Friday, June 23, 2017

Guest Post by Danielle Foote: Starting with Stillness

In our co-taught writing workshops, Danielle Foote introduces a thoughtful stillness for the participants through meditation. Below, she kindly shares her experience and some resources for you to integrate the same into your writing practice. Thank you, Danielle.

Starting with Stillness

In these increasingly tumultuous times, Chloe approached me with an idea for a single session writing workshop, especially targeting those who might not otherwise access such an opportunity. She crafted what was initially an embryonic impulse to a flexible but thoughtfully developed program that focused on narrating embodied experience. The following questions drove her: How do we translate emotions into words that help us better define ourselves? How do we find our voice?  Starting with the body and its senses, Chloe hoped to make room - even if only for two hours - for us to hear, taste, touch, smell, and see through what often feels like intangible, intractable subjectivity.

Immediately intrigued, I said yes, and the rest is a history of collaboration, a great deal of hard work, particularly on Chloe’s part, and learning, as people from diverse backgrounds impressed us with their imagination and insight. As the writer and teacher, Chloe primarily led the workshop, teaching elements of prose writing and how to keep up with it as well as managing animated, honest discussion. Hardly an expert in the craft of writing, I decided to dig up some tools I learned in graduate school, with Chloe’s support and suggestions, and introduce mindfulness as one way to ground ourselves during the session. Together, we participated in a guided exercise, and over a couple sessions, the potential meditation has to improve the creative process became more and more apparent.

The connection between meditation and writing is intuitive. As one of many tools and assets to the writing process, meditation can help us mute extraneous distraction, quiet the rambling thoughts or, conversely, tap into the rich content of our anxieties, and form words around the honest discoveries our bodies make. In short, meditation can help us more fully inhabit ourselves and in so doing, unlock the embodied coffers of knowledge and creativity. It is important to acknowledge the merits of letting the mind range freely. Or the legitimate circumstances that lead to dissociation and disembodiment. When we become so entangled in our thoughts, however, we sometimes miss sensory opportunities that can help us translate our lived experience.

Fortunately, meditation can be practiced anywhere and by anyone. We can engage in mindful meditation while standing or sitting, walking or washing dishes. We don’t have to be Buddhists or yogis or professional writers. We can begin where we are. From a place of greater stillness, we can then narrate what we notice and allow the sensory input to nourish our writing. A single moment in our world gives us volumes to transcribe. Much can get in the way of meditative writing, and as I frequently remind the clients I’m so honored to work with, we must be kind and gentle with ourselves. Below, you can find a short list of resources. Bon voyage!

Top 100 Must-Follow Meditation Blogs in the World

UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center

Meditation Podcasts

Guided Meditation Videos on YouTube

Sarah Steckler's Ultimate List of Mindfulness Resources

The Couples Clinic Mindfulness Resources

About Danielle Foote: 
Social worker by trade, Danielle Foote hails from Colorado and currently lives in Washington D.C., where her partner, plants, and other passions keep her occupied. By day, she works with some of the most vulnerable, disenfranchised individuals and families in the District. In those interstitial spaces, she reads, cooks, makes home, and schemes to travel more someday. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Claim Your Writing Time: Creating a writing residency

Five minute in-class writing exercises can be generative and show that it is possible to (start to) create something in a very, very short period of time. I try to work this lesson into my own life, too, since writing time can be short.

I took the train to New Jersey alone recently and was inspired (partially by the previous Amtrak Residency) to claim the time as reading, writing and revising time. That is to say, I made the trip between Washington, D.C., and Newark, N.J., a three hour writing residency. I downloaded what I needed ahead of time (since the internet connection never really worked, as I predicted) and arrived at the train station with a clear plan of action.

I succeeded in drafting an essay, editing a previous essay and reading before spending some time gazing out the window thinking. We should never underestimate the importance of idle time thinking and letting our mind wander...

Union Station, Washington, D.C. 

A Reading Lunch


Whoa, the internet didn't actually work. 
It was probably better that way. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Self-Publishing: On Editors & Reviews from Karen Schechner (Kirkus Reviews)

Self-publishing (working without a traditional publisher to create, publish, distribute and promote your book) is one of the paths you might decide to take with your manuscript. You'll likely want to work with professionals to help with the global and line-by-line editing, cover design and promotion. You may also want to submit your book for review to help with your book's promotion. 

