Bart Schneider may not be the first writer to set foot in the Valley of the Moon, but he's certainly one of the most tenacious of the digital age.
The author of five novels, a handful of plays and countless poems last year launched his own small press, Kelly's Cove, to publish local writers such as poets Terry Ehret of Petaluma and Mike Tuggle of Cazadero.
"There are not huge audiences for these books, but there's a lot of talent around here," said Schneider, who spent two decades as a literary editor in the Midwest before moving to Sonoma in 2008. "It really feels good to get published."
Kelly's Cove is named after a stretch of Ocean Beach in San Francisco, where Schneider grew up as the son of long-time San Francisco Symphony violinist David Schneider and Geri Schneider, a trained opera singer.
Music plays a big part in Schneider's work; his dialogue reveals a keen ear for rhythm. He plays the soprano sax and his tough-minded temperament is more aligned with the grittiness of jazz.
"Dialogue is music," said Schneider, 60. "I hear snatches of it, the rhythm and the way they bounce off each other. It's like six chess moves at once."
Schneider's return to the Bay Area arose from a bittersweet convergence of events. In 2005, he got divorced from his wife and both of his parents died. That difficult time resulted in a new book of poems, "Morning Opera," published in memory of his parents, who lived in Oakmont for 15 years.
The book was inspired by his childhood as well as his new life in Sonoma, where he lives up the street from a cheese factory and a pair of Clydesdale horses. His poems are earthy and lucid, delving into subjects as varied as baseball, Van Morrison and foreign films.
"We don't need to make poetry obscure," he said. "Poetry has enough problems as it is."
Poetry figures prominently in Schneider's new novel, "Nameless Dame: Murder on the Russian River," released this month by Soft Skull Press. The writer's outrageous nature is readily apparent in the plot, which involves the Russians returning to the river to build a casino in Monte Rio.