Monday, March 30, 2015

Three Seattle Area Readings - One Near You!

It's almost National Poetry Month and it seems I'm going to be busy! I will be hosting four readings (WordsWest and National Poetry Month at Highline College) and giving three readings. Yikes! It's going to be a wild ride. Here's my schedule of readings --- more information on other events soon.

I will be reading 7:00 pm this Wednesday, April 1st, at The Station in Auburn, WA

Join Susan Landgraf and me at Beacon Bards, 7:00 pm Wednesday, April 8th, Columbia City.

And the grand finale with Brian Turner at Elliott Bay Books, 7 pm, Monday, April 27th., Seattle.

It will be so lonely without you. Please feel free to come up and say hello!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Whose Story Is It Anyway? Irish Residency Coming Up!

And yes, it really looks like this at Anam Cara

My dear friend, Geraldine Mills, is an award winning poet, short story writer, as well as a children's book author. I've known Ger for more than a decade and have had the pleasure of teaching with her at the Richard Hugo House. We've also read together at Elliott Bay Books, mountaintops and an Irish bell tower. This September she's giving a week long workshop at Anam Cara and I think you should go. 

You will have a week to write in an intimate setting with a superb instructor. There's also home-cooked meals, a hot tub, and wonderful walks to the beach. I've taught here as well and know that everything is in place so that you can focus on classes in the morning and writing in the afternoon. 

A superb teacher and writer: Geraldine Mills

Here's her description of her workshop:

Whose story is it anyway?
I am delighted to be facilitating a week-long short story workshop from Saturday 5 to Saturday 12 September, 2015 in the stunning setting that is Anam Cara Writers’ Retreat Centre on the Beara peninsula in west Cork, Ireland.

By its very nature, the literary short story is character-driven. It is about landing your protagonists in a predicament and watching how they will free themselves from it. What happens to them as the story progresses depends solely on what you discover about them as you go along, how you bring them and your readers from a state of ignorance to a state of awareness.

Each day a different element will be explored in order to build on the previous lesson that will support you in completing a draft of your story to include:
·       Beginnings: How to grab your reader by the throat.
·       Whose story is it anyway?
·       Characters: What makes them breathe?
·       Dialogue: What role does it play, if any? How does it move the story along?
·       Epiphany, endings: As important as beginnings. Does every word earn its place on the page?
Using various prompts to liberate ideas, each morning session will explore one of the above elements as well as in-class exercises. Afternoons will include one-to-one sessions and review of work.

Day by day, you will add to your previous learning experience, rewriting where necessary to fill out the narrative, thus moving the story forward. As a writer it is crucial to know these elements and in rewriting, ascertain which areas work and which do not; to learn the importance of layering; to know the pulse of a story. By the end of the week you will have produced a story full of craft and risk-taking.

Geraldine Mills Biographical Note

Geraldine Mills is a poet and short fiction writer. She has had two collections of poetry published by Bradshaw Books, Unearthing your Own (2001) and Toil the Dark Harvest (2004) Arlen House has published her short story collections Lick of the Lizard (2005) and The Weight of Feathers (2007) for which she was awarded an Arts Council Bursary.  She is a recipient of a Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship for her third poetry collection An Urgency of Stars published by Arlen House in 2010. Her most recent short story collection Hellkite was published by Arlen House in 2014.

She has won numerous awards for her fiction, including the OKI Award, the Moore Medallion and the RTÉ Guide/Penguin Short Story Competition.  She has been a finalist in the William Trevor Short Story Competition and has been shortlisted six times for the Francis MacManus Short Story Competition. She was the Millennium winner of the Hennessy/Tribune Emerging Fiction Award and the overall winner of the New Irish Writer Award for her story ‘Lick of the Lizard’.
In 2011 she toured the United States where she launched a poetry collaboration with New England poet, Lisa C. Taylor, titled ‘The Other Side of Longing (Arlen House 2011) and presented the prestigious Gerson Reading at the University of Connecticut. Her short story collections have been taught at the University of Connecticut and Eastern Connecticut State University. 
She is a fiction mentor with NUI Galway and is an online tutor in the short story with Creative Writing Ink. The Arts Council awarded her a second bursary in September 2014 to work on short fiction. Her first children’s novel Gold will be published by Little Island in 2106.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Poet On the Coast - This Septemeber

A poet on the coast, Cape Cod, Mass.
You can tell she's shy, left hand almost in a wave, the right one holding back.  And this was the family's one week on the coast --- Dennis Port, Massachusetts --- to be exact.

