Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year's from Seattle: May All Your Dreams Come True

Happy New Year's --- May all your dreams, resolutions, and hopes come true. I am grateful for the life I have and always balancing what will and will not happen in the next year. As I get older, I spend more time with gratitude and less time elsewhere. May 2011 be the best year yet for all of us.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Coming Attraction: Poets on the Coast, September 9 - 11, 2011

I just want to let you know that Kelli Russell Agodon and I have been busy this week organizing a new project: Poets on the Coast: A Weekend Writing Retreat for Women and we will be announcing the details and how you can participate in the next few days. In the meantime, here is a picture of the library at the Sylvia Beach Hotel. I love new projects and this one is especially meaningful to me. It's the right time of year to be moving into new experiences. I hope you can come, too.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

What does this mean about the writing life? 33 events in 7 months

Taking my cue from January O'Neil and Collin Kelley, I decided to add up what the last few months of my life have looked like in terms of my book launch of The Alchemist's Kitchen.

Now I know why I've been so exhausted this holiday, happy to stay home and re-organize closets.

The thing that I can't get my head around is this: if writers need solitude in order to create work - and perhaps even thrive on or love solitude (not isolation) as I do, then how do we cope with this idea of continually being on the road?

Please understand, I adored meeting new friends in San Diego and Miami - people I never would have met if I'd stayed in West Seattle. And actually, I can be social, happily so, on occasion. But 33 presentations in half a year? Two months of that I was also teaching full time. And yet, it is what so many of us learn to do. In fact, I know I would miss the excitement of festivals, the energy from teaching intimate workshops, and the meeting up with old friends if I was not able to take my poems on the road. It actually feels like a privilege to be living this writing life.

But what I wonder is: will it change what I write? Will it zap poems before they're even thought of? I have to confess that I believe the answer is yes. Yes, just the way the printing press changed how books were made, or how television changed the position of going to the movies in the cultural life of the 1940's and 1950's, just like the internet has changed how we live today. In fact, I know that the internt on our laptops has changed how many of us write. What does it mean, for example, to write a poem of interesting facts if you just found the facts on wikipedia (which does have great lists). What does it mean to write word play poems when the word play can be configured on a website? I use facts and I use word play so this is not a diss, it's just the reality that our poems are now internet enhanced.

And yet. I believe there are more venues for poetry today - both on-line and off-line than any time previously. Poetry is no longer exclusively in the hands of the New York publishing houses and elite journals. Because we have the internet -- and frequent flyer cards -- we can communicate in a far more democratic way then has been possible before. And part of that means going on the road.

Tonight  I was just talking with an old friend about how much fun it would be to teach in Alaska next June - to do a few readings and see a part of the country I have been infatuated with but never had a chance to visit. I know there is a famous writers conference in Homer, Alaska that I would love to be part of and then visit my friend's new home - the Ionia community. And yes, that is time away from writing -- but it is also a chance to be nourished by a new landscape and perhaps write a new kind of poem.

So it's the ying and yang of the writer's life in the year 2010. And I guess I wouldn't have it any other way. In fact, for 2011, I already have speaking engagements through August. Maybe being a more social person is just something I'll have to get used to. I can think of worse things.

Resolution #1 for 2011 --- embrace the social world of poetry -- be thankful for readers and hosts.

Conferences / Festivals/Teaching – 5 festivals, 11 events

Miami Book Festival, Miami, Florida, Reading with January O’Neil, Nov. 21, 2010
Centrum Writers Conference, Port Townsend, WA July 2010, Invited Faculty (2)
Skagit River Poetry Festival, La Connor, WA, May 2010 Invited Faculty (5)
Get Lit! – Writers Festival, Spokane, WA, April, 2010, Invited Faculty (2)
Edge Program for Writers, Artists Trust, March 2010, Invited Faculty

Colleges and Universities – 4 schools, 6 events

San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, November 2010 (3)
Lower Columbia College, WA, May 28th, 2010
Pacific Northwest American Studies Association Conference, April 16th, 2010
Highline Community College, Writing Teachers Actually Write! April 5, 2010

Community Programs – 14 locations, 16 events

Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA, Reading with January O’ Neil, Nov. 17, 2010
The Ink Spot, San Diego, CA Reading with Ilya Kaminsky, November 14, 2010 (2)
Taboo on the Word Beauty, Frye Art Museum, Seattle, Nov. 8th with Kelli Agodon
Literary Fires, with Elizabeth Austen and Harold Taw, November 10th, 2010
Humanities Washington, Seattle WA October 1, 2010
New Poets of the American West, Elliott Bay Book Company, September 2010
Hugo House, LitFuse Kickoff Event. September 2010
Pilot Books, Seattle, WA September 2010
Hedgebrook Open House, August, 2010
Elliott Bay Book Company, June 19, 2010
Seattle Library, It’s About Time Series, May 13, 2010
She Said: Women’s Lives Through Poetry and Prose, Hugo House, Seattle, May 5th, 2010
Village Books, Bellingham, WA April 30th, 2010
Open Books, Seattle, WA April 25th, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Thankful Thursday - Midnight Edition

