Just a few pictures from Evenings With Our Authors…

…with Novella Carpenter, Pam Houston, + Wendy C. Ortiz this year!


Thanks so much, everyone, for making this such a stellar year for the series (and thanks again, Novella + Pam + Wendy, for coming to break bread and talk with us about this work we all share).

Stay tuned for announcements about next year’s EWOA events. Til then–

xoxox R


It only happens twice a year (and this time it’s a special session!): SCRIBE LAB open for registration

IMG_2304     Happy summer, writers!

I could not be more thrilled to announce that the eighth session of SCRIBE LAB, my online cross-genre offering, is officially open for registration.

SCRIBE LAB is a hearty, dynamic space for writers all over the world to join hands, dig in, and make major progress either on existing projects or in new explorations in any genre. Designed to meet the needs of those for whom online community is the most sustainable and necessary form of support for new writing, this group operates a bit like an online workshop and a bit like a virtual residency of sorts, with monthly discussions, readings and writing exercises, and intensive feedback structuring our community, and lots and lots of mutual work hum in the air.

All our interactions take place on a secure, password-protected group site, and virtual writing dates help participants to form deeper connections to both one another as well as their own processes over longer, six-month-long stretches. My vision for this community was born out of my desire to offer an intensive workshop that could accommodate those who were writing hard across forms (and potentially across notions of form), who might not find themselves quite at home in traditional or short workshops, and/or those who might have their hands in several different writing projects at once. The lab is rich, wild, and full of conversation about voice and process. Some writers work close to the monthly lab discussions and exercises, others completely independently of them while using the synergy of the space to feed long-term writing projects.

All of us keep going, together, month after month–and it shows.

The next session, like the one that launched in July ’15 (in which we read our way through the entirely of Graywolf Press’ ‘Art of’ series), will be a special session.

Through special arrangement with Graywolf (which just keeps publishing the things I most want to teach), we’ll be reading and working our way through John D’Agata’s A History of the Essay… a series of three incredible anthologies that collect a wide variety of works by a whole swirling star-system of wildly inventive authors including Virginia Woolf, Francis Ponge, W.E.B. DuBois, Gertrude Stein, Clarice Lispector, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Anne Carson, Gertrude Stein, Lydia Davis, Carole Maso, Mary Ruefle, Kathy Acker, Susan Sontag, and Jenny Boully (among many, many others).

Even though the word ‘essay’ appears on the cover of each of the anthologies we’ll be drawing from for our reading, if you know anything about these authors (or about John D’Agata’s vision of the essay…) you know that we’re going to be diving into a whole cosmos of approaches to the page that will ultimately bend our expectations of and feed our imagination for ANY page we are making. The lab will continue to function as a cross-genre space, open to all writers who want to claim it–poets, prose writers, those working on multiple projects simultaneously, those working in more exploratory veins. I’ll be framing our reading and writing projects from a cross-genre perspective, so that no matter what you’re working on at any given moment, you’ll find lots to chew on.

(If you’d like to peruse the full table of contents for the series to get a further sense of just how little this session is going to have to do with ‘the essay’ as you practiced it in composition class, check it out here.)

Everyone who registers for this special session will receive instructions for how to order the complete series at a handsome discount that is being made available to us by the good people at Graywolf—$55 for all three anthologies + the companion volume, shipping included.

This will be the only chance to jump into SCRIBE LAB for the remainder of 2016—this next session will kick off July 1st and run for six months, clear through the end of the year. If you’d like to register, drop me an email at rgouirand [at] gmail [dot] com to request instructions on how to do so (or to chat about whether the lab would be a good fit for you).

For more details about how we operate, or to read what writers in the lab have said about how we work together, see this page–these folks will tell you everything you need to know. Cheers!

Water: More or Less–an interview with Stephanie Taylor

FINAL_frontcover_web_2-1-16This spring, artist + writer Stephanie ‘Stevie’ Taylor (who many of you know as a member of my Creative Nonfiction workshop in Sacramento ever since we met in 2010) released a magnificent project—her first book of art-and-writing, Water: More or Less, with co-author (and Water Education Foundation former executive director) Rita Schmidt Sudman. Twenty top water policy leaders (including the Foundation’s current executive director, Jennifer Bowles, and California State Librarian Emeritus Kevin Starr) contribute to the book, which is grounded throughout its 240 pages by Stevie’s original visual art and stirring investigative essays on California water.

Those of us who know Stevie from workshop have had the pleasure of seeing early drafts of many of the essays that anchor this book—so I know I speak for all of us when I offer her the heartiest congratulations for pushing this important book out into the world! Knowing that her story would be of interest to a huge number of essayists in our community, I asked her a few questions about the process by which this unusual project took shape.

