A Lively Crowd SZ

A friend told me today, “Sorry I didn’t come to your book reading. The line was too long.”  “The line?” I said. “There was a line?”

Thanks all of you old freaks and dudes, old friends of ours, neighbors and family who crowded into SOMOS in Taos to hear Jim and me read, in alternate voices, from THOSE WERE THE DAYS: Life and Love in the 1970s New Mexico. I was surprised when you folks started beating on the door at 3:15, then pouring in. It was quite a launch, with John Nichols introducing us, teasing us and setting the tone. Everyone was ready for a laugh. When it was my turn to read, without knowing I was going to do it, I waltzed up to the podium singing, “Those were the days…” And the whole audience joined in. What a blast! Not as fun as the Hippy Dippy Parade in Taos back when, but fun all the same. Sorry we ran out of chairs. And cookies!

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John Nichols gave a hilarious intro. Thanks, John!

For those who were standing outside, listening at the door, we plan to do another reading in the fall. Will post it on Facebook and in The Taos News. Hope you can make it. Meanwhile, Jim and I are planning a book signing at Brodsky Bookshop, 226A Paseo del Pueblo Norte, (Saturday) July 27th from 2-5:30 p.m. The more, the merrier.

And don’t miss the BE IN & LOVE IN HAPPENING up at Lorien on the same day, (Saturday) July 27, from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. This is the Lorien Commune 50 year Celebration: Children of the Commune, with Sprouted Seeds of Cultural Change. They are planning a sunny day with presentations from the Commune Era, bands, music and dance, a hippy lunch, booths, demonstrations, crafts, books for sale and face painting. Drive seven miles north of Questa to El Rito. Follow the signs at El Rito Road. Two night camping available. Contact: email: It should be a hoot!

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When the kids were young, we spent a lot of summer time down by the Rio Grande.



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Hip hip Hooray!

SOMOS (Society of the Muse of the Southwest) just paid off their mortgage of $330,000 thanks to donations from the community of Taos and others who care about the written, read, and performed word! SOMOS now owns a beautiful four-room house on 108 Civic Plaza Drive that was once the home of Ila Mc Afee, a Taos artist who loved to paint horses. She was born near Gunnison and died in 1996 in Pueblo, Colorado. Her gracious presence will continue to warm the walls of SOMOS for many years. Bravo to the board of SOMOS, especially Alan Macrae, President, and Executive Director Jan Smith. Other board members are Janet Webb, Vice President; Prudy Abeln, Treasurer; Rebecca Lenzini, Secretary; Kathy Fitzgerald; Jim Yates; Colette LaBouff and Ariana Kramer.

If you’re curious about the evolution and history of SOMOS, they have created an interesting timeline, posted on the wall in the hall, from the early beginnings in the 1980s when Peter Rabbit and Anne Mac Naughton began with Taos Poetry Circus. I happened to be in that first circus performance with my two children, Alexander, age 11 and Sara, age eight. No, we weren’t reading anything; we were performing acrobatics in the gym, because that’s what circus performers do, don’t they? Cartwheels, hand stands and the splits.

That early performance grew into the performing arts with A CIRCUS OF POETRY with poet Anne MacNaughton. For a little history see: 

Twice 5 Miles Radio welcomes poet and co-founder of Taos Poetry Circus, an interview by poet Jim Navé with Annie MacNaughton. “You may be surprised to learn that the American performance poetry movement can credit much of its beginning to the Taos Poetry Circus and the World Heavyweight Poetry Bout which started in Taos in the early 80’s; Allan Ginsberg was there. The Taos Poetry Circus was the bridge between the Black Mountain College, the Beats, and the American spoken word movement. Enjoy this rare piece of literary history as told by Anne MacNaughton.”


