Blackbirds in the Pomegranate Tree: Stories from Ixcotel State Prison by Mary Ellen Sanger
Jan03

Blackbirds in the Pomegranate Tree: Stories from Ixcotel State Prison by Mary Ellen Sanger

Mary Ellen Sanger, who won the Orlando Prize for Poetry for her poem “Secrets of a Wooden Saint in a Church in Jalcomulco”, and who was a finalist for the 4th Gift of Freedom, has self-published a book of nonfiction. Read on for her AROHO story, and details about her book. When I returned to the US after my incarceration, I tried to write the stories I had lived with the women of Ixcotel, sitting in a cramped NYC apartment. The stories came in spurts, but mostly – as I was struggling with my own “new” identity after so long abroad, finding time within a new framework of work and commuting and learning a new and enormous city – I doubted everything, and nearly stopped writing. I applied to the Gift of Freedom Award on a lark, for the exercise of pushing myself into an unexplored creative space. I am a great fan of the improbable. Winning seemed improbable, but applying was well within my reach.   I recall when Mary Johnson called to tell me I was a finalist, I was aswim with emotion! She indicated that few non-winners had reacted as enthusiastically as I had… but to me, I had won. I had won the reminder that I can and should write. Though I still struggled with time, I had renewed faith in my ability to do justice to the stories of the women with whom I was incarcerated for 33 days.   A subsequent Orlando Prize for Poetry for my poem “Secrets of a Wooden Saint in a Church in Jalcomulco” buoyed my belief that I can weave poetry through serious subjects.   It is with great thanks that I recall the confidence that AROHO put in my words – and the stories of triumph and struggle and solidarity and pain and redemption that I was able to put into my book well reflect the spirit of AROHO and the women who have shaped and continue to shape it. I am so happy to have been a part of that work. Buy on Amazon Synopsis Blackbirds in the Pomegranate Tree: Stories from Ixcotel State Prison tells my story of an unjust incarceration in Mexico, and the stories of 9 women that I met “inside.” They are stories of community and solidarity in an unlikely corner, in unlikely circumstances. I had made my life in Mexico for 17 years when I suddenly found myself in prison in Oaxaca, Mexico, arrested on invented charges. I spent 33 days in Ixcotel State Prison in the fall of 2003. These stories of the women I met there, illuminate my biggest...

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Breakfast with Allen Ginsberg, by Esther Cohen
Sep12

Breakfast with Allen Ginsberg, by Esther Cohen

Esther Cohen is on the AROHO Board of Directors, and has authored several books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Breakfast with Allen Ginsberg is her sixth book. Buy on Amazon 1 Allen Ginsberg or I Wanted to Be a Poet Part One When I moved to New York City in the ‘70s from Ansonia small factory town in Connecticut Allen G was who I wanted to meet Jean Boudin Good Beat Poet said Allen will see anyone if they’ll buy him breakfast Found his number from Kenneth Koch and I of ce temp at Rochester Button had plenty of breakfast money In the diner he was Allen Ginsberg I was Esther Cohen Ask me anything he said in exchange for two eggs Can I be a poet like you Not having read even one word he said You Are a Poet Esther Cohen Can I quote you I asked You have my lifetime permission he said and all these years later I am Part Two A few weeks ago at a poet’s retreat in San Miguel de Allende British poet laureate a Sir did not like my poems You he said infusing You with Ultimate British Disdain You he repeated are in the same category as that American poet Allen Ginsberg At long last I replied At long last Esther...

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SIX by Julie Marie Wade
Aug07

SIX by Julie Marie Wade

  SIX, winner of the 2014 To the Lighthouse Poetry Prize. Judge: C.D. Wright Buy this Book    Search for a Reading of SIX Near You “I call six times just to be sure you heard,” this speaker announces on the first page. These poems are also the six calls—calls to attention, calls to action, calls to account for something of our own. The speaker in SIX is insistent, scrupulous, and unflinching as she plumbs six essential aspects of human experience that have shaped us all: art, language, desire, vocation, faith, and life-changing love.   I chose SIX not in spite of but because of its discursiveness, its willingness to wander through the poem with technique at hand, but also a permit to allow both substantive and ephemeral material to wander into the field of the poem and exit without a conclusive goal in mind. It’s an accumulative project, inclusive, and busy about the business of sifting and sorting through this thing we call life that we carry out in this creation we call a body on this tumultuous blue orb we call earth. —C.D. Wright Julie Marie Wade is the author of four collections of poetry, including When I Was Straight (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2014) and Postage Due (White Pine Press, 2010), and four collections of lyric nonfiction, including Catechism: A Love Story (Noctuary Press, 2016) and Wishbone: A Memoir in Fractures (Bywater Books, 2014; Colgate University Press, 2010). She has received an Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council, a grant from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, and the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Memoir. She teaches in the creative writing program at Florida International University...

