This Year’s Workshop Presenters

Naomi Benaron’s debut novel Running the Rift won the 2010 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. It was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize, long-listed for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, was a Barnes & Noble Discover New Writers Pick, and was selected as one of the best books of 2012 by O Magazine, Seattle Times, Kansas City Star, and BookBrowse Review. Her short story collection, Love Letters from a Fat Man, won the 2006 Sharat Chandra Prize for Fiction. Her fiction, poetry, essays, and book reviews appear in many in print and online journals. She has worked extensively with the African refugee community in her hometown of Tucson, AZ, and she speaks to at-risk students at high schools and community colleges. Before receiving her MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University, she had a long career in geophysics and oceanography. For many years, Naomi was a marathon runner and an Ironman triathlete.

Rhony Bhopla is a poet and visual artist residing in Sacramento. Her poems regularly appear in Medusa’s Kitchen, and have been published in Tiger’s Eye, Clean Sheets, Tule Review, Poems-for-all, Fumes, among other publications. In 2004, she published Bliss, A Journal of Erotica, highlighting the work of Sacramento poets, which won Best of Sacramento (Sacramento News & Review) in the category of Best Local Erotica. She is the founder of the Sacramento Poetry Center’s Thursday Night Poetry Workshop at the Valley Hi-North Laguna Library, and has served as a judge for the Sacramento County Poetry Outloud Competition. Rhony is an educator for the Crocker Art Museum, where she recently hosted Reverberation: Poetry, Music, and Translation. She is an active member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Emily Bond is a librarian at Cosumnes River College, where she teaches information literacy and research skills. She’s a mother of two, who in her spare time writes creatively and therapeutically. With degrees in history and information science, she employs historical research to uncover past worlds. An enthusiastic amateur, she takes every opportunity to share with others her love of written words.

Born and raised in Austria, Kerstin Feindert lived in four different countries before settling in Sacramento. Since her family is dispersed around the globe, writing stories and essays helps her treasure her experiences in different cultures and on her travels. Kerstin has just finished a four-month road trip through the US with her husband and two dogs and is now back to teaching writing at Cosumnes River College.

Traci Gourdine’s poetry and stories have been published in numerous literary magazines, and she has been anthologized in Sudden Fiction Continued (Norton Publishing) and Burning the Little Candle (Ad Lumen Press). Traci and Quincy Troupe were paired in a year-long exchange of letters for the anthology Letters to Poets: Conversations about Poetics, Politics, and Community (Saturnalia Books). She is co- editor of Night Is Gone, Day Is Still Coming (Candlewick Press), an anthology of writing by young Native writers, as well as We Beg to Differ, poems by Sacramento poets against the Iraq war. Her poems are in the collections Shrugged Burdens, Moving Out of Rhythm, Graceful Exits, Adjacent Planes, and Ringing in the Wild. For ten years, she facilitated writing workshops within several California state prisons in the Arts in Corrections program for the William James Association. She is a professor of English at American River College in Sacramento.

Ellen Sander is a Northern California native and professor for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Sierra College. Academic studies and travel nurtured her understanding of the relationships between culture, languages, and politics. Her studies at the post-graduate level provided insight into the economic development of rural workers, Francophone and Lusophone politics and cultural identity, and folk cultures. Visual narrative storytelling as a complement to the voices of cinematographers, writers, folklorists, and artists is a common theme in her courses. Apart from academia, Ellen loves national parks, is a winter sports enthusiast, and observes the last unexplored frontier of space with friends and the public at the Placerville Community Observatory where she is a docent. Not least of all, she enjoys precious moments spent with imaginative conversationalist friends who enjoy spontaneous outings.

Kakwasi Somadhi, author and writing coach, teaches English part-time at Cosumnes River College. Way back in the twentieth century, she earned a master’s degree at Goddard College and returned to Goddard in the twenty-first century, successfully earning an MFA in creative writing. Coming Forth by Day is her debut novel. She also writes short stories, personal essays, and creative nonfiction. It is her pleasure to serve on the planning committee for Our Life Stories and for the Sacramento Black Book Fair.

Dr. VS Chochezi and Staajabu also known as Straight Out Scribes (SOS), have self-published seven books of poetry, one sci-fi anthology, and two CD compilations. They have also produced and coordinated a number of writing, poetry, and art related programs and workshops in Sacramento since 1991. They have lent their voices to various social and environmental justice causes and have performed at venues including colleges and festivals. Chochezi was born in Riverside, CA and raised in Camden, NJ. She holds a BA from Delaware State University, an MA from CA State University, Sacramento, and a doctorate in Education from Drexel University. She is a writer, poet, artist, photojournalist, certified Myers Briggs practitioner, and college professor. Staajabu was born in Philadelphia, PA and raised in Camden, NJ. She is a writer, editor, producer, poet, health advocate, graphic artist, Air Force veteran, UC Davis retiree, and member of the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Commission. For more information, visit www.straightoutscribes.com, or like the SOS page on Facebook.

Marie Taylor was a copywriter and marketing consultant for more than thirty years and holds an MA in English Literature. She is an exhibiting artist and currently teaches art, poetry, and writing at community centers in the Sacramento area.

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