Meditations on Desire

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.

Belated Summer Recap

In which I actually attempt to catch up on my blog by sharing mostly images from my amazing residency on Mt. Hood in Oregon and the inspiring A Room of Her Own Retreat in Abiqui, New Mexico.

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.)

Head down a path of creativity

18 somethings colfax trainsThere 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.

The 18 Somethings Project is back!

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.

Spring Reading

what i'm readingJust a little light reading for the start of spring: a few pages away from finishing Bad Feminist / saw Claudia Rankine read at Berkeley a few weeks ago and am savoring Citizen / read Long Quiet Highway in two days while back on the East coast, because Natalie Goldberg’s books are meditations in themselves / will read I Love a Broad Margin to My Life before heading to the AROHO retreat in August because Maxine Hong Kingston will be the keynote / I’m woefully underread on Kabbalah so there’s that / and some poetry to round it all out.

 

Winter Reading

Some things I’ve been reading and obsessing over since mid-December that maybe you want to check out. (* indicates my dear friend Janet either recommended or lent me the book…I call it the Janet-Frishberg-curriculum-for-becoming-a-better-writer-and-human.)

Object of Beauty, Steve Martin (made me see the “art world” differently)
Bound, Antonya Nelson (after I read this mind-blowing piece on revision she wrote, I had to read her fiction)
Bluets, Maggie Nelson* (from Wave Books, so good it makes me want to write little prose pieces that I can compile into a slim obsessive volume)
Truth and Beauty*, Ann Patchett (about her friendship with Lucy Grealy)
Autobiography of a Face, Lucy Grealy (Lucy’s memoir)
My Heart is an Idiot, Davy (hysterically funny essays)
Female Trouble: Stories, Antonya Nelson (compelling and character-driven)
Women, Chloe Caldwell* (a similar size to Bluets and a similar wonderfully transparent, up-front voice)

In progress:

Bad Feminist*, Roxane Gay (I’ve been recommending this to everyone I know)
Rome, Dorothea Lasky (her new books of poems with a polar bear on the cover!)
Monogamy Songs, Gregory Sherl (heartbreakingly sad; I’ve been reading it as I wait for the bike shuttle in downtown San Francisco to head back to the East Bay, and there’s something about the smell of the Bay and the dimming evening light that goes perfectly with these poems)
Lucky Us, Amy Bloom (Amy is one of my favorite fiction writers–I’ve re-read her other books multiple times, and am so glad she has something new out)

A poem in Rivet

Rivet-cover-issue_3I’m really honored to be a part of Rivet’s third issue! My poem, “Found Letter, Collaged Back Together,” is alongside poems from four other awesome ladies. There’s also some rad fiction. Rivet, from Red Bridge Press, calls themselves “the journal of writing that risks” and I’ve definitely found that to be true in reading the work they publish.

My poem went through many iterations, first started out as a response to Melissa Chandler’s piece, “Considering They Lived,” over at Quiet Lightning; then there was a written-backwards version of that, an abandoned version, and a few others in between until it finally became a found letter poem, with some references to San Francisco.

In other news, after reading this amazing piece on LongReads, an interview with Berkeley-based author Julia Scheeres, I found her book at the library the next day: A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown. The interview with Scheeres describes why we need to stop saying “drink the Kool-Aid,” which is offensive to Jones’ victims. The book is wonderfully crafted, suspenseful, empathic, and well-researched–a must-read about an important and misunderstood tragedy.

Some new & old reading

profane journalI’m thrilled to be in the inaugural issue of Profane, a beautiful journal out of Mankato, Minnesota by the indefatigable Jacob Little and Patrick Chambers. They made this lovely print journal and put out an audio version as well, which includes the writers reading their work and discussing their creative process. You can purchase the print/audio version here or listen to the issue on Bandcamp. My poem is called “Instructions for Flirting,” inspired by a conversation I had with my friend Eliza at a 100-beers-of-solitude party (a spoof on the book and there were actually more than 100 types of beer).

And a little late to a different kind of party party, but if you haven’t read Robert Hass’ collection of essays What Light Can Do, you are seriously missing out, as I was for the past few years. It’s easy to read, hard to put down, full of intricate examinations of poetry, translation, art, spirituality, and more.

Etymology in Up the Staircase Quarterly

up the staircase quarterlyWhee! The latest issue of Up the Staircase Quarterly just came out, and my poem “Etymology” is in it, alongside some beautiful art, reviews, and other poems. I’m trying to think of something interesting to tell you about this poem other than it has a lot of water in it and I started writing this poem over two years ago as a letter called “Dear Joe / Long Letter to a Friend” and it kept evolving and the margins kept changing–but you should probably just read it. If you want.

Also: April Michelle Bratten is the powerhouse behind the journal and a huge thanks to her for publishing this piece.

 

 

The magic of the North Carolina mountains

wildacresI just returned from a magical writing residency at Wildacres in Little Switzerland, NC, where I had the honor of being there for  a week to work on my writing. I revised older poems, wrote new (weird) ones, started a few fragmented essays, sat in on a book arts demo (and made a few one-sheet books!), took walks, and napped in the gorgeous cabin. The people of Wildacres are wonderfully kind and gentle and I got to be there at the same time as a group of adult learners from Ringling College of Art & Design, who were painting, drawing, making books, and throwing clay.

 

wildacres caroline kesslerIt was a total gift to have so much quiet, focused time to spend just on my work. More to come soon, including books I’ve been reading recently and a new poem that just got published.