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Under the Harrow, by Flynn Berry
Apr20

Under the Harrow, by Flynn Berry

Flynn Berry, who won the Spring 2012 Orlando Creative Nonfiction Prize Winner for “Surfing,” will have her debut novel published June 2016 by Penguin. Here is her AROHO Story, and details about her book: I still remember exactly what the genre judge, Celeste Fremon, said about my story, and doubt I’ll ever forget it. It was the first time I’d been published or won a national prize. I read the message from Tracey Cravens-Gras, and then went straight to a waitressing shift, where I spent the entire night smiling from ear to ear.   Author Tessa Hadley said about becoming a writer: “I felt as if, eventually, you find your own house and you let yourself in your front door, with your own key. Things can still go wrong, but it doesn’t matter – you’re there.” Winning the Orlando prize felt the same, except the house was full of women to welcome me inside. —Flynn Berry   Buy on Amazon Publisher’s Synopsis of Under the Harrow: When Nora takes the train from London to visit her sister in the countryside, she expects to find her waiting at the station, or at home cooking dinner. But when she walks into Rachel’s familiar house, she finds her sister has been the victim of a brutal murder. Haunted by the murder and the secrets that surround it, Nora is under the harrow: distressed and in danger. As Nora’s fear turns to obsession, she becomes as unrecognizable as the sister her investigation uncovers. A riveting psychological thriller and a haunting exploration of the fierce love between two sisters, the distortions of grief, and the terrifying power of the past, Under the Harrow marks the debut of an extraordinary new writer.     “Once I started reading Under the Harrow, I couldn’t stop. It’s like Broadchurch written by Elena Ferrante. I’ve been telling all my friends to read it—the highest compliment. Flynn Berry is a deeply interesting writer.”—Claire Messud, author of The Emperor’s Children and The Woman Upstairs “I read Under the Harrow through the night—I couldn’t put it down. Berry’s deft touch with atmosphere and emotion are sure to make this a stand out.”—Alex Marwood, author of The Wicked Girls and The Killer Next Door “What grabbed me by the bones and hurled me through this read-in-one-sitting novel wasn’t the plot, as compelling and tenacious and suspenseful as it is. Rather, it was Flynn Berry’s perfect, unrelenting prose. This is flawless storytelling.”—Jill Alexander Essbaum, author of...

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Blood Sugar Canto by Ire’ne Lara Silva
Mar21

Blood Sugar Canto by Ire’ne Lara Silva

  “Being named the 2013 Fiction Genre Finalist for the Gift of Freedom Award validated me as a fiction writer and buoyed my belief that I could push forward with my projects and that they would find an audience.” —Ire’ne Lara Silva   Buy on Amazon “Silva is a poet-curandera who “sings the body electric,” transforming suffering into song. She probes the ways that love, justice and forgiveness help heal our individual selves and our communities. I am profoundly grateful for ire’ne’s hard-won wisdom and poetic gifts.”—Demetria Martinez, author of The Block Captain’s Daughter “I am stunned by ire’ne lara silva’s blood sugar canto, a searing and intensely personal and political collection of poems…The exhausted self, pricked by syringes, prodded by clinicians, fights fiercely to love and to decolonize the self, the changing body. These are poems of confronting traumas and of mourning. Ultimately, Silva’s poems are filled with important, hopeful and triumphant words; “you cannot live in fear / you cannot heal in fear / fear will never make you stronger … i will not / live / in fear / i will make song.” —Barbara Jane Reyes, author of Poeta en San Francisco and Diwata   “Once again, Silva brings us a kind of soul-exploration unprecedented in American letters. A poet of gut-wrenching honesty and visceral language, here, Silva aims her pen at a subject that concerns us all—health. blood sugar canto is an ode to the needle-prick of the diabetic, a letter to the inheritances of hunger and habit, a “love-song” to our collective internal organs. The poet invites us to an intimate dinner at her table, to sit and eat with her, share stories of azucar, of labwork and grace, to indulge ourselves in the unspoken cravings, and we leave nourished, full, and stronger for it.”—Tim Z. Hernandez, author of Natural Takeover of Small Things Saddle Road Press presents Ire’ne Lara Silva’s Blood Sugar Canto, a new book by the author of Flesh to Bone and Furia. Blood Sugar Canto is a powerful hymn to life and to her own body by a “curandera-poet” struggling to transmute the fear and despair of diabetes into healing. It is the only book of its kind, uniquely beautiful, original, and full of hope.  “In 2008,” Silva says, “I was diagnosed as an insulin-dependent diabetic. I wasn’t the first in my family. I had grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, and siblings with diabetes. It still came as a shock. There were a lot of adjustments and a lot of losses. It came to me that I should write about what my life was immersed in—issues concerning my health, my family’s...

