Kerry Headley

Voicemail Poems

rotary phone

I don’t have a lot of time to blog today, so I will get right to the point and steer you toward three things that may interest you. The first is Voicemail Poems, which is exactly what it sounds like–a site that showcases poems people have left as voicemail messages. If I had more time I would say twenty-five nice things about John Mortara, the creator of Voicemail Poems. Since I don’t have time, I encourage you to check out his flipbook Small Creatures/Wide Field.

Writer Eric Tran is among those currently featured with his poem My Mother Asks How I Was Gay Before Sleeping with a Man.

Oh and this: I went to grad school with John and Eric. It is possible that this has left an extra layer of gold sparkles atop my praise. Probably not though. Find out for yourself.

And that makes five things instead of three. Now I have to get ready for my date in the suburbs. More interesting writers and resources to come.

My Writing Process Blog Tour: Why Don’t You Write Something Less Depressing?

Kerry Headley:

I’m in revision mode, and my laptop is burning my legs in my too hot apartment. For now, read this literary blog tour with Anna Sutton.

Originally posted on Anna B Sutton:

Thanks to Rochelle Hurt for inviting me to join this literary blog tour about the writing process.

Rochelle Hurt is the author of The Rusted City, a hybrid collection of linked prose poems and verse. Her work has been included in Best New Poets 2013 and listed as notable in Best American Essays 2013. Her poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have been published in journals like Mid-American ReviewCincinnati ReviewThe Southeast Review, Kenyon Review Online, Fairy Tale Review, Versal, and Image. She has been awarded the 2013 Richard Peterson Poetry Prize from Crab Orchard Review, Tupelo Quarterly’s TQ3 Poetry Prize, a 2012 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize, the 2011 Rumi Prize from Arts & Letters, the 2011 Ruth Stone Prize from Hunger Mountain, and the 2010 Poetry International Prize. Raised in Youngstown, Ohio, Rochelle is a graduate of The Ohio State University, where she completed her BA in English, and of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, where…

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Cathy Day’s principles of Literary Citizenship

Originally posted on Literary Citizenship:


Sometimes I talk about these principles at writer-type gatherings.

Cross Post Alert: I published some initial thoughts and principles about literary citizenship, in March 2011 over at The Bird Sisters, writer Rebecca Rasmussen’s blog dedicated to artists and writers. I got a lot of my ideas from this post on the Brevity blog.

Literary Citizenship

I’ve been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years now, and here’s something I’ve observed: what brings most people to the creative writing classroom or the writing conference isn’t simply the desire to “be a writer,” but rather (or also) the desire to be a part of a literary community.
Deep down, we know that not everyone who signs up for the class or the conference will become a traditionally published writer. Well, so what? What if they become agents, editors, publishers, book reviewers, book club members, teachers, librarians, readers, or parents of all of…

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Literary Citizenship–Cheap

gold star

I’m thinking about literary citizenship. It’s something we discussed in grad school, and I see it addressed in articles written by writers that pass through my Twitter feed. It’s not complicated: Support writers. Support writing. Writers are encouraged to subscribe to literary magazines as one way of being a good literary citizen. And this makes sense because lit mags need more money pretty much all the time and because subscribing to magazines in which you would like to be featured enables you to become much more familiar with the kind of work the editors publish.

And then there are those of us who put tape over the ink level sensors in our printers because we need to use every drop before we are forced to lay out the cash for a new toner cartridge.

How can we, the not so financially stable, be good literary citizens?

One thing I do is to submit my work to the occasional contest in which the submission fee includes a subscription to the magazine. Lots of magazines do this now. If they aren’t poor themselves, they know that many good writers and readers are. They make it easier to be a part of the community.

Another thing I do is follow writers and magazines on Twitter. Tons of stories, poems, and essays as well as writing tips and opportunities are posted for free everyday. It’s a great way to stay current and maybe build more of a community where you live. You can reciprocate by retweeting these things so that even more people can see them. I am a serious retweeter. I don’t care what genre it is or if it even interests me. Somewhere among my followers is someone who will appreciate the information. It’s an easy good deed that counts.

I haven’t done this yet, but I’ve heard of people having lit mag gatherings where everyone brings over a stack from their collection and trades with or borrows from each other. It’s a way of checking out other options to see which places might interest you when you do have money. (Just putting that intention for prosperity out there because it’s the new moon and we are not available for a lifetime of poverty, Universe.)

I think just talking about writing contributes even though it may not show much on a spreadsheet. I’m in a book club. Sometimes I buy the books and sometimes I get them from the library. The writers whose work we discuss in my book club don’t know we are talking about them. However, I like to think that the electricity created between people who love books also contributes to the overall good. And whenever a book club comes up in conversation with others, everybody asks: “What are you reading?” If you don’t agree, feel free to pay for me to attend AWP next year and we’ll just call it even.

The wi-fi I use is included with the rent (although my landlord refers to it as “free”). Until I want to replace my cat hair-covered laptop, it doesn’t cost me anything to promote writers and writing here. So, that’s something I plan to do a lot more of. Many of us are struggling financially and trying to figure out how to keep writing while holding down tedious jobs that take too much and don’t give nearly enough. But we can still be good literary citizens. We are still a part of the community.

How do you maintain your writing life on the cheap? Below are some recent opportunities and items of interest I noticed:

Aerogramme’s Writing Studio
River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Book Contest

The New Yorker archives FREE all summer!
Race Issues in Workshop (NPR)

And this is what my book club is reading: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Happy New Moon!

