Often, I feel grounded by literally being on the ground–putting my spine against the earth. In those moments, I try to look up, and to remember the grandness of the world. Feeling grateful for finishing up the first year of my MFA program, for the poems + nonfiction I wrote and got feedback on, for the Jewish community I’ve been building here, for the spaciousness and quiet of St. Louis. More soon!
Back in the Bay after several months away means exploring old & new haunts in the city and the East Bay with dear friends. Pictured: views from Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve in the Berkeley Hills, close-up of the 10 million-year-old volcano, sunset vista from Bernal Hill in San Francisco, mural in the Mission, peeking up at Bernal from between buildings in the flats.
I really admire Jen Pastiloff and her powerhouse of a site, The Manifest-Station, so I’m honored to have a piece up there called “Meditations on Desire.” This is the first personal essay / lyric essay / long prose poem / difficult-to-classify-by-genre piece I’ve had published, and it touches on a lot of themes I’ve been thinking about for a long time, going back to my time in Poland up to the more present moment, when I was living in the Bay.
The first (and maybe only?) Cardinals game I will ever go to; clouds galore; The Mud House, one of the best coffee shops around, on Cherokee Street (see offensive statue); semi-secret butterfly garden near campus; Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis (big Catholic presence here); surprise, the Arch; some artfully arranged frames at The Heirloom Room.
In the midst of all this, my parents gallantly flew here and helped me move in; I started three classes (+ auditing a fourth); wrote some poems; went to a bunch of art openings; my mom came back and I showed her the good parts of STL; and the sun set a bunch of times and made the clouds look amazing.
In some ways, all of that time in nature feels incredibly far away, as I settle into a new life in St. Louis–and in other ways, it all feels quite close. Right before we left Mt. Hood, Ryan Pierce (co-founder of Signal Fire, affectionately known as Tarp Tarmac, one half of the dream team that staffed the residency, and artist) encouraged us to keep a piece of the mountain with us as we navigated landing back in the real world. I’ve got that piece with me, and a lot of pictures of clouds because it’s true, the sky really is bigger in New Mexico.
(And yes, I wrote some things in these places and maybe soon I will say something about that.)
Index/Fist, the creative collective I co-founded, just released its latest zine, “Recalculating.” This is a collection of geography/cartography-themed work with more than 20 contributors from the East Coast to the East Bay. We solicited contributions of prose, poetry, and art from talented friends we knew, organized them in a coherent narrative, had them printed on a Risograph via Tiny Splendor, hand-sewed 150+ zines in my living room, and celebrated the release at the East Bay Moishe House, a Jewish communal house in Oakland, CA.
If you’d like a copy of the zine, we’d love to send you one! Send $5 per zine + $1 for shipping to carolinehkessler [at] gmail [dot] com via Paypal or Venmo. Put your address in the notes section. Or email me about how to send a check. Local delivery to the East Bay or San Francisco.
There are mere hours left to head down a path of activating your creativity! The fourth edition of The 18 Somethings Project will run July 1-18. This writing adventure is 18 days of writing 10 minutes a day, sharing/receiving ONLY positive feedback with a stranger, and jump-starting (or re-starting!) your creative life. Lots of magic has emerged from the previous 3 editions, like folks finishing novels and starting writing groups.
Sign up before 11:11pm PST tonight (June 22) by filling out a short Google form and sending in your donation. Questions? 18somethings [at] gmail [dot] com.
Image: Train tracks in Colfax, CA.
It’s summer and The 18 Somethings Project is back! I’m stoked to be running the fourth edition July 1-18. It’s hard to believe that two years have passed since the amazing Janet Frishberg and I conceived of and implemented this project, in honor of our June birthdays. Since June 2013, we’ve had more than 160 unique participants in 6 countries. We’ve seen a lot of brilliance come out of this project–new friendships, collaborations, writing group formations, and people continuing to exchange 10-minute writes on their own.
In case you missed it, The 18 Somethings project is an 18-day writing adventure to activate your creativity. Participants write for 10 minutes a day on a prompt, exchange their writing with an awesome partner we assign, and share/receive only positive feedback. A few things are new this time around, including image-based prompts (in addition to words/sentences) and a fancy new website.
Sign up by 11:11pm PST on June 22. Receive your partner by June 26. Start writing July 1. Let the magic happen for the next 18+ days. For more info on the process, FAQs, and to sign up, head to 18somethingsproject.com.
The images above are from the thought-provoking week I just spent at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA. I was one of 20 folks participating in Tent: Encounters with Jewish Culture, a creative writing workshop. The week was full of workshops, seminars, conversations about Jewishness and literature, field trips to places like Big Wheel Press and the rare book room at Smith College–and I’m still digesting it all. I was inspired by the stunning scenery of the northeast, by the newness of these places, by the ridiculously smart people I encountered, and the small bits of quiet time to walk, read, and write.
Hope to be writing with you this July! Please reach out if you have any questions about The 18 Somethings Project: July Edition.
Even though these photos below don’t look like summer, the time is here. In the next few months, I’m heading far and wide on some grand adventures. I’m honored to have already participated in Asylum Arts’ International Jewish Artist Retreat in Garrison, NY, a four-day gathering of 80 artists from around the world, working in a variety of disciplines.
In a few weeks, I’ll be a part of the 20-person gathering called Tent: Creative Writing 2015, a week-long seminar for writers and readers, hosted by the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA. In early August, I’ll head to a different kind of tent–a 12×12 canvas one located somewhere in the Central Cascades of Oregon, where I’m taking part in Signal Fire’s Outpost Residency. I may even bring my typewriter! A day later, I fly down to New Mexico for the A Room Of Her Own Retreat (which was actually what sparked this summer of writing-focused experiences).
The photos below are from a jaunt to Bishop, California, where I was visiting a friend who’s hiking the PCT. I had never been to Yosemite, and Tioga Pass was miraculously open both times, despite big winter storms in the area. Many good spots to pull over and admire the mountains made the drive a little longer than usual.
I’m honored to be one of the participating artists at Asylum Arts’ International Jewish Artist Retreat, which is right around the corner on May 3. There are 80 other artists from all over the world, working in a lot of different genres and media. I’m heading to New York for a few days of seeing old friends, rambling around neighborhoods I’ve never been to, and checking out the Zine Library at Barnard, among other things…and then taking the train to the Garrison Institute, a former Capuchin monastery overlooking the Hudson River (where the retreat will be held).