Monday, July 21, 2014

Call & Response in Pank

Thanks to Nicole Rollender, I recently participated in a Call & Response in Pank Magazine. She presented a poem by Jon Anderson and I responded with a poem I'd written from my series Italian Vocabulary. 

In the introduction to the Call & Response, Nicole writes, "Michèle Foster defines call and response as “spontaneous verbal and non-verbal interaction between speaker and listener in which all of the statements (‘calls’) are punctuated by expressions (‘responses’) from the listener.” Call and response has a long history, documented in sub-Saharan Africa as a working way for groups to govern themselves democratically and participate in religious rituals; this tradition survived on slave ships over into the New World, where it has come through centuries in gospel music, folk music, military cadences, rock and roll (...)"

I hope you'll read the piece and spend some time reading Pank.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Cross-Pollinate Literary Art Tour Reading

dress by Donna McCullough

I am looking forward to reading poems at the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts on Saturday, August 9 at 3:30 as a part of the Cross-Pollinate Literary Art Tour. Curator Melanie Figg invited poets, including Genevieve Deleon, Melanie Figg, Steve Godwin, Whitney Gratton, Danielle Kuczynski, and Reuben Silberman, to write in response to the current exhibit, Altered Ego.

I visited the exhibit and was moved by the variety of materials. There were bobby pins, toy cars, prints and more. The idea of having a writing assignment was initially intimidating, especially one that I'd read in public. After spending some time with the pieces, I found myself connecting with three sculptures. The intimacy of the pieces, one including human hair, brought me back to particular memories. While the first drafts of the response poems are very memoiristic, future drafts will (probably) move away from some of those personal details. I've been re-reading the poems every day, tweaking them and returning to photographs of the art to reconsider the relationship between the poems and the art. I look forward to seeing how the poems develop.

Click through for more: 
Cross-Pollinate: Literary Art Tour
Altered Ego exhibit (including a video and images)
Facebook invite

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Pledge to Support The Singapore Literature Festival!

I encourage you to pledge to support the upcoming - and first - Singapore Literature Festival in New York City. Details below from the co-chairs, including Jee Leong Koh, who has been featured on this blog before:

For three days in October (Oct 10th to 12th, 2014), sixteen Singapore writers will converge on New York City to share their exciting works. It is a wonderful opportunity to hear and engage with the most distinctive voices of the island-state, which celebrates its 50th year of independence next year. The Singapore Literature Festival will help deepen the dialogue between East and West, between Asia and America.

The festival will take place in various locations around New York City including 92nd Street Y, NYU Writers House, Book Culture, and McNally Jackson.

Ten writers will be flying in from Singapore, to be joined by six writers based in the US. The exciting line-up: Alfian Sa'at, Alvin Pang, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, Christine Chia, Colin Goh and Yen Yen Woo, Cyril Wong, Haresh Sharma, Jason Erik Lundberg, Joshua Ip, Kirstin Chen, Ovidia Yu, Pooja Nansi, Tania De Rozario, Verena Tay, and Wena Poon.

We need your support to make this dream come true. We are a group of volunteers, Singaporean writers and creatives who are proud to call New York City home. We have secured sponsorship for the costs of mounting the festival. The writers have received partial funding for their airfare and are willing to make up the difference, even if it means crashing on someone’s couch. As the organizers, we want to help our writers by raising funds for them. Your donation will go toward paying the writers. It will also pay for professional video recording and photography, so that the readings and conversations will be preserved and made available for future use.

Please contribute generously to our Kickstarter campaign. We have come up with some fantastic rewards for various levels of sponsorship. How would you like to own a piece of art by one of our writers? Or have your name written into a poem or story? You can show your support by contributing an amount as large as $1000 or as small as $10. Every dollar counts.

Please feel free to forward this appeal to family and friends. You can follow us on the festival website or on Facebook.

Make history with us by supporting this independent literary venture!

Yours sincerely,
Paul Rozario-Falcone and Jee Leong Koh
Co-chairs of Singapore Literature Festivl

Friday, June 27, 2014

July 4th Writing Coach Sale!

Happy (almost) July 4th! To celebrate, I am offering a Fourth Free Hour to writers who book three hours of private writing coach services by midnight, July 4th.

During your four hours of private writing coaching, I will read your writing and discuss it with you. You are welcome to write something in response to a prompt or submit previous writing.

Beginning to experienced writers can benefit from my services as a writing coach. We will meet in-person in the Washington, D.C., area, on the phone or Skype video conference.

