Saturday, March 30, 2013

Poem Writing Prompt to Kick off National Poetry Month Early!

The Over-Achiever Muse--
Writing Exercise for Poets-
1. Make a list of twenty words
2. Add a place, a proper noun, the name of person, a planet and a color
Now look at your words and pair them up by sound the best you can (use half/slant rhyme, for example: greed could go near underneath, and futility could go with vanilla pie)
Being writing in the form of a poem (use line and stanza breaks, not just a "free write") and picking up your words in order so the words that sound similar are near each other in the poem. 
Try to use as many sets of words as possible and feel free to bring in new words with similar sounds to complete your poem.

Revise, revise, revise. 

~ Kells

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Friday, March 29, 2013

I feel this way about poetry too...

Art by Brian Andreas

~ Kells

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thought for the Day

(take of it and yourself.)

~ Kells

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

This is just the book to give your sister if she's a loud, dirty, boozy girl." Dylan Thomas blurb for Flann O'Brien

Blurb of the Day

"This is just the book to give your sister if she's a loud, dirty, boozy girl." --Dylan Thomas's blurb for Flann O'Brien's At Swim-Two-Birds. 

(from J. D. McClatchy's notebook:
The Poet's Notebook: Excerpts from the Notebooks of Contemporary Poets)

~ Kells

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Few Thoughts on Being a Poet & a James Wright Poem

Occasionally I'll be doing something like washing my face and I'll think, "Why am I wasting my time writing poetry?" or "Why is poetry so important to me?" They are really both the same thought--though the first one is based on a negative view, and the second is more positive.

I have these thoughts less often these days having been writing poetry and nonfiction seriously for the last fifteen yes, but occasionally (sometimes after reading something cheesy about poetry, sometimes while out in the world living my life) I do have this thought. 

And when I have this thought, there is this thirty-second moment when I feel I can walk away from poetry, from writing without regret and live a completely different life. I would liken this to an addict, being completely addicted to something and having it be so much of your life, yet every so often there are these doors (perhaps, a moment of clarity, though I hate to use that term) that come into our lives that open and we can walk away. 

Each time, this moment happens to me, I've chosen to continuing writing poetry and living the life I have. But I wonder if one time, I will ever feel like I need to move on from poetry, if there will ever be a time I will choose to walk away.

I can't explain this feeling, my best comparison is one day when I was 25 years old on an airplane coming home from London-- they served me a chicken dinner and I said to my husband, "I'm not going to eat meat anymore" and handed him my meal. For twelve years I didn't eat a single piece of meat or fish. 

What happened somewhere over the Atlantic that would just turn the meat-switch in my brain to off? And twelve years later on Mardi Gras I said, "I think I'll start eating meat again" and had some shrimp cocktail. And so became my current life as a carnivore.

I don't think I'm necessarily wired differently from anyone else, but it surprises me how at certain times, I make these large decisions, and once they are made, I don't turn back, I just move forward. 

Once I decided to quit my job, move from the city/suburban life I had spent all my life in to a small town of less than three-thousand people.

I think when these moments come up for me, I need to listen to that inner instinct, the one that has never been wrong.  Lately, I've been feeling a little removed from that, but am trying to return to it, to return trust and faith back into my life.  I know when I listen to the inner part of myself good things happen and life ends up taking to amazing places I can't even imagine.

But it's hard to trust. It's hard to believe what we are doing matters.  

But it does.  A wasted life is a beautiful thing.


Lying In A Hammock At William Duffy's Farm In Pine Island, Minnesota
James Wright

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year's horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life. 

~ Kells

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Confession Tuesday: When In Doubt, Watch Clouds

Dear Reader,

I confess it's been a couple weeks of dizzy.

Of list and list and list and catching up.

I confess my office light just went out.  This is some sort of sign that I should be asleep, but I am writing my confessions early to catch up on all I've been behind on.

It feels good to cross things off your list.

Whether To Do or bucket, shopping or Christmas.  I like long lists to get shorter.

While life can get busy or crazy or a little of everything, I don't forget to slow down, to watch teh waves or the clouds.

The other night I went outside with my iPhone while my neighborhood slept to record the Pacific Northwest treefrogs in their March chorus.  They are so loud.  After awhile they don't sound like frogs anymore, but some sort of forest music being played.

They are so loud they keep people awake.  Lucky people.
I could listen to them for hours but they put me to sleep.

