Sunday, January 25, 2015

Woman Mother Writer

If you are a parent writer, I invite you to read my Woman Mother Writer blog. I share thoughts related to writing - and living - as a parent writer and include guest voices, too. My son is 20 months old and life as I once knew it has changed since pregnancy. Come over to read about the good, the bad, the ugly ... and the sweet.

If you would like to share something (advice, review of a book, resources, etc.) about being a parent writer, don't hesitate to email me with your submission idea (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Plan for Summer (even if it is snowing!)

Applications for summer writing conferences are opening! If you're thinking about immersing yourself in a summer program, start applying today.

Erika Dreifus has a great piece on her blog about how to choose a writing conference. Another good place to start looking at programs is through Poets & Writers Magazine's amazing database here. AWP also has a searchable directory of Conferences and Centers.

In 2012, I had an amazing time at Bread Loaf Writers' Conference (read a quick summary about it here) and in 2009, A Room of Her Own's conference (read about it here.)

What summer programs have you enjoyed? Have you decided where you're applying for summer 2015?

Monday, January 12, 2015

The "So What" of Every Creative Piece

Even if you aren't writing a persuasive academic essay, every piece of literature has an argument (like a thesis statement.) Every poem, description, narrative or other piece of creative writing suggests a world view about something.

I call this your "so what."

Your argument might not be stated directly; usually it will be suggested by a character's action or a description of a place.

Younger readers might say that they love English class because "every interpretation can be right. My opinion matters." That's not exactly right. The writer, through plot and description, nudges the reader in a particular direction. The writer offers a view of the world through word choice and word order. There might be some question - some gray space - as there is in life, but that doesn't mean that the writer isn't inherently arguing something about something.

As you write, test your writing. Ask yourself what your "so what" is. You might not know at first - writing is a form of discovery that might lead you to your "so what." Or perhaps you're trying to choose an action or texture to better illustrate your "so what." Later drafts, though, should not only have an overall "so what," but also smaller ones that help to support the complete project.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Anara Guard on Writing

Thanks to Anara Guard for her today's piece about writing. I was really taken by her welcoming life-long journey. Don't miss her new collection of short stories, Remedies for Hunger.

Beyond the Glass

I invite you to visit my favorite gallery in the Art Institute of Chicago. Enter into the darkened hall and you will see several dozen panes of glass, lit from within. Behind each window is a miniature room, complete with rugs, paintings, fireplaces, chandeliers, delicate needlepoint in process on a tiny stand, tiny dishes on the table. And look at the tiny book, spread open on the table! These jewel-box interiors have been elaborately decorated and furnished to represent particular periods in time or historical buildings. Notice how every room contains one open window or a door standing ajar: a promise of something that lies beyond. But no matter how you press your nose against the glass or twist your head to the side, you cannot see into the garden or the adjoining chamber. 

As children, my sisters and I spent many hours smearing fingerprints upon these panes of glass, pointing out our favorite chairs, marveling over a canopy bed. Whether the home belonged to Louis XIV or a Dutch peasant, we populated the empty scenes with ourselves, pretending we were the farm wife, lady-in-waiting, princess… If only we had received the magic invitation, we would have kicked off our Keds and left our shorts and blouses puddled on the floor of the dark gallery. Once inside the homey kitchen, we would have a new wardrobe: wooden clogs and woolen dress, a white hat whose wingtips pointed up in celebration.

Fiction offers all of us the chance to dissolve that barrier of fingerprinted glass. To me, stories are like lovingly detailed rooms, waiting to be completed. The characters can mount the long, curving staircase and at last explore what lies beyond those half-open doors. The story beckons you in; it requires readers as guests, as participants. When your imagination enters, you add your own touches: perhaps you hang a favorite pattern of wallpaper, bounce on the sofa, or stoke the fire to keep warm. You lay claim to the story, and ever after, you own this room that you have helped to bring to life. 

Anara Guard is a writer based in Sacramento, California. Her new collection of short stories, “Remedies for Hunger,” has been described as haunting, original, fresh, and addictive, “with delicious sentences that melt in the mouth.” Anara studied creative writing at Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Urban Gateways, and Kenyon College. Her poetry has most recently appeared in “Convergences” and “Late Peaches: An Anthology of Sacramento Poets”.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Happy New Year! Setting Writing Goals in 2015

Setting goals for the immediate and distant future is key to continuing on a clear writing path. (We can only call ourselves writers if we're actually writing, right?) I've written about self-evaluation in classes and questions to ask about your writing. Today I'd like to focus on creating a clear plan.