Homeless: My Roundabout Road to Taos

My father was the son of a famous journalist for The Detroit News. Dad had a problem holding down a job, so we lived like gypsies, fleeing from town to town, towing the trailer behind the old Pontiac, pursuing my father’s dream of writing the Great American Novel. By the time he was fifty he had had forty-two jobs. Mother was his whole rah rah team, the honey that glued us together. My sister, brother and I were misfits wherever we went, with strange accents and hand-me-down clothes. We were hungry and rootless, except for those blissful summers at Grandmother’s house. Decked out in pinafores and patent leather shoes, Grandmother took Marilyn and me to Belle Isle and the Detroit Zoo. Dad had grown up in this three-story white stucco house on a quiet avenue lined with elms. He said he never felt he had to establish his own home. “I could always go back to my home in Birmingham. My room was just the same.”

By the summer of 1969 I was twenty-eight years old. I had never owned a car and could barely drive. I had just crawled out of the rubble of my third catastrophic marriage. No children. No family around to shake a finger or offer tea and cookies. I was working as a medical secretary at Yale-New Haven Hospital, a life too narrow for unvarnished happiness. On my lunch hour I scribbled in my notebook in the rest room. They called me “the girl who writes.” I wanted tendrils, cracks in the mirror, naked rivers and hidden dimensions. In my secret cave, I was a poet, a writer. I decided to leave the East Coast forever. Maybe out west I could find a quiet corner to call home.

I quit my job, bought my first car, a VW bug, and drove solo across the country to visit Ken Kesey, an author I admired, and learn more about his adventures with LSD. Three weeks later I found myself aboard a psychedelic caravan with the Merry Pranksters, headed back to the East Coast to serve as part of the Please Force at an upstate rock concert known as The Woodstock Music & Art Fair.

Elaine Sutton leaves a legacy of vibrant words

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Elaine Sutton reads from her work at Taos Public Library, circa 2013.

Elaine Sutton

Elaine Sutton was determined to hold out until Thanksgiving, and she made it, with a few quiet days left for reflection. Over Thanksgiving she was surrounded by her loving family and friends. Many of us visited her to say good-bye, to pick out some beautiful beadwork that she had created, or some memento to cling to. Elaine was all about beauty, but she was also a woman with strength and courage, and now and then, a spurt of craziness.

One of those crazy spurts is preserved in a book published in 2013 by Nighthawk, our local press aqui in Taos. The collection is called Drinking from the Stream: Women’s Prose and Poetry About Nature, of which I was proud to be editor. In Elaine’s story “Canoeing through Canyonlands” she writes about setting out on a solo canoeing adventure, a week down the Green River, because she had “a propensity for risk taking, and a deep desire for solitude.” And she got plenty of both.

On day four she is overtaken by a thunderstorm. “A cool, steady heartbeat of water drums on the river, the land, the red rocks. The air is saturated with scents. Everything is opening. I can hear leaves unfurling, tipping their heart-shaped faces toward the sky. In the distance, a roll of thunder.

Suddenly a blinding bolt of lightning! The rain pours down. Thunder again, then lightning. A dead tree on shore bursts into flame. The hairs on my arms rise up like angels on fluttery wings. I am riding in a metal boat on moving water in the middle of a storm. Fear rumbles in my belly. . . I sing, invite Spirit, salvation and surrender into my heart.”

She makes it to shore and sets up her tent. A few hours later she is awakened by the pulsing floor of her tent, and “What’s that roaring? I leap out of the tent. Turn to see a ten foot wall of water hurtling toward me. For a split second I am paralyzed. Then my reflexes kick in.” She scrambles for her life. “I am up a willow, naked, shaking, holding on tight. Lightning strikes the cliff face on the opposite shore. The clatter of falling boulders joins the foaming roar of the river, the boom of thunder.

The avalanche is over the top. It shifts things from purely dangerous to so dramatic that I have to laugh. . .I half expect Yahweh to poke his head from behind a cloud and issue instructions for a new religion.”

Her friends say her transition was peaceful, beautiful. No doubt she invited Spirt, salvation and surrender into her heart.

Good-bye, beautiful friend. We are not far behind. Hope to hear you chanting and laughing on the other side.

