Sunday, June 30, 2013

Other Ways to be Creative: Photography

After those last two posts about marketing, I need to return to my safe spot of creating.

I feel much better than being an artist in the world than a marketer in world.  I need to keep art and creativity in my life daily.  A good friend of mine recently said that we to practice living spontaneously because spontaneity  is like a muscle you need to stretch or when you try to have spontaneity, you break or it doesn't feel good.  I love that thought.

I think creativity and art is something you also need to do daily-- and there are SO many ways to do it.

I do other creative things as well as writing including a little photography and graphic design. In fact, I'm actually entering a few photos in a local arts festival this month.  I'll share them after festival.

Some of you know I'm doing a series of photos called "Have Typewriter, Will Travel," where I take my typewriter to interesting places and photograph it.





Here are a few photographs I've taken over the last month...

Letterpress Letters


This is from my beach series where I photograph what I find after a walk to the beach.

Early beach walk with Mini Haystack Rock



Two Bald Eagles

Sky for Susan

You Are An Acceptable Amount of Threat


I also sew, paint, and garden for creative activities.

What do you like to do?  And if you have any of your work online, include a link...

~ Kells

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Confession Tuesday: Navigating Social Media for Poets & Writers for Book Marketing...

Where to Find Your Read Social Network...


Dear Reader,

It's been a long post on marketing for writers since my last confession and I realize in reading over some of my old posts, I realize how wordy I am.  Yes, I'm a wordy writer, why use three words when you can use twelve?

This is why I still keep a blog.

I confess I'm not only slow to respond to you verbally, not make my point in 140 characters, but I need space to think.

So I've been thinking about book marketing for poets and writers and here are my 2 cents on the different mediums, what they offer you as a writer and for your book and some dos and don'ts.



1)  Facebook:
(my author page)

I confess for a long time I had a love/hate relationship with Facebook.  (And I confess sometimes I still do.)  But I've learned what Facebook can offer the writer, especially the writer who lives in a place without a lot of other writers or artists around him or her-- community.

Facebook is great for building community for yourself as a poet or writer.  What I love about my facebook account is that when I go onto Facebook, my newsfeed has articles, quotes, and images about writing.  The majority of my friends are writers and so they are posting things that interest them which then, interest me.

It is a great place to get immediate feedback from people who "get it."  For example, when I told my family I had a poem accepted by Prairie Schooner, they were happy for me, but not in the way another poet or writer would be happy because I then had to explain to my family *what* Prairie Schooner was and why it was a big deal.  Good news loses a little excitement if you have to explain why it's "good news."

On Facebook, there is no literary disconnect.  Post "I just had a poem accepted in ______" and watch the Likes come in because we get it.  As writers, we are rejected so many more times than we are accepted.  We've tried for journals and missed out.  We understand the excitement of a yes.

Facebook is also a great way to: 

a)  hear about others' books and share your own.
b)  ask for opinions on book cover or author photos.
c)  talk about writerly things without others not understanding what you are referring to.
d)  find out about what's happening in the writing world.
e)  find new poets to read and books to buy.
f)  connect with your tribe.

Of course with every good, there is the bad.

Too much Facebook is not a good thing for a few reasons--

a) you become so hungry for the immediate gratification of the Like or responses
    that you focus more on short term writing instead of long-term projects.
b)  you find yourself wasting too much time there.
c)  you use it to procrastinate, reading the newsfeed again and again.
d)  if you find yourself feeling bad about your life or your writing life or your unremodeled home, get off of it for awhile (and have a reality check, people posting on how awesome their lives are, may not be sharing everything...there's a reason why it's also called "Fakebook.")
e)  you become the Demi Moore, Kim Kardashian, or Justin Bieber of Facebook--meaning: We see WAY too much of you and what you're doing, thinking, living, etc.  Too much of even my favorite dessert is too much.

How Not To Use Facebook to Market Your Book--

1) Publish your book, then friend a lot of poets and writers with similar friends, then immediately after becoming friends post your book (and a link to buy it on their wall) and send them a link to Like your author page.

To me, this is like meeting someone for the first time in a bar, then turning around to your secret suitcase of books and promo material and dropping everything you have on their lap.

It's like saying, "It's nice to meet you, but let's talk about me."

It's walking into someone's house for the first time and writing the name of your book on their wall and leaving business cards in the bathroom, your marketing flyers on the couch.

Let me say this bluntly-- It's not good manners.

That is not marketing, it's being inconsiderate.  It's saying, "I value this friendship in how it helps me sell my book."

And it's a turn-off.

Personally, when someone does this, I don't want their book--even if it's fantastic--because, well, it's creepy and rude.

How does Facebook help you market/sell your book?  

a)  By letting people know you have a book (use your manners on this...see above)
b)  By getting the name of your book out there & your readings
c)  By connecting you with other like readers & writers
       (note: this may get you more opportunities to read in other places besides your own region)
d)  By allowing you to make an author page for those fans who love your work and want to know what you're up to
e)  By allowing you to create an ad for your book


If you are comfortable with Facebook, use it to connect with people (note: if you start thinking of them as only "your readers" you're screwed because you're missing the opportunity to connect with some amazing artistic people out there), use it find venues outside your region, use it to help *other writers* (seriously, it's part of your job in the literary community--and I mean that), use it to create an ad that will be seen by poetry readers, use it share your successes and disappointments, use it to increase your tribe or to find your tribe or to celebrate your tribe.

