Literature in Idyllwild by Jean Waggoner

The words of a good story jump off the page to charm, cajole, reason and wrestle with the human imagination. They carry us away, while anchoring us more profoundly to our world. In summer, libraries entice young readers with prizes for significant amounts of any kind of reading, as adults, too, search for new flights of brainy experience.

Riverside readers live in one of the largest counties in the country. When joined with San Bernardino as the Inland Empire (Inlandia, as some of us prefer), our locality is about as big as the state of Rhode Island. We have plenty of places to go and things to see, as well as a huge library system to draw upon for reading, listening and viewing material. Nonetheless, those of us in the county’s rural parts, like Idyllwild, don’t have easy access to a good book store without driving some distance, or as Mount San Jacinto’s people say, “going off the hill.”

Sure, there’s online shopping, but what can a literary-book or CD-gifting auntie do at two O’clock on a Wednesday afternoon to get a birthday present mailed to a thirteen-year-old in the county seat by Friday, when no such virtual store delivery has arrived?

Idyllwild readers know how to find good reading material, of course. Our library offerings include used book sales and several of the town’s thrift and “junk-tique” shops carry old books. The Nature Center or Forest Service offer selected new books on topics of outdoor interest, including publications by Inlandia members Myra Dutton and Sally Hedberg.

For Mackenzie, who turned thirteen on July 10th, this auntie broke from tradition and selected writing, instead of reading materials: a journal and a booklet of flowery sticky-notes from Idyllwild Gift Shop (whose proprietor has often posted Inlandia workshop fliers on her bulletin board). Tactile and old tech, the gifts brought back teen memories, a spiritual link from one generation to another.

The shopping excursion also elicited some community appreciation of what we do have in Idyllwild. We’ve got organizations that promote the arts in our schools, often drawing on retiree talent. In the literary arts, we have theater, writing and book club groups. The Idyllwild Arts campus, a fine arts high school, also offers summer classes for kids and adults.

Although we have no literary laureate who writes specifically about our mountains, quite a few published writers work or vacation here, and luminaries like Ann Rice have stayed awhile, somewhat incognito, among us. Local stories have been collected, showcased and archived by our highly acclaimed Idyllwild Historical Society and Idyllwild writers continue to add local color to literary writing. The literary climate is alive and well, here!

Sadly, long-time Idyllwild resident Myra Dutton will no longer serve as co-leader of our Idyllwild Inlandia Writing Workshop, after this summer. We understand, and we value the gifts she has inspired us with, including her “daughter of the plains’ meditation” on the Andrew Wyeth painting Christina’s World, which she shared in this beautiful poem:

Riding the Sacred

I have heard the secrets here,

felt the breath and beat of wind

across the grass-maned prairie,

and I climb on the back of this Earth,

as if I had journeyed centuries before,

her wild hair twined in my hand.

A Conversation With Rattle Editor Tim Green by Cati Porter

We’re again in the midst of National Poetry Month, so I thought it might be a good time to catch up with one of our regular columnists, Timothy Green. An avid supporter of the literary community, Tim recently moved from Los Angeles to Wrightwood, a move that has proven fruitful for him and his family. Here is our conversation:

Cati: Inlandia is all about celebrating the region, so tell me: you’ve been living in the Inland Empire for a few years now. What convinced you that moving to Wrightwood was the right move, and how does it compare to where you were living before?

Tim: I grew up in western New York, and my wife in rural Washington, state. We moved to Los Angeles to work at Rattle, but we were never meant for the City of Angels. We managed for a while, avoiding crowds by time shifting our weekends and work hours, but then we had kids and realized we needed a change. We chose Wrightwood for the seasons, the nature, and the easy drive up—coming here felt like coming home. I’d never lived in a small town before, and now that I’ve experienced the friendliness of the line at the post office and how much everyone cares about things like Little League, I’ll never be able to leave.