Earlier today I was going to write about rejection. Instead, I am writing with gratitude for the three acceptances  that I received today. Three! I don't think this has ever happened before. It seems a miracle except that this morning I realized it had been months since any of my work had come back with a grand yes -- and just this week there had been a snow storm of no thank yous.

Here is one of the strange aspects of these acceptances: two of them are for essays I've written. Is this because after The Alchemist's Kitchen I have not yet found my next poetry focus? I don't know. I do know that writing in another genre feels both strange and fun.  One of the acceptances is for my essay "Blue Gates" exploring my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Niger, West Africa. It will be published this March in The Best Women's Travel Writing 2011 - an anthology that I have travelled with in past years.

I'm thinking of many, many things I'm thankful for as this year comes to an end. It's been a time of exceptionally high highs and low lows. At midnight, it's hard to know how to articulate the emotional  shifts I've been through. I think I need to sleep on it and think on it a bit more.

For now, I will just say that I am profoundly thankful that I get to live this one life as a poet and writer. There's an entire cycle of life with creating, writing, publishing, teaching, mentoring, and publishing others fine work. This year it's finally occurred to me that I am no longer an emerging writer (I am a bit slow) and I've tried to focus some of my energy on working with new voices.

Inventing this blog as I go is something else that I'm grateful for -- my poetry scrapbook is the way that I think about it. A place holder for poems, poets, book reviews, and everything in-between.  While on book tour I met people in Boston, San Diego, and Miami who came out because they'd come to know me through this blog and who were generous (and curious) enough to come out for an event. In every case, it was a true pleasure to meet you.

There's so much more to be thankful for --- this is only the beginning...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Blogging Extends Storytelling: Geoffrey Philip - Discovering a New (to me) Blogger

One of the great aspects of travel is meeting people. In fact, it is my favorite part. While on my book tour last month, I met Geoffrey Philip at the Miami Book Festival. Geoffrey knew (through blogs) poet January O'Neil who I was reading with and he also knew my friend, novelist, Debra Dean, who I was staying with. These intersections seemed to portend that we would like each other. I'd have to say I felt an immediate connection. Geoffrey's daughter had attended Western Washington University so our three geographies: Washington, Miami, and Jamaica all lined up as well. OK. My Jamaican geography consists of a week in Negril in late August to celebrate finishing graduate school -- but I think it still counts.

I'm writing about Geoffrey Philip today for two reasons. First, one of my New Year's resolutions is to read new blogs. Nothing wrong with what I read now, but I have not been exploring and I know there are many blogs out there that I've no idea about. Geoffrey's essay on Top 5 Reasons Why I Blog is inspiring to me and I've included a link here as well as the beginning of the essay below.

The second reason to include an introduction to Philip's site today, is that his blog is up for an award: the Jamaica Blog Awards for a writer writing in the diaspora. Take a look at his site and then how can you help but vote for him?

Also, check out his excellent article on the Top 10 Things A Writer Should Know.

Blogging and storytelling go hand in hand.

Just below the masthead of my blog is the phrase, “Every blog is telling a story. What’s your story?” I really believe that, and blogging is definitely a part of my storytelling.
My blog is an extension of the non-fiction narratives about my identities (husband, father, son, brother, teacher, writer), my life within my communities (Jamaica, South Florida and the Caribbean) and my concerns (the dilemmas facing fatherless children in the Caribbean, the disruptive effects of the Jamaican Diaspora on family and community life, and the spiritual and political dimensions ofReggae and the Rastafari movement). And I apply the same principles of writing as I do when I am working in other genres: inspiration, selection, distillation, and revision.
I also practice three important parts of storytelling:

Capturing the reader’s attention

Maintaining the reader’s interest

Creating a resolution

The main difference between blogging and other forms of storytelling is the openendedness of blogging. At least for now my blog does not have an ending, so the narrative (while it does have certain themes) is episodic. This is an idea that I have been pursuing in my hypertext novel, Virtual Yardies, which uses a series of connected blogs to tell a story about a group of Jamaican bloggers who are being murdered one-by-one by a religious maniac who threatens to “kill all battymen and fornicators.”
Blogging is merely another means of expressing ideas, some of which should only be expressed through a non-fiction narrative.

