Friday, September 28, 2012

Honored to be part of Facing Feminism: Feminists I Know

I learned it will also be part of an upcoming exhibition in Minnesota.

To learn more about this project, you can LIKE it on Facebook here.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

What Are You Thankful For?

I've had a lot going on these past two months and while I am holding my stress in my shoulderblades, I'm happy.

Here are some things I am thankful for--

1)  People who smile and say, "Good morning."

2)  Big dogs.

3)  Being able to take a hot shower every single day. (I'm still amazed that I can turn a knob and get hot water.  It's kind of fantastic.)

4)  Total Raisin Bran for breakfast.

5)  The luxury of buying a full bag of Ghirardelli chocolate chips just to snack on.

6)  All the things that I can do online that I used to have to drive to do.

7)  Taking on too much. - It makes me prioritize my writing and what's important because there's less time to slack off.

8)  Foghorns and trains.

9)  Family, friends, and pets-- all those heartbeats that matter.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Confession Tuesday

Dear Reader,

After two weeks, I'm finally well.

It wasn't even a "real" illness where you could call it something.  Our community was calling it "the crud," which basically was just a bad cold where I had no energy and had to take a two-hour nap after going to the post office because I was so worn out.

Anyway, I'm better. Finally better and ready to start my fall writing life!

To the confessional--

I confess after I finish this confession, I'm going to turn off the internet (yes, I love how it seems I full control of whether the internet is working or not) and write.

From 7:45 am - noon, I have full period of emptiness, of no responsibilities, no commitments, nothing.

When I have blocks of time like these, I hate to waste them.  They come and go too quickly.


I confess my favorite TV shows right now are Big Bang Theory, Project Runway & Conan.

For a long time, I didn't watch TV.  I was also one of those people who also liked to point that out.  "I don't have cable," I'd say as if that meant that my mind was a little more cleansed from all the garbage in the world, that it was pure poet mind and I was above all the TV watching folks who wasted their hours watching TV while I picked daisies in the field thinking about my work.

What I never really realized was what a jerk I sounded like.

What a way to end a conversation, "Did you see  ____________?" a kind person would ask me.  "I don't have cable," my quick and standard reply.  Instead of, "No, I didn't. Tell me what you found interesting about it..."

I think as humans *ego* gets in our way more than we know.

When people don't like us, they're jerks.
When we feel insecure about one thing (in my case, if I was "smart" enough), we boost something else to prove that we are.

It takes some actual thinking to act with compassion and to not try to act from ego.

We all want to be loved and accepted. We all want to be seen for our best selves, but I would love to live in a world where most people considered what they are doing in life because they really want to or because of ego, and see how we all turn out.


I confess I'm currently hooked on Ghirardelli chocolate chips.  Basically, I buy a bag of these and eat them all day long.  

I knew I was in over my head when I found myself moving them from our candy drawer (yes, I have a candy drawer because I love sweets) into the drawer next to it so no one else would find them.

Next thing you know, I'll have stashes of them throughout the house.  Thankfully, it's fall, so they won't melt and reveal themselves to some unsuspecting family member.


I confess I moved a bookcase and found a ridiculous about of dust, dog hair, and about 12 small toy mice I had been buying my cats.  

I do not even want to know what's behind our refrigerator.  I am more and more becoming a believer of "ignorance is bliss."


I confess I constantly misspell refrigerator as "refridgerator."  In my world, there should be a "d" in it because we say "It's in the fridge."

For a long time I could not remember how to spell restaurant and souvenir.  Actually, I just misspelled "souvenir" as "souviner" as I typed it.

I think the worst word to misspell is someone's name.  If you can ever avoid doing that, DO!


I confess I've rambled on and it's now 7:43 am.  Time to write.


Monday, September 24, 2012

When is a Reading Worth Doing?

Jeannine Hall Gailey asks this question on her blog today and I think for poets and writers, it's a great question-- When is a Reading Worth Doing?

First, I'll give you the lowdown-- Jeannine and I live in the Seattle area and that means immediately, we're both up against traffic and parking.  Unless you're in a real live bookstore in a strip mall, parking around here sucks, um, I mean, is difficult.