Remember, these are real honest-to-goodness people behind the profiles, not solely consumers.  Treat your Facebook friends with respect and kindness always.

Oh and one more thing, if you're friends with someone who creates a negative vibe in your direction, is emotionally hostile to you, icky-scary, or just the creepy perverted type--defriend without guilt.

Only keep the best people around you. Always.


Summary--

1) Engage with others as peers and friends
2) Use your manners
3) Start an Author Page (for your super fans)
4) Buy an ad (note: we did with Two Sylvias Press & Crab Creek Review and had really good results for not a lot of $$)


2)  Twitter:  

Like Facebook, Twitter has many timewasting opportunities.
I have heard that people who LOVE Twitter go a little nuts when it is down.

For me, Twitter is the outfit I always forget I have.  Oh yes, there's that little 140 character number hanging in the back of the closet, I had forgotten about you.

Someone in a recent blog post said it's not about having "followers" (as in a number of followers) but having followers who are interested in what you're doing.


Here's what I think Twitter is good for:

1)  Sharing information whether about a class your teaching, something you learned, something that will help others.
2)  Being entertaining
3)  Teaching writers to summarize their thoughts and sentences
4)  Having another way to connect with people (readers and writers)
5)  Helping other writers promote their work


What it's not good for--

1)  Just promoting your own work
This is the fastest way to get people to unfollow you.

If you're on Twitter, you need to offer your followers something valuable, and well, that's not your book or whatever you are promoting.

I see Twitter as a way to share interesting and/or valuable information or to be humorous.

That's about it.  It's a way to increase your tribe, but not necessarily the best way to sell your book.

Use Twitter to follow people you're interested in and engage with them.
Use Twitter if you like a lot of info, need to connect with what people are talking about in the world, enjoy poetry chats (follow hashtag #poetparty every first Sunday from 6-7 pm PST), or just want to follow your favorite authors (Margaret Atwood is on here as is Sherman Alexie...and each RARELY mentions their own books--oh and they have a ton of followers).

Do not use it just to keep saying, "My book is available..."
Do not use Twitter to be boring.

Summary--
1) Engage with others
2) Don't just focus on selling people things
3) Be your most interesting self


3)  GoodReads:
Like Facebook, but for Book People!

GoodReads is another place on the web I forget about, but I do recommend it.  In fact, I think this would probably be the best place to promote your book, but to be fully honest, I don't use it enough to tell you exactly how.

I set my GoodReads to post so my blog post goes there and I occasionally go there to find new books and keep track of my own reading (as well as post reviews for other poets and authors).

You can create an author profile which is helpful as well as see how many people reviewed and rated your book--

Kelli Russell Agodon's books on Goodreads

Small KnotsSmall Knots
ratings: 53 (avg rating 4.75)

GeographyGeography
ratings: 18 (avg rating 4.70)


If anyone else has more info on how GoodReads is useful to authors and poets, do share.

Summary--

1)  Authors should have an author page there
2)  Link up your blog if you have one.


4)  Pinterest
www.pinterest.com :

Pinterest is a basically a visual bulletin board and the newest of these social platforms.
It's addicting for the visually inclined as it's image after image from boards that you follow.

You can pin images that you love.  Some people have boards devoted to their favorite authors or book boards, where they pin what they are reading.

Again, this isn't really a board to promote your own work, but to perhaps, find inspiration or interesting images.


5)  Red Room: 
(here's my account)

This is another place similar to Facebook, but for writers.  Again, not a place I show up much (or at all), but the people who love it, seem to love it.

I don't know enough about this place to offer pros and cons, but wanted to share it with you and if others have good info on this, please share with me and I'll add it and credit you.


6)  Instagram: 

Share your photos with retro looking or other overlays on them.  (In fifteen years, all our kids will want to know why all their baby photos are square with a weird tint to them...)

Final thoughts: Big with the younger generation, not so great for selling books.


7) Others:  Reddit, Tumblr, YouTube:

YouTube for book trailers.

Reddit & Tumblr - I don't have enough info or experience on them to offer any advice.


SUMMARY:

Here's really what I think are the main things a writer should have to market their book--

1) An author page 

Here are the two which I direct people to:
a) My main page:  www.agodon.com
b) My about.me page: www.about.me/agodon

***Note: the About.Me page is free and easy to set up.

If you only have one thing, you need this.  No matter what phase in your career you are.  You need a webpage.  Keep it clean, to the point and make sure others can contact you easily.


2) A Facebook Presence (or maybe a blog (if you like to write longer text)):

I suggest a Facebook or a blog, just so you have something more up-to-date for your webpage, or online.

Facebook is nice because so many people are connected and check in daily, and this does not happen with blogs.

I would suggest an Author Page especially if you don't want to "friend" everyone.

