Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Poetry Writing Retreat Day/ Generating New Work Class in Seattle with Kelli Agodon & Susan Rich

So before all the crazy AWP stuff and book related events kick in, Susan Rich and I are giving one LAST workshop this winter in Seattle.

This is a great workshop if you need some good creative energy and some fun writing prompts to help you start new poems.

Here are the details--

Poetry Writing Retreat Day in Seattle!
     Saturday, February 15, 2014,  11 pm - 3 pm, $107

Join acclaimed poets Kelli Russell Agodon and Susan for four hours of writing.  This class is designed for all levels of poets and will consist of different types of writing exercises including working from the visual arts to help you kick start new poems. Come celebrate the day after Valentine's Day by going deep into your writing. You will learn new ways to create poems and by doing so, you’ll push your writing to new places.  We will wrap-up the afternoon with a salon-style discussion of poetry publication. In addition, each poet will leave with a new listing of poetry journals. Class limited to 21 participants.

More information here to sign up.

Or email me at  kelli (at) to hold your place.

Hope to see you there!

~ Kells

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Confession Tuesday: What I Learned As An Editor

Dear Reader,
I am stepping down as the editor of the 30-year-old print literary journal Crab Creek Review to focus my time on Two Sylvias Press, a small indie press I began with Annette Spaulding-Convy (the other editor at Crab Creek Review).  

the last issue I'm editing...

I confess I am both sad and yet, I have this feeling of freedom, as for the last few years, I've had one hand in the cookie jar of Crab Creek Review, and the other hand mixing the batter of Two Sylvias Press.  It feels good to know that after AWP, I will be focused on one press.

I confess being an editor taught me a lot about being a writer and poet in the world.  It taught me a lot of what not to do, how not be a jerk in the publishing world. It taught me how to be strong and still be kind.

So here are a few things I learned as an editor 
that taught me how to better myself as a writer--

1) As a Writer, You Teach Editors Whether or Not To Work With You Again -- 

I have learned this lesson a few times both while editing the eBook anthology Fire On Her Tongue: An Anthology of Contemporary Women Poetry as well as through the many issues of Crab Creek Review.

There are poets who I admire and like as people who I will not work with again because they are pain in the butt.  

There are ways to ask for what you want without being a jerk or rude.

There is a way to be a gracious writer in the world-- learn to be that person, or realize, your chances of publication decrease with every obnoxious email you write, despite your talent.

Yes, your poem was marvelous, but you give me a headache.  You teach me not to publish you again by your actions.  I'm sorry, but there are just as many talented, fantastic, and overlooked writers who do not make my head hurt that we can publish.  We only have limited space and limited time, so we're choosing them.  

Please realize that along with talent, you need to have kindness too.  If you never learned that as a kid, I guess I'm going to have toughlove you into learning that with a rejection. I hope you figure it out.

2)  Sometimes Your Poem is Amazing and You're Still Rejected --

We are a print journal, so our space is limited.  We loved your poem (and hopefully, we let you know this on your rejection slip), but we had to say no.  Why?  We ran out of room for the issue.  

How can you raise your chances of being accepted?  Submit at the BEGINNING to midpoint of a reading period, not at the end.

I wish it was different. I wish we had bigger envelopes and a larger budget, but space and money always play into publishing. 

3)  Submit Like a Man (for the women)--

This has become a mantra I've shared with my women friends because here's a trend we've noticed as editors.

When we tell a writer we like their work and ask them to submit again, the male poets will submit work within a month (two at the very latest) of our asking.  The women writers?  We usually never hear from them again or until a year or more later.

When an editor asks you to submit again, she isn't kidding.

The male writers do what we ask-- they resubmit and usually accepted.  

The women, I imagine them sitting at home wondering, "Is it too soon to resubmit?  Did she really mean it or was just being nice?  What should I send, and when?"

And when in doubt of when to resubmit, feel free to ask with a note like that-- "I am so glad you enjoyed my poems.  Would you like me to resubmit in this reading period or the next one?"

And when you resubmit, remind the editor that s/he liked your poems-- we forget like that. Say something like, "Thank you for your kind note about my poems about death and thank you for asking me to resubmit. Here are four new poems I'd like you to consider..."

