Burning the Little Candle

Published Date: May 1, 2013

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To an outside observer, north Sacramento, California might seem an unlikely place for a creative writing mecca.  The fact that American River College is a state-funded, public education community college might make it seem even more unlikely.  And yet American River College has drawn some of the area’s most talented creative writers to its halls and has published, for a quarter century, their work in the award-winning American River Review.


Burning the Little Candle, a title borrowed from the poetry of Philip Levine, offers a selection from the work of that creative writing department’s faculty and staff including new and previously published work by Lois Ann Abraham, Aaron Bradford, Christian Kiefer, Shane Lipscomb, John Bell, Traci Gourdine, Jason Sinclair Long, Harold Schneider, Michael Angelone, Michael Spurgeon, Rod Siegfried, David Merson, and Emily Hughes.  As former American River College student (and Jarhead author) Anthony Swofford writes in his introduction, “go now, read these working and teaching artists.  And learn.”

Author Information


studied creative writing at CSU Chico with Clark Brown, Gary Thompson, and Carole Oles, and regularly attends writing workshops. Her fiction and non-fiction have been published in SojournerChico News & Review, Sacramento News & Review and Writing on the Edge. Her first novel, Tina Goes to Heaven, is seeking representation. She is working on her second novel, tentatively titled, Stillscapes with Ashes. In addition to creative writing, she teaches English grammar, composition,and literature at American River College.



holds an MA in English from CSUS, where he studied under Doug Rice. He is at work on an Amador County-set novella about wine and baseball, and a collection of essays on domesticity. He is a regular blogger, parent, and husband.



professor of English and currently co-chair of the English Department and co-coordinator of the Writing Skills Center at American River College, where he has taught since 2003. He earned a BA in Spanish from the University of New Mexico and an MFA in Creative Writing from Wichita State University.



A transplant to the Sacramento region, combines the rich Long Beach and Los Angeles stand-up poetry style with narrative, dramatic monologue, and haiku traditions. He teaches fiction and composition at ARC, Folsom Lake College, and Sierra College. He has published numerous poems and the chapbook, Channeling Humbert Humbert, available through Bender Press.



TRACI GOURDINE‘s poetry and stories have been published in numerous literary magazines, and she has been anthologized in Sudden Fiction Continued (Norton Publishing). Traci and Quincy Troupe were paired in a year-long exchange of letters for the anthology Letters to Poets: Conversations about Poetics, Politics, and Community (Saturnalia Books). She is co-editor of Night is Gone, Day is Still Coming (Candlewick Press), an anthology of writing by young Native writers, as well as We Beg to Differ, poems by Sacramento poets against the Iraq war. For ten years she facilitated writing workshops within several California state prisons in the Arts in Corrections program for the William James Association. She is a professor of English at American River College in Sacramento.



A poet, educator, and backpacker from Sonoma, California. Recent work has been published in the Sacramento News & Review and Gigantic. She has been featured on “Dr. Andy Jones’ Poetry & Technology Hour” on KDVS. Emily received her M.A. in Creative Writing from UC Davis, and teaches English at American River College and Cosumnes River College.




A musician, poet, novelist, and a widely published music journalist and scholar. He holds a Ph.D. from UC Davis and is the author of the novel, The Infinite Tides.



He served in the Army for six years, including one tour of Bosnia as a peacekeeper. He is currently working toward a degree in history at CSUS and is Administrative Assistant to the Dean of English at American River College. Shane’s writing explores socio-historical trends and themes through the lens of science fiction. Ad Lumen is proud to be the first to publish his work.



Earned his MFA in Playwriting from UCLA. His plays have been developed and produced at various theaters around the country, including HERE and The Lincoln Center in New York. In 2009, he wrote one piece of flash fiction every day for 365 consecutive days, the word count of each piece dictated by a roll of two 8-sided dice. He lives in Northern California with his wife, two sons, and ever-changing brood of chickens.  His collection of very short fiction, Balancing Racks, will be published in 2014 by Ad Lumen Press.



received his B.A. in English and Philosophy from Westmont College and his M.A. in English (Creative Writing, Fiction) from UC Davis. He teaches creative writing at American River College, where he served as faculty adviser for the American River Review from 2001 until 2010.



has taught creative writing at American River College for over 20 years, and also at UC Irvine and UC Davis. He advised the American River Review from 1991-2001, and in 2000 received The Patrons Chair, an award for excellence in teaching. His literary influences include the inestimable William H. Gass, with whom he studied while pursuing an M.A. in English at Purdue University, a degree finalized later at U.C. Irvine (MFA, fiction writing). On his mantle stands an Emmy for television writing (The Hollywood Squares, 1974).



has been a gardener, a plumbing supply worker, a tire store grunt, a delivery boy for a dry cleaner, a cannery worker, a warehouseman, a retail clerk, an English instructor, and in his most recent work life, Dean of English at American River College.


Michael Spurgeon


is a tenured professor of English at American River College, where he teaches composition, literature, and creative writing and serves as the Editorial Advisor to the American River Review. He has authored two chapbooks and four short stage plays, and his writing has appeared in multiple regional and national journals. He is the author of the novel, Let the Water Hold Me Down, also published by Ad Lumen.

Visit him at www.michaelspurgeon.com



served in a U.S. Marine Corps Surveillance and Target Acquisition/Scout-Sniper platoon during the Gulf War. After the war, he was educated at American River College; the University of California, Davis; and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New York Times, Harper’s, Men’s Journal, The Iowa Review, and other publications and he is the author of Jarhead, a major New York Times bestseller and the basis for the movie of the same name. His most recent work is the critically acclaimed memoir, Hotels, Hospitals, and Jails.


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