Fill In The Blanks with Lisa Mangini

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Lisa is both a poet and fiction writer, as well as the editor of Paper Nautilus. We are also chapbook press mates at Red Bird Chapbooks. In her role as editor, I appreciate Lisa’s dedication to her many literary projects and also the kindness and good humor with which she treats her contributors, as I am pleased to have been one. In her role as writer, I have come to admire the broad scope of her work. Let’s find out a little more about Lisa below as she fills in the blanks – and please check out all of Lisa’s many projects and accomplishments at the bottom of the post.

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My vaudeville act would consist of simultaneously assembling Ikea furniture while alternating between rehearsing lesson plans aloud and singing along to music from the late-90s.

I know that onions are evil, but no one believes me. Always sneaking into every food like some kind of requisite condiment. Yuck. 
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I own way too many outrageously colored/patterned blazers for one human being.
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No one would believe it if they saw me fully awake and functional before 7 a.m.
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I take great joy in the seemingly tedious act of grading assignments. Knitting.
Reorganizing bookcases. (I apparently love the seemingly-tedious?)
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The retail store that best represents my writing is probably that teenage accessory store, Claire’s, because it’s kind of whimsical, a little dramatic, and almost everything is compact enough to fit in your pocket. And because a part of me is secretly fourteen still.
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Lisa Mangini holds an MFA from Southern Connecticut State University. She is the author of Bird Watching at the End of the World, a full-length poetry collection, and three chapbooks. She is the founding Editor of Paper Nautilus, and a Lecturer of English at Penn State University.
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Twitter: @Lisaquarius
Bird Watching at the End of the World (Poetry collection)http://www.cherry-grove.com/mangini.html
Paper Nautilus Twitter: @APaperNautilus

DIY

Having been rejected by several residencies for this summer, I was resigned to writing at home before going back to teaching middle school in mid-August. But there is something about being in a different setting, among people who think about writing and words with a similar passion, that seems magical. So, with the help of a few friends who also write, we decided to make our own writing retreat.

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Luckily, my friends and extraordinary writers Rachel Bunting and Donna Huneke knew of a house for rent in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. So, along with Rachel, Donna and two other writers (fiction and poetry alike), we set off for a week in a large log home with plenty of space to spread out and write. It was very affordable to share the cost of the house and groceries over five people, and we could explore and do tourist things OR just stay at the house and write without any fear of offending anyone else. Our week was relaxing, fun, rejuvenating, fruitful, and all-around AMAZING.

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So here are some quick tips for creating your own DIY residency:

1. Find like-minded people with similar goals for the time frame. All of us had specific things we wanted to do – finish a novel, organize a poetry manuscript, create new drafts, get our writing mojo back. We all agreed that we didn’t necessarily want/need structured workshopping or craft talk (although we were available to each other for questions as they arose). And we also wanted it to be a vacation and give ourselves time to explore an area of the country that none of us had visited before.

2. Find a location that is accessible to all without extraordinary hardship. I flew to Rachel & Donna’s home in the Philly/South Jersey area. (The other writers were also from that area.) We drove together to the house, making me the only one that had to fly, which was fine with me. If every person has to get to a location that is geographically difficult, then the retreat will never work. Next year, we are hoping to do a “reverse” where Rachel & Donna fly to the Midwest and we drive from here.

3. Find a place with adequate space/amenities for all writers to feel comfortable. Do you need internet access to research your Victorian persona poems? Be sure your place has it. A table to spread out your manuscript pages? Ask if there is one. Do you need quiet? Make sure that your housemates have either similar needs or places to go where everyone can have the setting he/she needs to be productive. Does someone in your group have medical needs or dietary restrictions? Be sure that the surrounding area has access to necessities, whether that be a pharmacy or a grocery that carries soy products.

4. Take time to enjoy the surroundings. If you want to be holed up in a room writing all day at a retreat, that is understandable. But if you are like me, and you need to move and take in your surroundings, and have time to roll ideas around in your head while having some new experiences, then make sure you do so!

During this week, we didn’t all do the same things and didn’t always do things together. Some of us took solitary walks/runs on the mountain roads around the house. Some of us went out to swim in the local eddy under a covered bridge, to hike in a gorgeous state park, to visit a small town that boasts the world’s longest candy counter, to take a late-night moose -spotting tour. (Yes, we spotted three!)

We also found inspiration in the things around us: huge moths, the rush of wind in the trees, the smoked cheddar, the visible swath of stars.