4)  Watch Out For the Three Fs (for the men)--

We noticed a trend in poems by male poets, which we labeled "The Three F's."  In every batch of poems, we received a poem by a male with one of these topics:

1)  Frogs:  The poem is how they injured or killed a frog as a boy and now feel bad about it. 

2)  Farting:  Either a poem about a bathroom, toilet, or fart joke about midway through.

3)  F*%#ing:  Yeah, you probably expected this one.  This isn't to say we don't like these poems or references, but realize, trying to write a good sex poem is hard.  Many times I felt as if I was reading a first draft of porn script (if they have script) and well, "pubic hair" is just clunky and reads as ugly as it sounds.

5)  Remember Most Editorial Teams are Volunteer--

Before you write the angry email about why no one has responded to the poem you submitted 6 weeks ago, remember, along with editing a literary journal, many of us have full-time jobs, children, families, ill parents, and are writers ourselves.  We try to give our best to the journal, but we are pulled in many different directions.

When you don't hear from us as soon as you like, it's most likely because we're behind and has nothing to do with you.  We love you poets and writers!  Journals exists because of you! This is why we would never charge you to submit your work to us.  But sometimes we get behind, especially as all the submissions start to slide in.  

Annette and I had a short sentence we'd always remember when doing something for Crab Creek Review-- Writers first.  

Writers are the reason we have a journal to publish.  Writers thrill us with their words and images.  We dedicated six years of our life to get your poems out into the world, to nominate them for Pushcart Prizes, and celebrate them as much as we can.

Sometimes we all get behind.  But we still love you.


I've learned a lot more as an editor, which I'll share at a later date, but right now, Annette and I have a day of The Poet Tarot planned (a new project soon to be released from Two Sylvias Press). Here's a sneak peek at a new card--
He's missing his crown... but a general idea of where we're going.

~ Kells 

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Electronic Postcards for the Literary Types...

Since many of you want to stay connected and to receive literary correspondence, I started an email mailing list of electronic postcards to help keep in touch and keep creativity alive in our busy lives.

If you'd like to sign up for my occasional, every-so-often, not-too-many Electronic Postcards, you can do that by clicking the link here:

They won't be often, but they will be sent with love.

~ Kells

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Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Confession Tuesday: The How *Not* To Begin a New Year Edition & Possible Cha Cha

Welcome 2014!

Dear Reader, 

When 2014 arrived, I woke up that morning and promptly sliced my finger on a knife. Welcome new year, let's just bleed our way into it.  

As someone who can fall into magical thinking and put way too much significance on "signs," this freaked me out a bit.  

As did the list of bad things that then happened in the next five days--my husband running over a squirrel on New Year's Day, my cat diagnosed with diabetes, getting food poisoning from some strange food I shouldn't have been eating, walking into the edge of my armoire before bed and gashing my head (yes, the bump and cut are still there).  

I wrote to friends:  2014 is kicking my ass. Please tell me 2014 is starting me out tough because it wants me to be surprised by all the good stuff later.

By day 5 of 2014, this is what I looked like:

But right in the middle of "2014 Sucks!" meditation, a received an acceptance for a poem from the New England Review.

I cannot tell you how much I needed this good news.  In fact, I've been living on the good energy of it for the last several days.

I confess sometimes I am an empty box of Raisin Bran away from a meltdown, and a "Hey-there's-an-owl!" away from a great day.


But I've been thinking about these events and a friend telling me, "It's not what happens to you, but how you respond to it."  Personally, I was not responding too anything very well, saying "2014 sucks" may be slightly overdramatic and definitely not appreciating one's life and blessings.

And I realize, life is not perfect.  And when it is not, I have the luxury of using all of its awfulness, its flaws, everything that has gone wrong or bugged me as writing material.  

I confess by the fifth day after I walked full-force into my armoire, once the pain and bleeding stopped, I had to laugh.

Life is life.  Deal with it.  


There's a favorite comedian of mine, John Mulaney, who while trying to get a prescription for Xanax ends up with a rectal exam instead (you can see the full hilarious video clip here and if you have time, watch his whole "New in Town" bit... hilarious.)

