Thursday, May 24, 2018

Birthday Wish: Donation to So Others Might Eat



So Others Might Eat is an outstanding organization in Washington, D.C., that helps those who need it the most. As my birthday approaches, I ask that you consider donating to this outreach organization. Click through to donate directly.

Here is their Mission:

SOME (So Others Might Eat) is an interfaith, community-based organization that exists to help the poor and homeless of our nation’s capital. We meet the immediate daily needs of the people we serve with food, clothing, and health care. We help break the cycle of homelessness by offering services, such as affordable housing, job training, addiction treatment, and counseling, to the poor, the elderly and individuals with mental illness. Each day, SOME is restoring hope and dignity one person at a time. We invite you to join us.

The Need

There are 8,350 homeless men, women and children in our nation’s capital. Nearly one in five DC residents live at or below the poverty line.

You can watch some of their success stories here

Monday, May 21, 2018

Writing Prompt for Getting Unstuck

A child wearing a hat and vest while looking through binoculars
Some people are afraid to write. Sometimes we are all afraid to write and we feel blocked. That "we" includes me, of course. The blank page can be daunting.

To get unstuck, I might start by looking closely at a physical object and writing down exactly what I see. Grammar, details and insight don't matter at this stage. The goal is to start writing a concrete description of something in front of me by looking closely at the object. How big is it? What color is it? If I were to smell it, what does it smell like? What about tasting it? What if I touched it? What textures are there? If I dropped it or knocked on it like a door, would it make a sound? (Yes, you're right: use your five senses to describe the object.)

You might set a timer and write continuously for five minutes. If you aren't sure what to write, you might simply repeat, "This is a stupid exercise." That should quickly bore you and you'll eventually get down to the business of writing something more interesting.

As you flex your so-called writing muscles, ideas might pop up. The object might appear to be a metaphor for something. Or you might start a scene in which you throw the object into a pool to watch the splash. Or maybe nothing comes of it, but, hooray!, you've written for five minutes and gotten started.

The key to breaking writer's block is to write. Write about anything. Write a list of what you did today and then look back over it for patterns, interesting words or insight into what you meant to do or did accomplish today. Everything is possible fodder for a piece that you can better explore in a later draft. And if you write something that doesn't go anywhere, that's ok, too.




Friday, May 11, 2018

Publications: Lyric Essay and Poems

I'm writing to share some publishing news -




Thank you to Entropy for publishing my essay Cement Foundation, which you can read here. I've been working on this lyric personal essay for years and appreciate the thoughtful feedback that friends have offered on various drafts, as well as Entropy's editor's advice. This essay, built around a clay statue of an Albanian woman churning butter, is about love found, love lost and life lessons that come with the passage of time.



I'm also excited to share that two poems about my miscarriage will be in the next print issue of Room Magazine. Friendship and music (a reference to Jovanotti's song Amami starts one poem) offer a starting point for these poems. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Carrots with Bones

What a ride! Black and white photo of a mural at Pinocchio Park.

Our almost-five-year-old child came home the other day and announced he wanted "carrots with bones." He said that the chef at his Italian pre-school prepares "delicious" carrots with bones. He declared my boneless carrots "not good."

Um, what?

I talked to his teachers to see if there was something, anything?, that might resemble carrots with bones. One teacher explained that since there are carrots in the meatballs that of course he thinks the carrots have bones. Another teacher reassured me that they do not insert bones in the carrots.

Huh.

Sometimes parenting, perhaps especially while living abroad, is 30% confusion. Maybe all parenting is like that. Writing is at least 30% confusion.

As we approach Mother's Day, I want to send a shout-out to all parents who are working to understand their world, care for their families, work and write. It isn't (always? ever?) easy to balance so many loves and responsibilities.

I wish we could rebrand "Mother's Day" and "Father's Day" as "Parent's Day." So many of us parent a child, whether we are the official guardian, birth parent, relative or friend. Our gender doesn't matter and drawing attention to it only excludes some parents and families. As a friend of ours would say to her child about loved ones, those of us who love and care for children are "their people." We are the ones the child can depend on, laugh with, cry with and and prepare carrots for -  with or without their bones.


