Friday, May 11, 2018

Love Waltz with Fireworks (Filmpoem by Sarah Durn & Kelli Russell Agodon)


Love Waltz with Fireworks from Visible Poetry Project on Vimeo.
April 19: Love Waltz with Fireworks
Directed by Sarah Durn
Poem by Kelli Russell Agodon

Narration by Nikesh Murali


I am thankful to have had my poem chosen by filmmaker Sarah Durn to be part of Visible Poetry Project's film-poems for National Poetry Month.

Sarah was a dream to work with and the film exceeded my expectations!

If you want to learn more about Visible Poetry Project (and submit your own poem in the fall/winter), learn more about them here: https://www.visiblepoetryproject.com/




You can see more poems by the Visible Poetry Project here.








~ Kells ________________ 
 www.agodon.com 
www.twosylviaspress.com

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Breaking Up with My Boyfriend, Facebook...



Let me be honest, I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. 

Facebook is the boyfriend who knows all the cool people, goes to all the right parties, is always in the know, but ultimately talks too much (and is an expert in *way* too many subjects) and keeps taking me on these long dates to nowhere.

Facebook boyfriend has his perks, when I'm with him, I'm feel pretty high, drunk and in love with the world. People are liking my new haircut, my photo, my story, my cat. 

I know everyone's business too--who got married, who got divorced, who went to what restaurant and with who and who ordered catfish tacos. 


I'm like wallflower who somehow wore the right dress and is hanging out with the cool kids-- did you see what Rita Dove is here? Oh my God, Ocean Vuong just popped in! Hey, Richard Siken just showed up!  Someone bring me an appetizer, I'm part of the gang, I'm clicking it with the clique. I may be home in ratty PJs and slippers with cows on them, but no one knows that, tonight I'm at the party of the century and wearing a gown! 

And my boyfriend makes it so much fun. He gives me a numbers on how many people gave me the thumbs up today. Some people give me red hearts. Some people appreciate my sense of humor and give me a laughing face. I am the most popular here. I'm the mayor of nothing, I have a wall I write words on and people show up and respond and like those words. It's like publication for people who don't want to really try. My campaign is built on photos of me paddleboarding, poetry, sunsets, and an occasional cat. 

People leave me sweet notes and I answer important questions for other people like "Am I too old to wear red lipstick?" Definitely not!  "Can canned tuna be bad for cats?" Let's google that, there have been studies about mercury in the meat!  "Is it okay to wear open-toed shoes to a memorial?" (Okay, that one was my question I asked to my Facebook friends and they came through--Yes! Yes, you can wear open-toed shoes to a memorial.) This is so useful. Facebook boyfriends tells me these people are here 24/7 and I can ask them anything and they will respond. It's a magical place where laugh and cry and complain all in a semi-private setting where people may or may not understand our tone or humor and possibly freak out at something said and cause several notes back and forth to get something that could have been minor or overlooked in real life worked out, but right, magical! 


Then Facebook boyfriend woos me with how much he knows about poets. Look who has a book out! he yells.  Look who published this poem in this journal, he says in between showing me photos of children and places I'll never visit. Look, this poet won an award, a big award! Maybe you will *never* win that award...Wait, what? Who said that? Ohhhh, that's my insecure self popping in to join us, okay, it's a threesome now. Me, my Facebook boyfriend and my insecurities, oh my, the night is young...


As good dates go, somewhere a couple hours in you realize the guy you are dating (plus your tag-a-long insecurity) may not be the best match for you. But you're already out. Here is about when my boyfriend turns on me. He says, "Hey, let's do this again for another 2 hours and I'll show you the things I just showed you, but enough new information that you'll hang around." Um, that kind of sounds terrible, but I've been sitting her this long, maybe something fun will happen! 

Facebook and I having our 4th beer while we watch people get into fights over submission fees and terrible male writers behaving badly. Someone brings up Mr. Magoo as a controversial figure in cartoons. As was Fred Flintstone. Someone says, "Once I ran into X and he said, "Do you have any peanut butter and I'm like, You are awful for putting your need for peanut butter before this reading AND he wore socks with sandals. I am so done with male poets!"

