear eight months worth of winning tellers (plus three wild card tellers) join last year’s champ for an evening of amazing stories. Go to for your tickets.

The WIckham's Christmas at PemberlyDon’t Miss Marin Theater Company’s Christmas at Pemberly
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a theater aspiring to community goodwill, not to mention a dependable income stream, must be in want of a holiday show” (Celia Wren).

Two years ago, a friend took me to see Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberly, an original play by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but focusing on the younger sister and wallflower Mary Bennet. It was absolutely charming!

This year, MTC has a new Austen spin by the same authors: The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley. Whether you’re an Austen fan or not, you’ll have fun.

Poem for December
Here’s one of my favorite poems by Marin poet and former US Poet Laureate, Kay Ryan. It is a meditation on the etymology and connotations of the word “crib,” and finally a commentary on the Christian Nativity. Like many of Ryan’s poems, this one takes some twists you won’t expect.


From the Greek for
woven or plaited,
which quickly translated
to basket. Whence the verb
crib, which meant “to filch”
under cover of wicker
anything–some liquor,
a cutlet.
For we want to make off
with things that are not
our own. There is a pleasure
theft brings, a vitality
to the home.
Cribbed objects or answers
keep their guilty shimmer
forever, have you noticed?
Yet religions downplay this.
Note, for instance, in our
annual rehearsals of innocence,
the substitution of manger for crib
as if we ever deserved that baby,
or thought we did.

Crib,” by Kay Ryan, from Elephant Rocks, Grove Press, 1996.

Terry Ehret, Literary Update co-editor

Posted by: wordrunner | November 1, 2018

November 2018

Dear Literary Folk,

Tree of LifeLast night, we celebrated the Eve of All Hallows with Jack-o-lanterns and trick-or-treaters. Today, All Saints Day, gives way at sunset to the celebration of All Souls and El Día de los Muertos. Among the dead whose memory we hold precious are those gunned down in Pittsburgh. The irony of these deaths in a sanctuary called Tree of Life  makes the tragedy all that more poignant.

Think of them and all who have lost their lives as the shadows of hatred and violence continue to move across our nation. Our friend Penelope La Montagne, who passed away last March, once wrote, “Perhaps the only way to transfer a wee worm of hope to another human being is to go out of your way to do a kindness for another. A split second extension of heart to hand or voice.”

Poetry of Remembrance Community Reading
Communities throughout Sonoma County celebrate El Día de los Muertos, and one of my favorite gatherings is the annual Poetry of Remembrance Community Reading. Petaluma poet John Johnson organized this year’s reading, held at the Petaluma Campus of SRJC in the Multi-Cultural Center called Mi Casa/My House. Phyllis Meshulam of California Poets in the Schools brought two young poets to present their poems of remembrance, bringing the house to tears. We also heard readings from bilingual poet Beatriz Lagos, originally from Argentina; and bilingual poet and artist Katie Numi Usher, from Belize. Jodi Hottel spoke about Obon, the Buddhist tradition of honoring one’s ancestors, and demonstrated a simple folk dance from the Japanese tradition. And then it was the community’s turn to share their poems against the backdrop of candles, photos, and mementos on the altar. Thanks to all who helped create this intimate evening.

Katherine HastingsCelebrating Katherine Hastings and Word Temple
How lucky were we to have Katherine Hastings and the WordTemple Reading Series and Radio Show she created, directed, and nurtured for 15 years! On October 20, the literary community got the chance to thank Katherine when she returned briefly from her new home in Grand Island, New York. Jerry Fleming, Greg Randall, Jodi Hottel, Gwynn O’Gara, and a very appreciative audience of friends and fans gathered to pay tribute to Katherine’s many contributions, and then to hear her read. Thankfully, WordTemple will continue Katherine’s legacy under the guidance of Greg Randall.

Reverberations at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts
Reverberations-McChesneyNow, this is really cool! The Sebastopol Center for the Arts has just opened in its fabulous art gallery an exhibit called “Reverberations.A Visual Conversation.” This unique exhibit pairs over 40 works of art with original poems inspired by the art. Artists include Francis Bacon, Enrique Chagoya, Viola Frey, Robert McChesney, Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso, and many of the poets are from Sonoma County, including Katherine Hastings, Maya Khosla, Gwynn O’Gara, Barbara Hirschfeld, Nancy Dougherty, and Fran Claggett. The range of styles, both of the artists and the poets, is astonishing. Hundreds of people came to the opening reception on October 25, but if you missed that, know that the exhibit runs through December 2. SCA is located at 282 S. High Street, Sebastopol. Entry is free. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and have been extended on Saturday and Sunday to 12:00 to 5:00 p,m.

Many events have been planned for November around the Reverberations Exhibit.

