View from below

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!

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.)

“Recalculating” Zine

recalculating zine index/fistIndex/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.

This iteration of Index/Fist is me and fiction writer David Wesley Green. Layout by Sumeet Banerji, author of Ice Party.

recalculating zine index/fist

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.

Summer rambling

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.

Lastly, I’m stoked to have my poem, “I’ve Knelt In A Lot Of Places” alongside some stellar prose, poetry, and art in Yale’s Letters journal (PDF download).

“How to have a creative retreat” on Misadventures

oregon9Back in August, four dear friends and I gathered a beautiful house in Yachats, Oregon (motto: Gem of the Oregon coast). Why? Because I had this vision of having a “creative retreat” and talked my friend Peter into driving us up from Berkeley, and talked Rebecca, Kenzie, and Kenzie’s friend Molly (who didn’t know me) into driving out from Portland. I wanted to gather in a house on the coast over Labor Day weekend to write, read, make art, cook big dinners, walk on the beach, read poems aloud to each other, and whatever else struck us. It took a bit of emailing, a LOT of Airbnb-surfing, and even more driving t o make it all happen, but we pulled it off!

 

Toregon10hen I thought, wouldn’t other people want to do this too? It really wasn’t that hard to put together, and I can think of a lot of people who need a jump-start (or re-start) on their creative life. So I wrote this how-to piece for the awesome Misadventures Magazine. They’re a women-run publication “spotlighting women who embrace creativity, take risks, and go out and beyond.” Rad, right? I thought so. All of the gorgeous photos in the article are by Molly Dickinson and Rebecca Yates.

 
oregon8Photos in this here blog post courtesy of Kenzie Rowlett. Thanks to Misadventures for publishing this piece and to Kenzie, Peter, Molly, and Rebecca for embarking on this adventure with me.

 

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.

 

 

The 18 Somethings Project: June Edition #2

the 18 somethings project caroline kessler janet frishbergIt’s that time of year again, when Janet and I want to celebrate their birthdays with you by embarking on a writing adventure.

The idea, by the numbers, is this:

  • 18 days of writing for 10 minutes each day;
  • 18 original prompts we created especially for all of us;
  • 1 daily prompt, sent to you each morning by Janet or Caroline;
  • 1 supportive partner who reads your work and sends you only positive feedback, and vice versa;
  • Infinite: the amount of amazingness that can come out of this.

Learn more about the process behind the writing and the feedback on our updated websiteYou don’t have to be or call yourself a writer to participate in this. We believe writing and creativity is for everyone. If this scares or excites you at all, even more reason to do it!

You have until 11.11am PST on May 18 to sign up! There’s way more info on our site, or drop me a line with questions.