A Spicing of Birds: Poems | The Elliott Bay Book Company

Book idea from Peter Aaron, poet and owner of Elliott Bay Book Company, where the exact center of the store is where you will find the well stocked poetry shelves.

A Spicing of Birds: Poems | The Elliott Bay Book Company

Monday, December 20, 2010

Gratitude and Great Books

I thought I would board the train of holiday gift ideas as a way to express gratitude for all the authors I've met,  books I've read, and friendships I've deepened this year.  Here is a short list of books that run from fiction to non fiction to poetry. They are favorites in terms of both words and the women behind the words. Definitely worth looking at.

Letter from the Emily Dickinson Room (White Pine Press) by Kelli Russell Agodon for those trying to find calmness in a chaotic world. Signed copies available at

The Motion of the Ocean: 1 Small Boat, 2 Average Lovers & a Woman's Search for the Meaning of Wife (Simon & Schuster 2009) by Janna Cawrse Esarey, travel memoir about love and other dangerous adventures.

Beyond Forgetting: Poetry & Prose about Alzheimer's Disease (written for
families, caregivers, and medical professionals caring for those with
Alzheimer's Disease) Kent State University Press, 2009. by Holly Hughes.

Forgetting English (travel-themed short story collection), Eastern Washington University Press, 2009. ( by Midge Raymond.

Underlife (poems of food, love, and family all exquisitely rendered), Caven Kerry Press, 2009. Available at better bookstores, Caven Kerry Press or by January O'Neil.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

Poem Revisited: Meditation at Lagunitas

Langunitas, California

I came across this poem by Robert Hass again yesterday while reading Poetry in Person: Twenty-five years of Conversation with American Poets edited by Alexander Neubauer. Thank you Kristen Berkey-Abbott for the recommendation. The book tells the story, through interviews, of what transpired in Pearl London's class at The New School during her 25 years of teaching. A superb book. 

This poem seems so out of season today; it's a cold December morning with a heavy coat of snow covering the Olympics outside my window. And yet. And yet, this only provides the poem with an otherworldly glow. Enjoy.

Meditation at Lagunitas

All the new thinking is about loss.
In this it resembles all the old thinking.
The idea, for example, that each particular erases
the luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown-
faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk
of that black birch is, by his presence,
some tragic falling off from a first world
of undivided light. Or the other notion that,
because there is in this world no one thing
to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,
a word is elegy to what it signifies.
We talked about it late last night and in the voice
of my friend, there was a thin wire of grief, a tone
almost querulous. After a while I understood that,
talking this way, everything dissolves: justice,
pine, hair, woman, you and I. There was a woman
I made love to and I remembered how, holding
her small shoulders in my hands sometimes,
I felt a violent wonder at her presence
like a thirst for salt, for my childhood river
with its island willows, silly music from the pleasure boat,
muddy places where we caught the little orange-silver fish
called pumpkinseed. It hardly had to do with her.
Longing, we say, because desire is full
of endless distances. I must have been the same to her.
But I remember so much, the way her hands dismantled bread,
the thing her father said that hurt her, what
she dreamed. There are moments when the body is as numinous
as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.
Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,
saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Notes on Abstraction: Thankful Thursday

I read these words this morning and was thankful.

My friend, poet Jericho Brown offers a view on hope that comes from the past and reaches into the future. Jericho is a gifted and hardworking poet whose magnificent first book PLEASE won the American Book Award. We first met when we were both on a panel at the 2010 Split This Rock Poetry festival. He teaches at the University of San Diego. Like his poetry, I have read his reflection below many times and find something new each time I read it. I bet you will too.  ~Joseph Ross
Jericho Brown

Notes on Abstraction
-Hope is the opposite of desperation, it’s not as comfortable as certainty, and it’s much more certain than longing.  It is always accompanied by the imagination, the will to see what our physical environment seems to deem impossible.  
-Only the creative mind can make use of hope.  Only a creative people can wield it.  
-I will never understand the spirit of my ancestors, but I know it.  I know it lives in me.  And though fear insists on itself, I intend to acknowledge this spirit as one that overcomes us.  I write because my writing mind is the only chance I have of becoming the manifestation of their hope.  
-I write because my writing mind is the only chance I have of becoming what the living dead are for me.  
-Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us.  Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.  There’s a high note at the end of my body.  A squall inside.  I share one sound with time.  
-I exist because I was impossible for someone else to be before me.  I want for our children what you want for your children.  And if my want is right, they will want it too.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Small Side Business Question - Holiday Gift Ideas?

Yesterday I casually mentioned that I have a small side business sending poems out into the world. I know several  poets who would rather scrub floors than take on the job of sorting through their poems and organizing packets to different journals. Since I find this process more playful than stress provoking, I have started taking on clients who want to leave the posting to me.