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Words Like Love by Tanaya Winder
Feb18

Words Like Love by Tanaya Winder

  Buy on Amazon How do we pronounce words like love? How do we believe in them, and how can we apply them to the missing, wounded and massacred: To the missing indigenous women in North America, to a wounded culture, a dying language and the open grave of a massacred history that we refuse to stare into? Tanaya Winder seeks to articulate this heartbreak in her debut collection of poetry, Words Like Love, poems that act as a series of love letters dedicated to family, culture, a decimated environment and all who perished under the brunt and brutality of the capitalist colonialism that shaped our reality. Winder’s poetry is armed love, speaking truth in the teeth of power. In this slim tome, a mess of tears surges through every stanza, coursing its way through occupied territory, trying to find the heart, ready to penetrate its stone-cold reality. Words Like Love is a stunning debut where each page presents devastating, uplifting ruminations on the tragic dance between life and death in occupied North America, where the suffering of the marginalized goes unheard. Yet Winder breaks that silence by bearing witness and giving voice to the suffering. Each poem is a reminder to the missing and forgotten that their lives matter. Winder’s poetry is a must-read for everyone. Let her words hold your hand and grasp your heart. And don’t let go until we all learn to speak and act in the language of love. – Kirbie Bennet “Tanaya Winder’s work offers us a profound knowing—that art cures; that the censured and frozen words of love can be born anew in the warm waters of our open mouths—from bathroom stall graffiti to the classroom poetics of “Patrick.” I am already changed by this collection: in its keen intelligence, its vast empathy, and in the courageous specificity of each and every remembered wounding. Gracias, hermana-hija-poeta.”—Cherríe Moraga, playwright, poet, and author of A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness “These poems are a love song for a generation, for those who do everything they can to stand with dignity despite the insults, for those who have died tragically because they could not carry what these poems are carrying. Within these poems is the grief of losing a country, a family, a lover. The poet is a beautiful straggler of history who through poetry has learned how to fly.”—Joy Harjo, Mvskoke/Creek poet, musician, performer and author of Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings   “My AROHO Story”—by Tanaya Winder, Orlando Poetry Prize Winner, 2010, for her poem “The Impermanence of Human Sculptures”   I was 24 years old; my best friend would’ve just turned 22....

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River Electric with Light by Sarah Wetzel
Nov24

River Electric with Light by Sarah Wetzel

River Electric with Light, winner of the 2012 To the Lighthouse Poetry Prize. Judge: Tracy K. Smith Buy this Book “Sarah Wetzel’s River Electric with Light is a work in search of the sacred and the spiritually significant. Touching down in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Kabul, New York, and Rome, Wetzel’s poems, ranging from lyric meditations to discursive drama, weave themselves from her life as wife, lover, stepmother, and traveler. She names the force propelling her River—“If I must choose a word for you, / let it be the word / for what flows,” she writes. At times joyful, at times grief-ridden, her poems accumulate associatively, riven together by a common quest. Wetzel’s worship is, like her worship of rivers, the worship of the continuing.” Publisher, Red Hen Press Like the river of the collection’s title, these poems ride upon a current of arduous insight and indelible imagery. And, like all courageous writing does, they make their own particular peace with the likelihood that even our most insistent questions—about love and human cruelty and belief—will never be adequately answered. —Tracy K....

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More of This World or Maybe Another by Barb Johnson
Nov24

More of This World or Maybe Another by Barb Johnson

“More of This World or Maybe Another is a collection of award-winning short fiction about four outsiders whose unruly lives intersect on the back streets of New Orleans from writer Barb Johnson. Funny and haunting by turns, Johnson’s unforgettable characters are driven by something fragile and irresistible, a sputtering drive to love and be loved, in these “stunning stories . . . the kind that reveal, enlarge, and make living seem worth the trouble.” —Dorothy Allison   Buy This...

