Monday, September 30, 2013

Hourglass Museum: The Reveal...




So this is happening...

Here's the cover. You'll have to wait until the end of February to see what the nightingale is chasing to the back of the book...



~ Kells

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Early Book Review: Die Empty by @ToddHenry



So I'm a HUGE fan of the Accidental Creative podcast so when I heard Todd Henry had a new book called Die Empty coming out, I stepped up to be one of the early readers/reviewers.

What I love about this book is deals with living the creative life and getting all your best work out now, while you're alive.

"Embrace the importance of now, and refuse to allow the lull of comfort, fear, familiarity, and ego to prevent you from taking action on your ambitions...The cost of inaction is vast. Don't go to your grave with your best work inside of you. Choose to die empty."

The book confronts a lot of things we deal with as artists and people in general--are we doing our best work & using our time wisely? Are we passionate about it?  Are we spending our time the way we want?  Are we stepping outside of our confront zone?

I love books like this.  Books that help you be a better creative person.  Trust me, there aren't many.
And I believe Todd Henry wrote this book because he is passionate about his own work in the world and wants to contribute to helping others.  He's definitely an inspiring speaker and writer.  I know his is the first podcast I listen to and I'm finding myself highlighting a lot in this book.


Die Empty will be released on September 26th.  I'm about halfway through with it and loving it.   I just got the book a few days ago and I can't put it down.

Anyway, wanted to give you the head's up if you're a fan of the Accidental Creative or are looking for an inspiring read to help you get back into your creative projects this fall.

I hope to post more on it once I'm done.  As I said, I have A LOT of highlighting and notes!





~ Kells

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thursday Book Reviews: 4 Books for Authors & Writers...

The first book I want to share with you is by Midge Raymond and called Everyday Book Marketing.



I was a contributor to this book (the very last section has interviews and essays from authors on their experience with marketing, etc.) and was excited about this book, but when I received my contributor copy I was completely blown away what a fantastic book this is.

A couple things--

The book is physically beautiful.  Not a cheapy published book, but LOVELY!  

Second, it's easy to read and organized!  You can read straight through, skip things, it's up to you.

Third, I loved reading the contributions from other poets, writers, and authors.  It was a 

And finally, at the end of each section, Midge offers you ideas if you have 15 - 30 minutes, or Everyday Marketing.  

There aren't many marketing books that I like, but Midge did an amazing job with this book that at one point I was thinking, "I'm looking forward to promoting my book," and seriously, I have *never* thought that. 

Oh and it's also available for your Kindle too!

Here's the book description:

Everyday Book Marketing is for the published author who is not only a writer but who also may have another career, a family, and any number of other obligations that require fitting book promotion into a budget where both hours and dollars may be hard to find.
 
This book will guide you on the journey from Writer to Marketing Pro, offering essential marketing tools along the way—including such book promotion basics as how to schedule a book tour and how to make the most of social media to how to keep the buzz going long after your launch date.
 
Everyday Book Marketing is divided into easily accessible sections that cover not only what you’ll need to handle before publication, such as establishing a blog and website, but what you can do during your book launch and beyond. It also offers tips and advice for how to keep the never-ending tasks of book promotion manageable, whether you have ten minutes a day or two hours a day.


And PRAISE for the book:

"Raymond has a gift for dispensing gentle, intelligent advice that even the most harried and overworked will find inspiring…Everyday Writinggives us permission to call ourselves writers, and found time to practice our craft." —The Writer magazine
 
"Raymond writes in a way that gives the reader real hope that a writing life is possible…Everyday Writing is a book worth owning and pocketing for those who struggle to make time for writing."  
Portland Book Review


______________________________________

Another book which I think is hugely beneficial for poets is The Crafty Poet A Portable Workshop by Diane Lockward.



What I like about this book is that it offers you poems, prompts and even interviews.

The book is definitely a portable workshop that you can use by yourself or with a group. The other cool thing is that once you read the poetry prompt, you can read a couple sample poems created from the prompts.

One other surprising thing in this book are the interviews.  As someone who loves interviews, I found this to be one of my favorite parts of the book (yes, even more than the prompts!)

