Shadow People of Riverside By Wendy Marshall

Narrator: “Welcome to the Ghost Walk! We hope to scare you, or at least give you the creeps.”

1st person: “Yeah, creeps for sure. All I know is I’m bored.” Sighs loudly.

Narrator: “We’re just waiting for our other actors to show up.”

1st person: “Who’s that?”

Narrator: “Well, Riverside has been around for over a hundred years, (stage whisper: and that’s a long time by California standards!) and we’ve had our fair share of tragedy, and”

2nd person: “There! What’s that?” points at Pagoda. Narrator is relieved.

“Aha! That’s Chan. We call him Chan, anyway. He turned up after the excavation for the Arts building, near the Culinary Academy? They uncovered a Chinese settlement. He seems to like the pagoda; maybe he feels more at home there. We’re not sure.”

3rd person: “I bet he misses his home. I bet turn of the century Riverside was a very different place from China.”

2nd person: “Oh! I know her! Lucy!” points at the front of the library.

Narrator, nodding: “That’s Lucy. She was a librarian for the library back in the 20s. They found her body after she was laid off in 1929. The library lost a majority of its funding during the Great Depression, and most of the staff had to be laid off. She lost her job, and then, sadly she took own life. There! Did you see her? She likes to walk around inside: you can just see her through the doors.”

2nd person: “I hear she roams the stacks inside, too, not just at the doors.” Narrator agrees, and since now everyone is looking at the library, Narrator points to the right of the library.

“To the far right, between the church and the library? There used to be an entrance to the bomb shelter, back from the 1950s.”

1st person: “The Red Scare—real life horror!””

Narrator: “Yeah, no kidding! Anyway, the story goes that during one of their bomb drills, I guess, or maybe he was just curious, this guy got locked in. And forgotten. They didn’t find him for six months.” (Collective groan.) “Dehydrated, just like the food in the bags down there.” (collective eewwww)

3rd person: “Didn’t the shelter have food?”

Narrator: “Yes it did; and water. But the ventilation fans hadn’t been turned on. They suspect that he lived for about two days.”

Narrator, turning, and pointing: “There he is!” (Points to top of art museum.)

“That used to be the police department in the late 1800s. This was still the Wild West, you know? And the story is that they caught this guy trying to steal a horse, and they locked him up. He insisted he was innocent; don’t they all? And after two days in jail-during the summer, of course, and no electricity! He escaped to the roof—there, can you see him? And fell off.”

1st person: “What about old City Hall?” Narrator nods.

“Yeah, I’ve heard that there are bodies buried underneath the steps! Supposedly they did one of those ultrasound thingies that can find bodies, or bones or buried treasure, and they got these really confusing images but no one wants to put up the money to dig it all up and then rebuild it.” Turns back to the crowd.

“Lots of ghosts here in Riverside. Lots of history, you know? Riverside’s been incorporated since 1870, but, gosh, people have lived here, and walked through here, since like 1774.

That was when de Anza came through, and before then, we have evidence of Native Americans living here.  I mean, forever, you know? Crazy.”

Are You Scared Yet? Written by Myla Myers & Kalysta Garland

Note: This story will be featured at the 2016 Ghost Walk on the Run for Your Lives tour – Red

(Chad, Jake, Emily, and Sarah walk onto set location. Chad steps in front of everyone and stands tall)

Chad: Okay, here we are.

Jake: (chuckles) I didn’t know if we’d be able to find this place!

Sarah: Where are we?

Chad: We are standing in the place where Annabelle Peterson murdered both her parents and suddenly went missing. (cocky )

Emily: Wh-who’s

Annabelle Peterson?

(All sit down while Chad tells the story)

Chad: You guys don’t know who Annabelle Peterson is? When she was 8 months old, her
parents one night left her at the doorsteps of this house. The family that took her raised her as their own. But something wasn’t right about Annabelle.. ( looks at Jake and smiles)

As she got older, she became angrier and angrier about being abandoned by her birth parents. She started acting out because of it.

Jake: One day, when Annabelle was 11 years old, the two dogs suddenly went missing and the father found their dead bodies behind this tree. The father said the wounds looked like someone killed the dogs.

Emily: Not the dogs! Who killed them?

Jake: Annabelle killed them. But that wasn’t the worst of it, that was just the beginning.

Sarah: You guys, this isn’t funny. Stop trying to scare us.