Second, I added a little extra challenge to the mix when I decided the city was getting to busy and moved to a location in Western Washington that required either a ferry ride or a very long bridge to get to.  So, when I'm asked to read someone in Seattle, I immediate have to add $28 (a round trip ferry ticket) into the mix, plus gas, plus snacks (always add in snacks).

But this is us.  These are the details of our lives.

How do you know a reading is worth doing?  Below are a few questions to ask yourself before saying yes.

1)  How did you feel immediately when asked and would you do the reading if it was in 4 days?

****The reason I ask this is as humans we tend to put off what we don't like.

If you're asked to do a reading and you find yourself scheduling it a year in advance, you may not want to do the reading.    When that year approaches and you may find yourself feeling exactly like what you did when you were asked, "Thankful to have been asked, but really not wanting to do it."  If this is how you're feeling, then you need to say no.

You do *not* want to be one of those poets who says yes, then cancels.

That is the worst case scenario.  Canceling is bad on everyone, so if you're not liking the reading offer now,  you won't like it in 10 months.

2) How much is it going to cost to get you there?

*******Okay, this is something I think about a lot more these days due to ferry fares and gas.  Am I going to spend $90 to drive somewhere to read to three people?  If the answer is yes, then I have to say no.  Here's why--

a)  I don't have enough money to do those kind of readings.
b) I don't have the emotional strength to do those kind of readings.
c) I don't have the time to take away from my other priorities to do those type of readings.

If you're a poetry host and you know your readings don't get a lot of people in July, don't ask a poet who has to travel far to be your July's disheartening and expensive.

If you're a poet, ask the person who asked you to read, "How many people normally show up for this reading?" before saying yes.  Or ask for a 1) place to stay  2) stipend/honorarium  3) expenses covered or 4) all of the above.

3)  Are you a newer poet/author and *need* readings?

Basically what I'm saying here is, do you need practice and/or want some experience reading? Or do you have a new book and need to get it out in the public?  If the answer is yes, consider doing the reading if it's not too far away or too much out of pocket (see question 2).

You may not want to do the reading because you're new at it...this is *not* a reason to say no.  In fact, this is a reason to say yes because it will help you get better.

When I was a younger poet, I did readings all over the place (thankfully, gas was 89 cents a gallon, so I could), but these small or large or crazy or drunkpeople or nonpoetryreaders or empty bookstore readings allowed me to gain confidence and become a much better reader.

It allowed me not to stress about a reading, but to create interesting readings because I did so many and learned from them.

Readings can be a lot of fun and the *only* thing that helps take away "fear of reading in public" is reading in public.

New poets and authors should take more readings just to get a feel and understanding of how to do a reading well.

4)  Does it make your heart sing?

This is my Mary Oliver way of asking, "What does your inner voice say?  Am I excited about this reading?"

We each have different places and occasions where we want to read--know them.

I love to read on important event days in my life-- Sept 15th (the anniversary of my father's death), National Poetry Month, special events (like my upcoming Oct 6th reading in the Alexis Hotel where I'll read in my pajamas with 3 other people).

I want to be part of the unexpected.
I want to read to people who want to hear me.
I want to have fun and help others have fun too.

I don't just want to read to hear myself again.

As an introvert, readings don't invigorate me, they tire me out--so when I say yes, I want to give my best and also want my best.

We each need to know our reasons for wanting to read and to know they are all valid.

If you get an emotional high that you can't explain from reading, take all you can because it's cheaper than therapy!

If you don't and reading make you tired, choose the best ones.

If you're afraid to read, then maybe read a little more, push yourself out of your comfort zone, see what happens.

But just know why you're saying yes, and when you say yes, keep your word.

And if by chance, you have to change a reading date or cancel, when you contact the host, have one or two friends as backup people s/he can have read in your place.  No one wants to be left with a blank space on the schedule because you cancelled.  Mind the gap, as they say in London.  Fill up the space you left.


Final thoughts--

I will say, many times when we're asked to read we don't know what to say... that's okay.

Tell the person, let me think about it and get back to you.


Let me check my schedule and get back to you...

If you look at your schedule and think, "Wow, I have a lot going on that week," either ask for another date when you're not so busy, or say "no" if you think you're going to feel overwhelmed and want to cancel.

Be true to your own self and feelings.  But be honest.  Don't just say yes because you think you have to or you felt honored to be asked or you didn't want to hurt the person's feelings or you thought you might feel better about it later or because of ego.

