Friday, December 6, 2019


Featured Member Interview – 

Sheryl Bize-Boutte

A Rich Retirement: Sheryl Bize-Boutte Proves 
It’s Never Too Late for the Write Words
by Nita Sweeney, author of the running and mental health memoir, Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink

One of the many joys of participating in the Women’s National Book Association of San Francisco is the opportunity to learn from talented, successful authors such a Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte. As could be expected from even a quick review of her work, Sheryl provided generous, insightful answers to my questions.

NS: You enjoyed a rich work-life before you turned to writing full-time. Did your work experience prepare you for this phase of your career?
SJBB: The two things my work experience did for my writing career were 1) to provide a nice retirement with freedom to write and 2) to let me know that I could write in many different forms. In those ways the career off-ramp was totally worth it. Although I wrote a bit now and then throughout my government career, my work-related writing was often lauded and I became the “writer” in the office. I once wrote a section of congressional testimony for a cabinet level secretary that was delivered to the House without one word being changed. That sealed it for me. I knew what I would be doing in my retirement!

NS: Your work has won some impressive awards. Have those helped further your writing career?
SJBB: Awards are impressive to some and I am sure have caught the eye of readers and some important people in the writing game. But I have found that much of my recognition and furtherance as a writer has been a result of my readings, involvement in the writing community and face-to-face casual literary encounters out there in the world of writing. I don’t write for the award of it. I write for the love of it. I think people feel my love of the writing and sometimes that alone makes them want to hear and see more of it.
NS: You have been described as a “talented multidisciplinary writer whose works artfully succeed in getting across deeper meanings about life and the politics of race and economics without breaking out of the narrative.” What did you think when you read this review?
SJBB: I can only surmise that this is what she received from reading my stories. I will say that since an African American mother who was often treated badly because of her skin color, and a Creole father who was often mistaken as White raised me, some may view my writings about my observations of the differences as artful, but for me they are what my life was and is made of. I had an “inside view” so to speak of what it meant to be treated as Black as well as White in Oakland as well as in the South, and since I was an extremely nosey child who listened to and looked closely at everything, I remember it, I kept it and I can write it. As far as the narrative part: My favorite writing form is the short story. I learned a long time ago that be to an effective short story teller one must make each sentence a story in itself, have very few characters and stay on point. 

NS: Which of your many publications made you the proudest and why?
SJBB: I am most proud of my first published story, “Dead Chickens and Miss Anne” as it was the first short story I wrote after I retired and was published by the first and only place I submitted it. In addition to that, the comments about the story included that people felt I had found my voice, but in fact I was humbled to know that I had never lost it.

NS: Much of your work is set in Oakland. Can you talk about why this suits your work?
SJBB: I think Oakland is one of the most vibrant, creative and artistic cities on the planet and I am so fortunate to be here. As I have watched it change, grow, shrink, and morph, it has informed and nurtured my writing from the day my 12-year-old self wrote a story on my new Smith Corona, to now and beyond. My real memory and imaginary muse have their base in Oakland and both remain solid and rich with many more stories to tell.

NS: You successfully write in many genres. Are there common threads among these works?
SJBB: I think the common thread is my unique voice. My way of expression that is just me. I see things in a different way than some. I write with that difference.

NS: Crowds have enjoyed your readings, which were said to “bring down the house.” To what do you attribute your success at such events?
SJBB: I come from a family of voracious readers, storytellers, singers, poets, writers; you name it. One of our favorite pastimes as children was to act out scenes or mimic favorite characters as we told stories. I still do that. I find myself changing tone, pitch and voice when reading, especially poetry where there may be more than one character or message. Audiences are tickled and sometimes enthralled by that or perhaps how much I seem to like what I am saying. But the bigger attribution comes from the fact that I do not see myself as separate from the audience. I am not a presenter. I am a person sharing my life and work with people who have been gracious enough to sit quietly (until the end, hopefully when they applaud raucously) and listen.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019






Fragile is an anthology comprised of works that express some motif of fragility. It can appear in a variety of ways: the vulnerability of the strong, a balance on the precipice of destruction, the ephemeral nature of bonds, a moment that nearly breaks you, and the like. However, being fragile doesn’t have to mean breaking; it can alternatively lead to growth, rebuilding, moving beyond.
Publication Date: July 2019
Edition size: 200
Dimensions: 8-1/2" x 5-1/2"
Binding: Hardcover Case
Paper: Loop Smooth-Snow 70lb
Cover: Paper printed with a custom design
ISBN: 978-0-9984865-4-3
Price: $15.00
Add to cart
Sheryl Bize-Boutte