So now I'm eating peanut butter from the jar (because the post made it sound so good) trying to figure out who X and the next thing I know, it's an hour later and my peanut butter is gone. I still don't know who X is, but I will be looking at people's feet from this point on and I have peanut butter all over my hands. My boyfriend rudely shows me an ad for weight loss which I mark "Does not apply" and send away.

From there, it all goes down hill... I start hitting the hard stuff and lose a sandal. I slip into another conversation where Opinion dresses incredibly close to Fact, so close that people are calling Opinion "Fact" and I'm staring at my screen thinking--Hey, that's Opinion not Fact, maybe I should chime in and clear that up. And now Opinion keeps popping up as Truth, it's like Opinion is in camouflage and no one sees it.


I'm wandering around with my Facebook boyfriend drunk, shoeless, and covered in peanut butter. My boyfriend and I have spent the day together, but have accomplished nothing (thankfully, my insecurity left right before the weight loss ad saving me from a salad with no dressing for dinner.)

And in fact, I'm annoyed with the world. I've snoozed several people for 30 days like I'm the witch in Snow White with my powerful poison apple. You want to show me a traumatic image about cows being slaughtered while I have my breakfast--SNOOZE. You want me to share the sad story about animal abuse-- SNOOZE.  You have complained about the same people for the last 4 weeks and yet you seem not to be making any good decisions in your life-- SNOOZE. I am the powerful witch snoozing my friends in the hopes that in 30 days they will not post photos of injured animals or those videos that just start playing where they should you how to make mac and cheese in a bicycle helmet in the microwave-- SNOOZE! 


I start to sober up, the day is wasted. I spent my hours on magical beans that grew nothing, plus I'm out a sandal. 

I'm annoyed with the world and its terrible news. And I realize my boyfriend has been making money off me-- it seems he is paid for the time I spend with him because ultimately, he has stuff to sell me...and he has people who work for him that want my attention. And the more I show up, the more money he gets, which seems like a terrible deal. I lose hours of my one-time-on-this-planet and he gets a revenue stream?!

So Facebook, I am breaking up with you.

I am taking a break to reclaim my time and my mind. But with any truly dysfunctional relationship, I know I'll be back, as I always seem to return. Facebook is like the boyfriend I don't need but who always has the best snacks when I'm hungry for nothing.

But I've gotten better at staying away from you even longer because I realize, the secret to Facebook is 1) The less you're on Facebook, the less you want Facebook.  Like Fight Club except instead of hitting yourself in your own face, you're actually writing blog posts or poems. You're actually sitting in a lounge chair in your own backyard reading American Poetry Review and Poets and Writers. 


Facebook, I will be back, but on my own terms at my own time and keeping this in mind--Use technology, but don't let technology use you. 

Still, you do throw a pretty good party. I just need to know when to go home. 



~ Kells 
________________ 
 www.agodon.com 
www.twosylviaspress.com

Sunday, May 06, 2018

While I Was a Terrible Blogger During #NaPoWriMo, I Earned My Poem-A-Day Merit Badge... (Plus: Why Quantity Wins Over Quality in First Drafts...)



So when in April while I was also naming myself "the worst blogger ever" I was also giving myself a completion badge for writing a poem-a-day in April for National Poetry Month.

Yes, I wrote a poem a day.

Yes, some where terrible.

But wait, some were actually pretty good.


One thing I realized is be less concerned with quality of the first draft and more interested in completion of the first draft. Quality can come later during the revision process, but getting words onto the paper is important.











This story below is from Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles & Ted Orland:


The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the "quantity" group: fifty pound of pots rated an "A", forty pounds a "B", and so on. Those being graded on "quality", however, needed to produce only one pot - albeit a perfect one - to get an "A".
Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the "quantity" group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes - the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

There's a lot to learn here about daily writing, writing a ton of poems that never go anywhere, or just finding 10 minutes in the day to write. You can determine the moral of the story for yourself and your takeaway, but for me it's the moment I put "importance" onto a poem, I lose the play, the joy, and the spontaneity that is, for me, the spark of art.

My best writing has been done when I wake up with a clear mind and maybe 40 minutes just to dream on paper. 

My best writing rarely happens when I am saying to myself, "Okay, you need to make this one excellent, you need to write your best poem ever."