Flash forward an undisclosed number of years and she is the Co-founder of Poets on the Coast with the amazing poet and publisher, Kelli Agodon. Somehow this will be our 5th year bringing women together to write, read, and meet one-on-one, this time in La Conner, Washington.

This year we are adding a museum collaboration, a celebration with Hedgebrook staff (and desserts) and a final reading. We have women join us from every age, background, and part of the country. Why not you? Feel free to leave a message here or email me with any questions. Check out our website with frequently asked questions (just scroll down the page for these).

Join Kelli Russell Agodon and Susan Rich for the fifth anniversary Poets on the Coast Weekend Writing Retreat 
September 11-13, 2015 at our new location in La Conner (an easy ride from the Sea Tac airport)!  We will gather to write, read and share our work inspired by the art, landscape, and creative energy around us.

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

We only have a limited number of spaces available and they will be filled on a first-come basis.
The relaxing, warm newly renovated Country Inn of La Conner is designed to nurture your writing self.  This retreat will offer you a unique experience to explore your writing and creativity. Come spend a weekend with other women poets. Be ready to be nurtured, inspired and creative. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

I Take My Place in the Insomniac's Village: "Nocturne" in O Magazine -

I Take My Place In the Insomniac's Village in Oprah Magazine~

Here is a lesson in the magical paths that our poems can take. I wrote this poem, "Nocturne," while I was a Fulbright Fellow in Cape Town, South Africa. The poem references South African words like "songololo" and South African places like Clifton Beach. Now the first line, "I take my place in the insomniac's village" is featured in O Magazine for April, National Poetry Month. My dear friend and poet, Kelli Russell Agodon, created a writing prompt inspired by this poem which is included in her book edited with Martha Silano, The Daily Poet.

"Nocturne" appears in my first book, The Cartographer's Tongue / Poems of the World, and was born from a bout of insomnia. The speaker is writing an imaginary letter to a friend who is spending the year in Jerusalem. A friend who is studying to be a rabbi while the speaker is studying to be a poet. Perhaps more information than is needed but I know I like knowing the background of different poems I read. Here it is; I hope you enjoy:


I take my place in the insomniac's village,
4 AM blue gum trees in the yard.

Hello darlin' you tell me, only it's over
and out through the ether,

letters shadowed against a lighted screen.

In unheated rooms, the blue shutters calm,
I hold faith in illuminated signs,

pomegranates, stellae,
a double-knot of miracles in the street.

What do Bedouins believe?

On continents not our own,
we test our skin along the silences

of grief, the ordinariness of townships,
truth commissions, Clifton beach.

I send you no postcards, no
subject headers, just messages

of pineapples, feathers, and shells.

With dots and arrows we tell
stories larger than ourselves.

5:15 and the sky is winter green.

Pray for me. 

In Cape Town, in Jerusalem,
we light candles,
wash our hands, salt and tear
the bread; the rituals
for a hungry place
i can't locate to conceal.

Come, let us eat with angels.
Let's toast the allure of
unattainability, the sweet ruin,

a romance never-to-be.
How will this country answer you?

With salvaged alphabets and song

we forage words, tracking
sibilants or sonorants of speech:

songololo, shimmer, orisons.
Another night without sleep.

Which research would you send me,
which holography for your belief?

I picture you opening high windows,
on the outskirts of olive groves,

a tzaddik raising holy sparks
along Jerusalem's morning streets.

Listen, here's the double note
of dove call: the somnambulist's psalm

with a second, private keening.

7AM, the blue gums edge-lit,
almost honed, almost revealing.

Monday, March 9, 2015

"Double Exposure" in Duende

Beautiful Gaza Beach

I am happy to share my poem published in Duende today.  Double Exposure: written about an incident I experienced when I was in Gaza doing human rights work in the winter of 1995.