Saturday, November 2, 2019



Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte

If they turned off the power in Brookfield Village in 1957
The air would be overfed noisy with voices
Sprinkled with sugar
From that girl who always laughs the loudest
Roller skates whirring on pavement
Interrupted in syncopated rhythm
by the evenly spaced cracks
Bikes tearing up black asphalt
wearing headlights
And AM radios
Blasting KYA and KEWB
Because the power would have been turned off

If they turned off the power in Brookfield Village in 1957
No one would be inside
Except stinky old lady
Frances from France she said she was
Cause she never came out anyway
But she had the old icebox
To save us all
And the smoke filling the air
Would not be from distant fires
In neighborhoods we had never heard of
Or sidewalked on
Or bicycled on
Or radioed on
But from the bbq pits
In the center of every back yard
And from outdoor fireplaces
Surrounded by children
Making marshmallows golden gooey
While they giggled and laughed right into the
No school tomorrow

If they turned off the power in Brookfield Village in 1957
We would have known
How we all were doing
By sight
Voices that came straight
From human mouths
We could not be shut down
Without access
To next door
We would just
And knock
And ask if
Everyone was all right
And then if
Mr. Butler or Mr. Osgood
had enough gas in the Buick
or the Chevy
To go to the other side of town
Where we heard
 the lights were still on
If they would be brave enough
To take the chance
On unapproved entry
Into forbidden territory
For more ice
 And cigarettes
and royal crown if they had any
with the blue velvet bag
that would be mine this time
And be sure to get the ice cream
We would all scream
As we watched them slowly drive away
Then we would have waited nervously
And played with a nagging knowing
Flash and candlelight ready
for their safe and victorious return
And oh lord
When we could yell
Here they come
The air would return and
We would run to meet them
As they turned the corner
We would open their doors
Before the complete stop
And they
With unsteady hands removing caps
brow sweat revealed
peppered with questions
wringing hands and broad smile rapid talk
would release the bloat
in stomachs filled with stories
about what may have happened
if they turned off the power
in Brookfield Village
in 1957

copyright© 2019 by Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte

Monday, October 21, 2019

Sunday, October 20, 2019


I had a fabulous time at Lit Crawl-SF on October 19 reading with my partner, 
author Christine Volker

I read an excerpt from my upcoming novel, Betrayal on the Bayou, which is planned for release in early 2020.

As is usual in my writing, many stereotypes are sure to be challenged, dissected or just outright destroyed, and in this book, the fictional town of Tassin is just one of them.

Many at Lit Quake said they are looking forward to the rest of the story.  Here's hoping you feel the same!


Excerpt from the upcoming novel
 Betrayal on the Bayou
Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte

Copyright©2019 by Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte

In March of 1865, the Union Army attacked Fort Ravare.  The battle was fierce with several casualties on each side.  A little more than two months later, in May 1865, the Union Army took Fort Ravare and declared victory.   A group of about one hundred Union soldiers took to the roads on horseback and on foot, marching through the small towns along the way, drinking, stealing cotton and damaging property.  When they reached the town of Tassin, a line of horse- mounted Tassin residents, armed and ready for battle, met them at the entrance.

Marie scanned the arriving troops and finding the one with the most stripes she addressed him directly.

“Stop, please.  Do not come any further.”

Her command was met with laughter from the soldiers.  The Tassin line took a step closer.  Now facing each other with only a few feet between them, the tension was palatable. 

“What is this place?” the striped soldier asked.  “And who are these people who do not seem to know what has happened here?”

More laughter erupted from the soldiers.

“This is the Tassin Valley and you have arrived at the town of Tassin.  Nothing has happened here.”

“And Miss Lady, who might you be?”

“I am Marie Tassin.  This is my town.”

“Your town?  A female with an entire town?”

“Yes, kind sir.  That is correct.  And you and your men look like you could use a drink and a bath.  We are happy to host you as you make your way home.”

