Haiku / Poetry Writing Workshop in Joshua Tree, March 7, 2015 by Ruth Nolan

Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park Presents: Desert Haiku Writing in Joshua Tree National Park, March 7, 2015 at the Black Rock Visitor Center, Joshua Tree National Park. Led by Ruth Nolan and Deborah P. Kolodji.

Joshua Tree, CA—Spring is coming soon, and March is an ideal month to visit the Mojave Desert as wildflowers begin to bloom! Be inspired by the power and beauty of the desert setting to learn how to write haiku—one of the most basic types of poetry—as well as other nature-based forms of poetry in this writing-intensive field seminar. Participants will take brief walks and be introduced to the ecologic and cultural/historical richness of the desert at Joshua Tree studded Black Rock Campground. In addition to writing haiku that stems from the direct experience of this natural desert wonderland, participants will also be led in writing other short forms of poetry and some short prose stemming from creative writing prompts. This workshop is open to writers of all levels, from beginning to advanced, and is suitable for ages 14+. The workshop is led by desert poet/writer Ruth Nolan, MFA, Professor of English and Creative Writing at College of the Desert, and poet Deborah P. Kolodji, former chair of the Southern California Haiku Study Group.

TO REGISTER OR RECEIVE MORE INFORMATION: contact Kevin Wong, program director via email at desertinstitute@joshuatree.org or by phone (760) 367-5583.

You can also register online on the Desert Institute website.

Sonambulant Funambulist: Interview with Julie Brooks Barbour by Maureen Alsop

Julie Brooks Barbour is an associate poetry editor at the journal Connotation Press: An Online Artifact and a professor at Lake Superior State University. I’m delighted here to offer an interview with Julie along with a selection from one of her published poems which underscores the distinction of her poetry and lyrical interest.

Maureen: Where do you see the current scope/trends in poetry at this point in time and where do you see your poetry in that evolution?

Julie: I notice that contemporary poets are writing about pop culture, history, fairy tales, race and gender, but, of course, this list doesn’t begin to cover the subjects or issues poets are taking on. The scope is large and broad, and, I think, can’t be pinpointed to any certain trend, but if there is one, I’d have to say it’s that poets at this point in time aren’t afraid to take on difficult subject matter. Where do I see myself in this evolution? I write about gender issues, specifically those of women. I’m interested in the ways women are portrayed in our culture, whether through body image, fairy tale characters, ideas of motherhood, or domestic work.


Brooks Barbour’s poem “Stone” published at Rose Red Review highlights the sensuality, directness and underscores these poetic themes as demonstrated in the following excerpt:

“You are ageless, a perpetual girl. If a ship navigates

your waters, it will not be rocked. You will not be

the legend that folds its sails, that causes the wreck

on the shoreline. You are the easy route, devoid of rocks.

You are the way written about in logs and travel journals:

the sunshine, the stillness, the atmosphere of peace.”


Maureen: How do you balance your priorities when managing the multitude of roles you carry as a woman, mother, wife, educator and writer?

Julie: Each part of my life needs its own time and one thing cannot take priority over everything else. I work at switching gears between work and home, writing and teaching, editing and writing. Setting up boundaries between work and home keeps me balance, though I won’t say that my life is completely calm or that I stay that way. It’s important that I don’t think about how much I have to do, but what I’m doing at the present moment. I also have to remember to take time for myself, whether I’m reading a novel, watching a favorite television show, or watching the snow fall (which I do a lot where I live). Time to rest and refuel is important to me. During this time I might suddenly reflect on my work, whether that be teaching or writing or editing. Times of repose really energize me creatively.

Maureen: How does your teaching influence your writing?

Julie: Teaching influences my writing in different ways. Many times I’m inspired by the literature I teach, whether it be classic essays in my composition classes, poetry and fiction in creative writing workshops, or drama in an introductory literature course. Each semester I try to teach at least one text or a few pieces that are new to me so I can discover something about writing with my students. I’m also inspired by my students and their willingness to take risks with their writing, whether through form, subject matter, or genre. I may be a teacher but I’m also a student, constantly learning from other writers, and my students remind me just as I remind them that I shouldn’t steer clear of risks. (They also remind me to take my own writing advice, not literally, but when I hear myself give them advice and know it’s something I need to do, that in itself is a reminder.)