For example, Diane Lockward interviews Cecilia Woloch, asking "I like the simplicity of your title.  How did you arrive at "Blazon?"  To which Woloch replies, "This question makes me smile because I think that I'm very bad at titles and therefore I always just go for the simplest, most obvious and least potentially embarrassing thing."

I love the honesty in these interviews and the wisdom.  I actually went through and read the interviews first.

I remember when this book was coming into being and there were calls for submissions for poems from the exercises and exercises and honestly, I'm bummed I never got my act together to submit as I feel The Crafty Poet will be making the rounds for a long time as there is a lot of information included for poets of all levels, though beginners may have a bit of a learning-curve if not familiar with poetic terms, etc. Still, recommended for the poet's shelf!

_____________________________

Someone sent me this to review: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Nonfiction, and while much of this book is for beginners (and it's actually a very good book for beginners because everything is spelled out for the new writer) it had a surprise in the back-- yes, interviews!  Susan Orlean, Laura Fraser, Dinty W. Moore, and Mary Roach.



It also had some hints inside the book on giving interviews which was helpful.

It covers all aspects of writing nonfiction from personal essays, to fact-checking, to writing, to publishing.  There's a bit of everything.

Which is good for someone who isn't exactly sure what s/he is going to write or even where to begin.

I wouldn't recommend this for everyone, but definitely anyone who is beginning in writing nonfiction or needs more of a reference guide to keep on their desk.


_______________________


And since I'm so impressed by interviews today, I want to mention this book, The Tiferet Talk: Interviews by Melissa Studdard.

(Also available on Kindle! for $6.99)



Which has great interviews from the Tiferet radio show.

The interviews are both positive and inspiring.  One of my favorites was with Julia Cameron when they discuss "synchronicity."  If you every read or did The Artist Way, you'll definitely enjoy this one!


Here's the description as well as the interviewees--


The Tiferet Talk Interviews is a fascinating collection of twelve interviews transcribed from the Tiferet Talk Radio show, hosted by Melissa Studdard. Some of the world's most notable writers and spiritual leaders share their thoughts on writing, tolerance, and the world we live in today. Gain incredible insight into their perspective on ways to tell the truth of our lives, access creativity, and balance magic and craft. The Tiferet Talk Interviews includes a special introduction by Donna Baier Stein and interviews with Julia Cameron, Edward Hirsch, Jude Rittenhouse, Marc Allen, Arielle Ford, Robert Pinksy, Dr. Bernie Siegel, Robin Rice, Jeffrey Davis, Floyd Skloot, Anthony Lawlor, and Lois P. Jones.

_____________


Well, that's a lot of reading (and possibly book shopping) for now.

Happy Reading!


~ Kells

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Confession Tuesday: The Overwhelmedness Edition



Dear Reader, 

It has been 2 weeks, one 5-day jaunt to the Poets on the Coast Retreat, one walk on the beach, two lightning storms, one scary drive to Oregon due to weather, one lost pig in my neighborhood since my last confession.


I apologize for missing last Tuesday and as per usual, will make up for it with a double confession Tuesday, basically, we'll skip the "I confess I wrote a poem" and go right to "I confess I have become the flaky mother..."  

Yes, welcome to my world of things falling through the cracks, as I am the dropper of things...
To the Confessional--

I confess I have become that woman who not only forget things, but who is so busy there are things I am supposed to be doing, that I'm not even aware of.   

A very funny thing happened this summer beginning with my own book, Hourglass Museum, deadline--I became overwhelmed and with my overwhelmedness basically have been teaching people for the last 3 months to lower their standards on what to expect from me.

Seriously. I hadn't intentionally set out to do this, but this amazing thing happens when you forget or don't come through with things-- people expect less from you and kind of leave you alone.

I know, it's as if I'm being rewarded for bad behavior.  

And here's the thing--I am so busy, I really can't be guilted into feeling bad about anything.  It's so weird, I don't feel guilty and so far, no one has been able to make me feel guilty.  I really feel as if I'm doing the best I can and if it's not good enough for someone, oh well.

I'm actually amused at how overwhelmed I feel and how I realize I too, have limits.