Briefly, here is what I do. A poet sends me 15-18 poems that she or he thinks are done - or might be done.  I organize the poems into packets of 3-5 and then choose the journals that I think will be most interested in the work.  I get the envelopes ready (stamps included!) and also do line edits of the poems -- if the poet wants my two cents. I offer a model cover letter from my own files and my knowledge of different editors' tastes -- limited as my knowledge might be. I've had pretty good results getting poems placed for people. Because I only take on a very limited amount of clients, I find the process fun and I love hearing good news when the poems are picked up.

If you are interested in talking with me directly about this, just click here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sending Poems into the World this Holiday Season

Today I sent my words into the world. Some traveled by way of the ether through on-line submissions and others opted for the old fashioned stamp and envelope method. I am wishing them all a safe journey. Really, there are other things I should be working on right now -- a deadline for an essay looms, a doctor's appointment later this afternoon chirps at me; there is a todo list and sending poems out was not one of the items on it.

I am actually someone who likes sending my poems into the world. They are going on a trip! Quick! Get every comma and semi-colon ready. Is the font right or is there a better fashion statement my words can make? In other words, I try to make a game out of the entire experience so as to not stress whether my work will come back with a "A" grade or an "R."

Some things I entertained myself with this afternoon that may be of some use to you, too.

1. The license plate game -- send poems to states you'e never been to, never even had a poem published in. There is a contest going on right now in Cork, Ireland. Part of the prize is a trip to Cork! I haven't sent to them yet -- but if I can find the information again, I'm going to!

2. Which poems of mine would go well together? This is the wine and cheese portion of the project. Editors often look for pairs of poems that they can take. Have I offered poems that would go well together without being redundant or schizophrenic?

3. Something borrowed, something new. OK. Here's a confession: I've been sending out poems and sometimes getting them published since 1992. That's a long time and it means that many journals in this country (and the world) have had the chance to accept or reject my poems before. Today I sent poems to a beautiful journal that first published me in 1996 -- I was so glad that they were still going strong that I sent them new work and reminded them that they'd published me before. I also sent to brand new journals that look promising and have not seen my work before.

4. Cool stamps are a fun part of this process. I've loved postage stamps since I collected the old stamps of the Solomon Islands and Fiji -- so many are miniature pieces of art. Which journal should get SPCA cats and which Katharine Hepburn.

I could go on ...This is something I love to do and have even created a small side business of helping others send out their poems to appropriate places. It certainly beats doctors' appointments!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Poem For Monday: This is what was bequeathed us

This is what was bequeathed us
This is what was bequeathed us:
This earth the beloved left
And, leaving,
Left to us.

No other world
But this one:
Willows and the river
And the factory
With its black smokestacks.

No other shore, only this bank
On which the living gather.

No meaning but what we find here.
No purpose but what we make.

That, and the beloved's clear instructions:
Turn me into song; sing me awake.

Thank you Verse Daily for reminding me of this poem by Gregory Orr, from his collection, How Beautiful the Beloved. 

Last Giveaway of the Year: The Alchemist's Kitchen

I seem to be in the holiday spirit lately. Click here for a chance to win a copy of The Alchemist's Kitchen. I'm hosting a giveaway of one copy of my recent book over at Goodreads. The closing date is happening soon as I wanted to give the winner her copy (or his) before Christmas. Signing up for Goodreads is a good idea. There are dozens of free books given away all the time -- the major poetry publishers will often given 12 or even 24 copies of a new book as a way to try and create some buzz.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Houston, We Have a Winner

Congratulations, Mari is the winner of Rosanne Olson's beautiful book, This Is Who I Am.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Until midnight tonight -- Pacific time

It's not too late to enter. Simply leave a comment right here and you may win a copy of Rosanne Olson's book This Is Who I Am: ourselves in all shapes and sizes. A perfect gift for any woman in your life who has ever thought about her shape. Take a look at an interview with Rosanne and photographs from the book and see what you think by clicking here.

Happy Human Rights Day and Happy Birthday Emily D.

Poet and dear friend, Kelli Agodon, has a lovely tribute to Emily today at Book of Kells.  Happy B-Day, Emily, you are 180 years relevant today.

Today is also International Human Rights Day. This year's theme is human rights activism. Why not take action? PEN is an organization on the behalf of poets, playwrights, essayists, and novelists who are at risk of censure or violence due to their writings. Here is a way to take action on behalf of specific individuals by clicking here.

Happy Holidays!