Julie Brooks Barbour is an associate poetry editor at the journal Connotations Press: An Online Artifact. Read the full poem at Rose Red Review.

Resolutions for Writers by Cati Porter

Here we are at the end of December and once again we are about to turn the corner into a new year. Many of us see this as a fresh start and set goals for ourselves for the following year. For writers, often this means setting out to finally write that memoir or that novel. To accomplish this, I recommend setting small daily goals. By breaking it up into bite size pieces, the project will be much easier to digest.

To forge a writing practice for ourselves, it is best for writers to carve out a few minutes from every day. If you’re a poet, this might mean writing a few lines of verse or even the first draft of a whole poem. If you write fiction, opt to write a paragraph or two. If your aim is to write the Great American Novel, this allows you to chip away at it slowly but steadily. Incremental goals are much easier to keep. And if on any given day you happen to have more time once the ball gets rolling, you can stay with it, but if not, you’ve at least met your goal for the day. Setting a timer helps.

For my part, early mornings—prime time for writing, where I wake long before my kids—are usually spent frittered away with a cup of coffee or three and surfing the net. What else could I be using that time for? So here is my resolution: I will write just fifteen minutes a day. It doesn’t sound like much, but if I keep it up then I will have written for 5,460 minutes by the end of the year. This morning, those fifteen minutes have netted me about three hundred words. If I were to do this every day, by the time the next new year comes around, I will have written over 100,000 words. And, voila! The Great American Novel—Round One. Sure, there will be false starts. Sure, there will be days when I flake out. But should I fall off the wagon, I’ll just hop back on and start again the next day. Or the next.

Like any goal, it is more easily met with the support of a routine, good friends, and maybe some prompting. To begin:

First, decide on a routine that suits you—writing in the morning, on the lunch hour, at night. You may need to try different times to figure out what works best.

Second, decide how you’d like to write. If you prefer to write longhand, you could treat yourself to a nice writing journal, but a yellow legal pad works just fine too, or you could be like Emily Dickinson and write on scraps of old envelopes or whatever is handy. You can even write using your phone. I have written using the notepad app on my iPhone, or sometimes directly into emails to myself.

Third, If you miss writing one morning, don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you’ve blown it for the day—even if you write at a different time, or for fewer minutes than you planned, at least you wrote! Allow yourself some latitude.

And if you’re looking for inspiration, here are a few places to start. Two of the leading magazines for writers, Poets & Writers Magazine and Writer’s Digest, both have pages with free writing prompts on the web:

– Poets & Writers Magazine “The Time Is Now”: http://www.pw.org/writing-prompts-exercises.

– Writer’s Digest Creative Writing Prompts page has new suggestions about once per week from the silly to serious: http://www.writersdigest.com/prompts.

Poets & Writers also has a page listing the Best Books for Writers: http://www.pw.org/best-books-for-writers with everything from poetry craft books to writing nonfiction to how to publish your memoir to Virginia Woolf’s writer’s diary to issues of copyright and other practical things. Some books that I have personally found useful: Ann Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, John Drury’s Creating Poetry, and Finding What You Didn’t Lose by John Fox.

And it helps to have the support of like-minded writers. Being a part of a writing group is a great first step. Finding one can be a challenge, but there are many ways to go about this. First, look to your friends. You’d be surprised at how many people write. Also, you can look to the web—just type in “how to find a writing group” in the search bar. Or you could join one of Inlandia’s free writing workshops, which is a slightly more structured form of writers group, offering critique and craft tips in addition to the support of other writers, plus opportunities for publication and publicly sharing your work. With workshops in six different locations throughout the Inland Empire, there’s bound to be one near you.

Whatever you decide, if you begin the new year with some reasonable yet flexible goals in mind, by this time next year, you’ll have a brand new body of work to be proud of. I’m with you. Let’s go.


For more information about Inlandia’s writing workshops, please visit www.inlandiajournal.org/workshop.

