Friday, January 28, 2011

Googling Oneself - The Art of Ego

So I had to laugh this morning, I have two "Google Alerts" set up, one for my name & one for the title of my book.  Whenever someone posts something about my book or my name on the web, I get an email in my inbox that says something like "Web - 3 new alerts..."

And today's google alert where my name has appeared?  Student sites about Greek Gods.
Well, I'm honored.  I hadn't realized I had moved up so far in the world.

I did go to the site and it's also a huge advertisement for mozzarella cheese.

Though there's definitely a poem in this.  The website where I'm listed is one of those spam websites to get ad dollars by mixing words and links together. A favorite combo is the "Sea World Water Park" mixed with "and Nordic Gods."  Though I also love "Facts about Camel Spiders" mixed with "Lesson plans for Ancient Greek Gods and Powerpoint format for Rags to Riches Stories About Women."

Here's my showing:

"Mt St Helens Facts About Name - at Mycenaean and Minoan sites is While the age About Kelli Russell Agodon 3   Trivia About Philippine Constitution - of gods often has been of more interest to contemporary students of"
I especially like the "3" after my name, reminding me that there have been many Kelli Russell Agodon's throughout history as I have such a common name. 
By the way, if you haven't created a Google Alert for your name or your book or your ex-boyfriend various interests you may have, you can do so signing into Google then choosing "more" in the upper left corner, scroll down to "even more" and that will get you to a page where you'll see Alerts.  
You can create an alert on anything you are researching or interested in. I also have one for "crab creek review" in case anyone blogs about our literary journal.  
Google Alert catches most postings, it will occasionally miss one, but it's a pretty good way to see what's being said about you or your book on the web, and especially wonderful to see if you've become a new Greek god or part of an advertisement for cheese.  Who knew?


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Sandy Longhorn & a Review on Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room

Sandy did an incredible review of my book, Letters From the Emily Dickinson Room  on her blog here.

As a poet, it always makes me so happy when readers/reviewers really *get* what's happening--

Here we have a speaker adrift in a world that often feels directionless, a speaker who desires nothing more than connection and yet finds that connection difficult because of the very fact that she is a poet: "the broken ones become artists," says the father in "Letter to a Past Life."  

And I loved this paragraph --

In "Quiet Collapse in the Dharma Shop," we are told:
"I celebrate small things
.......--apples, beetles, faith---"

I love that 'faith' is a 'small thing' here.  Throughout the book, Kelli manages to take the ordinary moments of a woman's life and transform them into the extraordinary, the special, the saved.  She is unafraid to tell the truth about what it means to be a poet as well as a mother, daughter, wife, and lover, and how sometimes those worlds don't always mesh.


Yes, exactly-- sometimes those worlds don't mesh and as I wrote this book, I struggled through them myself.

There were anxious times that challenged me personally and throughout the manuscript.  I didn't want the book not to risk, so I included difficulties I dealt with as well as poems that still make me feel a little vulnerable.

I think that's important though.  I think we all need to risk something when we write.

I've been thankful others have connected with the book and thankful for Sandy for taking the time to read it and write such a thoughtful review on her blog.  


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

AWP Starts Next Wednesday in DC - Who's Going?

We're counting down to AWP as it's one week away.

What I can tell you is I have only been to one AWP and while I loved it, I also was quite overwhelmed and many times had to retreat back to my hotel room for quiet time.  (This tends to be my style, lots of talk and contact, then alone time...lots of talk and contact, then alone time.  I'm an introvert with extroverted tendencies.)

The best part about AWP was that it was great to finally meet people I had only known through blogs and email.  Now, I have Facebook friends I've never met.  I heard last year's AWP was the first "Hey, I think we're Facebook friends" conference, as that was overheard more times than not.

You will recognize me at the conference because I will be a) drinking coffee b) snacking  c) taking a photo  d) looking confused/wandering aimlessly e) reading the program.  I am always looking at the program.

I hope to run into some of you there.  This will be my first AWP since Vancouver.  I'm out of practice, but looking forward to attending.

I'll be at the White Pine Press book table from 3pm- 4pm for a booksigning on Thursday, Feb 3rd.  And then I'll be reading with Susan Rich at Busboys & Poets (the 4th & K street location) at 7 pm that same Thursday evening.

These are the only places I know I'll be for sure.  All the rest is up in the air.

