Sierra Writers

Writers helping each other

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Poetry Workshop with Chris Olander

At its next regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, January 11, at 6.30 p.m., Sierra Writers will welcome Chris Olander. A poet and teacher with California Poets in the Schools (CPITS) since 1984, Chris will conduct a poetry workshop designed to breathe air and life into our poetry “muscles.”

Chris has published 4 chapbooks, 4 CDs of his spoken poetry, and 4 CDs with musical accompaniment with various musicians. He blends performance techniques with spoken word to create an action art poetry, using musical image phrases to dramatize experiences. He creates a poetry akin to that based on oral and bardic traditions; he is a poet of sound exploring feelings, ideas, and meanings in rhythmic patterns.


Guidelines for Open Read – by Amy Rutten

Sierra Writers Open Read

Sierra Writers offers an “open read” several times a year to anyone interested in having their work read aloud and critiqued in a supportive, creative group environment. Work is read anonymously, by volunteer readers, and feedback is offered. The author will have the option to identify themselves after the piece has been discussed. We welcome all interested writers to attend, whether you are submitting work to be considered or not.

Please review the following guidelines:

  1. Bring a single copy of your piece, double spaced, Times New Roman (or similar) font. Reading from electronic devices is not allowed.
  2. Limit your piece to 750 words (2 to 3 pages), double spaced, or about 3 minutes, read aloud. If submitting poetry, no more than three short poems.
  3. Work should be anonymous. Please be sure author’s name or other identifying information is removed
  4. Work can be whole pieces or excerpts, poetry or prose. If it would help the group, please feel free to indicate the genre or tell us it is from a larger work. The piece will be critiqued on its own.

Please consider these suggestions for how to get the most out of the Open Read:

  • Be an active listener. Take notes; be prepared to be specific with your comments.
  • Begin with a positive comment. In order to grow as a writer, it is important to be able to identify what is working in a piece, even if you don’t like the topic, have issues with the voice, etc. What is the author doing that is working well? Where is the energy? What images are potent and interesting?
  • Keep your criticism constructive. “I didn’t like it” is not helpful to a writer, but “I disagreed with the point the author was making, which made me lose interest in the piece. Maybe the author could look for a way to make it more accessible to people with diverse opinions.” Another example: “It was hard to follow” isn’t nearly as helpful as “The point of view moved from person to person very quickly, which I had a hard time following.” Follow up with specifics from your notes about where this happened in the piece, if possible.
  • Focus on the writing. Our goal is to give the author feedback on their writing. If you find you are talking more about yourself and your own experiences related to the topic in the piece, consider talking with the author about those after the Open Read is over. Give the writing and the writer the attention during the few minutes that are allotted to their work, and engage on a personal level afterward.

Writers often do the heavy work of lifting and inspiring a society. This is important work and needs to be supported. Through reading our work aloud and seeking feedback, we can help each other find our voices, and create pieces that have meaning and integrity. Sierra Writers’ Open Reads are intended to be a safe place for writers to experiment with their craft and share their vision and voices. Be gentle, kind, and supportive.


Amy Rutten leads Open Read

Sierra Writers will host an Open Read on Wednesday, December 14th at 6:30 p.m. in the Madelyn Helling Library, Community Room.

All are welcome to submit their works of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry for feedback from the assembled group. If you wish to have your work treated, please respect the following guidelines: limit your submittal to 750 words (2-3 pages double spaced) and use Times New Roman 12 point font or similar; limit one prose piece per person, or three short poems; piece will be read blind–please do not include your name on the work.

Submitted writing will be read aloud by other members of the group, who will provide considerate, brief and tactful feedback. The author must be present at the reading, and may choose to identify themselves after the comments are given.

Please join us for this constructive and engaging process. This reading is free to the public.


Photo credit: Brett Hall Jones

Voice? Point of View? – Lynette Vrooman

“Find your writing voice.”  You may have encountered this sentence in articles or in previous writing classes or workshops, but what does it really mean?  What is voice and how important is it?  How does one find it?  How does it differ from style?  How does your voice differ from the narrator’s?  Come discuss voice and practice various techniques for point of view with Lynette Vrooman on November 9th, 2016. There will be a writing activity during this meeting.