Say, "Let me check on that and get back to you..."  Sleep on it.  Ask yourself the next day how you feel about it and if you can afford it, and then reply.

It's okay to say "maybe" and follow up.

And learn from your mistakes.


Added Note 9/25/12:

Martha Silano just commented about asking for a stipend, which is a great idea and made me think of this my own rules--

1)  If I'm asked to read on this side of the water where I can drive an hour or less to get to my reading destination (and do not need a ferry), then I say yes.

2)  If I'm asked to read at a place that requires ferry travel, then I try to get a stipend to cover expenses.

3)  Because I hate driving/traveling, anything that takes over 2 hours to get to, needs to have some sort of stipend/honorarium/expense coverage.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Social Media Considerations for Writers & Poets

A few weeks ago I did this post, Social Butterfly: How to Deal with Social Media as a Writer. 

Today I'm going to follow up with what I've learned with the different social media outlets and how they can help or hurt you as well as how to stay consistent.


Ah, Facebook.  My love/hate relationship with social media begins with you.

After being talked into joining Facebook by Jeannine Hall Gailey (I was convinced it was just teenagers and pedophiles--that's My Space, she said...)  I started out okay.  Only my real friends, family and poets I knew from the community and online were friending me.  I knew everyone.

Then once in a while, I'd get a request from a writer who knew one of my writer friends, but I didn't really know her/him, but I'd say yes.  The Facebook kicked in, more and more requests were coming, I was feeling overwhelmed with saying yes or no to people.

I hated having photos of my Christmas morning up for people I didn't know personally. I felt as if strangers were looking in my living room window staring at my in my PJs, knowing what my family looked like, what we were having for breakfast, how many cats I have (3, if you're curious), and having way too much information about my private life.  

I realized with Facebook is that I hated my family/private life merging with my writing life.

I first tried "privacy settings," which was a pain and not very secure because if you forget one person, or don't have them on a "list," they had full access to all my info and photographs.

Finally, I just said, Screw this.  Instead of deleting my page, which was my first thought,  I started a Facebook page where I would only contact my real friends and family.  I would have a private page where I could post that I saw a bear in my neighborhood, post photos of myself camping wearing an incredibly unflattering socks with sandals combo, have my phone number listed in case one of my neighbors, friends, or family needed to get ahold of me, post my address in case someone wanted to add my to their Christmas card list without feeling as if I am giving away too much information so I'm an easy target for identity theft.

And this is what allowed me to exist in Facebookland.

So here's my trick #1 -- I have two Facebook pages -- one for my writer/public self and one private account where I only am friends with people I know and have met in person.

It is amazing the freedom from worry this gave me.

I can now post family photos or private info on my Facebook page without worrying what info I'm giving out to people I don't know.  I have my privacy settings to the max and only have family and real friends on this account.

What I've Learned on Facebook:

1)  Use the writer name people know you by and try to keep your writer or personal Facebook account & Facebook page consistent.

Listen to me, but don't learn from my actions because I did not do that well.

You see, my Facebook page where people can "friend" me is: because I was one of those geeks who was online at the specific time when Facebook added page addresses trying to get "kelli" - what I really should have tried to get was "Agodon" or "kelliagodon."

However, that said, this worked out for me because I started a Facebook page specifically for my writing and "Agodon" was free.  So I have  as my main Page address which is good because my main website is:

So -- Figure out how you want to be found by your readers and fan and keep it simple and consistent.

For example: If your webpage is: then your Facebook Page should be and maybe the Facebook account where people friend you can be  (trying to keep it stuff).

Also, if you don't have two accounts and you're giving people you don't know access to your page, use privacy settings so all your personal info isn't public including your Anniversary date and maybe links to your kids' pages.  You need to do what makes you feel comfortable.

If you realize if you're adding people to your personal Facebook page and they only know you as a writer and you're writing all sort of rants, snarky, or posting photos you've taken of yourself in a bathroom, that can be a turn-off for some.  So if you accept the reading public onto your page, try to keep it fun, but somewhat professional.

Personally, I love seeing the behind-the-scenes lives of my favorite writers I'm friends with on Facebook.  But I don't need a bizallion photos of them making ducklips or a lot of intimate posts that make me feel as if I'm lurking outside their bedroom window.   Mostly though, it's been fun to see how different writers share on Facebook and have mostly made me feel more connected to them then less.