Cati: Most people who follow this column know that you write for Inlandia Literary Journeys and by virtue of that know that you are the editor of Rattle, a prestigious literary journal based out of Los Angeles. You mentioned once that you read something like 80,000 submissions each year—is that right? How do you get through so many submissions?

Tim: Writers send us 100,000 poems a year now, which is 250 a day, every day—even Easter. When you consider that the average book of poetry is about 50 poems, that’s five books before bed each night. I don’t know how we do it—my wife Megan and I read everything, and we’re always reading. But, then, this is the 21st century; everyone is always reading. We’re just always reading something very specific: boxes of submissions.

Cati: Can you tell us about the literary community in Wrightwood? I understand there are a number of writers who live there? You’re a writer as well as an editor—how has moving to Wrightwood affected your writing?

Tim: Wrightwood is a great place for writers—it’s almost in the name, right? My office overlooks a few dozen Jeffrey pines, all of them full of squirrels and quail and Stellar’s jays. It’s a great space for daydreaming. And there are writers here—I met a few through Inlandia: MJ Koerper and Victoria Barras Tulacro. But there hasn’t really been a literary community; there hasn’t been a nexus to bring us all together.

Cati: Today in my inbox, I received notice that you are planning a Wrightwood Literary Festival? Can you tell me a bit about it—where did the idea come from, and what kinds of activities and special guests do you have planned? I understand you’re also leading a workshop, on polishing your writing for publication. That’s a great opportunity for folks who want an editor’s insider perspective.

Tim: We’re having this festival to bring us all out of the woods, so to speak. The festival was borne mostly of jealousy, to be honest. I love Wrightwood, but I wish there were more of an Idyllwild element to it. Wrightwood is a great gateway to skiing and hiking, or day-tripping the Angeles Crest, but it isn’t known for art—why not? There are artists here, many visual artists, many musicians, many writers. I thought we could show off the beauty of our mountains, while also giving our local artists something to rally around. 

Inlandia Literary Laureate Juan Delgado is giving a keynote presentation on hiking and storytelling, followed by creative workshops with local artists. It’s really a retreat: our goal is to provide a space where participants’ personal stories can come to life. The wildflowers will be blooming, the pine scent on the air will be at its peak—it will be a respite from the daily grind of the Inland Empire, capped off with a lively open mic.

My contribution will be a workshop on how to really move an audience through writing. We all have important stories to share, each one of us, but how do we make a complete stranger want to listen? As an editor, that’s been my job for the last decade, and I’ll share what I’ve learned.

Cati: Do you think the festival will become an annual event? If so, what do you think future years will have in store?

Tim: The festival is definitely going to become an annual event. We wanted to start small and build outward, and in the future we’d like to make it a whole weekend, spread across multiple venues in town, including more visual arts and theater. For now, more information for the May 30 event can be found at

James Silberstein


The bird will tell his future, most likely what his heart already knows. She’s gone three days now—to town, or to Mary’s, or to some hairy arms—wherever madness goes. But she’ll come back.

A crow caws in the distance, too far to know for sure what it’s trying to tell him, so he walks the mile and a half to check the mailbox. His footsteps crunch the frozen gravel—the sound, dependable company. The cold mountain air helps him forget. For now, he can pretend the cold is only on the outside. He opens the mailbox to find it empty, except for the rust.

Mistletoe thrives in the stand of oaks across the highway. “Bloodsuckers,” he spits. Whenever he sees the parasite, he tries to cut it out with the chainsaw. But it’s been too long too late for those scrubs. If left after the kissing, mistletoe kills the tree.


He spots the black feathers and notes the direction, northeast—the crow perched among the ravaged oaks. He knows the time but checks the Omega Seamaster on his wrist anyway, finding comfort in the most reliable thing his father ever gave him. With this data—time, direction, and type of caw—he knows what crow is saying: A woman will come.

Caw: Later, her pickup will raise dust.

He’ll go to the truck to meet her, but he’ll wait for her to open her own door.

“I’m sorry,” she’ll say.

“I know,” he’ll say, not done believing her.