You can also tune in tomorrow (Thursday, May 12th) at 9 AM Pacific to hear the authors talk about their work on the Jefferson Exchange, hosted by Jefferson Public Radio in Ashland Oregon.


Stevie, I think that anyone would be inspired to hear the story of how Water: More or Less came to be, and especially how your periodic writing project (your ‘California Sketches’ column for the Sacramento Bee) developed. Can you talk about how your interest in water was first born, and how you started writing about it?

ST_headshot_dropsST: As a kid I spent a lot of time in or on water: pools, lakes, the American River. Later in LA, I lived four blocks from the beach. When the drought hit in the mid-70s—bricks in toilets, etc—I became aware that water wasn’t endless, that demands were too high. Once it started raining again everyone forgot about that drought. I didn’t forget.

We moved back to Sacramento in 1984, four blocks from the American River. That wild strip of precious land right through urban density gave me great solace.

In late 1996, I started a huge project for the San Francisco Hilton that included many murals and paintings. I had realized that the region is defined by the water that flows into the Bay, that I was seriously ignorant about where it comes from and where it goes. I decided I would paint Northern California watersheds, so I could learn.

About two years into writing essays for the Bee, I began to realize that many of the stories, in fact most of the stories, touched on water in some way. For example, the story about the Bok Kai Temple in Marysville: they say it was the god of the temple that saved Marysville from flooding in the 1950s. Though I was learning a lot, I realized so much more that I needed to understand. So I pitched my editor about doing a series on water in California—where it comes from and where it’s going. I said I could do the series in about 20 essays; he said I could do it in four.

So began an odyssey.

At what point did you pitch your work to the Bee, and what was the concept that you pitched to them? 

ST: I met an editor at a writer’s meetup. He said he was looking for creatives to write about California. I’d had this dream of combining my paintings with essay. I raised my hand and he looked at me like I was crazy—artists don’t write! So I ignored him, and on a trip to Tomales Bay, wrote a poem (I’m not a poet…), made a sketch and sent them to him anyway.

He said he’d get back to me, and of course he didn’t. So I pitched him again, this time on a concept about an orchard that I’d seen from the back of a Harley that had drilled a question into my head: why would someone destroy an orchard? And why didn’t I, a Sacramento-Valley-born fourth generation Californian, know the answer?

This time he said yes, and I was off on one of the greatest gifts anyone has ever given me—an opportunity to satisfy my endless curiosity about almost everything.

In-depth research has always been part of my methodology as a painter, as a lay historian, as someone inspired by location and how people relate to land and history—I spent six months researching my Amelia Earhart mural, up and down the state, and even interviewed her last official photographer, and several of her biographers!

The concept was that I would explore a place through photography and paintings, and write about what I saw. Creative exploration slows down time; things are revealed. I hope to bring the reader along with me perceptually. Combining visual and words enlivens and engages the reader—which is helpful when the issues are so complex and overwhelming. I figure that if I’m discovering something new, perhaps the reader is, too.

Can you say a little more about the kind of research that you did for your essays, and the kinds of relationships that developed out of the interviews you did? Many of those you consulted ended up contributing work to what ultimately became a collaborative manuscript, yes?

HooverDamST: I do too much research, my editor says! This whole process is just an excuse to meet the most amazing people. People who are passionate about their work—from oyster farmers to almond processing managers to water lawyers who’ve defined water rights law. I believe in shutting up and practicing the art of listening. People will talk and talk and tell me very wonderful, juicy things—their stories.

Everyone loves stories, first-hand accounts. Sometimes the individuals I interview are so frank that I can’t repeat what they say. I interviewed the fellow who was in charge of Shasta Lake and Dam for the Bureau of Reclamation, who made a fascinating comment about the level of Federal involvement in managing California that helped me begin to understand the extent and interdependency of the various water stake holders, that there is hardly any body of water that isn’t managed by some agency in some way—even the rivers we hope are still wild.

At Hetch Hetchy reservoir near Yosemite, I met a water manager who wouldn’t and couldn’t talk to me because of my role as a freelance Op-Ed contributor to the Bee. Because that reservoir supplies all of the Bay Area with water, he was afraid of speaking without permission.

One of the closest relationships I formed during my research was with the family from Drakes Bay Oysters—an outstanding example of aquaculture. I’d been visiting that magical place since 1974! The Federal Park Service wouldn’t talk to me, so I couldn’t present their direct point of view. I’ve stayed in contact with the family after they were forced to shut down the farm.

The concept of asking for contributions to the book was mine, because I needed expert voices that represented diverse opinions. This is where Rita became the key. We crafted an email asking people she knew to write 500-word personal essays about their experiences in and passion for water. Only two respondents responded in ‘policy voice.’