I confess I spend a lot of time on my bed looking out my window watching the clouds.  Tonight a bald eagle flew right by my bedroom window.  This is such a gift even though the eagle flies by our window daily and around the same time.  He was closer tonight.

I confess I do get dizzy and I know watching clouds is the solution.
I haven't forgotten the second part.


~ Kells

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Successful Poet (oxymoron?): I've got the brains, you've got the looks, let's make lots of money...

I've got the brains, you've got the looks, let's make lots of money...

Here's a revamped blog post from my old deleted blog about success.  It seems I still feel the same way--

So, there's been some talk about success lately, what makes a successful poet. Some say that we need a book, others suggest it's the awards (NEA, Guggenheim, Pushcart). Others believe a certain list of journals we've been published in. And even if we have all these wonderful things, is that success? Most people find my blog by searching for the recipe to make a pomegranate martini or Apple Brown Betty. More people search for drinks & desserts to find me than in searches for poetry (and I *think* I talk about poetry and creativity more than food). Poets know other poets. Regular folks know Maya Angelou, sometimes Billy Collins, and sometimes Mary Oliver.

Poets are not known by most of the world. I thought about this when I felt too nervous to ask Bob Hicok to sign my book. I thought, 99.8% of the US population would *not* feel intimidated by him, yet because I write poetry, he has moved up my "important people list" and therefore making a fool of myself in front of Bob H. as opposed to the random people I meet daily would be more painful. (I did ask him to sign my book and of course, came off socially inept as I tend to do around people I like...It's a gift.)

Sometimes I wonder if I'm in a different camp with this success stuff because I don't think poetry can make anyone "successful." 

It's really hard for me to judge a person by their resume. Just as I wouldn't call a CEO successful, just because s/he is a CEO. I don't think credits, publications, and awards make a successful poet. I do think they're incredibly fun to achieve and yes, I was incredibly thrilled in honored when my book won the Foreword Book of the Year & was a finalist for the Washington Book Awards--I was beyond excited, but I if you asked me if I was successful, I wouldn't base my life's success on what I achieved or achieve in poetry. (This doesn't mean stop I think we should stop submitting or trying to achieve certain goals as a poet, I think that keeps things interesting, I'm just saying at the end of the day, I don't think we'll look back on our lives and think, "I'm so glad I was published in ________." Okay, I *may* say that about the New Yorker, but that's because I can be shallow.)

Realize, this is coming from someone who has no problem beating little kids in Candyland...I like to win. But, I realize "success" can't be achieved through poetry because first, it's so subjective. I'm sure I've had poems accepted because someone was having a good day and I'm sure others were rejected because the someone had just received a traffic ticket. And we can't base it on awards, I mean, poor Emily D., where was her first book award, her Guggenheim?

And isn't it funny how poetry is a sort of erudite crack? I mean, you start out and you write a poem, and it feels satisfying. So you write another and you like that feeling, but it starts to be a bit dull, so you wander into a new neighborhood and try to publish them.

You take another hit and then wham! you publish your first poem--and it feels good, really good. So you submit again, another poem in another journal and the high keeps coming back. You need more time to write more poems. You’re up late at night writing and submitting. And with each acceptance, you get your high back, but it’s not as good as the first time.

The feeling begins to wear off a little or maybe things are starting to feel "too easy," so you move from submitting to a community college journal to The Bellingham Review. You have to keep raising the bar, keep moving up the ladder to get that next great high. You submit to Prairie Schooner. You submit to the New Yorker. You submit to Poetry. You look back at the accomplishments that first made you happy, first made you feel successful and they seem small.

You publish a book and realize that even with a book, you're still yourself and you keep trying for that next high... You wake up at your desk and find yourself strung out on herbal tea covered in your own SASEs-- and there’s a bill from the post office you can’t explain, there are stacks of poems printed out on your printer and a post-it note that says, "Submit to Black Warrior" on your desk. You become that disco song, "More, More, More. How you do like it? How do you like it?...." Yes, you’re addicted.

I know how happy I feel with my little poetry accomplishments, with any sort of validation that comes my way. And I do think that our publications and accomplishments as poets should be celebrated.  I even have a Success Chart (you can download one too if you want) to remind myself of little things I achieved when I'm having a bad day. I mean, anytime I can find a reason to have a party for myself, I do. But I do try to remind myself that my success as a poet cannot be written down on a resume, it's something greater than that.