Don’t pressure those who don’t want to explore, but be open to what might happen. (like finding a delicious, home-based bakery, luckily only a day or two before we left…)

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5. Take time to enjoy each other!  We cooked almost every night together, taking turns meal-planning. We had great conversations before/after dinner. Some nights we played board games. Some we all read or talked about roadblocks and successes in our writing that day. But we took time to be with one another and NOT just in our own heads every day. This is one of the biggest benefits of creating a residency with friends – social time will happen organically, and it will be refreshing.

After this experience, I’m not sure I will feel the need to spend money to apply for residencies in the future. Planning a retreat like this – whether with friends or alone – is certainly easy enough to do in this age of Air BnB and credit cards that provide airline miles. And whether your chosen place is a goldmine or a bust, being with friends will make it an adventure worthy of a new piece of writing, at the very least.

Fill In the Blanks with Nicole Rollender

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I first “met” Nicole virtually in Binders Full of Women Poets on Facebook and have since discovered her work online in Linebreak, Luna Luna, and other journals. Nicole was game to fill-in-the-blanks even though she has many exciting projects on the horizon. Make sure to read the info below for those details – and enjoy Nicole’s blank fillers in bold text.

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If I opened my closet and saw ELVIS’ SPIRIT LOUNGING IN ONE OF HIS RHINESTONE JUMPSUITS, I would ASK HIM TO SING ME “SUSPICIOUS MINDS.”
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I could win an Olympic gold medal in GHOST HUNTING IN ATTICS, BASEMENTS, CEMETERIES AND BATTLEFIELDS .
My favorite school supply is/was CHARCOAL PENCILS, BECAUSE I LOVE TO DRAW SHADOWED PORTRAITS OF DEAD WRITERS.
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In a candy store, I would head straight for the DARK CHOCOLATE.
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If my poems were a breakfast food, they would be A BOWL OF GRAPEFRUITS, BITTER ORANGES AND SANDCHERRIES DRIZZLED WITH WARM HONEY AND CHOCOLATE because THEY HAVE A DARK GLAMOUR, AND INVITE EXAMINATION THAT’S BOTH HARSH AND BEAUTIFUL.
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I wish BLACK KOHL EYELINER grew on trees.
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Nicole Rollender is editor of Stitches. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Alaska Quarterly ReviewBest New PoetsThe JournalRadar PoetrySalt Hill JournalTHRUSH Poetry JournalWest Branch, Word Riot and others. Her first full-length poetry collection, Louder Than Everything You Love, is forthcoming from ELJ Publications. She is the author of the chapbooks Absence of Stars (dancing girl press & studio), Arrangement of Desire (Pudding House Publications), Bone of My Bone, a winner in Blood Pudding Press’s 2015 Chapbook Contest, and Ghost Tongue (Porkbelly Press, 2016). She’s the recipient of poetry prizes from CALYX JournalRuminate Magazine and Princemere Journal. Find her online at nicolerollender.com. 

Fill-in-the-Blanks with Kelli Russell Agodon

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Kelli Russell Agodon is a poet and writer, as well as the cofounder of Two Sylvias Press in Seattle. I first “met” Kelli in the online community ReadWritePoem, and I have always admired not only her work, but her efforts to build community among poets both virtually and in her own geographical area. When I got to meet her in person at AWP in Seattle, I found her to be just as warm and welcoming as I had imagined, and I couldn’t think of a better way to begin this new series than by asking Kelli to fill in the blanks.
My questions are below, with Kelli’s responses underlined to indicate where she (guess what…) filled in the blanks.
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If my poems could be represented by an actor/actress, they would be Olympia Dukasis, Clairee from Steel Magnolias–smart, sassy, and well-accessorized.
A skill I would like to possess but do not is the ability to eat a muffin like a normal person.
The cartoon/cartoon character which represents my life outlook would be Casper the Friendly Ghost.
My superhero name would be Kellraiser (or better, Kellrazor). My superpowers would include lollygagging, listamaking, and overindulgence, and my “Kryptonite”  would be  is key lime pie.
 
I would much rather nap than partake in small talk.
 
My favorite grocery store aisle/section is snack aisle because I’m addicted to Dill Pickle Sunflower Seeds by Spitz.
 