Or friend everyone but maybe set your privacy settings so your personal info (phone, address, kid's photos, etc) are separate.  Or have two pages, one for your close friends and family and a writer's account. (Though I don't think FB wants you to do this, if you're a more private person, this may help with any anxiety you may have with "sharing.")

But I would keep a page that you can update every so often, just to keep in touch with the literary community.


3)  A Linked-In Account:

I didn't mention this above because really I see it as more of a professional way to be connected. I don't check in there much, but it's a good place to find jobs or professional connections.

Whatever you do on your Linked In account--keep it professional.  Do not call yourself "The Grand-Poohbah of the Poets."  Use it when you need it, otherwise, just check in occasionally or as needed.


4)  An Email Mailing List:  


This is a good way to connect with readers and people who may want to buy your book.  I suggest offering something besides your book info in your email or newsletter.

Or if you just send it out to share your book is ready to buy, just make it brief and to the point.

And of course, always use your manners.



All the rest of it?

Choose what you like, or don't.

Final Thoughts--

Honestly, if you just want to do one thing-- Have an author page.
Two things-- an author page and a mailing list.
Three things-- an author page, a mailing list, and a Facebook page.

Keep it simple. Focus on the writing.  Enter book contests. Do readings. Connect with readers through your local NPR station.  Send books to people who can help you get the word out (but connect with them first, don't just send out a book).  Visit book clubs.  Teach classes at writer's conferences.  Attend poetry festivals and writerly events.

Have fun, write lots, don't worry about marketing your book so much.

Amen.




  
~ Kells

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Not Matter what you think of Michael Jackson, he was one heck of a performer - Super Bowl (Complete Version)



~ Kells

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Marketing Your Book: How To Create Your Own Plan That Doesn't Make You Feel Like a Used Car Salesman

Image by Artist Sammy Slabinnick (love him!)

Books are being published daily and with this, authors are trying to figure out how to get their book into the world, or more honestly, how to get more sales.

Jeannine Hall Gailey wrote a great post called: Why We Do Readings, Running to Stand Still, Book Tours Take a Toll and How Not To Build a Platform inspired by Anne R. Allen's take on book marketing with her post (which is also great): 7 Ways Authors Waste Time "Building Platform" on Social Media.  I recommend reading both.


So I decided to offer my thoughts on book marketing as in 2014, my newest book, Hourglass Museum, will be published by the wonderful White Pine Press. 


If you've read my blog before, you know, there are certain things one needs to do as an author that makes me uncomfortable, such as asking for blurbs (which I recently wrote about here.)  Asking others to do things for me is not a strength of mine, I've had to realize that and work with it. 


I realize there are also things about marketing I dislike, like the name "marketing," I prefer "sharing." I want people to know about my book so if they are interested they can buy it, but I don't want to wear my metaphorical Author Nametag around town or have my book peeking out of my shirt pocket -- 


(Note:  I have seen two separate authors do both these things and it made me feel dirty and icky --oh, and his wasn't a metaphorical Author Nametag, it was a real-made-of-plastic Author Nametag and he wore it everywhere he went (whether giving a reading or not).  And honestly, I lost respect for both authors and never bought their books because I felt they were the stereotypical used car salesmen, I think they're interested in me as a person and the next thing I know I'm driving out of the lot in a Yugo.) 

I've learned we each have our own individual strengths and "weaknesses" traits we need to work with.  "Weaknesses" such as general anxiety, ADHD, social anxiety/shyness, bi-polar, OCD, etc. (By the way, I put "weaknesses" in quotes because I'm reading a book called  Better Than Normal: How What Makes You Different Can Make You Exceptional by Dale Archer which talks about these traits and a few more and how you can use them better.)


I realize is there is no one right way to market a book and you don't have to go cuckoo trying to make an "author platform" (a term I hate, a term I want to jump off of into the comfort of the sharing pool, where we share our book, but don't shove it down people's throat.)



So here are my suggestions to help you market your book:

(my hope is you'll get a few ideas yourself and find ways to highlight your talents):


What I Do to Market My Book 
     (or My How-Not-to-Hate-Marketing Plan):


1)  Send something cool to the readers who have supported me before.

Usually it's a postcard I've created with Photoshop that I hope is more like an interesting art-piece than a marketing piece.

When I started with my first book, I sent about 100 of these out.  Since then my mailing list has grown, but I like to send something of beauty to the people who I appreciate.  It will say something about my new book coming out, but it hopefully is something more than they will want to keep or display in their own writing room.

Why to I do this?  Because I like to send regular mail.  I send valentines and Christmas cards. I have a penpal.  I think stamps are awesome and my favorite museum in DC was the Postal Museum.  Writing letters is part of my personality, something I love to do, as is art and graphic design.  So I mixed the two and came up with this.


2)  Send Out an Email Announcement, but try to keep it short, fun, and simple.

I get a lot of emails these days.  So many that I don't even open some of them, I read the subject line, then delete without reading.  Yes, that's my tough love approach to email. I love my time more than I love being overwhelmed by things I'm not interested in.  Even Barack Obama, I've deleted yours (and Joe Biden's) email without reading them.

