Marin Poetry Center was founded in 1981 by a dedicated group of Northern California poets as a non-profit organization designed to nurture an environment for the enjoyment of poetry and the spoken word.

Based at Mill Valley Library, we welcome new poets, established writers, as well as anyone interested in the art of the spoken word.

LATTÉS, Lunch, Books and mags here! View the Book Passage writer events on their website

51 Tamal Vista Blvd. Corte Madera, CA
 7 days 9 to 9 PM  


142 Throckmorton Theatre

Stage Shows, Music & Comedy

"Uniting our Community through the Power of the Arts"

You can buy tickets or at our box office. Call (415) 383-9600 or stop by 142 Throckmorton Ave Mill Valley, Hours: 2pm-6pm, Mon-Sat


"The Depot"

Sadly has been closed for renovation for several months. Mill Valley Depot Bookstore & Cafe - the historic one- time train/bus depot and long-time literary hot spot. Jack Kerouac sat here! 87 Throckmorton Ave
Mill Valley, CA

Left Coast Writers supports new and established writers in the production and promotion of their work in a stimulating atmosphere of creativity and community. The group meets monthly at Book Passage Corte Madera. Readings at B.P. Corte Madera & San Francisco Ferry Bldg. See or sign up through Book Passage.

California Writers Club "writers helping writers" has almost 20 chapters. The SF North Bay branch is Redwood Writers Club est 1975.

LITQUAKE-SF's annual Literary Festival

Hundreds of literary events including Porchlight storytelling series with "advice"-themed tales from writers and personalities.

Open Daily 10-6. 11315 State Route 1
Point Reyes Station CA 94956
415.663.1542 "Working hard to make Point Reyes Books destination for book-lovers the world over to experience this beautiful corner of California where the forest, the sea, writers, readers, and books come together in a truly special place."



See Sands Hall at Books Inc in Berkeley  on 11/19 (in conversation with Jane Ciabattari), and at Sausalito Books By the Bay on 1/23, 2020. 
































































































































HOME| THE LITERARY LATTÉ - Stories, Memoirs | ON MY NIGHTSTAND - Books Reviewed |POETRY REVIEW | THE SCENE - Lit Events | JEB & ARTWORK | SALON - Interviews, Submissions, About


Get comfy and let the LITERARY LATTÉ stimulate your intellect and emotions:

I Slept at Shakespeare & Company

by Sands Hall

In June of 1974, having finished my first year in the American Conservatory Theatre’s Advanced Training Program, and waiting to hear whether I’d be accepted into the second (when they chopped the class size from 50 to 25), I flew to Paris on a redeye. I lugged with me a tome, huge and heavy even in paperback, Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, which I’d heard was an important book that everyone in their early twenties (as I then was) should read. I found myself seated next to a man my age who was heading to Spain; he aspired to be a sports writer. Even though I was currently studying to be a theater artist, and had majored in drama, not English, I had a powerful (and ignorant) sense that sports writing was not really writing; this must have shown in my face. The young man, clearly stung, told me, “You do know that sportswriters use metaphor better than just about any other writers out there! Our job is to be vivid, to make people who can’t be there see and hear and feel!” Even though it would be over a decade before I began to take my own writing seriously, what he said rang with not only conviction, but truth. As the plane began its descent into Orly, I found a way to apologize, making it clear to him that, even just scribbling in a journal, I utterly agreed.

It was early evening by the time I made my way across Paris to a hotel I’d booked—hard to recall how all that was done, in the centuries before Internet; telegram? letters?—and went to bed. I slept soundly and awoke at 6:30, thinking about a woman who'd performed pantomime in the aisle of the plane, who'd told me about a bookstore on the Left Bank called Shakespeare and Company. I knew the name, and that the store had been founded by a bold woman named Sylvia Beach, who also published works of literature others wouldn’t touch, including Joyce’s Ulysses. The mime had explained that while Ms. Beach’s bookstore had closed, an American named George had opened another, at a different address, with same name, and that he—this was the important information—sometimes let people sleep in the bookstore in exchange for work. I pushed back my blankets and headed out to see if that rumor might be true.

As I started in the direction of the Left Bank, I passed cafes where people appeared to be eating things like chicken and pomme frites — seemed odd, first thing in the morning; and, curiously, not many were drinking cups of coffee. In fact, quite a number seemed to be having glasses of wine! Those French, I thought.

As I hustled along, it got darker and darker, and I realized with delight that I’d landed in Paris on the day of an eclipse! An inveterate searcher for signs and symbols, I was thrilled by how appropriate this was, the exceptionality of it—perfect! When a man loomed out of an alley and said Voulez-vous coucher avec moi? (it was cruder than that), I realized that my sound but jet-lagged sleep had lasted not twelve hours, but twelve minutes. I scuttled back to the hotel.