You started working on a proposal for the book a couple of years ago, aiming to find a publishing house that would acquire the manuscript, but you ultimately decided to start your own imprint, Pentimento Press. What have been the rewards of that decision? Were there any books out there like it that inspired its design?

ST: I pursued one publisher only because the book is California-centric. I started with my ‘California Sketches’ concept, but I refined the emphasis, the focus evolved into water more specifically. Then a journalist friend suggested I connect with a woman who she said knew more about water than anyone, who’d covered water for 34 years—Rita Schmidt Sudman, executive director of the Water Education Foundation. In a twist of fate, I already knew Rita—I had actually done a big water painting for her in 1997!

So we met again. As it turned out, she was about to retire. I told her she couldn’t possibly, that she had too much to offer, and that I really believed in this collaborative book concept. In the beginning, I needed her as an editor—but soon, she realized that this was an opportunity for her to synthesize her knowledge as a water journalist with her own essays, and that she had contacts that would help the contributor concept soar.

Last summer, we pitched the final concept. The publisher we singled out to approach rejected us outright, which hurt a lot because both my co-author and I had known this fellow for years. He just couldn’t see how it would come together, or fit his catalog.

pentimento_logo_12-30-15            Rita and I decided that a publisher would only slow us down, and that the smartest thing would be to compile the material and get it done ourselves, as quickly as possible (the California water situation being as pressing and time-sensitive an issue as it is!). Our plan was only feasible because I’ve been in print media for my entire career, and so has she. We had a clear vision of what we wanted to accomplish. We didn’t need—and we didn’t want—someone telling us what to do. It turned out to be a wonderful experience for both of us.

Now that the book is out, we’ve gone back to that publisher, to see if they’ll add it to their distribution network. We can’t succeed if we aren’t thick skinned and persistent as hell!

There’s still a bit of resistance to ‘self-published’ books, and for good reason. Any book needs expert editing, to which we had access. We joined the Independent Book Publishers Association and launched the imprint for Pentimento Press, “a small, independent art and architecture press”—and I hope to publish other authors under that imprint.

As for the design of the book: while I am a designer, I’m not a book designer. I looked at book designers, particularly the work of Peter Mendelsund. I knew I wanted a clean, consistent look that was also artistic, in support of the original art throughout the book. In designing the cover, we ended up running a Facebook poll with a series of idea sketches and soliciting community feedback. I’m thrilled we did that.

Who do you most want to find the book? What’s been the most exciting piece of feedback you’ve gotten about the book since its publication?

ST: Neither Rita or I are interested in a vanity project. I’ve never been the kind of artist who sits around waiting for someone to buy my art. I’m proactive—I think of ideas, and then go get a client. This book will speak to a huge existing market that includes the thousands of people who work in water directly (including water districts, lobbyists, policy experts, legislators, lawyers, engineers, biologists, Federal and state water managers, etc) and those who will engage water from other angles, like students.

We’ve only just started marketing the book. The book has gotten covered by twelve NPR stations in Sacramento and in Oregon—we are very excited at the response we’ve received so far from our readers and the public media. They say the book is beautiful—which seems meaningful since it’s on such a complicated subject. One of the most gratifying things we’ve heard so far came from a water engineer at a presentation that we gave, who said that he was thrilled to give a book to his family that would help them finally understand what it is that he actually does.


Want a copy of your own? Water: More or Less is (of course) available on Amazon, but a portion of your purchase price will go to the Water Education Foundation or the Sacramento Bee’s News in Education program if you purchase directly through either of the books’ official partners.

Interested in upcoming readings from Water: More or Less? Follow the authors on Facebook or contact Stevie to schedule a presentation and booksigning: staylorstudio@gmail.com.

What one-on-one looks like

These are self-portraits of the five writers who are writing books with me in 2016.

Two of them are writing memoirs, one of them a hybrid biography, one of them a collection of poems, and one of them is actually working on two books simultaneously–a novel and a collection of short stories.


It just so happens that all five are women writers living somewhere in California.

None of them know each others’ names, but each of them know that they’re part of a tribe of five, and that their new pages are due to my inbox every Monday morning by 9 AM sharp, and that our commitments to each other are absolute.

So far, between the five of them, they’ve written about 1500 pages since the beginning of the year.

Just look at them.

I do not yet know whether I will have any openings for additional/new one-on-one clients in the second half of 2016, but if you’ve been thinking about doing this kind of work with me, you might want to check out this page and drop me an email sometime in the next month or so.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, everyone.



(A really, really special) summer session of CREATIVE NONFICTION open for registration in Davis and Sacramento

Dear writers!   IMG_3009

The upcoming summer session of my CREATIVE NONFICTION workshop is officially open for registration–and it’s going to be an exceptional one.

