Monday, March 23, 2015

Why Take Writing Classes?

Armed with a library card and internet connection, you can learn just about anything for free. So why pay for a writing course? The interaction with the instructor, your peers and the carefully chosen materials, as well as the deadlines, will help to speed the learning process along. Plus, you’ll have fun and start to cultivate a writing community.

When you approach a subject from different angles (activating the various learning styles:
visual, aural, verbal, physical, logical, social and solitary,) you’re more likely to understand and remember it. Participating in class discussions, listening to the instructor and spending time alone with the material are activities that work in tandem to help you to learn.

For writing memoir, it is particularly helpful to have new readers who are, at least initially, strangers. Friends who know your story will fill in the missing sections in your text; new readers can ask the right questions to ensure that your narrative is clear.

In my creative writing workshops, I encourage my students to form small workshop groups to continue setting deadlines and reading each other’s material after we’ve finished. Writing can be solitary business, but it doesn’t have to be. The encouragement to continue writing and the opportunity to read someone else’s work will keep you on track with your project and sharpen your editing skills. 

If you’re looking for writing classes in the Washington, D.C., area, there are still spaces in my upcoming Politics and Prose memoir writing workshops and a two day political blogging continuing education course my husband Hans Noel and I are co-teaching at Georgetown University this June.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

AWP Annual Conference in Minneapolis (April 8 - 11, 2015)

The annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference is less than a month away. This year, it will be held from April 8 - 11 in Minneapolis, MN.

I'm excited to be reading with Storyscape and presenting on one panel. Details below.

If you'll be there, I'd love to meet up and catch up!

Storyscape Journal & Sakura Review AWP Offsite Reading
Thursday, April 9, 2015; 7:00pm  (CDT)
The Local
931 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55402
Poets reading: Aaron Anstett, Hugh Behm-Steinberg, Ken Cormier, Claire Eder, Zachary Scott Hamilton, Rachel Hanson, Michael Lauchlan, Chloe Yelena Miller, Kamilah Aisha Moon, Rosebud Ben-Oni, Raegen Pietrucha, Michael Robins and Ed Skoog

Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) Annual Conference, Minneapolis, MN
Saturday, April 11; 1:30 - 2:45
Room L100 D&E, Lower Level
Poets Paying the Bills: Balancing Your Writing and Moneymaking.
Rachel Simon,  Chloe Yelena Miller,  Hila Ratzabi,  Shradha Shah,  Mary Austin Speaker
“Poetry” is often synonymous with “poverty.” How do we afford groceries and other necessities? Panelists from diverse professional backgrounds will discuss how they balance their paying jobs (emergency room doctor, freelance editor, adjunct professor, poetry press editor, online instructor, and book designer) with their writing practice and families. Two panelists have small children at home.

Click through for previous years' posts on AWP conferences. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Me, Myself & I

It can be confusing to know whether to use "I" or "me" in a sentence. Hopefully the following will help to clear up the situation:

Deciding whether to use "I" or "me" is based on whether you are using a subject pronoun ("I") or indirect object pronoun ("me.") The subject pronoun is the pronoun standing in for the person performing the action and the indirect object pronoun is the object or person receiving the action. For example, I could write, "George kicks the ball to Clara." "George" is the subject of the sentence and could be replaced by the subject pronoun, "he." Who receives the action? Clara. In this case, the receiver, Clara, can be replaced by the indirect object pronoun, "her." Therefore, the sentence can be rewritten, "He kicks the ball to her." ("Ball" is the direct object pronoun.)

You will need a subject pronoun ("I") if the "I" is the subject performing the action. (Click through for a complete list of subject pronouns.)

For example, you might want to write, "Diane and I are buying tickets for the show." In this case, "I" is the subject pronoun performing the action (buying the tickets with Diane.) The sentence works if you change the subject to "we," another subject pronoun. Ask yourself who is doing the action and the answer is "Diane and I!" ("Me" cannot be the subject pronoun and therefore not correct. If you were to write this sentence using only the first person singular, "I" instead of the plural, "Diane and I," you'd write, "I am buying the tickets for the show," not, "Me...")

If the sentence changes to, "Diane is buying tickets for me," then "me" becomes the indirect object pronoun. (Click through for more on indirect object pronouns.) You can ask yourself, "for whom"? and the answer is, "For me!" Or, "Who is doing it?" "Diane!" In this case, the direct object pronoun is "tickets" (that is to say, what is being bought.) Whenever the issue is a direct or indirect object pronoun, then the answer is "me" (if it is first person.)

For more, here is Grammar Girl's explanation of when to use "I" or "me."

Monday, March 2, 2015

Scrivener for poetry (link to Red Sofa Salon)

Hila Ratzabi of Philly's Red Sofa Salon recently posted a great piece: 10 Ways to Use Scrivener for Poetry Manuscripts. I've been curious about Scrivener Writing Software for some time and Hila's post really explains how it works. I hope you enjoy it!

Have you used Scrivener for poems, prose, plays or screenplays? What did you think about the program?

Click through for more pieces here by and about Hila Ratzabi

Monday, February 23, 2015

Upcoming Classes at Politics & Prose Bookstore

Take a class this spring 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: April 14, 28, May 5, 12, 1 – 2:30 pm
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 of Memoir: 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, April 21, 1 – 3 pm
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. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Nuts & Bolts: Writing Resources

Here are some of my favorite - free! - resources for grammar, punctuation and research documentation help.

Purdue Online Writing Lab
This is my favorite site for APA/MLA guides. 

A Writer’s Reference (Diana Hacker)
The online resources are great and include quizzes with exercises in grammar, punctuation and more. The explanations for correct and wrong answers are thorough and clear. (If asked to log in, simply click “cancel” in order to use the site.) 

“Grammar Girl” explains some challenging grammar aspects in clear, friendly language. Googling “grammar girl” and, say, “semi-colons,” is the easiest way I’ve found to search the  site.

What else would you add? 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Huh? Ask Questions Before Your Assignment is Due

My online students can fill in the "Comments" section when they submit an assignment. They usually write something like, "Here's my assignment. Enjoy!" Occasionally I'll read something like, "I didn't understand what you meant by X. What is a Y?"

Always ask questions. Keep in mind that the timing is important for your comprehension and, ultimately, grade. Start working early on your assignment so that is possible to ask questions before the assignment deadline. With email, of course, you can send the question at any time and instructors can respond when they are available. You might have follow-up questions, so start early.

Most schools have free in-person and online tutoring sessions available through a writing center. Most school libraries have librarians available to answer questions both in-person and online, too. Use all of the resources available to you, starting with your professor, to learn as much as possible and succeed in your classes.

Online Classes: Ask Questions
Composition Writing Classes: As Good As You Make Them
What Questions to Ask Your Professor