Raves for Third Yuba Lit

I’m feeling more grateful than ever to have resettled in the Sierra foothills after hosting the January 21st Yuba Lit, which drew upwards of 60 local literature lovers to hear poet Indigo Moor, novelist Josh Weil, and emerging memoirist Cris Mulvey. I think it’s safe to say the readers held the room entranced; quiet “oohs” and “aahs” could be heard throughout the readings at the most rhythmic lines and arresting images. We had our fun, too, mingling during intermission with local Sierra Starr and Szabo wines, holding a contest for “most romantic” title to be found among the used books sold by our host venue, The Open Book (the winner: The Agony and the Ecstasy!). And we raised more than $250 for the Bear Yuba Land Trust.

Some unsolicited audience feedback:

“Another stunning night.”

“I have been attending the bimonthly readings sponsored by Yuba Lit and have been very impressed by high caliber work, the diverse readers, and your delightful introductions.”

“I’ve just come home from the reading on Thursday night and want quickly to thank you for your powers of organizing and bringing into being a memorable evening of nourishment expressed in the hard work (and humor!) of writers we may not otherwise have come to know. It was a fabulous selection, the proverbial feast.”

March and May Yuba Lits are already in the works:

Thursday, March 17th, 7 p.m.

Nayomi Munaweera, Bay Area-based author of the acclaimed novel Island of a Thousand Mirrors, and the about-to-be-released novel What Lies Between Us, set in Sri Lanka and San Francisco

Dmitri Keriotis, Grass Valley resident and author of The Quiet Time, a collection of stories

Emerging Nevada City fiction writer Ben Preston

Thursday, May 19th, 7 p.m.

Jordan Fisher Smith, Nevada City author of Nature Noir: A Park Ranger’s Patrol in the Sierra, and his new book, Engineering Eden: The True Story of a Violent Death, a Trial, and the Fight over Controlling Nature

Ernest J. Finney, award-winning author of seven books of fiction, most recently Elevation: 6,040, set in Sierra and Nevada Counties in the 1980s

Julie Valin, beloved Nevada City poet, editor, teacher and publisher, author of The Distance Between

Yuba Lit is seeking volunteers, and we could use donations to cover the expense of flyers and venue rental. We’d love to bring more supporters into the Yuba Lit fold! Contact me at rachel (dot) howard (at) gmail (dot) com if you’re interested.

Great thanks to our host venue The Open Book and its generous owner, Nory Fussell, to Harmony Books proprietress Stacey Colin, to Amy Rutten, Mary Wade, to our Yuba Lit bartenders John Parent and Niel Locke, and the Yuba Lit DJ Todd Wahowske, and greatest thanks to our awe-inspiring readers, Cris Mulvey, Josh Weil, and Indigo Moor, for reconnecting us with the full powers of language.

The Yuba Lit website is www.yubalit.org.

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Friday, January 22nd, 2016 · Uncategorized · No Comments »


Third Yuba Lit January 21st

I’m so pleased about the lineup for the third Yuba Lit community reading on Thursday, January 21st. Sacramento poet Indigo Moor will read with much-lauded novelist Josh Weil and emerging memoirist Cris Mulvey. Read all about them at the Yuba Lit website: www.yubalit.org. Hope you can join us for this great night of live literature if you live in the Sierra or Sacramento region. 7 p.m. at The Open Book 671 Maltman Dr., Grass Valley. $5 cover benefits the Bear Yuba Land Trust.

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Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015 · Uncategorized · No Comments »


Second Yuba Lit, New Online Winter Course

What an honor it was to present fiction writers Louis B. Jones, Janis Cooke Newman, and Amy Rutten at the second-ever Yuba Lit reading on November 19th. About 65 literature-loving listeners attended. You can read about it, and see photos, here.

The next Yuba Lit will be held Thursday, January 21st. I’m working on the lineup, while finishing a dream-job semester of teaching the Craft of Nonfiction seminar as a Visiting Writer in the MFA program of Saint Mary’s College.

I’m also working on a new course offering for Stanford Continuing Studies’ Online Writer’s Studio: “Writing About Spirituality.” I’m especially excited about the pluralism of this course–we’ll be reading across a wide range of faith traditions and genres. Registration opens November 30th.

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Tuesday, November 24th, 2015 · Misc. · No Comments »


To me it happens like this: at first I struggle, it’s hard to get started, no beginning seems to me truly convincing; then the story sets off, or bits already written gain power and suddenly find a way of fitting together; then writing becomes a pleasure, the hours are a time of intense enjoyment, the characters no longer leave you, they have a space-time of their own in which they are alive and increasingly vivid, they are inside and outside you, they are solidly in the streets, in the houses, in the places where the event must take shape; the thousand possibilities of the story choose themselves and the choices appear inevitable, definitive. Every day you begin work by rereading to regain energy, and rereading is pleasant, in perfecting, enriching, touching up the past to make it fit with the future of the story. Then this happy period comes to an end. The story is finished. You are no longer rereading the work of the day before but the entire story. You’re afraid. You test it here and there, nothing is written the way you imagined it. The beginning is insignificant, the development seems crude, the linguistic forms inadequate. It’s the moment when one needs help, to find a way to draw the ground on which to place the book, and understand what substance it is truly made of.