He’ll invite her inside, take her into his arms, and smell her for evidence, the soap not strong enough to cover the sweat from the long drive and the truck’s heater, but enough to wash away any other sins he wouldn’t want to know about anyway. She won’t wear perfume, like a dare to take her as she is.

“You’ve been chopping wood,” she’ll say, removing flecks from his hair.

“The splitter is broken. I’ll go get a new hydraulic line, tomorrow.”

“Maybe it can wait. Maybe we can stay in.”


“It’ll be cold tomorrow.”

“It will.”

“Yes,” she’ll say.

“I better take a shower, since I don’t smell as nice as you.”

“No, I like it.” She’ll move to him.

He’ll pull her in, tighter than he should, both of them trying to protect whatever tenderness they have left. They’ll barely make it to the bed, her hands tearing at his flannel, pine splinters in its fibers. He’ll feel the sticky of pitch between his hands and her skin. Her dress too thin for this weather, even inside by the stove, restraint will give way to heat, yield to fire, until they burn into that moment.

“Soha,” she’ll whisper, an inside joke from the first time they made love.

“Soha,” he’ll repeat after her.

They’ll lie quiet awhile.

“Did the birds tell you I was coming back?”

“They did.”

“How come I never met that old woman?”

“You did your own laundry.”

“I couldn’t afford to pay an old Tibetan witch to wash my undies.”

“She wasn’t very expensive.”

“Not everybody’s daddy leaves them enough money to—”

He’ll interrupt her, “Let’s not fight.”

“I’m not fighting.” Her eyes will widen.

Trying to reconcile, he’ll say, “Besides, she said she was repaying a kindness from a past life.”

“So that’s why she taught you to talk to birds, why she transmitted the ka-ka-ka-ka-ka-ja-ka…”

Kakajarita Sutra. Please don’t mock.”

“I’m not mocking. Remember I went to Dharamasla looking for moksha too.”

“And you found me.”

“It was you seduced me with all those big Sanskrit words.”

“You said you were my yogini,” he’ll say, remembering how her darkness brightened only when he held her.

“You should have known I was a crazy dakini,” she’ll say, and he’ll read the sorrow in her eyes.

“Maybe it’s not too late to fulfill our bodhisattva vows.”

“Maybe.” She’ll nestle in to him and they’ll fall asleep.

He’ll dream of Dhauladhar, the snow-capped range rising out of the Kangra Valley, once a symbol for what he thought he wanted—a far-out place to practice the meaning of the words he learned, karuna, shunyata, mahamudra.

For a while they’ll sleep soundly on the six acre California retreat, nestled at tree line among the Manzanita and mourning doves.

But Crow knows the difference between dream and reality. After being eaten by its shadow, the bird lost time—present, same as past, same as future. Crow knows what they’re capable of, always has, always will.

Caw: He’ll wake to hear her tearing up the closet for a lost glove, karmas and kleshas the conditions for her crazy.

He’ll get out of bed to shower. When he’s done, she’ll still be ransacking the closet.

Knowing she won’t stop until he says something, he’ll ask her to pass him a clean pair of pants.

“You never understand,” she’ll say.

“But I do.”

“Stop it! Stop saying that. You never let me feel the way I do.” She’ll have stuffed away the dress and be wearing his shirt, too big for her, making her furious action seem inconsequential, comical.

“You’re too busy telling me ‘I don’t understand’ to see how I always let you feel however you want.”

“I’m so tired of this.” She’ll leave the closet, strewing clothes behind her.

He’ll follow her. “You never give it a chance.”

“It’s not working.”

“You have no faith.”

“You don’t believe in me.”

“We should sit.” He’ll wave a hand toward the cushions on the floor before the hearth.

“I don’t want to.”

“Come here.”


“It’s not too late to practice,” he’ll hiss through a clenched jaw.

“Means nothing.”

“You’re wrong.” He’ll reach for her.

“Don’t touch me.”


“You don’t want me here.”

“Just stop it.” He’ll grab her.

