Thursday, July 30, 2015

Postcard from Anne Lamott




Anne Lamott from her book, Bird By Bird 


(HIGHLY recommended for writers!) 






~ Kells 

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

A New Book & Favorite Poem from Martha Silano




LADYBUG



When she reaches the end
Of a shoe or a table, she keeps
Walking. If she needs the help of wings,
Wings appear. If she lands on her back,
Her hind legs find the world and turn her
Over. When the wings forget to fold,
They drag like a slip from a scarlet dress.

Where did this one in my kitchen come from?
Did a neighbor, in a fit of aphid rage,
Release a thousand? Is this a sign?
Am I to count the spots?

Time Teller, Child Bringer,
Pursuer of Missing Sheep:
What will be next?
Predacious diving beetles?
Scarabs named Goliath?
Bombardiers that shoot a puff of gas?
Don’t uninvited guests bring relatives?

But God’s Almighty Cow,
Marienkäfer and Kin to Hen and Dove,
How can I kick you out?

Girls put you on the tips of their fingers.
Where you fly they’ll meet a spouse.
Cousin to Whirligig, Sharer of Parts
With the Snouted Weevil, is this the home
Where you thought you’d find

Your children? Whoever sang to you lied.


by Martha Silano

From: 
WHAT THE TRUTH TASTES LIKE


~ Kells 

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

How Poetry Book Contests are like Blind Dates: How To Make a Good Impression




I am finishing up reading submissions for the Two Sylvias Press Chapbook Contest and am amazed and impressed with how much good writing is out there.

Yes, you always hear the opposite--the terrible poets and their terrible poems. But let's just say after my first read-through of chapbook entries, I was left with a huge batch of "semi-finalists" before I brought it down to my top 15 (as I write this, I am STILL not down to my top 15--there is so much I like).


And this may sound odd, but in many ways, judging a chapbook contest is a little like going on blind dates and I've learned more and more, how to have your manuscript make a good impression. So taking a nod from "How to Have a Great First Date," here are some ideas that I hope will help you 




1) Make a Good First Impression:

If you arrived on our first date and said to me, a 40-something year old woman, "Hello Sir," I would not be pleased. But in reading poetry submissions, I have received so many cover letters with this greeting. (Spoiler alert: not every editor or judge is a man.)

Take a few moments to get to know the press & judge you are submitting to, otherwise it can look as if you didn't do your homework, which can look like you really don't care. 

At Two Sylvias Press, both editors are women and our judge this year, Keetje Kuipers, is also a woman. Our names are all over the website and contest page. If you are unsure who is reading (though usually, it's the editors of the press and/or the contest judge) and you want to go generic, at least start with "Dear Editors" and don't assume gender.



2) Be A Good Listener:

Submit your manuscript exactly as the guidelines specify. If they ask for Table of Contents, include one. If they ask for acknowledgments, include that too. Don't worry too much about the formatting, if you're chosen, the press will take care of that to their specifications. Just keep it neat, accurate, and clean (just as your appearance on a first date would hopefully be).



3) Continue to Make a Good Impression:

If you arrived on our first date with a misspelled word across your chest or a holding a bunch of photos of yourself, I may not be too impressed. But some cover letters and manuscripts come with misspellings, big mistakes, and strange photos, some even come with ads to buy the poet's book.

Keep it professional. We haven't even met yet, so don't be too casual. Don't use a "special font" --that's like too much perfume. Or put your cover letter or manuscript in a special color font because it will stand out, but in that bad way, the same way I wear socks with sandals-- I'm getting attention, but for all the wrong reasons.

4)  Keep the Conversation Interesting:

I will be upfront in saying that I have failed at this many times. I'm shy with people and presses that I admire. I become quiet and strangely awkward. 

When I'm writing a cover letter to a press, sometimes I keep it too lean, too stale, and too boring. When writing a book of poems, many times I put my most interesting or vulnerable in the middle of my book. Why? Because they feel safe there. I'm a little guarded, you need to know me before I start sharing.

But in poetry contests, that doesn't always work well for the poet.

Many times, the editors and judges are so overwhelmed with submissions and can have 2 feelings-- they want fall in love with a manuscript OR they want a reason to reject it.

Make sure your first poems are interesting and not "setting the mood." Think about if you were a judge/editor reading this book for the first time, what would you think?

Too many epigraphs?

Uninteresting title?
What's the very first line? 

What's the very first words/line that introduces your manuscript to a reader? 


And while you're at, make sure your cover letter is interesting too. For example, if you found out about our Two Sylvias Press contest or press because you had bought The Poet Tarot or one of our publications, let us know. Let the press know you are familiar with their work and what they are doing.



5) Be Your Best Self:


When you submit your work, submit the best version of the poem in the best order in the manuscript with the best title. Ultimately, it will come down to the poems, not where they were published, not your poetic resume, but the work itself.

For me, sometimes when I'm going back and forth about whether I feel a poem is strong enough for my manuscript, I have quote I fall back on: "When in doubt, leave it out." (Perfectionists out there, this is not a free pass to give up and say all your work is garbage and you shouldn't be writing anyway-- I mean, nothing is perfect, but within reason. If you have a poem that in your gut, you know isn't strong enough, then maybe leave it out. You can always add it back in at a later date.)