Also, do not post anything on Facebook that you wouldn't want your mom, prospective employer, next lover, spouse, child, child's friends' parents or teachers, or basically *entire world* to see because really, Facebook is not private.  Anything can be downloaded by a "friend" and then make the rounds.

Please know, this isn't to scare you because honestly, I believe people are good, and well, there's so much on the internet, I really doubt that photo of you with your lipstick in your bra at a party because you were trying to recreate that Molly Ringwald scene from Breakfast Club will go viral, just know, if you post it, anyone can see it.

Other thoughts--

* Share posts on other writers, not just always yourself.  Tag writers in posts you write about them so they get some spotlight on their page too.

* Use the cover page portion (the thing everyone hated) to let others know your writer self.  I have my corona typewriter as my cover.

* Have fun & play around with your profile pic to keep things interesting, but mostly keep a more polished/artsy/interesting photo as a profile pic.  No self-portraits of you with your iPhone in the bathroom.

* Show something about yourself that's important to you-- say a literary vacation, a favorite activity (for me, mountain biking & paddleboarding), things that would be humorous or interesting to other writers and readers.

* Be yourself, but a better, kinder, version of yourself (stay out of fights and flamewars, no one ever wins these things).  The best motto I've heard about crazy threads on Facebook: When in doubt, stay out.



I have admitted Twitter took me a long time to learn.  Plus, I hate that some person just decided that 140 characters was the max, I think it should be 150 or 160 characters, but that's just me.

Same rules apply on Twitter, except Twitter is 100x more public than Facebook.  Remember this.  Anyone with a Twitter account can search for keywords in your Tweet.

If you're on Twitter, chose as SHORT of a name that is consistent with your writer's name as possible.

For example, in the best of world, I'd be "agodon" - except that was taken, so I'm  - which is fine and good but takes up 5 more characters every time someone refers to me.

Thankfully my full name didn't fit when I signed up or I would have been kellirussellagodon as I had no idea that having a short Twitter name was better (thank you extra L in Russell).

Most of the short names are gone, so use your first and last name, or first initial and last name are good choices.

You also can upload your own images so if someone goes to your page, they can see the cover of your book, something to do with writing, anything so they know they may want to connect with you because you're a writer too.



This is your most important presence on the web.

Again, make your website address easy to remember.  I'm 

Before you choose your website, imaging saying a thousand times to folks. Consider what it sounds like and if it's confusing.  I always think of those NPR ads where they have to spell out the website because someone got KreaTive with their spelling.  Like pronounced "" so they have to say Q West dot com.

So if you're being creative and thinking "" is the best website name for a writer ever--remember, every time you tell someone that name you're going to have to spell out "write" or say "Write, as in writer" otherwise, you may have a number of people going to ""

As with Twitter names, shorter, simpler, easy-to-remember, web addresses are better.

And always try to go with your published name.  It's just easier and then you can put anything that connects with you (such as your own press, a writer's group or event you organize) as one of your website pages.

Again, we're in the K.I.S.S. mode, Keep It Simple, Sweetie.


Linked In--

Because Linked In is a professional outlet, keep it all professional here.  Professional name.  Professional photo. Professional info.  This is not Facebook, don't ever confuse the two.

Use your published writer name.

Use it to find jobs or offer jobs.  A strong resource for professionals.



If you chose to have a blog, keep it updated (at least once or twice a month so it doesn't look abandoned) and again, use a name that connects to your writer's self.

I am not an example of this.  My blog was for about 5 years, then I had a case of "online shy" and deleted it.  Thankfully, I still "own" the name so if you go there, there's a link to my new blog.

My blog should really be at agodon.blogspot and not at but I decided it was too late to turn back because everyone has my linked at this address.

If you're starting a blog, do it under your writer name.  Think about your other sites-- website, Facebook, Twitter, and try to make it consistent.  You see my message here-- keep it simple and consistent.  Make it easy for people who want to find you, find you.

Also, I've heard is better than blogger.  So you may want to check that out. I've never used it, so I'm not sure, but I've heard it can also host your webpage and you can get everything in one place.