For more on writing while parenting, you might enjoy these posts:
Cut + Paste / A Residency in Motherhood Radio Show
Guest Post: Writing Resources for Parents by Dr. DeMisty D. Bellinger






Thursday, May 3, 2018

June Writing Coach Sale (book and pre-pay by Friday, May 11)

View of the sky (wispy white below a darker blue)

Thinking about working with a private writing coach? I'm offering a 15% discount* on June appointments booked and pre-paid between today and Friday, May 11th (midnight, EST.) This offer is valid for the first three new or returning clients who contact me.

Via email, phone or video call, I can offer you feedback on your writing, help you to create a writing to do list or outline and offer you prompts and reading suggestions to get started on something new.

Click through here to read more details about my writing coach services.

Most of you know that I am currently in Florence, Italy. If we schedule a voice or video call, it will likely be during your morning (East coast, USA, time.)

I will have limited appointments available this coming July and August. As of Sept. 4th, I will be available both in person in the Washington, D.C., area and via voice or video calls.

Email me today to discuss and book your first appointment (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com.

*The 15% discount is taken off of the base price per hour. It does not include the usual 10% discount off of three or more hours purchased at once.






Monday, April 30, 2018

Drafting: Seemingly Unrelated Drafts & False Starts

Black and white photo of Florence seen above from Fiesole.
I find endless photos on my phone taken by our almost five year old. He practices and practices until he finds the angle, light and composition that interests him. He was very happy about this one. 

I might sit down to write something new that's unrelated to anything I've written before. What fun to try something new! Those first words seem to glitter in the light. Sometimes, after some work, the results are strong. And sometimes, even after hours of writing, editing and revising, the result is, well, sh*t.

Of course, no writer, perhaps especially busy parent writers, wants to sit down with the goal of writing sh*t. We all wish to write something moving, beautiful and maybe even important to a reader somewhere eventually. But that can't happen in first drafts and it certainly can't happen all of the time.

For those failed attempts, the end result of having written only adds to your writing experience and strengthens your skills. Even if it doesn't feel like it at first, that's ok. (Enter deep breaths and logical thoughts.)

In a graduate writing workshop, Tom Lux would call "extra" writing in a poem the "on ramp." It might be that you needed to write something in order to get yourself to the necessary idea or writing. Eventually, that beginning part that got you there - the "on ramp" - can be deleted (perhaps with some pain on your part) from the final draft of the poem.

I think of failed drafts as "on ramps," too, because they helped you to literally practice writing. 

Like practicing a sport, you need to stretch and tone your muscles, focus your concentration and try new things in order to get back to the core actions of your sport. Maybe you are a runner and you try some yoga. Or you are a swimmer and you spend some time dancing. In the end, using your body differently will help you with your final, perhaps seemingly unrelated goal. 

Writing is the same. You need to keep writing and thinking. You might try writing in different genres or writing on different topics. You might try to tell your memoir in a children's book form in order to see the main ideas quickly and simply. Or you might need to write a resume for a job application and find yourself thinking about your life experiences that relate to a poem you want to write, but don't know how to start. You might decide to write about something upsetting and discover that you don't yet have the necessary emotional distance to tell the story well. 

I find that I have a lot of false starts that never lead anywhere. Sure, sometimes that feels like a waste of time and energy. I try to remind myself that the exercise of writing, thinking and working to craft words in a particular order helps me to be ready to write the next (perhaps even better) urgent thing.

So remember that you will have many false starts. You might write and edit full drafts that never end up published anywhere. You might write lines for pieces that never get written. This is all practice as you limber up your writing skill and hone your editing skills for other pieces. 

And who knows, some of those false starts that feel wrong today might eventually clear themselves up in your mind so that you can approach the subject or idea or key word better in the future. You might just surprise yourself and write something new and different that will have value to readers. 


Monday, April 23, 2018

Writing Resources

Geometric ceiling design in the Bardini Museum in Florence, Italy

I hope that your writing, editing and submitting is going smoothly this spring.

I'm writing to ask how my website can serve as an even better resource for you. If you look around my site,  chloeyelenamiller.com, you'll see that I've gathered resources along the right side of the homepage. I would be happy to add more links based on questions or comments that you might have. To share your thoughts, please respond to this post or email me directly (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com).

To learn more about working with me on your project. you can learn more on my Writing Coach page.