“You’ve said it before—you wish I would leave.”

“Please,” he’ll say trying to soothe but merely agitating her more.

“Let go!” she’ll say, pushing, clawing.

Not sure whether to tighten or release, he’ll do both—one hand opening as the other stays tight around her wrist. She’ll fall to the floor. He won’t let go as she kicks.

The two will scream, never to be doves.

Shunyata means the essence of everything and Mahakaruna means great compassion. And the only thing he’s learned out here is how to listen to birds. The black wings flap but refuse to fly.

Seeing no other way, he closes the mailbox and walks back to the events he knows will come. His heart the kind of thing only a crow would eat.

James Silberstein writes and teaches in southern California. His grandparents owned and operated the Idyllwild Dairy in the 40s before settling Baldy Mountain Ranch off Highway 74 just before the turn to Pine-to-Palms. In her 90s, his grandmother still operates the ranch. It is a place of great inspiration for him.

Inlandia’s Fall Creative Writing Workshops Set to Begin by Cati Porter

The Inlandia Institute’s Fall Creative Writing Workshops are set to begin. Led by professional writers and writing instructors, each workshop is designed to meet the needs of writers working in all genres at all levels. Currently there are six different workshop locations:

Ontario, led by Charlotte Davidson [*Closed: Full]; Riverside, led by Jo Scott-Coe; Corona, led by Matthew Nadelson; Idyllwild, co-led by Myra Dutton and Jean Waggoner; Palm Springs, led by Alaina Bixon; and San Bernardino, led by Andrea Fingerson.

Each workshop series is approximately 10 weeks long, meeting every other week unless specified. Workshops are free and open to the public but registration is required.

Please RSVP to Registration forms will be emailed prior to and/or distributed during the first session.

And, while these workshops are free and open to the public, in order to keep them that way, we do ask that you consider an optional but suggested donation of $25 for the entire series. Information about why this is necessary is included in the registration packet.


Dates and times vary by location:

Ontario [*Closed: Full]


Led by Charlotte Davidson

6 pm – 8 pm

September 10 & 24, October 8, 22, and November 5


Ovitt Family Community Library

215 E C St

Ontario, CA 91764




Led jointly by Myra Dutton & Jean Waggoner

2 pm – 4 pm

First Friday of every month


Idyllwild Public Library

54401 Village Ctr Dr

Idyllwild, CA 92549




Led by Matt Nadelson

7 pm – 8:30 pm

September 9, 23, October, 7, 21, and November 18


Corona Public Library

650 S Main St

Corona, CA 92882




Led by Jo Scott-Coe

6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

September 25, October 9, 23, November 6, and 20


Riverside Public Library

3581 Mission Inn Ave

Riverside, CA 92501


Palm Springs


Led by Alaina Bixon

2 pm – 4 pm

October 8, 22, November 5, 19, and December 3


Smoke Tree Racquet Club

1655 E Palm Canyon Dr

Palm Springs, CA 92264


Free parking, accessible from E Palm Canyon or the Citibank lot on the corner of Sunrise/Hwy 111.


San Bernardino


Led by Andrea Jill Fingerson

3:30 pm – 5:30 pm

September 23, October 7, 21, November 4, and 18


Feldheym Library

555 W 6th St

San Bernardino, CA 92410

Alaina Bixon leads writing workshops, including Inlandia’s creative writing workshops in Palm Springs, edits books, and reads for the online journal The Whistling Fire. She is working on an article about women at MIT.

Jo Scott-Coe is the author of Teacher at Point Blank. Her essays can be found in Salon, Memoir, TNB, River Teeth, Hotel Amerika, Fourth Genre, and the Los Angeles Times. Jo is currently an associate professor of English at Riverside City College and the faculty editor of MUSE.

Charlotte Davidson received a Masters in English from Syracuse University followed by an MFA in poetry from UC Irvine. Her first book, Fresh Zebra, appeared in 2012. Charlotte leads Inlandia’s creative writing workshops in Ontario.