So when I send out mine, it's to the point, a couple links where to buy the book, a thank you for anyone who has supported me before and some interesting info about something that isn't my book--maybe another poet, maybe another book.

Why do I do this?  It's the fastest, cheapest way to connect with my friends, family, and readers.  It's just another way to let them know my book is out and if they want a copy, here's how to get one.


3)  Mention it on Facebook.

It's not a hard sell, in fact, it's not a sell at all. It's more of a "guess what happened to me?" or "My box of books just arrived!'

I will mention it on my regular Facebook account and on my author page.

I put up events and info on my author page and if it's something I think my regular Facebook might be interested in, I share it from my author page on my regular account. 

Note:  Not everything on my author page is about my books, in fact, the majority of content is funny typos, misspelled graffiti, and book lover humor and images.  Why?  Because hearing about someone's book and only their book is both annoying and boring.

Why do I mention my book on my personal page on Facebook? I mostly do this so people know it's out and I'm excited about it and share the news.

I know a lot of people (writers) hate Facebook, but honestly, while I dislike wasting time on it, I like meeting other writers, poets, and artists who I wouldn't have known without it.


4)  Do some readings.  
(With one to three of them being more in the category of Book Release Party).

  a)  Book Release Reading/AWP Party:  Since AWP is in Seattle this year, Susan Rich and I are lucky enough to have White Pine Press here, which has rented out a room at Taste Restaurant in the Seattle Art Museum, so we will get a book release reading there (it's Friday, Feb. 28, 2014 from 5-7 pm if you want to join us.)

  b)  Book Release at a Bookstore:  Another will hopefully be at Open Books, our poetry-only bookstore in Seattle, the coolest place in the world.

  c) Book Readings with Others: Ask my favorite poets to do readings at local venues or just outside the city venues. (Things are much more fun with friends.)

   d)  Book Party at my Place!:   When my book comes out, I have a book party at my house for my favorite friends.

Okay, honestly, this isn't at all to sell my book, it's an excuse to have a party.  And I love to shower my favorite friends with fun times and cool things.  In 2010, I gave out small birdcages with Emily Dickinson's image in them (for my book Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room.)  We made Emily Dickinson masks, had good wine and good food and yes, I had my guests come in costume, dressed as a version of Emily Dickinson which included grunge Emily Dickinson, punk Emily Dickinson, biker Emily Dickinson... (see images below).


Different versions of Emily Dickinson



As you see, this is not about marketing, but about celebrating-- YOU JUST PUBLISHED A BOOK, you should celebrate!


5)  Submit My Book for Book Awards:  This is something your press can and should do for you, but if you have a press who doesn't, most of the time, you can do this on your own.

Letting people know about your book is hard, however, if it wins an award, it moves right on up the ladder into Book Prize Winner, or Book Prize Finalist!  Sometimes it even gets a sticker.

The prize that choose your book usually has a larger audience than you do, so their marketing of the book prize and winners, will hit a lot of people you wouldn't normally reach.  People who have never heard of you and can't believe that this is your third book and yet, they've never heard your name before (yes authors, this is true life, we are unknowns in the world for the most part.)

But that's okay.  The goal is to create art and get it to readers who will love it.  Really, if you bring being an author down to its basic level, that is it.  Write good work. Share with good readers.

So for me, those are my top 5 ways to market (or share) my book.


But I do have a number 6.-- This blog.

I started this blog many years ago when there was no Facebook, no Twitter, but there was a community of poet bloggers.  Many have moved on or are now just on Facebook, but for me, I like having this up-to-the-moment (or close to the moment) place where I write about living and writing creativity.

As a young poet, I read Kim Addonizio's blog and she wrote a post about being rejected by New Yorker (after they *asked her* to submit).  That post was honest and showed me that yes, even "famous poets" get rejected and have bad days.

When I started this blog, I promised to share the good and the bad.  From blog posts on how many times I submitted Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room (um, about 70!) before it was accepted (read History of a Manuscript here), to being rejected in general, to the good of creative clusters.

While I don't think a blog is for everyone, for me it's a good way to connect with other writers, artists, and creative people in general.  It's a place I can sort out my feelings about life and share the ups and downs.

I try to post at least once a week because the worst blogs are the ones that sit for over a month without any posts, not even an image of something, just nothing.

I appreciate the "long form" way of communicating--letters, blogs, books, stories, essays.

Why I do blog? Sometimes (most times) I can't say what's on my mind in under 140 characters, and Facebook doesn't appreciate the art of the paragraph, so here I am, still blogging...it's been over a decade, three blogs, two platforms, but I continue.


Final Thoughts for Other Authors, Writers, and Poets:


 1)  Do what you love doing and use it to market your book

If it's sending postcards, interacting on Facebook, giving readings, cooking, driving, painting, playing guitar, drawing pictures, etc.) find a way to incorporate that into how you market (or share) your book.


2)  Stretch yourself a little, but don't change who you are or your values.

I want to say "Just do what you love!" but dear introverted authors, I understand if I told you it was okay to sit in your house and not do anything except write, you may be good with that!

You need to do some things that take you out of your comfort zone-- like readings, or asking for a reading, or asking for a blurb or...