Chad: This is a true story, we aren’t joking around. (Pause, looks around the area.) Anyways, when Annabelle was 14 years old, on a cold, dark, windy night she woke up in the middle of the night and went crazy! ( Emily jumps in fright) She went to the kitchen and grabbed the biggest knife she could find. ( Chad pantomimes holding a knife) Her parents woke up from the noise she was making and came to check on her. That’s when she stabbed them both in the chest!

(Chad pretends to stab Jake, Jake overacts being stabbed, they both start laughing )

Emily: (screams ) Stop it!

Sarah: (sarcastically) And what happened to Annabelle?

Jake: She ran away from the scene without a trace. They had police looking for her for a while, but she was never found. No one’s seen her since.

Chad: It’s been told before that she comes back here and seeks revenge for being abandoned when she was a baby.

(Someone off stage moves an object to create noise )

Jake: What’s that noise? ( Everyone stands up and looks around. )

Emily: Wh-what noise?

Sarah: Stop it. You’re not funny. He’s lying, Emily. He’s just trying to scare us.

Jake: No, I swear I heard something.

(Lights go out. Jake screams. All scream. Lights come back on and Jake is gone.)

Sarah: Where’s Jake? You guys need to stop it! This isn’t funny!

Chad: I swear, this isn’t a prank. (Yells) Jake!!

Emily: I wanna go home! ( Grabs ahold of Sarah’s arm. ) Sarah I’m scared!

(All call for Jake. Lights go out.)

Sarah: Chad, stop touching me!

Chad: I’m not touching you.

(Flashlight on Annabelle behind Sarah. All scream. Lights come back on and Sarah is gone.)

Emily: Get me out of here!

Chad: Let’s go! Take my hand and let’s leave. ( Emily grabs his hand. )

Lights out.

Chad: Emily don’t let go of my hand.

(No response )

Chad: Emily?

Annabelle: Do you want to play a game?


(Both scream, Emily is gone when lights come back on. When lights go back on, Chad and
Annabelle are looking at each other face to face.)

Chad: Oh God help me please. ( Starts crying. Drops down to his knees. )

Annabelle: Are you scared?

Lights go out. Chad screams. Annabelle laughs. Lights on.

The Tale of the Three Kitties by Maddie Mathes

Uprooted orange trees lie on the ground, making a straight path to an old cabin in the trees. A young girl of the age seventeen is riding her bike along a dirt rode her hair flowing in the wind her eyes green as grass. She suddenly stops and spots a cat black as night in the distance hiding and he bushes near her. The cat begins to walk away from her then she notices that the cat has a limp on his back paw. She cuts of the dirt road and into orange trees to find the cat. She hops off her bike and walks towards the cat. The cat stands still and silent as she kneels down. The cat approaches her she says, “Hello, I am Gracie.” She would always talk to animals because her mom works at an animal shelter. Gracie often helps her mom at he animal shelter.

The cat came closer to Gracie and then something amazing happened the cat said, “Hello, Gracie, I am Zyzzx.” Gracie let out a bellowing scream and fell to the ground and passed out. About twenty minutes later she woke up to Zyzzx’s tail in her face. As Gracie got up Zyzzx jumped off her lap.

Gracie asks the cat, “How can you speak like a human?”

Zyzzx replies, “Two witches cursed me.”

“W-witches,” Gracie says

“Yes, two witches. Annie and Valerie.”

Gracie had been scared of witches since she was a little girl.

“I can show you where they live if you want,” asks Zyzzx.

Gracie was too scared to say anything so she followed Zyzzx. As they arrive at the cabin two black cats jump down from a the trees and say, “About time you got back Zyzzx.”

Before the cats can say another word a woman comes out of the house, yelling “Jackson where did you put my hat.”

One of the cats ran up to the witch and says, “It’s over by the plants, Annie.” Annie gave Jackson a dirty look and went to get her hat.

The witch looks towards Gracie and says, “Valerie sister come outside we have a visitor.”

A larger woman comes out to see Gracie. “Yes Annie who is it.”

“A strange girl with Zyzzx.”

“Who are you and what do you want,” yells Annie.

“Well, I am Gracie” she replies.

Before she can say another word Valerie yells, “Gracie who”

“Um Winchester. Why?” Gracie asks.

Valerie and Annie face each other then they turn towards Gracie and ask, “Is your mom’s name Clare”

Gracie replies “Yes. How do you know that?”

Zyzzx looks up at Gracie and says, “Well it has been nice, but we really should be going.”

