Applegate Library offers self-publishing workshop

If any of you talented Rogue Valley writers are considering self-publishing a book, head over to the Applegate library Sunday, Feb. 1, at 2:00 for a two-hour workshop on self-publishing with Amazon’s CreateSpace.

Local poet and editor Amy Miller has loads of self-publishing experience and she’ll guide students through basic book design, common errors to avoid, the twists and turns of setting up a book in CreateSpace, building an Amazon page and the pros and cons of self-publishing.

Miller is the author of nine chapbooks of poetry and prose. A longtime book editor and print designer, she has recently published three books using Amazon’s CreateSpace. Her writing has appeared in journals such “Rattle,” “ZYZZYVA,” to “Asimov’s Science Fiction” and “Fine Gardening.” Her article “10 Chapbook Design Tips Every Poet Should Know” appears in multiple editions of the Poet’s Market.

I’ve taken a number of workshops from Miller and she’s a super organized, savvy and inspirational teacher. In addition to exploring Create Space, she’ll also discuss other similar platforms like Lulu and Lightning Source. The workshop is free and open to the public. Be prepared to take notes and have your questions ready.

For more information call the Applegate Library at (541) 846-7346.

The library is located at 18485 N. Applegate Rd., Applegate OR

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Community gathers for William Stafford celebration

January 17 marks the birthday of Oregon’s beloved poet, the late William Stafford, and the Rogue Valley will join the nation in celebrating Stafford and his incredible body of work.

Our local celebration will take place at SOU Hannon Library’s Meese Meeting Room 305, at 7:00 p.m., on Thursday January 29.

The program will begin with a cello performance by composer Daniel Sperry, and will feature Rogue Valley poets including Pepper Trail, Amy Miller, Michael Jenkins, Julian Spalding, and Ashland High School poet Samara Diad. Audience members will then be invited to read one of their favorite Stafford poems.

The audience participation in the event is part of what makes the Stafford celebrations so special, says Amy MacLennan, who has been attending the event for several years, “I love the William Stafford celebrations. It’s a pleasure to hear local poets read a favorite Stafford poem along with one of their own. The pairings are unexpected and delightful.”

Stafford, who died in 1993, is Oregon’s most famous poet and considered one of the most important American poets of the late 20th century. Winner of numerous awards and honors, he served as Oregon’s poet laureate for 16 years. His first major collection of poetry, “Traveling Through the Dark,” was published when he was 48 years old and won a National Book Award.

The event celebrating his life and work draws community members of all ages. His deceptively simple language speaks to everyone, and beautifully articulates our human connections. Stafford celebrations take place across the U.S. and abroad every year around this time. MacLennan adds that the events are a gift to the community. “They define a great poet’s legacy, and these readings are such a tremendous cultural resource to honor his work each year,” she said.

If you are not familiar with Stafford’s work, go to the Ashland library and check him out. Stafford was prolific, authoring 67 volumes in his lifetime, each one loaded with gorgeous poems. One of my favorite collections is “The Darkness Around Us Is Deep.” The poems offer rich reflections on family, nature, and the mysteries of our place in the world. It’s one of those books I get something new out of every time I read it. Or simply wait until the 29th and join the party. It’s a terrific opportunity to hear his work read aloud and enjoy the works of some of the local poets Stafford inspired.

The event is free to the public and sponsored by Friends of Hannon Library and Friends of William Stafford. For more information call (541) 552-6816.

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Student Poetry Contest

Teachers, grab your students and let them bust out some poems for the 2015 Oregon Poetry Association’s Student Poetry Contest.

The contest is open to all Oregon students, kindergarten through 12th grade. There is no entry fee, and the postmark deadline for entries is February 10, 2015.

In addition to bragging rights, ten winners in each of four age categories will receive $10 cash prizes. All of the winning poems will be published in “Cascadia: The Oregon Student Poetry Contest Anthology.” Each winner will receive a certificate and a copy of the anthology.