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i built a boat with all the towels in your closet, by Leia Penina Wilson
May18

i built a boat with all the towels in your closet, by Leia Penina Wilson

i built a boat with all the towels in your closet (and will let you drown), winner of the 2012 To the Lighthouse Poetry Prize. Judge:  Evie Shockley Buy this Book Leia Penina Wilson’s i built a boat with all the towels in your closet (and will let you drown) is at once a love ballad and a warning. These poems are—at their simplest—about relationships, sex, love, creatures, different kinds (and degrees) of violence, and—at their most complex—about the limits of the imagination, of language, and about the power the imagination has over the body. These poems confront the shifty line between human and animal, and urge the question: at what cost the body. Wilson’s animal-human doesn’t intend to answer that question; instead, she lunges towards it and tears it up and begins again, and again, and again. Read more about Leia Penina Wilson and the To the Lighthouse Book Prize. I was mesmerized by the wild lyricism, quiet wit, and fearless curiosity of these poems. I feel lucky to have encountered them and am delighted to recognize them with the To the Lighthouse Prize. ­—Evie...

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Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
Jan07

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Throughout her blockbuster career, Jodi Picoult has seamlessly blended nuanced characters, riveting plots, and rich prose, brilliantly creating stories that “not only provoke the mind but touch the flawed souls in all of us” (The Boston Globe). Now, in her highly anticipated new novel, she has delivered her most affecting work yet—a book unlike anything she’s written before. For more than a decade, Jenna Metcalf has never stopped thinking about her mother, Alice, who mysteriously disappeared in the wake of a tragic accident. Refusing to believe she was abandoned, Jenna searches for her mother regularly online and pores over the pages of Alice’s old journals. A scientist who studied grief among elephants, Alice wrote mostly of her research among the animals she loved, yet Jenna hopes the entries will provide a clue to her mother’s whereabouts. Desperate to find the truth, Jenna enlists two unlikely allies in her quest: Serenity Jones, a psychic who rose to fame finding missing persons, only to later doubt her gifts, and Virgil Stanhope, the jaded private detective who’d originally investigated Alice’s case along with the strange, possibly linked death of one of her colleagues. As the three work together to uncover what happened to Alice, they realize that in asking hard questions, they’ll have to face even harder answers. As Jenna’s memories dovetail with the events in her mother’s journals, the story races to a mesmerizing finish. A deeply moving, gripping, and intelligent page-turner, Leaving Time is Jodi Picoult at the height of her powers.   Purchase on Amazon   “Piercing and uplifting . . . a smart, accessible yarn with a suspenseful puzzle at its core.”—The Boston Globe “Poignant . . . an entertaining tale about parental love, friendship, loss.”—The Washington Post “In Jenna, Picoult has created an unforgettable character who will easily endear herself to each and every reader. . . . Leaving Time may be her finest work yet.”—Bookreporter  “A riveting drama.”—Us Weekly  “[A] moving tale.”—People  “A fast-paced, surprise-ending mystery.”—USA Today “[A] captivating and emotional...

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November Butterfly by Tania Pryputniewicz
Nov01

November Butterfly by Tania Pryputniewicz

Alternately image rich and direct, the narrative lyric poems in November Butterfly (Saddle Road Press) channel the voices of iconic women, from Nefertiti to Guinevere to Marilyn Monroe and Sylvia Plath. The collection explores women’s choices and their consequences, as well as the violences that are not chosen. It delineates the collective responsibility, male and female alike, for posing challenges to the creative feminine. Section one inhabits familiar iconics such as Joan of Arc, Amelia Earhart, and Lady Diana; section two inhabits Guinevere’s abduction and coming of age at Camelot. The third section breaks from persona poems to revisit the book’s themes through the experience of a childhood rape. The collection as a whole celebrates the hidden strengths, vulnerabilities and choices women face as they pass through the timeless initiations of falling in love, raising children, and staying true to oneself. Buy on Amazon   My AROHO story begins in a cubicle where I had newly returned to teaching community college English after a decade-long hiatus I took to I raise my family. I walked out of a class rife with students texting one another under the desktops and signing absent classmates “present” on the roll sheet and pulled up my email to see that I’d been accepted to attend, teach and present at AROHO’s summer 2011 retreat. It was the first step towards living my dream of working with motivated women writers in a dynamic environment in which every participant gave and received of her talents. Friendships forged at AROHO retreats provided me with courage to create curriculum for online classes over the next four years. Risks I saw poets taking at the 2011 and 2013 retreats (by Lauren K. Alleyne, Michelle Wing, Bhanu Kapil, Diane Gilliam, and Evie Shockley) initiated an ongoing transformation in how I perceive my calling and commitment to my poetry. In a desert delight theater workshop with Nicelle Davis and Nicole Galland at the 2013 retreat, I was able to physically imagine into and inhabit the core metaphor for my then unfinished poetry manuscript. Ruth Thompson believed in the poems; under her mentorship and with the daily help of a tight knit group of writers I met through AROHO, I wrote the rest of the manuscript. Thompson’s Saddle Road Press published November Butterfly in 2014. AROHO’s active female collaborations remain inspirational for me as I move forward. I’m thinking especially of the 2011 retreat, during which Mary Johnson unveiled her book, An Unquenchable Thirst, closing the circle by keeping her promise to Darlene Chandler Bassett to write her story while nurturing the AROHO community we have come to know and love at Ghost Ranch with...