If you do go to AWP, do introduce yourself.  While these events can feel big to me, meeting people helps me make it feel a little smaller.

And for good laughs--

Nin Andrews has some great AWP comics on her blog.


P.S.  Leave a comment if you're going to AWP and any panels or reading you're on or going to.  I have yet to read the schedule.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Confession Tuesday - Things I Never Learned Edition

Madonna of the Pomegranate detail by Sandro Botticelli, 1487

Dear Reader,

It's been a week of completed deadlines and crossed off to-do lists.  Still, this week I've been thinking about all the things I've never really learned or understand.  So let me share, here's where my mind is.

To the confessional--

I confess that I still never really know whose turn it is as a 4-way stop.

It's embarrassing to say, but I am the car that either waits for the wave or randomly darts when it looks/seems/could-possibly-be my turn.


I confess there are certain foods I don't eat because I never learned how to prepare or cook them.

Dear Pomegranate.  Dear Beets.  Dear Anything-to-do-with-Pork.  Dear T-Bone steak.
(Though I confess I never learned to like steak.)


I confess I have never understood what exactly the "School of Quietude" was in poetry (and why I existed).  And honestly, I guess I don't understand why we must try to label aspects of the same art.  On that same note, I also find it interesting why artists/writers sometimes want to be labeled, when personally, I found I've spent my whole life trying to avoid them.


I confess I do no know how certain candy bars stay in business-- particularly the Idaho Spud Bar, 5th Avenue Bar, Oh Henry!, and Chunky chocolate.  I don't think I've ever in my life seen anyone purchase one of these, but they must be.

Wait, as a child I think I purchased a Chunky chocolate.  And I think it was good.


I confess I never learned to eat politely with a large fork or spoon, or even understand why restaurants use ridiculously large utensils.  I swear, I have felt like Jack who has climbed the beanstalk when I eat at some restaurants.


I confess I never I learned how to say goodbye to someone I love(d).

While I have never been sentimental, sometimes I wrap myself up in nostalgia and fall asleep on the grass outside the stadium.

Sometimes I don't think I've learned how to not love someone.  People leave our lives for various reasons and I don't think I have never learned how to let my favorite people go.



Monday, January 24, 2011

Why I was late for the Twitter #poetparty. . .

Me, Lana Ayers, & Susan Rich at Eagle Harbor Books on an island in Puget Sound

Every Sunday Night, Deb Ager  hosts an event on Twitter for poets, the hashtag (Twitter term) to find it is #poetparty (basically put this in the search and you can find the conversation.)

I came in quite late, so wasn't really part of the conversation, but the good thing is it happens every Sunday night (6 pm PST or 9 pm EST) on Twitter.

I had just arrived from an incredible reading with Lana Ayers & Susan Rich where we read poems on the theme of "Possibility."  Lana read from her new book, A New Red (poems about Red Riding Hood) and Susan from her new book, The Alchemist's Kitchen.

Two quotes I wrote down spoken by the other poets were these--

Lana Ayers (from one of her Red Riding Hood poems):  "If you are hungry, eat desire."

Susan Rich (from her intro to a poem she wrote to me about writing in her studio House of Sky): "A friend said that 'we improvise jazz' and we thought we were writing..."

A lovely evening all around.


Artists & Those Who Love Art: The 5th and FINAL OWOH Event!

Last year I participated in this One World, One Heart and had a lot of fun, both in giving away a few things I made as well as learning about other artists in the world.

Basically, bloggers post things they've made to giveaway.  You leave a comment from January 30-February 17th to be entered in that specific drawing.

If you make things, you can list something you make on your blog to giveaway.  You can find out all the details here.

Last year, I posted something I made to giveaway and also entered a few contests. (Here's what I gave away last year, not sure what I will be giving away this year.)  I won some incredible items that I keep in my writing studio.

Because of the incredibly fun OWOH event, I hosted the Great Poetry Giveaway for National Poetry Month in 2010 where 50 bloggers gave away poetry books to readers.  I do think I'll plan on doing that again this year if anyone is interested-- watch for more details about that in the spring.  It was a great way for poets to giveaway their books or poetry lovers to giveaway their favorite books and find new poet-bloggers to follow.



Friday, January 21, 2011

Blog Request: Compiling a Poetry Manuscript, Part 1 of Many...

R. suggested this for a blog topic:

I'd love to read a post about the process of compiling a poetry manuscript (like when to know to use sections, how to order the poems, what to exclude, etc).