I have a friend I write with back and forth and on May 1st he sent me an email saying, "I haven't lost the energy, I want to keep writing a poem-a-day..." And I agree.

So I will continue on trying to write a poem a day, but being happy if I get a poem a week or a poem every-other-day. 

Because I love the journey and while I love a draft that leads to a completed work, I appreciate the poems that don't. They are like sketches in an artist's journal, practice swings on a baseball field knowing one day, we'll hit it out of the park.


xo
~ Kells

________________
 www.agodon.com
www.twosylviaspress.com

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Average Blogger = More Words Than Not

By Artist Maria Qamar - Burning is better than not trying. Burn on, friends.

I signed up to write at least one blog post a week and for the most part, I've done it. Though, there are periods where there are more than 7 days between posts. There are times when I think, "Omg, I have a blog." 


I realize one of the reasons I haven't been blogging is because it was feeling as if what I wrote wouldn't be good enough.

Lately, I haven't had a lot of interesting things to share, it's why I signed off of Facebook for Lent.


I feel as if my head is bowl of sticky noodles and I can't get my thoughts straight.

When I come to blog, I think, "What could I say that is interesting or useful?" And then decide to turn on Queer Eye and eat pistachios. 

It occurred to me today (and maybe because it's National Poetry Month and I'm writing a poem a day) that I need to lower my standards a bit on this blog, especially if I want to get a post a week. 

There is a quote that "good is the enemy of great," meaning that sometimes we take adequate quality over something. But "great" or "perfect" is the enemy of "done." 

Even if I'm average blogging, I'm at least getting something on the page. One line to a poem is more than not writing.

I once knew a person who started a lot of projects and always had something new in the works (a novel, a book of poems, a screenplay, etc.). Problem was, they never finished anything. I think they were dealing with perfectionism there, some childhood baggage from a parent I think. 

I remember thinking--I'd rather be done and fail than to not complete something. 

I remember thinking I'd rather have one completed project in five years than ten false starts, ten well-I-didn't-finish-that-one. 

For me, not trying is failing.

For me, I'd rather show up on the diving board and occasionally bellyflop than not put on my bath suit and not head to the pool...


So that brings me back to this blog, I'll show up here weekly with my swimcap on and hopefully what I write will be of interest, or useful, or give you hope, make you smile or make you think.

It may not (and most likely won't) be perfect.


But by the end of the year, I'll have my promised 52 blog posts and hopefully, maybe a couple more.

Thanks for reading....



P.S. The abov
e image is By Artist Maria Qamar, you can learn more about her here: https://hatecopy.com/ she's one of my favorites. (Here's her instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hatecopy)



~ Kells 
________________ 
 www.agodon.com 
www.twosylviaspress.com

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Confession Sunday.. Mini Writing Retreat

Dear Reader,

It has been a couple weeks since my last confession. In fact, I'm behind on blogging in general, also, life in general, chores in general, and ________________ fill in anything else I missed. 

But in between the craziness, I found time to write.

Note: If you are not schedule time to write on your calendar, please do so. Dedicated days (or even a morning) can make a huge difference in both your writing life and your mental/emotional life. 



My friend Ronda came over at 1 pm on Friday and we wrote until 11 pm at night. Since it was so late, she spent the night and we woke up, had coffee, and wrote 3 poems in the morning.

There's a magic to these "mini-retreats" where I sit with a friend and write all day.

Maybe it's the energy of focus, of two people each writing poems.

Or maybe it's just intent--we intend to write poems, and we do.

Sometimes we do prompts, or sometimes we just find a line in a book of poems and use that as our jumping out spot. There are so many ways to begin a poem.

What you need to do your own writing retreat at home?

-- a laptop or journal

--books of poems (for inspiration)

--snacks

--time and a semi-quiet house

Optional:
--A friend can be helpful, especially if you find yourself not making the best use of your time.



I have found the times I've done these retreats (or even writing dates) with other poets, I end up with a lot stronger work than if I just hang out by my own. I think sometimes the interaction, the listening to poems, the talking with another poet can get my mind working in unusual ways. It's the back and forth that is helpful to me.  

