Saturday, April 30, 2011

Poetry Potluck! I'm on the Menu today--




I'm on Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup blog today for her Poetry Potluck Series.

And I share a bit of a secret about what inspired one of my poems and yes, it does include a bit about Rachael Ray from the Food Channel!

Jama does an incredible job in sharing info in her Poetry Series.  And on my post, she even included the table setting for Emily Dickinson from Judy Chicago's art installation "The Dinner Party" from 1978, I believe.

You can see me as the main dish today and I mean that in a sincere, humble and metaphorical way.

Friday, April 29, 2011

One More Day to Enter to Win Poetry Books for National Poetry Month!




The Big Poetry Giveaway is coming to a close.

You can enter to win my most recent book (Letters From the Emily Dickinson Room) or Nancy Pagh's book (No Sweeter Fat) by going HERE

You have until Saturday night, April 30th by midnight in whatever timezone you are in.

~

And for the full list (all also ending April 30th) - click on the blog title below to enter into all these bloggers contests--


BIG POETRY GIVEAWAY! -- List of Blogs Participating...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Women Artists

"I Will Be With You" by Mayumi Oda
Last night I watched Who Does She Think She Is? and if you are a mother artist or mother writer, you must see this documentary.

I am so moved by this movie and the artists to build their lives around their art and family.    I learned that part of it will be placed on PBS in May and here's a link to their blog with the dates and channels.

So today I'm thankful for women who are creating.  Who are trying to balance their art and their family.  Who are trying to balance their art and their job.  Who are trying balance.

Some artists I know, like or think you might enjoy---

*Please feel free to leave the name(s) of your favorite women artists in the comment section.  I'd love to have a large list of inspiring women here to refer to...

Here's my short & incomplete list--


Nancy Canyon

Kelly Thiel

Catrin Welz-Stein (she did the cover for my book)


Other women artist links--

Who Does She Think She Is? on Facebook

Who Does She Think She Is?  the Theatrical Trailer

Women of Women Made: A Gallery Showing, April 30 (Chicago)


Thank you to all the creative women in the world.  

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

When the Real World Tries to Take My Candy...



So I'm back in the real world, and I'll be honest, I tend not to return to real life well.

Imagine taking a three-year-old out of a candy shop where she had just been allowed to try every piece of candy she wanted, play with the cash register, take a nap on the Charleston Chews, and basically control every moment of her day without any responsibility.  Imagine her kicking and screaming as you dragged her back into the car and whisked her back into her regular life of bedtimes, schedules, people caring what she eats, no candy except on special occasions.

This is basically me after a writing retreat.
I am the crying child who wants her candy shop back.

Of course, when a woman makes a statement like this it must be followed up with one of these-- This is not say I don't love my life, my family, my friends, my home, my pets, and so on.

But it is to say, writing residencies offer me something I do not have in my real life-- freedom.

Okay, I have freedom, but I don't have *freedom* - where there is no need for clocks, for chores, for checking in with anyone, for showing up anywhere else except to my writing, for not having to feed anyone but myself, and so on.

Yes, it was the candy shop.  It was magical and synchronistic and inspiring.

But it's not real life. (Note:  Currently, I am trying to figure out how to live a retreat lifestyle in my regular life, but honestly, it's difficult.)

And I come back from retreats like a rocket entering the atmosphere, sparks and fire, friends.  (I'm working on a long memoirish work about this exact thing, which happened to me a year ago when I went on a week retreat in December.)

A friend said to me she completely connected with Tina Fey in the movie Date Night when Tina said her fantasy was alone time in an air-conditioned hotel room with diet Sprite.  (Her husband is having erotic fantasies that involve Cyndi Lauper, but this is what the woman wants.)

And I love real life.  But I also love alone time.  And writing time.

I think a lot of us yearn for alone time or writing time, but it's hard to say because we're mothers, or we're married, or we're working or we're somebody's daughter, sister, caregiver, lover, pet owner, fish feeder, gardener, home owner.