The winning poems in both the middle and high school divisions are also eligible and will be sent to the annual Manningham Trust Student Contest sponsored by the National Federation of State Poetry Societies . This national competition also awards cash prizes and publication in an anthology.

Students can enter the contest individually, though writing poetry to enter in the contest is typically a class project organized by teachers.

The contest is great fun for kids as well as teachers, and it gives our kids a chance to showcase their talent and creativity. The contest rules and submission guidelines are below.

2015 Oregon Student Poetry Contest Rules
Division I: Kindergarten – Grade 2
Division II: Grade 3 – Grade 5
Division III: Grade 6 – Grade 8
Division IV: Grade 9 – Grade 12

Submit one original poem (your own individual creative work) on any subject, in any style or form, with a maximum of 40 lines. The poem must be titled, except for haiku, senryu, or limerick.

Type or word process your poem on a single sheet of standard 8 1/2 X 11 white paper, one side only, in a standard type face; no fancy fonts, graphics, or illustrations.

Send two copies of your poem. On the first copy, in the upper right hand corner, type your category (I, II, III, or IV) and grade level, name, school, school address and phone number, and the name (first and last) of your writing teacher.

Also on this copy, type, and sign the following statement: This poem is my own original creative work and has not been copied, in whole or in part, from any other author’s work, including poems posted on the Internet.

On the second copy, type the category and grade level only—check to make sure your name does not appear anywhere on this copy.

Mail to: Oregon Poetry Association
P.O. Box 1775
Corvallis, OR 97339
The deadline is February 10, 2015 (postmarked).

For more contest information visit the OPA website at .

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Ashland Sketches offers a wild mix of art

Ashland poets, writers, dancers, visual artists and others can check out “Ashland Sketches: Second Sunday Showcase,” a monthly gathering of artists and eager audience members that welcomes new work, improvisations, collaborations and experimental projects.

The first showcase of the year is Sunday, January 11. Each month, the Showcase folks invite about five participants of varying genres. For example, there may be a musician, an aerialist, a poet, a dance group, a short film, or visual artist. Each performer gets the stage for ten minutes. The finale involves an improvised mix of the participating artists, and the evening closes with a ten minute panel discussion and a happily satisfied audience.

For more information visit the Showcase Facebook page at or email the Showcase organizer Rob Head at

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Resolutions for writers

With the new year coming on fast, writers are dusting off pens and laptops, and considering writing goals for 2015. I spoke to a few poets and novelists about their goals and they were all surprisingly similar. Here is a list of six popular and achievable writerly resolutions.

1. Make time to write. There’s a saying an old teacher of mine would often share, “If you don’t write when you don’t have time for it, you won’t write when you do.” We’re all crazy busy, but even taking 10 minutes a day to write, whether it’s in a journal or adding a few more lines to that novel or poem, will make a difference. Not only will a few minutes a day add up pretty quickly, the practice can easily turn into a habit. If you feel stuck at the idea of writing something linear, simply jot down an outline or do some writing exercises.

2. Write what you want to write. Don’t worry about what other people want. Your job is to create and share the work of your heart, show all the scars. If others are moved, well then that is nice, too.

3. Revise your work. Edit as you write or do it all at the end of the draft; it doesn’t really matter. Nothing is too precious to hack out or fix in some way. What’s important is that you can look at your work and recognize how to make it better.

4. Step out of your comfort zone.
Whether you write fiction on poetry or nonfiction or some combination of all genres, it’s healthy to step off the path at times and try a different genre or style or writing or even a different art form altogether. Stepping out of your boundaries and surprising yourself a little, will limit stagnation and help you grow as an artist.

5. Read. Maybe read even more than you write. You’re honing your craft and learning from all the masters who came before you. Reading good writing is not only helpful it is darn inspiring.

6. Don’t be hard on yourself. Focus on what you do accomplish this year, not on your failures. Writing is difficult, and sharing it is even harder. Pat yourself on the back for having found something that you love and for sticking to it.