For All Those Who Ask, What *is* Inlandia? by Cati Porter

Once again we are approaching that time of year when we give thanks for friends and family, take stock of what we have accomplished, and express appreciation for all those who have made it possible. So, thank you—we are all Inlandia.

A question I get asked regularly is, what is Inlandia? We have now been writing these columns for well over a year, and I don’t think we have ever addressed that directly here. Sure, you can make out who we are by the patchwork of topics covered here; what you see is what Inlandia is and does: many voices, all hailing from Inland Southern California, celebrating the region. But on the heels of what has been a banner week for Inlandia, I thought I would try to explain it in a little more detail.

The Inlandia Institute was established in 2007 as a partnership between the City of Riverside and Heyday, our co-publisher, after the publication of the anthology Inlandia: A Literary Journey through California’s Inland Empire. The idea was to found a literary and cultural center here in the Inland Empire that focused on the writers and readers of the region. Soon after, Inlandia moved into our own office, incorporating in 2009, and in 2012 Inlandia was granted non-profit status as a 501(c)(3).

Inlandia has five core programs: Children’s Creative Literacy, Adult Literary Professional Development, Publications—both with our co-publisher Heyday as well as a locally-produced independent imprint, Free Public Literary Events, and the Inlandia Literary Laureate. What does this translate to? Just this past year, Inlandia has:

– Served over 2000 children, including at-risk youth through The Women Wonder Writers program of the DA’s office, resulting in a collection of written work and a public reading and discussion; and in programs in Title 1 schools like Fremont Elementary, where we held a book discussion and gave all 200 fifth-graders and sixth-graders a free copy of Gayle Brandeis’ young adult novel, My Life with the Lincolns, thanks to a generous Rotary sponsorship.

– Served over 2400 adults through public outreach events like Celebrate Mount Rubidoux and the Mayor’s Celebration for Arts & Innovation, and by hosting free monthly author events during ArtsWalk at the Riverside Public Library, and writing workshops throughout Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, including a Family Legacy Writing Workshop at the Goeske Senior Center.

– Published: No Easy Way, the story of the integration of Riverside schools, by Arthur L. Littleworth, a chapter integral to Riverside history; Vital Signs by Inlandia Literary Laureate Juan Delgado and Tom McGovern, which went on to win an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation; and the Orangelandia anthology, which contains the fruit of Riverside’s citrus heritage. And launching this week, a new children’s chapter book, Tia’s Tamale Trouble, by Inlandia author and educator Julianna Maya Cruz.

Inlandia also undertakes special projects from time to time, like “Making Waves in Inlandia,” which chronicles the stories of the women’s environmental movement through oral histories and a very cool interactive component on our website, including a map of all the spaces saved by local environmental activists, and video interviews.

We also have two other interactive features on our website—a map that details the location of every Inland Empire site mentioned in our flagship Inlandia anthology (which, regrettably, is currently out of print—but we are working on a second edition! More about that in a future post). And, just this past week, with the publication of No Easy Way, we launched an interactive timeline, “Time Travel through Riverside’s School Integration History.”

Further, after the first of the year, we will be launching a six-part series of monthly public civic discussion forums featuring esteemed panelists and partner organizations, with the kickoff event at UCR’s Culver Center on January 31, 2015, at 1 pm.

One of the sound bites associated with Inlandia is, “celebrating the region in word, image, and sound.”

Planned projects include a new Adopt-a-School program which will bring literary arts education, taught by professionals in the field, to area schools; a Native American Voices conference at the Dorothy Ramon Center in Banning, featuring and celebrating indigenous peoples; a writing workshop at the Ontario Museum of History and Art celebrating black aviators in February, in honor of Black History Month. Not to mention our usual monthly Arts Walk series at the downtown Riverside Public Library and the free writing workshops held in six different cities throughout the region.

We are supported wholly through the generous donations of our members, supporters, and through grant funding from organizations like the City of Riverside, the Riverside Arts Council, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, and Cal Humanities. But like any arts organization, we are constantly thinking of creative ways we can ensure continued funding while also making it fun for contributors. Last week, we participated in the county-wide Give BIG day of giving, and to all of those who helped us meet our goals, thank you!

