Friday, December 31, 2021


HERE'S TO 2022 

Monday, December 27, 2021


Fall 2021 ~~ Hooked on Wonderful Books

An interview with Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte by B. Lynn Goodwin

“I was a writer at 12 years old when my parents bought me a Smith Corona typewriter and I wrote my first story.”   ~~Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte


Written by Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte and Reviewed by B. Lynn Goodwin

ISBN #:  979-8642089934

Independently published (June 3, 2020)

Let It All Out

Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte’s Betrayal on the Bayou is a fascinating novel that delves into some heartbreaking issues around race, justice, and the noir code in the fictitious Louisiana town of Tassin.

In the midst of the Louisiana Bayou in the 1800s, there was a three-tiered culture: slaves, free people of color, and whites. When a young, white widower from Paris arrives with his daughter he marries a Tassin woman, who has money and power,  and then takes a Creole lover. After a while he builds his lover, Margot, a house identical to his wife, Marie’s, and sets them side by side. He encourages feuds, discord, and his personal superiority. As the story unfolds we learn about the injustices a white man could perpetrate without consequences in the 1800s. Readers will be left wondering how much has changed today in this fast-paced debut novel.

Bize-Boutte is an award-winning writer, poet, and Pushcart Nominee. 

In this interview she talks about her experiences.


BLG: Tell us when you knew you were a writer. Who encouraged you to tell your stories?  

SJBB: I am from a family of storytellers and voracious readers, so writing was a natural addition to that portfolio.  I knew I was a writer at 12 years old when my parents bought me a Smith Corona typewriter and I wrote my first story.  I had imagined stories before then and wrote a few things down in pencil, but my passion was not solidified and off to the races until I was gifted that typewriter.  Incidentally, my first story was about pencils.  

BLG:  Are there real experiences you’ve observed or heard about woven into your novel? Can you give us a couple of examples? 


SJBB: As you know, fiction is always informed by lived reality and for Betrayal on the Bayou that is an embedded fact.  I tell people my imagination has always been my best friend and so, the combination and sometimes hybrid presentation of fact and imagination are present in the novel.   


As an example, one of the lead characters, Margot, is a mixture of the personalities, essences, physical attributes, occupations, and unfathomable heartbreak of several of the most important women in my life, the women who shaped me. In Margot, people who know me will see my mother who never completely overcame her tragedies and yet was a woman of incomparable substance and will, my aunt who made clothing, from the hats to the shoes, for Hollywood’s famous, my great-aunt who flourished in the Jim Crow south despite the restrictions on her very being, and me, a Black woman in America, and all that means. Those who don’t will discover my truths in this work of fiction.


Another example is the phrase, “the rain she come, the bisic pass on you,” from a story my father told us as children.  I took that phrase and re-imagined it as connected to my novel and gave it a new and different life with a more expansive meaning within the Creole and code noir culture I was describing and a commentary on how a myriad of things may have been in the fictional Louisiana town I built. In other words, I did what I do when I write fiction. I took a speck of something, added a dose of imagination, and blew it up into a story all its own. 

BLG: I’ve been fascinated by Creoles since I found a reference to them in a poem in my 7th grade reader. What inspired you to write about Creoles and their struggles in Louisiana? 

SJBB: My father was a Creole from Louisiana. I did not want to write a biography; I have already done many published stories and articles on my parents.  Yet, I was compelled to write something about the Creoles and one day, after ten years of procrastination, all the stories I had been told over the years, all the summer visits, all the food and the joy, and the deceptions, came together with imagination and boom, it was all just there, fully formed, the words hitting the pages like magic.   

But the book is not just about the Creoles. Far from it. There are many human and structural characters woven into the novel. In addition to the people in the story, I explore aspects of colorism, elitism, gender bias, inequality, sexism, and what I consider other “betrayals” in the world I created inspired by a culture with which I am familiar.  I put it all in.  I let it all out. 

BLG: Which characters and events were hardest to write about? Why? 

SJBB: The hardest was Margot’s heartbreak.  It is a horrifying cruelty born of racial hatred.  It was the scene that took me 10 years to be able to write.  It was extremely difficult and written through a torrent of tears. Once I knew I could write the passage, I knew the rest of the book would just fall out.  And it did. 


Another difficult character was Marie.  Her torment was inspired by the life of a close relative, who floated on the surface to avoid destruction.   

BLG: How did writing poetry influence your process? 

SJBB: My penchant for the poetic often results in uniquely formed prose in my story writing.  In poetry, I believe that every line is a poem, and my stories are heavily influenced by that. It also means that in my story writing, I do not always adhere to traditional grammatical and phraseology conventions, which can be misunderstood or unaccepted by some and cause “editors” to pull out the red pen and provide “corrections.”  But it is my voice, and I will always be true to it. Because the ultimate gift to me as a writer is reaching those who can “see” my writing.