Human Rights Day 2010

The theme for Human Rights Day 10 December 2010 is human rights defenders who act to end discrimination.
Human rights defenders acting against discrimination, often at great personal risk to both themselves and their families, are being recognized and acclaimed on this day.
Human rights defenders speak out against abuse and violations including discrimination, exclusion, oppression and violence.  They advocate justice and seek to protect the victims of human rights violations.  They demand accountability for perpetrators and transparency in government action.  In so doing, they are often putting at risk their own safety, and that of their families.
Some human rights defenders are famous, but most are not. They are active in every part of the world, working alone and in groups, in local communities, in national politics and internationally.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thankful Thursday: Split This Rock Holiday Book List

Split This Rock Poetry Festival is a poetry celebration I hope to be at in 2012. For right now, I am happy to be included in the Split This Rock HolidayGift List: Books, 2010. The list includes single author collections as well as anthologies. Here are a few of my favorite ones. It feels good to be included on this list. A list I will be using to do some gift giving of my own. Thank you!

Terrance Hayes | Lighthead
Penguin, 112 pp. $18.00 |
The 2010 National Book Award winner for poetry takes a fearless look at our urgings, hopes and fears. Hayes’ language always surprises the reader with its layers and beauty. Like the blues, this collection names pain and moves through it. Any reader who loves language will delight in this award-winning collection of poems.

Melissa Kwasny & M.L Smoker, Editors| I Go to the Ruined Place: Contemporary Poems in Defense of Global Human Rights |Lost Horse Press, 168 pp. $18.00 |
Poems of witness against crimes of genocide, torture, war, rape, hate crimes, and more. These poems bring dignity and humanity to the wounded, language to our deepest silences, voice to unspeakable crimes, with poems by such poets as Marvin Bell, Tamiko Beyer, Martha Collins, Lois Red Elk, Christopher Howell, Scott Hightower, Christi Kramer, Phillip Metres, Farnoosh Moshiri, Susan Rich, and others. A poignant and necessary book. For a full review, please click here.

Myra Sklarew | Harmless
|Mayapple Press, 92 pp., $15.95|
Harmless will capture you from the first poem. Its delicate poems, often using Jewish Biblical characters and themes, explore memory, family, parenting, and conflict. The poems build an architecture of tenderness we could all live in.

Susan Rich | The Alchemist’s Kitchen
|White Pine Press, 105 pp., $16.00|
The poems here weave the personal and the political; they tell stories and lament. A strong middle section resurrects the early female photographer and painter of the American Northwest, Myra Albert Wiggins, with scenes from her life and work. Rich is in love with the music of poetry and many of the poems are in form, lilting through even the most difficult of subjects.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

P.S. Drawing for Rosanne Olson's Book - There Is Still Time

Photograph by Rosanne Olson

Since I am easy in the islands this week (pacific northwest islands, that is) I am extending the date for the drawing of This Is Who I Am:  our beauty in all shapes and sizes until Friday, December 10th. You can sign-up right here by leaving a comment. I promise your name will not be sold, bartered, or borrowed.

Rosanne Olson has been a professional photographer for 30 years, but her focus on deep portraiture is newer. Lately, Rosanne has been devoting her talents to photographing poets and writers. If you need a photo for your next book --- I can't recommend Rosanne's  work highly enough. Believe me, this photograph is one of the best I've ever taken --- and that's her magic.

To be ordered in the drawing for This Is Who I Am you can post a comment right here.

Photograph by Rosanne Olson

Friday, December 3, 2010

Portraiture: An Interview with Rosanne Olson and a Free Book!

Rosanne Olson - Portrait 

Some people are just multi-talented. And Rosanne Olson is one of them. I first met Rosanne Olson seven years ago when she joined a writing group I was in. Since that time I have come to know her not only as a poet, but also as a musician and superb professional photographer. Rosanne's approach to taking portraits involves a holistic view of her client. I have recently had the honor of working with Rosanne on her newest project. Rosanne's picture of me is now my "professional portrait" and you can see it here.

Rosanne's working on an exhibition of Northwest poets that you can read about in this interview. However, her most recent book This Is Who I Am: our beauty in all shapes and sizes is a collection of photographs and essays by women ages 19 to 95. If you are interested in receiving a free copy of this book, please leave your name and a comment in the comment box below. Next week I will write about my experience being photographed by Rosanne. This was my first time being professionally photographed with all the trimmings -- and I loved it.

Since I have been writing about the photography of Myra Albert Wiggins recently, it seems only natural to be interviewing a photographer of our time: Rosanne Olson.