Get in, Omar motions and that’s how it happens—
the last tendril of hope caught in the door’s slam,
the comet of exhaust, the kilometers expanding
as Samir flies along Gaza’s last highway.
No watermelon vendors, no farmers, no
women for me to signal and say Salam Alaikum? Shokrun?
In the front seat, two men in the darkest
of sunglasses, laugh and argue in Arabic
and it’s depressingly clear they’re discussing me.
I consider the road’s dirt shoulder,
velocity divided by speed, my body ribboned to red.
And how awkward if I could even open the door—
if I found my will frozen, my courage asleep.
An old sentence beats its rhythm in my ear:
They want to throw us into the sea! Into the sea!
The story I learned from my grandmother’s neighbor—
I was seven and she an Auschwitz survivor.
And then there is silence. It’s all been decided.
To the east of us, a kind of dreamscape fades in

To read the rest of the poem go here.

Friday, March 6, 2015

12 Easy Tips: How To Create Something From Nothing - WordsWest Literary Series

C and P Coffee Company - The Heart of West Seattle  
I promised a follow-up posting with a do-it-yourself attitude and here it is. I'd originally thought of 10 tips but here are 12 for the same price. Enjoy!

1.  Collaborate with  friends -- old and new. Although I've longed for a reading series in my neighborhood for years and had even entertained starting one, I didn't do it. I knew beginning and maintaining a literary series would be a heavy work load on top of everything else in my life. At another friend's reading I met Katy Ellis; we liked each other immediately and both lamented the literary desert of West Seattle - our neighborhood.

Katy followed up with an email and we started brainstorming names for our project. WordsWest Literary Series was born! Katy's daughter provided our very cool logo. Harold Taw joined us within a couple of weeks. Harold is an old friend whom I first met at C and P Coffee where we now hold our series. It's a serendipitous life. And it takes three to do all that we do.

2. Location, location, location. Katy and I tossed around a few ideas for spaces and decided that C and P Coffee Company was our first choice. An independent coffee shop in the heart of West Seattle, with a stage and large offering of community events already in place, seemed ideal. Before WordsWest had had even one event, the community already knew and loved "our" space. It also has been invaluable that the owners, Peter and Cam, are supportive of our project in multiple ways.

3. Rock stars and new talent. Our readers have ranged from a New York Times bestselling novelist, to the Washington State Poet Laureate, to a wildly talented writer who has yet to publish: Jennie Shortridge, Elizabeth Austen, Rick Barot, Karen Finneyfrock, Jennier Munro, and Lena Khalaf Tuffaha are just a few of our stars. We want to be the series where the community comes out because they trust that we will provide excellent readers. We've consistently had large audiences so it seems to be working.

Jennie Shortridge and Frances McCue answer questions at WordsWest

4. Be different. Seattle has a multitude of reading series all over the city (just not in West Seattle). What could we offer that was slightly new? Simple. We created the series we'd like to read at. The readings create a "living anthology" with each writer reading for a few minutes and then the next author reads creating a braided effect. (One writer choses a friend to read with.) There's free snacks for all (wine available for sale) books are sold via Square which allows listeners the option to binge buy, and every reader leaves with a commemorative coffee mug. What writer doesn't need another coffee mug? Lately, we've also been able to offer honorariums thanks to Poets and Writers grant program.

5. Internet, internet, internet. From the beginning we set-up a web presence. We use a free web design service and have a dedicated Facebook page. Anyone with a web connection can check out our schedule and find out about the writers that we invite. We also have a mailing list and many on the list share the WordsWest schedule with their own writing groups.

6. Lights, camera, action! And we even have a clapboard. Yes, each event is videotaped and audio taped. The three of us invested in a professional quality recording device and the results are fantastic. One of us (Harold) taught himself a film editing program and so each writer also receives links to their evening's performance. The podcasts and films are archived on our site here just look to the righthand margin.

7. Be generous. Send thank you notes; let the writers know that their work was important - quote back to them something that moved you. One writer we hosted had not yet published a book so we helped her to have a broadside made of her poem so she'd have something to sell. She, in turn, wanted the proceeds to go to the Middle East Children's Alliance. One generous act allowed for many that followed. We raised about $300 that evening. Not bad for our second event!

8. Ask for what you want. We needed to learn this and it's a lesson that always needs refreshing. We needed to ask C and P Coffeehouse if we could use their gorgeous space; we needed to ask again for a dedicated night so we could plan our programming three months in advance and line-up top writers; we needed to ask for grant money for writers because we firmly believe artists should be paid for their time and their talent. And the amazing thing? The community has answered with a warm yes!