Tonight I'm going to watch Who Does She Think She Is? and reconnect by DVD with some other mother artists who are balancing or trying to balance their life.

If you are a writer and have never gone on a writing residency, I recommend it.
Begin with just a couple days.  Or start with a week.

Realize there is no wrong way to do it.

It's Wednesday night and the candyshop in my memory is fading. I'm no longer watching clouds pass and have dishes to do, guinea pigs to feed, a house and family to tend.

I know if I had writing residencies all the time, they'd probably lose their magic.  Like how too much sugar isn't really good for the three year old inside us.  And of course, if I had no one or nothing to leave, I'd feel sad then too.  Oh life and it's everything-in-its-time mentality.

So this part of life too, we take time for ourselves and our art and we return.  Still, I want to find that retreat mind in my life more often...how to do that, how to do that...

And now I have my next retreat to look forward to, in September... on the Oregon Coast.
September 9-11 at the Sylvia Beach Hotel. And I can't wait. It's Poets on the Coast: A Writing Retreat for Women

I love getting away with other women writers.  Susan Rich will be joining me and we plan on making it a special weekend for the women writers who join us.  If you're interested, we have a couple more places left, which you can learn more about it here.

But until then, I will continue to find my own writing retreat in smaller ways in my life.  A three-hour retreat.  A writing day with friends.  A day at the museum to fill up with art. Writing residencies remind me to live more mindfully in my life.  And I'm trying (when I'm not kicking and screaming), I'm trying.  Sparks and everything.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Confession Tuesday - The Monkey House Edition



Dear Reader,

It's been 7 new poems and many revisions since the last time I wrote.  I confess I've been obsessed.  Obsessed with my work and my manuscript.  I confess it's harder to be obsessed with poetry when there is celebrity news and commercials for Snuggies.  Those things take me to a different level, make me forget what's important while transitioning back into "real life" - in quotes because there's no such thing.  

So let's get going.  To the confessional--


I confess I said this to my roommates so many times during the writing residency, "I am so excited about what I'm writing, but I'm afraid I'm in the monkey house."

If you watched Project Runway a few seasons ago, you'll know I'm referring to my favorite Tim Gunn quote of all time.   I've mentioned the Monkey House before, here, when dealing with titling my manuscript.

But if you don't know the Monkey House story, here it is--

Basically, Tim Gunn goes to visit Chris (one of my favorite designers on that season, btw) and sees that Chris has decided to adorn his clothes with human hair.

Here is Tim Gunn's response:

Tim Gunn (politely gagging): 

I have this refrain about the monkey house at the zoo. When you first enter into the monkey house, you think, ‘Oh my god this place stinks!’ 

And then after you’re there for 20 minutes you think, ‘it’s not so bad’ and after you’re there for an hour it doesn’t smell at all. And anyone entering the monkey house freshly thinks, ‘this stinks!’ 

You've been living in the monkey house.

~

(Can I just confess right now that I *love* Tim Gunn?  I do.)



Anyway, back to the Monkey House.  

So what happens to me is that when I'm writing and obsessing, I get into this place--and don't get me wrong, it's a good productive place that is ridiculously happy, euphoric even--where I'm so highly focused on my manuscript I lose myself.  It's almost as if I've become part of the manuscript, there's no other way to explain this--everything is making sense, I'm seeing the bigger picture, I'm in extreme research mode, I'm reading and filling my brain with content, with themes, with what I need to write these poems. 



There is no NPR news, no internet (except my iPad for research when I need it), no phone (literally), my cellphone is turned off, there is no TV, no radio, nothing except other writers who are working on their work, poetry, and books.

And I begin to write what I think are the best poems in the world (and they might be)…or I might be in the Monkey House.


I confess I will not know if I was in the Monkey House until some time has passed.

It’s sort of like looking at a photograph of yourself a few years later, when you look back and say, “What the heck was I doing with that hairstyle?”  or “Oh my gawd, I was so thin and beautiful.” 