The strangest thing I carry in my purse/bag is probably a Sharpie marker– I always have one with me; they are so useful! 
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More about Kelli Russell Agodon:
You can connect with Kelli on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kelliagodon
Sign up for her newsletter here: www.tinyletter.com/agodon
Kelli’s latest books are a collection of poems, Hourglass Museum (White Pine Press, 2014) which was a finalist for the Julie Suk Poetry Prize and The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts For Your Writing Practice, which she coauthored with Martha Silano.
Or with Two Sylvias Press:
Our upcoming Two Sylvias Press Poetry Book Prize, The Wilder Series, for all women over 50:  http://twosylviaspress.com/wilder-series-poetry-book-prize.html
Books & creativity tools she recommends from Two Sylvias Press are:The Poet Tarot & Guidebook

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Extended Bio:
Kelli Russell Agodon is a poet, writer, and editor from the Pacific Northwest. Born and raised in Seattle, She was educated at the University of Washington and Pacific Lutheran University’s Rainier Writing Workshop where she received her Master of Fine Arts in creative writing.
Her most recent collection of poems is Hourglass Museum (White Pine Press, 2014), which was recently named a runner-up for the Julie Suk Poetry Prize honoring the best book of poems published by a small press. She is also the author of The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts for Your Writing Practicewhich she coauthored with Martha Silano.
Her second collection, Letters from the Emily Dickinson Room was chosen by Pulitzer Prize winner Carl Dennis for the White Pine Press Book Prize, and it was named as Winner of ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year in Poetry as well as a Finalist for the Washington State Book Prize. Her other books include Small Knots, Geography, and Fire On Her Tongue: An Anthology of Contemporary Women’s Poetry. 
Kelli is the cofounder of Two Sylvias Press where she works as an editor as well as being the Co-Director of Poets on the Coast: A Retreat for Women Poets, and a member of the Seattle7 Writers, a nonprofit group that raises awareness and money for literacy organizations in the Pacific Northwest. She is an avid paddleboarder, mountain biker, and hiker. Visit her website at: www.agodon.com
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Fill in the Blanks With… will become a regular interview feature here, hopefully running weekly. The questions will never be serious and never require more than filling in the blanks in whatever way you see fit.  If you would like to be featured in a future post, please leave a comment!

Who are the People in Your (Writing) Neighborhood?

I have been neglecting this space for lots of reasons: working on other writing, for one, but also because I have felt like I don’t have much to offer here beyond what I share about my writing life on social media. BUT…I have a plan.

Stay tuned for a new, fun, and informative interview series I call “Fill-in-the-Blanks with __________________.” It will feature a writer each week who will answer six or seven questions by filling in blanks. Most of these questions will not be about writing at all.

It will hopefully be a good way for me (& you) to get to know the people in our virtual writing neighborhood, and a reminder that we don’t always have to take ourselves so seriously. And on that note, classic Sesame Street:

Big Poetry Giveaway Winners!

Well, National Poetry Month is over. I didn’t do anything special, like a 30/30, but I did go to AWP, give two readings, attend two others. write 8 or 9 drafts, and do a lot of reading.

I also have used a random number generator to select two winners for the Big Poetry Giveaway:

My book A House of Many Windows will go to: Theresa McNaughton, #17.

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and Dorothea Lasky’s Thunderbird will go to: Linda Hofke, #12

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I will email both of you for your mailing information, and I will try to get the packages out by mid-May. (I am notoriously bad about getting to the post office – I know this about myself, so it’s fair warning.)

How did you celebrate National Poetry Month!?

It’s Time for the Big Poetry Giveaway!

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It’s almost April, so it’s time for a month of being hyper-focused on poetry. For me, that is most months, but play along, okay?  I am again participating in the Big Poetry Giveaway established six years ago by poet Kelli Russell Agodon. It is a way for us to spread the poetry we love to other people and maybe introduce ourselves to poets we may not have read.

How does it work? Leave your name and email in the comments section, and at the end of April, I will randomly select two winners to receive a book a poems. (Visit Kelli’s blog for links to participating bloggers and enter your name all over the place.) That’s it! It’s easy, right? So what could you win?

1. A House of Many Windows

This is my first collection that was published in 2013 by Sundress Publications. I am very proud of the poems within and of its beautiful matte cover by photographer Christine Shank. I will send a few little extra surprises along with this book!

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2. Thunderbird- Dorothea Lasky, Wave Books, 2012

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Lasky’s collection Rome is currently getting a lot of attention, but this earlier collection from Wave Books is one to check out. Lasky is one of those poets that people seem to really like or really dislike – if you win, you can find out into which camp you fall!

So what are you waiting for? Leave a comment!

Also, in honor of National Poetry Month, I will be attempting to remember to post a poem I love every day in April at my Facebook author page – swing by and take a peek!