As a poet, I guess if I had to determine how success can be measured, it would be in how much we return to others. This can be through our poems or in person, over email, with a blog, on the phone, through a class/lecture, in a letter, in our books, as an editor. For me, a poet's success is based on his or her actions as a poet. And even if one is getting paid for any of the above, it still counts. 

But I guess that's how I measure the success of any person (poet or not), not by what was achieved, but what they returned, not by what they have, but what they gave.

Maybe I'm thinking too much about this, but I know the things that I base my self-worth on or my “success” are by the number of people who see me as a friend and if I'm kinder more of the time than hurtful. Mostly though, I guess I base success on how the people closest to me see me. If in the end, my family can say that I did a pretty good job in their eyes, then I made it. The rest of it is bells and whistles, the rest of it is fringe on my already stylish suede skirt.
Of course, if the New Yorker calls, I'm running to the phone. . . 

~ Kells

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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Big Poetry Giveaway-- Win a Book of Poems...Step Right Up

Happy St. Patrick's Day and the start of the BIG POETRY GIVEAWAY being guest-hosted by the amazing SUSAN RICH.

The BIG POETRY GIVEAWAY is a giveaway of free poetry books, one of our own and one of our favorite poetry books.

Because I am the co-editor of Crab Creek Review literary journal, I'm also giving away a free YEAR subscription to that.  So yes, that's 3 (THREE) chances to win new poems.

If you have a blog and want to take part in the BIG POETRY GIVEAWAY, go here to learn how.


A few things about me:

1)  This is my blog on writing & creativity, but you can learn more about me here: & here

2)  My next book, Hourglass Museum, will come out in 2014 from White Pine Press.

3)  My motto this year is to live outside my comfort zone a little more (I love my comfort zone).

4)  I've kayaked with orca whales and white-sided dolphins.

5)  My favorite color is plaid.

So here are the poetry books I'm giving away --

TO ENTER: just leave your name in the COMMENT section of this post and I'll choose a winner for each book on May 1st or 2nd.

What you could win--

Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room

by me...(Kelli Russell Agodon)
and I'm happy to inscribe it to you or someone else...


An amazing book of poems published by White Pine Press.


a YEAR subscription to the amazing literary journal: CRAB CREEK REVIEW
which will include our special ANNIVERSARY issue (Issue 2, 2013).

So how's that?  Free poems to celebrate National Poetry Month.

If you want to win, leave me a comment below with your first name and email (or some way to get ahold of you).

Happy (early) Poetry Month & Happy St. Patrick's Day my friends!

Good luck!

~ Kells

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It's Time To Take a Risk, Sweetheart

~ Kells

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May Irish angels rest their wings right beside your door. Irish blessing ~ Happy St. Patrick's Day

For the bit of Irish in all of us...

~ Kells

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Coming Soon for National Poetry Month: The Big Poetry Giveaway! Hosted by @SusanRichpoet

No worries, Friends ~ The BIG POETRY GIVEAWAY will be happening again this year!

However, as a special treat, it will be hosted by my good friend,
Susan Rich at her blog: THE ALCHEMIST'S KITCHEN

More details to come but basically a chance to help readers learn about your books and your favorite poet's book.

And a chance to WIN a lot of FREE POETRY BOOKS!

~ Kells  

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Confession Wednesday is Becoming a Bad Habit (no pun intended): The Overwhelmed Slacker Edition

Dear Reader,

It has 7 days and one new Pope since my last confession. I confess I am behind again, this is becoming a habit, a bad bad habit.

It's not because I'm slacking, well, being overwhelmed creates a different kind of slacking--let me explain.

To the confessional--

I confess when I am overwhelmed with a TO DO list of too many items, sometimes I turn into zombie poet, defaulting to the easiest activities--Facebook, reading articles, Facebook, looking at my To Do list, getting a snack, staring at my email.

Saturday I went paddleboarding for 2 hours.  Yesterday I took a nap.

This overwhelmed slacker lifestyle doesn't happen often, just when I have a lot to do and a lot on my mind.

Many times I just find myself staring at something, usually my email and in my head the question circles, "What do I do next?"