If you want people/readers/the public to see the photos you post on Instragram, use your writer name, otherwise, use a nickname and keep it private-- you can do that.  You can choose to "Not allow followers" - I have one account like this and one with followers.

Mostly now, I'm getting tired of making all my photos look retro and weirded out, so I haven't been using it much.  I keep thinking my daughter will grow up and and ask, "How come for 2 years all my childhood photos were faded, square, and have weird edges around them?"  Yes, I think we will all ask that.


Tumblr / Pinterest --

If you choose to use these and want it public, use your writer name.  If you want to keep it on the down-low, use a nickname and connect it to an email account that isn't public.


So there we are.

The most important things to remember are:

1)  On the internet, everything, (including emails) are not private.  Never forget that.

2)  The KISS technique:  Keep It Simple, Sugarbeep. (Or sweetie, but sugarbeep is a favorite name of mine.)

3)  Be consistent with all your social media sites if you want to be found.  If you don't, use nicknames and personal non-public email accounts.  (You should always have an email account no one contacts you on, just in case you want to create a private profile somewhere.)

4)  Decide before joining or creating any of these accounts, how much you want to share with people you don't know.

Open, optimistic people are happy to share photos of their kids, family, location, inside of their homes, without worrying who is seeing them.  Introverted, worriers like myself, tend to want to keep a few boundaries up.

Both ways are fine, just know your own personality level, so you don't freak out when you realize you just posted a photo of yourself in your cutey pajamas to two-thousand of your not-so-closest friends.

5)  Be your best internet self by being kind, forgiving (people make huge online mistakes daily and sometimes you end up included in them-- remember that photo of you in high school doing something you're not so proud about now? -sorry, your friend just tagged you in it), and keep it fun.

No one likes an internet whiner or someone who only posts boring information about themselves.  Or someone who acts like a 1) victim  2) martyr  3) bore  4) curmudgeon  5) _________________ insert your favorite adjective of people who annoy you here.

6)  Don't always be online.

Sometimes I wonder how some writers have time to write as it seems they are always updating their Facebook post or twitter feed.  Be someone who also lives offline and enjoy that.

Be the person you hope shows up at the party, not the person who arrives early, leaves late, and eats all the cocktail weenies.


Hope these ideas help you with your social self.

Let me know if you have any other questions I can answer or offer my most humble opinion.  Happy Socializing, Butterflies.


Because You Asked... Thankful Thursday

Here are a few people who asked me to highlight their projects.
I am thankful for other creative people who do good work in the world.

Here are a coupe for you to check out--

Contemporary Literary Horizon:  An independent, bilingual and multicultural magazine of contemporary culture and spirituality

Joy's blog:  Coffee with Leonard Cohen which mixes words with images.

And Carlos Andrés Gómez created this: Vote For Them --

Vote for Them" - Written and performed by Carlos Andrés Gómez - Learn more about him here-

I'm so impressed (and thankful) how so many people are adding their art to the world.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Confession Tuesday... The Writing Life Continues Edition

Yoshino Cherry Tree in Autumn.

Dear Reader,

It has been a week and an ongoing cold since I've last written.

I returned home from Poets on the Coast, inspired and strong.  I went for a 13 mile mountain bike ride, felt incredible, but kept having what I was a bad allergy attack, then wham, the next day I'm down for the count.  A bad virus that has been with me since last Tuesday.  Way too long to feel bad and have no energy.

That said, from my bed and laptop, I've been getting things done.  But what do I really want to do?  Write. Return to my writing life already in progress...  So with that, let's head to the confessional so I can tell you what I'm doing, how I'm feeling, and maybe inspire you to connect with your writing self because I believe the fall is a magical time...

To the confessional--

I confess September begins my writing life.

My daughter returns to school.  The weather whispers cool.  The leaves begin to change and all I want to do is listen to Everything But the Girl's Language of Love (I confess I'm listening to it as I type this).

Normally by this time, my office is clean, my writing studio has blue hydrangeas in it with a bowl of nonpareils.  But because of this cold, papers, books, life is all over the place.

But I'm healing and I'm scheduling writing days on the calendar.  And once they are scheduled, I can't change them.  It's a rule.  A writer's rule.  Put your writing first or it will elude you.  It will be the cat you can never get back in the house.  It will be the bird that circles, but never lands.  It will be the cloud that you will never touch.