“NO!” yells Annie. “You should stay for dinner,” Annie says, trying to stay calm.” An evil look comes over their faces.

Zyzzx looks up at Gracie and yells, “Run for it!”

Gracie and Zyzzx run as fast as they can through the orange trees.

Zyzzx says, “Don’t look back. Keep running.

As they stop at some uprooted orange trees Gracie asks, ‘What’s going on?”

Zyzxx replies, “When your mother was younger she was a witch and she still is. She just doesn’t like to live like one, but she was in a coven with Annie and Valerie. It was just the three of them but then she told Annie that she had a child and that child was you. Annie and Valerie found that out they moved away, hoping your mom wouldn’t find them here, but she moved to Riverside. Annie and Valerie are mad and want to find you now.”

As soon as Zyzzx says that the two witches came laughing like crows. They fly on their brooms. The two black cats are with them. The two cats jump off the witches’ brooms as they fall to the ground the began to run toward Gracie and Zyzzx. Annie says an incantation and Jackson and the other cat grow so large, making them as big as tigers.

Gracie screams in fear. They start running. Zyzxx jumps up in an orange tree. Gracie jumps in one, but the branch breaks on her foot, making her slip and Jackson claws her all they way down her leg. Gracie can’t move very well due to her leg. As soon as Annie and Valerie where by Gracie they both say an incantation and throw a powder on Gracie. Once the powder clears, Gracie is gone and instead there lies a little brown tabby cat on the ground. Gracie soon was able to look at herself and she gasps.

The witches cackle and laugh. Annie says, “That’s what happens when you mess with us.”
Valerie says, “Finish them off boys,” as they fly away. Zyzzx and Gracie begin to run from Jackson and the other cat as approach some rocks, a beautiful fluffy white cat with sea blue eyes comes out from a small opening in the rocks. She has a blue stone pendant around her neck. She lifts her paw and drops it on the ground. Suddenly the two cats fly back, going all the way to the end of the orange groves.

“Come with me,” said the white cat. Zyzzx and Gracie follow her as the reach the bottom of a granite staircase she turns toward them and say, “I am Luna the keeper of the moon pool. Your mom summoned me to help you. This pool will grant you any wish you desire. I will let you both use it.” Both Zyzzx and Gracie agree as Gracie goes in the water she wishes to be a human again. Zyzzx wishes to be free from the witches and so as they are submerged in the water their wishes come true. Gracie comes out a human and Zyzzx free from the witches the both thanked Luna and left the moon pool. They both left the groves in peace to live another magical day.

Modern Day Vamps By Sophia Mathes


Conditions for the poor people in London had improved some with the recent improvements of sanitation systems. A young man by the name of Jason worked tirelessly to support himself; he had no living relatives. Then one moonless night while traveling home he laid eyes on a frightening scene. An entrancingly beautiful man had a dying woman in his arms, sucking the blood out of her neck. Although every bone in Jason’s body told him to run, he couldn’t.

Over the next two years him and the beautiful killer, William, became close. Upon Jason’s twentieth birthday William realized he wanted Jason to stay with him forever, he turned him into a petrifying creature of the night; a vampire.


Jason and William lounged on the steps of an old downtown building of Riverside, California. Both we’re darkly dressed. In William’s hand was a dark colored glass bottle. To any passerby they looked like any ordinary no-good boys.

Jason held open a popular vampire romance book. “Wouldn’t it be cool if we sparkled?” said Jason. William toyed with the zipper of his jacket absent-mindedly. “Yes, but we live in the real world where vampires burn in the sun” replied William.

“What do you want to eat tonight?” said Jason looking up at the sky. “I don’t know man, but what I do know is if we don’t bring Anne back something warm she’ll stake us” said William. Jason laughed at the thought of pixie-sized Anne coming at them with a stake.

A young woman walked down the street, slowing slightly when she saw Jason and William. “Show time lover boy” said William, slapping him on the back.  Jason gracefully stood and leisurely made his way toward the girl.

“Hey there” she said twirling her hair around her finger. “You look lovely in the moonlight, part of me wonders what you look like in the day” Jason purred in a voice smooth as black silk. “Well give me your number and you might get to see me in the day” she said smiling. He sighed, “I can’t go out during the day”

“What? Are you a vampire or something?” she inquired jokingly. “Perhaps I am” Jason replied, smirking as he stepped closer. The girl had now idea that a third vampire was creeping out of the shadows behind her.