Because of this complete shutdown I have when there's a lot on my plate, I have to make myself a smaller To Do list before bed with numbered items, so when I wake up I know what to do first, then second, then third. I know, this sounds ridiculous.  But I'm like a deer in the headlights, or a scared poet at the mic, I just stare at the audience, the oncoming truck-- what do I do??

Knowing when I don't have a plan of attack (aka a To Do list) I will do nothing, I keep a To Do list.

Knowing, I will become a huge slacker if I have too much to do, I make a smaller To Do list to fool my inner toddler who becomes overwhelmed with too much.

Yes, I was that girl.

I was the girl who needed to know what and where and who and how long.

I remember being in second grade and seeing that some days the third graders went in and took their chairs down.  Other days they lined up outside their classroom door.  I remember worrying--How will I know what to do?!  I will I know when to go in or stay out?

The answer was probably as simple as a locked or unlocked door, but as a second grader, I went to bed with this puzzle in my brain every night, dreading third grade and not knowing what to do.

Third grade came and I got another teacher.

All that crazy worrying (seriously, what 2nd grader worries over such things) and nothing happened. I didn't even get the teacher with the rules about what to do.

I have improved my worrying-brain immensely, though it took me most of my thirties to do so and one collection of anxiety poems (um, Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room), but occasionally when I get overwhelmed I wake in the middle of night wondering "What have I forgotten?" (You will see this theme in my next book...)

I confess I am glad I know the secret to me getting things done and getting back on track is just about ten minutes of making a large To Do list seem small.

Being an overwhelmed slacker presents itself in many ways-- maybe you do something you don't need to do (I, for example, uploaded about 60+ of my favorite portraits I've taken of poets).  Was this needed?  No.  Should I have been doing something else?  Yes.  Why was I doing it?  I'm not sure-- it was fun? Probably.  Did it use a good hour or two hours of my time?  Yep.

I confess sometimes I'm the most efficient person around and sometimes I'm Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Aloha, Mr. Hand.

But in the end, I do manage to get things done.  Maybe I should just live the Spicoli lifestyle when it comes-- All I need is some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I'm fine.  

I hope you're fine too.


~ Kells

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Friday, March 08, 2013

Books, Books & More Books: Quick Review of What's on My Nightstand #bookreview

I've been really behind on the books that are on my nightstand.  Some I've read, some I'm still reading and one that has just arrived.

Anyway, while I do want each of these books to get more attention (read: their own blog post or a longer review, etc), I realize since I've been more focused on my own work, Crab Creek Review and Two Sylvias Press, these fine authors are being neglected.

And I don't want that.

I want readers to know about the books I know about and am enjoying...

So readers, let's begin:


Rachel Rose's SONG & SPECTACLE:  Rachel Rose is a Canadian poet who is both an amazing poet and a wonderful person.  I have her two first books and was thrilled when I saw this was out.
Her third book, SONG & SPECTACLE is just as strong as the others.

Rachel writes in her sonnet "Laureate" --

From you I learned in order to be found
I must first find the words, the words for power.
How poems sleep like tulips underground
And then unfold in gratitude some hour.

In her poem "Tired" she writes:

It happens that you are tired of being a man,
Poet, and I am tired of men.

You're tired of barbershops,
they make you weep, and I am tired of men

whose oil leaks slick the sea and can't be capped. . .

Rachel's poetry is topped full of music, in rhyme and sound and in expected places and images.  He goes right to the story, whether of son seeing his mother fall and asking if "she's drunk again," she captures moments of motherhood, relationships, the history we are living and how we exist in this world with grace and wit and understanding.

OLD FLAME (The First 10 Years of 32 Poems) edited by Deborah Ager, Bill Beverly, & John Poch:  

First, big disclaimer, I have a poem in this anthology insert bias here.

But even if I didn't, even if it were all the poems minus mine, I would love this book.  Why?  David Kirby is in this book.  Brigit Pegeen Kelly is in this book.  Kevin McFadden, Bernadette Geyer, Erika Meitner, Daniel Nester, Lisa Russ Spaar, AE Stallings, Billy COllins, or this list goes on.

Let me just give you a sampling:

From Bernadette Geyer's poem "The Problem with Describing Night" --

If I said heat lightning. Pillow talk--

If I said there should be a Now, Yes, NOW moment-

If I sad cloud and penumbra, Orion
and Scorpio. If I said boogeyman--

The anthology is good poems, one after another, of poets you recognize and poets you will want to read more of.  Also, in the bio sections, poets describe how their poem came about, which I love. And the cover, like an old gas can, is gorgeous.