BLG: I admire your confidence. Has teaching improved your writing? How? 


SJBB: I don’t think teaching has improved my writing, but I do feel strongly that sharing what I have learned with others is a part of the circle of writing.  By that I mean, I am comfortable with the way I express myself with words and I teach to help others feel the same and to share what I know, what I have learned and what I am still discovering. 


BLG: What do you hope readers will take from  Betrayal on the Bayou? 

SJBB: That there are many stories of people, particularly Black people, that some may not know.  That we are complex beings.  That colorism and racism are cruel and not always visible. That just because you don’t know about something, doesn’t mean it did not happen.  That things that went on, pairings that occurred, are not new things, but existed long ago in different and sometimes, the same, settings. That there are some very bad people in this world.  That there are angels. That we must save and nourish the angels among us.

BLG: Was it always your intention to publish the book independently or did you submit to agents first? What advice can you give readers about independent publishing?  

SJBB: When an unplanned opportunity arose to “pitch” the story to a traditional publisher, I took advantage of it, but I knew there was no interest when their eyes glazed over and they said, “Well it sounds like a story worth telling.” Since I had always wanted to publish on my own to protect my “voice,” I took that route, and I am happy that I did.  I feel I told the story I wanted to tell in the ways that I wanted to tell it, without interference or lack of understanding by an outside party. 

My advice for independent publishing is twofold: 

Make sure you carve out adequate time to market your work. People need to see you and your writing in as many venues as you can reach. 

Invest in a good editor. I thought I had, but unfortunately, I had not.  The bad thing is copies got out with mostly punctuation errors.  The good thing is, since my independently published book is print on demand, I was able to get the mistakes corrected and have the book re-posted.  But I also have to say that some of the strongest and best reviews I received were on the early uncorrected copies, proving that for some, even the worst editing job can’t get in the way of a solid story.  Even now, I suspect we did not catch all the errors, but neither did Ernest Hemingway, Walter Mosley, or Sue Grafton, and many other famous, best-selling authors.  

I consider myself to be in good company and am happy about the response to my book. 

BLG: What are you working on now and where can people learn more about you?  

SJBB: In a bit of a departure from Betrayal on the Bayou, which is, at times, dystopian, I am in the process of writing a sci-fi novel. The first chapter won an award in the 2021 San Francisco Writers Conference Writing Contest and is published in their 2021 anthology.   

You can read more about me and what I am up to at: Thank you again for this interview opportunity. 

BLG: Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. I agree that your voice comes through loudly and clearly. You’ve done a great job of sharing a part of the culture that many people would like to know more about.

Looking for a book that is both historical and timely? 

Looking for a fast-moving story that will grab and hold you? 

Get a copy of Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte’s Betrayal on the Bayou.

Sunday, November 21, 2021





Copyright © 2021 by Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte

As little kids, we didn’t think much beyond the pies and cakes at Thanksgiving, only suffering through the turkey and dressing to get to those two delights.  As we grew older, we began see the family togetherness of it all, both good and bad, and came to look forward to it. 

A day that started out as stressful for my mother as she balanced putting a feast together, by our designated 3:00 PM eating time, first for just her growing family and parents who lived nearby and then to sons-in-law, and grandchildren, always ended in her delight.  As the years went by, I held the meal at my home a few times, and my mother was more than happy to just relax and visit, but it was “off” and just not the same.

In different ways, Mom was the center of it all for us, and her presence was what held us all together.  So, it was no great surprise that when she died suddenly in 1981, it all fell apart; we all fell apart.  It was especially wrenching for my father and my youngest sister who was only 13 at the time.

While my father and baby sister remained in the family house for a time, without mom, it was no longer a place for gathering. All that was left was a hollowness that could not include being thankful.  We each began to hold our own Thanksgivings separately, and although we invited my dad, he would not come, preferring instead to eat with friends who had not been a part of our family core.

It was a sad time as we slogged through a few years of motionless grief that would not seem to lift.  And so, it was bit of a miracle that on the day before Thanksgiving, three years after Mom’s death I found a note attached to a paper plate on my porch.  Written by my little sister, the simple and to the point message read:

My Turkey dinners.  

I prefer dark meat please and cooked with a little salt.


Mr. Bize’

And sure enough, at 3:00 PM sharp on Thanksgiving, the doorbell rang, and there was my smiling dad, saying, “Pick up!” as I invited him in to get his dinner.  In the years that followed, I would continue to invite him in, and he would invariably say, “I can’t stay, I have more pickups to do!” and off he would go with his first Thanksgiving dinner on his way to the next. Before the hour was up, he would “pick-up” dinners from all four of his married daughters, and have a moveable feast of turkey and dressing, sweet potato pie, collard greens, Cornish hens, candied yams, sometimes quail and BBQ ribs, and always pineapple-coconut 1 2 3 4 cake, and his Louisiana staple, rice and gravy.