Since this is a topic I could blog pages on, I'll be breaking this subject up over the next couple months, blogging about it then returning to it.

One book I'd definitely recommend for anyone wanting to read more on this and get their advice and ideas from not just me, but quite a few poets, I'd suggest this book:  Ordering the Storm: How to Put Together a Book of Poems  edited by Susan Grimm.  

The book is 112 pages with 11 essays by individual poets on how to put together a book of poems.  I read this book quite a while ago, but I do remember finding it quite informative and enjoyed getting personal takes on how to create a poetry manuscript.


To be quite honest, I always remember Marvin Bell saying when asked, "How should I order my manuscript?" -- You can throw all your poems up in the air and pick them up, that's one way...

He was making the point that there is no one way or one right way to order and organize your manuscript.  And I also believe that.

My biggest advice to the poet organizing his/her manuscript is to know why you do everything you do.  

If you put poem about robins after a poem about gravestones, understand why it's there.  If you have sections, know why you have sections.  If you've alphabetized your poems, know why you've alphabetized them.  If you don't have sections, know why you don't have sections.

I believe a book of poems needs to be deliberate, created and crafted.  It's not just your best poems in whatever order, there should be reasons for the order, reasons for the poems chosen, reasons for each part of your book.

Someone said once that the published book is the final poem, and it's something I believe in.  

Of course, I'm someone who likes organization and believes it's important and believes the book is the final poem.  Maybe you don't.  Just know why you are doing the things you do.  If you put a poem after another poem because you don't really care about order, that's fine, just understand that and know that in the end, it will affect your reader (maybe in a good way, maybe not).  But in the end, you need to be the one who is happy with your manuscript and to understand why you are making the choices you are when you are creating it.  

I was thinking about an image I saw recently of a Buddha and underneath it were the words, "Inquire Within."  I think much of that applies to poetry, creating a manuscript and art-- the poet in you knows the answers.  I'll give you some suggestions over the next couple months, but ultimately, only you know what is best.


More about compiling a manuscript in future posts...


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Victoria Chang interviews Allison Benis White

Self-Portrait with CrayonSelf-Portrait with Crayon by Allison Benis White

Double Thankfulness here-- Victoria Chang has been blogging a bit and does a great interview with Allison Benis White.

I just was handed this book by a friend so I was very excited to see an interview with the poet.  Yes, this is a beautifully written book and yes, I'd recommend it.   Oh and if you're interested in prose poems, it's the trifecta because the book is written entirely in prose poems.

(Note:  With the exception of Nin Andrews and a few other poets, I think sometimes the prose poem is used when the poet is tired and has just given up---um, I realize I'm talking about myself here and my a few of my own prose poems--but when a prose poem is good, you can feel it.  These poems, you can feel...)

Here's a bit from the interview about her writing process, something I always find fascinating--

VC: What's your writing process like?  Do you have any rituals?

ABW: I like to write in bed at night, in a spiral notebook, before I go to sleep. What I write is fairly stream of consciousness—I don’t worry about making sense or writing what anyone would consider poetry (actually I’d be pretty horrified if anyone ever read these notebooks—they’d think I was sentimental and deranged). Anyway, when I gather up enough material, I look for interesting phrases, sentences, images, relationships, etc., and then I work on the computer from there.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Blog Request: What Are Other Ways Besides Contests to Publish Your Poetry Collection? An interview with Jeannine Hall Gailey

This is a home in Seattle where the owner, an elderly woman refused to sell no matter how much they offered her (and I love that the big business had to build around her).  But it reminded me of a micropress or small press exist in a world of giant publishers.  Love them for their beauty and balloons...

I asked Jeannine Hall Gailey about micropresses as another way to be published besides contests.  

Her generous response is below.  If you are looking to be published, I definitely recommend reading my interview with Jeannine below...

JHG:   Thanks for asking! A lot of this information will be covered in more depth in the 2012 Poet's Market article on "When To Go Small: Targeting Micropresses and Small Presses" that I just turned in. 

I'm a big proponent of small presses because I believe this is the way that most poets, realistically, will be "discovered" - not through some big, expensive contest, but with some small press that happens to dig exactly the kind of poetry that that poet writes. 

It's more democratic, and I believe in giving back to these people who toil away for the love of literature. 