Karen Schechner, Senior Indie Editor at Kirkus Reviews, works with self-published authors. I appreciate her taking the time the share some valuable resources that you might find helpful: 

An interview with Karen Schechner on why reviews matter 
Karen Schechner's piece on the importance of collaborating when self-publishing a book

If you are still working on a book and are looking for an editor, Kirkus can help you find the right professional editor. If you have already self-published your book, you might considering submitting your book for a Kirkus review

For additional resources and recommended editors, scroll down the right side of this website.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Politics & Prose Alum Reading

Teaching memoir writing workshops at Politics and Prose independent bookstore in Washington, D.C., is one of my favorite things to do. The bookstore attracts writers with such interesting stories, perspectives and creative goals. They ask probing questions and challenge me in ways that help me to grow as a teacher and, ultimately, writer.

With the help of the bookstore and, in particular, Justin Stephani, I recently organized a reading for writers who have taken my class. I have been teaching workshops since 2011 and have worked with over 300 writers. On Friday, ten readers shared insightful work and many brought food and drink to share. What a pleasure to be a part of such a strong, supportive and energized community!

We collected $180.00 for the Thea Bowman house run by SOME. I've been connected with them and really admire their work. You can donate to them directly online. (You might write a note dedicating your funds to the Thea Bowman House, where I recently co-led a writing workshop.)

As some of you know, my family and I will be spending the next academic year in Florence, Italy. While I will continue to teach college level classes online and work privately with writing students via email and video conference, I won't be able to teach at the bookstore.

If you are looking for writing workshops at Politics and Prose, Mathina Calliope will be teaching a memoir writing workshop similar to mine starting the end of May. It be open for registration online through the bookstore on May 8th. Here are the details:
This five-session course will help you write your memories into scenes by responding to writing prompts, by workshopping essays and excerpts, and by studying Mary Karr's Art of Memoir. Five Tuesdays: May 30, June 6, 13, 20, 27, 10:00 a.m. to noon.

Also, keep an eye out for writing classes taught by Cynthia Blair Kane, Shaheen Qureshi, Sara Burnett, Linda Kulman and Martha Ertman.

Thank you again to the bookstore, Justin and the writers who read, listened and shared food during the reading!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Leaving on a Jet Plane...

As some of you already know, my family and I will be leaving on a jet plane this summer for Florence, Italy. I can hardly believe that fourteen years after living and working there, I'll be back. This time I'll be with my husband and (soon to be) four year old. It truly feels like a dream (and large organizational project) come true. 

I will be focusing on finishing a multi-genre manuscript and continuing to work as a private writing coach. I still have a few spots available for new clients starting in September, 2017, if you're interested. We can communicate via email and "meet" via video conference (Facetime or Skype.) Read more about my services here and email to set up your first appointment (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com.) 

My husband, Hans Noel, will be teaching a class on Italian democracy at Georgetown University's campus in Fiesole, Villa Le Balze. Meanwhile, our four year old will be attending a local, Italian school and, hopefully, learning to speak the language like a native. Look for us on Firenze's cobblestone streets as we take our evening passeggiata - with gelato, of course - every evening. 

A presto! We'll be back in D.C. August 2018. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

March for Science & Science Stanzas

Saturday, Earth Day, is the March for Science on the National Mall in D.C. and other cities. The poets, led by Jane Hirshfield and the Wick Poetry Center, are joining the scientists and hosting Science Stanzas. In D.C., they will be a part of the main stage rally, teach-ins and workshops before the march. There will be giant posters with poems and signs with poems to hold during the march. You can read through the poems and download your own signs electronically.

Join the poets and scientists as they stand up for science.

Here is the March for Science's Mission: 
The March for Science champions robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence based policies in the public interest.
You can read their full mission here

Why will I march, as a poet, mom, teacher and wife of a political scientist? Because I believe in science. Science allows us to question what we know, learn more, experiment, keep humans, animals and the earth safe and healthy and, hopefully, improve our overall health, safety and progression into the future. I need science for fresh water and air, safe food, this laptop and internet connection, my son's vaccines, my eyeglasses and contacts, and endless other things. We, scientists and non-scientists alike, need the scientists to be free (supported financially and materially, as well as safe) to investigate our world and worlds beyond.

Monday, April 3, 2017

National Poetry Month

Happy National Poetry Month! 

Poetry happens all year, on good and bad and in-between days, of course. But April is a great time to celebrate the genre.

How will you join in?

You might start by looking at the National Poetry Month page from the Academy of American Poets (complete with my favorite: sign up for a poem a day to be emailed to your in-box throughout the month), attend a reading (the Beltway Poetry Review publishes a thorough calendar for the D.C. area), visit your local library or favorite independent bookstore and browse for books, watch and listen to poets read their work at the Dodge Poetry Festival on their Youtube station or try writing a poem a day.

For more, scroll through the resources I've gathered on the right side of this website.