My father had found a way to work through his grief, and to touch base with his children during the holidays in a way that would not propel him backwards. He made it different enough for his broken heart to handle while building a bridge to cross over the sorrow.  It was quite ok that he could not bear to sit at one of our tables; how would he choose and why should he have to? That note and his new “pick-up” tradition let us all know that he was healing, and it gave us permission to do the same.  To let us know that we would have to find our own paths for dealing with the shattering changes we had to face.

My father found a way to modify his holiday tradition so he could go on, and for us, knowing that he wanted to, made us thankful once again.







I AM AT 32:25 *

Sunday, October 24, 2021


You all know how much I Iove words and one my favorites is: FREE! Join us on November 8 for "No Poetry No Peace," a free virtual event at the Mechanics Institute Library of San Francisco

( you can join M.I. and /or you can always donate a little somethin' somethin')

Friday, October 22, 2021





Winner: Sheryl Bize-Boutte, The Burden Keeper

The winning story is the first chapter of my novel in progress, titled The Burden Keeper, and will be published with all of the contest winners and finalists in the SFWC Anthology slated for release in November 2021.


Thursday, September 30, 2021



 An excerpt from my novel in progress, "The Burden Keeper," has been selected as a finalist in the San Francisco Writer's Conference 2021 writing contest. The excerpt, along with all of the finalist's entries as well as the winners, will be published in the SFWriter's inaugural anthology, slated for publication in November 2021.  

More at:

My short story, "Plateau," has been nominated for "Best of the Net" for 2021 by Synchronized Chaos International Magazine.

Read the story here:




Friday, September 24, 2021







NOVEMBER 8, 2021

6:00 PM-7:00 PM

This event is produced in partnership with the San Francisco Writers Conference.

Please register via Eventbrite and the Zoom credentials will be sent to you when you register and a few days prior to the event.


Join us and a selection of poets – some local, some far flung - to explore how "poetry provides pathways for creative and cathartic human expression and peace." The No Poetry No Peace series happens twice a year and the title comes from a collection written by Sheryl Bize-Boutte and her daughter Dr. Angela Boutte.

About our poets:


Pushcart Prize nominee Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte is an Oakland multidisciplinary writer whose autobiographical and fictional short story collections, along with her lyrical and stunning poetry, artfully succeed in getting across deeper meanings about the politics of race and economics without breaking out of the narrative.  Her writing has been variously described as "rich in vivid imagery," "incredible," and "great contributions to literature." Her first novel, Betrayal on the Bayou, was published in June 2020 and a poetry collection she has written with her daughter Dr. Angela M. Boutte, titled No Poetry No Peace, was published in August 2020.  She is also a popular literary reader, presenter, storyteller, curator, and emcee for local events.

Mahnaz Badihian is an Iranian/American Poet, painter, and translator whose work has been published in several languages worldwide. Her work has appeared in many literary magazines, including Exiled ink!, International Poetry Magazine, and Marin Poetry Center Anthology. Mahnaz runs the Literary magazine to bring the poetry of the world together. She finished the translation of a book called Spaldings Arise (2014) with Jack Hirschman. Her latest poetry collection is Raven Of Isfahan (2019) and she has edited Plague 2020 an anthology of COVID related art and poetry from around the world. Her new collection of poems, Ask The Wind, will be published by Vagabond Press this year. She is a member of the San Francisco RPB (Revolutionary Poet Brigade).

Dr. Angela M. Boutte is a biochemist, neuroscientist, and avid recreational indoor climber who loves the tranquility and peace found in writing the occasional poem.

Author of three poetry collections, Joan Gelfand’s reviews, stories, essays and poetry have appeared in national and international literary journals and magazines. The recipient of twenty writing awards including the Effie Lee Morris Prize for Poetry and the Cervena Barva Prize for Short Fiction, Joan taught for California Poets in the Schools and currently for The Writing Salon.  Joan’s poem, “The Ferlinghetti School of Poetics” was made into a short film that showed in 20 international film festivals. Joan’s debut novel, Extreme was named New Fiction Finalist in the 2020 International Book Awards.

John Rowe has been active in the Bay Area poetry community for 25 years, especially with the Bay Area Poets Coalition, a non-profit, volunteer-run organization. He currently hosts a monthly open poetry reading on Zoom for BAPC. His poems have appeared in numerous small press journals and anthologies, and he has authored several poetry chapbooks including Beyond Perspective (Finishing Line Press). His poems reflect an array of styles and themes, and he has an affinity for writing short-form poems such as 5-line tanka.