“Come have a little flirtation with the dark side, lovely” said Jason holding out his hand to her. She took it, sealing her fate. Jason pulled her against his body and placed a hand on her waist, smiling the way a predator did.

“Watch out!” a voice screamed. Another girl up the street had seen the third vampire. With deadly precision the last vampire slit his target’s throat. Spraying crimson blood over Jason’s front. The other girl turned and fled as quickly as her highly impractical high heels could take her.

“You weren’t supposed to kill her yet Arthur,” said Jason with a disapproving look on his face. Arthur shrugged and grinned. Jason let the dead female’s body hit the ground with an ugly thud. William sauntered over to Jason and put an arm around him.

“You sparkle when you’re covered in blood” he said and kissed Jason deeply. “I got dibs on the runner” Arthur yelled, already in pursuit of the other girl. “Dammit Arthur” the remaining two said in unison, taking off after him into the night.

The End

LAST PHONE CALL Written by Jerry D. Mathes II

Note: This story will be featured at the 2016 Ghost Walk on the Things that go Bump in the Night tour – Orange.


THUNDER RUMBLES from outside. BOBBY, a young man, sits at a table typing furiously on his laptop. He takes a drink from his water bottle and sets it next to his lap top. He looks

He stretches, yawns, and types a little more.

BRENDA and TIFFANY, young women, enter and stop in front of
Bobby. They each carry their smart phones in their hands. .

You were supposed to meet me an hour ago.

Bobby motions to his lap top exasperated.

I need to finish this paper.

You could’ve called.

She holds out her phone as if presenting evidence.

Brenda sets her smart phone on the table and rummages through her purse.

You wasted our time.

She looks to Tiffany.

I left my card at Back to the Grind.

Please. You know I love you. I’ll be there in another hour. If not I’ll call. Promise.

Fine. But you’d better call.

Or have a really good excuse.

Or you can just drop dead!

Brenda and Tiffany storm off. Brenda’s phone still on the table.

Bobby looks sad and frustrated. He yawns.

Maybe just a catnap.

Bobby lays his head on the table.

EVIL SPIRIT enters. A woman dressed in a white dress, white faces with slight skull shadings. She is at once playful and menacing.

She puts her finger to her lips and shushes the audience, with a mischievous grin.

She waves her hand and THUNDER RUMBLES. She knocks over the water bottle and it spills on the lap top. It SIZZLES.

Bobby jerks and spasms from electrocution and then slumps in his chair.

The Evil Spirit LAUGHS.

Brenda’s phone on the table RINGS.

Tiffany walks in, looking at her phone.

The Evil Spirit moves around her.

Here it is, Brenda.

Brenda comes back, picks up her phone, and regards Bobby.

The Evil Spirit stands by Bobby and motions towards him like a game show hostess presenting a new car.

Look at him. Asleep.

So rude.

Tiffany sniffs the air.

Smells a little like burnt chicken.

The Evil Spirit rolls her eyes.

Brenda shrugs.

Let’s go.

Brenda takes a step, but hesitates.

Why should I let him sleep?

She reaches out to shake his shoulder.

The Evil Spirit dances about, encouraging her.

No wait. He’s been working so hard.

Brenda pauses. The Evil Spirit shakes her fist at Tiffany.

Excuse me?

He just wants to get good grades to get into med school.

I’m his girlfriend.

The Evil Spirit continues to pantomime.

He wants to make a great future with and help people.

How do you know this?

He says it all the time. You just don’t notice it.

Brenda softens. Pulls her hand back to her side, looking at Bobby lovingly.

Oh. I guess I can be self-involved.

The Evil Spirit LAUGHS, but Brenda and Tiffany don’t notice.

They move to the side and whisper to each other as TWO YOUNG MEN, MIKE and FRANK, enter and pause in front of Bobby.

Smells like my mom burned dinner again.

The Evil Spirit regards the two young men.

(to audience)

Ah. Boys. The pliant tools of mischief.

Bobby’s hard out.

The Evil Spirit beckons them toward Bobby.

Mike grins mischievously at Frank who grins back.

The Evil Spirit motions for them to shake Bobby.

Mike takes out a Sharpie and uncaps it.

The Evil Spirit gives them a what the heck look and a look of disbelief to the audience.

Mustache time!

(to audience)

The imperfect tools of mischief.

Mike and Frank move toward Bobby.

What do you think you are doing?

Mike pauses.

He is dead tired from studying.