Sorry to have been so out of touch these last months. I feel as if there is just too much going on (in my life, in the world, in my head), so I've pulled back a bit until I can feel as if no longer running in place (a quick visual of my life since January (I'm George, not the pets... "Jane, stop this crazy thing...)





Hope to show up here more... and wishing you a relaxing Sunday.

~ Kells 
________________
 www.agodon.com
www.twosylviaspress.com

Friday, March 09, 2018

Naps and Stepping Away from the Party...


Right now, many poets & writers are in the middle of one of the biggest events of the year--AWP. And this year, in Tampa.

Seeing photos come across Twitter--especially of the bookfair, occasionally makes me for yearn for those magical moments of meeting a favorite poet or walking finally meeting the people you've only known from the online world.

Of course, for me, this would not have been the year to go.
I believe all our lives have seasons, seasons of outreach and seasons of pulling back. 

This year, I have a lot going on personally in my life, professionally at TwoSylvias Press, and even creatively--I'm writing more poems and am finishing up my 4th collection. I've been busier than ever and working to make sure I get time with my IRL (in real life) friends and family. 

I've also needed a lot more sleep this year. I've been coming home from work, walking into the house and taking a nap from 5 - 6 p.m.  I know, right? People are sitting down to dinner and I am falling asleep. I wake up, have dinner, some family time, maybe a walk, and then return to bed at 10 p.m. And then I sleep a full 8-9 hours.


While a part of me is silently freaking out that I have been needing (wanting?) so much sleep, another part says-- You did even catch a cold this winter and that terrible flu blew right by you. It also says, When you wake up, you feel good, you're ready for the second part of the day.

A few times, I've taken a nap at work around 1 pm when I can't even make it to evening.


I started a bullet journal and really realized how much offline time I needed. I'm returning to books and walks. Like how we try to monitor our kids' screen time, as adults, we should be aware of our own. 

A few days before Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday, I deactivated my Facebook account. After a week of not showing up, I thought--maybe this is what I should give up for Lent... so I did. I stay on Twitter because it never pulls me in the way FB does. If Facebook is the spotlight on our lives, Twitter feels like the candle and it's so big, I'm just a flicker among the galaxy of poets.

As creative people, I think we need to listen to what our bodies and mind needs at all times. Sometimes we need to go big, reach out, interact, tweet, post on Facebook, bloggity-blog-blog. But other times whether it be because of news, our own personal life or families, our own creative work, we need to go smaller and explore less.

There is no one way or one right way or one forever way. I am pretty sure, I will return to Facebook once I feel the need to be there again. I've got a strong circle of friends who keep up with me whether I'm on or off Facebook, and are still in touch. You learn who misses you and who your true people are when you slip away from a big party. Who notices you're no longer there, who reaches out. 

The kind of funny thing about this blog is I promised to blog once a week (which I have been keeping up), but when I'm feeling smaller, or more inward reach than outer, I think-- I really have nothing interesting to say! So hopefully there's something you're finding useful here--maybe it's just to say, social media is one big party that you can leave or hang out in as much as you like.  Make sure it's a tool *you* are using, and not vice versa.

And take more naps. Yes, that's exactly what I can offer you.


Continue on, friends. It's almost spring!

~ Kells
 ________________ 
 www.agodon.com 
www.twosylviaspress.com

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Confession Saturday: How To Float

Dear Reader, 

Sometimes I do a confession Saturday, but it's the last day to get my weekly blog in, so I thought I'd do a confession Saturday since I realize I've kind of disappeared a bit from social media --I have been tweeting less and am off Facebook.


I confess when life feels too big, I get quieter. I don't disappear in my own life, in fact, I've been busier than ever, but I've quit showing up online as much. 

I confess I am not into drama, not my own or not others. I do not like conflict nor watching people treat each other poorly or to see one person act terribly or even just rudely towards another. Sometimes this is when Facebook feels like middle school and I can't/don't tolerate that.

If I could give you a recommendation, I recommend surrounding yourself with people who help you float on and who do not try to pull you under. 

Know the friends in your life who you can write to, turn to, text, email, call, when things feel hard or heavy. Know the friends who you can pick up after 3 months or 3 years. These are your people.

Know who will help you float through this world.


I confess in general, my real life has been busier than ever, not quieter. I have spent a lot of time with friends--seeing Fran Leibowitz, teaching at Western Washington University, dinners, lunches, teaching a class in Seattle, and other moments that have dotted my calendar.