Michael Warr is a 2021 San Francisco Artist Grant and 2020 Berkeley Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. His books include Of Poetry & Protest: From Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin (W.W. Norton), The Armageddon of Funk and We Are All The Black Boy.  Recognition for his writing and literary activity includes the San Francisco Library Laureate, Creative Work Fund award for his multimedia project Tracing Poetic Memory, PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award for Excellence in Literature, Black Caucus of the American Library Association Award, Gwendolyn Brooks Significant Illinois Poets Award, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. For more see

Maw Shein Win’s poetry chapbooks are Ruins of a glittering palace (SPA/Commonwealth Projects) and Score and Bone (Nomadic Press). Invisible Gifts: Poems was published by Manic D Press in 2018. Win is the first poet laureate of El Cerrito, California (2016 - 2018). Her full-length poetry collection Storage Unit for the Spirit House (Omnidawn) was longlisted for the PEN America Open Book Award, nominated for a Northern California Book Award for Poetry, and longlisted for the California Independent Booksellers Alliance’s Golden Poppy Award for Poetry for 2021. 

More here:



Taryn Edwards - 415-393-0103

Tuesday, August 24, 2021







SEPTEMBER 3-5  2021


"Set in a race-divided community and full of murder and mayhem, the true spirit of this novel is in how it builds an entire fictional universe set on the Louisiana Bayou.

With the immersive spirit of a fairytale, that universe pulls you in. A tale of women trying to do their best in a time that offered fewer choices and was significantly worse for women of color or mixed race. But this is not a novel drenched in pity; the female characters have agency, and self-awareness, and are well-written and credible."



get your copy here:

Friday, July 2, 2021

sIX FINGERs a love story

Poetry from Sheryl Bize-Boutte

Published on 07/01/2021 by Synchronized Chaos International Magazine




 a love story


 He was born with six fingers 

 on each hand

 scalpel applied in a secret room

 Precision clean cut no trace

 Only a few knew 

  Cautioned not to reproduce

 He was fine with that

 A captain of industry

 A hellion

 A brute

 An unrepentant supply of evil

 A success

 Five remaining fingers

 On each hand

  Vice grips on all there was to have

 They named him man of the year

 In his private garden

 Of forever green grass

 And the blue eye sky

 He prospered



 She was born with six fingers 

 on each hand

 They tied them off with dirty string 

 let them fall back into origin

 Scars of protruding keloid

 Are even darker than her total gold

 Everyone knew

 Everyone whispered

 She was a hellion

 A brute

 An unrepentant supply of evil

 A bad mother

 A failed woman

 They named her witch

 Assigned designations without power to change

 Five remaining fingers on each hand

 barley clinging 

 to that thirsty branch

 Of the diseased tree

 She struggled



 They came upon each other one day.  It was a chance meeting, another arrangement of the universe.  After all, their worlds were separated, divergent, inequivalent yet equally actual.


 She was weary yet determined, walking slowly, the sidewalk seeming to grab at her steps as if to stop her progress.  This was nothing new.  Everything in life seemed to do that to her.  Yet she continued.


 He was on the same sidewalk, head in the air, walking briskly.  Too briskly to notice the woman he was heading toward. 


 And then they collided.  He was beyond angry that she had interfered with his forward progress. No one had ever done that before. No one. He instinctively pushed her to the ground.  That was his nature.


 She knew she had to protect herself.  She knew immediately she was on her own. If she had to fight, that was what she would do.  He would not be the first she had to battle. He would not be the last she would best.


 She lay there looking up at him, one of her hands shielding her eyes from his blue glare.


 And that is when he saw the scar on her hand.


 He immediately knew what it was and what it meant.


 He reached down to help her up.


 She wondered why and did not trust.


 Jarring clarity took him to his knees.


 He took her hand and ran his fingers across the scar.


 She embraced the bond of blue sky and golden sun.


 They knew their real names.


 Holding hands and rising together to their feet,


 Now beyond circumstance


 Strength and Hope walked on.


 copyright ©2021 by Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte


Tuesday, June 15, 2021




From Storyboard to Narrative

with Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte

Saturday, July 17, 2021 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm

This event is presented in partnership with the San Francisco Writers Conference

It will take place via Zoom. Please register via Eventbrite and the Zoom credentials will be sent to you a few days before the class starts.


MI MEMBERS: $15.00

PUBLIC: $25.00

In this workshop, author Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte will guide you from storyboard creation to story narrative.  You will become familiar with the process of storyboarding, how it helps and guides the writer, how Sheryl uses her own unique storyboarding techniques to create narrative for her writing projects, and a fun storyboarding exercise for class participants.  