Striped soldier was taken aback by all of what he had just heard.  These were not your normal southerners, he thought.  There was something different here.  He was not afraid of it and at the same time he was not comfortable with it either.  But he was intrigued.  After the countless battles he had fought and death he had witnessed, he was more than happy to feel an emotion other than fear or aggression.  He was the first to dismount.  Marie followed.  As they walked toward each other striped soldier removed his hat,

“I think my men and I would like that very much.”

The parties at the Monarch and Kingsland hotels lasted for three days before the soldiers, clean, fed and happy, prepared to leave Tassin. 

Striped soldier mounted his horse and called his men to attention.  He thanked Marie and her hotel workers for their unforgettable hospitality.  Before he turned his horse to leave, he said to Marie,

“You know, now that we have won the war, you are going to have to free your slaves.”

“Oh, you mean the colored people at the Monarch?”

“Yes, they won’t have to work for you anymore.  They are going to be freed.  This is a nice town. I am so sorry.”

Marie hesitated as if she wanted to reply, but just then Vanessa came up behind her and tapped her on the back of her shoulder. She handed her an envelope.  So happy to see the ill-mannered, disgusting soldiers finally leave, and knowing things could have been worse for her and the town, Marie had almost forgotten.

She walked to the striped soldier and handed him the envelope. 

He opened it to find an invoice addressed to the union army for three days of expenses in the town of Tassin, due and payable.

The striped soldier smiled, tipped his hat to Marie and with his band of men, slowly road out of town.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019






Saturday October 19, 2019 6:30pm - 7:30pm 

Adobe Books & Arts Cooperative 3130 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA

avatar for Sheryl Bize-Boutte

Sheryl Bize-Boutte

Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte was born in Berkeley and raised in Oakland, California. Her first published writing experiences began while she was a student at the prestigious Mills College in Oakland as a columnist for the College's newspaper, and as the youth editor for a local magazine... Read More →

Christine Volker  (my reading partner for this event!)

Thursday, August 29, 2019


The 2019 Effie Lee Morris Lecture Series Celebrates Women Writers

Join the San Francisco Public Library Main Children’s Center this fall as we present two lectures celebrating the voices of two gifted female authors and honoring the work of Effie Lee Morris (1921 – 2009), the first coordinator of children’s services at SFPL.
Ms. Morris, a tireless champion for diversity in children’s literature and in children’s lives, was the first African-American president of the Public Library Association, and a co-founder of the SF chapter of the Women’s National Book Association.
On Thursday, September 5, Renee Watson, the Coretta Scott King Award-winning author of the young adult novel Piecing Me Together, and of the new middle grade novel Some Places More Than Others, will deliver the 23rd Effie Lee Morris Lecture.
On Wednesday, October 2, 2019, F. Isabel Campoy, the International Latino Children’s Book Award-winning author of the picture book Maybe Something Beautiful, and the Spanish-language translator of Mo Willems’ “Elephant and Piggie” books, will deliver the 24th Effie Lee Morris Lecture.
Both lectures will start at 6 p.m. in the Koret Auditorium, and will be followed by book-signings with the authors. The events are free and open to the public of all ages.
The Effie Lee Morris Lecture Series is presented with the generous support of the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library and the SF chapter of the Women’s National Book Association. This annual lecture honors the work of the late Effie Lee Morris by celebrating the work of writers and illustrators for children whose work exemplifies the causes she championed: inclusivity, diversity, and the rights of all children to read, learn, and create. Ms. Morris was the first coordinator of children’s services at SFPL, the first African-American president of the Public Library Association, and a founder of the San Francisco chapter of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA).
About the Lecturers:
Renee Watson is the recipient of a Coretta Scott King Award and a Newbery Honor award for her young adult novel Piecing Me Together. Her other acclaimed books include the picture books Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills, and A Place Where Hurricanes Happen, about the time Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. Her new book for middle grade readers, Some Places More than Others, will be published in September 2019.
Renee is also an activist and teacher who helps young people deal with personal and societal trauma. She has served as a writer in residence in schools and community centers nationwide. She launched the #LangstonsLegacyCampaign in 2016, purchasing poet Langston Hughes’ historic Harlem brownstone with the goal of developing it into a collective artists’ space.
Renee Watson
Learn more about Renee here:
In the second lecture in this year’s series, we will welcome author and educator F. Isabel Campoy on Wednesday, October 2.
The Effie Lee Morris Lecture series is free and open to the public. For more information, please call 415-557-4554 or see their website.