1.You’ve worked in many areas of photography, what draws you to portraiture in particular?
I love working one-on-one with people, especially people who have not had the experience of being photographed. I like to create a very positive experience for my clients—one that will leave them feeling as if they have been listened to and really seen, thus giving them a portrait that will convey their true self to the public.
2. Who are the photographers that you draw the most inspiration from?
I am most inspired by Irving Penn. He recently died at the age of 90+, still working for magazines. His work encompassed portraiture, still life and fashion. He used simple lighting and simple sets to convey great depth of personality. I never tire of looking at his work. And I hope to be working at 90.
3. How is working with you on a portrait different than having a friend or a family member take the picture?
Nothing against having a photograph taken by a friend or family member, but, how do I say this? I feel that the way one portrays oneself in a professional portrait is a reflection of how seriously one takes one’s work. I have spent 30 years working with lighting and photographing people. It is a subtle art. I make it my work to bring out the best in people. I usually spend at least two hours in a session, not to mention the prep time (reading the author’s work, etc.). One can certainly use a photo taken by a friend just as one can lay one’s own tile or work on one’s own car. It might be a job well done. However, if you find that your existing photo doesn’t quite convey the true you, you might try a professional. The photograph is part of one’s “brand.”

4. Can you tell us about your project with Northwest authors?
I have been photographing Northwest poets for the past year and hope to bring this project to Seattle schools to help engage students in poetry. My project arose from a poetry book I had in a college poetry class called Modern Poets. It consisted of portraits, bios and a few representative poems from each poet. Sylvia Plath, W.H. Auden, John Berryman, William Carlos Williams are among some of the poets in the book. It is long out of print so I decided to create my own project along the lines of my tattered old book.
This is Who I Am: Our Beauty in All Shapes and Sizes
5. Can you tell us how you mix portraiture and psychology?
What a great question! In my mind, a photograph is a weaving of technology, art and psychology. I sometimes affectionately call my work “photo-therapy” because much what I do is interpret the personality of my subject. In 2008 I authored a book called this is who I am—our beauty in all shapes and sizes. I photographed 54 women ages 19-95 and interviewed them about body image. Most of the women were nude. It took a lot of connection and trust to make the portraits. Aside from the book,  most of my clients are NOT nude, even though the connection and trust are equally important. Everyone is nervous when then come to a session. They wonder if they will be seen, understood, interpreted in a way that is true to them. This is exactly what I strive to do.

6. What do you hope a person gains working with you on a portrait?
In my thinking, portraiture is a collaborative undertaking. We need to trust each other. This is accomplished through talking, listening, observation. My hope is that after a session the client comes away feeling truly seen and heard. My goal is to transmit that to the photographs. When I work with people I am totally present. I am committed to working through the client’s worries about being “seen,” the dread about not being seen as “beautiful” enough. I hope that people leave my studio feeling better about themselves than when they came.
From This is Who I Am: Our Beauty in All Shapes and Sizes

7. How do you see portraiture as part of your overall work?
My work has encompassed everything from journalism to advertising and fine art. I love portraiture because I love people. I love portraiture because it is REAL. My fine art is my personal expression of my artistic nature. Portraiture is the expression of my talent for connecting to people. Both are important to me.

How much does one pay for a portrait?
One could pay between say $150 to $2,500 or more, depending on the photographer, the author’s (or artist’s) renown and the publisher’s contribution (if any). I try to keep things affordable for artists and authors and work with my clients to get them what they need. My photo sessions are about two hours long in addition to time for preliminary discussion, wardrobe consultation, etc. To find out more about Rosanne's work you can go to her website at

         Thank you, Rosanne, for your time and insights. It's been a pleasure. 

Dear Reader, if you would like to be entered in a drawing for Rosanne's book, This Is Who I Am: our beauty in all shapes and sizes - simply leave your name and a comment in the box below. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Happy Holidays -- How About A Free Book of Poems?

I can feel myself taking a deep breath and heading out to shop -- something I am not at all fond of doing.  I love the idea of shopping on line as long as we aren't talking fabric or shoes. I like to touch things before I take them home. I like things to be free.

So here is what my good friend, poet Kelli Agodon set-up on Thanksgiving Day -- a book giveaway. At Book of Kells, on Thanksgiving Day, Kelli offered a copy of The Alchemist's Kitchen (the book, not the blog) to one lucky person who leaves a comment.  And it isn't too late for you to swing by her blog and leave a comment. Even if you have a copy, why not? At the Miami Book Festival I had someone (you know who you are!) buy a copy of The Alchemist's Kitchen and then return a few minutes later to buy a copy for her mom for Christmas. I felt very supported and she was happy to have checked a gift off her list. If you want me to sign a book for you or for a loved one and send it out in time for the holidays, you can purchase one right here.