Pushcart Prize nominee Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte is an Oakland multidisciplinary writer whose autobiographical and fictional short story collections, along with her lyrical and stunning poetry, artfully succeed in getting across deeper meanings about the politics of race and economics without breaking out of the narrative.  Her writing has been variously described as "rich in vivid imagery," "incredible," and "great contributions to literature." Her first novel, Betrayal on the Bayou, was published in June 2020 and a poetry collection she has written with her daughter Dr. Angela M. Boutte, titled No Poetry No Peace, was published in August 2020.  She is also a popular literary reader, presenter, storyteller, curator, and emcee for local events.

For each class, we reserve the right to cancel at any time and issue a full refund. If you are unable to attend your class, please email at least 10 days prior to the class to receive a full refund. All fees must be paid at the time of registration.

MI Members $15
Public $25

Register now ›

 QUESTIONS? Contact Taryn Edwards,

Thursday, June 10, 2021



First shared in 2021, the story of Mama Dunn is a combination of the history of Black people in America, a young man's coming of age, and Juneteenth legacies shared.  Certainly, we know from history, both written and spoken, the year 1865 and the years preceding it were not all about the celebrations we engage in today. As always, other things were in play even back then.  The story I present to you today is a true depiction of those times, passed down by my husband and his family.  

Mama Dunn, is about the other stuff going on at the time and how a young teenager’s picture tells a story that continues to inform, rile, resonate, anger, and inspire today, in so many, many ways.


Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte

Copyright © 2021 by Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte

As teenagers in the 1970’s, my then future husband and I often spent time with each other’s families. We thrived on bar-b-que’s with live music, extended family birthday celebrations, wonderful holiday dinners, car trips, and plenty of impromptu visits that turned into full-blown parties. It was during one of his family’s epic card playing parties that I first saw the photograph.

A bit grainy and slightly creased, the sepia toned image was still clear enough to see the two people standing in the foreground of a lush grassy pasture somewhere in Louisiana. Although the exact year and place had long been lost to family memory, the images seemed to jump off the yellowed scalloped edged 3X5 photo paper of the day.

On the left of the picture stood a thin, brown-skinned girl who looked to be about thirteen or fourteen. Her hair was styled into two loosely braided shoulder length pigtails, her arms pinned uncomfortably at her sides as she focused on the camera lens. The stare she gave was drained of affect, hauntingly unreadable. Although it was not possible to discern what her feelings may have been at that moment, the lack of expression on her young smooth face revealed that she had already been through the unimaginable. Even more than a century later, the forces inside her core being traversed the faux tranquility of that photograph to send the lasting message to anyone who would ever see it, that until that point in her life, or one very close to it, she was, or had been, a slave.

Standing on the right side of the photograph was a very tall, achingly thin bearded White man.  His body was slightly turned toward her, and his left hand was outstretched as he posed while in the process of handing something to her. In the photograph, one could barely still make out the faded sunlight glinting off the of the shiny object he held.  It turned out to be a twenty-dollar gold piece. A reward or acknowledgement of some sort from him to this young Black girl.  Even through the haze and creases of the old photograph, he was immediately recognizable.

The young, brown-skinned girl in the photo would become my husband’s great-grandmother and would be known to him as Mama Dunn. 

The thin White man in the photograph was Abraham Lincoln, then President of the United States.

But how did this photo and unlikely meeting come to pass? It may have been that Abraham Lincoln was doing public relations and photo ops in between the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, and his tragic assassination in 1865.  With the freeing of the slaves, the institution of slavery and its forced labor was shattered.  By the end of the Civil War in 1865, 620,000 soldiers had perished and much of the Southern U.S. was in shambles.  Damage estimates of physical destruction alone hovered around $1.5 billion.  With almost 2% of the U.S. population killed in the Civil War, more than any other war in U.S. history, there was a dire need for workers to meet the challenges of Reconstruction and to maintain the U.S. economy.  There may have been many reasons for this type of visit by the President, but I suspect that it had to do less with freeing the slaves, and more with efforts to end the war while motivating former slaves to stay, join the Union Army to increase the Union’s forces, and help rebuild the country.  

Although most slaves were not freed by the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, which specifically excluded most slave-holding states, Mama Dunn may have been living in one of the Louisiana parishes that were included. In fact, the Emancipation Proclamation states in part,

“Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.” /1

 It was not until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865 that all slaves were freed.  So in between all of that, with the country still at war, in economic peril, and the unfathomable human loss, Lincoln knew he had work to do.

My suspicions about the Lincoln “photo op” are further buoyed by the rest of the story from that picture day.  After the photo was taken, and there may have been others, Lincoln did indeed hand the young Mama Dunn the gold piece. But as soon as the photo session ended, he asked her to give the coin back.  As family lore tells it, someone in the crowd that day shouted, “Let the little gal keep it!” and an embarrassed Lincoln did just that.

