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My So-Called NaPoWriMo Life

For those of you who didn’t know, April is National Poetry Writing Month! This blog post was written by our resident poet and Director of Adult Programming, Al Abonado.


I am going to write terrible poems. I don’t start with the intention of writing bad poems, but I know I will. I accept this as a given. National Poetry Month is also known as National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) for many poets. For the past few years, I, like many other poets, try to write a poem every day for the month of April. This is poetry’s analog to National Novel Writing Month.

For some, this month can be a necessary injection of creative energy, or an exciting exercise. Some may use this as an excuse to force themselves through any kind of writer’s block. NaPoWriMo has become a ritual for many of my writing friends. During this month, I share my writing with a circle of writers. We exchange supportive notes and writing prompts that help stimulate our writing. Some years have been more productive than others, but I always look forward to participating.

For me, NaPoWriMo isn’t so much about the volume of finished writing, but the volume of failure. It is about learning to accept that failure as a necessary part of any writing. NaPoWriMo can be invigorating, surprising, depressing, and infuriating.

To date, I have completed fifteen poems, not all of which are good. Maybe none are good. I haven’t really spent too much time thinking about them since I wrote them. I will have plenty of time after this month to go back and reshape the scraps into something substantial. For now, I take pleasure in the act of writing, relieve myself of any expectations about writing “well,” and enjoy writing as an exploratory activity.
Here, I try to chart my progress over the past 20 days, describing the various waves of excitement, guilt, shame, laziness, distraction, and joy that I have experienced so far.

Day 1

This is easy. I have so many ideas that I find impossible to suppress and I have a laptop that is fully charged. I am armed with prompts and other writers. I am open to the universe and what the universe provides: poetry and wine.

Day 4

I believe in positive reinforcement. Poems are better when they are reinforced by food. When I finish this poem, I will celebrate with a hamburger.

Day 8

I have written a poem that needs more than one day. This is a two-day poem. This may be a three-day poem. I can write more poems on another day. Maybe, I will split this poem into two poems. A stanza for each day. Does it matter? No one will know the difference. I don’t think I know the difference.

Day 12

I am such a fraud. I can’t do this for an entire month. I am going to make dioramas instead. I am going to finally finish The Wire. This poem and the one before that and the one before that have all been terrible. April is not a month for poetry; it is a month for shame and regret.

Day 13

It’s okay if I don’t write today. I need to file my taxes.

Day 14

It’s okay if I don’t write today. I did not file my taxes yesterday.

Day 15

I want to write a poem today, but I also want to watch trailers for The Jungle Book. First, I will watch trailers for The Jungle Book and eat Doritos, and then, I will write a poem. My wife does not want to see The Jungle Book so I lie and tell her that Jason Statham is the voice of the bear. This is not true, but she likes Jason Statham. I am hoping Jason Statham as a talking bear is enough of a reason to convince her to see this movie.

Day 15 pt. 2

I spend an hour on IMDB looking up other movies Jason Statham has been in. He has been in more movies than I thought. I did not know they made a Transporter 3. I will not tell my wife about the latest Transporter movie, although I suspect she already knows.

Day 15 pt. 3

I watch a video about a lion, a tiger, and a bear that had been removed from the home of an abusive and wealthy drug dealer. Two of them are named after characters in The Jungle Book! The animals now live together in a sanctuary. The video makes me want to hold them and feed them something meaty. I should really write a poem today. I could write a poem with a bear in it. I probably will not write a poem, but I am thinking about poetry and that is also pretty good.

Day 17

I wrote a poem! A complete poem! It was glorious! Every synapse blazed with rainbows and glitter as I wrote it. Let all those other poems drown in river. This poem. This is the one. Maybe I can do this. Maybe this is the start of something brilliant.

Nevermind. I hate poetry.

Day 18

No, I really can’t write day because I really need to file my taxes.

Day 19

I still need to write several more poems. I have coffee and energy drinks to do this. I have hours until sunrise, and I finished my taxes. I will write seven poems in one sitting. They will not be beautiful, but they will be written. Which poems will be worth saving and
which will build better and greater poems? I think good poetry has some cannibalism in it. I think good poetry has blood.

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Spring has Sprung at the Gell Center!

This blog post was written by Director of Gell Operations, Kathy Pottetti.


“April hath put a spirit of youth in everything. (Sonnet XCVIII)”

― William Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s Sonnets

April showers bring May flowers, or so it is said… this season we’re not so sure just yet, but one thing we are sure of is that April is National Poetry Month! Come celebrate with us at the Gell Center by reading at one of our Open Mics, or by simply taking a stroll and letting the beautiful Finger Lakes region inspire you. But that’s not all we have in store for April–William Shakespeare’s birthday is the 23rd, and the Gell Center is re-opening for the 2016 season this week!

Wow! What a way to kick off the spring season. Take a look at some of our scheduled events below:

Open Mic at the Gell Center /2nd Thursdays/ 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Free and Open to the public – donations welcome!

