Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Dear Parents of High School Seniors During Application Season: You'll Make it Through

Dear Parents of High School Seniors During Application Season,

You and your child will make it through the application period. I promise. It may not seem like you will, but you will. You will.

I know, early applications can be due as early as Nov. 1st and you're nervous. You've been talking about and planning for college for years. You've visited colleges, talked to friends, reminisced and read everything you can online and in print. You've met with college advisors, your child's teachers and everyone else you can imagine doing.

You and your child will make it through. Wherever your child goes to school will work out. And while you may not want to consider the option, if the chosen college doesn't work out, your child can transfer. Every problem can be solved with some planning and forward thinking.

Hopefully your child will be accepted into his or her dream school. That is to say, presumably your child has a dream school. And a projected career and life path. But she may not and that's ok, too.

Every school can potentially work out. There are many classes, professors, clubs, sports, volunteer and internship opportunities that your child can try out as she learns about all of the various paths in life. In fact, she will (perhaps even mostly) learn outside of the classroom as a college student, too.

There are endless paths in life. And those paths can change, starting with high school dreams.

Many students enter college with an "undecided" major. The students take classes and try out disciplines that either weren't offered in high school or are now taught differently. Suddenly a student who thought she was an English major might fall in love with Chemistry. Or vice versa. Students should enter college with an open mind to discover new things. After all, college is the time to learn how to learn and what there is to learn. Learning won't end with a college or even post-graduate degree.

Many adults will change their career path a number of times throughout their lives (maybe seven?) Students should study many different things in college not only to discover what they love, but to learn facts and skills that can serve them in many fields. Remember that a post-graduate degree is time to specialize, but an undergraduate degree is to learn broadly.

Some parents say that their child is "different" because she wants to go to medical school or law school, so she doesn't have time to take a variety of classes. Some students indeed have a projected path and they continue to remain interested in that path throughout college. Remember that all people - regardless of fields - should be well-rounded in order to lead full lives (and, frankly, to be accepted into those specialized programs.) As a result, the students should still take a wide-variety of classes, in addition to the required or suggested pre-med path.

Today, take a deep breath. Take a break and go for a walk. Better yet, take your child on a walk under the trees changing colors this beautiful fall day. Enjoy nature and each other. Talk about something other than her applications. After all, next year she'll be away at college learning new things. Think of all the things you'll be able to talk about together in the near future.

Best, Chloe

To help with the application process, I'm available to help your child with his or her college application essays and short responses. For more details, please read more here and email me (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com). 

Monday, October 20, 2014

What's Happening, Literary D.C.?

While you could spend all of your time talking about politics in D.C., you could also immerse yourself in book and writing discussions. Here are my two favorite listings for events:

Beltway Poetry Quarterly's Poetry News: monthly listings of upcoming events, as well as Kudos (recent publications and awards to D.C. writers), New Releases and Competitions, Grants, and Calls for Entry.

Facebook group DC Lit: Event organizers and writers post announcements about upcoming events, competitions and more. (It is a "closed" group, but if you simply request to join, you'll quickly be accepted to join.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


I joined goodreads this summer and I'm starting to really enjoy it, even if I still haven't done as much with it as I'd like to. It is a great way to keep track of what you're reading or have read and share your thoughts with friends. The reviews are particularly insightful to read, especially by writer-friends whom I admire.

Find me (Chloe Yelena Miller / chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com), friend me and let's share our thoughts about the books we're reading.

What do you like best about goodreads? 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Copyright & Writing

Copyrighting your work isn't as complicated as it might seem at first. You can decide to rely on your previous drafts (a printed or electronic history that shows the work was created by you), or you can submit your work to the Copyright Office at the Library of Congress

As the Copyright Alliance states on their very clear worksheet, "As soon as the idea for your novel, poem, or manuscript is written down in a fixed copy, the work automatically has copyright protection. Though registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is not necessary for your written work to be protected by copyright, there are a number of benefits to registering your work," and the worksheet continues to outline what those benefits are. For more information, visit the U.S. Copyright Office (a department of the Library of Congress), and their Factsheets

Especially for poets, the Poetry Foundation has put together information on fair use in poetry (using work created by other people in your poetry.) The U.S. Copyright Office's Circulars are helpful, including one on how to investigate the copyright status of a work.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Where to Start?

Writing students, especially beginning memoirists, will often ask me where they should start writing: The beginning, middle or end?

I always suggest starting with what interests you the most. After all, if you're excited about a scene, moment or description, your reader will be, too. You can build the rest of the piece or manuscript around these beginning moments (or not, if they don't work out.) Sure, you will likely return to these first lines and have to make small and large edits and revisions, but start there.

Once you have a sense of what you want to write, you can write an outline and use it to help organize your materials. But in the beginning, use your excitement to your advantage. After all, if you're bored as your writing, the reader will be bored. Or, as Robert Frost wrote, "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader."

You don't need filler or background information to bring your reader up to date. Work to integrate the key pieces of information in your sentences, paragraphs and chapters. Dive right in and trust the reader to follow along with you.

How have you successfully started a new writing project? 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Submit! Submit! And Submit Again!

If you have work that you feel is ready, it is time to send it out. Right. Now. Many journals closed their submissions over the summer and should be open at this point. It can take a while for a journal to respond to you, so the earlier the send it out, the sooner you'll hear a response.

Research the literary journals that seem like the best fit and then follow their instructions when you submit your work. If the piece comes back to you, send it out to the next magazine on your list.

Poets & Writers Magazine has a great database of literary magazines and journals, as well as calls for submissions online and in the print magazine. NewPages lists calls for submissions regularly, too. Lynn Barrett wrote a clear piece in The Review Review about what editors are looking for.

For more on submissions, read what I wrote about submission spreadsheets (keep yourselves organized!), guest blogger Faye Rapoport DesPres' piece on Submitting to Literary Journals, and why rejection letters might be cause for celebration.

What's your favorite literary journal?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Brainstorming Identity for your Personal Statement: Who are you?

Your personal statement for undergraduate or graduate applications should help fill out your application by giving a sense of who you are. The admissions counselors don't want to see a list of your achievements (those should be clear from your transcript and the rest of your application), but rather a piece of writing that expresses you.

Who are you? 

I still ask myself this question (most ridiculously when I'm clothes shopping; do these jeans represent my inner self?) and it isn't an easy question. You don't need to - and can't - express every aspect of yourself. But you can give a sense of yourself through a focused essay. You might choose a single experience, describe it clearly and offer some analysis that connects the experience to your mindset and the world around you. You might explain a blip on your transcript in the same way (did your grades go down one semester because of something that happened?) What about yourself - your history, goals, aspirations, experiences - is missing from the short answer questions throughout the essay?

To brainstorm ideas, you might start with your resume. Then, expand your resume by adding in other achievements that might seem smaller (and irrelevant to a formal resume), but help to show the reader who you are. Did it take particular courage to try out for the improv group? Even if you weren't selected, did you learn something from the tryouts? 

For more help, you might find it helpful to work with me as a private writing coach. I can ask you questions and provide writing assignments that will help you to brainstorm, draft, and edit your essay.  I look forward to hearing from you.