As humans, we need to stretch ourselves and live outside our comfort zone, and as authors, we owe it to ourselves.  We worked hard on our books, let others at least know about them--you don't have to be the hard sell, (in fact I suggest not doing that), but you need to do the minimum, plus a tad more than what's comfortable to you.


3)  Don't feel you have to do everything.

If you don't like blogging, don't have a blog.  It will be a waste of time and just frustrate you.
If you don't like Twitter, don't tweet or feel you have too.

Find out how you like to connect with readers--GoodReads? Facebook? Red Room? In Person?  By mail?  By email?  Standing on a ferry playing guitar?  Choose your own path, but don't feel you have to continue to promote your book day in and day out, you don't.


4)  Be Open to Opportunity & Allow for Happy Accidents to Happen and Most of All-- Don't Self-Sabotage!

If someone writes you and says they found your book and like for you to drive 2 hours to their college to give a talk and that absolutely petrifies you, do not *not* answer their email because you're afraid or nervous.

If there's a deadline for a book prize or to get your proposal in for a writer's conference, don't blow it off.

These places are where happy accidents happen--you do one thing and it leads to another.
You apply to read at a poetry festival and you meet your favorite poet, who is fantastic and then blurbs your next book.  Or who has a blog and shares your blog on it.  Or you just become friends and well, that's fantastic!

Be open for opportunities. Listen to your instincts.  And most of all, have fun and enjoy your success--you published a book, you're a published author.  That's important and good and should be enjoyed, appreciated, and celebrated.

____________________________

I'm going to do another blog post on my thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other ways people market their books, but I think that's enough for now.

Marketing your book should not be overwhelming, but enjoyable.
Thanks for listening.



~  Kelli Russell Agodon is a writer, editor, and poet from the Northwest.


She is the author of Lettersfrom the Emily Dickinson Room (White Pine Press, 2010), Winner of the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Prize in Poetry and a Finalist for the Washington State Book Award.  She is also the author of Small Knots (2004) and the chapbook, Geography (2003).  She co-edited the first eBook anthology of contemporary women’s poetry, Fire OnHer Tongue and recently completed The Daily Poet, a book of poetry writing exercises she coauthored with Martha Silano, which will be available in late 2013. Her third full collection, Hourglass Museum, will be available in February 2014.

Kelli is the co-founder of Two Sylvias Press and the editor of Seattle’s literary journal, Crab Creek Review.  She's an avid mountain biker, paddleboarder, and kayaker.  She loves museums and dessert, but despises cheesecake.

Her most recent book Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room was released for Kindle and is available here at its lowest price of $4.24 on Amazon

Connect with Kelli:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/agodon  
Twitter:  kelliagodon
Or on her websites: www.agodon.com or www.about.me/agodon

She writes about living and writing creatively on her blog, Book of Kells at: www.ofkells.blogspot.com


~ Kells  

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Confession Tuesday on Wednesday: The Art & Anxiety of Asking for a Blurb



Dear Reader, 

I am a day late.  This happens.


I have been filled with projects, from teaching a class where we wrote new poems to editing an incredible manuscript about Alzheimer's.

I confess I also had to ask for blurbs this week.

No wait, let me be honest, I knew a long time ago I had to ask other poets to blurb my book, but I waited until I got the email from my publisher saying, "We need blurbs in hand by mid-July."    

Blurbs, a terrible name for "a promotional description, as found on the jackets of books" or "a brief advertisement or notice, as on a book jacket, esp. one full of praise."  

Knowing I had to ask for blurbs, my stomach became a knot.

When I ask a poet to write a blurb for my book it's because I love that poet and want his or her name on my book.  Maybe if I asked poets I didn't care about so much it would be easier, but I don't.  I ask my heroes.  I ask my favorite poets who are writing today, whose books fill my shelves.


Here's something you may not know about me--

I *hate* asking for anything.  
I'd rather take care of it myself or go without.  

I hate having to bother others with my needs, I don't want to impose or be too forward.


The only things I do not have problems asking for are below:

1)  Are you going to eat that last piece of cake?  (or eclair, brownie, cookie, keylime pie, etc.)


2)  Can I borrow a dollar to buy chocolate/gum/candy/something to eat or drink?

3)  Can you buy me a large black drip coffee?


(As you can see, I'm very taste motivated. )


But everything else in life, I do not ask for.  I either decide it's not worth it and go without or find a way to get what I need without bothering others.

I don't even participate in Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day because it feels to forward to me.

So on hearing I needed to ask for blurbs I went into my metaphorical corner and tried to find strength. Actually, I may have been hitting my head against the wall and looking for my blankie.

Basically, I wrote a status about my blurb dilemma on Facebook and walked around in circles in my mind.

Because I hate being uncomfortable (something else that motivates me like nothing else), I decided to ask my favorite poets for blurbs that night and get it over with.

I will be honest, the email I sent were probably not your standard "How To Ask for a Blurb" emails.


Here's a taste of what I wrote (and note, this is not a recommendation of how to ask for blurbs):

Anyway, all of this makes me hugely uncomfortable and if you're busy, no worries,

and 

None of this is coming out well,

and this jewel:


I hate to bother you, but my 3rd collection, Hourglass Museum is coming out next year with White Pine Press and I was wondering if you'd be open to blurbing it.