She points to Bobby and in the same instant the Evil Spirit waves her hand and THUNDER RUMBLES.

Bobby falls from his chair to the floor. They all SCREAM in horror. The Evil Spirit looks satisfied with herself as she dances around.

Tiffany rushes to Bobby, checks his pulse…

Call 9-1-1.

Mike takes out his cellphone as Tiffany starts CPR. Frank jumps to help her. Brenda stares in shock.

Bob gets off the floor and walks to the Evil Spirit. Tiffany and Frank keep doing CPR where Bobby had been on the floor.

The Evil Spirit hands Bobby a cellphone. Bobby nods and dials.

Brenda’s phone RINGS. She looks at it in horror and to where the CPR is being performed. She answers it.

Hi, Brenda. I’m not going to make it for coffee.

INLANDIA LITERARY JOURNEYS: Remembering ‘A Room of Her Own’

o6x6km-b88706664z.120160509101238000gp7gdvvv.10The book was going to be an easy undertaking: two months to revise, update and reformat a work I published in 1995 about “A Room of Her Own,” essentially a bookstore within The Frugal Frigate, a Children’s Bookstore in Redlands.

Instead, my undertaking launched a new adventure.

In July 1987, I lived only a mile from The Frugal Frigate in the restored historic district of Redlands, when educator and businesswoman Katherine Thomerson opened its doors. Soon, Katherine enticed Ann Schmidt to assist her.

Nestled to the right of the front entrance, Katherine maintained a steady presence of four shelves of books by, about and for women. “The Women’s Corner,” as it became known, met a deep and growing need in the community.

By January 1991, a separate space was created within the store for books by, about and for women. It was called “A Room of Her Own.” Ann was the primary keeper of the room.

Within four years, it evolved into the largest collection of books by, for and about women north of San Diego, east of Los Angeles and south of the San Francisco Bay Area. It became a center of intellectual, literary and creative activity for women in the Inland Empire.

In early 1995, Katherine gave me permission to conduct an ethnographic, or descriptive, study on the evolution of “A Room of Her Own” as part of my doctoral work. I tracked its growth and activities from March 1991 to August 1995, and included a photo essay.

It became clear that the room was a magical place.

There were thousands of books, mostly single copies, in 49 topically defined sections. Ann introduced readers to more than 124 books in her column in the monthly newsletter. The Monthly Book Group devoured and discussed 51 books, and a Spiritual Journey Group provided women a safe space for dialogue.

Finally, numerous scholars and authors including Susan Straight, Laura Kalpakian, and Patricia McFall gave presentations for 56 events in the outstanding Speaker/Discussion Series, held monthly, on the stage of The Frugal Frigate, free to the public.

I was a reader for three celebrations in the series, and my one-woman play, “Mother of the Mystic Garden: The Life and Times of Hildegard von Bingen,” debuted at one those events. In 1996, I also organized and presented “A Celebration of Sacred Songstorysound.”

In 1995, when Larry Burgess, then the director of the A.K. Smiley Public Library in Redlands, requested a copy of my study for inclusion in the library’s Local History Archives, I had only a partial understanding of how appropriate that decision was.

Ten years later, after 16 years of service, The Frugal Frigate, housing “A Room of Her Own” within, was sold. The 2,200-square-foot “A Room of Her Own” was dismantled.

In 2009, The Frugal Frigate sold again. The current owner, Gay Kolodzik, purchased the store in 2010.

Last spring, I decided to republish the study as a book accessible to a much larger audience. The story of “A Room of her Own” chronicles a unique, vital piece of women’s history in Redlands and California, on many fronts. It provided an exciting, vibrant literary scene, was a woman-owned business, supported the visual arts, scholarship, debate, education, self-discovery and community, to name a few.

I contacted Katherine Thomerson and Ann Schmidt, re-interviewed them, and received their blessing to revive the study. Ann was invaluable providing both archival and updated information. Amazingly, I learned, the Book Group has been meeting continuously since April 1991.

As word about the project spread, people voiced interest in contributing to it. A chapter on recollections was birthed.

I put forth queries, conducted interviews, and contributors generously submitted reflections. Artist Christine Curry Coates writes of how the murals Katherine commissioned to grace “A Room of Her Own,” launched her successful career as an artist. Laura Kalpakian, Gayle Brandeis and many others penned their memories.

It has been a time of community: of rekindling and reconnecting, laughter and tears.