POSTAGE DUE by Julie Marie Wade:  When I say Julie's beautiful book on Facebook, I immediately asked her to see if she could get me a review copy.  And I learned--her press is my press!  Yes, this book, POSTAGE DUE was published by White Pine Press too.  (I knew White Pine Press had great taste, this proves it!)

I have heard Julie's prose, but never her poetry and it is just as much a treat to read.

She cuts to the chase, the poems are vulnerable and honest, and easy to fall in love with.  Some are in the form of letters--some are seriously letters (to Mary Tyler Moore, to her father, to Judy Garland as Dorothy).

But this one, I loved how it began.  In "Thinking of Carl Lull, His Deaf Mother, His Left Hand" she writes:

This will be a bloody, beautiful poem.

This will be my tribute to you,
Carl Lull, & to your name--with its perfect consonance
as if a literary character I'd created.

But it was me who invented you.  It was
your mother, a train whistle of a woman
who shaped words with her hands, & your father...


Just story interlaced with story, one after the other.  A beautiful orange book by a beautiful poet.


HOMELAND by LuAnn Keener-Mikenas:  LuAnn is a wonderful poet and what I love about this book is that it's her second collection--her first was published in 1994.  I love how she returns to the poetry world with a book called HOMELAND.

This book is filled with animals and art.  It's flowers and bees in amber.  It's our natural world and an interacting.

LuAnn writes in her poem "Fear" --

As when I lie down to the tenderness
of your hands, and afterwards
still freeze to a halt:  Fear
is a killer.  And the core of fear?
I will open the stopped mouth, press
the pencil point the constant page...


Jessie Carty's AN AMATEUR MARRIAGE (chapbook):  In Jessie Carty's chapbook, details mix with relationships until we wander into challenges, trial separations where "You tell her her hair looks like a blondish lampshade, which is does."

Jessie writes in her poem "Marriage Scales" --


The young bridge felt she was marrying her soul mate. This
thought implied she was a damaged organ; that like a river
bed she was missing the especially well worn rock that could
help her on her way to forming an ox bow lake...


For Poets:

The 2013 POET'S MARKET  (2014 is available for pre-order, fyi)  And comes with a 1 year online subscription for the only version.

And I have a poem in it.  And there are good articles on writing and promotion. Something for everyone who is interested in publishing their work.


Emily Rapp's memoir also just arrived today THE STILL POINT OF THE TURNING WORLD about her son who was diagnosed at 9 months with Tay Sachs disease, a fatal degenerative disorder.


By the way, my book just came out on KINDLE so anyone with an eReader with a Kindle app can get LETTERS FROM THE EMILY DICKINSON ROOM for $7.39!

Normally, a print copy of my book is $16, so that's less than half the price.  I wish I could virtually sign it for you!

Happy Reading!

~ Kells

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The Universe Listens - New Agey Woo-Woo on Being Aware What You Wish For?

Careful What You Wish For--

For the last 13 years, I've made a vision board on a long January evening with three other friends.
For the last 2 years, I've been putting images of travel on there, places I'd like to visit and saying, "I'd like to travel more..."

This year, it seems all that mind-focus has added up as I have a trip planned.  But then another surprise trip came up two months later.  And I was asked to teach in three other places that need some travel and a couple nights of overnight stay.  I am now traveling this year, more than I have in the last thirteen.  It's a little surprising, not overwhelming, but surprising. (Okay, maybe a tad overwhelming.)

And that's okay.  I needed a kick out of my stay-at-home comfort zone.  I needed to get out of my casual and comfortable homebody lifestyle.

But it made me really think about my thoughts and making sure you stay focused on what you want instead of what you don't want.

Here's an example--

My husband has been trying to win a Go-Pro camera from the last six months.  Every day he signs up for a drawing, it's become a morning practice.

He says, "I really want a Go-Pro camera."

And I said, "Well, you've got it."

And he said, "What?  I don't have a Go-Pro camera."

And I said, "No, you have your wanting."


The universe wants to give you what you need, but you have to make sure you're sending your requests correctly.

If you want to *want* for things--it will give you that--a life of wanting.
If you want to *do* things--it will give you that too-- a life of living.


When Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room came out, I was at Susan Rich's home.  I said, "I'm so excited about my book, what would be amazing is to have Poetry Daily choose a poem from it to feature on their website."

Seriously, within twenty minutes of saying that out loud, I received an email from Poetry Daily telling me they were featuring one of my poems.

White Pine Press called me about my second book winning the prize about two months I had a small tantrum at my computer (after submitting my book to a TON of contests) and saying (again, out loud because I'm such a nerd), "Okay, I'm done revising, this book is completed, find it a home to be published."

Seriously.  I said that.  Desperation builds faith better than anything I know.

Forget growing up a Catholic family, when I am tired of something and I hand it over to a higher power--whether God, the universe, spirit, guardian angels, energy--whatever you believe, I find things are taken care of in a better way than I could ever do myself.

Yes, call it new agey woo-woo, call it faith-based nonsense, call it the laws of physics, positive thinking, a false reality, karma, the hand of God, a skewed perception, coincidence, synchronicity (the Police's fifth and final album), luck, cuckoocraziness, or a poppyseed muffin.

Call it all of that, but I'm keeping this belief and feeling close to me.  Our thoughts and actions matter.  Our daily choices about what we do and what we think will determine our future.

And be thankful what you do have and want comes to you...

whether it be a Go Pro Camera (which we still do not own) or a smile from a stranger.  We and them and all of it, are connected.  Watch for it.  You may be surprised (as I have been) with what you see.

~ Kells

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Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Confession Tuesday - The AWP Edition #AWP13

With Susan Rich, Me, and January O'Neil

Dear Reader,

I confess I am not going to AWP in Boston this year.  Not because I don't want to, but mostly because I just have a lot going on this month.

My last AWP was in 2011 in Washington DC.

How Taking Taxis & Staying at Nice Hotel Makes You Feel as if You Are Richer Than You Are:
I confess I didn't stay at the conference hotel, but about a block from the White House at The Willard (which was surprisingly just about $60 more a night and without bedbugs).  I took a taxi to the AWP every morning.  I felt like Jackie Onassis.

Things Not to Do at AWP:

I confess on my second day of AWP I looked as if I slept in my clothes.  Here's what happened--I was SO tired and yes, overwhelmed from the first full day, I went casual--not a lot of make-up, hair hardly combed and an Aeropostale t-shirt (seriously, how old am I?)  While I felt great leaving the hotel (hey, it only took me 15 minutes to get ready) I regretted the decisions once people started taking photos to "capture" the moment.

Me (after being overwhelmed the day before) with Eduardo Corral. Note uncombed hair, no make-up and the orange long-sleeve shirt under the Aeropostale t-shirt-- This outfit says I'm a big dork.  I know this would be the image they would show of me on What Not To Wear before the makeover).

So for my first suggestion for AWP--realize, you may wind up on someone's Facebook page, so do not wear your worst clothes feeling you are above it, or you're tired, or you don't care.  I know, I cared when I saw the photos of me looking like I had been out for a run in the fog (I hadn't).

So here are my top picks for AWP:

1) Do not think you'll avoid photos, you will not.

2) When you need a break from readings, go to the bookfair.

3)  When you need a break from the bookfair, go to panel discussions.

4)  Do not look at people's nametags while you are talking to someone else.

5)  Try to stay focused--- it's hard especially if you're like me and distracted by shiny objects (aka poets and writers and books)

6)  Have at least 2 meaningful conversations in the day (one morning, one evening)

7)  Introduce yourself to someone you admire, someone you know from Facebook, someone who impressed you--either there or pre-AWP

8)  Understand, there may be a time when you hate AWP, all the writers who are there, all the commotion, and feel completely out of place.  I recommend a nap at this time, or a quick jaunt to your room for some tea, a bath, a glass of wine, or just to rest.

9)  Some poets and writers are jerks and have egos the size of the conference. And some editors of journals are jerks.  They will stand out in your mind after you meet them--but remember, most of the people there are pretty dang nice.

10) If someone acts odd to you or you're wondering why they said something in a strange way or ran off or seemed peculiar, remember, many of us are introverts and our best conversations happen on the page.  Once we know you, we'll have more interesting things to say and talk about.

The Beauty of Being Overwhelmed:
I confess the word I most hear from writers, especially introverted writers is feeling overwhelmed.

I confess I'm overwhelmed if I'm in a conversation with more than 3 other people.