In celebration of Graywolf Press’ recent publication of the third and final volume in John D’Agata’s A New History of the Essay series, we will be reading and working through all three groundbreaking anthologies together this summer. If you have ever wanted to immerse yourself intensively in the essay—in questions of its roots, its evolution, what it reveals about the human capacity for expansion and experimentation, what it has to do with why you are writing right now—this is your session. (Owing to a special arrangement I’ve made with Graywolf Press, you’ll be able to order the complete series directly from Graywolf at a substantial discount, shipped to your door free of charge.)

Expect to have your mind blown. It will be. Anyone who is familiar with John D’Agata’s work, or who met him when I brought him to Davis to launch the Evenings With Our Authors series in 2010, already knows so.

Another reason this session is going to be uber-special: if you’re one of the writers who was praying that we’d get Wendy C. Ortiz to come back for Evenings With Our Authors… you’re going to get your wish on that front. She’s coming to do a Saturday-night EWOA with us on June 11th that’s built right into the session.

Yes, I know that many people hit the road at some point in the summertime—but this session will be especially workable for those who know they’ll be missing a couple of weeks: not only will it run longer than usual, but during this session I’ll be sending out weekly digests with the regular exercises and supplementary thoughts on the reading, so that no matter where in the world you are, you’ll be in the loop.

This time around, that loop is going to be WILD.

The Davis section meets Tuesday nights from 6:30—8:30 PM, May 10—August 30.

The Sacramento section meets Wednesday nights from 6:30–8:30 PM, May 11—August 31.

Interested in jumping in? Drop me an email at rgouirand@gmail.com to request the registration form, which covers all the rest of the details. The early-bird registration deadline (which is an in-my-hands deadline, not a postmark deadline) is Friday, April 29th. Early registration is *strongly* encouraged (in part because the session will have a reading week built in in the first week of May).

Happy spring, everyone–I hope wherever you are today that it’s exactly where you most want to be.

Winter/spring sessions of CREATIVE NONFICTION and the online, cross-genre SCRIBE LAB now open for registration!


Hello, all!

It’s time for me to make the biggest announcement of the year: the upcoming winter/spring sessions of my CREATIVE NONFICTION workshop (both sections, in Davis and Sacramento), and my online, cross-genre SCRIBE LAB are officially open for registration as of this morning.

The upcoming session of my long-term, ongoing CREATIVE NONFICTION workshop will map a variety of approaches to building standalone essays and longer nonfiction projects from the day-to-day: if you have ever felt an affinity for journaling or been fascinated by the literary life of the diary, this is the session that will deliver your dream reading list. Like all preceding sessions in this workshop’s twelve-year history, the winter/spring 2016 session will provide regular deadlines and inspirations for new writing, the structure to develop a variety of shorter works (or longer pieces, one stretch at a time) and lots of feedback to support your project(s) moving forward, clear through the spring… and there’s an Evenings With Our Authors event with Pam Houston built into the session to look forward to in April! If you’re curious, here are some more details about how we roll, and some words from past participants that will give you a sense of what this community feels like. The Sacramento section meets Wednesday nights 6:30—8:30 PM, January 6—April 27; the Davis section Tuesday nights 6:30—8:30 PM, January 5—April 26.

SCRIBE LAB, my online, cross-genre offering, is a hearty, dynamic space for writers all over the world to join hands, dive in, and make major progress either on existing projects or in new explorations in any genre. Designed to meet the needs of those for whom online community is the most sustainable and necessary form of support for new writing, this group operates a little bit like a virtual residency of sorts, with monthly ‘labs’ (which offer pushes for your content, form, and process, and which are written to the pulse of the group), hard monthly due dates to support the making of new pages, and intensive feedback structuring our community. All our interactions take place on a secure, password-protected group site, and virtual ‘writing dates’ help participants to form deeper connections to one another and their own visions for their work over longer, six-month-long stretches. There is nothing else like it out there. For more details, and to check out what past participants have to say, see this page. The doors open January 1st, and the upcoming session lasts clear through the end of June.

If you want to jump in with us, I’d love to have you: just drop me an email at rgouirand@gmail.com if you have questions or if you need to request the registration form for either of these programs—just remember to specify which. Please note two things: the registration deadline is earlier than it used to be (Friday, December 18th), and I sincerely do not recommend waiting until the last minute to register. Both of these groups regularly fill well in advance of the registration deadline.

(Wondering where the Master Workshop for Poets has gone? Answer: underground. Email me directly for information.)

All my very very best to all of you—it’s been a gorgeous and incredibly rewarding fall on my end, and I am really looking forward to a new year spent with you and your pages!

It’s the most wonderful post of the year…

IMG_0687It’s late fall, and your every-other-year-or-so community update is here. (I apologize if I missed you—I might not have your current email. You should be in touch!)