The next day I located Shakespeare and Company, a medieval-looking building on the Seine. I asked for George, and was directed through thousands of used books, across sagging floors, up and then down and then back up stone stairs whose middles were worn deep—all of it imbued with dankness and mildew and a thrilling sense of history and romance. George, when I finally found him, was wrestling, deeply irritated, with an old metal ice tray. He was very thin, with a hunched back, and a terrible cough that hacked up sometimes bloody phlegm. I introduced myself and asked if it was indeed true one could sleep in the store in exchange for work.

He gazed at me with fierce blue eyes. “Are you from Vassar?”

Startled, I shook my head, wishing desperately that I had attended Vassar. He made a disappointed grimace. “Well, you look orderly.”

“Oh, I’m very orderly,” I said, wondering if that might be true.

“All right then. See you tonight. Lamb stew.”

I slept first on a padded shelf under Cookbooks, and then, when the young man who’d nabbed the narrow cot under Poetry departed, moved over to sleep beneath the shelves, high and wide, that contained hundreds of those slim volumes. I sometimes pulled one down—they were usually hardback—and leafed through what seemed to me to be old-fashioned language and length and form, struck, as I still am, by all the efforts over millennia to put into writing what we humans feel. A few years before, I’d learned Shakespeare’s Sonnet XVIII by heart, and I loved the idea behind its final couplet, the writer casting forward to his future readers: “So long as men can breathe and eyes can see/So long lives this, and this give life to thee.” In the dim nighttime light of the store, I’d look around at the sagging shelves, loaded with books, most of them written decades before, and shiver: at the yearning represented there, the ambition, the dreams, the art, the successes, the failures, the lives

Recreation of Sands' "Awfully Cool Adventure."

Early mornings, I ran off to visit museums and cathedrals and churches and parks; I was back between noon and three (we staggered the hours) to help sweep and open and run the cash box and return books to shelves and whatever else might be needed. Almost every evening there were events and readings; I remember a poet thrashing a drum as he chanted his lines, and an artist—I really do think it was Rothko—talking about his paintings. It was heady and astonishing and one of those times when one knows one is in the middle of an Awfully Cool Adventure.

By this time in my life, I was enthralled by Shakespeare; courses in college and certainly at the theatre conservatory had created a deep intrigue about the man, his history, and above all his verse—what one could discover about a character’s emotions and intentions from the clues to be found in Shakespeare’s language. To actually sleep surrounded by books, in a store named for that great writer and the “company” that had come—and continues to come—after him, seemed both utterly fitting and entirely magical.

However, George’s awful cough did haunt me and the sleeping and feeding arrangements were sometimes fraught. So, when a woman who’d broken her back in a horseback-riding accident called the store, looking for a live-in au pair for her two-year-old, Benji, I headed off to a fine apartment in the Seventh Arrondissement with a view of the Eiffel Tower, and lived for a while with an elegant Parisienne and her boorish American husband. (They’d married in lust, in spite or perhaps because of the language barrier, and it was clear Etienne was regretting it; Bob’s fingers were fat and his nose and cheeks a red that even then I knew meant too much alcohol; when he asked the maid/cook for his jar of Hellman’s mayonnaise so he could put a spoonful on the ratatouille, the face of the lovely Etienne twisted like a gargoyle). Eventually, and not only because he tried to grope me, I crossed the Channel, leaving naughty little Benji with a permanently American-accented NO!

On the bus to London, I met a couple who regaled me with details of a spiritual path they’d found; they were living in this really cool place, they told me, a huge old manor, with people who shared this wonderful reality, I should come with them, give it a try—really, you should! You’d love it! I was sorely tempted, and when they swung off the bus without me, I wondered if I’d just turned down the equivalent of an invitation into a closet that led to Narnia.

In London, between taking in the Tower and Hyde Park and the British Museum, I learned to swing dance to one endlessly re-played LP while staying with the friend of a friend of a friend. A week later, I took a train to York and set out with a small backpack and a map and a compass that I had no idea how to use and trekked for a week across the North York Moors. (It was about this time that I “lost” Hero with a Thousand Faces, on a bench in a bus station; it was not only heavy, but cumbersome.) As I was contemplating a road trip around Scotland—invited by acquaintances who were taking their brother, dying of cancer, on a final journey—word came the conservatory that I had made the cut. I flew back to San Francisco just in time to step into my second year with ACT’s training program.