What you need to realize is the beauty of this conference is that it's overwhelming.  Everyone is talking about books and writing.  Everyone is mentioning names of writers they love.  It's a fairytale for anyone who tells someone their favorite author or poet and they say, "Who?"

But with all fairytales comes the evil witch or villain.  In the case of AWP that witch is having to make a lot of choices, having to interact with a lot of people, not being able to go to a reading or panel you wanted to and being okay with that--mostly, good things disguised as villains, but what problems to have--too many poets, too many writers, too many talks on literary topics, too many books.

When you find yourself overwhelmed, find a quiet place to sit for a moment.  Then when you feel better, walk back into the bookfair and have a conversation with one person where you make direct eye-contact and aren't looking at the nametags of people passing behind you.

Virtual Friends Become Real Friends & Having a Table at the Bookfair--
I confess I did get to meet some people I had been wanting to meet in person for a long time-- Deb Ager, January O'Neil, Eduardo Corral, Nin Andrews, Bernadette Geyer, Sandra Beasley... and there were others.

And it was so wonderful to find that their online personalities were just as kind and cool as their real life personalities.

Make a list of online friends you want to connect with and email them before you go. If you run into them, it will probably be the bookfair, which is a great place to meet up as there's always something to talk about--um, books and writers are everywhere.

I had two really great meals--one with January and one with Deb A.  That was nice to just sit down and talk.  I wanted to have lunch or a snack with Nin A, but I remember having to run off.  Oh yeah, I hadn't mentioned Crab Creek Review had a table at the AWP, bookfair and that was a whole other thing.

The good part of having a table was people knew where to find me and would come up and say hi.  Also, I always had a place to store my things and my big heavy coat.  Plus snacks.  I had a small cafeteria under my table.

The bad part of having a table is if you don't have anyone else to watch it (thankfully, a couple other CCR people were there and I was sharing a table with another lit journal) was that you had to think about getting back to it instead of just being able to enjoy your time.

Don't Mistake My Awkwardness for Flirting:
I confess I had awkward interactions at AWP.  When I met Bob Hicok, I had trouble finding the words to ask him to sign my book.  I said, "Will you sign my book, your book."  I said nothing else except "Thanks."

At AWP Vancouver (and this was just at the early BOOM of AWP before they morphed into some super-sized literary bonanza), Nick Flynn got on the elevator with me and three women behind me almost passed out.

Kay Ryan, who I also saw on an elevator, giggled.  I know it had something to do with feeling overwhelmed, but I don't remember exactly what she said, but I remember liking her energy and wanting to say hi...of course, I didn't.

In DC, I didn't say hi or introduce myself to David Kirby (who I love), Barbara Hamby (who I also love), Mark Doty, Charles Wright, Amy Hempel, Stephen Dunn, Kay Ryan (again), and the list is long and incomplete.

What I recommend--Life is short.  Say hi.  Introduce yourself. Tell them you love their work or a favorite book or a favorite poem.

Honestly, no one can mistake my awkwardness for flirting as mostly I'm standing in the coat closet with a sack over my head.

Stick with your Buddy--
I confess there was one evening I felt really alone.  Martha Silano was having dinner with her publisher, Susan Rich was leaving to go home, and the friends I normally fall back upon were missing.

I felt as if we were on a preschool field trip and I had lost my buddy.

I wandered through the hotel bar where tons of writers were but I recognized no one.  I felt so out of place--who were these people and what was I doing here?  I decided like a full-grown adult I'd go to the bar and order a glass of wine and hope/pray someone nice would sit by me, or a friend would see me and come over, or someone would make eye contact with me and start a conversation.

I sat there uncomfortable for a for what felt like a small eternity then someone I knew wandered by, she, along with a couple people I knew, sat down next to me and (thank gawd) we had a conversation.  At some point, I spilled my wine being the party-foul gal I am.  But mostly, I wasn't alone.

On my next AWP, I'm going to get cellphone numbers, so if I'm ever in a situation where I've lost my buddy, I can at least see if I can find someone to hangout with.  I'm going to have back-up buddies.  And having been in that weird situation of feeling alone, I'm happy to be your back-up buddy if you need one.

That is, if you're kind and not a prevert (misspelling of pervert is intentional for my own personal amusement).

Amen.  See you at Seattle 2014!  It will be fantastic!

~ Kells

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