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William Stafford: His Writing, His Life

Lucky Rogue Valley poetry lovers, award-winning Ashland poets Patty and Vince Wixon present “William Stafford: His Writing, His Life” on Wednesday, December 17, from 12:00- 1:30 p.m., at the Medford Branch Library, 205 South Central Avenue. The event is part of the statewide program Oregon Reads.

The Wixons are fabulous speakers, and they will discuss the man they knew and his work, including a new book on Stafford aphorisms that Vince Wixon edited. They will also speak about their work in the William Stafford Archives.

Vince Wixon co-produced two documentaries on William Stafford and his poetry, “What the River Says” and “The Life of the Poem.” Highlights from these documentaries related to Stafford poems, his writing process and philosophy, and his influence on other poets and teachers will be shown.

Stafford is Oregon’s most famous poet and considered one of the most important American poets of the late 20th century. Winner of numerous awards and honors, he served as Oregon’s poet laureate for 16 years. His first major collection of poetry, “Traveling Through the Dark,” was published when he was 48 years old and won a National Book Award. Stafford’s appeal has endured in part because of the timelessness of his poetry. His deceptively simple language articulates our human connections and speaks to people of all ages.

After Stafford’s death in 1993, the Wixons helped assemble the Stafford archive of journals, poetry manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, and recordings. Patty Wixon was the first president of Friends of William Stafford and produced ninety-seven CDs of audio recordings of Stafford’s readings, talks, and interviews over five decades. Vince Wixon edited, with former Director of the Stafford Archive Paul Merchant, four posthumous Stafford books, including the just-released Sound of the Ax: Aphorisms and Poems. The Wixons recently were awarded the Stewart H. Holbrook Literary Legacy Award at the the Oregon Book Awards for their contributions to the literary life of Oregon.

This program is proudly presented by the Friends of the Medford Branch Library and the Rogue Valley Chapter of the Oregon Poetry Association (OPA). For more information please call 541 774-8679 or visit

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Poetry for birders, birds for poets

“Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems about Birds” edited by Billy Collins, is a gorgeous volume of poetry and art that makes a perfect gift for poets and bird nerds.

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Collins, and famed nature illustrator David Allen Sibley of the “Sibley Bird Guides,”  teamed up to create a collection of poems and paintings that celebrate poetry and the birds that inspire it.

The book pairs both classic and modern poems with beautifully detailed illustrations. Emily Dickinson and a Robin; Marianne Moore and a Frigate Pelican; Sylvia Plath and the Pheasant; Walt Whitman and an Eagle; Billy Collins and a Sparrow. While the anthology doesn’t offer many surprises, or ethnically or culturally diverse poets, the book is a real pleasure.

A birder friend pointed out that if one knows birds, it is easy to find a poem whose title you can’t remember because the book is arranged in taxonomic order. It starts with loons and seabirds and ends with finches.

If like me, you don’t know an American robin from an eastern towhee, the book is quite an inspiration to pay more attention to birds in my neighborhood, to learn more and maybe find a new favorite poem. or two.




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Oregon Poetry Association’s fall contest winners

Big kudos to the Oregon Poetry Association’s fall contest winners and to the fabulous judges that made it all possible. The OPA contest showcases this states’ fabulous poets and gives newbies a chance to strut their stuff. In addition to cash prizes, winners will be published in “Verseweavers,” OPA’s annual anthology.
Winners are listed below.