If you want to be published, you need to be aware of what's going on in the publishing world, and that there's a movement towards more diversity, more small/micropresses, more poets starting up their own presses doing one or two books a year. You need to be buying books from all kinds of publishers, not just from Norton or the big guys.  

(Note:  Bolded by Kelli because I think it's a hugely important point.) 

Now, to the questions...

KRA:   Tell me what the difference between a small press and a micropress.  Is there any?

JHG: Well, a micropress is a very small small press - I think there's an entry on Wikipedia I saw that defined "micropresses" as only having one or two people working for them, and only producing one or two books a year. But there are many small poetry presses that have two or three people working on them, and produce two or three books a year. I'd say Rebecca Livingston's No Tell Books is a micropress, and maybe Adam Deutsch's Cooper Dillon Books, but Kitsune Books might be considered a small press, because it's a slightly bigger operation. Still, there are no hard and fast rules.

KRA:  Your next book will be published by a micropress. Tell us a little about the press, your book and how the partnership between you came about.

JHG:   My first book, Becoming the Villainess, was published by a small press, Steel Toe Books, run by Tom Hunley, and my second book, She Returns to the Floating World, will be published (in July!) by Kistune Books, another wonderful small press, edited by Anne Petty and Lynn Holschuh. They do fiction and poetry, as well as pop-cultural criticism, and put out a handful of books a year. I know they're putting out at least one other book of poetry next year, by poet Helen Ruggieri.

I actually found them while I was researching another article for Poet's Market on speculative poetry (that article was in the 2010 edition, I believe.) I loved their name (since one of the main persona characters in my second book is a kitsune, which means fox-woman in Japanese.) And I did my research - I read a book or two that they had put out, followed them on Facebook and Twitter. It was actually their twitter feed than convinced me they were the right press for me - they would tweet about anime they liked, or J-pop, or teas...I mean, the editors and I had a lot of things in common. I had a really good feeling when I sent in my query, and a few weeks later, I had the good news!

KRA:   Are micropresses only for poetry? 

JHG:  Micropresses aren't only for poetry. Another press I covered for my Poet's Market 2012 article, Small Desk Press, does poetry, but also hybrid forms like short-short fiction collections. So fiction writers ought to think about this as well - it's a great opportunity for something a little edgy and strange to find a home with people who actually care about the books.

KRA:  What the pros and cons to a micropress that you haven't mentioned?

JHG:  I think the pros of working with a small press or micropress are that you will probably have a closer relationship with your editor(s,) the editors will think of you as more than just bottom-line business like a big publisher might, and they probably care quite a bit about what they put out, so they will invest in time helping make your book the best it can be. The downsides are probably all about volume; big presses might have more pull, more distribution, and more money for ads. Not neccessarily. In the world of poetry, let's face it, most publishers aren't getting out new poetry books into every Barnes and Nobles no matter who they are. And very few presses can afford to send poets on reading tours, that type of thing.

KRA:  How does one go about finding a micropress that fits their writing?

JHG:  The best way to find a micropress that fits your manuscript is to read widely and do your homework. Go to small press fairs, local arts festivals, fill up your tote at the AWP bookstore with small press works from places you haven't seen before. If you go to a reading and love a book, find out who's behind the book. Go on Facebook and twitter, look up their web sites and blogs, and read up on the people you want to read your work.

KRA:  Where can people find out more about your and your projects?

JHG:  Me and my projects? Well, they can keep track of me at my website,, and my blog, I'm also on Facebook and twitter (twitter handle is @webbish6) and I try to keep folks up to date through those channels. My second book is due out in July, the book should be available from Amazon, directly from Kitsune Books, and from fine smaller bookstores who don't mind placing an order. My first book, Becoming the Villainess, is available from Amazon and directly from Steel Toe Books (and same deal - if you can get your little bookstore to place an order for it, Tom keeps books in print, for which I am thankful.) I am thankful every time someone buys a book directly from the press - that's the best way to keep these wonderful little gems in business, is to buy as many books from them as you can afford.

KRA:  Thanks, Jeannine!  Great info for anyone who wants to publish a book and avoid poetry contests.  I so appreciate your time!


FOLLOW UP:  Sandra Beasley posted an incredible follow-up to this about what it's like working with a larger press and that some of the "perks" we think a larger press might have, may not necessarily be there.  Read her blog post here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Confession Tuesday

The Brown Hat by Henry Strater
1930, 33x21", Oil on canvas
OMAA Permanent Collection, Maine
© 2010 Oqunquit Museum of American Art

Dear Reader,

It's been one week since my last confession and one snowstorm I drove home from a poetry reading in, which brought me to this conclusion--  I was born to drive in the snow.