The anticipated two months to publication has turned into a year of unfolding processes now nearing completion. I’m grateful for, and humbled by, the results. The project took on its own energy, once again sweeping me away on a frigate to A Room of Her Own, providing gifts far beyond what I ever imagined.

Inland author Joan Koerper has published everything from poetry to scholarly research. She earned her Ph.D. in Writing and Consciousness at the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco.

INLANDIA LITERARY JOURNEYS: Neglected titles have volume of life

o6x6fj-b88698409z.120160509100902000gn0g7dlp.10Gardening and reading are often pictured together as delights practiced into the afterlife, probably because people can’t imagine ever giving them up.

While everyone knows that gardeners have to weed their plots to get rid of plants that would choke out the beauty of the whole, book lovers rarely consider that good libraries must be weeded as well if they hope to avoid the fate of becoming frozen in time – dusty, unused and overseen by a Miss Havisham of a librarian.

The removal of books – seen as artifacts – has often caused much drama for small local and school libraries that attempt to stay current.

As a school librarian working on a campus that several years ago celebrated its centennial, I am one of a long series of teacher librarians who have never had the time to properly cull the collection. So much remains on the shelves that should have left the building decades ago; these books become time capsules, and the weeding is a romp through pop history and culture.

It’s difficult not to have deep affection for outdated books in the same way one might for a ride that is torn out of Disneyland because its time has passed.

As a form of amusement, the book itself, the information it contains, or its author, might have been a part of our childhood or, in a library as old as mine, our parents’ or grandparents’ childhoods.

I recently promised myself to remove the library’s never-used books from the shelves. Some were easy to pull, such as the science books that stated that one day people would land on the moon.

With others, I fought an undercurrent of affection, the source of which was puzzling. The checkout history of “A First Electrical Book for Boys,” published in 1936, was lost; however, the book was never added to the circulation system when it was automated in the late 1980s.

I imagine innocent, inquisitive kids pouring over it. I like to picture smart, sneaky girls taking the book home with the compliance of their librarian.

“The Story of X-ray” from General Electric is a pamphlet that appears to have been printed in 1949 and was checked out nine times from 1951 to 1959. It pictures a technician without any protective garments taking X-rays in a hospital room with a mobile unit. X-ray technology itself is described as something of a creepy Big Brother: “There is practically no region of the body that is not subject to its searching eye.”

Shelved nearby, “The Walt Disney Story of Our Friend the Atom,” published in 1956 and acquired in 1958, enjoyed numerous checkouts ending in 1981. Despite being fabulously dated, it does appear to be a friendly book, with its full-color illustrations and cartoon images.

I move to find books that are either “head scratchers“ or “heartbreakers.”

“Cheese Varieties and Descriptions” from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Agricultural handbook No. 54), first issued in 1953 and costing $1.75, was never checked out. Even back in the day, it seems teens were focused on something other than their future wine-and-cheese parties.

More curious yet is “How to Know the Eastern Land Snails: Pictured-keys for determining the land snails of the United States occurring east of the Rocky Mountain Divide.” Published in 1962 and acquired in 1967, it was checked out once, in 1970. That’s once more than I would have put money on.

The “heartbreakers” include “National Geographic’s Song and Garden Birds of North America.” This volume is beyond beautiful, its heavy glossy sheets thick with full-color images of every imaginable bird. It’s an early interactive book, complete with a booklet of bird songs on several flimsy 45-rpm vinyl records.

INLANDIA LITERARY JOURNEYS: Persuasion and pitfalls in political poems

o5n5zl-b88689179z.120160414135006000gt9g06if.10This is the year it could happen. Maybe you’re stuck in a stop-and-go rubberneck on the 91 freeway, the radio a dull drone through your morning migraine as the partisan station of your choice recaps the political news of the day.

Maybe it’s already happened. Maybe you’ve already begun thinking of words that rhyme with candidate names.

Wherever it happens, you might have the sudden urge to write a political poem sometime during the next eight months. To help you get ready, I’ve prepared this simple guide to help you handle the situation with aplomb.

First of all: Don’t panic. Pull to the side of the road somewhere safe, or wait for the nearest exit, then find an empty parking lot or an exceptionally long drive-through line. Poems sometimes write themselves, but they can’t write themselves while you’re driving. Only poem in park.

Don’t feel guilty. A poem is just a special way to talk about special things. We all have an innate desire to say the un-sayable, to articulate all that lies just beyond the reach of articulation. Poetry can happen to anyone, anywhere, so remember: It’s not your fault.