I'm sorry, I hate asking.  I know blurbing is a pain in the butt,

And then there's this:

And if you're busy, I completely understand and don't feel bad if you have to say no.  


As you can see, I am not the best at asking for things. I gave the blurbers numerous outs, acknowledged that blurbing wasn't fun, and even managed to use the poetic word "butt" in my request.  (Good one.)

I sent my emails off and then imagined the worst.

But it seems, even with my crazy attempts at asking, all three poets I asked (my top choices for blurbers) all said yes (and did so within hours of me asking so I didn't need to feel anxious for their reply.)

I already have one blurb back (and I LOVE it!) and two in the works by two other favorite poets of mine.


I realize I need to get better at asking in general.

I'm happy to ask the universe or God or baristas for things, but I'm not good at asking friends, people I admire, poets, and humans in general.


But what I learned from this experience:

1)  People are mostly kind and good.  And if they can help you, they will.

2)  Even asking in the most awkward way possible, still can bring good things.

3)  When you're feeling uncomfortable, do the thing that's you should be doing and you'll feel better.

4)  Realize what you are not good at and try to be better at it.

5)  There are certain things we need to do as poets, writers, and authors and they will make you feel uncomfortable, but they are part of the job--do them anyway, even if they take you out of your comfort zone.

6)  I can waste a lot of time and energy worrying about things. In fact, I make a much bigger deal of things that really much easier than I think.


I confess I am SO glad this blurb-asking is over though I will acknowledge, it was easier, kinder, gentler, than I thought.

Yes, I received Beauty for the Asking.  And it was worth it.


~ Kells

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Monday, June 17, 2013

The Unbalancing Act: Why It's Okay to Live a Life That Isn't Balanced Day to Day...

My Life on Various Days

I've given up on trying to live a balanced life.
At least daily.

Today, I was sitting here feeling overwhelmed with some projects I need to finish, my To Do list, and realizing that I've been letting my blog slip lately, just showing up on Tuesdays and basically pretending I don't have a blog.

As I've mentioned in other blogs, when I start to feel too overwhelmed and unorganized without a plan of what I'm doing, I tend to check out.  I tend to move to the easiest path-- Facebook? Gardening? Gatsby?  Don't mind if I do.

I move out of my overwhelmedness into a life of leisure and denial.

To fix this is easy-- all I need to do is sit down with my To Do list and order what I need to do first.  Then I go to bed, wake up, and follow the numbers 1. Edit E's mss  2. Essay for Her Kind  3.  Blurb for D.  etc.  (Going to bed either for a nap or all night as it's the one thing that clear my mind.)

What I realize is my days aren't these perfectly balanced pie charts of  Family/Exercise/Leisure/Writing/Clients/Home Projects/Garden  but days where I focus on only one thing.

Today is edit E's mss.  That's about all I'll get done, though there will be a lunch with my mum thrown in.  There will be no exercise, no writing of my own, no home projects, no garden.

Wednesday is my Two Sylvias Press day where I will work on projects for that.  And finish my essay.  And some social time in the evening with my writing group.

Friday and Saturday is mostly family stuff.  And if the weather is nice, maybe we'll get some paddleboarding in.

What I've learned is not to freak out if my days are out of balance because they are.   They will be heavy with something, light on something else.

I've started looking at my life less in the micromanaging place, but more from above, the way one would look at the world from space.  I see my life is unbalanced in the daily place.  I see on a Monday I am locked in my office working on an editing job and Tuesday I am sitting on the deck for hours with my family.

I've stopped freaking out about balance.  And I've stopped trying to have it.


What I do is look at my life from above with the things that matter to me--

Am I spending time with my favorite friends and with my family?
Am I writing and completing my own projects?
Am I making enough income so my family can do the things that are important to them?
Am I helping the community, both locally and literary?
Am I healthy and getting out in the world physically?
Am I feeling connected spiritually?
Is my house/garden a disaster?

For me, those are my key concerns.

Everything else falls to the side.

There will be days where I just clean the house, fix all the broken things, and work in the yard.  There will be days I am out on my mountain bike all day and then off on a hike.  There will be days where I go out into my shed for the entire day to write.  There will be days where I'm only doing family things.

Each day is not balanced.

But this works for me. I have never been a multi-tasker on a daily level. I can do one thing at a time.  When there is too much, I am the overwhelmed toddler putting her face against the wall to hide from the overwhelming sensation of too much life, too much noise, too many people, too much...

I realize it's not about having balance, but creating it.  It's an unbalancing act that feels chaotic in the moment, but when you pull back you see the pattern, you see the chaos forming patterns, a balance of sorts and how nice it is to know, if I take care of the days, the years will fall into place.






~ Kells

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Confession Tuesday: Just Say No


Dear Reader,

It's been one week of recovery, a lot going on and a lot I'm letting pass me by, since I've last confessed.

I have once again become the crystalized ginger (saying no, but kindly), but I wonder if I'm helping myself or holding myself back, let me explain...