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Regarding Mono Lake by Elizabeth Kenneday
Sep28

Regarding Mono Lake by Elizabeth Kenneday

Regarding Mono Lake is a cultural and art history of the Mono Basin, including 56 panoramic images by the author, with details of human history, twentieth century art, and moviemaking lore. Buy this Book In 2011, I was an attendee at the AROHO Retreat at Ghost Ranch. I had an almost-finished book project and thought I was about to publish with a very appropriate Press for my combination art-and-narrative project. As an exhibiting artist, I was new to publishing, and was looking to further my understandings and knowledge of the whole process of “authoring” while interacting with a community of like-minded women – which was succeeding beyond my imagination. While attempting to explain the Press to new friends at the Retreat, I found the Press website was no longer navigable. To my horror, I learned, in the midst of that brilliant conference, that the Press had been sold and the new owners were taking it in a completely different direction. To say I was crushed would be a fairly mild summation of my feelings at that moment. What restored my hopes that the book might still become a reality were the wonderful women I had met and interacted with at the Retreat assuring me that, as devastating as it seemed, there were other avenues to pursue. And a Private Consultation with Kate Gale pointed me in the right direction to proceed. I finally found a new Press that was appropriate for my project. With four months to the publishing date that Press sold as well. I was told the new Press would take 1½ to 2 years to publish, and it would become a trade edition. Although discouraged, I relied on all the advice and encouragement given to me by AROHO members, and the heartwarming stories in the email newsletters about their activities. The strength and courage to get their books “out there” is inspiring, and, despite the deflation I felt once again, I overcame the sense that my project was doomed to oblivion. With some maneuvering the book came out in its originally planned format, which was much more appropriate for an art book, with only 3 months delay. And I can finally say, “My book just came out!”   Reviews   “Local author Elizabeth Kenneday’s new book, “Regarding Mono Lake: Novelty and Delight at an Inland Sea,” documents and explains [the area’s] human and artistic history, while also showcasing the colorful, unique landscapes that have made Mono Lake an unforgettable natural attraction. Illustrating the book are 56 of Kenneday’s stunning panoramic photos, most of which highlight lesser-known features of the lake. Kenneday’s photos are both informative and striking....

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Woman with Crows by Ruth Thompson
Jun30

Woman with Crows by Ruth Thompson

Woman With Crows is Ruth Thompson’s second book of poems. It explores her own past from ”hungry ghosts” to the Fool-Crone, “dancing what she does not know to dance.” It was a finalist for AROHO’s To the Lighthouse Poetry Publication Prize and includes poems that won the New Millennium Writings and Harpur Palate awards. The poem “The White Queen” has generated conversation about dementia and multidimensional expansion and a new cycle of “demented” and “oracle” poems. The book led to an interview and review at The California Journal of Women Writers, and Ruth’s posts about writing, meditation, and yoga, and many of the poems, are posted at her website, ruththompson.net. Woman With Crows was originally published by Word Press Books in 2012. A new edition was published by Saddle Road Press in 2013. (Which is another story.)         I have attended two AROHO retreats at Ghost Ranch. Each time something new has broken open for me – in 2013 a wild new voice broke out as I sat with my “river sisters” in the red clay of the creek. My first joyous glimmer that there might actually be a community of support for my work began with my first reading at AROHO 2011. Most of all, my “family” of writers, my deepest and most supportive writing friendships, grew out of these retreats. We continue to inspire and support one another, sometimes in person, often through Facebook groups or email. I live now in Hilo, Hawai’i and although I travel to read and teach, this community is my lifeline and my true home.        “Woman with Crows is an antidote to fear” is Ruth’s favorite comment about the book. It comes from a recent review by poet Jendi Reiter, editor of Winning Writers. She goes on to say:“Fatness recurs as a revolutionary symbol of joy: a woman’s body is not her enemy, and scarcity is not the deepest truth….[Even] the unraveling of memory and the shedding of possessions are not a story of decline but a fairy tale of transformation…. {But] there are fireworks here, and snakes, and ‘ooze shining and blooming and with sex in it.’” “She is a woman writer for women writers; there is a clear sense of feminine community in her work that is as pragmatic as it is mythic.” –Claire Farley “Thompson’s range of reference – from Buddhist ghosts to Grimm fairy tales to Sumerian and Greek goddesses to personal and ancestral tales and legends – is wide and knowing, yet always transformed by a lived and experienced imagination, in a language that is wistful in its laments, sensual in its celebrations. These courageous poems journey the dark and beautiful mysteries and bravely offer, in a lyric that is fiercely...