Thanks for sharing your good news, your successes, your new directions—it’s one of the highlights of my year to receive all these updates.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Emily Conner moved to Portland and started a Master’s in teaching program at Lewis & Clark! She says “I’m student teaching at an awesome middle school (and I get to teach creative writing sometimes!); I’ve been working on illustrations for Druid City Garden Project, the school garden nonprofit that I used to work with in Alabama; and I’ve had a few small illustration projects, including continued collaboration with The Southern Letterpress and for Wendy Rawling’s author website!”

Melanie Madden has been performing with FST! (pronounced “Fist!”) Female StoryTellers since August 2013, and this year joined FST!’s executive board as chair of the storytelling committee, curating FST’s monthly shows in Tucson. See one of Mel’s performances here.

Tammy Delatorre reports that 2015 has been a good year: “I was honored with the 2015 Payton Prize for my essay, “Out of the Swollen Sea,” judged by Cheryl Strayed, and the 2015 Slippery Elm Prose Prize for my essay, “Diving Lessons,” judged by Brendan Kiely.” She’s published eleven other stories and essays this year!

Naomi Williams‘ first novel, Landfalls, was published by FSG in August and long-listed for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize. The book has also appeared in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Germany (in translation). An Italian edition is forthcoming.

Laura Passin is writing a monthly poetry column for The Toast and her poetry/feminism/pop culture newsletter, Postcards from a One-Woman Army. She has poems about to come out in Spoon River Poetry Review‘s winter issue and recently finished up a week in Germany as a guest of the American Studies program at the University of Bamberg.

James Ducat also has a SRPR mention in his notes: “My manuscript Betrayed With Trees was a finalist for the Inlandia Hilary Gravendyk prize; my work will appear in the Inflectionist Review print anthology, and I recently had work in Spoon River Poetry Review and CutBank… I got a full time contract (non-tenure track) teaching position at Riverside City College, and I am happy to be assisting the faculty advisor to Muse, the literary magazine.”

Kate Washington says “I have been working intermittently on the novel I started in Scribe Lab, titled Expeditionary Force Messages and inspired by a World War II-era telegraph form. Recently, I’ve also had a few new essays appear: “The Winding” in the Baltimore Review; “Fire Danger: Very High” in Juxtaprose. My essay “An Inheritance” is forthcoming in The Pinch. In lighter work, I’ve had a piece in The Toast, and, last but not least, I was recently delighted to publish a list in McSweeney’s. In addition to publishing recipes, parenting, and generally living life, I’ve also been tentatively starting on some new work about the situation currently dominating my life, which is my husband’s rare lymphoma and his upcoming treatment via stem cell transplant.”

Asha Dore says “I’ve had an incredible year so far: I met my son in April, a handful of poems and essays appeared in web-based lit mags (including The Rumpus, Pacifica Literary Review, and Nailed Magazine) and the title essay of the collection I’ve been working on, Figure Studies, was published in Basalt. I’m guest editing the prose portion of Witch Craft Magazine‘s second issue this fall—“

–which Elle Nash co-founded, and which is currently accepting submissions for its second issue. (Witch Craft’s first series of chaps, called Spellbooks, will release this winter.) Of her own writing, Elle reports: “My work has been published in Hobart, The Offing, Human Parts, and most recently, a short story I wrestled with for two years was accepted to Blunderbuss Magazine. I’m almost complete on a novella.”

Stevie Taylor continues to write op-eds for the Sacramento Bee as the voice (and eye!) of her ‘California Sketches’ column, and is particularly proud to say that “the book I’ve been working on for a couple of years is in the formatting stage. We’ve printed a sample preview, and will start a rigorous editing stage next.” See an in-design preview of Water, More or Less here. (I personally cannot wait to make the ISBN cake for this book when it is finally out in the world!)

Rachel Reynolds has been submitting her work for the first time ever these past few months (“I’m finally on the front line, you know?”) and is working at the Kelly Writers House at UPenn, “…which means I go to readings, like, three nights a week and am surrounded by some of the loveliest, brightest writers I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.” She reports she is bolstered by this community of word nerds “I (to my delight and astonishment) get paid to spend time with.”

Rachel Nelson was both sad and excited to graduate from Cave Canem this year. She writes “…my partner and I rescued a sweet dog, named Stella, and I’ve been thrilled to have my work appear in The Atlas Review, Hartskill ReviewLittle Patuxent Review, pinwheel, the Black Poets Speak Out issue of pluck!, and Smartish Pace, which selected a poem of mine as a finalist for the Beullah Rose Poetry Prize.”