To the confessional--

I confess I've been saying no a lot lately and to opportunities I once wanted.

In the last week, I've made choices that have me saying no to teaching at a low-res MFA program as well as being a writer in residence.

It's not as if I had been offered either job, but when the opportunity came up to try for them, I decided not to.

These are things that have been on my To Do list.  These are things I have asked the universe for, however when they showed up, instead of saying yes, I said no...or actually, "not right now, please."

I do want to do these things, I'd love to Poet Laureate of Washington, or larger or smaller, or teach in an MFA program... but my heart is saying, "not right now" and it's kind of scary to hear that.

I'll be honest, there is a part of me that wonders if I'm participating in the wonderful sport of self-sabotage.  I ask myself, "Are you afraid of success?"  "Are you afraid to try something new?"

My inner self says, "No, I'm just feeling pulled by too many things right now, too many of my own homemade projects (i.e. Two Sylvias Press and Crab Creek Review), too much going on in the family" but my ego says, "You aren't doing what you're supposed to be doing."

I'll be honest, I have a lot going on.

A lot of projects I haven't mentioned here yet because they are oh-so-new, in the just-being-born stages and I'm feeling pulled by so many wonderful ideas.  And I want to focus on them, complete them.

But they are not in any way "a real job" and while my goal in life has always been "never to get a real job," sometimes I question my decisions not to say yes.

Sometimes while I'm impressed with much of what I do, I see someone who loves down time more than money, fame, success, or anything else.  I see someone would would rather make art than anything else, even if it doesn't bring her one of the four signs of success above (money, fame, success, anything else).

My inner voice of NO scares me.  She wants her time more than anything.

Sometimes when the universe offers up the opportunity I think I've wanted and I don't say yes, I think "You are going to go under because of your ability not to try."

What I hope the universe hears is "Thank you, but it's not the right time.  Thank you, but I trust that you'll return again later.  Thank you, but I want you to know I have faith in these little side projects I'm doing that others think are an 'odd or interesting hobby,' but I have faith they are more."

I hope the universe is testing my resolve.  I hope the universe is saying, "I just want to make sure you believe in your art."  Because sometimes I feel as if I'm failing by not saying yes.

I've spent a long time learning how to say no, to say not now.  And I'm still not that good at in.

But I don't want to be overscheduled in life and maybe I'm leaving my phone line open for the right person to call with the right thing for me.  Though I'm not 100% sure what that is, except the belief that when I hear it, I will know.

Amen.
~ Kells

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Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Poetry for All: Jeannine Gailey's New Book Now Available & My Book of Poems is $4.24 on Kindle: http://bit.ly/CheapPoetry


















Okay, I don't normally promote my own book here, but in writing a review for the wonderful Jeannine Hall Gailey's new book Unexplained Fevers (which is FANTASTIC!)

I decided to check my own book, Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room and while the print copy is still $12.71, the Kindle eBook is only $4.71 here.

Anyway, that's the lowest I've seen it...ever.

So if you've ever been curious to what I write about or want to have your own copy (or own digital copy), this would be the time to buy.

Also, a great book of poems if you are someone who is trying to find calmness in a chaotic world (because really, that's what this book explores).






~ Kells

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Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Confession Tuesday: The "I'm Not a Runner" / What Motivates Us Edition #NODM

Me with my Medal - happy happy joy joy


Dear Reader,

It's been a week and 13.1 miles since my last confession.
Yes, in that time, I ran (that is not a metaphor) a half-marathon.

I guess what I should say is I accidentally or inadvertently ran a half-marathon as that was not the plan, the plan was to walk it.  Or walk/run it with the emphasis on *walk.*

But what happened is what always happens to me.  I get impatient and just want something to end, so I tear my way through it.  I got caught up in the moment and all the nice running people and became part of the group.

So this half-marathon I had planned on walking, I actually ran what turned out to be a 12-minute mile in the end, with absolutely no training for a half-marathon, but having an overconfidence in my abilities and just being an optimistic jerk.  (I am feeling it today and yesterday in my legs, which are two ridiculous achy masses of overworked flesh.)

I am not a runner, but I play one on TV.  Or apparently for medals, which is why I said I'd do this race with my husband because why bother to do something if you don't get a medal? (Says the "I never won a trophy as a child" voice in my head.)

But this is a blog about creativity, not running, but this whole race made me think about what motivates, what pushes us towards our goals, and connecting with our own motivations and ambitions and how to use all of that for good.

To the Confessional--

I confess only a jerk would run a half marathon after zero miles of running or training.

The last time I put on my running shoes was last year's half marathon which I *walked* with my daughter.   I knew 5 miles in to Sunday's race that I was that jerk

and as that that jerk, this is what I learned--


1)  Sometimes you may be inadvertently training for something else. 

For example, I mountain bike, paddleboard, hike, and do yoga-- not at the same times and sometimes inconsistently, but the time I've put into these sports helped me do something else.

When I was planting my vegetable garden, I wasn't thinking the strength I developed lifting all those bags of soil would help me somewhere else, but it did.  Same with the long hikes I took with my golden retriever.  Or getting lost in Paris and walking six miles with my family in a daze and them completely unbelieving at how bad I was at reading a map.