I am amused to find that I've been spending more time on Facebook, almost to quiet my mind--which seems in reverse--but Facebook offers immediate gratification with its "Likes" and comments.  I may not be getting things completed, but 42 people liked my status (YAY ME!) This is my brain on overwhelmedness.

~

I confess this is a very strange place for a Capricorn.

Capricorns are known for their hard work, responsibility, To Do Lists, and all the fun stuff that makes them successful at business or running a family.


I confess I have been so busy, unless you (or your priority) is on fire and/or yanking me by the wrist, you are at the bottom of my list.

Here are some things I have NOT been doing--

1) Filling out paperwork for my daughter's school
2) Going to curriculum night
3) Organizing anything
4) Doing laundry
5) Answering email
6) Answering voicemail
7) Wearing anything besides "my uniform" (leggings, skirt, black t-shirt)
8)  Paying the ATT bill (oops, they text you on this if you forget)
9)  Staying in touch with friends. 


None of this is intentional, but just the truth.  If it's not a major priority, it's on the backburner.


Now, while I confess my Capricorn self thinks I should be concerned about this behavior, my new flakier self kind of is appreciating what it is teaching me.


Being overwhelmed teaches you this:

1)  We Each Have Limits.

I have always assumed I was one of those people who could just get everything done.  

I could be the good friend, the good worker, the good mom, the good writer, the good editor, the good wife, and at night, slip into bed and read a book. Give me a deadline and I'm your girl!  

But apparently, if I am given multiple deadlines, and have to multitask 3 upcoming publications/projects, plus, have brought in a wonderful exchange student for a year, as well as my own family, and maybe am teaching at a retreat and for some reason, volunteer to help on a major school fundraiser, I *may* have taken too much on.

But here's the weird thing--instead of being upset or even resentful (my usual standby), I think "oh well, I'm trying!"  And just put one foot in front of the other.  I realize I'm human.  
It helps me not judge others, or myself.  


2)  Everything is Temporary.

Being overwhelmed gives you the perspective that this isn't going to last.

And by this, I mean "the overwhelmedness," "life," or *anything* we own.

Seeing my disheveled house makes me think, "Wow, I love that I am treating this house like a vacation home!"

It makes me think, "I am so busy, I don't even have time to worry about whether people are judging me!"

Seriously, nothing in the material world is bothering me.  I look at the blue hair dye staining the sink due to my daughter dying her friend's hair and think, "I feel bad for the next people who live here and their stained sink."  

I look at the broken ceramic fish I just knocked off the wall and is now in many pieces and think, "Bummer, but now I don't have to take care of that anymore."

Or I look at our wonko kitchen drawers and instead of thinking, "I need to fix these so they are nice respectable kitchen drawers!" I think, "I wonder how the next owners of this house will redo the kitchen. How lucky for them to be able to have the choice of what kind of drawers they want!"

I am treating my house as if it's a summer/fall retreat.  Some place I'm just borrowing for awhile.  It's okay that's it's messy, we're just visiting here, this is only temporary.



3)  The Good Enough World is a Great Place To Live.

Did I get my ATT bill paid a week late and turn my daughter's (and my exchange student's) forms in a week late?  Yes.  Did the world end?  No.  Good enough.

Did I completely forget an eye appointment and have a laundry pile so high that my husband had to take the entire thing to our local laundromat to get it done?  Yep, that was me. And did any member of my family have to go naked while this giant pile of sheets and clothes piled up and the eye doctor charge me hundreds of dollars for not making my appointment?  No. Good enough!

Good enough is a lovely place.

Good enough says: 


I see you've thrown every Tupperware container you own into a bottom cabinet without any sense of order and many without their lids.  Good enough.

I see you've carried boxes of stuff out into the garage and haven't yet brought then to Goodwill, but I know you will when you have time.  Good enough.

I see the garden was never put to bed, the laundry still isn't finished, but you've been writing and doing creative projects.  Good enough.

You aren't being a domestic goddess or even a domestic rat, but you're working on 2 books.   Good enough housekeeper, better writer.  


I see you had three hours last Sunday and you chose to watch a documentary (The Other F Word, which was awesome) instead of doing anything productive... Good enough!