November 3 at 7:00 p.m. Reverberations: A Visual Conversation—The Poets Speak
November 8 at 7:00 p.m. “Living with Art”: A Panel Discussion
November 15 at 7:00 p.m. An Evening of Short Films
November 16 at 2:00 p.m. Linda Loveland Reid, “Reverberations: The Artists Revealed”
November 17 at 7:00 p.m. Reverberations: A Visual Conversation—The Poets Speak

A Cage Event
etchings by John CageMy own contribution to Reverberations is a series of poems written to accompany three etchings from a series called Smoke Weather, Stone Weather, by John Cage.

You can get an inside look at Cage’s work and the poems I composed in response to them, using a poetic technique called Mesostic, on Friday, November 9, 4:30-6:00 p.m. The event will include a film of Cage and the creation of this particular series of etchings at Crown Point Press in San Francisco. The event is at SCA, and it is free. But it’s a good idea to register to ensure you have a seat. You can register and learn more about this and all the events in the Reverberations series at

Poetry for a Changing Landscape: Join Maya Khosla for an Autumn Walk with Writing
On Sunday, November 11, 2:00-6:00 p.m. join Sonoma County’s Poet Laureate, Maya Khosla, for an afternoon exploring the land and responding to it on the page. We will hike, reflect and share short works in a supportive environment. A special focus will be given to the surrounding natural areas now in the early stages of regeneration, which began shortly after the October 2017 fires. At Fairfield Osborn Preserve. Details about registration on this month’s calendar page.

Fall Back
River's Bend cabinThis time of year, as we fall back and the nights grow long, it seems a good time to make room for the creative spark—to nurture it in a special way. I’m not talking about workshops, though these are often the inspirational life-blood of a writer. Consider, as we ramp up our energy into the holiday season, retreating into your own quiet space to heal and reconnect with what you love. Take a walk among the old grove redwoods in Armstrong Woods; take a drive to the coast and watch the waves rolling in; wander along one of our many rivers; visit the Sitting Room and sit awhile with the extraordinary collection of books, or hunker down in the quiet room for a little writing time.

If you’re looking for a place of your own to write and retreat, consider River’s Bend Retreat Center in Philo. You can rent a cozy cabin with a view of the Navarro River. You can find out more at,

I don’t need to tell you how much is at stake in Tuesday’s election. I encourage you to make your voice matter by voting on November 6. No excuses!

Poem for November
For this month, I’ve selected another poem from the anthology America, We Call Your Name, published by Sixteen Rivers Press. The poem is by Seamus Heaney, the great (and great-hearted) Irish poet (April 13, 1939 – August 30, 2013)


From the Republic of Conscience
by Seamus Heaney

When I landed in the republic of conscience
it was so noiseless when the engines stopped
I could hear a curlew high above the runway.
At immigration, the clerk was an old man
who produced a wallet from his homespun coat
and showed me a photograph of my grandfather.
The woman in customs asked me to declare
the words of our traditional cures and charms
to heal dumbness and avert the evil eye.
No porters. No interpreter. No taxi.
You carried your own burden and very soon
your symptoms of creeping privilege disappeared.

Fog is a dreaded omen there but lightning
spells universal good and parents
hang swaddled infants in trees during thunderstorms.
Salt is their precious mineral. And seashells
are held to the ear during births and funerals.
The base of all inks and pigments is seawater.
Their sacred symbol is a stylised boat.
The sail is an ear, the mast a sloping pen,
the hull a mouth-shape, the keel an open eye.
At their inauguration, public leaders
must swear to uphold unwritten law and weep
to atone for their presumption to hold office-
and to affirm their faith that all life sprang
from salt in tears which the sky god wept
after he dreamt his solitude was endless.

I came back from that frugal republic
with my two arms the one length, the customs woman
having insisted my allowance was myself.
The old man rose and gazed into my face
and said that was official recognition
that I was now a dual citizen.
He therefore desired me when I got home
to consider myself a representative
and to speak on their behalf in my own tongue.
Their embassies, he said, were everywhere
but operated independently
and no ambassador would ever be relieved.

“From the Republic of Conscience,” from Opened Ground: Selected Poems 1966-1996 by Seamus Heaney. Copyright © 1998 by Seamus Heaney.


Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update

Posted by: wordrunner | October 1, 2018

October 2018

Dear Literary Folk,

elizabethherronTonight, Elizabeth Herron and June Gerron at Rivertown Poets/Aqus Café

The reading begins at 6:15 p.m. Bring your best (or most outrageous) poem to share at open mic, which follows the features. The open mic signup list will be available by 5:45. 189 H Street in Petaluma.

Who is Charmian London?  