Anyway, in the story about the Xanax while getting a rectal exam he says: 

"And by the way, part of me was like, whatever, you know? You know those days when you're like, this might as well happen?  And I realized, this had become my new year's:  Whatever.  This might as well happen.
I confess there's an inner peace is just saying, Whatever.  In not overthinking any of it, just acknowledging that sometimes things suck and moving forward.

Yesterday, just to prove that I could move past the first six days of 2014, I went mountain biking and I as I loaded up my bike, I truly believed I was going to break a bone or be eaten by a bear.  I knew one of the two would happen.

But "knew" is such a big word.

If I really "knew" I was going to break a bone or be eaten by wildlife, I wouldn't have gone.
I'm just going to keep living my life...

Mostly I think if you can acknowledge that sometimes life sucks and sometimes it doesn't, then you are ahead of most.

If you can take a few moments to say, "Yes, I have a gash on my head, but I have food to eat and a warm bed, so I'm lucky."  If you can look at your life with the eyes of a stranger--
"That poet is an absolutely amazing klutz, but she just got an acceptance to one of her favorite journals," things don't look so gloom and doom.  (And I am a gloom and doom girl, I love to stir myself into the crazies...)

So here's a sign I found and I think it's a good one to start the year--

I'm still not an optimist, but I like to dance.


~ Kells 

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Monday, January 06, 2014

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Poetry By Mail: Be My Valentine in 2014 - Literary Correspondence with a Stamp

One thing I promised myself this is that I'd write more paper letters this year.

To help keep this promise (and take over where Ted Kooser left off when his mailing list became too large) I'm sending out poetry Valentines this year via snail mail.

If you want to be on my mailing list to receive one, click here to email me your mailing address to me at at kelli (at)  and I will add you to my Valentine list.

I will be designing a 2014 poetry valentine postcard this month and sending them out in February.

There is no cost, no trick, no dance you must do, no love you must declare, no heart-shaped box to must buy to get one.  Just let me know you'd like one and email me your address, that is all.

I just think we need more hand-sent letters in the world.  And we need more valentines and more connection.


I hope to keep in touch and send good literary inspiration this year.

More handwriting, less typing.

Cheers to 2014!

~ Kells

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Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Poets On The Coast, Open for Inspiration...

In 2010, Susan Rich and I began Poets on the Coast: A Weekend Retreat for Women Poets.

We thought it was going to be a one-time thing.  It was started over a glass of wine at a writing residency, something to bring women poets together to write and find community.

4 years laters, we've moved locations from the Oregon Coast to La Conner, Washington, we've added new inspiration, and personally, I am connected with the most amazing group of women poets who I probably wouldn't have known and definitely wouldn't have known this well.

Along with expanding their literary circle, I also expanded mine.  A blessing.

And this event and these new poetry friends, it all happened because we had this idea and we acted on it.

This is what I hope for everyone in the new year-- that your inspirations aren't forgotten, but acted on.
That projects don't sit in the back of a notebook, but are sent out into the world.

Live openly and generously.

Don't let your fears (of failing, of succeeding, of what people might think) stop you.

One life.  It's happening now.


And for any women poets interested in learning more about Poets on the Coast 2014, we've opened up registration today.

We already have 18 spots taken by alumni, but there are still 8 or 9 remaining.

Here's the scoop:


A Weekend Writing Retreat for Women September 5-7, 2014

Join Kelli Russell Agodon and Susan Rich for the fourth Poets on the Coast Weekend Writing Retreat September 5-7, 2014 at our new location in La Conner!  We will gather to write, read and share our work inspired by the art, landscape, and creative energy around us.

This retreat has been designed for women writers of all levels, from beginning poets to well published. Sessions on creativity, generating work, publication, a Master Class workshop, and one-on-one mentoring are included as well as morning yoga. 

We only have a limited number of spaces available and they will be filled on a first-come basis.  

The relaxing, warm Country Inn of La Conner is designed to nurture your writing self.   This retreat will offer you a unique experience to explore your writing and creativity. Come spend a weekend with other women poets. Be ready to be nurtured, inspired and creative. 

Check out our webpage for more details and frequently asked questions.

Happy 2014!

~ Kells

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