YOU ARE INVITED TO A READING FOR S.O.M.O.S. on Nov, 17, 7 p.m., Civic Plaza Drive, in Taos with Michelle Potter and Phaedra Greenwood

 Hydroglyphics of Light

This autumn evening, after a sunny hike with my friend Michelle Potter up a canyon in San Cristobal, I am editing the last bits on my presentation for The Society of the Muse of the Southwest (S.O.M.O.S.) this coming Friday, November 17, at 7 p.m. on Civic Plaza Drive in Taos. Michelle plans to read from her true story: “Fear and Danger On the Colorado Trail,” a solo hike she took a few years ago.

My presentation will be my first public reading of excerpts from my memoir of childhood: Recurring Dreams. I have woven my story around a couple of themes: water and writing. When my father proposed to my mother he said, “How would you like to be married to a writer and live on a boat?” She thought that sounded jolly, so she said yes.

Here’s my excerpt:


Once or twice over that long summer, Mom, Dad and Captain Finn–Finney, as we called him–slipped our moorings and motored the Incognito out into Long Island Sound. We turned off the engine and hoisted the sails. The heavy white canvas of the mainsail smelled of salt and mold as Dad and Finney hauled it up. It fluttered restlessly, then caught the wind. Mom took the wheel while Finney and Dad raised the jib and the gaff and secured the lines. The Incognito danced to life and spread her creamy wings. She was as glad to be out there as we were, racing along over the waves. The wind in the curve of her sails sang with the rhythm of the ocean. Finney stood on deck, feet braced, tilting his cap to admire the powerful swell of the sails. “Full speed ahead!”

It’s a miracle we didn’t capsize out there in the middle of the Sound. Unbeknownst to us, the yawl’s twelve-foot keel had corroded away.”



Here is Michelle’s:


A few hours later the mountains serve up triple dips of euphoria at Lizard Head Pass: vast meadows and snow-capped mountains all topped with whipped-cream clouds. It’s crazy beautiful. My mind starts singing anthems… But my anthem is trudging. The beautiful but brutal 12,679 foot Hermosa Peak beckons. Rain pours. The guidebook announces: “There are no reliable sources of water for 20 miles but there are many good viewpoints!” (Michelle catches up to a fellow hiker and they trade tales.) She recalls the night she heard a deer “yelp.” And then, “the scream of a mountain lion; the thud of a deer.” Once she was on a fifty-mile section above the timberline surrounded by lightning. “Weren’t you terrified?” I ask, incredulous at her bravery. “I was scared,” she says evenly.


Brinn Colenda Wins a Silver Medal

Brinn Colenda’s military adventure, Chita Quest, has just won a Silver Medal from the 2016 Military Writers Society of America Awards (MWSA) in the mystery/thriller category. Sometime in 2017 he will receive the medal plus 100 shining stickers for the covers of his books.

Congratulations, Brinn!


Chita Quest is one of the most exciting novels in the series as the Callahan brothers team up on a secret mission to discover if their father, missing in action in the Viet Nam war, might have survived somehow when the helicopter he was flying went down in the jungle. Traveling incognito, Tom and Brian follow a trail of evidence that leads them to Mongolia. If you haven’t read this one yet, you can pick up a copy at the S.O.M.O.S. office in Taos, at your local book store, or on Amazon.

What does it take to select a winning book? The MWSA Awards Committee, chaired by Betsy Beard, recruited three judges who read 79 book and scored them on content, visuals, style and technical criteria. Books are judged to a standard, not against each other. If the author merits a high score, he or she wins a medal. “While this process took longer, we feel it was worth the time,” Beard said.

MWSA is hoping to have more volunteer judges to read next year.

Scott Archer Jones Launches a New Book: A Rising Tide of People Swept Away

This book just won three awards from the Florida Association of Publishers and Authors (FAPA), the President’s Silver Medals in three categories: Cover, General Fiction and Literary Fiction.

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Please help us celebrate this prize-winning author at a S.O.M.O.S. Salon for Scott Jones as he launches his third book: A Rising Tide of People Swept Away

When: August 24, 7 p.m.

Where: S.O.M.O.S., 108 Civic Plaza Drive in Taos, New Mexico.

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