An Introvert’s Thanksgiving

I’m not a big holiday person. Calendar-based social expectations make me feel claustrophobic and resentful: We’re going to spend a day off cooking and cleaning? When we could sleep late, drink coffee in bed, and read online astrology websites until noon?  I like days with no commitments because they seem more open to possibilities, which feels holier to me than filling up the empty spaces with what I experience as too much conversation and busyness. But then I’m an introverted hermit who uses her tiny reserve of extroversion  to remain employed and minimally social.

I am the person who enjoyed spending a Christmas alone, eating Thai food and watching the film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

So, it’s Black Friday, and I’m planning to walk forty blocks so I can buy cat food at the drug store instead of getting trampled at Target. Later, I’ll hang out with my sister whose wife and kids are out of town, which means we can swear as much as we want and watch the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy if we choose–something we did on New Year’s Day a few years ago. I know that sounds like a sucky day to some (many?) people, but like me, my sister also just wants a day to unwind, free from responsibility. We’ll enjoy being together, but in a way that asks virtually nothing of either of us–something that restores us.

I’m thankful for so many things this year. I’m back in the West where I’m simply a better, more charitable person. I have a spacious, adorable apartment that I love. After two solid months of looking, Portland opened up and offered me a place to settle just when I was about to get in my car and drive away. I bought a queen-sized bed to affirm the idea that I’m not going anywhere. I bought dishes–new ones instead of the thrift store china I usually buy and leave behind when I leave. I love my job at the high school for many reasons. My co-workers are friendly, genuine people who care about education. I’m learning new skills while getting paid to use the ones I already possess. The students I work with are sweet and happy to be directed toward resources. I’m not living at the poverty level and being told how lucky I am to teach for virtually nothing in the hopes that I’ll be offered a tenure track position.

In 2006, I lost my career in one day due to an arm and shoulder injury. It’s been a long, often scary journey that led me away from what I thought I was supposed to do to who I am supposed to be. When I was still flailing, in pain, and broke, I couldn’t see that I would eventually recover enough to get into grad school or that my resourcefulness would show me how to make a way out of no way. I got used to working with so little that I now feel abundant and grateful–as if I have something to give.

I need a lot of space to let that in.

Acquiring Empathy through the Essay

Kerry Headley:

I’ve been thinking a lot about empathy lately. This showed up at an interesting moment. So much good writing on the Internet!

Originally posted on BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog:

calling manBrevity contributor William Bradleyhas written a truly perfect tribute to the power of the personal essay to promote empathy. The fact that he mentions other former Brevity authors and cites Debra Marquart’s powerful essay from our May 2008 issue is just icing on the excellent cake.  A link to the full essay after the excerpt:

It’s impossible for us to live the lives of others, of course, but essays give us a record of someone else’s consciousness—the act of reading these essays and interacting with these minds on the page is the closest thing we have to telepathy in the real world. Part of the reason why I care so much about issues pertaining to racial justice is that reading James Baldwin’s experiences and thoughts in “Notes of a Native Son” and “Stranger in the Village” made the issue vividly real. These issues were personal for Baldwin, and thus…

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Can’t Find my Way Home

Dag, who knew it would be so difficult to settle back into life in the West? I haven’t been posting because I’ve been busy trying to find work and a place to use my new fancy Ikea garlic press. It’s all taking way longer than I thought it would, which has kept me from blogging. Normally, I would provide an update right here. Instead, you can read it here at Bill and Dave’s Cocktail Hour, where I’m guest blogging again about post-MFA reality. 

SPOILER ALERT: Part of the great news I share as an update at the end of my post did not come to pass. I’m still without an apartment. And my Ikea garlic press remains in its packaging. Thanks for reading. And thanks to Bill Roorbach for asking me to guest blog again. I’m finally reading his most recent novel, Life Among Giants, which is so great I’m going to have to devote an entire post to it. Check it out. It’s worth it.

Working on Your Memoirs?

Originally posted on BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog:


Kohler, our favorite source for plumbing fixtures, has a stately, comfort height, two piece, round front new toilet available, so what do they call it? Kohler Memoirs (c).  Here at the Brevity corporate towers, we plan to redo the executive washroom immediately.

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On Not Publishing A Memoir

Kerry Headley:

I am still unwinding from my trek across the country. I’ll be back shortly, but in the interim read this. It’s way more articulate than I can be right now.

Originally posted on BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog:

scoldIn Salon this week, Emily DePrang discusses her decision not to publish a memoir of her marriage, a decision she made between getting a publisher and waiting on the final contract. DePrang offers a frank and complicated look at the reasons one might reconsider a “tell all,” the role of publishing a book in the life of a writer, and how the wisdom in some of the rejections she received from publishers ultimately rang true to her.

For many of us who work in memoir, it’s worth a careful read. 

Here’s a snippet:

What stopped me was that a memoir’s quality correlates to its honesty, and my book deal would be built on a kind of lie. I would only be pretending to be at peace with my past and ready to share its lessons with the world. I’d only be acting like I thought it was okay to dish…

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My Own Private Idaho is a Dumb Post Title


I can’t even remember what state I spent the night in last night. I’m not sure I can remember which ones I drove through today. I pushed myself to drive just a bit further so I might arrive in the Pacific Northwest tomorrow. I’m pretty sure that today was my first time in Idaho. It was windy and dusty and beautiful. This motel doesn’t have a bathtub, which was disappointing until I realized how nice the shower is. I stood underneath the water a long time, wondering how I ended up with splotchy bruises on both hips.

The door to my room here is so difficult to open that I decided to forgo dinner at the restaurant next door so I don’t have to deal with it. It might need a quick spritz of WD-40, but calling the front desk seems beyond me. So, I’m eating trail mix for dinner. Some part of me is aware that this sucks, but it’s a part of me buried underneath the exhausted, why-are-you-even-blogging-freaklord? part of me.

Tomorrow: Goodbye, Idaho. Hello, Pacific time zone.


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