–Elena Ferrante as excerpted in Guernica

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Thursday, November 12th, 2015 · Books · No Comments »


Words–I often imagine this–are little houses, each with its cellar and garret. Common-sense lives on the ground floor, always ready to engage in “foreign commerce,” on the same level as others, as the passers-by, who are never dreamers. To go upstairs in the word house is to withdraw, step-by-step; while to go down to the cellar is to dream, it is losing oneself in the distant corridors of an obscure etymology, looking for treasures that cannot be found in words. To mount and descend in the words themselves–this is a poet’s life. To mount too high or descend too low, is allowed in the cast of poets, who bring earth and sky together. Must the philosopher alone be condemned by his peers always to live on the ground floor?

–Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

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Friday, October 16th, 2015 · Uncategorized · No Comments »


We had a terrific launch for the first Yuba Lit community reading in Grass Valley on September 24th, with about 45 people in attendance. Great thanks to Molly Fisk, Christian Kiefer, and Joshua Mohr for sharing their gripping and beautifully written work. And kudos to the audience members who stepped up to share a poem or a page during our opening flash-reading round. We heard writing at its finest, met and mingled over local Szabo wine, browsed the treasures on the shelves of our host venue, The Open Book, and marveled at Christian Kiefer’s abilities to push the needle on the applause-o-meter during our contest for “most intriguing book title” found in the stacks. (The winner? Christian’s own brilliant title for his second novel, The Animals, natch.) All that and we raised $200 at the door for the Bear Yuba Land Trust. Can’t wait to do it again on November 19th with readers Amy Rutten, Louis B. Jones, and Janis Cooke Newman. Updated info is now posted on www.yubalit.org.

And now I’ll be keeping my head down this coming week as I put finishing touches on the public craft talk I’ll be delivering as a Visiting Writer in the MFA program of Saint Mary’s College of California on October 7th.

UPDATE: Nice mention for Yuba Lit in Keri Brenner’s column in The Union here. Writes Brenner:

[Molly] Fisk was one of three presenters last week at the first Yuba Lit community reading that drew more than 50 people to The Open Book in Grass Valley. The event was a success; apparently there is quite the appetite for good writing and poetry in Nevada County.

Yuba Lit will hold another community reading in November. One of the speakers is expected to be San Francisco-based writer Janis Cooke Newman, author of the recently released novel, “A Master Plan for Rescue” (Riverhead).

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Thursday, October 1st, 2015 · Uncategorized · No Comments »


Launching Yuba Lit

In January I moved to the Sierra foothills: My husband and I bought a house in Nevada City. The little 49er-era mining town of 3,000 seemed a good place to be a writer: After all, I had met the novelist Josh Weil during a residency at the MacDowell Colony, and he seemed happy and productive living in Nevada City. And I knew that the organizers of the legendary Squaw Valley Community of Writers conference, which I had attended two summers earlier, lived in Nevada City, too. And of course, the TV writer and memoirist Heather Donahue lives here, and the poet Gary Snyder lives about 20 minutes outside town, way out on the famous North San Juan Ridge. And surely other writers I was yet to learn about.

I’ve been here seven months now, and I haven’t been disappointed: The tranquility of this place, the long walks down blackberry-entangled trails, the coffee shops, the abundant bookstores . . . It seemed the only thing this missing was a community reading series. Wouldn’t it be great to bring up Bay Area writers to read and mingle with the Sierra’s many talents?

And so, announcing a new reading series for the writer-rich Sierra foothills: Yuba Lit. We have a stellar lineup of readers for our first-ever event on September 24th at 7 p.m. at the Open Book in Grass Valley, CA. Novelist Joshua Mohr will be up from San Francisco to read with Auburn novelist Christian Kiefer and Nevada City poet-treasure Molly Fisk. The $5 cover benefits the Bear Yuba Land Trust, the amazing group responsible for the beautiful trails that ramble through these hills. Members of the audience are invited to read, too, by bringing one page or one poem to share during the opening round of flash readings, for which participants will be selected by lottery.

The plan is to hold Yuba Lit every other month. Future editions will always feature three readers: One Sierra writer, one Bay Area writer, and one emerging writer (a writer who has not yet published a book). We’ll have wine–and the intoxication of great writing. I can’t wait for the first Yuba Lit.

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Friday, August 14th, 2015 · Books · No Comments »


Authenticity comes from a single faithfulness: that to the ambiguity of experience. Its energy is to be found in how one event leads to another. Its mystery is not in the words but on the page.

–John Berger

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Monday, August 3rd, 2015 · Books · No Comments »


“Critical theory seminars in the form of absurd, artist-led fitness classes”: I had fun getting “deep femme” while reporting this ditty on “Sappho and Sweat” for the New Yorker’s website.

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Sunday, July 26th, 2015 · Uncategorized · No Comments »


I don’t really know whether art can exist without a certain degree of tranquility or spiritual poise; without a certain amount of quiet you can have neither philosophy nor religion nor poetry. And as one of those specialties of modern life is to abolish this quiet, we are in danger of losing our arts together with the quiet of the soul that art demands.

–Saul Bellow

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Friday, July 24th, 2015 · Uncategorized · No Comments »



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