In the good enough world, you're always a hero.

I'm going to be here for a couple more months.  And I do hope to get back to that place where I'm not paddling from one behind task to the next, but until then, I'm doing my best to just accept that sometimes life is busy.  Good enough.


Amen.






~ Kells

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

What I Learned Teaching at Poets on the Coast



Last week, Susan Rich & I spent a four nights and five days on the Oregon Coast working with other women poets.

As the weekend came to an end, I felt fulfilled and inspired by poets I've met and their stories.  I felt good for being part of the literary community.  And now that things are settling down (though I have still yet to unpack), here are a few things I learned at this writing conference.


1)  The Right People Will Come:  
I have always believed this.  In regards to poetry readings and writing conferences or residencies, you will meet someone you needed to meet.  Someone will offer you something and you will offer someone else something.

I told a sorry at one of the sessions about how the famous poet, major-prize winning judge of the book contest I won suggested I remove a poem about my father's death.

I wanted to please this judge because I was a fan of his work, but ultimately, I felt strongly about this poem and decided to speak up saying, "I've thought about your suggestion and I really don't feel comfortable removing this poem from my collection."

The famous poet judge told me, "Then you need to keep it in.  Follow your instincts."

At last week's retreat, one of the women heard me tell that story.  She came to me later and said, "I know that poem, it is my favorite poem of everything you have written.  I've read it to my husband. We were both moved by that poem and I am so glad you left it in."

When she told me this, I felt as if I had specifically left that poem in for her.  And so touched that she shared her story.

We write because the right people need to hear our stories.
When we all gather in a group, there are deeper ways we are connected.  Listen to others and share your stories.  The more you connect with each other, the more you'll see why you have each arrived at this place at this very moment.


2)  Always Welcome All Levels of Writers and You Don't Feel You Have to Apologize if You're a Beginner:

Beginners come to the group fresh and can call shenanigans on anything that is weird or funky in the Po'Biz.

Well-established poets can help new writers learn to write better.
New writers can offer fresh perspectives on established writers.

Everyone has knowledge from other fields which can be beneficial.

Never apologize for learning or wanting to learn.


3)  Sit by Someone New & Skip the Small Talk:

I'm a routine girl. Once I find a place to sit, it's mine to keep (or so I feel).

One way I stretch myself when teaching or attending a poetry conference is to make sure to sit by different people.  Plus, because I am horrible at small talk, I go right to the heart of things-- What are you working on?  is a favorite question of mine.

At dinner, I asked, "What is something no one would ever guess or know about you?"  To get the conversation going and we had amazing discussions from being a Republican in college to wearing Whoopi Goldberg's shoes to meeting Elvis Costello to photographing the LA riots.

I learned the most interesting things about these women in 90 minutes without having to say, "Yes, the weather has been amazing."


4)  Write.  Take Time For Yourself:

When teaching at a conference, I usually can't write.  But this weekend, I was able to.

I took notes from what I heard the receptionist saying, "Yes, Melville is free Wednesday night" to random phrases from a poet's writing exercise, "buckets of condoms."  In words I sketched the Pacific. I let my surroundings inform my poems.

You don't need a huge amount of time to begin a poem.  Take 20 minutes and begin a poem.  Wake up early, stay up late.  Just give yourself these moments.


5)  Crying is Good:

Crying during and after a writing residency is good.  It means you are getting the toxins out of your body and moving forward.  You are letting something go.  You are experiencing being a human.

Don't *ever* be embarrassed for feeling. Or for crying.
Be embarrassed if you don't feel or you judge someone for crying.

Be the sacred witness.  Be the heart that tells the woman who is breaking down that you are here for her.  Be the hand on her shoulder or the note you had to her later in the day that says, "Let me know if you need anything or if I can help you."



6)  Try to Keep Your "Retreat Mind" When You Return & Settle Back in Slowly as Much as Possible:

I have come sliding into home like a wonky rocket--covered in dirt, dress above my head, eyes spinning, and papers flying.  Welcome home, mom.

This is not the way to do it.

Tell (warn) your family members, you may be a little vulnerable.  Ask for what you need--a clean living room?  No dishes in the sink?  2 hours of quiet time?  Ice cream in the freezer?