I confess I don't feel much has been going on in my life to confess about, but it's Tuesday, so I must come up with something.  Hmmm... 

To the confessional--

I confess last night I took a large pair of scissors and cut up my yearly posters from the last 10 poster nights and kept only my favorite images.   It felt good to keep only my favorites and discard anything that no longer appealed to me.

The image above, The Brown Hat by Henry Strater, is an absolute favorite of mine from my 2002 poster.  It was my center image.  I remember someone saying I liked it because it looked like me.  And I admit I can see the resemblance, I have her eyebrows.  Though I think it looks more like Tea' Leoni (I believe that's her name, she's married to the guy from The X-Files).


I confess I was surprised to find that 3 of my posters had images of Albert Einstein on them and I couldn't figure out what that meant-- an intellectual theme, a doing-your-own-thing theme, a bad-hair-day theme.

When I ask myself why the image of Albert Einstein resonates for me, I think it's for two reasons-- he appreciated the imagination and he was smart.  Two things I also appreciate in others.


I confess some of the images I kept might inspire poems.  But I confess further that I haven't been writing much (if at all) and I've been submitting my work less than that.

Much of my life since about December 15th has been focused on family things, details, tasks, chores, deadlines and other projects.  I no longer worry when I'm not writing, but I know I will.  There was a time when lack of writing time made me angry and resentful, now I realize that I can go without writing and it's okay-- my heart still beats, I can still find happiness and love in others--because I know I will be writing again soon.


I confess I was surprised to see that on the years before I lost my vision for 6 weeks due to optic neuritis, I had images on my poster of women all with things covering their eyes (from rose petals to cucumbers) and one drawing of a woman had no eyes.

I'm not saying I believe that these posters hold the magical power that "created" my loss of sight, but I do wonder if deep deep inside me I intuited something...  Or perhaps, it was just a coincidence, something I'm now drawing meaning and connection to based on a huge event in my life.  It's probably that but still, whenever I put an image of a woman on my poster, I make sure her eyes aren't covered.


I confess while I've changed some over the last ten years, I realize much of my goals are the same--live simply, be compassionate, stay organized, and write.

It makes me wonder if people *really* change?

Are our deepest beliefs, characteristics, and feelings still the same as they were many years ago?  From childhood?  I know I'm a much kinder and less selfish person than my 16 year old self, but I would think (hope) most people are.  I know some of me of changed, but I know there is still a part deep inside me that's quite the same tomboy who loved collecting rocks.  I still find beauty in rocks.

But maybe it's that my older self needs to realize that if I find I have a bad habit I want to change that things just don't go away overnight-- it's a series of small steps over a long time.

Whether I'm working towards living a certain way, it's not something that just happens in 21 days, but years of practice.  I guess part of me always believed we can change quickly, but change is much of a 5K event than a sprint. 

I know I stumble a lot and still have so much to learn.



Monday, January 17, 2011

Poster Night - Our 10 Year Celebration!

My Poster - not this blurry in real life...

Last night was the 10th anniversary of our Poster Night. You can read about last year's poster night here.

Since 2001 my same 4 friends have been meeting at my house sometime in January to make our yearly poster of the year.

Some make their poster with goals in mind, some just choose images from magazines that appeal to them, some do a little of both.  There is no wrong way to make a poster.

Basically, my friends arrive at 4ish (we started early thinking we'd end earlier, but we didn't end until midnight again.)  We have food and drink, we talk.  In celebration of our 10th year we opened a bottle of special champagne I had been saving and made a toast.

Then we sat down and cut images out of magazines for the next couple hours.  We talk as we do this, then sometimes it will get very quiet.  Once we have a nice pile of interesting images we each like, we grab a large piece of poster board and a glue stick and get to work.

I would say that of everyone's posters, mine is usually the one I like least.  It's weird to say since it's mine, based on my favorite images, but usually when we're done, I look at everyone's and they seem to make more sense and have more stronger themes and ideas in it.  I always like what others do with their images. It's kind of similar to liking someone's drawing better than your own.

The good news is that I usually wake up the next day and like my poster.

Once all the posters are done (around midnight apparently, no matter when start) we go around the table and talk about them.