Sometimes we can’t see what’s in front of us because our perception is skewed.  This happens a lot with young women and their bodies.  They are fed all sort of garbagey, airbrushed images from the culture around them that they don’t see their own beauty.

And it happens with poems.  

A friend of mine will write a start to a poem and not like it.  I’ll say that I like it and hold onto it, maybe something will come from it.  And many times, it does.

I write a poem and think, “Fantastic!”  (How I love my newest babies best.)  Then a week will pass and I’ll say, “Holy doggerel, Batman, what was I thinking?  This needs so much work.”

I confess there is no one way to be a poet or artist in the world, but for me, I find I most love this life when I am obsessed with my work, finding a good balance between writing and family, and keeping my circle of friends tight.  Airtight.  Meaning—only staying close to my favorite friends and the GE people (good energy people).

I confess I recently had a friend tell me she’d be devastated if a certain neighbor didn’t like her (she lives in a Wisteria Lane type neighborhood filled with kids and families and everyone in everyone else’s business).  I told her that if she is living authentically and following her own values, not everyone should like her.  

Basically if everyone likes you, you’re not being yourself.

I confess this is all part of the “retreat mind” I try to stay in after I return from a writing residency.  To remember to be who I am.  

It's hard coming back because there is a large part of me that wants to still be in Apt. D writing.  I don’t want to know what I missed. I don’t want to know who is sleeping with whom.  I don’t want to know the details of who wronged who, who is no longer friends, who who who.  My small town is village of owls, sometimes. 

I'm in the Monkey House and my village is owls.  Really, I'm saying, Life is a zoo.

But I confess what I really want to know is – what are you working on?  What has inspired you lately?  What are you struggling with or the challenges in your art?   

Life is funny, the way it pulls us in and out of art, of our writing.  Sometimes things that aren't important take the place of what’s important to us.    It's life, it happens.

Though I confess, there's a game I play with myself —how can I not be part of the trivial?  How can I disappear?  How can I exist in a way where I’m still part of the community but not?  How can I make sure that my moments are filled with the people and projects I love? 

A game with no ending, I guess. 

Or maybe, it’s making sure I’ve chosen not to participate in the things that take my time or bring me down.  Not to partake in too much Facebook.  Not to read the entertainment section of HuffPost.  Not to allow myself to be sucked into what doesn’t matter.  It’s like that quote from War Games: A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.

How about a nice game of chess?

~

Or a nice dose of the arts?

Amen.

Monday, April 25, 2011

How to have a Successful Writing Retreat/Residency...

Haunted Castle I could see from my window.  No ghost appeared though.

Blog Request:  How to Have a Successful Writing Retreat--

I am back from an almost week long writing retreat in Victorian town on the sea.  While there I wrote some of the best poems I've written in months, more than months.  And I revised.  All these *almost* poems that have been hanging out in my life, they are done done done.

I've been meaning to blog about writing retreats/residencies and how to be have a good one  (as well as how to be a good roomie) for my "blog requests" that have come in, and well, since I'm just back from one, I think it would be a good time to go over a few things...


1)  Before you go, kill the word "retreat" in your vocabulary & replace it with "residency"--

We are very comfortable with the words "writing retreat," but I learned when I said this to people who were not writers they thought I was going up for a week with 2 good friends to drink wine, get pedicures, relax, hang out, do jigsaws.  I'm not exactly what they thought I'd be doing, but apparently, when much of the world hears "retreat" they do not think "work."

I will be honest with you, I worked about 10-14 hours a day on my writing while I was there.  I love what I do, I love to write, so it doesn't feel like "work" - but dear friends, there were no pedicures.  Or jigsaws.

Using the word "residency" with people helped them remember, I wasn't just "retreating" from my life, my responsibilities to go up and relax.