In recognition of Poetry month, the first event of the season is a Wide Open Mic on
Thursday, April 14th from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. at the Gleason Lodge, with one of our
Instructors, Angie Cannon-Crothers.  Theme: Poetry Month.

May 12th:  Spring is in the air, new beginnings.  Facilitator: Edgar Brown.

June 9th: 35th Anniversary Celebration of Writers & Books, sharing memories of W&B and the Gell Center.  Faciliator:  D.J. Kitzel.

We have a new and interesting selection of classes this spring and summer, one in June,
July and August. Visit for further information.

Creative Thinking and Casting Workshop/ Saturday, June 4th from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Instructor: Scott Grove.

This unique one-day workshop will focus on using personal inspiration to stimulate
creative thinking; to approach an idea from a different perspective, which can reveal a
new vision.  Based on your personal interests, we’ll use a variety of short written and
visual exercises to stimulate and explore variations on a theme.  The morning session
includes idea development, expansion, variations, refinement, distillation, and
capturing the essence of a concept.  Afternoon session we will turn your idea into a
three-dimensional miniature sculpture out of clay, and further develop and explore new
ways to look at an idea.  Then, we’ll make silicone molds and create a cold metal bronze
casting!  Each student will walk away with a cast talisman which will represent a
transformation of personal inspiration and a new way of idea creation.  No writing or art
skills necessary.  Instructor Scott Grove is a high energy, inspirational, and very creative
professional artist and author who maintains a fulltime studio in the Finger Lakes.  Cost:
$150.00 W&B members//$165.00 General Public.   For more info on Scott Grove, please

Interested in being a writer-in-residence at Gell, or considering a unique venue for your
upcoming Board retreat or training session?  Consider the Gell Center, and contact Kathy
Pottetti at or visit for more information about the
Gell Center.

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NaRMo: National Book Review Month

When November rolls around, we hear talk of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a challenge where writers nationwide pick up their pens in a mad scramble to a 50,000-word finish line. March will see the start of the slightly less well-known National Novel Editing Month (NaNoEdMo), where writers attempt to edit their November masterpieces. But in between the two, there’s something new and exciting.


This February, SUNY Geneseo launches the first annual National Book Review Month (NaRMo). NaRMo seeks to popularize the too-often-overlooked book reviewing process, and to promote reading in general. Have you found a book you loved, a book you’re just bursting to talk about, or even a book you couldn’t stand? Tell people about it! The more we share our thoughts about what we read, the more we can talk about the wonderful writing available to us!


In order to participate, simply read a book, write a review of at least 100 words, and share it!


– Post to
– Tweet to @getreviewing with hashtag #narmo
– Let the publisher/author know!
– Instagram/Snapchat yourself with the book
– Come up with your own way of sharing the review
– Host a reviewing event at a local library/bookstore/school


Help readers come together to share books!



For more information, visit:

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Literary Love Stories

Love is in the air. Valentine’s Day approaches, with its boxes of chocolates and heart-shaped cards with curly, elegant cursive. Needless to say, thousands of couples this weekend will be flipping through Netflix, HBO, or what have you, looking for that perfect romance flick. Be it a rom-com, a history drama, or something in between the two, there’s no denying that Valentine’s is the perfect night for love stories. But if you’re like me, sometimes it’s hard to decide on something to watch. You flip through channel after channel, watching the night trickle away, and nothing really jumps out at you. Not the most exciting way to spend a special night in with your loved one! So if Sunday night rolls around and you find yourself trapped in the dreaded cycle of flipping through channels, why not set a new trend and pick up one of these literary love stories instead?

Here are some of our staff’s picks for their favorite literary love stories!

Joe Flaherty, Executive Director:


My favorite literary couple is Holden Caulfield and his sister Phoebe, from Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.

Tate DeCaro, Development Associate:


I feel like I should probably choose something cultured like Scarlett O’Hara & Rhett Butler from Gone with the Wind, which I’ve never read or seen, or the obvious Romeo & Juliet, which I’ve both read and seen many times, but no matter how much I love Shakespeare, all of his love stories are kind of absurd (though always a great read). So, I’m going with another obvious, though more contemporary, choice: Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley. Because they’re actually really good for each other (which I don’t often think is true in “great literary love stories”). Because they build a strong friendship first. Because they don’t hinder each others plans/needs/emotions/true characters. And because obviously Harry needed to officially be a part of the Weasley family somehow.

Sally Bittner Bonn, Director of Youth Education:


I’m going to have to go with Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables. Their courtship (i.e. him calling her “carrots” and her getting so infuriated) is so human and honest. Witnessing them growing up together is heartwarming. She is one of my favorite feisty literary characters, and he is a great match for her—as they are both so stubborn, smart, and truly thoughtful.