Myra Dutton is the author of Healing Ground: A Visionary Union of Earth and Spirit, which was a 2004 Narcissus Book Award finalist and a 2006 selection for “Ten Books We Love” by Inland Empire Magazine.

Andrea Fingerson has taught preschool, reading, and high school English. Currently, she teaches Child Development classes to teen parents. She received her MFA in Fiction from CSUSB. During that time she was a Fiction Editor for Ghost Town and the high school Outreach Coordinator for The Pacific Review. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and is currently in the process of editing a young adult novel.

Matthew Nadelson teaches writing at Norco College and leads a creative writing workshop at the Corona Public Library (every other Tuesday from 6 pm to 8 pm) through the Inlandia Institute. He has lived and worked in Riverside County since 1997 (with the exception of a brief stint in San Diego at SDSU, where he earned his MFA in creative writing, from 2002 to 2005). His writing has been featured in more than 20 journals and anthologies, and he was recently featured on the Moon Tide Press website as their “Poet of the Month” for December 2013. His first poetry collection, American Spirit, was published in August 2011 by Finishing Line Press.

Jean Waggoner, a published fine arts reviewer, poet, essayist and story writer, has taught college English and English as a Second Language in Riverside County for the past thirteen years and co-leads the Idyllwild poetry and creative writing workshops for Inlandia Institute. Jean is an advocate for part time faculty equity and co-author of a book on the part-time professor experience, The Freeway Flier & the Life of the Mind.

* Charlotte Davidson’s workshop is now CLOSED due to maximum enrollment; please check back in winter to see if openings are available or join one of our other upcoming workshops that still have seats. San Bernardino and Corona both have openings.

Myra Dutton


Now children think they have five years to live.
Stacks of worry lines crease their young brows.
They say, “Bees are dying, glaciers are melting,
and islands have been swallowed by the sea.
Every day one hundred species become extinct.
Each day there is increasing war and greed.
We wake to hear––No more Swallowtails.
Butterflies are the first to go.
Our world will never be the same.
The revenge of Gaia is upon us.”
Their young shoulders sag as they walk
past the people they once believed in,
and the children know––No one has the answer.
It seems like two hundred years since I was a child,
trained to hide in case of nuclear attack––to hide
under my desk, under God, in bomb shelters, in basements,
my mouth covered with a hankie, a pan on my head.
All anyone needed was a year’s supply of Campbell’s Soup.
Chicken Noodle and Creamy Tomato would save the world.
It was a well-kept secret that no one had the answer.

It seems like two hundred years since I believed
that humanity was innately good, that it cared
for all countries, all peoples, all beings,
that it cared if waters were pure, the air unpolluted,
and the land lush, green, and toxin-free.
What can I possibly say to the young idealist,
undaunted, who demands integrity from everyone?
Am I to say that times have changed?
… that two hundred years have passed
since I believed in mankind.
Or can I say that I am learning to trust?
… that even from this chaos and disorder,
good will rise, that it always does,
given enough time.

Don Lenik

Inlandia Creative Writers Workshops Feature – Idyllwild  Nominated by workshop leader Jean Waggoner


ME:        Hey, hair? Yeah, you, on top of my head, why don’t you keep on growing the way

you did when we were younger? Listen, I want to sing that old radio jingle again:


Brylcream, you look so debonair.

Brylcream, the gals’ll all pursue ya;

They love to run their fingers through your hair!


HAIR:      Aw, shut up, you fool; I’m dying, most of my companions are dead, brushed off.

Leave us be.


ME:         Whatta ya mean, “Leave us be”? You’re supposed to go on doin’ your thing, keep

puttin’ out, the way the rest of my body is (well, almost…I wish).


HAIR:      Look, we, the few, the brave, we’ve got some distant wild cousins on your neck,

on your chest. That’s the best we can do. They’re weak, but they’re willing. So you’re

shiny above. Be happy! STOP COMPLAINING.