The news in Lyra Halprin’s heart is that her new dog “Black Rose, a tri-colored border collie who failed herding, is keeping me company while I work on two pieces I hope to place soon.” (Lyra’s daughter recently got her first Pushcart nomination; Lyra’s pretty inspired by that too. : )

Speaking of Pushcart nominations: Allegra Silberstein was happy to get three recently for work that appeared in her first full length collection of poetry, West of Angels, which was published by Cold River Press in 2015.

Katy Brown actually provided the art for the cover of West of Angels! She has given lots of readings this year, and has published her poems in a couple of anthologies, at Medusa’s Kitchen, and in Convergence and Brevities. She won one of the three Grand Prizes this year in the International Dancing Poetry Contest for her poem “Into the Blue” (read and see images from the performance at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco here).

Mary Zeppa’s first full-length collection, My Body Tells Its Own Story, was published by Cherry Grove Collections in early 2015. Mary’s looking forward to a residency this February at Ragdale.

Jennifer Pickering also recently published her first full-length collection, Blooming in Winter, with I Street Press (a cool public press in Sacramento), and recently celebrated with a book launch party at the Sacramento Poetry Center.

Sandra Wassilie continues helping to run the Bay Area Generations reading series, which she cofounded in 2013—it features intergenerational pairs of readers every fourth Monday and alternates between San Francisco and Berkeley venues. She says “I continue to write and give readings in the Bay Area; most recently for Hazel, Nomadic Press, From All Points But the Center, Liminal, and Rolling Writers.” She will read for Passages on the Lake in January.

Temim Fruchter is thrilled to have her first chapbook coming out from Anomalous Press—it will be released and available at AWP 2016. You can find lots of her words at [PANK]—look for her feature ‘Between the Bones.’

Sondra Olson has been “rolling forward on the momentum of workshop” as she continues work on her nonfiction project. One of her essays was selected in October 2014 for the True Story series.

Melissa Gutierrez was happy to report that she graduated from USC with a Master’s in Professional Writing this past September: “…soon after I was hired by Social Studies School Service as an Editorial Assistant in the proprietary department—essentially I now get to read for a living.”

Amanda Trusty’s work on body image, eating disorder recovery, and body positive dance has been published on multiple publications that have since hired her to write continuously (Ravishly, Scary Mommy, Sadie Jane Dancewear, Huffington Post) and “on my own blog where I can really let loose and let the four letter words fly.” She notes that she’s been contacted to write a book, and has been “pulling my hair out ever since!”

Ginny Robinson is “currently a contributing writer for Chapel Hill and Durham magazines, and through its media company get lots of cool assignments writing about Southern food, people, and culture. I’m also helping my brother’s restaurant self-publish its ten-year anniversary cookbook, and I’m recording and archiving oral histories of students who attended the Rosenwald School in Coinjock, North Carolina. It’s a cool mix of work, and I love it.”

Lisa Wenzel has given readings at Diesel Books in Oakland, Books Inc. in Berkeley, and two UC-Berkeley Extension gatherings in the last year. She’s looking forward to seeing two of her poems in UCX’s literary journal, Ursa Minor.

Mark Willett is still writing creative nonfiction. He won a 2014 Solas award (travel writing) in the Men’s Travel category.

Adam Russ noted that the paperback edition of his book, Bloodhound in Blue, will be released in spring of 2016.

Raychel Kubby Adler signed a contract with Balboa Press, the self-publishing arm of Hay House: “at the rate things are going, I expect to have my book, Life in Asymmetry, in hand around April or May.”

Susannah Bartlow has two racial justice academic articles in press, along with a piece in Feminist Studies. She works with runaway and homeless youth and is studying to be a yoga teacher.

Lis Harvey wrote that she is “channeling all of my creative energy into marketing for the Davis Food Co-op full time, which is surprisingly gratifying (and handy, since Troy and I had a second baby in 2014). We live in co-housing in Davis and love watching our sons & writerly friends grow and flourish.”

Margie Hastings retired from practicing law in April and is too busy having the time of her life since to elaborate: “Back from France and just spent four magnificent days with Mark Doty at the Tomales Bay Writing By Writers conference. Now off to Tahoe, Phoenix, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, writing as I go.” (High five, Margie.)

Chris Campbell has taken the last two years off from poetry-writing “to focus on a historic novel about designer/poet/artist/all-around-amazing-guy William Morris, his wife Pre-Raphaelite beauty Jane, and their friends during the five-year-period the Morrises lived at Red House. It’s a story about stories–art, love, marriage, work, birth, death, addiction, clandestine love, jealousy, that whole meaning-of-life shit, and a wombat!”

Deborah Hickerson still enjoys hosting Winters Out Loud at Rootstock, and recently started up a salon that meets at her house!

Eliza Callard has published poems in Stoneboat, Hobart, Cleaver Magazine, and lots of other journals this year.

Sibilla Hershey had a piece of creative nonfiction published in the 2015 issue of Tule Review.