Writing must be a priority or you will lose it.  You will lose.


I confess I left Poets on the Coast very inspired and with the urge to write.
Meeting other writers and artists is one of the easiest ways to be inspired.

I also left with a huge realization that I want a cool pencil case!


I confess I've gone back to organizing my time by Focus days, Admin days & Fun/Spirit Days.

Focus days:  I write.

Admin days: I do all the stuff I have to do--pay bills, run errands, submit, paid work--to have time to write.

Fun/Spirit days: I do all the things that fill me up or that I want to do-- hang with the family, go to an art gallery, read, sit and watch the world go by.


I confess there's a concern I now have on my mind that has nothing to do with poetry, but with being a home owner in a rural community.

Basically, our home was built near/on a county easement and if they expand the road to make it wider, we could lose a good portion of our garden, my yoshino cherry tree (see page 37 in Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room) and possible, our garage. (Oh I wish I were kidding!)  Anyway, we've had a lot of unexpected expenses in the last year, so we can't afford for this if it happens.

So if you are the praying type or the meditating type or the type that sends good thoughts-- if you could add my family and I to your prayers and thoughts, especially regarding this project, that our home, garden, driveway, and garage will not be affected by whatever happens.  Thank you.


I confess I believe in prayers and good energy.  And many times they are what keep me sane.


I confess while the possibility of wider road is a kind of dark cloud I'm trying not to think about and hope for the best (--um, I remind myself that FEAR stands for Future Events Appearing Real), I'm actually thankful for my life, my family and my friends.

Thankful for what I do have, thankful for what they can't touch, thankful for people, not things.  And I can take a nod from poet Mizuta Masahide-- if our garage goes, I'll have a better view of the moon.

Original Haiku--

Barn's burnt down – 
I can see the moon.

17th Century samurai and poet Mizuta Masahide 


Life, it all depends how you look at it.



Friday, September 14, 2012

Susan Rich Reflects on Organizing our Writing Retreat @SusanRichpoet

The Sylvia Beach Hotel

I've just returned from an amazing weekend-- Poets on the Coast: A Writing Retreat for Women where I'm a Co-Director with Susan Rich.

The weekend is truly amazing and I left feeling inspired by the other women I met as well as from the location--the Sylvia Beach Hotel, an incredible literary-themed hotel on the Oregon Coast.

Susan Rich wrote a fantastic response to it on her blog, The Alchemist's Kitchen, entired "What I Learned as a Co-Director of Poets on the Coast."

Here's a link to that blog post.

I'll post more about it, but read Susan's reflections about organizing a retreat and what we loved about it and what she learned.

Kelli & Susan in front of Sylvia Beach & James Joyce. 2012


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Need a Book Recommendation? WA State Book Awards Winners & Finalists! @marthasilano @

Every year our state celebrates the best books of the year.  

The Washington State Book Awards are a prestigious award for authors in our state, being named a Finalist is almost as good as being named the winner.  The competition is tough and to be chosen for it is a huge accomplishment!

Congrats to the winner (Christine Deavel, who is the co-owner of Seattle's Poetry Only bookstore, Open Books) and to all the finalists.

if you've been looking for a new poetry book to buy, here's a great list to start out your autumn reading!


  • "Woodnote" by Christine Deavel, of Wallingford in Seattle (Bear Star Press)

Poetry Finalists:

You can read the full list of all genres here.



Thankful Thursday: Interview with Writer Brenda Miller

THE PEN & THE BELL: Mindful Writing in a Busy World

Authors: Brenda Miller & Holly Hughes


Interview with co-author, Brenda Miller:

1.  Brenda, congratulations on your new book, The Pen and the Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World (Skinner House Books, 2012), which you co-authored with Holly Hughes!  I’ve been reading about it and it looks to be a very inspiring book for poets and writers.  I’m curious, how did this book come into being?

 Holly and I were both interested in how to bring the contemplative aspects of writing into the classroom. We both teach classes that incorporate centering meditation practice with writing, as a way to help our students deal with the stresses of life. Holly sat in on one of my classes at the Rainier Writing Workshop Low-residency MFA program, and we began talking about creating an anthology of our favorite contemplative poetry and prose. That idea expanded into our personal experience with the topics. We decided to spend our sabbaticals (we both had sabbaticals at the same time, a lucky coincidence) corresponding with one another about contemplation and writing, just to explore the topics. But we enjoyed writing the stories in the letters so much, they actually became the rough draft of the book. We revised a lot with editorial feedback to shape it into is final form. 