2)  Retreats do not need to be in castles & you don't need to be far away --

I went on an incredible writing residency in December.  It was luxurious apartments with views of the water.  We were each given our own study.  We were referred to "scholars" on all the correspondence.  It was divine and I understood why so many writers I knew went to this place.

But it was a long day getting there.  For me, 2 ferry rides and a long drive.  I left at 9 am to catch the ferry from my house and arrived there at 4:15 pm  - A lot of my travel time was sitting and waiting for a ferry or waiting on a ferry.  Still, 7 hours there and 5 hours back.

This residency I came back from was a 45 minute drive from my house.  45 minutes and I was in a new world.

The setting was just as beautiful, but the accommodations were definitely less.  No heated tile floor or slate shower.  We were basically in 1945 military housing.  But it was still perfect.

For me, it's worth it to have it closer.  I don't have all the time in the world.  I have X number of days I can use for devoted writing time.  I don't want to spend a half of day in travel.

3.  Bring what you need --


One of the husbands said about another writer I was with, "With all these things that you've packed, it feels as if you've been deployed to Iraq for a year..."

I overpacked too.  Mostly with books.  But also long & short sleeve shirts.  And food.

The bonus though-- I didn't have to leave once to drive to town to get something.  I shut the door and didn't have to leave.  I was completely out of the real world.  And I loved it.


4.  Bring your Retreat Mind Back --

So I'm back.  I realized again how much I love being cut off from things -- the internet, facebook, the news, etc.

For one week, I was obsessed with my new manuscript.  I was having dreams about my manuscript and research at night, in the shower I couldn't stop thinking about poems, on walks things fell into place in my mind.  I would finish a poem and feel euphoric.

I am working on keeping this feeling, momentum, less-internet, more everything else, feeling in my life.  Honestly, already I feel it slipping away.

But I am trying to be more mindful about my choices.  I can choose to "disconnect" from the things that take my energy.  I can choose what I watch, what I listen to, who I talk with.  I can choose what I do with my time.

And this is what residencies do back, they give you time to write and also to remember priorities.

It was a great week for me.  I am proud of what I did, how I used my time and that I even wrote some new poems I'm excited about.  And to know, I found a place so close to my house that can be there for me when I need it.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter... (Can you see the Edgar Allan Poe egg?)

Or maybe "Eggar" Allan Poe

I'm back from my writing residency and once I catch up on my life, will catch up with you on my blog.

If you celebrate Easter, hope it was happy and sweet-filled.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Getting Back to the Simple Life: Bakelite Tube Radios (Thankful Thursday)


This is my mood-changer.  It's a vintage tube radio I purchased about 14 years ago when I moved to this small town from an antique store going out of business.  I paid $20 for it and it has saved me thousands in therapy bills.

Here's the thing, I have a 1940's soul.  My soul, while appreciates and loves technology, likes being disconnected, likes an open calendar, likes to think (can spend hours just thinking), and daydream.  Growing up and even today, this is a comment heard about me at any family gathering, "Kelli, are you in your head again?" "Oh, she's in her own little world."

And I am.  My world now includes this radio in my morning routine.

I realized yesterday during an over-the-top spring cleaning and stuff purge, that I had placed this favorite radio on a shelf just enough off to the side of things that it wasn't being turned on.  So I moved it.  And now, I begin my mornings turning it on and listening to the Spanish station or the Oldies station.

Hearing music through this old radio calms me.  It doesn't sound like a normal radio, there is that lovely nostalgic sound you only hear when they turn on a radio in old movies.  And there's no instant satisfaction--it's a tube radio, which means, when I turn it on, I hear nothing until the tube warms up and slowly the music begins.

So I've been thinking about these little things in our lives that ground us, that bring joy and a little art to our lives.  When I look at this radio, I feel inspired.  When I listen to it, even more so.

This is why I need to live in a more simple, calming matter.  If I don't, I miss the details.  I miss turning on the radio and being taken back to the swing years and beyond.  I miss the beauty of what was, of a well-made item.  I think about the person before this who had this in his or her home.  I think about the history of this radio traveling into my life.