Sometimes it seems to me that the journey that included that stint at Shakespeare and Company served as both resting point and catalyst: all the interests and directions of my life seemed to coalesce that summer—and then spawn outward in an almost psychedelic way. Those years studying acting, between which I took that amazing break, led to an even deeper love of Shakespeare, and the opportunity for seasons and roles with many fine theatres. I have since put together that the couple on that bus to London, who so entranced me with their spiritual talk, were probably studying Scientology, and the manor they described with such delight was Britain’s famous “org,” Saint Hill; years later, for reasons it’s taken me decades to dicipher, I did walk of my own accord into that weird closet and landed in that cockeyed Narnia. As my chosen spiritual path took up a lot of time and energy, my acting career took a beating, but by then I’d begun to turn my attention to writing. Whenever I saw a headline such as, “Bears maul Orioles!” I thought of that young sportswriter’s comment about metaphor, and his heated protest to my youthful arrogance: Our job is to be vivid, to make people who can’t be there see and hear and feel! In my late thirties, my urge to write served as a way to finally pull myself out of the clutches of Scientology—I headed to Iowa and earned an MFA in fiction from the Workshop. With the publication of my first novel, those words from Shakespeare’s sonnet offered solemn pleasure: so long as men can breathe and eyes can see, so long loves this

And recently, I had particular frisson of delight when I shared an evening with Amy Tan, talking about our respective memoirs, at the Shakespeare & Co. on the Upper West Side in New York City. Even that ancient interest in mythology, represented by that (abandoned) volume, Hero with a Thousand Faces, turned up in courses I developed for Franklin & Marshall College, from which I recently retired as a professor. Much of the wise information Campbell offers in that and others of his books were a good part of what allowed me to reclaim the years that for so long I felt I’d lost to Scientology. Especially all that hero’s journey stuff first encountered in that tome that talks about a thousand of them, including the concept of an “underworld,” and what it means to traverse one, and how what one learns there can enrich the rest of your life. Prepping class, I often paused at a paragraph in which Campbell cites an essay by Schopenhauer and, paraphrasing him, writes, “…when you reach an advanced age, as I have, and look back over your life, it can seem to have had a plot, as though composed by a novelist. Events that seemed entirely accidental or incidental turn out to have been central in the composition.”

That summer exploring Paris and England did seem incidental at the time. As did that conversation on the plane with that young sportswriter, yet, here I am, struggling to make things vivid for those “who can’t be there.” Similarly, that early affection for Shakespeare led not only to acting, but, almost inexplicably, to directing and playwriting. Even the trek into and out of the underworld that comprise the years I devoted to Scientology, which for so long seemed like nothing but one huge and terrible error, has come to have meaning. From this particular 60-odd year-old vantage point it can indeed seem as if, central to my life’s composition, were those weeks spent in a narrow cot on the Left Bank of the Seine under the poetry books at Shakespeare and Company.


SANDS HALLIn addition to her memoir, Reclaiming My Decade Lost in Scientology, SANDS HALL is the author of the novel Catching Heaven, and of a book of writing essays and exercises, Tools of the Writer’s Craft. Her stories and essays have been published in such journals as the Iowa Review, New England Review, and Los Angeles Review of Books. She is also a playwright, director, and actor and, as a singer/songwriter, performs widely. She teaches annually for conferences such as the Iowa Summer Writing Festival and the Community of Writers, Squaw Valley. Please visit

In Reclaiming My Decade Lost in Scientology, from Counterpoint Press, Sands Hall chronicles her slow yet willing absorption into the Church of Scientology. Her time in the Church, the 1980s, includes the secretive illness and death of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, and the ascension of David Miscavige. Hall compellingly reveals what drew her into the religion—what she found intriguing and useful—and how she came to confront its darker sides. (Originally published as Flunk. Start.) Acclaim for her book: “…as gripping as any thriller.” (Library Journal) “generous and penetrating, a rather profound act of psychological inquiry” (Northern California Book Awards— Finalist in Creative Nonfiction). Named a best book in Religion and Spirituality by Publisher’s Weekly.


Books arranged not by title nor subject, but by Color! Apurna's home, Gerstle Park, San Rafael, CA


Mobile books at Pt. Reyes Books by Steven Sparks.


Where were you in '72? Cruisin'! J. Macon King and Kevin ? freshly back from rolling upside down in this Porche-engined bug while off-roading near the Alcan Highway, Northwest Territory. Photo at Sudbury, MA.


Baltimore Canyon redwood Larkspur, CA by Scott of the World.   

HOME| THE LITERARY LATTÉ - Stories, Memoirs | ON MY NIGHTSTAND - Books Reviewed |POETRY REVIEW | THE SCENE - Lit Events | JEB & ARTWORK | SALON - Interviews, Submissions, About


Literary Latte Authors bio photos from the authors.

Redwood tree by Scott Roberts

Shakespeare & Co old photo courtesy of Shakespeare & Co .

sidebar: Shakespeare fractured bust: web source.

uncredited photos by J. Macon King.

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