Returning is hard.  Find a buddy from the retreat or conference to stay in touch with.  Reconnect with the other writers.

Try to keep all the goals you learned during your time away--to write more, to stay offline, to keep your phone at home, to sit in quiet, to observe more, to write in your notebook, to submit your work.

Understand, it may be hard.  You may resent your friends, family, job, or anything you feel takes you away from writing.  This doesn't make you evil or selfish, it makes you an artist.

Make sure you get time for yourself to write.

Return to the regular world slowly and look at your life with fresh eyes, knowing you are more connected with other writers and no one can ever take that experience away from you.

Now write...




~ Kells

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Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Confession Tuesday: What's Your Superpower? Edition

Pixieware, Honey.


Dear Reader,

If you've been reading this blog over the last couple weeks, you may have seen hodgepodge of emotions.  From I'm sad, I'm excited, I'm getting focused, I'm falling apart.  Those are my summaries of feelings, but there have been more.

Today I realized that while my superpower isn't living a stress-free life, it is juggling.  It's juggling emotions, tasks, projects, life.

Now, while I'm not the best juggler in the world, I do complete tasks.
Last week, I finished proofing my third collection, Hourglass Museum, and approved the cover.

It feels good to be done.  Now, all the final details are out of my hands and I just have to cross my fingers it all turns out beautiful and that you, or someone like you, enjoys it when it's published.

All of this got me thinking that I was feeling down, but I do some things well. We all do things well.

Dear Reader, I confess while I suck at multi-tasking, I am awesome at prioritizing projects and making room in my day for getting one more smaller thing done.  I can squeeze in something that's been on my To Do list for weeks right before bed because I get a huge satisfaction of being finished with things. It's kind of a superpower.

So today I'm thinking of superpowers (I want us all to think of our superpowers).  Maybe make your own list and if you'd like, share one, two, or all of them in the comment section.


Here are mine in no particular order:

My Superpowers are:

Frugality.  Finding cute, well-made clothes for hardly any money, say $4, say $6, say $8.  I haven't spent more than $14 on a sweater in years, and that $14 was a splurge.

Poetry.  Writing a poem a day (I'm doing this all September with Martha Silano)

Baking.  While not knowing how to cook, I can make an incredible Blackberry cobbler, Apple Brown Betty, and I'm pretty decent at scones too.

Finding Things.  For a long time, I was the patron saint of lost pets (if your pet was lost, most likely it was at my house and I was caring for it until I found you).  Now, I'm the patron saint of lost hearts and lost quarters.

Lollygagging.  I can spend the day watching birds or looking at the sea or a tree moving in the wind.  I can do this for hours without ever feeling I need to be somewhere else.

Observing.  I notice what others don't see.  If you bring me to a historic house and tell me about the venting system, I will notice the sparrow's nest outside the window, the crack in the corner that looks like the state of Florida, and the way the man in front of me keeps the small pink teddy bear in his pocket while holding the hand of his daughter.

Enjoying.  I am never bored.  On long car rides.  In a train.  Waiting in line.  I am always easily distracted from boredom by the world around me.

Hugging animals.  Dogs love me.  Even the ones who seems mean.

Returning to Places I Love.  Most of my dreams are about being at a writing residency.  I enjoy going to bed for this reason.

Street Smarts with Compassion.  Kindness and knowing who to stay away from.

Listmaking.   Long involved lists with due dates, letters of priority and stars.

Ecstasy. Never skipping dessert.  I am the friend you want to hang out with because I always have snacks and I don't judge you on what you eat or drink.  Eat a Twinkie.  Drink three glasses of red wine. Warm up cookie dough in a microwave and eat it with a spoon.  In most cases, I'll join you.  I have few rules about what I won't eat-- just not cheesecake.  Cheesecake is my kryptonite.

Nostalgia.  I love the things other people forget about:  typewriters, Pixieware from the 1950's, headvases from the 1960's, souvenir pressed pennies, rosaries, trophies, old stamps.

Dreaming.  Day and night.  It's a gift, a curse, and a blessing.

Amen.


~ Kells

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