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Camp Utopia and the Forgiveness Diet by Jenny Ruden
Jun30

Camp Utopia and the Forgiveness Diet by Jenny Ruden

In a desperate attempt to get out of going to fat camp, sixteen-year-old Baltimore teen Bethany Stern tries what promises to be the last diet she will ever need—The Forgiveness Diet. Where Louise Rennison and My So-Called Life meet John Green, Camp Utopia and the Forgiveness Diet is a contemporary account of a timeless teenage conundrum: how to conquer self-doubt, release grudges, and ultimately, grow up.   2010 was not the best year to start a novel, but I did it anyway. Truth be told, I had given up on writing, something that I don’t like to admit was surprisingly easy. After all, I had a job, a husband, and two children under the age of 4. Writing seemed decadent, frivolous, impractical. Yet, I kept coming back to it. And coming back to it was a struggle. I wrote about that struggle here and was lucky enough to win the AROHO nonfiction competition. That essay was an interesting piece that no one wanted to publish. I am grateful to AROHO for having the courage to do so. Later that year, my aunt died. At the risk of sounding dramatic, she did tell me on her deathbed that she hoped I’d use her money to finance my writing. She was a great woman, my aunt. She taught at Boston College for 40 years and encouraged young women to pursue things they might not ordinarily. After she died, I did exactly that. I quit my job. I put both of my children in childcare. I wrote a novel.  I am grateful to my aunt as well as AROHO for their support. –Jenny Ruden, Author, Educator & Woman of Appetite     “Camp Utopia and the Forgiveness Diet is a funny, poignant, emotion- ally intelligent and beautifully written novel that takes the reader on a journey that is by turns heartbreaking and inspiring.” –NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Alisa Valdes “I love, love, love funny, quirky, books like Camp Utopia and The Forgiveness Diet, with its powerful message of love, forgiveness, and being true to who you are!” –Alex Sanchez, author of Rainbow Boys and Boyfriends with Girlfriends “Ruden’s debut novel is more than merely funny. It skewers our cultural obsession with the superficial, lampooning everything from fad diets to reality television and self-help gurus. And Bethany’s inner journey from bitterness to forgiveness is one that will resonate with all readers. Read it for the laughs, reread it for Ruden’s profound insight into the transformative power of forgiveness.” –Mike Mullen, author of...

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Cry of the Nightbird, edited by Michelle Wing et al.
Jun29

Cry of the Nightbird, edited by Michelle Wing et al.

In Cry of the Nightbird: Writers Against Domestic Violence (edited by Michelle Wing, Ann Hutchinson and Kate Farrell), thirty-eight writers speak out in more than fifty prose and poetry pieces of a hidden tragedy: violence in homes, living in fear, and forced silence. Authors from every walk of life and every aspect of this difficult issue raise their voices as one to end this silence, to bring freedom and release for themselves and others. These words will inform and inspire readers: give them eyes to see, a way to express, and motivation to act. Now available for purchase at the YWCA Sonoma County’s online store! (The YWCA receives 60% of sales proceeds.)   At the 2011 Retreat for Women Writers, Michelle Wing read two poems she had originally written for “Changing Hurt to Hope: Writers Speak Out Against Domestic Violence.” She also met Dora McQuaid and watched her film about her own journey with poetry and domestic violence activism, “One Voice.” She bought a copy of the film, and showed it to her co-workers at the domestic violence agency where she volunteers back in Northern California. Returning to AROHO in 2013, Michelle’s sense of herself as a writer and of her mission as an activist were even stronger. She gave a Mind Stretch talk called “Healing with Words,” and was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support she received from everyone present. In that talk, Michelle said she wanted to create a book, a collection of the “Hurt to Hope” writings. When Michelle returned home for the fourth series of “Hurt to Hope” events, two local women stepped forward, and said, “Let’s make it happen.” As they worked on the anthology, AROHO continued to have an impact. Poet Carrie Nassif (AROHO 2013) has a piece in the final book, and her beautiful photographs illustrate each of the four sections. A quote from a poem by Ruth Thompson (AROHO 2011 and 2013) opens the third section. And always, Michelle was bolstered and inspired by the presence of AROHO throughout the project, simply knowing that her sisters were waiting in the wings.     Preliminary Reviews for Cry of the Nightbird:  “By reading and thoughtfully considering the contributions of the writers featured in these pages, you join the ranks of those who recognize the devastating effects of domestic violence. More importantly, you help to begin a much needed healing in our community where one in four families are affected.” —Madeleine Keegan O’Connell, Chief Executive Officer, YWCA Sonoma County “Cry of the Nightbird: Writers against Domestic Violence raises our understanding to a higher level. The authors connect difficult topics to real life situations through...