I am usually clueless about mine.  Here's some things I said last night--

I have a fisherman in it because I appreciate hard work and well, I've always romanticized fishermen and their nets (no that is not innuendo).

I have a pretty file cabinet that looks like a piano to represent staying organized.

There's a woman sitting atop a triangle hedge and in the center, an elephant in front of a hazy Eiffel Tower.  I'm not sure why, but I like that it looks as if the elephant is smiling.

I like how the girl standing on "happiness" is looking inward instead of outward.

I have a bra made of a map, maybe that means travel.  Or support the world.

I have two people dancing the tango because once I am organized and the work is done, I can play.


Last year my theme was "Live on Less," this year, there is a definite focus on organization "Organize Your Life."  There's also a focus on working hard and oddly enough, butterflies.  

My writing always plays a role in it, but the last two years, I think it's been a little less for me.  I am not writing as much as I usually do and feel to be in a sort of transition, that "something's-a-brewing" feeling.  There are paintings and drawings of three people on my poster this year-- Albert Einstein, Jane Austen and Frida Kahlo.

Some people call these vision boards, but I just call mine my yearly poster.  I will spend the rest of the year looking at it more closely (I keep it in my writing studio) and seeing if I can draw any connections from my real life into my paper life.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Believe... MLK Jr. Day

“I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today’s motor bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will be proclaimed the rule of the land. “And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid.” I still believe that We Shall overcome!

“This faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom. When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, we will know that we are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born.”

(Excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr’s Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, December 10, 1964.)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Thankful Thursday...on Friday - Book Trailer by Sandra Beasley

Completely forgot to be thankful yesterday!

I'm thankful for this poet, Sandra Beasley  (and now memoir author) and her new book trailer:


Friday & Women who Love Poetry...

The lovely women I read to and talk with Thursday, January 13th

Above are some of the beautiful people who attended my reading at their retirement and assisted living residence.  My best friend from high school is a social worker here and I visit every so often to talk about poetry, writing, publication, and read some poems.

We classed it up a bit this time with wine (or white grape juice) and cheese, and the ladies were thrilled.

I always hope for audience participation as this generation knows a thing or two about poetry and many have memorized poems (one woman came up to the mic to share what she remembered from grade school).  And honestly, I am never disappointed with the humor and opinions from this group.

These ladies have the best stories and my favorite comment was from a delightful woman who said, "We had Carl Sandburg come to our school and he looked like a hobo, but when he recited 'Chicago,' we all wanted to become poets."

I tell you, that comment completed made my day.


Coming up in next couple of weeks, an interview with Jeannine Hall Gailey on micropresses and other ways to publish your mss.

See you next week!


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Request: What Are Your Favorite Contests to Submit your Poetry Manuscript to?

The Emily Dickinson Trophy, Of Course...

Here are some of my favorite poetry book manuscript contests (that require entry fees).

This list was made from the very top of my head and may be forgetting some good contests.  I'll include a note about any specifics about why I like the contest as well.

And a note on entry fees--
I know entry fees aren't fun and they can add up, but I have always viewed entry fees as a donation to my favorite small presses to keep them afloat for another year.

I admit, I didn't always see these fees that way, but now as an editor of a small, indie, non-profit press, I realize our yearly poetry contest helps us stay alive in the world each year, and I'm guessing these contest fees may also play an integral part to helping these presses continue to publish poetry.

This is why I suggest, only submit to presses you love and want to support.  If there's a press that brings you down because they only choose poets from the East coast and you're on the West, or they only choose men and you're a woman, or they don't respond to even let you know you've won (or not won!), etc., etc., don't support them.

Send your money to the presses you feel are doing the best work.

Also, I need to be quite honest about this as well-- I like presses based on their integrity (I realized this as I kept using that adjective to describe their editors).  I like many of these presses people and editors behind them, because of the work they do and their commitment to poetry.

Every press I've listed here may not be the best decision for you if you view poetry as a "career" and are a) looking to make a lot of money  b) want the highest most status-conscious prize available.

I choose these presses because I admire the press, the books, and the people behind the press.  These are people and places I'd want to work with and support (whether I had a book with them or not).  They are the places I'd submit to (and have) because these are presses I'd want to publish my book.  For me, that is what it comes down to.