We are also currently in the midst of a book fair fundraiser sponsored by Barnes & Noble. If you missed the kickoff event on Saturday November 22, which featured readings by notable locals Larry Eby, Isabel Flores, Stephanie Barbe Hammer, Julianna Cruz, and a flurry of contributors to the Orangelandia anthology, know that you can still participate through the end of the week by shopping online or in store (any Barnes & Noble anywhere, as long as you have Inlandia’s code: 11484482), through Black Friday. So if like most people at this time of year you are beginning to think about holiday gifts, give a gift to Inlandia when you shop at Barnes & Noble this Thanksgiving week.

From all of us at Inlandia, we give thanks for you this week, and every week, throughout the year.

Other Desert Mothers: Ruth Nolan at Riverside Art Museum by Lisa Henry

Tonight, Friday November 7, Salt+Spice will present author, educator, and environmental activist Ruth Nolan, who will launch her latest collection of poetry, Other Desert Mothers, at the Riverside Art Museum. A wine and cheese reception will begin at 6:30pm with the reading set to begin at 7:00pm.

Ruth Nolan knows more than a few things about the desert, and about motherhood. A native of the Inland Empire and a current resident of Palm Desert, Nolan has spent countless hours hiking, camping, writing, parenting, grandparenting and firefighting in the vast, dry landscapes of California’s deserts. Her new collection of poetry, Other Desert Mothers (Old Woman Mountains Press, 2014), is a meditation on her unique desert journey. The book will be released in November and Nolan will celebrate the publication with a reading and reception at Riverside Art Museum Friday November 7 at 6:30pm.

A long-time desert dweller, Nolan has experienced adolescence, motherhood, and now grandmotherhood in and around the Mojave Desert.

“My parents moved us to a very remote area of the Mojave Desert when I was 13, from Rialto, CA.” It was a difficult transition for Nolan. She readily admits, “I was in shock at the vast contrast between the Inland Empire and desert, but instantly smitten and blown away by the beauty and power of the desert. I’ve been pinned down by the desert, both literally and metaphorically, since then.”

As single mother and a professor of English and Creative Writing at College of the Desert, both Nolan’s personal identity and professional career have been forged in the vast and surreal landscape, which she describes as “my #1 geography.” This place is “a sort of complete dreamscape, an altered state that both inspires, elates, and intimidates me. I have only to step into the desert on a hike or start a road trip across its vast, empty roads, and I feel that sense of unbroken dreamscape again.”

Nolan has fully embraced her hometown as rich and fertile ground where she can write, study and teach. An avid desert advocate and conservationist, she lectures widely on literature of the desert, and has taught desert-based writing workshops for the Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park. Among her many notable publications are No Place for a Puritan (Heyday Books/Inlandia, 2009), an impressive anthology highlighting the diverse literature of California’s deserts, Orangelandia: The Literature of Inland Citrus (Inlandia, 2014) and New California Writing, 2011 (Heyday).

“For me, the Mojave hasn’t been a wasteland; nor, even as it’s been discovered by artists more recently as a highly desirable location for a more refined, esoteric aesthetic. The Mojave Desert is a free-flowing experience of consciousness and geography. It’s a place of life, a place of people—however far apart, a place of sustenance and nurturing and enlightenment.”


Lisa Henry teaches at San Bernardino Valley College and is founder of Salt+Spice, a community-based arts organization.

Literature Conference in Riverside by Isaac Williams

The Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association (PAMLA) is having its 2014 conference at the new Riverside Convention Center from Friday, October 31 until Sunday, November 2. Workshops are varied in focus and run the gamut from classical literature to new mediums, like webcomics. In addition, many workshops are based on literature’s connection with sociopolitical issues.

Registration for the conference at its regular price closes on September 10. Students from Riverside City College, La Sierra University, University of California, Riverside, Cal Baptist University, and Chaffey College can attend for free.

If you know of any other upcoming conferences or panels that are (relatively) local, please let us know!