If I were to pick up an AM radio from any of our stores, I wouldn't have the art and inspiration that living should have.  But this old radio, it brings me into the world in a more connected way.  And I'm trying to just keep only my favorite things in my life, and this one, well, this radio will be carried through this life with me and move from home to home, wherever I go.

And when I turn it on, the whole space fills with this old ridiculous joy.  It's magic that way.  There aren't many things you can buy for $20 that pay off with riches in so many other ways.  This little guy does that.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Confession Tuesday -




Dear Reader,

It's been 7 days since my last confession, with 11 days left in National Poetry Month and one poem in your pocket day...let's just begin.

To the confessional--


I confess I dislike "Poem in your Pocket" (PIYP) day, mostly because of the name.  Could they have thought of something a little less creepy?

I confess when I hear PIYP day, I become a little Mae West and think, "Is that a poem in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?"

I confess, I may keep a poem in my pocket, but I would probably not share it with a stranger.  A friend?  Yes.

~

I confess I was surprised that my last confession about ghosts didn't get even one comment on someone's own ghost story.  I confess now I wish I would have waited until October to confess this instead of during daffodil season.

I confess timing is everything.

~

I confess I'm currently working on manuscript 3.  I am really excited about this manuscript even though I'm not sure what I'm doing.  But I'm really excited while I'm doing it.

I confess this manuscript idea came to me while driving up the hill in a 25 mph zone (and a zone where I've received a ticket before!) and by the time I got home and to my desk to write it down 5 minutes later--it was gone.

I confess doing the blog post about how to put together a manuscript brought it back.

I confess I feel as if I've confessed all this before.  Am I repeating myself?

~

I confess I used to love it when the warehouse guy at my old company used to refer to our work as "The Department of Redundancy Department."

I confess I'm happy I don't have an "old company" anymore to work for, though freelancing is challenging.  Though freelancing is challenging, I have more time.

~
I confess every action is a choice.  I know this.  Sometimes I have to remind myself that feelings are choices too.

~

I confess this confession feels kind of Easter eggish, kind of every color on the rainbow and I've been rolling around in the orange dye a little too long, a little many ideas in my hardboiled mind.

Amen.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Where in the World is Kelli Agodon?




I'm going to be out and about this week---actually, this is a lie--I'm going to be in and focused, working diligently on some of my own writing projects, so I won't be blogging this week except for Confession Tuesday & Thankful Thursday.

If you do see a blog post other than the Tuesday/Thursday ones from me, it means I'm not working on what I'm supposed to, so please call me out on it.  (Thank you, I appreciate your tough love, if needed).


And in case you were curious, here are my two projects I'm focusing on this week--

1)  Manuscript 3 (poems)

2) A memoiry-type creative non-fiction piece on the challenges of leaving the "real" world to go on a retreat and the challenge that face us when we return.

~

And here's what I'll be pondering while I'm away (feel free to ponder it as well)--

What are the possibilities in trusting your art?


Or...What are the possibilities when you trust your art?


~

Feel free to leave comments about that while I'm away...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The FINAL List - For the Big Poetry Book Giveaway 2011! 126+ Free books of poems here:



Dear Friends,

Well, we have 63 Bloggers participating in this poetry giveaway.  Thank you all who have donated your books and your favorite books to spread a little poetry into the world.

We've officially closed taking bloggers for this National Poetry Month event, but these giveaways will continue to go on through April.  And I was browsing the books today-- and wow, there are some great books that will be in some lucky reader's hands soon.

I will be away from email for the next week (I'll explain a bit more about that tomorrow), but it's all good, I've got a week of my own work ahead of me, so continue to have a Happy Poetry Month.

Here's the FULL AND FINAL LIST ---
(click on the blog name to enter into the drawing):



BIG POETRY GIVEAWAY! -- List of Blogs Participating...

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