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Body on the Wall by Michelle Wing
Jun28

Body on the Wall by Michelle Wing

Michelle Wing’s poetry collection, Body on the Wall, is a haunting and deeply personal work, divided into four sections based on the elements: Earth, Wind, Fire and Water. Untangling the many threads that make up a life, Wing writes about being a daughter, violence against women and girls, mental illness, her identity as a lesbian, her love for her wife, and the search for spiritual direction. Beyond this, in each poem, whether it is one of pleasure or pain, there is evident an underlying trust that language and the beauty of words can provide salvation.   The journey to Body on the Wall has been about AROHO from the outset. At the 2011 AROHO Retreat for Women Writers, Michelle Wing read the title poem (under a different name) and a second poem at an AROHO evening reception. Ruth Thompson came forward to compliment her work, and a friendship started. A small group of AROHO friends met for a mini-retreat in May 2013, including Ruth. At that time she said she was interested in publishing Michelle’s collected poems at her independent press, Saddle Road Press. At first, Michelle wasn’t sure Ruth was serious. But at the 2013 AROHO retreat, where Michelle read new poems, Ruth made the offer again, and Michelle said yes. They set a deadline of January 2014. As the book progressed, it became clear that one section of the book was incomplete, and Michelle ended up writing over twelve new poems that fall, in addition to all the revision work. When it came time to secure the ever-important back-cover blurbs, Michelle turned to her AROHO connections. Janet Fitch (AROHO 2013), Barbara Rockman (AROHO 2011 and 2013) and Nicelle Davis (AROHO 2013) all agreed to read the manuscript. The January deadline was met, and the book debuted as an advance review copy at the AWP Conference in Seattle in late February, with its official release date in May 2014. She also received incredible publicity through the new website created by Maura MacNeil (AROHO 2011 and 2013), off the margins. As the first featured woman writer, Michelle had five of her poems published, along with her writer’s statement and answers to several questions. This post went up in late January, along with information about the  new collection, just as Body on the Wall was coming into the world.   “These deeply intense and personal pieces could possibly unhinge a whole web of emotions, except that they’re each so beautifully crafted and considerate in their plea for a collectively healed wisdom. … Like a closely-knit blanket, Wing has expertly covered us with her unabashed intimacy, where we find ourselves looking out through the different colors of...

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flesh to bone by ire’ne lara silva
Jun28

flesh to bone by ire’ne lara silva

Rooted in a Chicana/Latina/indigenous geographic and cultural sensibility, the stories in 6th Gift of Freedom Fiction Finalist ire’ne lara silva’s debut short story collection flesh to bone take on the force of myth, old and new, giving voice to those who experience the disruption and violence of the borderlands. In these nine tales, silva metes out a furious justice—a whirling, lyrical energy—that scatters the landscape with bones of transformation, reclamation, and healing.         …An original and authentic voice…with a unique vision. A blend of indigenismo and folktales retold in a modern vein…these stories come from the clouds, from spirits of ancient ancestors, from the oblique corners of the human consciousness…A new and engaging duende is born. —Alejandro Murguia, author of This War Called Love   If Chagall had written, he would have painted words in the fierce brushstrokes of ire’ne lara silva’s stories. If Remedios Varo had told stories, she would have wound the tendrils of her magic the way ire’ne lara silva paints her world. —Cecile Pineda, author Devil’s Tango: How I Learned the Fukushima Step by Step    ire’ne lara silva writes about what’s between dark shadow and daylight, when, as on the Day of the Dead, we are so aware of the sacred. Though fiction, ire’ne’s prose seems to transform into chanting verse.      —Dagoberto Gilb, author of Before the End, After the Beginning: Stories...

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Interrobang by Jessica Piazza
Aug19

Interrobang by Jessica Piazza

 Interrobang, winner of the 2011 To the Lighthouse Poetry Publication Prize Judge: Eloise Klein Healy Interrobang is a collection of mostly sonnets that play with various clinical “phobias” and “philias.” Jessica’s stunning, playful, dark, and haunting poems illustrate how “even the worst-case scenario of these pathologies are, fundamentally, just extensions of the dark truths to which every one of us can relate.”  You can read more about Jessica and Interrobang on her website here: http://www.jessicapiazza.com/   Buy This Book What an ear, here! Jessica Piazza’s poems are such etched, alive word sculptures, crystal prism poems of love and longing and punch. Aimee Bender I am such a fan of AROHO. Of course, winning the To the Lighthouse Poetry Publication Prize in 2011 was an amazing moment, and changed my career forever. But aside from my own affiliation with the foundation, I’m just in awe of the work they do to promote women writers. AROHO–through retreats, wonderfully generous prizes, contests, and media support–is a champion combating the gender disparity we must all write through. I’m truly honored to represent AROHO, and I hope I do the foundation proud! –Jessica Piazza...