Yesterday I floated for an hour in a sensory deprivation pod. It was a surreal experience where you feel as if you might be in space, as if you are weightless.


this looks like a giant toilet, but it feels like a galaxy


I was hoping for some huge breakthroughs in my writing or my life, what I received was 55 minutes of absolute quiet and relaxation with minor breakthroughs about life.

While I did manage to get salt in my eye and forget to put my eyeplugs in & turn off the light and have to immediately exit the tank to reset myself up, I found that I need just time to meditate, to nap, to sit, to quiet, to float.

I would do it again.


I confess my weekly blog post has been harder for me because of a busier than normal personal life, but also because I feel much more like I am like a pod these days, more self-contained. 


I know eventually this feeling of smaller life and smaller world will pass and I will return to a more interactive online life.

I just have a lot on my schedule and figuring out life on a personal level as well--how these next four years will look, or even smaller--how summer & fall will be, what are my plans, where I am going.

But know, I'm okay and just trying to get through these next few months with a lot on my work schedule and in my personal life.

But currently floating on... and sending you all love. 



~ Kells 
________________ 
 www.agodon.com 
www.twosylviaspress.com

Friday, February 23, 2018

What's Old is New Again: 5 Common Traits of Successful Artists



Note: I originally posted these 5 Common Traits in 2010, but the comments below them in blue are 2018 new.

______________

I somehow 
wandered upon this blog by Lori McNee that posted what they thought the 5 traits of successful artists were.  They focus on visual artists, but I think many of these work for writers too. 


I'll put my own thoughts below in blue text...



5 Common Traits of Successful Artists:

1.  Art is the core of their lives. Successful artists wake up and go to sleep thinking about art. They carve out time in their day making art or marketing it. (In fact, for these artists, there seems to be no clear distinction between the creativity of making and marketing.) If they have a full-time job, it is secondary in their minds to art and mostly a means to and end. Their real job  is being an artist.

-- Here's something you may not know about me--I go to sleep ordering my manuscript in my head. Or I play with the title or different titles right before taking a nap. I think about a specific poet all day and am unclear why they are in my head. Yesterday was Delmore Schwartz. The day before Frank O'Hara.

Sometimes my poetry life gets so intermingled with my regular life, I call up a friend to tell her they have these new protein bars named after the Anne Sexton poem, "Her Kind." --"No," she says, "They're just called 'Kind' bars."  I'm confused, I'm SURE the wrapper read, "Her Kind." I am wrong.  



2.  Successful artists understand how business works in the art world. Successful artists understand the entrepreneurial aspects of making a living as an artist. When they encounter something new or unusual on the business side, they investigate and learn to do it or delegate the task. They know the value of relationships and network in person and through social media.  

--This feels like a nice way of saying, Don't be a big baby or a huge jackass if something doesn't go your way or you don't know how to do something.  And you don't need to understand exactly how something works, but if you are confused, do research or ask someone. It's okay not to know something, but there are so many resources with the internet at our fingertips, you can find things out for yourself with just a few keystrokes.  



Successful artists have a strong work ethic. They  manage themselves, their creative energy and resources. They balance the time to produce art and to market it. Whatever rhythm of working they choose, they stick to it. Whether these artists enjoy the business tasks or not, they know they must be done  and they do them without complaint or resentment.

---"Make sure you are creating more than you consume." And I thought, yes, that's an important element to think about as poets, writers, & artists. If you find yourself always in passive moments--watching a TV show, reading posts that you really don't care about, scrolling some endless feed (words or photo), you are consuming. If you are writing, interacting with another poet on a collaboration, doing writing prompts, reading a poem then responding to it, writing a blog post, a review, an essay, a journal entry, you are creating.  


Successful artists are resilient. They know that success does not happen overnight – it requires hard work. These artists understand that things don't always work out the way they expect. When they make mistakes, they focus on solutions, not on regrets. They learn from experience and experiment to improve on any success they have.

--- This is so true. I've send some of the best poets aren't the ones who are the best, but they are the ones who won't stop writing, who won't give up. They don't let a rejection, a NO, a missed award, an overlook, stop them. I know an incredible poet who you will never hear about because they have stopped submitting because the rejection part was too hard to handle. It's a loss for the readers in the world when that happens. 