2.  I’ve also co-edited a poetry anthology (Fire On HerTongue) with a good friend and I found it very rewarding as well as a lot more fun.  What did you like about working with another writer?  Did you and Holly Hughes discover your own individual strengths while creating this book?  What were the challenges you faced when putting this book together?

 It was so much fun! The best part was the writing of the letters; I always knew where to start! The simple phrase "Dear Holly...." became like a mindfulness bell, immediately putting me in both a contemplative and writing frame of mind. As we corresponded throughout the year, the vagaries of life (loss, joy, holidays, family, pets) all became part of our collaborative story. Having another person to respond to is a great gift for a writer.  I think we brought different strengths to the project, different backgrounds--Holly has lived an amazingly diverse life and is a wonderful poet; I brought my experience as an essayist and my obsessions with the body--so the resultant writing has many layers to it.
The more difficult part came with revision: letting go of the letters to create the book the way it needed to be. I tend to make revision decisions pretty quickly (maybe too quickly); Holly was a bit more thoughtful about it!

3.  Who do you feel this book was written for?  What reader would most benefit from this book?

 Because the book is written as a conversation—with stories from everyday life and examples of a wide range of readings that illustrate our points—I really do think it can be for anyone who is interested in allowing space for creativity in his or her daily life. 

4.  What is your biggest challenge as a writer yourself?
 Allowing space for creativity in my daily life! (I need to read my own book....)

5.  Do you have a favorite section or part of The Pen and the Bell?
 I think my favorite sections have to do with our dogs (Abbe and Fox), and the chapter on how doing daily chores can be an opportunity for mindfulness. I also really like the last full chapter of the book, where we apply this work to the greater work of the world. 

6.  Is there anything I haven’t asked, that you think would be helpful for readers to know about your new book?

I think it would be a great book to read/use with others. Writing can be such a solitary act, in a world that isolates us in our busyness. This book provides a great framework in which to commune with others in the creative life.

The book also continues a life online, with our interactive website We try to post a new "letter" with a writing/contemplation prompt every week, as well as interesting news and tidbits from around the web. 

Thanks for the great conversation Kelli!

Other info:

You can purchase the print version of The Pen & The Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World Here


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Confession Tuesday: 9/11 Edition #343

Thank you, firefighters.

 Number of firefighters and paramedics killed on September 11, 2001: 343.


Thursday, September 06, 2012

An Unique Offering for Seattle & Northwest Bookgroups: A Poet at Your Table #books

I'm really excited to announce that I'm part of this new organization, A Poet at Your Table, in cooperation with Seattle Arts & Lectures and Crab Creek Review.

Our mission is to bring poetry (and poets!) to local book groups in Washington State.  

There is no cost to the book group and the person who calls and organizes a book group with A Poet at Your Table receives a free book of poems from the poet who will visit.

Also, the entire group can buy season tickets to the Seattle Arts & Lecture Poetry Series at 15% off.

It's a win/win/win/win/win/win situation.  Poetry, poets, readers, book groups, literary journals, SAL-- we all win.

If you're interested, email poetatyourtable (at)  

and read the info below for FAQs and even more info on this new opportunity.

A New Opportunity
for Local Book Groups 

In cooperation with Seattle Arts and Lectures Poetry Series and Crab Creek Review

It’s one thing to enjoy an evening out to hear a poet perform in a large auditorium, but what if you could listen to a poet talk about her work in the comfort of your own home? Seattle boasts an impressive group of local poets who want to connect with readers and book groups in our area.

Join our first annual A Poet at Your Table season and receive an evening with an award-winning Seattle area poet each time your book group chooses to read a book by one of our writers. A poet will visit your book group to discuss the process of creating her book, read poems, answer questions. We will design a presentation that best fits your needs. In addition, your group may receive discounted tickets to Seattle Arts and Lectures.