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Kettle Bottom by Diane Gilliam
Jun01

Kettle Bottom by Diane Gilliam

Diane Gilliam, AROHO’s 6th Gift of Freedom Award Winner, has been widely recognized for the voice of honesty, beauty, and resilience  that she has given to Appalachian culture and history–among the many other subjects of her writing. Her second book, Kettle Bottom, is a collection of poems written in the voices of people living in the coal camps at the time of the 1920-21 West Virginia Mine Wars. Kettle Bottom has won several prizes, including a Pushcart Prize and the Ohioana Library Association Book of the Year in Poetry. Gilliam also won the 2008 Chaffin Award for Appalachian Writing. Below is an excerpt from Kettle Bottom. Buy This Book   Explosion at Winco No. 9 Delsey Salyer knowed Tom Junior by his toes, which his steel-toed boots had kept the fire off of. Betty Rose seen a piece of Willy’s ear, the little notched part where a hound had bit him when he was a young’un, playing at eating its food. It is true that it is the men that goes in, but it is us that carries the mine inside. It is us that listens to what they are scared of and takes the weight of it from them, like handing off a sack of meal. Us that learns by heart birthmarks, scars, bends of fingers, how the teeth set crooked or straight. Us that picks up the pieces. I didn’t have nothing to patch with but my old blue dress, and Ted didn’t want floweredy goods on his shirt. I told him, It’s just under your arm, Ted, it ain’t going to show.                                                       They brung out bodies, you couldn’t tell. I seen a piece of my old blue dress on one of them bodies, blacked with smoke, but I could tell it was my patch, up under the arm. When the man writing in the big black book come around asking about identifying marks, I said, blue dress. I told him, Maude Stanley, 23.   Original reprint of excerpt by Perugia Press, found...

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An Unquenchable Thirst by Mary Johnson
Feb26

An Unquenchable Thirst by Mary Johnson

About An Unquenchable Thirst “Readers…will find themselves transported into another world by this powerful, revealing memoir. An aspirant to the Missionaries of Charity at age 19, the author spent 20 years living a life both extraordinarily simple and heart-wrenchingly complex. Johnson skillfully demonstrates this juxtaposition through her writing—mundane events, such as gathering eggs or learning to play the piano, often have tragic or miraculous implications. As she progressed in the order and became Sister Donata, the issues she faced became darker: a sexually predatory subordinate, theological disputes, an increasingly rigid system of rules and regulations and a love affair with a priest. Throughout the book, the author describes her interactions with Mother Teresa…with honesty and telling detail…As it became increasingly clear to Johnson that the Missionaries of Charity’s vision and management were diverging from her own beliefs and values, she struggled with her place in the order and eventually made the decision to leave after two decades of service. Johnson’s portrayal of her time as a nun is likely to be controversial; her memoir is exceptional.” —Kirkus Reviews   Buy This Book Without AROHO’s help, An Unquenchable Thirst might still be a few crumpled pages and a heartfelt vision, my writing space a computer shared with three others in a tiny corner. AROHO women nudged me to believe in myself and to create a room of both solitude and rare support, a room where my story could flourish. AROHO’s wisdom and accompany me daily as my words find a home in the world.—Mary Johnson, AROHO Co-Founder, Board member, and Creative Director of Retreats More Praise: “An Unquenchable Thirst is a candid, generous, and profound spiritual memoir by a woman who chose a life of service alongside one of the great religious icons of our time. Somehow, in the midst of this humbling, austere life of devotion, Mary Johnson found herself, even as her doubts about her faith grew. Johnson’s writing is always gentle yet honest, detailed yet compelling. This is a book that deserves a great deal of thoughtful discussion.”—Anne Rice “Mary Johnson is brave writ large — very large and very courageously and very simply and very gently and very intellectually and very wholly.” —Breena Clarke, author of Stand the Storm “An Unquenchable Thirst is an eloquent and moving tale that is an extraordinary testament to the enduring power of love—beyond faith and dogma.” —Mira Bartok, author of The Memory Palace “A heartfelt, personal story of the gradual awakening of a person who comes to see that preferring ‘the human to the perfect’ does not alienate her from authentic spirituality, but allows her to live more fully.” —Kathleen Norris, author of The Cloister...

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