Poet’s Choice
Judge: Sam Roderick Roxas-Chua
1st place: “Very Old Man With Enormous Wings” by Sandra Rokoff-Lizut, Corvallis
2nd place: “Over Breakfast and the News I Wonder” by Hannah Thomassen, Cottage Grove
3rd place: “Whom Shall We Blame” by Susan Clayton-Goldner, Grants Pass

Members Only
Judge: Penelope Scambly Schott
1st place: “The Language Vest” by Sue Parman, Hillsboro
2nd place: “Good Morning” by Pamela Wilson, Corvallis
3rd place: “Spanish Lace” by Linda Ferguson, Portland

Dueling Judges
Judge: Andrea Hollander
1st place: “Call It Water, Call It Rain” by Jeanne Morel, Seattle, Washington
2nd Place: “Zoology 401” by Hannah Thomassen, Cottage Grove
3rd Place: “Streamline” by Dan Kaufman, Central Point

Dueling Judges
Judge: Elyse Fenton
1st place: “Sweeping: Three Scenes” by Sandra (Ellston) Mason, Seal Rock
2nd Place: “Evidence, Occurrence” by Nancy Flynn, Portland
3rd Place: “Navigation” by Toni Hanner, Eugene

Traditional Form-Litany
Judge: Sandra (Ellston) Mason
1st Place: “Codicil for Grief” by Keli Osborn, Eugene
2nd Place: “Between” by Liz Robinson, Phoenix
3rd Place: “Even Presuming” by Christopher M. Wicks, Silverton

Theme- Fences
Judge: David Oates
1st Place: “Fences/for Sam” by Toni Hanner, Eugene
2nd Place: “North Korea” by Joy McDowell, Springfield
3rd Place: “Night View” by Pamela Wilson, Corvallis

Experimental Poetry,
Judge: Dan Raphael
1st Place: “The Taste of Blue Light” by Toni Hanner, Eugene
2nd Place: “A Month of Sundays” by Nancy Flynn, Portland
3rd Place: “Friday Morning” by Michael Hanner, Eugene

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National Readathon Day is coming

For many of us, there are few things more appealing than curling up on the sofa with a good book, so America’s first National Readathon Day, organized by Penguin Random House publishers is an event I can lean into. The publishing giant is asking folks to set aside four hours on Jan. 20, 2015, from noon to 4:00 pm and read. Sounds good to me. The event is in support of literacy, education and sustaining a lifelong love of reading. The campaign, which launched this week, encourages book lovers to get together and make time to read. It also serves as a reminder that millions of American adults still struggle with basic literacy.

The readathon is a fundraiser to support the National Book Foundation which presents the annual National Book Awards and organizes after-school reading programs and other literacy events. Other partners in the project include Goodreads and the news website, Mashable. Bookstores, libraries and schools are encouraged to join in. Participants can use the online fundraising service, and invite friends and family to donate, or groups such as book clubs, libraries or schools can form a fundraising team.

Visit the Readathon Resources page for supporting materials and information on how to get started.
The Readathon also encourages everyone to share their experiences and photos using the hashtag, #timetoread.

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A puzzle book for writers

With all the books about writing and being a better writer out there, it’s fun to find one that surprises readers and offers a different perspective. “A Muse and a Maze: Writing as Puzzle, Mystery, and Magic,” by Peter Turchi explores the connections between writing and puzzles, both puzzle making and puzzle solving. Turchi writes that mystery is at the heart of all storytelling. Writers have the ability to create a state of wonder that draws in the reader, just as master puzzle makers and magicians create a similar state of credible illusion to draw us into their world.

The book includes examples of various writers from Chekhov to Mark Twain, who Turchi says have mastered the ability to present themselves and withhold information in such a way that invites the reader to step into the story and solve each mystery. Turchi writes that writers want to lead readers in a particular direction. For the reader, writing is like a puzzle in that it offers a bit of a challenge and the pleasure of completion. Ideally, it gives us something to think about as well.

“Amuse and a Maze” is a treat for puzzle lovers too, as it discusses the history of puzzles, magic tricks and labyrinths, and their obsessive quality. To demonstrate the challenges and rewards offered by puzzles and good writing, there are puzzles scattered throughout the book. Helpfully, the puzzle answers are in the back.

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    Angela Decker

    Angela Decker's poems have appeared in African Voices, Comstock Review, Hip Mama, The Wisconsin Review, Jefferson Monthly, and others. She occasionally teaches poetry writing at Southern Oregon University and shares the arts & literature column ... Read Full
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