9. Keep it fresh. Did I mention that we all work? Two of us have young children? All three of us are published and publishing writers? In other words, what motivates us to give so much time and effort to this project? We need to keep inventing and creating new avenues of joy. For example, in June we will host our first kids WordsWest inviting local children's book authors whose work is award winning. There will be cookies and milk and involvement of the local schools. We're planning a one year anniversary special event and looking for more projects that push the boundaries next year.

10. If you build it they will come -- think community. From the beginning we decided to involve the entire West Seattle community by adding the national Favorite Poem Project into our program. Each month, an independent local business is invited to read their favorite poem as part of the reading. We've had the local food co-op reading Pablo Neruda and a local massage therapist reading Sharon Olds. These events are advertised on our posters, website, and press releases.

11. Have fun; make magic. At one of our first events there was a moment when I looked over at Harold behind the camera and Katy, behind the bookseller's table and they looked back. We knew we had created something amazing. 60+ people on a Wednesday night -- -people of wildly diverse backgrounds (plus two babies and one dog) listening with rapt attention to poetry.

12. Be your best self. With three different people writing grants, choosing authors, making a 101 small decisions with big ramifications there is no room for ego. If one person needs to be away, the other two fill in for them. I can't imagine working with two more intelligent, open-hearted, and dedicated people. We know we are building something bigger than we are. I learn from my two co-conspirators every month. Our work pushes me to be my best self.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

How To Create Something From Nothing: WordsWest

Creating WordsWest: A Lesson in Magical Thinking
One of the things I'm doing this year which is brand new and therefore super exciting (to me) is the WordsWest Literary Series that I've co-founded with Katy  E. Ellis and Harold Taw. As three writers, all neighborhood residents, we wanted to create the kind of reading series that we'd hope to be invited to: one that treated everyone with respect, created a different kind of reading experience, paid a little something, archived programming, and provided treats.

In a mere six months we have built  a community of people --- an average of 50 audience members each time  --- that come out to support poets and writers. We've raised funds for our local West Seattle Food Bank and for those faraway through the Middle East Children's Alliance.  Our featured readers may come from across the country like January O'Neil or from around the corner like Washington State Poet Laureate, Elizabeth Austen.

It's an odd thing but for 16 years I've lived in this gorgeous neighborhood (see sunset photograph in blog post below) and thought the only thing missing was a literary community. I waited each year sure that the local library or the local arts center would certainly start something. Didn't happen.

So last summer, while at the reading of another local writer, Esther Helfgot, I was introduced to Katy E. Ellis during the event's intermission. The two of us liked each other immediately and we soon brought Harold Taw into the conversation. Could we create something from nothing?

C & P Coffee House was the perfect partner and this independent coffee shop is located in an old Craftsman home. It is the unofficial heart (and hub) of West Seattle. Since the community was already in love with the space, it was easy to build on that goodwill.

Coming soon: 10 tips on how to start literary events in your own neighborhood.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

International Clouds For Sale --- Really!

Thanks to Laura of Libelle for these clouds over Alki Beach in April 

Yes, it's the clouds of Cloud Pharmacy that I'm referring to here. And it seems so karmically right that my first book to be made into an ebook, thanks to Two Sylvia's Press is titled, Cloud Pharmacy. I'm including the cloud photograph that I originally wanted for my book. Looking at it now, while I am still in love with the image, I think my actual cover represents, in a more nuanced way, the poems themselves.

Photography and Cloud created by Berndnaut Smilde
In the actual cover (for ebook and print book) I think the final image is warmer, brighter, and perhaps even more complex. I love how the leaves on the wallpaper echo the tree just outside the windowpanes. Then there's the blue ceiling, the color of a tropical sky. What I like most is that this seems to be an image inside of another image with several echoes between the two. My hope is that the poems work in the same way: a doubling of ideas. When I was researching images for the book cover I learned that images with dimension drew me in much more than a beautiful painting. In this photograph, "Hannah Road," we see three different dimensions: the wallpaper, the ruined room, and the tree beyond. As a reader, I can't help but be drawn into the pages. I hope you will be too.  Cloud Pharmacy in its cloud format is on sale now for a limited time.  May you enjoy your time in the clouds.

Cloud Pharmacy on sale now for $2.99