In the Northern Sierra, James Russell Photo
Bio: Leslye Layne Russell

Leslye Layne Russell, poet, singer-songwriter, and dancer, is a native Northern Californian, born in Chico and raised in Redding. When she was very young she lived for several years in Portola, a small trainstop town on the Feather River in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Layne received her degree in English from California State University, Chico, where she studied poetry and creative writing with George Keithley, author of the book-length epic poem "The Donner Party" and other poetry collections. She did post-graduate work in Religious Studies at CSU, Chico, and in the arts and Religious Studies at Naropa Institute, Boulder, Colorado. While at Naropa Layne was on the first editorial staff of "Loka," Naropa Institute's journal, and enjoyed the privilege of working with the late Rick Fields who was editor of "Loka" at that time.

Of particular significance in the development of Layne's artistic expression was the period of four years of arts study while living in Vancouver, British Columbia, where she studied and performed with local and touring minimalist dancers and multimedia artists. Her extensive modern dance, movement, and improvisation study, teaching, and performing greatly influenced her music and writing. Dance associations and influences included Phyllis Lamhut of the Alwin Nikolais Dance Theater, dancer and choreographer Bill Groves of the Nikolais Dance Theater and other dance companies, Iris Garland of the Simon Fraser University Dance Department, Vancouver Laboratory Theater (of which Layne was a member, performer, and teacher), Barbara Dilley of Grand Union and later Naropa University, Yvonne Rainer of Grand Union, Vancouver dancer Heather McCallum, Vancouver choreographer and dancer David Dressler, Multitudes (of which Layne was a member and performer), Canadian choreographer and dancer Grindl Kuchirka, and Anna Wyman of the Anna Wyman Dance Studio.

Layne's meditative, metaphysical background and orientation comes through subtly and naturally in her writing; her poems reveal the inherent beauty and consciousness in everyday life. Also, being a dancer and musician, Layne writes with a heightened, rich sense of sound and rhythm. Layne is an award winning poet published in "The Dickens," "Poetic Express," "Poetry Now," "In Sublette's Barn," "Free Cuisenart," "Poetry Repair Shop," "Fish Dance," Vancouver Canada "Tibet: Art Speaks," "One Dog Press," "Minotaur Press," "Baker Street Irregular," "The Hold," "In the Grove," "Disquieting Muses," "TADS," "Blue Moon Quarterly," "Haiku Yearbook," "Haijinx," "Poets4Peace," "Poets Against War," and others. Layne's poetry books, Last Visit, a collection of poems inspired by her mother who died in 1994, and A Quiet Place, a poetry collection, are being published by White Owl Publishing. Into the Dark Mountain, a collection of mountain poetry and haiku, is being published by dPress.

Layne Reading in Petaluma, CA, 2000
Layne reading in Petaluma, California, 2000
David Huang Photo

Layne enjoys giving poetry readings, often presented with music performed by her husband James Russell, guitarist, arranger, and composer, and various percussionists. In both 1996 and 1997 Layne was a featured guest on the live PBS radio program "Inkwell," an hour-long show of both interview and reading.

As a nondenominational minister, Layne has specialized in writing and performing wedding ceremonies since 1984, and in the spring of 1999 received a "Best of Sonoma County Award" for her weddings work. She also served as a Home Hospice Chaplain in Santa Rosa and taught in Santa Rosa high schools for ten years as a substitute teacher. For over twenty-five years Layne's home was Sonoma County, California, where she performed both music and dance and devoted many years to her writing.

At the end of 2000, Layne moved to Redding, California, with her husband James, and Sky, a very affectionate, sleek, and lively Lynx Point Siamese. All love the new homestead, a magic place with squirrels, a zillion birds (including magpies, egrets, hawks, and kingfishers), ducks and Canadian geese flying in and out, many nut and fruit trees, and views of Mt. Lassen and Mt. Shasta from the back yard. Layne now serves as a wedding minister in the Redding - Mt. Shasta area. James launched Russell Guitars in the fall of 2002, and Layne is chief assistant in that endeavor. Layne has also taught and performed dance in Redding, often with dancer, choreographer, and teacher Marcia McGetrick West. (A dance section of this site is forthcoming.)

A lover of the outdoors and sports, Layne loves to swim and hike in the mountains, especially in the northern Sierra, Mt. Shasta, and Mount Lassen areas. She has two daughters, Rain and Crystal, and a stepson, Kyle, all three living in other parts of northern California and western Nevada. A lover of photography, Layne, aka Apple Crisp, has been seen hanging out lately in

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Updated December 2005