We put time in one place and it helps us in another.

As poets, the time we put in writing poems may help us write that memoir fantastically because we use image and metaphor better than other writers.  As prose writers, we may be incredible editors as we read through pages and pages of our manuscript looking for mistakes.  As editors, we may be strong teachers because we see the mistakes poets and writers make daily just while doing our job.

So just because you're doing *one* thing, don't count yourself out for something completely different.


2)  Learn what motivates you and use it to make you do the things you dislike.

Truth be told, I hate running.  Yes, I just ran 13.1 one miles and I dislike running.  In fact, I don't do it ever except when there's a medal waiting for me at the finish line.  That is my motivation.

If you don't like marketing, but you like money, let the money payoff motivate you in marketing your book.

I am not crazy about marketing, but my payoff as a writer is when someone tells me my poem, essay, or story made a difference in their life or they enjoyed it.  When I do a reading, it's not about how many books I sell, but about how many people in the audience where moved or connected with what I read.  Success to me is the one person who walks up to me at the end and said, "What you wrote really made a difference to me."

Figure out what motivates you in writing and in life and use it for good.


3)  Being impatient is a wonderful gift.

I am terribly impatient with certain things.  If I'm in a rush and someone is lollygagging in the grocery store, I'm like a rabid weasel weaving around them.  If I'm uncomfortable, I immediately want that feeling over. I am not the noble one sucking it up for others' benefit, I'm the one standing up on the bus trying to open locked windows because I'm hot. (Note: this is not an example of "my best self.")

However, being impatient helped me finish the race.

Around mile 10, my legs began to tighten.  Around mile 11, they were in full inner cramp mode and they hurt.  I could have slowed down, but instead I found places to run faster-- my thought: let's get this race over with!  The more it hurt, the more I ran, knowing myself--I was going to finish this race whether passing out in pain as I went over the finish line or not, there was no maybe here.

In our writing, when we know we have to get something done by a deadline, we do it.

If we're feeling uncomfortable about something, the best thing to do is suck it up and send it off. Finish.


4) Optimism and overconfidence can take you places you've never been, teach you things, and bring you good stuff.

Okay, it would seem like being overconfident isn't a good thing.  Like deciding you want to cross a tightrope over the Grand Canyon when you're not prepared, but in writing and sometimes in life, it helps.

Why?  Because we try things we wouldn't have just because we believe in ourselves.

I wasn't planning on running, but I figured, Hey, I'm in pretty good shape, I'll be fine.

Now, while my legs ache right now and I wasn't as "fine" as I thought I'd be, I did surprise myself in good ways.  I freaking ran a half marathon.

My optimism in "it will all be good" allowed me to sign up.  My overconfidence led me to run it, and the experience taught me some things-- such as take things (such as half marathons) more seriously and it's important to prepare.

But if you finish and more so if you try, you're rewarded no matter what.


5)  You can do more than you think you can.  Sometimes you just need to show up and run the best you can.

Life is about showing up, not being afraid, sucking it up, trying something new, and doing the best (or as close to best) as you can.

It's about not underestimating yourself, but believing (even if things don't work out) that they will.  Or might.  But you are going to have fun along the way and it's kind of amazing what we can do if we give ourselves a shot.



The reason I ran?  This guy, it was his birthday and that's what he wanted to do...

I'm going to write more in future blogs about motivation and I'm truly interested how we each find our energy to do what we do.

Life is funny.  Sometimes we sign up for things and expect to walk through them and the next thing we know, we are Mach 2 with our hair on fire (a Top Gun reference for any 80's kids).  We are moving forward, thinking "well, if there's a zombie apocalypse at least I won't be last," realizing how much our bodies and minds can do if we really stretch them.

Yes, there can be pain afterwards, but like childbirth, we forget.  We forget and sign up again.
And there we have it--life.   Ignorance. Motivation. Satisfaction. Pain. Healing. Satisfaction again.

Was it worth it?  Hell yes (said in my best Beyonce voice).

I learned more than I would have staying at home.

And what I haven't learned is to stop (I'm actually on my way to go mountain biking today despite pain in my legs as I'm under the impression that it will make them *feel better*).

And I learned this lesson--  No matter what you're doing, no matter how slow or fast, you're doing it. And you're moving forward.

The lesson to all--
We may be slow, but we're lapping everyone on the couch.

Babysteps into the elevator...
And now with my medal.




Amen.

~ Kells

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Saturday, June 01, 2013

For the NW Poets: A Class on Generating New Work & Getting Published @SusanRich_poet


Taught by Kelli Russell Agodon & Susan Rich

From 11-3 on Saturday, June 15, 2013.

We'll write from 11-2, then talk publishing your work from 2-3 pm.
We will also mail out a submission for you. . .seriously! And give you a template for a cover letter.

Cost:  $105
For Poets of all levels: beginner to published author

For more info go to:  www.agodon.com/classes.html

If you'd like me to hold a space for you, email me at kelli (a) agodon.com

3 spots left!

Hope you can join us!

~ Kells

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