The beginning of a new year is a good time to take stock and set some goals for yourself. Take 15 minutes to half an hour to draft your answers. 

There are five main areas to consider when you plot out your time and plan your writing project:

1. Research & Organization 
2. Drafting
3. Editing & Revising
4. Reading (Craft & Literature)
5. Submiting

Think logistically: What needs to be done? How much time to do you have every day, week or month to work on these areas of your project? Be truthful and honest about what's possible. Allow yourself to set goals that you can truly meet. 

To follow-up, take a look at your goals and your progress every three months or so.

I'm available to help you to set goals and deadlines. I'm also happy to send along weekly reminders and check-ins between appointments. Learn more about my private writing coach services. 

What's your writing plan for this new year?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Holiday Pro-tip: Write it Down

Between writing holiday cards and planning your New Year's eve menu, write down your ideas. Title for a new poem? Write it down. Plot twist for chapter five of the novel you've only written one chapter of so far? Write it down. New word you learned that makes you smile? Write it down.

The holidays are busy. Too busy. You may have a few days off from work, but suddenly family is town, the supermarket trip takes an extra hour and you still need to buy wrapping paper. Of course it is the happiest time of the year and you were looking forward to it, but it doesn't mean that you don't want to write, too. You're a writer, after all, and writers write.

Take the few minutes you have while the sugar cookies are cooling to jot down the notes you have been repeating so you can memorize them. You don't have to write in full sentences, but write enough so you'll remember what you meant on New Year's day when everyone else is sleeping and you're up early to fulfill that New Year's resolution to write daily.

Use your phone audio or video recording function. Email yourself. Text message yourself. Keep a notebook in your bag or use that paper napkin. But write it down before you forget. Stop worrying and just write it down.

And then give yourself a break to enjoy your visitors and this time together eating, laughing and wrapping the presents you spent so long wrapping. You can sleep soundly knowing you won't forget anything since you wrote it down.

Next: Post-Holiday Pro-tip: Read your notes. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Upcoming Classes at Politics & Prose Bookstore

Take a class this winter at Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C. (and stay to shop like President Obama!) I'll be offering a four week Mixed Level Memoir Writing Workshop and a single session Memoir Writing: Possible Moral, Ethical & Legal Issues, co-taught with Martha Ertman. I encourage you to register for both together, since they are connected (although you can choose to take only one, if you prefer.)

Don't hesitate to email me with any questions about the classes (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com.) The memoir writing workshop does fill up quickly; I encourage you to register today.

Class details below:

Mixed Level Memoir Writing Workshop
Four Tuesdays: January 20, 27, February 3, 17; 1 – 2:30 p.m.
Politics & Prose Bookstore (Washington, D.C.)
For more details and to register through the bookstore, click here

This class is for you if you are thinking about starting a memoir or have already begun writing. You are also welcome if you simply want to try a new writing genre.
This four session workshop will help you write a memoir by breaking it down into a collection of linked personal essays. Participants will respond to writing prompts, workshop one essay draft, and discuss on-going projects. We will consider issues of editing, revising, organizing research and chapters, and publishing. Students will receive feedback from peers and the instructor.

No homework is due for the first day of class. Please bring paper and a pen (or charged laptop) to every class. You will be writing in-class and at home after the first session. In-class writing prompts will change every session; you are welcome to take this class more than once.

As a supplement to this course, I encourage you to register for Ethics ofMemoir: Possible Moral and Legal Issues, which I co-teach with memoirist and law professor, Martha Ertman.

Memoir Writing: Possible Moral, Ethical & Legal Issues
One Session: Tuesday, February 10, 1 – 3 p.m.
Politics & Prose Bookstore (Washington, D.C.)
For more details and to register through the bookstore, click here.

Writing about oneself inevitably impacts others. How do we morally, ethically and legally portray living or deceased people in our memoirs? Martha Ertman, memoirist, attorney, and professor and memoir writing workshop instructor Chloe Yelena Miller will discuss these issues. Come with questions for the Q&A session in the second half.