Featuring Poets:

Kelli Russell Agodon
Elizabeth Austen
Kathleen Flenniken
Katharine Whitcomb

Susan Rich
Annette Spaulding-Convy
Jeannine Hall Gailey
Sheila Bender

Frequently Asked Questions:

1) What do we have to do to prepare for A Poet at Your Table ?
 ~  Besides reading the chosen poetry book, no other preparation needed.  
     Whatever your book group usually does is fine. Just let us know what works for you. 

2) How far in advance do we need to book our poet?
~ A month in advance would be great but you can contact us on shorter notice and we’ll try!

3) Do you have a web site where we can review the books and learn about the poets?
~ We encourage you to check out the websites of our eight poets and see which of us seems the best match for you.  Our websites are:,,,,,,

4) Our book group is in Kitsap County — is that too far for A Poet at Your Table?
~  We have poets throughout Washington! We will do our best to match a poet with your location.

5) Can we choose more than one poet to visit?
~   Absolutely! You could invite two poets to come on the same evening or one poet per month.

6) What if the poet we want is busy? It is true; we  teach, we travel, and we write.  We ask that you give us your first, second, and third choices when you contact us. This way we have a better chance of finding the right poet for you on the night of your group.

For more information please contact:


Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Book Reviews, Giveaways & More: What's Coming Up on My Blog for Sept/Oct

Thank you for letting me indulge in my out-of-touch summer where blogs and poetry and writing were just oddly-shaped I barely remembered passing by.

Now it's September and my writing life begins again.


Here's some previews of what I'll be having on my blog in the coming two months:

An interview with the incredible writer, Brenda Miller, who just co-authored, The Pen & The Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World, with writer and poet, Holly Hughes.

Book Reviews! Including:  

Michael Collier's An Individual History (poems)

Christopher Johnson's Microstyle: The Art of Writing Little

Janna Malamud Smith's An Absorbing Errand: How Artists and Craftsmen Make Their Way to Mastery 
(I just received this and am very excited to read it, but will probably post the review in October)


A link for Northwest folks to win 2 free tickets to Dean Young's first reading since having a heart transplant.

A giveaway from the coolest store:  The Shabby Apple.  A fantastic store for cool clothing for creative individuals.

And we'll look at an amazing item from a women-run business,  {R}evolution Apparel -- The Versalette!

I recently purchased their main item that was a Kickstarter project, The Versalette, a garment you can wear as a scarf, shirt, skirt, poncho, use as a purse, and about 12 more other uses.  There will also be a hilarious story of my first attempt to use one and how now it's become an item I love.

So that's what's coming up for you this fall, along with Confession Tuesday and maybe a Thankful Thursday or two.

Thank you all for reading and checking in here.  I so appreciate knowing I'm not just writing this all to myself.


Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Confession Tuesday: The End of Summer Edition

Dear Reader,

Some of you may be mourning the end of summer, or maybe you're like me and see it as a new beginning.

I confess that while I love summer, I love fall more.  Fall begins my writing life again.  Fall feels like going back to school, starting something new--new projects, new work, new dedication to the writing world I set aside in the summer.

This summer was slightly different--normally, I don't work with other poets in the summer, but this summer I did (I'm still working to pay off my Mac Laptop which you may remember, I poured a pot of coffee on last spring and now cover expenses for the iPhone I lost in the Pacific Ocean-- I'm noticing a bad trend here with liquids and electronics and me.)

And here's the thing--working with other poets and writers in the summer made me feel a little less disconnected with my writing life.  Even though I wasn't writing myself, I was helping those who were and that felt good.


I confess today will be the first day in my writing shed in a long time.

My writing shed (aka House of Sea) is a place away from the regular world of bills and chores. I step outside, just a few feet from my house and I'm transported to a mini-retreat.

The work I do out there is all creative and all for myself.  It's where new poems come, where essays are revised, and where I can sit in a chair and read, daydream, and even nap.

I call it my writing shed because it really is just that, a shed from Lowe's that we had electricity run to and I use a space heater to warm it.  I painted the inside warm colors and everything about it plays to my creative vision and life.

If you don't have your own writing space, inside the house or out, I suggest you make one.

All you need is a desk, a chair and a corner.

Extra points if you have a door, just make sure to include a Do Not Disturb Sign - Writer at Work!


I confess I think about how to live a good life a lot and especially more in the fall.

Here's my main advice on living:

Don't be the person who chooses the dollar sign over living a rich life. There are many ways to be rich--only a few involve money.


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