What Have We Here

For writer and small press publisher Susan Bono, the last thirty years have mostly been about trying to stay ahead of a husband, growing kids, aging parents, and an eccentric old house, in spite of detours, deadlines, unexpected changes, and inevitable losses. But through it all, she’s been taking notes. In her collection of short essays, What Have We Here: Essays about Keeping House and Finding Home, Bono is drawn to the mystery, tenderness, and humor at the core of everyday experience and the ever-shifting nature of the place she calls home.

WHWH Main Title

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August 16, 2017
Free and Open to the Public
Mendocino Hotel
One-Hour Workshop
Imperfection and the Art of Memoir

Ever wish life were perfect? That may be a recipe for happiness, but it would make for terrible personal narrative! Memoir is all about imperfection, from choice of subject matter to the way we portray ourselves as narrators. Let me show you how what you don’t know can help you!!

Emandal Farm
On the Eel River near Willits, CA

September 10-14, 2018
Instructor: Susan Bono

You’ve been telling yourself you’re going to write, so what are you waiting for? Before you start listing excuses, know this: you may need less time and energy than you think if you don’t bite off more than you can chew. You won’t write the definitive story of your life in 3 days, but you’ll learn how small, juicy slices of experience can become a feast. If you’re new to memoir, this is a great place to start. If you’re already on your way, you’ll fall more in love with your practice.
Life in Small Bites at Emandal



Jumpstart Writing Workshops

Place: Petaluma Copperfield’s
140 Kentucky St., Petaluma
Time: Mondays from 6:30–8:30 p.m.
$15 drop-in fee
Workshops facilitated by Susan Bono and Marlene Cullen, alternating months.
A weekly writing workshop where inspirational prompts encourage experimentation and generate authentic writing. Beginners as well as experienced writers welcome. Bring a notebook and a fast-moving pen for this journey into deep writing and listening.
Details at www.TheWriteSpot.us.


January 2015 brought me the wonderful opportunity to talk with Sheila Bender of Writing it Real about writing, editing, and publishing. Read the interview here:
Sheila also published the title essay to my collection, “What Have We Here.” http://writingitreal.com/special-editions/special-bono-essay

In November 2015, I talked with Gil Mansergh, host of KRCB radio’s “Word by Word.” http://media.krcb.org/podcasts/word_by_word/Word_by_Word_20141109.mp3


“A 21st century mix of E. B. White and Erma Bombeck, Susan Bono’s essays are warm, funny, wise, and shapely. Reading them, I am reminded of the mystery at the core of domesticity, and the quiet surprises, deep delights, and profound significance that reside—for people astute enough to notice them—in such seemingly simple things as boxes, teacups, and trips to the circus. Like potato chips, you won’t be able to stop consuming these little goodies; like seeds, each will blossom beyond itself, and like perfectly faceted gemstones, you will find fire in the heart of every one.
Jean Hegland, author of Into the Forest and Windfalls

“Susan Bono learned early that family road trips were “a series of mysteries, challenges, and traps to be navigated as carefully as any highway along the route.” In her collection of beautifully crafted essays on home, family, and friends, she explores love, marriage, parenthood, strife, writing, loss, and the passage of time with an honest, tender voice. Sitting alongside her on life’s journey, readers benefit greatly as they find the most trusted of life companions, one’s own inner strength and courage.”
Sheila Bender, Founder, Writing It Real

“Susan Bono’s reflections on domestic life are sensitive without becoming precious, droll without becoming silly: she observes, for instance, that living with her disheveled lawn “was like trying to stay serious about a man with a bad comb-over,” or that she has endured a “flood of other endings—the deaths of my sibling, pets, parents, and reproductive system.” By examining closely the often minute details of her own unpretentious life, she reveals truths about ours that we might miss. When she suggests, “Home is a mystery, like dawn, or twilight, or a landscape wrapped in fog,” Bono captures the enduring mystery of existence, focusing attention more fully on the wonder of being.” Gerald Haslam, author of Leon Patterson: A California Story, with Janice Haslam

“Those of us who first met Susan Bono as the devoted publisher of Tiny Lights: A Journal of Personal Narrative are familiar not only with her superb editorial presence but also her skill in writing small but mighty Editor’s Notes. She never failed to move us, and she does it again with her debut collection, What Have We Here: Essays about Keeping House and Finding Home. My wish is that everyone reads these pieces and takes in their brilliance. They shine, as Susan hints in her preface, with moonlight and life.”
Rebecca Lawton, author of Steelies and Other Endangered Species: Stories on Water (Little Curlew)

When asked about what she does, Susan Bono has learned not to mention all the time she spends trying to get comfortable with who she is, how she feels, and where all of this seems to be going. She tends to skip over her earlier careers as a high school English teacher or stay-at-home mom and say she’s is a writing teacher and freelance editor who edited and published Tiny Lights: A Journal of Personal Narrative in print and online from 1995—2015. Sometimes she brags that what began as a five-page newsletter mailed to a few dozen friends and family grew to twenty pages of personal essay and art with hundreds of loyal readers. She occasionally reveals that she created the online version of Tiny Lights to capture what couldn’t be contained in the twice-a-year newsstand editions, such as a quarterly posting of mini-flash essays (500 words or fewer), and a monthly forum dedicated to craft and process.

Over the years, Susan has published hundreds of writers in print and online. She directs interested parties to the showcase of archived talent at www.tiny-lights.com. If pressed, Susan will confess that from 2000—2005 she helped coordinate and host the Writer’s Sampler series for the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, and helped found and co-host the Speakeasy Literary Saloon at Petaluma’s Aqus Café from 2010-2012. She has also been a contributing editor for the Pushcart prizes, Word by Word on KRCB radio, and for the second edition of Sheila Bender’s Writing Personal Essays: How to Shape Your Life Experiences for the Page. She currently serves on the boards of the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference and Petaluma Readers Theatre and edits the Noyo River Review. Her work has appeared in anthologies, magazines, and newspapers, as well as on stage and the radio. She’s promoted the craft of personal narrative as far north as Crescent City, as far south as Mexico City, as far east as Istanbul, and as far west as Point Reyes National Seashore. She is proud and relieved to have produced enough material for her collection, What Have We Here: Essays about Keeping House and Finding Home.

4 thoughts on “What Have We Here

  1. Susan, Although I miss Tiny LIghts, I enjoyed reading the new blog. Congratulations on the book. I wished I lived closer to CA (I reside in NY) so I could take advantage of the offerings mentioned. Sincerely, Frances Dunn, former contributor to Tiny-lights.


  2. Frances, I was so pleased and surprised that you left a comment! I set susanbono.com as more of a billboard in space, not considering its potential to allow communication with readers. You’ve inspired me to think more about this. Thank you! Perhaps since you live in NY, you are closer to Gregory Gerard and the Big Brick Review, a lovely new place for writers! xo


  3. Susan, You made me feel so included last night in your talk (Writers of Mendocino Coast – Mendocino Hotel Garden Room, Mendocino, CA). Thank you for driving north, taking time to talk to us and share your style. I have a question


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