Kelli and I have known each other about eight years and during this time we've written together on cloudy afternoons, travelled to workshops, taken road trips, shared many chocolate bars and supported each other in too many ways to count. Here is my poem, "4 0'Clock News @ House of Sky,"  dedicated to my dear friend, Kelli. I firmly believe that women's friendships should be celebrated in poems. One of my favorite is Elizabeth Bishop's, "Invitation to Miss Marianne Moore." Why not try writing about a dear friend? Love poems come in all shapes and sizes. Or so I believe.

The 4 ‘0’ Clock News @ House of Sky
In the beginning we wanted
to cast ourselves
as opera stars, to break apart
like gorgeous women
palm reading at the piano bar ~
music stinging like salt from the sea.
We were spiraling ridges, dust-darlings
and dangerous.
We were peonies ~ cut
and arranged like astronauts
in flight. We soaked in syllables
not water; rode the Southern
drawl of the wind
over cobalt glass ~
backlit by a disc of sun.  

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Enjoy the Journey - Thoughts on My Book Tour

I survived! And even better than that, I had fun. When The Alchemist's Kitchen was still in production, I challenged myself to take my baby on the road. If I wanted to let people know about my book, the best possible way was to meet some new people face to face. And so I travelled from Seattle to San Diego, to Boston, to Miami all in one week. Ironically, the previous week I had put on three events in Seattle at the Frye Art Museum, a travel book store and a coffeehouse. I'm just now calculating how many different events I did in two weeks. The magic number: 10.

So what did I learn from this whirlwind that might be of some use to other writers? A few things perhaps.

1. Pack light. I'm not kidding. This is the number one rule. I did three cities and a few major weather patterns with just a carry-on bag. This meant I had no worries of the airline losing my bags and I also didn't have to waste time waiting in long lines at the airport. Carrying my own (mostly black) belongings alleviated much of the stress of travel. I also felt proud that I could pack only essentials - which included three pairs of shoes.

2. Attachment is exhausting. Don't worry about book sales. Of course you are worried about book sales but it won't do anyone any good. Besides, you've done your part -- here you are on the road reading and teaching in the best way you know how. (Thanks to Kelli for putting this so succinctly.)

3. Food is really important. The pumpkin pie cookies at the San Diego farmer's market; the cook your own delicious meal restaurant in Brighton, cocktails and coconut shrimp in Miami. The communal nature of sharing food with good friends -- that's what I will remember.

4. Travel makes me confront my discomfort level. In San Diego I did five events in three days. That's a record. I taught a course on translation, gave a three hour workshop, and other assorted programs. And amazingly, I had fun. I met some superb people and felt that what I did was well received. However, before I left Seattle it seemed impossible that I would be able to do it all. Now with the luxury of hindsight, I feel stronger and more able to face the challenges ahead.

5. You have to have friends. Honestly, that's what this trip was about. Ilya and Katie in San Diego, Hilary in Boston, then Cliff and Deb in Miami. In each place I landed I had very dear friends to take me in. I remember the lentil soup on the stove, the morning walk for coffee, and the party under the trees. I continually felt grateful for knowing such amazing people; for the immense pleasure of friendship. At the end of the class, the reading, the workshop, I had people who loved me waiting to talk and laugh. In many ways, a book tour is more about relationships with others (new friends were also made on this trip) than anything else.

6. What a great problem to have. A book tour! Travel the country and have people listen to your images, visions, ideas -- what a privilege to live this life as a writer. I am honored. And if you are someone who reads this blog and also came out to see me last week, I am doubly honored. Thank you.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Entering the Picture: Myra Albert Wiggins and Me

Finally. My article in the Oregon Quarterly is here! I love that these are the best produced images of Wiggins' photographs that I have ever seen. Guy Maynard, Editor-in-Chief of Oregon Quarterly and the author of the novel, The Risk of Being Ridiculous, was a complete joy to work with. The article tries to examine the nature of art and poetry - which is no small task. In addition, Guy asked me to look at three of my own poems and offer insight into the process of writing ekphrastic poems. This was a challenge for me. And I like challenges.

Writing prose is so different than writing poetry. Instead of soaring through sound and disjuncture, I'm stumbling around lost, looking for a narrative line.  Instead of singing in a new key, I'm slipping into quick sand. Yes, this is an exaggeration. The more I write, the more I see that these dichotomies only really exist in my head. My newest example of poet disguised as a fiction writer is Nicole Krauss author of History of Love and The Great House. More on this later.

For now, I hope you'll take a look at Entering the Picture and tell me what you think. I would like that.

It Began Innocently Enough ~ The Best Book(s) Trailer Ever

This dual purpose book trailer is a joy to watch whether you are interested in book trailers or not. My good friend Midge Raymond is here with her author husband lamenting the meaning(s) of Amazon rankings. It plays to me like a short story by Saki. Since Midge is an excellent short story author, it seems a fair comparison. I hope you enjoy it.