Sara Post is moving to a new art studio that provides her with lots more space, and says “My writing is visual at the moment—abstraction as a form of poetry.” (I can’t wait to see!)

Elizabeth Austin resumed her work on the story of Harriet Burgess and the American Land Conservancy “after a long break. My husband and I welcomed our first grandchild in 2014, a delightful boy named Liam.”

Abby Davis says “In the last three or four months I have had work accepted in the Ilanot Review, Pilgrimage, Turtle Island Review, and Flutter. I was also shortlisted for the 2015 Turtle Island Poetry Award.”

Jeanine Stevens’ second book of poems, Inheritor, will be published in 2016. Last year she read at the ‘April in Paris’ event at the Sacramento Poetry Center and also was a presenter at the Literary Lecture Series’ event on Celtic poetry.

Charlene Logan Burnett writes that a nonfiction piece begun in Scribe Lab, “228 Cambridge Street,” was published in Yamassee; a poem (also from Scribe Lab), “Sleepwalking at Age Seven,” was published in WomenArts Quarterly Journal, and that a work of fiction inspired by the ‘Art of Description’ workshop at Cache Creek, “Crow at Dusk,” will be read at Stories on Stage Davis in December. She is currently working on a collection of short stories.

Sarah Pape has recently published essays and poems in Passages North, Ecotone, Crab Orchard Review, and The Pinch. Her chapbook, Ruination Atlas, is forthcoming with Dancing Girl Press in 2016. In addition to teaching at Chico State, she is now offering private writing workshops through her studio in Chico, California.

Susan Wolbarst says “Over the past few years, I’ve had a steady dribble of poetry, short stories and essays published in an eclectic mix of unknown, defunct and impossible-to-find publications, including Valley Voices, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, and the Eat This Poem contest anthology… My most recent publication was an op-ed piece in the Portland Press Herald on 11/02/15, in the ‘Maine Voices’ column, called “Metro bus system is not-so-magical mystery tour for Portland visitors.” I marveled that this generated 36 online comments plus a phone call to my home.”

Andrea Keeshan “had baby Indie on April 27th and started a master’s program to become a school counselor in August. Sleep is nonexistent. The end.”

Mandy Dawn Kuntz also requests more sleep: “Any creative energy I have is going into redoing kid songs on the commute between Woodland & Davis with Artemis. She demands that extra verses be added to all songs. (“There was a farmer had a cat, and Mango was her name-o,” a hamster, a tiger, a chair, Grandpa, pretzel, etc.  She appreciates variety and awkward rhymes, especially if her name is included in the song).”

Andrea Mummert Puccini says “What I have been up to is missing CNF, but still writing on my own during my precious weekly writing/reading days. I’ve been sending some pieces out (many that I worked on in CNF), and a few of them have found homes: “Edge of the Chesapeake” in River Teeth“Modern Day Savages” at Full Grown People, “On Tape” in the ‘Silence and Sound” issue of Pilgrimage, and “Imagine a Bamboo Farm” in Under the Gum Tree (forthcoming in January).  My son Nico who was born during my first session of CNF is nearly seven, and my second son Sebastian just turned four.”

Joanne Schoefer sent an update that made me smile all day: “The closest I am getting to writing lately is the top to bottom reorganization of my writing space. Years of accumulation! Lots of decisions. Who am I now?”

Gretel Wandesforde-Smith says “I keep writing alone and with others! In the past several years, classes with Valerie Fioravanti and Kate Asche, and a workshop with Brenda Miller, and currently a mini-in-person writing group and Scribe Lab, which has totally kick-started me after a period of aimlessness around my long, ongoing memoir/creative nonfiction project. I’m definitely whining way less and writing way more in the wonderful Scribe Lab community, and it’s so great to have Rae at the center of my writing life again.” (Mwah, Gretel.)

Nandi Szabo is “questioning time, memory, meaning, death. Still processing my trek in the Tibetan Himalaya. My journals are now focused on writing to my five-year-old granddaughter. Grief walking the pages with the tragic death of my seven-month-old granddaughter. All this is to say I write a lot, obsessively in fact, find great solace, and ponder publishing something somehow someday, maybe, maybe not, and ponder if it even matters.”

Shannon Masvidal writes: “Last year I had my son, Felix, who has the best smile, softest cheeks and sweetest curls. I left my job and started a new one. Then my husband did the same and is now managing the wildlife hospital in Morro Bay.  We packed up our Sacramento home and moved a few weeks ago.  We live in a small hippy town called Los Osos where it’s so dark and quiet at night that we can see the stars and hear the ocean.”

Rebecca Mercer Leduc is in Paso Robles with her husband and their daughter making Seven Oxen Estate Wines go (check out the site; it’s gorgeous!). Rebecca works at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art and is expecting her second child.

