How does a writer write?

SOMOS answers that question in a monthlong celebration of prose, now in its second week

By Sheila Miller
Posted 11/6/19

More rich and diverse offerings are happening at SOMOS Salon & Bookstore for this year's Prose Month.

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How does a writer write?

SOMOS answers that question in a monthlong celebration of prose, now in its second week


More rich and diverse offerings are happening at SOMOS Salon & Bookstore for this year's Prose Month.

Opening act

On Saturday (Nov. 2), SOMOS hosted the first of many readings this month. In anticipation of the 7 p.m. reading by Mirabai Starr, Rabbi Judith HaLevy and Debora Seidman, the audience began to hush itself at five minutes before the hour. Members of the eager ensemble of listeners seemed to know that a special evening was in store for them, and they lowered their voices to whispers of their own accord.

Curator Johanna DeBiase introduced the trio, joking about the unintentional creation of a "Jewish Ladies Night" of readers. The unplanned harmony continued with the reading itself; all three readers chose selections about their mothers.

The reading began with a re-creation of Shabbat in miniature: two candles, a cup, a loaf of challah set on a cloth, all on a brass tray. "On the last night of my mother's life, my sister-in-law Anita brings Shabbat into the hospital," Seidman read from her memoir in progress, "Lost and Found in My Mother's Kitchen." Seidman created an intimate portrait of a complicated relationship through the objects, actions and feelings that fill our daily lives: casserole dishes, soup bowls, caregiving and forgiveness.

The theme of the importance of objects that fill our minds and days continued in the humorous reflections of HaLevy, who claimed, "It's all about the shoes," while offering incisive reflections on what it means to honor our mothers (and fathers) and on wise aging. "The first step to wise aging is a ruthless inventory of the shoeboxes clogging your closet," Rabbi Judith read, itemizing her own four-inch spikes, thigh-high boots and the like. After earnest reflection, she decides that, rather than give them to her daughter-in-law, the garbage is the most suitable place for the "painfully tight family traumas.

"At the end of this curve, it's just too much weight to carry."

DeBiase acknowledged that the final reader of the evening, Mirabai Starr, likely needed little introduction, and Starr opened with appreciation for the two readings before her, and for her brother, Roy, who was there with her, selling books.

Starr then shared her freshest writing, written that very evening - a moving draft of a forward to a collection of writings by her dear friend Elaine Sutton, who passed away in 2017. She ended with an essay about her own mother published this year on Mother's Day in The New York Times. "She modeled for me what it looks like to shatter and mend," Starr read, and to be "open to the amazement in the face of life's small beauties."

Insights into process from Mirabai Starr

Every writer develops her own process, and Starr generously shared some of hers with the Taos News. As she is usually writing on deadline, Starr has learned to write at any time. In a typical writing session, in a space of total solitude and silence, she begins with timed free writing from a Natalie Goldberg prompt and writes "without any filter." Then, with raw material to work with, she sets to refining it, guided by sculptor and painter Michelangelo's reflection: "I saw an angel in the marble and carved until I set him free."

Coming up this week

Curator DeBiase said she wishes to "represent a variety of different types of prose for audiences to get a feel for all the possibilities," and this week's offerings reflect that intention. From fiction in progress today to playwriting Friday evening and during Saturday's workshop, humor on Saturday evening and memoir on Sunday evening.

Today (Nov. 7) at 5 p.m. listeners will be offered the opportunity to hear fiction in progress. Members of Taos' No Coast Writers group, Christine Autumn, Krystal Cretecos and Lauren Bjorkman, will share from their latest projects. Autumn is well-known in Taos for her singing, art and teaching and is completing a book of fiction. Cretecos, who focused mostly on poetry in the past, is working on "a blend of a magical realism memoir and cyber-punk-esque sci-fi novel." Bjorkman is the author of two young adult novels, "My Invented Life" and "Miss Fortune Cookie."

Friday (Nov. 8) at 7 p.m., Ned Dougherty presents Playwright Night, where playwrights will read their own work, offering an uncommon view of both their inspiration and the subject matters of their work. "This event was very successful last year," DeBiase said. "Many people told me they had been wanting to see something like this." Two Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico fellows, Erick Forrest Jackson and Kim Merrill, "are well-established playwrights, doing amazing things in their field," DiBiase said. She invited them both. Jackson and Merrill are award-winning dramatists who works have been produced widely.

For those who would like to learn more about playwriting and how these techniques can enrich their own writing, host Ned Dougherty will be teaching a workshop "Playwriting Fun01: Exploring the Building Blocks of a Scene" Saturday (Nov. 9) from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Saturday (Nov. 9) at 7 p.m. will be a reading by humorists Eddie Tafoya from Albuquerque and Robert Wilder of Santa Fe. DiBiase said, "If you want a good laugh, come to this reading." Tafoya is a stand-up comedian and professor of creative writing at New Mexico Highlands University. His most recent book, "The Marxist Revolution," will be released next year, and he has appeared on several television shows, including "The After After Party."

For close to a decade, Wilder contributed a monthly column, "Daddy Needs a Drink," to the Santa Fe Reporter, and he has published a book of essays by the same title, as well as one titled "Tales from the Teachers' Lounge." He has appeared on numerous radio programs and published his essays widely, as well as written a well-reviewed debut novel, "Nickel."

Sunday (Nov. 10) at 5 p.m., "well-loved local writers and partners" Jim Levy and Phaedra Greenwood will individually present their work. Both have published widely. Most recently, they published, "Those Were the Days: Life and Love in 1970s Northern New Mexico," a joint memoir.

Continuing throughout the month

Anyone who would like two hours of scheduled, uninterrupted writing is invited to attend the weekly write-ins to take place at SOMOS on Wednesdays from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 2 p.m.

All events take place at SOMOS Salon & Bookstore at 108B Civic Plaza Drive, Taos. They are $8; $5 for members. For more information, contact SOMOS at (575) 758-0081 or or visit


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