Find a recording device. Use your smartphone, if you have one, to record your poem as a voice memo, text it to a friend, email it to yourself, or tap it out using a standard writing application.

If not, many of the world’s greatest poems have been written on ancient, crusty glovebox napkins. It’s true. If all else fails, there’s still memorization, a pneumonic device, which historically has been the point of poetry more often than not. Whatever tool you use, just don’t lose it.

Now that you have your poem saved, the real trouble begins. Sure, you’ve written something “felt in the blood and felt along the heart,” as Wordsworth put it, but what next? Does your political poem have any cultural value? Should you share it with close friends, or perhaps even the public?

On this question, poets themselves have long been split. In “A Defense of Poetry,” Percy Shelley famously wrote that “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world,” and others have been trying to pat themselves on the back equally firmly ever since.

William Carlos Williams says, “It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” Your political poem could be a matter of life and death! More recently, Meena Alexander writes that, “We have poetry/ So we do not die of history,” a statement I particularly love.

Not everyone agrees, though. In a 1965 lecture to students at Berkeley, Jack Spicer said, “I don’t know of any political poems which have worked,” and suggested instead of writing poems that they write letters to their congressmen. Both would be equally effective, he reasoned.

I once asked National Book Award winner Troy Jollimore why he finds political poems difficult to write, and he worried about preaching to the converted: “The people who know those are good values are already on my side; the people that don’t think they’re good values aren’t going to be convinced by my siding up with good values.”

He has a point, too. A poem isn’t an argument. A poem’s purpose isn’t to persuade — persuasion is for op-eds and campaign ads.

So keeping that in mind, re-read your political poem. Is it cheerleading, or is it trail-blazing? Does it reach deeper into the abyss to haul up some new creature?

Just last week, an Orange County poet named David Miller wrote in a political poem, an elegy for the personified American Dream: “I ran when I heard you crying/ like a phone, no one told me how alone you are.” Now that’s what Shelley meant when he said that poetry “purges from our inward sight the film of familiarity which obscures from us the wonder of our being.”

Be honest, does your political poem really purge the film of familiarity, or is it just more mosquito guts on the windshield? If it’s the former, then by all means share it widely! This is the year for purging.

Wrightwood author Timothy Green is editor of Rattle magazine

INLANDIA LITERARY JOURNEYS: Writing helped family pursue justice

o5hej0-b88676034z.120160411110922000gh0fr950.10A mother’s worst nightmare became my reality. The midnight phone call from a sheriff’s deputy waking me with horrible news: My son, Mark, had been “in a collision and he did not survive.”

The rest is a huge blur. My adult son was the victim of a hit-and-run crime, and he was unable to defend himself. His voice was silenced. It became our family responsibility to ensure that Mark’s voice would be heard.

During the criminal trial, we were offered the opportunity to address the judge by writing a victim impact statement. It allowed us to tell the court about the effects, the impacts of Mark’s death and the damage the offender had caused.

We read our statements out loud during the sentencing hearing.

I held a large photo of Mark to put a real face on a judicial case number. Like Joan Didion in “The Year of Magical Thinking,” I wanted to scream, but I remained calm. Mark’s voice resonated through me, through his father, his son, his brother and his aunt. We spoke for him.

Victims are seldom called to testify in court, and if they do testify, they must respond to narrow, specific questions.

But the California Constitution allows victims to present written and oral statements. These statements are often the victims’ only opportunity to participate in the criminal justice process, or to confront the offenders who have harmed them.

These are testimonials about how a crime has affected them. They generally are included in the presentencing report presented to the judge and are allowed during the sentencing process.

When a victim is deceased, as in our Mark’s case, the relatives have the right to be heard. A judge may use information from these statements to help determine an offender’s sentence.

I welcomed the opportunity to articulate to the judge how my son’s death was a horrible loss to our family. And I was able to list prior offenses committed by the offender that had been stricken by the judge during a pretrial hearing.

I also helped Mark’s 12-year old son, Paul, write a statement about how the loss of his father affected him. His Uncle Leonard read Paul’s statement at the trial.

There are benefits to writing an effective statement. Fairness and justice for your loved one is the main goal. It could be your best shot at persuading the judge. Like writing in a journal, the reflection process and the act of writing down your thoughts about the crime’s impacts help with emotional healing.

Indeed, it improved my satisfaction with the criminal justice system, especially when the jury ruled in favor of the people of California, as they did in our case.