With that said, here are my top picks, presses, and a few notes why--

White Pine Press Poetry Prize (deadline July-November):  This was the press that chose my book and over the last year and 3 months, my experience with them in publishing my book has been excellent. Dennis Maloney is the editor, who I've found be very supportive of his authors, and to have both integrity and kindness. Based out of Buffalo, New York, will publish poets from all over the US and world.


Pitt Press Agnes Lynch Starlett Poetry Prize (first book - Spring, I think) & Open Submissions for published poets in September/October:  Ed Ochester publishes 5 am (one of my very fav literary journals) and this press publishes so many of my favorite poets.  When I submitted to this press, Ed sent me a personal note saying he liked my work and to submit to 5 am.  This press has always been a favorite of mine.


Tupelo Press Dorset Prize (november):  $3000 cash prize and another favorite press of mine.  They publish Aimee Nezhukumatathil (Lucky Fish & her 2 other books), Ilya Kaminsky Dancing in Odessa, and Megan Snyder-Camp (The Forest of Sure Things), who I just read with. And Megan even had a CD of work that Tupelo did of her reading the whole book.  And their books are beautiful.   Actually, so far, all these presses produce beautiful books!


University of Wisconsin Brittingham and Pollak Poetry Prize - (September) -- Enter once for 2 prizes!  This is another favorite press with an editor I admire.  I have consistently enjoyed the books from this poetry prize, way back to Olena Kalytiak Davis' first book, And Her Soul Out Of Nothing (Brittingham Prize in Poetry).


National Poetry Series (january):   Despite the higher entry fee ($30), I like this contest because one entry gets you 5 chances at publication with 5 different judges.  I was a finalist here (and I can tell you I know absolutely no one who runs this series) and I found the person who contacted me was very helpful and kind, and I was impressed with them.  Now, while I didn't win, I still think it's a good contest because it opens your work up to 5 different judges with 5 different styles/choices/opinions.  And they have some impressive presses that will go on to publish your work if you're chosen (Last years publishers included: Publishers currently include HarperCollins Publishers, Coffee House Press, University of Georgia Press, Penguin Books, and Fence Books)


Crab Orchard Poetry Prize and Open Submissions:  Another favorite press and literary journal.  I've always been impressed with this press and this journal, and find that editors Jon Tribble and Allison Joseph have a lot of integrity and passion for the poetry world.  Some favorite collections from this press are Oliver de la Paz's   Names Above Houses (Crab Orchard Award Series in Poetry), Victoria Chang's Circle (Crab Orchard Award Series in Poetry), and Julianna Baggott's This Country of Mothers (Crab Orchard Award Series in Poetry).


Autumn House Press (June):  Another small press that publishes good books. My favorite being Nancy Pagh's No Sweeter Fat.  Nancy was chosen with no connection to the press or the judge, but based solely on the quality of her work.   I don't know too much about this press personally, but they are one I've been impressed with as an outsider looking in.


While not currently accepting submissions, a smaller indie press I'd recommend is Steel Toe Books.  My two biggest reasons are that I was an undergrad with Tom Hunley and he is  kind, honest, has much integrity, plus he has always carried a huge passion for poetry.  They've also published three favorite books of mine:  Jeannine Hall Gailey's Becoming the Villainess, Martha Silano's Blue Positive and Mary Biddinger's Prairie Fever.


Hope this helps if you decide to go the contest route.

My next blog request post will be for those of you who don't want to submit to poetry contests and will offer ideas on submitting to presses that don't have reading/contest/entry fees (or really discounted ones) as well as some info I've learned from Jeannine Hall Gailey on micro-presses.

Thanks for reading!  I'm hoping you're finding this info useful.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Washington State Poets: Call for Chapbook Submissions by Floating Bridge Press - Poetry!

This was the press that published my first book (aka chapbook) back in 2003.  

If you're a Washington State Poet, I highly recommend this--

For Immediate Release:

The 16th Annual Floating Bridge Press Poetry Chapbook Competition is open for submissions until February 16, 2011.  If you are a current resident of Washington State, you may submit a chapbook manuscript of up to 24 pages of poetry with a $12 entry fee.  The winner receives $500, a Seattle reading in September, and 15 copies of the prize-winning chapbook.  Our books are beautiful, archival-quality, perfect-bound, and collectable.   

Previous winners include Joannie Kervran Stangeland, Nance Van Winckel, Donna Waidtlow, Molly Tenenbaum, Bart  Baxter, Chris Forhan, Joseph Green, Kelli Russell Agodon, Michael Bonacci, Timothy Kelly, Annette Spaulding-Convy,  Holly J. Hughes,  Nancy Pagh, Katharine Whitcomb, and Laura Read.