Karen vanMeenen, Director of “If All of Rochester Reads…”


Jake and Ennis from Annie Proulx’s short story Brokeback Mountain. As young men, Jake and Ennis share an immediate soulful connection they cannot deny. They find it painful to be kept apart but the challenges of the social mores of their day (the narrative begins in 1963), including their marriages to others, leaves them struggling to live authentic lives and to honor their love for each other.

Kathy Pottetti, Director of Gell Center Operations:


My favorite literary couple is Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind.   It’s an all time classic movie and novel. I’ve been to Atlanta, GA. to Margaret Mitchell’s home and purchased her book there, a genuine   “Sense of Place.”   They are classy, romantic and feisty together. It’s such a dramatic story of the Civil War, and the emphasis of Scarlett O’Hara, the southern belle living on her plantation “Tara”, during this period of time, and how she survives during the Civil War and Reconstruction. She’s such a damsel in distress… her love affairs with Ashley Wilkes and Rhett Butler and Rhett’s famous line to her “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” is classic! It’s the constant tug and pull that makes them so exciting together.

Emma Lynge, Blog Coordinator and Front Desk Representative:


My favorite would have to be Faramir and Eowyn from The Return of the King by JRR Tolkien. At the start of the story, they’re both looking for someone to validate their self-worth in a really unhealthy way. Faramir craves his father’s approval and love, and Eowyn wants the same from Aragorn. Over the course of the war, all of the terrible things that happen help to strip away what’s unimportant and let Faramir and Eowyn find themselves again. Faramir defends Gondor not for his father, but because it’s the right thing to do, and Eowyn slays the Witch-King of Angmar not to prove herself to Aragorn, but for herself, because she’s awesome. That they end up together at the end of the book is a little unexpected and exciting for both of them, but they’ve finally figured out what it is they really want and they don’t really care who judges them for it. It’s a really sweet story about not looking for someone to validate you, but rather letting your self-confidence guide you where you want to go.

Albert Abonado, Director of Adult Programming:


When I think of literary couples (fictional or otherwise), I often think of Larry and Sally Morgan from Wallace Stegner’s lyrical Crossing to Safety. It’s been a while since I’ve read this book, but here is a couple that has never left me. We watch Larry and Sally struggling to make a living,and suffer alongside them when Sally is struck with polio. I loved the book for its quiet and careful observations of the ordinary, how Stegner so wisely understood the interior workings of marriage and friendship, and admired Larry and Sally Morgan for their deep and resilient love throughout their years.

Chris Fanning, Public Relations:


Not my favorite literary couple, but a couple non the less would be the character Quint and the shark from Peter Benchley’s novel JAWS. Though the relationship may be one-sided and at some points border on an Ahab-like obsession on Quints part, at the end of the book, after a long pursuit, the characters end up together….(insert rimshot sound effect)


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Writing & Yoga

This blog post was written by our development associate and resident yogi, Tate DeCaro!

When I signed on for Breathe Yoga’s 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) program in September of 2014, I didn’t really know what to expect. Would it be 200 hours of doing yoga? Would it be a combination of yoga plus sitting in a classroom learning history and theory, chakras and the yamas and niyamas (don’t worry, you don’t have to know any of these things to do yoga!), and the correct alignment for poses? The answer, in part, was yes – we studied all of those things, and we did a lot of yoga. What I didn’t know or expect was how much writing we would also be doing, particularly to do with self exploration.

Yoga is a lot about self exploration. The idea is to turn inward. To focus on your breathing and your movements, and turn off the parts of your brain that think about your work day that just happened, or what you need to get at Wegmans after class, and to turn off the parts that wonder what everyone else is thinking of you and how you can’t touch your toes, or how you’re sweating all over your toes, or how you forget to reapply nail polish to your toes.

(By the way, the answer is that no one is looking at you, and no one cares, because they’re all wondering what you’re thinking of them, or they’re just trying to drop their shoulders away from their ears, or they’re so in the zone that they don’t even remember you’re there).

My point is – your yoga teacher is trying to remind you to turn your gaze inward during a yoga class. It’s hard, and that’s why it’s a constant refrain. What I hadn’t thought about before YTT was how writing can be so useful in helping people focus their thoughts (of course!). During YTT and since then I have done a lot of writing about my thoughts on my yoga practice itself – how I feel when I’m in it, thinking about and analyzing the kinds of thoughts that crop up when I’m in certain poses (those “who’s looking at me and what are they thinking” types or the self-doubt/self-beratement), and what yoga adds to my mental and physical well-being. I’ve found it helpful to process the work done in the yoga studio.

And it works in the other direction too – I think doing yoga can help you process whatever writing you are working on outside of the studio. Both writing and yoga are practices that require effort, time, and a lot of self examination and reflection.

If you’re only into writing, give yoga a try! You could find that it clears your head for writing, opening up more space and allowing for some new thoughts to wiggle their way into your head. If you’re only into yoga, give writing a try! Do it a little bit before and a little bit after a yoga class. If nothing else, you can write about how you feel before and after class and take note of the influence a little movement and breath have in your day!