Jack London House of Happy Walls jack-london-with-charmian-kitteridge-bookrags-1-300x160

This fall the Jack London State Historic Park opens a new permanent exhibit at the House of Happy Walls featuring the life of Charmian Kittredge London. Saturday, October 6, 2:00-4:00 p.m. Iris Jamahl Dunkle and Clarice Stasz, Ph.d. will discuss Charmian London’s significance in women’s history and her writings. Iris will also read original poems inspired by Charmian’s life and speak about her forthcoming biography. The Sitting Room, 2025 Curtis Dr, Penngrove. Details:

ws-logoSaturday, October 13, 10 a.m.-4:00 p.m. 23rd Annual Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival!.”Stand Up for the Earth” with dynamic readings of over thirty poets and writers. Civic Center Park, 2151 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Berkeley. The Strawberry Creek Walk, part of the Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival, poetry,  begins 10 a.m. sharp with talk, and easy walk along beautiful Strawberry Creek through UC Berkeley and its underground path, in a culvert, through downtown Berkeley to the Watershed Festival at Civic Center Park, led by Nevada City poet/eco-educator Chris Olander. Poets include: Iris Jamahl Dunkle, Joan Gelfand, and Maya Khosla. Details:

2018 Poesía del Recuerdo/Poetry of Remembrance Community Reading

IMG_1654On Friday, October 19, from 6:00 to 8:00 PM, join Sonoma County Poet Laureate Maya Khosla and members of the community for the annual El Día de los Muertos “Poesía del Recuerdo/Poetry of Remembrance” celebration.

This year’s event will take place at Our House Intercultural Center, 116 Jacobs Hall, on the SRJC Petaluma Campus, 680 Sonoma Mountain Parkway, Petaluma.

Featured readers will include bilingual poet Beatriz Lagos, originally from Argentina; bilingual poet and artist Katie Numi Usher, from Belize, and sansei (third-generation Japanese American) poet Jodi Hottel, who will tell us about Obon, the Buddhist tradition of honoring one’s ancestors and demonstrate a simple folk dance.

IMG_1671Those who wish to honor the memory of someone who has departed are encouraged to bring something—a photo or an item that reminds them of their loved one—that can be placed on a community altar for the evening.

If you’d like to share a poem or brief statement to remember a loved one, contact John Johnson: (707) 338-5765.Poesía del Recuerdo/Poetry of Remembrance Community Reading is part of the month-long El Día de los Muertos celebrations held in Petaluma during the month of October, featuring community altars, bilingual storytelling, sugar skull workshops, music, dance, and a procession with giant puppets.

Admission is free. Click here for a Schedule of all the El Día de Los Muertos events.

The 2nd Inaugural Wine Country Spoken Word Festival

Hosted by West Side Stories and featuring Steve Connell,Bil Lepp, Zahra Noorbakhsh, Denice Frohman, Elizabeth Ellis and W. Kamau Bell, this event will be held the weekend of Friday, October 19-Saturday, October 22, At the Mystic Theater, Petaluma. For details:

christine-walker-readtowritebooks-com-400-x-400Read to Write Books Renewed: A Guest Feature by Christine Walker

The practice of writing fiction and memoir exercises muscles of empathy, which we need in our culture more than ever. Fulfilling creative potential comes from engagement in one’s chosen art and from helping others achieve their potential. Thus, an important part of my process as an artist and writer has been teaching.

In 2010, I created “Read to Write Books” workshops that I taught at Copperfield’s. I loved doing this and hope to teach locally again in the future. For now, because my travel as a visual facilitator makes it difficult to sustain a class schedule, I created a self-paced course in video and pdfs, “Writing Fiction – 9 Ways to Mastery,” and started a YouTube channel with short “Moments of Mastery” videos. My blog continues to support it all.

I’d love to hear if and how the content enriches your writing journey and creative process. I welcome your suggestions and questions.

Youtube channel:

Online course:



All good wishes & thanks!

Christine Walker, MFA, MA 


An Evening With Emily Dickinson

1532968065On Monday, October 29, 7:00-8:30 p.m., Holly Springfield will present an intimate portrait of poet Emily Dickinson at the Petaluma Public Library Springfield is an Emily Dickinson scholar and meditation teacher who has been studying, teaching and sharing her passion for Emily Dickinson for the past 18 years. Holly will draw upon poems, letters, biography, 19th century New England culture and stories from her long sojourn with Dickinson, in order to bring lo life an American treasure in an intimate, personal portrait.

Poem for October

Sixteen Rivers Press’ new anthology America, I Call Your Name: Poems of Resistance and Resilience, includes poems by local authors like Gail Newman, David Beckman, Kay Ryan, Jane Hirshfield, Janet Jennings, Joe Zaccardi, Ellery Akers, and Ada Limon. It also reaches back through the centuries to feature poets who have challenged the status quo of their times. Here’s one by Emily Dickinson.

No. 1096

These Strangers, in a foreign World,”
Protection asked of me—
Befriend them, lest Yourself in Heaven
Be found a Refugee—

Terry Ehret
Co-editor, Sonoma County Literary Update


« Newer Posts - Older Posts »