How to Read How to Feel Confident with Your Special Talents, by Carol Guess & Daniela Olszewska


Find a place that is quiet but no one will be upset if you’re noisy.

Listen to heavy metal long enough to enter the imperative mood but not long enough to join a small, angry cult.

Read a little at a time. Let the how-to guides sit in your head. Let them move down to your chest and rest there until all the air has gone out of you.

Accept the authors’ invitation into absurdity. Embrace this absurdity from the inside. Talk to it with a hand in your pocket because your hand is cold, not because you feel uncomfortable. “Kill a clown. Kill a hundred clowns. Don’t remember where you hid their bodies.”

Become an ingredient in a magical ritual. Do this no matter the demands. In at least one case, this will require you to become an Icelandic horse.

Label yourself and others. Publicize labeling with patches, buttons, and merit badges. Refill the ink on your label maker.

Resign yourself that there are only so many things you can realistically do and see and be prior to your death.

Receive double meanings, one into each ear for processing. Think on the meaning of “Make out like a bandit.” Now think on the other meaning.

Stock up on duct tape. Meditate on its literal and figurative uses. Make the internet your mantra. Hum until you and the buzzing become one.

Brush up on your pop culture.

Recall your favorite middle class experiences.

Remember that sadness can be funny, too: “It is easy to lose someone, even yourself. Page yourself to baggage claim and wait.”

Discover your true self.

Hide your true self immediately. Preferably not where you hid the clown bodies.

Look forward and backward simultaneously:

Don’t go around demanding what should come natural, in the course of this peace you are making here inside the earth. We are bound in this garden of dust, let’s not make it worse by asking too much.

Know what it is like to feel so lonely it is unhealthy.

Know what it is like to feel so inadequate it is unhealthy.

Know what it is like to keep trying anyway.

How to Feel Confident with Your Special Talents, by Carol Guess & Daniela Olszewska. Black Lawrence Press. 75 pages. $13.95, paper.

Kelsie Hahn holds an MFA in fiction from New Mexico State University. Her reviews have also appeared in The Collagist, Puerto del Sol, and Necessary Fiction. Her fiction chapbook Responsibility is available from Lit House Press. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, Stephen Cleboski. More at

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