I have made huge mistakes as a poet, from sending my Visa bill in with a snailmail submission, to missing a deadline, to writing a terrible poem and thinking it was good. We all do it (okay, maybe not mailing in your Visa bill), but mistakes will be made, failures will happen, and so what.

Keep writing. 



Successful artists spend time only with people who are 100% supportive of their art career. They limit their time and emotional involvement with people who are negative  especially about art as a career choice. If people close to them have the skills and inclination to be more directly involved in their art career, the artist can produce more and better. Successful artists do not allow unsupportive people to be an obstacle to their plans for success.

--If you make one change in your writing life this year, this is one thing you should do-- keep the positive, supporting people in life. Do not hang around with wet blankets, people who bring you down or do not support your art.

If you need to get offline because it's too much information, negativity, or people you don't really care about, do so. Hide or mute accounts that bring you down. Unfollow, deactivate, take a break, hide your laptop. 

You do not need to apologize for not tweeting or not posting on Facebook. These are volunteer jobs and if you don't show up, it's okay. It's important to create boundaries, compassionate boundaries, in our life. 



Until next time, 


~ Kells 
________________ 
 www.agodon.com 
www.twosylviaspress.com

Friday, February 16, 2018

Poem by Matthew Olzmann: Letter Beginning with Two Lines by Czesław Miłosz

I committed to blogging once a week. This week, I'm shaken by another school shooting and the deaths of children and a country that won't respond.

Just know, I'm focusing on my editing work and my family & friends. I'll return to my own work and hopefully a better attitude next week.

But for now,
I offer you this poem by Matthew Olzmann for this week's blog:


Letter Beginning with Two Lines by Czesław Miłosz

You whom I could not save,
Listen to me. 
Can we agree Kevlar
backpacks shouldn’t be needed
for children walking to school?
Those same children
also shouldn’t require a suit
of armor when standing
on their front lawns, or snipers
to watch their backs
as they eat at McDonalds.
They shouldn’t have to stop
to consider the speed
of a bullet or how it might
reshape their bodies. But
one winter, back in Detroit,
I had one student
who opened a door and died. 
It was the front
door to his house, but
it could have been any door,
and the bullet could have written
any name. The shooter
was thirteen years old
and was aiming
at someone else. But
a bullet doesn’t care
about “aim,” it doesn’t
distinguish between
the innocent and the innocent,
and how was the bullet
supposed to know this
child would open the door
at the exact wrong moment
because his friend
was outside and screaming
for help. Did I say
I had “one” student who
opened a door and died?
That’s wrong.
There were many.
The classroom of grief
had far more seats
than the classroom for math
though every student
in the classroom for math
could count the names
of the dead. 
A kid opens a door. The bullet
couldn’t possibly know,
nor could the gun, because
“guns don’t kill people,” they don’t
have minds to decide
such things, they don’t choose
or have a conscience,
and when a man doesn’t
have a conscience, we call him
a psychopath. This is how
we know what type of assault rifle
a man can be,
and how we discover
the hell that thrums inside
each of them. Today,
there’s another
shooting with dead
kids everywhere. It was a school,
a movie theater, a parking lot.
The world
is full of doors.
And you, whom I cannot save,
you may open a door
and enter a meadow, or a eulogy.
And if the latter, you will be
mourned, then buried
in rhetoric. 
There will be
monuments of legislation,
little flowers made
from red tape. 
What should we do? we’ll ask
again. The earth will close
like a door above you.
What should we do?
And that click you hear?
That’s just our voices,

the deadbolt of discourse
sliding into place.


Originally published on the Academy of American Poets "Poem-a-Day"
https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/letter-beginning-two-lines-czeslaw-milosz




~ Kells
 ________________ 
 www.agodon.com 
www.twosylviaspress.com

Thursday, February 08, 2018

On Rejection: And Some Advice from Drag Queens Too...




I'm leading a class on submitting and publication with Susan Rich on Saturday and it has me thinking about rejection and how it can mess with us as poets, writers, and artists.