Floating Bridge Press considers all individual poems for inclusion in our annual journal, Floating Bridge Review.

For complete guidelines and a look at our titles, please visit


How to Have More Time: Take a Break from Twitter & Facebook

So after I made my New Resolutions of only checking Facebook on Fridays, I find this article in one of the blogs I read (yes, I'm a little behind on some of my blog reading as you can see this is from December 7th!)

This is from Simple. Organized. Life:

Do you ever log onto Twitter or Facebook at odd times and still see the same people online?

If you are truly interested in simplifying your life, getting rid of all the physical “stuff” only goes so far if you are just filling up your brain with a constant stream of noise and clutter. You need some virtual space too, and I am not talking about the RAM in your computer.

Think you will miss too much by taking a day off? Try it, just once. Do your regular Twitter and Facebook stuff one day and then take the next day off. When you log back in the day after, I can guarantee you that you won’t have missed anything of any importance. In fact, I guarantee the same people will still be there talking about the same topics.

***While I think it's good for people to be checked in and not completely living in their own world, I do think there are certain activities that can rob us from our time.  And actually, they don't "rob" us, we voluntarily give our time away.

As I've said, this year I'm trying to make sure my actions and in sync with my priorities.  And losing some much needed writing time because I checked Facebook and got lost in someone's vacation photos at the Happiest Place on Earth, really isn't helping my writing life.  And it's funny because I actually like Facebook and do not plan to quit it because I like how it keeps me connected with friends, family and writers.  

I'll continue to keep you updated on how my week of Facebook Fridays is going (I was on Facebook Sunday for my bday, which was fun).  But so far, I'm really enjoying the Facebook break!


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Emily, a Red Sox Fan...

I just happened upon this image of my favorite poet wearing a hat for my favorite team.  Emily Dickinson is a Red Sox fan.  LOVE IT!


Confession Tuesday - The Year Older Edition

Dear Reader,

I am a year older since my last confession.  But a year wiser?  I'm learning towards... not really.  Maybe I should confess to let you know my many mistakes...

To the confessional--

I confess I think I am a young soul who will learning and relearning the same lessons over life.  While some people arrive in this world with an older, wiser spirit, I feel my spirit is reading The Archies comic books while everyone has moved on to War & Peace.

I confess I think I spend a lot of time reminding myself of things I thought I've learned.  For awhile I had the  Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz on a post-it note near my computer--
1. Be Impeccable with your Word
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
3. Don’t Make Assumptions
4. Always Do Your Best
****While I have these memorized, I constantly need to remind myself of them.  I have always wondered if there is one day I'll just be perfect enough to live without having to run my fingers through the notecards in my brain.
Of course, the other day, a friend told me that the Dalai Lama uses an exercise bike, so maybe we all have things we need to work on.
I confess in most important situations and probably all vacations, I have chosen the wrong shoes.
I confess I was excited to see I could write 1-11-11 on all my correspondence today.  These kind of dates make me want to write checks.  Though for the last eleven days I've been writing 2010.  Oh yes, and I confess, I'm the  person in front of you who still writes checks.  (I have never felt comfortable with debit.)
I confess much of my birthday was spent reading Facebook wishes.  THIS is what Facebook was made for-- Birthdays!   Forget every negative thing I've said about Facebook, it makes up for threefold with birthday greetings.
I confess one day I hope to find that I truly am wiser, and not just a wise-arse.  
I confess I wasn't upset about turning 42 and haven't worried about getting older or what they call "fading looks."  I wasn't really a cute child and was never complimented on being pretty, so for me, I have never had "good looks" to lose and feel I've only become better looking--whether it's true or not.  (Who knew there was a huge benefit of being homely as a kid!?)
It's absolutely weird how that happened, but I think there's a part of me that likes myself better.  It's not because I'm smarter, new & improved, or actually better looking, but I think as I've grown older, so has the part of me who looks at the world with compassion.  That person now looks in the mirror and sees she is nowhere near perfect, but thinks hey, she's trying her best-- as really, I think we all are.
I confess a friend of mine has this has her signature quote and every time I read it, it makes me feel good--
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.  ~Plato

I think when we wake in our worst moods, we should remember this for ourselves as well.


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