Friday, January 30, 2015

The Right Time for The Write Crowd: Literary Citizenship and the Writing Life

The Write Crowd by Lori A. May
How many poets and writers understand that living a literary life is not just about pen and paper, publishing and book parties? In fact, there are several other facets to our lives. For this reason I love the music and the much needed subtitle of Lori A. May's new book: The Write Crowd: Literary Citizenship and the Writing Life.

Say you're new to town or new to the writing life; how do you accrue street cred? Or simply put: how do you make writer friends? How do you become a writer beyond the page? Lori A. May's book offers a plethora of creative ways to contribute to a writing community from attending local readings to writing book reviews to starting a literary blog. As May states, "giving back can be addictive."

For example, May's states "helping emerging writers develop their voice, supporting what our peers are doing, and cheering the successes of even those we don't know personally needn't be time consuming--- and shouldn't be a burdensome task." In my own writing life I know that when a poet that I've worked with achieves success (begins a degree in creative writing, publishes a poem, or a first book) I am thrilled to have cheered her on; excited to be able to share a little in her success.

And yet the idea of mentoring others is not something anyone ever explained to me.  I instinctively began a blog, a reading series, an editing business because I like to make things happen and I love collaborating with others. My background in community organizing with Amnesty International and Oxfam America certainly helped me do "the ask" at a local coffee shop or write an initial press release.  And it's true: some MFA programs --- Antioch LA and The Rainier Writers Workshop --- ask graduate students to go out into the community as part of their degree. However, for those of us not in school, Lori A. May has created an easy-to-use handbook. Highly recommended.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Happiness in Persistence or Cloud Pharmacy is a Finalist


It's 1:30 in the morning and tomorrow is another crazy day but I needed to pause if only briefly to savor the fact that Cloud Pharmacy is currently a Finalist for the Julie Suk Award from Jacar Press.

This is the time to praise dreams that send books into golden envelopes and off to book contests across the country hoping my words will resonate with readers whose faces I can only imagine. And such a pleasure when that connection happens. It's always improvised and always a true joy.

Monday, January 12, 2015

How to Get There From Here? The Writing Life

As a young woman I kept a postcard of this close to me as I traveled to Scotland, West Africa, and South Africa. I wondered if this was the type of writer I would become: a room of one's own but open to the world. Even the dormer windows are unlatched. Instead, I am a writer about to leave for the college and teach upwards of 75 young men and women how to love writing and film. At least that's the hope. Wish me luck. I will need it.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

You Could Be Writing In A Gorgeous Place -- In Seattle

A Place to Write and to Dream
We still have a few spaces in our one day winter writing retreat in Seattle on Saturday, January 24th. The morning is designed for generating new work and includes a publishing salon. The afternoon session is all things on publishing your first (or second or third) book. Message me with any questions. Location is South Lake Union on three bus routes. Lots of parking as well.
To register or for more information check out our website. You can also leave a question in the comments section below. This will be the third year Kelli Russell Agodon and I lead Winter Holiday Workshops (this year we meet during MLK weekend) and the community of women and men that gather is always supremely open, fun, and diverse. We'd love for you to come, too.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Teaching As A Test of Endurance: Week One

Well, the week is not quite over but I feel as if I'm ready for spring break. How can teaching three classes be so exhausting? Am I *that* old and out of energy? No. I hear the same complaint from my younger colleagues. This job takes an impossible amount of endurance.

Imagine beginning the day with a 40 minute commute through traffic. You arrive at your office and find that the radiator valve has broken and it's 85 degrees in your work space. You're already late for submitting your office hours to the department secretary --- in part because no one mentions that the form does not work with Google Chrome. A student drops by who wants to join your already full class. They do not want to take no for an answer.

By the time you arrive at your classroom to begin a three and a half hour teaching block, you're already a bit worn out from fighting with the copier. Surprisingly, your Gender and Film class is filled with a majority of young men --- many of them refugees from the Psychology class that was just cancelled in your same time slot.

And so it goes. Now add on committee meetings, learning a new computer system, and trying to be collegial with your colleagues and the day disappears. After arriving home, eating leftovers, and answering student emails --- it's 9:56 pm. Time to grade papers and plan the next day's classes.

On the positive side: my students seem ready to learn. The majority of them did their first assignment and did it well. Happy Week # 1.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Poetry Across Cultures, Countries, and For More Than A Decade



I am thrilled that Irish poet and fiction writer Geraldine Mills took the time to create an homage to our friendship on her blog today. Yesterday we got to renew the friendship that began in Ireland over a decade ago. The occasion was a residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Center in Ireland where we both appeared for the same few weeks. Perhaps because we were both just beginning our careers or perhaps because we recognized something familiar in each other, we stayed in touch.

A few years later when I was invited to Galway to read for the Cuirt Festival, Geraldine and I met up again and since then have found a way to see each other every few years. A stack of books and several fine lines of age between us now, I am so thankful for this sister poet across the water and for the circumstances that will be bringing her to the Seattle area regularly for at least a little while.

To see a list of all the idiosyncratic places we have read together -- bell towers and stepping stones -- you can click here.   To order Geraldine Mill's superb book of short stories Hell Kite - you can click
here. Her work has the sensibility of Margaret Atwood and the urgency of Sylvia Plath. You can't help but read on...

Friday, January 2, 2015

Seattle Writing Retreat in Beautiful Space, Saturday, January 24th

Woman bookbinder at Roycroft Shops, East Aurora, NY 1900.  
Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnson

This is our 3rd year offering winter workshops in Seattle. It's a sumptuous way to begin the New Year and yes we bring the snacks, too! Come for a morning of writing exercises -- ones we make new each time or join us in the afternoon for a hands-on class on creating a book!

Generating New Poems!
10 am – 1 pm
For poets who want to write new poems as well as submit their work to literary journals,
this is the class for you! We will try a wide array of writing exercises and spend the last half hour discussing the submission process and answering your questions on publishing. $105

REGISTER


From Manuscript into Book: The Process Demystified:
1:30 pm – 4:30 pm
This workshop is designed to help poets put together a full or chapbook length collection. We’ll look at several different options regarding how to structure and order your poems. Finally, you’ll have a chance to begin visualizing your work as part of a larger project. Everyone will leave with an action plan and a handout of resources leading you closer to the goal of a competed book. $105 

REGISTER

Or spend the day and take both classes for $187 total

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Kitchen Envy on Linebreak


I've just recently understood that "kitchen remodel" is like crack to a middle-aged, middle income woman. It's as if a kitchen island --- or at least a peninsula --- could equal happiness. I've heard that men buy leather jackets and motorcycles and women go for a new stove and countertops. I think there's more to it. A remodel is a way to open a space for dreaming; to imagine a life where every pie wins a gold ribbon --- where pies are actually baked in kitchens and there is ample space to roll out the dough.

Thanks to Linebreak for publishing my poem "Kitchen Envy" today. I love the format of the journal where one poem comes to subscribers each week and you have the option to read the poem as well as to listen to it read by another poet. Interestingly, the pairing is usual man/woman so in this case I get to hear a soft Southern male accent read about a "mint green ice cream scoop."

Here's the beginning:


Kitchen Envy

I slide open vast extending drawers,
admire a butter curler,
crab cracker, wine corks

scattered like stars above the salad spinner.

In my sister’s kitchen I finger the miniature nutmeg grater,
the pizza wheel, the whisk—

spread out the French spoons—
used to baste Moroccan chicken, stir the melon bisque.

O to be an instrument of the culinary arts.

To live among them as mandolin,
as mint-green ice cream scoop—