Being rejected is part of the deal as a poet. It's doesn't always make it better to know that, but it's true. You will be rejected more than you are accepted. You will celebrate an acceptance then sadly weep into morning coffee over a rejection that rolls in the next day. 

Sometimes you will receive rejection after rejection after rejection and like Jinkx Monsoon, you say, "Water off a duck's back, water off a duck's back."





(By the way, Jinkx won that season...) 


And since we're talking drag queens (and RuPaul's All Stars is on tonight).

Here's some other advice I've learned from drag queens:



Boos are just applause from ghosts. 
   ~ Sharon Needles

Don't be bitter, just get better.
  ~ Alyssa Edwards

Ultimately, this is a marathon not a sprint. Enjoy the journey. Yes, you may trip over a patch of rejection or get all sparkly-eyed over that rare acceptance bird you found, but what it comes down to is writing the poem. 

Control what you can control-- reading, writing, submitting.

Let the rest work itself out. And if you get a rejection, remember Sylvia Plath's "I love my rejections, they show me I try." 



My advice?

Life is short. Do your best. Make good art.






~ Kells ________________
 www.agodon.com
www.twosylviaspress.com

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Confession Tuesday: The Making of a Manuscript Edition

Dear Reader, 

It's been over a year since my last confession. I am slightly out of practice and am slipping through the door late on a Tuesday evening, then pressing the button on Wednesday. I am making the sign of the cross with sparklers and cheese sticks. I am opening the confession door and carrying my manuscript inside...



I confess I have been working for years on my current manuscript. I have watched my manuscript morph in front of me, moving from a waltz to the current of waves.

I confess I did not send it out because I had pinned "perfectionism" to my shirt and wore it like a badge.

I did not send it out because I felt it wasn't done, because I didn't give myself enough time to work on it, that I allowed my job to be a greedy child stealing all my Kit-Kats of time. Actually, I gave my Kit-Kats away, then complained I had no Kit-Kats. 


I confess I had a title, changed the title, then spent over a year seeking a title.

I confess procrastination came in years that look like productivity.

I confess I have become less anxious about "publishing a book" and more interested in finding a press that is right for me and my manuscript. 

I confess at my writing residency I said, "I am writing the best poems of my life" and meant it, unironically. 

I actually do not know what "the best poems of my life" look like, but sometimes it's more of a feeling than a fact. 

This is what I tell my poet-self when she's in that euphophic phase with a manuscript. That said, I do believe I've done some good work, and while as a perfectionist, this can be hard to say, I'm become better at it.


Amen.




~ Kells ________________ 

 www.agodon.com 
www.twosylviaspress.com

Friday, January 26, 2018

Distraction, Our Time, & My Best Morning Routine


^^^^^ Hey, anyone know where we can get one of these? ^^^^^^^
            (Quick answer: disconnect the wi-fi 
😉 )



I've been thinking about how to use my time more wisely as a poet, writer, and artist in the world. 

Distraction has always been the enemy of writers (note: I will do a post on the positives/pros of distraction, because you can use it for material very easily!) 

As writer and human, our most important possession is time. It's the one thing that *guaranteed,* we have less of every day. 

I know time feels like a bottomless margarita, and we're all dizzy with the belief of this endless cup and the refill, this ongoing buffet where there's always coconut shrimp and the frozen yogurt machine never runs out. But yeah, nobody is adding more minutes to our pockets. Friends, this isn't a dress rehearsal. 

And what makes it hard, is our world is made up of things that want to steal our time for their benefit. And maybe "steal" isn't the right word, maybe we *give* or *accidentally handover* our time to things that don't want the best for us, but for them.

Our time as writers is so important. If we don't have it, we don't write.

I've always taken issue when someone says, "I don't have time to write," because what I hear is, "I have not made time for my writing." Listen, if you're reading this, if you have watched a TV show in the last week, gone onto any social media site, stayed up for fifteen minutes longer than you should, you have time to write. 


Your life happening right now, and you can make choices to use your time for writing. Even if it's only 15 minutes. I have written poems in 15 minutes. Blog posts. 

The internet can be a downfall to writers. I'm going to write about Facebook below, but there are various other timesinks that may be in your life. 


(Note: If you don't want to read about the pros & cons of Facebook because you probably already know them, skip down to the ********* ___________________ and we'll get back into poetry and living a creative life). 