Mama Dunn held on to that twenty-dollar gold piece, and the story of her meeting with Lincoln became a major part of family history with the valuable artifact serving as demonstration of fact. By the time my husband came into this world, Mama Dunn had reached 100 years of age and was living with extended family in Oakland.  

He became aware of her early on.  Even as a toddler, as Mama Dunn sat back in her dark green chenille covered chair, he sat at her feet on the matching ottoman and listened to every word she had to say. He listened to her hum. He kept watch when she dozed off. As he grew older, she talked to him a bit more, but never about slavery or hardship. She talked to him about how to solve the problems of life as well as how to celebrate the pleasures and victories. The Lincoln photograph would sometimes appear along with the chance to hold the treasured twenty-dollar gold piece. She was and remains his earliest and most influential life force. He loved her to the moon and back.

Mama Dunn passed away when my husband was in the third grade.  

She was 108 years old.

Still living in Oakland at the time of her death in the mid-1950’s, she was buried in a local cemetery where a flat square of stone bears her name and relevant dates, but still fails to mark her magical existence.

She is there to this day. 

In what used to be the Black section.

/1 National Archives Transcript of the Proclamation dated January 1, 1863

Monday, May 3, 2021


Just in Time for Mother's Day

Join me and Kate Farrell on the radio
this Thursday, May 6th
Storytelling in Black and White, “Aspire with Osha”

We will be telling stories from our childhoods in the South.

KSVY 91.3 FM, Sonoma Valley Community Radio:

The show will air Thursday, May 6th, 3 – 4 PM, PDT.

LIVE STREAMING from the KSVY website. (NOT Zoom)
About Us - KSVY 91.3 FM

Tuesday, April 20, 2021


On Sunday, April 18, I was the featured reader at the Elk Grove Writers and Artists Spring Event.

Led by the wonderful author, teacher and publisher Gini Grossenbacher, they are a group of talented writers, dancers, poets and more.

I read from Betrayal on the Bayou and from my first book A Dollar Five, after which I was treated to readings by this gifted crew.

Today I received this lovely coffee cup as thank you gift from them.


Yes, they are.


Thursday, April 15, 2021


Heather’s Bookshelf: 

Author Interview 


Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte

Book Title:  Betrayal on the Bayou

Released:  6/19/20

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Interview by Heather L. Barksdale

What inspired you to write “Betrayal on the Bayou”?

Bize-Boutte: Embedded within my active imagination and actual Louisiana family history, this book had been rolling around in my head for about ten years before the frame and the heart of it all came to me at once and I sat down to write it. In my original concept, it was a sweeping biographical family tale, but after a while I knew I would never have enough factual information to fill in the blanks. Too much was being hidden and withheld by certain family members who will never come forward. It was then that I decided to write a novel.

When you encounter writer’s block, what do you do to break yourself out of it?

Bize-Boutte: I don’t believe in writer’s block. I embrace the ideas of “waiting for the muse” and “imagination at rest” when I am not writing, which is not often. I have learned the literary value of letting things simmer before they are written as well as writing them as soon as they reveal themselves. Both have equal power and neither state should deter the writer.

Are there any tips that you would like to share with other aspiring authors?  

Bize-Boutte:  Yes, this is from a poem of mine currently in progress that I plan to use in teaching writing classes:


Write it for you

Write it for me

Write it for them

Write so they see

Write your wishes

Write your truth

Write your encore

Write your youth

Write your real

Write your imagine

Write your fears

Write your passion


Write what you see

Write what you thought

Write who you are

Write what you brought

Write when it wakes you

Write when it shakes you

Then read out loud those words 

To set them all free

And add your voice

To this life symphony

Copyright©2021 by Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte

Is there anything that you want readers to know about you, your writing process, or your book? 

Bize-Boutte: Well, I have been writing since I was gifted a Smith Corona typewriter by my parents at age twelve.  Although I did not write much during my thirty-one-year career in government, I never stopped conjuring stories, so when I retired, I began to “empty out” all of those stories, thoughts, poems and whatever else was in “my there.”  But guess what, “my there” magically refills all the time! 

As you can see from above, I also use words unconventionally, especially in my poetry.  I tell people to not be afraid to do that if it is a part of their voice.   

In my writing process, I generally get the entire concept of a book, poem or short story in my head all at once and I am able at that point to write the beginning, middle and end. In the case of Betrayal on the Bayou, it was almost fully formed as I set down to write it. Then I use my own brand of “storyboarding” to fill in any blanks, provide details and assure continuity. I do not write to word count.  I do not write filler.  I just write what comes and what makes me want to know what my characters will do next and what makes me want to turn the page to find out. When I feel I have done that, I then believe I have something to share with others. 