Lynette Photo

Lynette is a Professor of English at Sierra College, Nevada County Campus.  She received both her Bachelor and Master of Arts in English degrees at CSU, Sacramento and is currently working on a Master of Humanities degree through CSU, Dominguez Hills. In addition to teaching courses in literature, composition, and writing fiction, she promotes the arts at Sierra College, serving on the Sierra Writers Conference committee, and writes fiction in her spare time.

Catharine Bramkamp October 12 – Scrivener

Why bother with a writing program?  Just slap some words onto a yellow legal pad and you are good to go.
What if there was a program that can actually replace your yellow legal pad.
Scrivener ( organizes the divergent thinker and writer and captures  random acts of chapter writing, character development and research so your spend    less time searching for something and more time creating.  Maybe it’s not even the time, it’s the interruption of the process. Catharine will walk us through the basics of Scrivener and answer all your questions, she does not guarantee all the answers will be helpful but they will be entertaining.
Catharine Bramkamp, author. Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice

Catharine Bramkamp, author.
Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice

Catharine uses Scrivener to write her novels, organize her poetry and keep her life in order. She has published 17 novels and her poetry has been included in over a dozen anthologies in including her chapbook Ammonia Sunrise (Finishing Line Press).  She is currently working a the Chief Storytelling Officer for a wine company because Social Media can be a lot like poetry. A Nevada City native, she is currently splitting her time between Nevada City and Sonoma County.

First meeting of the year, Sept. 14. – Open Read

Sierra Writers will host an Open Read on Wednesday, September 14th at 6:30 p.m. in the Madelyn Helling Library, Community Room.

All are welcome to submit works anonymously to be read aloud by members of Sierra Writers and critiqued by the assembled group. Submissions of fiction (including poetry) or nonfiction should be made with no name and contain no more than 750 words (two-three pages).

Please print on one side of the paper and double-space in readable font and type face (such as Times Roman, 12 pt.).

Attendees will provide considerate, brief, and tactful feedback, and the author must be present at the reading. Join us for this constructive and engaging process. This reading is free to the public.

Meetings for the rest of 2016

October 12 – Catherine Bramkamp,  Scrivener and social media

November 9 – Lynette Vrooman, Voice and point of view

December 14 – T. B. A.

2016 Sierra Writers Conference

Order Your Tickets Now!

Form Below “Evite”

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December Meeting – Open Mike & Pot-Luck

December 9, 6.30 p.m.

Community Room, Helling Library.


Open Mike will be limited to eight readers (preference to paid up members) and the readings should be under 1000 words each. Brief comments from audience will be appreciated. (Meredith will take sign-ups at the door.)

This evening will also be the occasion of a pot-luck party. Sierra Writers will provide paper plates, forks, napkins and bottled water. Please bring nibbles to share. Nothing alcoholic please.

Susan Gabrielle to Speak at Sierra Writers

November Meeting Speaker


But I Don’t Need an Editor!

Gabrielle photo

            Susan Gabrielle

November Meeting:

Wednesday, November 11

6:30-8:00 p.m.

Sierra Writers’ monthly meeting will feature editor, author, and educator Susan Gabrielle. She will cover the importance of hiring an editor, regardless of whether you plan to independently publish or find a professional publisher for your work. As well, Susan will offer tips for first-draft editing and answer questions related to writing and publishing.

Susan Gabrielle has been a freelance editor for nearly 15 years, and has enabled many writers to reach their publication goals. As a professor of English at Yuba College, she emphasizes the importance of clarity in writing in order to reach one’s audience of readers. Susan has been published in Capturing Shadows: Poetic Encounters Along the Path of Grief and Loss, The Christian Science Monitor, The Baltimore Review, Heyday, Ayris, San Francisco Peace and Hope, and Sugar Mule, among others; she was a winner in the CBWF Poetry Prize for Women. She will offer a workshop through Sierra College on dreams and interpretation in February, and hopes to publish her book Writing Your Way into Dreamland next year. You can find out more about her work at


Join Sierra Writers for a Year-End Celebration


 Wednesday, December 10, 6:30 pm

Sierra Writers  will host a holiday party at the Madelyn Helling Library in Nevada City on Wednesday, December 10, 2014 at 6:30 pm.

A variety of appetizers will be provided. Please bring your own non-alcoholic beverage.

We’ll also have an open mic so bring something (750 word max) to read.

Hope to see you there!

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