My Concerns with Facebook & Sites that We Created To Keep You There--

For example, Facebook wants me to show up every day because it wants more users and users that interact on its site--the more users, the more money they can get in advertising, and the more users the more others will show up to be part of the group, a circle of revenue... The news and the media is like this too, they want you to click on a link, each click is money in their pockets. 

But Facebook can steal a lot of time that I could be using for reading or writing (or even working.) 

So here are the pros and cons of Facebook:

Pros:
  • My friends and community are there (yay, I can connect without leaving the house!)
  • See what others are doing  (Fun to see where people have been published and photos of kids & pets)
  • Share want I'm doing (sharing publication is fun, but also I know when I post, I have a project I need to keep up as I like to "Like" people's comments and respond to them). 
  • Sometimes see funny/cute things (like otters, and I love otters and golden retriever puppies)
  • Learn what is on others' minds or something I've missed or is important to someone  (I like to be aware of what I am missing in my bubble)
  • Feel less alone
  • Get immediate feedback on a question, ask advice, or interact with friends online



Cons:

  • Time suck, I can go in and then it's 45 minutes later
  • I don't control what you see (some people post terribly graphic images to prove a point, and some of us who are more sensitive, may carry that image with them the rest of the day)
  • Facebook was created to make you stay there--the notifications are red for a reason, to get your attention, to show importance, to make give you a dopamine hit with each like, with each validation. 
  • If you compare your life to others, that can make you unhappy or feel "less than." 
  • "The worst thing that happened to me today" post (this is something new I've noticed where people post the worst thing that has happened to them during the day then we microfocus on it) Yes, a cashier or other stranger annoyed you, yes, that sucks, now move on. 
  • If I wasn't reading Facebook, what else could I be doing with my time that is more useful?

Facebook is one example, but there are many others-- too much news or having to read every news article when you wake up, screwing around on Pinterest, hooked on Twitter, binge-watching a not-so-great show, video games (I was coming home from work one year and playing Splatoon daily --and weirdly, there's a part of me that misses that). 

*********
__________________________________________________ 

I have always said--everything in moderation, even moderation. 


So when I look at my life when I am feeling my best and doing my best, and while I may be engaging in some "not so productive things" and I am not drowning in them.


My best morning is goes like this:

Wake up, get coffee


Look outside for a few minutes, check in with the sky and birds

Sit on couch with book of poems and read a few poems with coffee

Pull out my manuscript in progress (printed on paper) and read through it, editing and making notes (note: if I wasn't working on a manuscript, this would read: write poems)

Open Bullet Journal (aka my life/to do list) and see what needs to be done



For me, when I'm in not feeling rushed or behind or overwhelmed or spending a lot of time online, I find I read more, write more, create more, find more space for walks, and am kinder. 


When I'm at my very best, I may say, "Wow, I actually have space to do whatever I want to do right now--what is that?" 

Sometimes I need a list to clear out my head or to read down and say, "Yep, for the next hour, I'm going to dig into my "In Process" file and find poems to revise. 

Or sometimes I just decide to read. Or nap. (Note: these are obviously on days I'm not working, though I have napped on a lunch break at work...)  But even coming home from work, I've decided to keep the laptop closed. Not to reach to see "what am I missing?" in the world, which is how sometimes the internet feels to me.

So instead of looking into this magical mirror world of who's having a birthday and what's trending and what's going on here, here, and here, I read our local paper, I play a game of Scrabble, cribbage, or Boggle. I look out the window and say, "Hey world in front of me, what's new with you? Any new birds migrating in or out? Anything blooming or growing?" This may sound terrible boring or dull, but it helps my mind be more present and also allows me to recenter then focus on what I love which is--poetry, family, friends, the environment, the universe, and books. 

And know, I am not a saint or perfect at this by any means (I checked Twitter 2x while writing this post and currently, my cellphone is dinging like mad from a group text.).

But maybe this is why I like to write about it to remind myself the importance of choosing how I use my time, reminding myself how much better I feel when I am writing and living creatively...


Thanks for reading.

May you keep the time you need for your art as well. 






~ Kells ________________ www.agodon.com www.twosylviaspress.com
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