6) Little Things Do Matter:

Make sure you use an easy to read font (Times New Roman, Garamond, Calibri Rockwell, etc). If you're submitting in an MS Word format, chose a font you know comes with the basic software.

Personal notes to the press or editor *are* appreciated (nothing to weird like "You look real pretty on your website," but "I just purchased The Daily Poet from your press and I love how it inspires my work.")

Contact info on the cover letter, including phone number, best email, website, address, name.



Personal Turn Ons:

Speaking only for myself, here are some things I love seeing as a judge/reader--


  • An inviting opening poem.
  • A manuscript that makes me want to keep reading.
  • Poems that take risk in form, content, or style.
  • If it's a chapbook, I love it HIGHLY themed and focused.
  • Happy surprises-- not shocking, but surprising wordplay, intellect, even something clever.
  • Easy on the eyes manuscripts (good font, good spacing, clean, crisp, well-organized, etc.)
  • Wonderful titles
  • A sense that much care was taken with this manuscript
  • A sense of humor, vulnerability, honesty, insight, tight strong poems
  • Anything well-crafted on ANY topic can win me over. For me, it comes down to the craft of poem--not the topic or your past publications, but that the poem I'm reading is good.
  • Just strong writing -- I don't need a fancy formatted manuscript, and I honestly even don't need you knowing exactly what you're doing--if you make a mistake while submitting, it's okay, I'll forgive you--I just need amazing poems and I'll forgive and forget all of it.



Person Turn Offs:
  • Boring first, second, and third poem
  • Trying to be too whimsical 
  • The overly self-conscious manuscript (example: making oneself look like the hero or having the light fall ever so perfectly on your speaker, her hair is never mussed up)
  • Preaching-to-the-choir poems (yeah, we know war/racism/hate/cancer/etc is bad--show us something we don't know)
  • Separate documents when just one was asked for
  • Links to a bio or information, instead of a bio or the information that was asked for
  • Missing the big picture--not really seeing the book as a whole or the larger poem, just a bunch of poems brought together
  • Sloppiness and no self-editing 
  • Manuscripts that are too long (see sloppiness and self-editing)



~ Kells 

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Thursday, July 09, 2015

Vintage Toy Typewriter Collection

from Stephanie Eskander's blog


I collect real typewriters, this seems to be the smarter move (they take up less space & are lighter!)


Did you know, that an antique store owner once referred to typewriters as "anchors." He said, "They never sell, they just sit here for years..."

Not anymore.

Full blog post by Stephanie Eskander here (with more photos!) 
~ Kells 
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Monday, July 06, 2015

What I'm Reading: DIGEST by Gregory @Pardlo



One of my favorite poems from Digest:

Written by Himself

BY GREGORY PARDLO
I was born in minutes in a roadside kitchen a skillet
whispering my name. I was born to rainwater and lye;
I was born across the river where I
was borrowed with clothespins, a harrow tooth,
broadsides sewn in my shoes. I returned, though
it please you, through no fault of my own,
pockets filled with coffee grounds and eggshells.
I was born still and superstitious; I bore an unexpected burden.
I gave birth, I gave blessing, I gave rise to suspicion.
I was born abandoned outdoors in the heat-shaped air,
air drifting like spirits and old windows.
I was born a fraction and a cipher and a ledger entry;
I was an index of first lines when I was born.
I was born waist-deep stubborn in the water crying
                              ain’t I a woman and a brother I was born
to this hall of mirrors, this horror story I was
born with a prologue of references, pursued
by mosquitoes and thieves, I was born passing
off the problem of the twentieth century: I was born.
I read minds before I could read fishes and loaves;
I walked a piece of the way alone before I was born.



Poem above from Digest, Four Way Books & Winner of the Pulitzer Prize
RECOMMENDED!
From Epicurus to Sam Cook, the Daily News to RootsDigest draws from the present and the past to form an intellectual, American identity. In poems that forge their own styles and strategies, we experience dialogues between the written word and other art forms. Within this dialogue we hear Ben Jonson, we meet police K-9s, and we find children negotiating a sense of the world through a father's eyes and through their own.

"A brainy, compassionate book (Pardlo’s second) that uses a pleasingly large stylistic palette to paint a portrait of fatherhood, racial politics and Brooklyn before it became a place to buy $30 glasses of bourbon."
--David Orr, The New York Times
"A bright-red thread of fatherhood runs through this book-at times tenuous, at times mythic-always searching and revelatory, grounded in our present moment while wrestling with eternity-a thrilling, brilliant, and deeply moving ride."
--Nick Flynn

~ Kells 
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www.twosylviaspress.com

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Write a Poem-a-Day Journal! Companion Journal to the Daily Poet:




Two Sylvias Press received many requests for a paper journal to use with the Daily Poet.

We created this. 370 pages to write a poem-a-day. Because the journal is dated it can be used with our without The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts for Your Writing Practice.


You can find it here!
~ Kells 
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www.twosylviaspress.com

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Thursday, July 02, 2015

CINDY SHERMAN: “Untitled Film Stills” (1977-1980): Recommended




I love this series:


Cindy Sherman’s “Untitled Film Stills,” a series of 69 black-and-white photographs created between 1977 and 1980, is widely seen as one of the most original and influential achievements in recent art.

Full Article with more photos here: http://ift.tt/1L7XLRe


Kells
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