Email me (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com) before midnight, July 4th, and you’ll be eligible for a Fourth Free Hour!

The cost for three hours is $300.00. You are welcome to purchase the hours for yourself or a friend. You can also split the hours between yourself and a friend. 

If you book by the deadline and receive a free fourth hour, you are not eligible for the usual 10% discount on booking three hours at once. Limit two discounts per customer. The sale cannot be used towards a group class. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Minerva Rising: Memoir Lessons from Poetry

I encourage all prose writers to read poetry. There are inherent writing lessons in all genres, and poetry offers examples of how few words can create great ideas and images.

In this month's guest post for Minerva Rising Literary Journal, I write about just this from a memoir perspective. Hope you'll spend some time on Minerva Rising's website while you are there. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Writing Prompt: Organization

There are many ways to organize your manuscript (poems, chapters, essays, etc.) that it can be overwhelming. Here's an exercise I offer in my memoir writing workshop at Politics & Prose bookstore in Washington, D.C.

Memoir Manuscript Organization:

You've started writing a number of scenes that don't immediately fit together. How do you order and connect these scenes? You might choose to order them chronologically, chronologically with flashbacks, character, place or theme or something else.

Start by writing a list of 8 - 10 main "things" in your memoir. These "things" (such a bland word, but you are meant to define it for yourself) can be any characteristics that you already have in mind: chapter titles, main characters, main events, central research or other related ideas. List each item on a separate index card.

Spread out the index cards in front of you and move them around to see what your options are.

Answer the following questions in writing:
Write a short paragraph that summarizes the list.
This leads you to the ultimate question: What is the coherent, unifying idea that connects each item? This is your thesis. Can you write it in a single sentence?

Now you know how these items connect. The next goal is to determine how they can be best presented and in what order.

Items put next to each other change based on their proximity and relationship to something else. For example, placing a plastic drinking cup next to a gas can might suddenly make the cup look cleaner and smaller.

With that in mind, move your index cards around on the table. Put them in different orders and see how the relationship between each item - and the item on its sown - changes based on its location.

Write a short paragraph that explains the (or "an") order that you might follow.

Congratulations! You now have a potential, skeleton outline for your memoir. Remember to keep your outline updated as you write since writing is a form of learning and you'll better understand your purpose (thesis) as you continue to write and better understand your project.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Reading Lists?

It is summer and many students are looking at their summer reading lists, either for specific classes or a campus-wide read. I'm looking at the piles of books I've bought and hope to settle into some of them this summer under a tree. (Or in the air conditioning, since we live in D.C.)

What classics or contemporary collections haven't you read? Rebecca Makkai wrote about this topic for Ploughshares and David Ebenbach responded on his blog. I'll comfort myself with the excuse that it would be a waste of reading time to list the books I haven't read. Or that I've read and forgotten.

Makkai describes why there are so many "great" pieces of literature she's missed:
Of course, I know I’m not actually deficient, any more than you are, or any more than anyone who reads widely but only has ninety years on the planet. You and I could spend our whole lives reading great literature and never overlap on a single book. We’d try to converse and both come away feeling like under-read slobs. If we were lucky, we’d remember that the problem isn’t our ignorance or apathy but our embarrassment of riches.

Ebenbach focuses on the books he's read, but can't exactly remember:
But what about the books that I can’t even recall? Well, literature affects you in all kinds of ways, some of which might be subtle and hard to recognize but nonetheless important and lasting. Who knows how a book changes your sense of language and life, even if you can’t name the main character two years later? Years later, Eudora Welty’s stories are somewhat hazy in my memory, but I know I learned important things about storytelling from her (and the same goes for Chekhov); I can’t quote too many different Emily Dickinson poems from memory, but I know she’s changed the way I think about sound. And even if I don’t remember what happened in To the Lighthouse I know how powerful it felt to settle into the minds that Woolf helped me inhabit.

It isn't possible to read every great piece of literature, just as it would be unlikely that we'd settle on one list of "great" literature in any genre. It does take more than one reading, hopefully at different phases of life, to have a deeper understanding of a piece. As an undergraduate Italian major who learned the language in college, I was reading novels, short stories and poems in Italian with a dictionary by my side. While I might have understood (most) of the individual words, I missed many of the finer literary and cultural points. I hope to have time one day to return to those and English-language, as well as books in translation, that touched me years ago.

What books do you remember reading? What's next on your reading list and why?