In Betrayal on the Bayou, I describe the insidious, permanent damage caused by colorism, racism and betrayal in a fictional Louisiana town in the nineteenth century, sometimes in literal, shocking ways. 

If "Betrayal on the Bayou" were adapted into a movie, who would you like to see cast to play your lead characters?  

Bize-Boutte:  This is quite the interesting question because I have been asked this by people who have read Betrayal on the Bayou, and yes, I have thought about it.  So here goes:                             

Emile: Chris Pine

Clotilde: Margot Robbie

Margot: Journee Smollett

Marie: Adele

Vanessa: Natalie Dormer

Francisco: Esai Morales

What is your favorite book, genre, and/or author?

Bize-Boutte:   I am a big fan of Walter Mosley and Stephen King for their sharp character development and storytelling. Two of my bedrock authors are James Baldwin and Barbara Neely: Baldwin for his fearless truth and Neely for her depiction of the complex Black woman. My “go to” poets are Niki Giovanni and my late sister, Patsy Bize who could “rhyme on a dime.” And I love James Grisham’s page turning crime and the late Sue Grafton and her wonderful crime solver Kinsey Milhone.

What are you working on next?

Bize-Boutte: I am always writing poetry so I may have another book of poetry coming up at some point. As for the next novel…I have two ideas “simmering” including a possible sequel to Betrayal on the Bayou, or something else entirely. 

The muse will bring it soon.

Learn More About the Author and Betrayal on the Bayou Here:



Friday, April 9, 2021



No Poetry No Peace

Monday, April 26, 2021 - 6:00pm to 7:00pm

A Reading and Celebration of National Poetry Month

"Poetry provides pathways for creative and cathartic human expression and peace."

S. J. Bize-Boutte

This event is produced by the MECHANICS INSTITUTE LIBRARY in partnership with the San Francisco Writers Conference.

Please register via Eventbrite and the Zoom credentials will be sent to you when you register and a few days prior to the event.

Join us in celebration of National Poetry Month for a reading of poems from No Poetry No Peace, a collection written by Sheryl Bize-Boutte and her daughter Dr. Angela Boutte; and a selection of local poets.



Pushcart Prize nominee Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte is an Oakland multidisciplinary writer whose autobiographical and fictional short story collections, along with her lyrical and stunning poetry, artfully succeed in getting across deeper meanings about the politics of race and economics without breaking out of the narrative.  Her writing has been variously described as "rich in vivid imagery," "incredible," and "great contributions to literature." Her first novel, Betrayal on the Bayou, was published in June 2020 and a poetry collection she has written with her daughter Dr. Angela M. Boutte, titled No Poetry No Peace, was published in August 2020.  She is also a popular literary reader, presenter, storyteller, curator, and emcee for local events.

Dr. Angela M. Boutte is a biochemist, neuroscientist, and avid recreational indoor climber who loves the tranquility and peace found in writing the occasional poem.

Isis Machline Blanchette is a wife and mother of 2 young boys living in Long Beach, Ca where she works as a special education program director. Isis loves to dance, sing, and enjoy life's simple offerings.  She has been writing most her life and is an aspiring author. She writes prose, essays, poetry, historical fiction, and science fiction. Tonight she will share from her poetry collection. 

Leticia Garcia Bradford is a poet, playwright and publisher. In 2014 she founded B Street Writers Collective (BSWC), Hayward, CA- a community of writers both amateur and professional. Her poems and stories have been published in local and national journals. She edited BSWC’s anthologies Fly With Me and What Is Love which she is, also, the publisher for MoonShine Star Co. In 2017, Leticia toured around the entire SF Bay Area with her poetry and stories at open mics and readings.

A long time activist, journalist, and Bay Area resident, Fred Dodsworth earned his bachelor's degree in creative writing with a concentration on gender studies, and his Masters in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. A poet since childhood, Fred's short stories and poems have been published in Red Light Lit, Rag Mag, Troop, Oakland Review #3, riverbabble, Transfer, Milvia Street, Bay Area Generations, Writing Without Walls, Saturday Night Special, Something Worth Revising, US Represented, and in the anthologies 11-9 the Fall of Democracy, RISE!, Colosses: Home among others.

Kevin Dublin is a writer of poetry, prose, scripts, and code originally from the small town of Smithfield, NC. His words have recently appeared in The Racket, Cincinnati Review, North Carolina Literary Review, Sparkle + Blink, and he is author of the chapbook How to Fall in Love in San Diego (Finishing Line Press, 2017). Kevin holds an MFA from San Diego State, leads workshops as a part of Litquake’s Elder Writing Project, and enjoys making video adaptations of poetry and developing web apps for writers. You can find him on Twitter @PartEverything.