ME:         Yeah, but try to understand. It costs ten bucks a haircut – they call it – but all I

ever get is a trim. I’m being cheated. Also, people are blinded by the glare from my



HAIR:      Forehead, shmorehead, you sorehead. Be thankful the rest of you is still

around; most of us aren’t. Ah, vanity, thy name is man. Wehhll…get a rug, you know,

a toupee. Or get a transplant. Go ahead. Hurt yourself. Spend the money. Cover your

ugly skull. Plastered on, whatever, we won’t mind the new neighbors. Comb us silly,

see if we care. Big deal, a little fuzz on the pate, HUHH.


* * *


Like Walt Whitman, Don Lenik worked as a journeyman pressman in the printing business. He tells an amusing story of when his first son came home from school after share-and-tell about what their dads did for work. The son complained that the kids had  heard “presser” instead of “pressman” and thought Don worked pressing clothes. Don and his wife Sheila (now deceased) moved to Idyllwild when he retired from his career in Los Angeles in 1994. That’s when Don began to share his life’s trove of story notes in various writing groups. He joined the first Idyllwild Inlandia Workshop in the summer of 2010. Don is the group’s most stalwart member and has kept many of the younger members [we’re all younger] amused with his zingers of homespun wit. His workshop leader especially likes his natural-sounding dialog.

About his writing, Don says, “I like a grabber for a title.” Sometimes he starts with a catchy title and builds a story he’s been thinking about around it. Putting something on paper is “a way of getting it out of my system,” he says. What he gets out may be meditation, diatribe, short sketch or completed story. Sometimes he writes in the voice of another – of someone with a body-piercing obsession or of the hair on his head. He says that what he writes first “doesn’t always make sense” and bemoans, “I have to revise drastically.”  Workshop writing, notes Don, “doesn’t come automatically,” as it seems for those “who write two pages while I have trouble with a half page.” Still, he says, he doesn’t bleed on the page, though he may sweat or cry, especially when he’s writing by himself and sad memories come back. “It’s a lonely business,” he insists.

Besides sharing his writing in workshops, Don keeps loneliness at bay by volunteering and participating in a number of other community groups, most notably the Garden Club, the Idyllwild Chorale and the Associates of Idyllwild Arts Foundation. He is a familiar face about town in Idyllwild. During the recent long drought, for example, Don could often be seen driving around with buckets and barrels doing “compassionate watering” of the flora in public spaces, like the ornamental cypresses at the Idyllwild Public Library. More recently, he served as a booster for the hill’s [Mt. San Jacinto’s] Lemon Lily Festival.

Jean Waggoner

California Leprechaun

“There has to be somebody sober
at AA meetings,” she insists, a woman
retired, widowed, beyond wish for a man.
“I’m Mrs. Sober, and I’ve been an alcoholic
for forty years,” she tells her people,
seven days a week, at meetings all over town.

It’s fall now, and she flings her
lint-flecked Irish walking cape
about her shoulders and pulls a seaman’s
cap down over cartilage-stretched ears.
From inner folds of her ample bag she digs a fist-sized
ring of keys that’s tethered to her purse strap
by clanging links of biker chain. Ka-Jang!

She’s on the move! Holy terror in low gear,
she will cruise to more than four dry and
“anonymous” bacchanalian covens today,
scaring the cloven-hooved of both sexes
and states in-between by sharing her stories,
embarrassments, alienation and rage.

Like her erstwhile students, many of the defiant
will poke fun at her. They’ll rile against her words,
sneer over her child bereft state, her isolation, accuse her
of senility/insanity and continue their ill-advised revelry.

Yet Riverside’s sprite of Erin, flaming with ire
and product of an old, banshee-wailing lore,
will persevere. She’ll wag bony fingers at them
for “falling off the wagon,” she’ll flash a twinkle of
the devil’s own recognition into their hazy eyes,
and infect their debauchery with mocking delirium,
with needling gall, with a dread of old English teachers,
and with the high, dry, smarter-than-you-ever-dreamed
cackle of impending doom:  “You see, I am you!”