Cara Crocker is “still working on a middle grade fiction piece as a primary project. I joined the local chapter of SCBWI recently. I am looking forward to getting back to CNF, when being a new(ish) mother of two feels a little less overwhelming…”

John O’Neal continues to write “…the odd piece of short memoir or flash fiction and to dream of becoming the new American Nabokov.”

TJ Wood has some new material in the works for a neglected blog, and is currently applying to residencies and refining short pieces for submission.

Christine Holmstrom is “currently working with NY book doctor Susan Sutliff Brown on standalone pieces relating to my in-progress memoir, Pussy on the Tier, about my years working at San Quentin prison” and notes that one of her pieces appeared in Bernie Siegel’s Faith, Hope and Healing and that Starlight (the journal of the Sophia Foundation) has featured several of her pieces recently.

Ruth Nolan is on sabbatical for the 2015-16 academic year, working on a multimedia book project (Fire On the Mojave: Stories from the Desert and Inland So Cal Mountains) and writing a memoir about her wildland firefighting work in the 1980’s.

Pam Giarrizzo is still posting regularly to her Sacramento Vegan blog, and says “I’m also trying to figure out how to whittle a full-length mystery I wrote a couple of years ago (but which never came together the way I wanted it to) down to a 4,000-word short story!”

Lakin Khan is just one semester away from finishing her Master’s in English at Sonoma State, and met her first grandchild earlier this month! She continues to wear the cap of Fiction Director for the Napa Valley Writers Conference and write for her blog, Rhymes with Bacon.

Karma Waltonen has a ton going on: “Most recently, I’ve published an edited collection on Atwood, and articles on time travel in Star Trek, the ethics of religious cults in Doctor Who, and asexuality in Sherlock. In progress: an edited collection on The Simpsons (I’m going to write the chapter on sex), an edited collection on innovative writing assignments (with Melissa Bender), and an article on The X-Files. I’m blogging, mostly about my ridiculous online dating experiment. In other news, I won the Excellence in Teaching Award at UCDavis!” (About time!!!)

Mary Lewis writes: “When I came to CCNP in 2008, I had recently lost my father and it was beautiful to be able to reconnect with my love of nature and of writing in the company of kindred souls, inspired by your readings and guidance.” She’s in Santa Barbara now, closer to her daughters, where she has found “a wonderful sangha and a community of poets” and is now using poetry in the sessions she leads as a Bereavement Counselor at Hospice of Santa Barbara “up on a magical hill where I can look out and find inspiration for my work.”

River Seanain Snow continues to write with her AWA group when she makes time between her tasks as a homeschooling mom and an urban homesteader.

Jeri Howitt had a debut book for children released this year (A Tale of Two Love) and is working on a second (From Socrates to Che the Rat). She’s published two short stories, “The Nighty Death of His Wife” and “For the Love of a Son,” and is in her third year of directing the Davis arm of the Stories on Stage reading series.

Jean Jackman continues writing her ‘At the Pond’ column for the Davis Enterprise, and is working on life stories and “using writing to work on open space issues in my town.”

Ronald Lane has self-published a couple of works of historical fiction under a pseudonym (Robin Circadian) and is also publishing science fiction and fantasy writing.

Last but not least: Brenda Heckes writes of the house she is building this fall: “I dreamt a handwritten note was taped to the glass panel on the walnut colored stained front door. It said, Welcome Home. Happy to have been intently chosen and built to safeguard your memories, hopes, dreams. I yearn to be a gracious host and gathering place for friends and family, promising to stand stately as your rural fortress such that courage can continue to emerge.”

Your humble captain (that would be me!) had absolutely nothing to complain about in 2015 aside from a little carpal tunnol discomfort. I took a sabbatical from teaching my on-the-ground programs this summer to go on a 10,000 mile road trip with the love of my life, watched my online workshop (Scribe Lab) double in size, launched a whole new one-on-one individualized coaching program for writers working on manuscript projects, and finished working drafts of a new poetry collection and a memoir… Kore Press is even turning something I said in an interview last summer into a tshirt. This year I’ve also started publishing poetry reviews for The Rumpus and doing interviews with cool poets as a contributing editor for the California Journal of Poetics—see the forthcoming December issue (#2) to read my recent conversations with Alice Fulton and Joanna Klink about each of their new books. I’m incredibly proud that work of mine has appeared this year in the first anthology for teenaged readers of poetry (Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poets for the Next Generation), on Verse Daily, and in a variety of really cool journals (including ZyzzyvaBeloit Poetry Journal, The Fanzine, Fourteen Hills, and Georgetown Review). Come January I’ll be starting work on my fourth book.


Here’s to an even longer string of updates next time. Cheers, everyone!