Saturday, November 17, 2018

Mini Book Review: Rewilding by January Gill O'Neil & At Home Poetry Writing Retreat

At Home Poetry Retreat:
On Wednesday, my friend Ronda Broach came over to write poems with me. She got her at 3ish, we put out snacks and started writing poems (from openings of lines, from prompts, from word lists, etc.). By midnight, we had written about 14 poems. She spent the night and the next morning, we woke up and wrote a few more poems. When all was said and done, I had about 17 new drafts. I know, it's a bit of a poetry marathon, but it's kind of my favorite way to write poems.  

And while we were writing, Ronda said, "Oh, I have a new favorite book to show you..." and I said, "Me too!" Then we both pulled out January Gill O'Neil's new book REWILDING (just out from CavanKerry Press).

Mini Review:
Januay is one of my very favorite poets writing today. I have every one of her books and have been a fan of her work since the wayback days--I actually met her through the blog community.

Her poems always get my attention, but this book is really some of the best poetry I've read. It's immediate. It smart, strong, it breaks your heart while you are falling in love with this. For me, these poems remind me what is means to be alive--they deal with loss (from divorce to death), fear, beauty, love of family, love of life, and how absolutely complicated this world is and life can be.

They are not afraid to deal with any topic or subject, and this book is award-winning--in fact, if this book doesn't win some award, there is something really wrong in the world because I am one of the pickiest poetry readers around, and this book hits me hard and in all the right ways, and I know how strong it is.

I am not going to say too much about the narrative that runs through this book because the poems are so good, I do not not want to spoil the magic I felt reading them one at a time, in order, in yes, one sitting.  

But if you haven't picked it up, please do. You will not be disappointed. 

By directly from the press here: Rewilding by January Gill O'Neil (it's about the same price as the Amazon copy and the money goes directly to the press)
Or by from Amazon here

~ Kells


Saturday, August 11, 2018

Summer Reads (Novels: Part 1) #SummerReads

I have read more novels this summer than I have in a long time... how have I done it?

Basically, just disconnecting, looking at a book instead of my phone. I always keep a book with me, while for a long time is was a book of poems, now it's novels (though I do tend to always have a book of poems with me, this time I'm reaching for novels.) It's amazing how quickly you can read if you (wait for it...) remember to actually read (and not scroll Facebook or Twitter or Instagram..)

1) You will note that some of these books are older books and not new releases-- why?

Well, sometimes I get my books from other places--used bookstores, our neighborhood Little Free Library box on my street, I have even gotten one at the Dollar Store.

2) I also like to add what I look for in a summer book and what I like. The answer--something to get lost in, an "easy" read without the seriousness of things I need to worry about in real life (like our government, climate change, healthcare, etc.) In the summer, I just want to sit and get involved in the lives of imaginary people. I am not looking to have my mindblown or have to seriously ponder and consider syntax, sentence structure--I just want to enjoy myself. I save more serious books for fall and winter. Summer is about grabbing a book, sitting outside, and reading for the pleasure of getting lost in imaginary worlds. That is what I'm looking for. If I can get lost (and I am picky, I have sent a few of my books this summer to the Little Free Library hoping they find a reader who loves them), I stop reading and give it away.

So below are all books I have finished and read in their entirety. 

Anyway, here's what I'm reading and what I plan to read (yes, I buy preemptively buy books so I have one ready to read when I finish, otherwise, I will not finish a book if I don't have another waiting in the wings.)

What I've Read:

YOU THINK IT, I'LL SAY IT by Curtis Sittenfeld:

Geez, did I love this book by Curtis Sittenfeld. The stories are edgy, smart, intriguing, and they are all short stories, so I loved being able to sit outside read a full story and feel fulfilled. Her voice is engaging and her style/narrator is easy to follow but not simple. She's a complex storyteller who ket my mind actively engaged, which isn't easy to do because I'm an editor, so I'm super picky about what I read. Anyway, this is tops of my summer reads. Love it completely.

CUTTING TEETH by Julia Fierro:

This was one of those "older" books (2015) I picked up because I recognized the author's name as someone I follow on Twitter and I remember liking her a lot. What originally pulled me in was one of the characters was anxious with OCD and freaking out about a possible terrorist attack that she read on a parenting board so she took her playgroup to her parents guesthouse instead of admitting to them she was worried and getting them out of the city. So what you end up with is her playgroup (which is mostly moms and one dad) on a weekend together. As a parent (now with a grown child), it brought me to that time in my life when everything seemed more important than it is. Julia weaves a good story and if you're a parent, you will definitely see yourself in at least one character, if not more. It also maybe make you feel good about your own parenting. ;-) Extra special bonus--my family was freaked out by the Raggedy Ann dolls on the cover, so no one touched my book and I always knew where it was.

The biggest complaint I read about this book is that it's another story about a family going on vacation (in this case, to the Mediterranean) and have to deal with each other. Now, I don't know about you, but these are favorite beach reads for me--flawed characters having to deal with each others' flaws. For me, I found the book something I wanted to pick up and get lost in. I like books where there are human issues, where we have to explore the complexity of humans and relationships. I think Emma did this well and she has enough characters and different plots happening that I was always engaged and interested in how each plot line would end.

Next up on my reading list:


(Have heard good things about this one...)

CRAZY RICH ASIANS by Kevin Kwan  (I cannot wait to read this one I have been hearing excellent reviews on it and it will be a movie too, I think?!!) 


  LESS by Andrew Sean Greer
(And this one just one the Pulitzer, I hear!)


  Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
(Started this. I know it will be good, but struggling through the opening and have had to go back to reread some parts I seemed to have skimmed over--that said, it has some very engaging scenes... I believe I will finish this, but am putting it down more than I thought I would. But when it's engaging, it's quite engaging. And I always give a book I've been recommended some time to stick because I know how persnickety I can be as a reader and for the most part, am enjoying this... Will give a full review once I've finished it!)

~ Kells


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

John Ashbery’s Last Poem "Climate Correction"-- handwritten at his home in @Harpers Aug 2018 Issue:


You can download the poem for your own keeping here:

~ Kells 


Saturday, July 14, 2018

Friday Submission Club

It's Saturday night and I am home trying to do a poetry submission.

Poetry submissions annoy me when I overthink them. I look at my work and say, "Hmm, this isn't good, nor is this." I say, "not this poem, this poem sucks, maybe I'll work on this poem, hey--what's this? I'm hungry, do we have any sliced gouda?" 

I sabotage myself. I can't figure out who to submit to, even though I have a list in front of me of journals I want to submit to.

I put the "pro" in "procrastinate," and so much, I end up writing a blog post (which I am behind on), instead of submitting. 

And wait, I'm the one who wrote that viral piece, Submit Like a Man? I could learn a lot from myself. 

But I have been submitting more, and there's a reason...

Last fall, Susan Rich and I created an email group for the women who joined us at Poets on the Coast called "Friday Submission Club" where we are to do one submission a week and report on it (you can do more than one, but one is the goal). Each Friday, I send out an email to the group and we each check in with where we submitted along with rejections and acceptances.

It's an excellent way to have accountability, structure, and routine.

Also, if you submit once a week, you will have 52 submissions in a year! For me (as someone who loves to write, but hates to submit, that's huge.)

But this week, I kind of lost track of what day it was as I'm off from work and basically just hanging around my yard in a hammock or lounge chair in the sun and reading. Susan sent out this week's email and I don't know, maybe I feel off the hook for having to submit this week... but I know I need to submit.

And tonight I am tired from talking with friends all day (tired in a good way, introvert tired, not-my-friends-are-annoying tired) and really, just want to slip myself into the newly-changed sheets on my bed and read.

So I think I'll be proud of myself for finally writing a blog post (sorry to be so behind) and let me myself off the hook on the submitting tonight, but will promise to do it tomorrow when my head is more in the game. (I am a much better morning poet.)

So that's a thing you know-- find the times you work best and use them. 

My time is morning now. Or after a nap. (Have I mentioned how often I nap? Almost daily. I nap at work, I nap in my car, I nap on the ferry... I seriously try to get a 40 minute - 60 nap a day. It's really like having 2 days in one. I wake up and my brain works again, it's' like magic, except it's science -- Yes, napping is good for you.) 

So tomorrow I will wake up and submit. I promise. 

And maybe you want to as well. Or maybe we can nap and dream we did...

~ Kells 

Friday, June 29, 2018

My Poetry Manuscript is a Bear...

Self Portrait with Manuscript

I have been a terrible blogger this June. 

I have a list of things I've been up to (mostly having to do with family, personal life, a few small trips), but I'll talk about the literary stuff and my biggest project, my fourth manuscript of poems.

For some reason, this manuscript has been a bear to work with. And not one of those friendly Winnie the Pooh types, all sweet and honey covered, this is the bear that wanders into a forest so large you can hardly see him until you do, then you realize he is chasing a camper or shredding a tent.

This bear is surrounded by poem and so many, he's not sure which are good anymore. He's eating sour blackberries and pulling thorns out of his wrist. 

This bear doesn't want to organized, it wants to run wild through rivers while grabbing a fish. 

This bear growls at the thought of having to "have a theme" or any sort of structure. 

This bear doesn't even want to be named. Just call me "Bear" he says. But you name him something clever, and for a week, he's happy, then he says, "I hate my name and so do you." 

One day I printed out all the parts that made the bear and put it in a folder. I had its ear over its left paw. He had eyes on its knees.  "This is not how you make a bear," said the bear.

I just can't see how to do this. The bear took a nap and I rearranged his den. He woke to find himself in a modern day apartment with organic honey on the table. There are two throw pillows with pinecones on them on his forest green sofa. 

The bear tells me "You have no idea what you are doing." And I agree.

That said, the bear looks more like a bear these days, though I still am not finished.

The bear says, "You will never be finished," and with this, I agree.

~ Kells

Friday, May 11, 2018

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

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

Narration by Nikesh Murali

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

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

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

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

~ Kells ________________

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Breaking Up with My Boyfriend, Facebook...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Facebook, I am breaking up with you.

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

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

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

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

~ Kells 

Sunday, May 06, 2018

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

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

Yes, I wrote a poem a day.

Yes, some where terrible.

But wait, some were actually pretty good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ Kells


Thursday, April 05, 2018

Average Blogger = More Words Than Not

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For me, not trying is failing.

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading....

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

~ Kells 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Confession Sunday.. Mini Writing Retreat

Dear Reader,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- a laptop or journal

--books of poems (for inspiration)


--time and a semi-quiet house

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

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

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

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

~ Kells 

Friday, March 09, 2018

Naps and Stepping Away from the Party...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue on, friends. It's almost spring!

~ Kells

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Confession Saturday: How To Float

Dear Reader, 

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

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

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

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

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

Know who will help you float through this world.

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

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

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

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

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

I would do it again.

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

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

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

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

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

~ Kells 

Friday, February 23, 2018

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

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


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

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

5 Common Traits of Successful Artists:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep writing. 

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

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

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

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

Until next time, 

~ Kells 
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