The Riverside Main Library has stacks of volumes in the 800-section that may help those unsure of how to write a statement. For example, Beth Kephart’s “Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir” and Brandon Royal’s “The Little Red Writing Book” are full of advice and recommendations.

When your case goes to trial, be prepared for the bad memories to be relived all over again. Attend all court hearings, especially the trial. It demonstrates that the victim is loved and supported. Keep notes of the proceedings and visit the Superior Court website frequently to review the minutes and other documents regarding the case.

Inlandia Institute president Frances J. Vasquez writes about the importance of victim statements

INLANDIA LITERARY JOURNEYS: Bountiful bloom despite drought

By Ruth Nolan

o4ynt0-b88675956z.120160401081556000gjhfnkvc.10Stories of the rare “superbloom” in Death Valley National Park, exploding colorfully across one of the world’s hottest, driest and lowest regions, have traveled far and wide as late winter transitioned into early spring this year.

Inland residents have the special privilege of living within easy driving distance of Death Valley, and legend has it that this year’s bloom is especially beautiful, following a historic monsoon rainfall in the northern Mojave Desert in October.

Many well-known desert personalities and authors have eloquently publicized the aesthetic influence of desert wildflowers.

The late Coachella Valley artist John Hilton penned a humorous and memorable essay for the old Desert Rat newsletter (circa 1930s-1950s) about the intoxicating power of seeing and walking through the swaths of deep pink sand verbena that carpet fields and sand dunes throughout the Coachella Valley in the spring, their abundance depending on rainfall levels in winter months. In fact, many of Hilton’s most treasured Coachella Valley landscape paintings have sprinkles of sand verbena in them.

Yes, desert wildflowers are beautiful – and especially given that they don’t bloom abundantly every season, and that when they do, their stunning appearance is so short-lived. Soon, the lengthening days of spring and the early summer onset in Death Valley, where temperatures soar high above 100 degrees day after day for months, will burn the yellow and purple wildflowers away and they will be just a faint memory on the raw, scorched landscape. Beyond appreciating the sensory and fleeting beauty of the flowers, which in itself is quite a thing to behold, why should we care about the deeper importance of desert wildflowers?

Native Americans living in our deserts have long relied on plants as critical components of survival, especially as food. Many of the wildflowers you’ll see blooming, not only in Death Valley, but in Joshua Tree National Park, in the Coachella Valley and in the higher-elevation chaparral transition zones of areas such as the Santa Rosa Mountains, have long been important food sources for the Cahuilla, Serrano, Chemehuevi, Timbisha Shoshone and other desert tribes.

I recently observed part of an ongoing yucca harvest workshop involving native desert participants at the Dorothy Ramon Learning Center in Banning. The day I visited, mothers, daughters and other women were busy preparing beautiful, cream-colored yucca blossoms – tinted with green and magenta hues – for a delicious yucca blossom salad, which resembles macaroni shell pasta salad, but tastes much richer and a bit sweeter. This is just one of many ways yucca flowers have been used for centuries in traditional foods, while many everyday items such as sandals and soap have been made from other parts of the plant.

Most people associate the ominous presence of barrel cactus with danger: The sharp, curved barbs can indeed inflict a lot of damage to human skin and body parts. However, the barrel cactus, which grows throughout California’s deserts, produces abundant blossoms – both yellow and bright pink – that have been used by desert Indian people as a food source, like yucca blossoms.

In her memoir, the late Cahuilla historian and culture bearer Katherine Siva Sauvel wrote of her childhood memories of harvesting barrel cactus flowers, a nutritious and sweet snack, from Devil’s Garden, an area near Palm Springs.

Desert wildflowers matter. They mattered in the survival of our desert’s Indian people for centuries, and they matter now.

They are a measure of adequate rainfall that’s crucial for replenishing desert aquifers for human consumption and for the rare riparian areas that provide drinking water for desert animals and sustenance for the many plants that provide life in a land that can be unforgivingly harsh.

This year’s superbloom in Death Valley and the rest of our deserts has given those of us in the Inland region a bit of an uplift in a long, nervous time of ongoing severe drought, which has been only minimally eased this winter by an El Niño that never really showed up with the downpours we had expected.

With the flourishing of wildflowers this spring, we’re blessed with an extra dose of natural beauty that lifts the human spirit and gives us the hope of replenishment, both natural and aesthetic, all from one of the world’s most unlikely places, which we are fortunate to call part of our desert backyard.