I have yet to enter the world of book trailers, but this one makes me curious about what works and what doesn't. My sense is: this is just plain funny and entertaining no matter whether you decide to buy Forgetting English or  The Tourist Trail or not. It resembles a good comedy sketch -- I can imagine it on the old SNL and that it's worth aside from book promotion is what makes it successful.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

If it's Thursday ... it must be Boston

Susan and January last night after our reading at Porter Square Books; photograph thanks to Avivah
It was a fabulous reading!

Coming attractions: January and I read at the Miami Book Festival Sunday at 2:30 pm @ Miami Dade College

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Porter Square Books in Porter Square @ 7 PM Wednesday night with January O'Neil

Yes, I know this is Harvard Square, not Porter Square -- I haven't been gone that long! It's true when the taxi driver asked me if he should take exit 19 or exit 28 -- I had no idea what he was talking about. I think he knew that, too. In any case, I am happy to be back "home" even if home is now Seattle and not Boston. I'm looking forward to seeing old friends, some from elementary school tomorrow night and meeting new folks. It's been five years since my last visit and so reading tomorrow night at 7 pm with January O'Neil is just one of the pleasures these next three days hold.

I'm sill mentally back in San Diego where I had a superb time. Maybe I should travel more often ...

There is much more to say about notions of home and travel, but not tonight. For now, glad to be satiated with lentil soup, red wine, and tea. I am thankful for the most wonderful of friends.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Saturday afternoon "Speaking Pictures Workshop" and Saturday night reading with Ilya Kaminsky at the Ink Spot

I've never been to San Diego, but I'm on the road there today! If you are in driving or walking distance of San Diego's center for writers, the Ink Spot, I would love to see you on Saturday (tomorrow) for an afternoon workshop on poetry and the visual arts @ 1:00 pm or at a reading with Ilya Kaminsky @ 7:00 pm. I will also be reading at San Diego State University on Monday night. Since I am brand new to Southern California, it would be great to meet you. And if not in San Diego, perhaps in Boston at the Porter Square Books in Cambridge with January O'Neil this Wednesday, November 17th or at the Miami Book Festival, Sunday the 21st. I am on my first ever "couch tour" for a book. I am both extremely excited and very nervous. Yes, at the same time.

Ilya Kaminsky reads at The Ink Spot with me, this Saturday @ 7 pm

January O'Neil reads at Porter Square Books with me this Wednesday @ 7 pm

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Literary Fires at C & P Coffee: Tonight's the Night @ 7:00pm

Literary fires of poetry and prose are igniting tonight. I cringe to use fire as a metaphor after being in a real fire last summer in Spain. While at an artist's retreat, Fundacion Valparaiso, the town of Mojacar and surrounding towns caught fire. It was the hottest summer in Southern Europe for 100 years and the fires outside of Barcelona had used up much needed resources. It was one of the scariest experiences of my life - and that's coming from a woman who worked in Gaza and in Sarajevo in 1996.

The illustrious West Seattle Blog has covered our reading and we are a starred event in The Stranger so I'm hoping for a good crowd at C & P. Along with the fabulously talented Elizabeth Austen and Harold Taw, we have also been in touch with the Seattle Fire Marshall who has sent some interesting tips along.

The night is co-sponsored by the Mayor's Office of Arts and Culture in the form of a CityArtist grant.

I hope you can make it !

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Deep Travel - Contemporary American Poets Abroad

I love re-reading books that only get better with more reflection. Deep Travel fits the bill. The premise of this anthology is to bring together the best writing by American poets who have lived abroad. The poets range from luminaries such as Charles Wright, Garrett Hongo, Marilyn Hacker, Afaa Michael Weaver,  to the rising stars of Brain Turner, Derick Burleson, Diane Thiel. The collection includes four poems and an essay by each poet. Lived experience from Antarctica to Vietnam, Estonia to Rwanda is included. I know of no other collection like it.

Here's a poem from Brian Turner, originally published in Here, Bullet about his year serving in the military in Iraq.

In the Leupald Scope

With a 40x60mm spotting scope
I traverse the Halabjah skyline,
scanning rooftops two thousand meters out
to find a woman in sparkling green, standing
among antennas and satellite dishes,
hanging laundry on an invisible line.

She is dressing the dead, clothing them
as they wait in silence, the pigeons circling
as fumestacks billow a noxious black smoke.
She is welcoming them back to the dry earth,
giving them dresses in tangerine and teal,
woven cotton shirts dyed blue.

She waits for them to lean forward
into the breeze, for the wind's breath
to return the bodies they once had,
women with breasts swollen by milk,
men with shepherd-thin bodies, children
running hard into the horizon's curving lens.