Mary Mackey is the New York Times bestselling author of 14 novels and 8 collections of poetry including Sugar Zone, winner of the 2012 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award and The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams, winner of the 2019 Erich Hoffer Small Press Award for the best book published by a small press. Her poems have been praised by Maxine Hong Kingston, Al Young, Wendell Berry, Jane Hirshfield, D. Nurkse, and Marge Piercy for their beauty, precision, originality, and extraordinary range. Her novels have made The New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle bestseller lists and been translated into twelve languages. At, you can sample her work and read her interview series People Who Make Books Happen, which is designed to help writers and teachers of writing. You can also follow her on Twitter @MMackeyAuthor.

AND ON APRIL 30, 2021

4:00-5:30 pm Pacific Time, PDT 






Lucille Lang Day is the author of seven full-length poetry collections and four poetry chapbooks. Her most recent collection is Birds of San Pancho and Other Poems of Place (Blue Light Press, November 2020). She has also co-edited two anthologies, Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California and Red Indian Road West: Native American Poetry from California, and has published two children’s books and a memoir, Married at Fourteen: A True Story. Her many honors include the Blue Light Poetry Prize, two PEN Oakland/ Josephine Miles Literary Awards, the Joseph Henry Jackson Award, and eleven Pushcart Prize nominations. She is the founder and publisher of Scarlet Tanager Books.

Award winning poet and Pushcart Prize nominee Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte is an Oakland multidisciplinary writer of prose/poetry, autobiographical and fictional short stories. Her writing has been variously described as “rich in vivid imagery,” “incredible,” and “great contributions to literature.” Her first novel, “Betrayal on the Bayou,” was published in June 2020 and a poetry collection she has written with her daughter Dr. Angela M. Boutte, titled “No Poetry No Peace,” was published in August 2020. She has served as a poetry judge for the Bay Area Poets Coalition, the long-term emcee and co-curator for theMontclair/Oakland Public Library’s annual celebration of National Poetry Month and is slated to judge the WNBA-SF’s Effie Lee Morris Writing Contest poetry category. She is a popular literary reader, presenter, and storyteller, and in addition to her books, her varied works appear in numerous journals, anthologies and print and on-line magazines and videos.

 Dr. Jeanne Powell holds degrees from WSU in Michigan and USF in California. She is a published poet and essayist, with four books in print from Taurean Horn Press and Regent Press: MY OWN SILENCE, TWO SEASONS, WORD DANCING and CAROUSEL. She founded Meridien PressWorks™, which published 20 writers in 20 years. Jeanne’s film and cultural reviews appear online. For ten years Jeanne facilitated Meridien Writers, which met monthly in San Francisco. For a decade she hosted Celebration of the Word, a weekly open mic in the City. Jeanne has taught in CS, OLLI and UB programs on college campuses. She has been a featured performer in coffee houses, cafes, libraries and bookstores. Jeanne’s new collection of poetry will be published in April 2021 by Taurean Horn Press.

Athena Kashyap grew up in India and went to the U.S. for her higher education. She received her BA in Critical Social Thought and History from Mount Holyoke College, her MA in English from the University of California at Davis, and her MFA in Poetry from San Francisco State University. She currently lives in San Francisco where she teaches English at City College of San Francisco. Athena has written two collections of poetry, Sita’s Choice (2019) and Crossing Black Waters (2012), both published by Stephen F. Austin State University Press in Texas. Her poems have appeared in Exquisite Corpse, All Roads Lead You Home, The Missing Slate, Forum, The Fourth River among other journals. Her work has also been anthologized both in the U.S. and India and has been translated into other languages.

Iris Jamahl Dunkle is an award-winning poet, literary biographer, and essayist. She has published four poetry books, including West: Fire: Archive, The Center for Literary Publishing, 2021 and the biography Charmian Kittredge London: Trailblazer, Author, Adventurer. Dunkle teaches at Napa Valley College and is Poetry Director at the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference.

The author of three poetry collections, a chapbook of short fiction and You Can Be a Winning Writer, a book for writers, Joan Gelfand’s work appears in national and international journals including Rattle, PANK! The Los Angeles Review of Books, Prairie Schooner, Kalliope, California Quarterly, the Toronto Review, Marsh Hawk Review and Levure Litteraire. Her chapbook of short fiction won the Cervena Barva Fiction Award. President Emeritus of the Women’s National Book Association, a member of the National Book Critics Circle and California Writers Club, Joan coaches writers. Joan’s novel, Extreme, set in a Silicon Valley startup, was published by Blue Light Press in July, 2020.