Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Writing Prompt: Looking & Learning

Insightful writing requires you to look and really see something as if for the first time. I recently took a walking tour of Florence, a city I've spent over four years in, with Elizabeth Namack of Signature Italy Tours. Her insight encouraged me to see architecture, paintings, sculpture and history in a new light.

At our request, our tour guide Elizabeth Namack started the tour in Piazza della Santissima Annunziata. She described the architecture and history of the Ospedale degli Innocenti. Parents, probably mostly mothers, could anonymously leave their child at the hospital through a revolving wheel. Many parents would include a keepsake to (possibly) later identify the child and relationship. The museum kept records of the children and the unclaimed keepsakes. Of all that Elizabeth shared with us, and there were many, this really made an impression on me. This history will definitely inform my walks downtown and perhaps a poem will evolve as I return to the museum.

To read more about the opsedale, you might start with: 

Today's writing prompt? Take a local walking tour or download a walking tour (like these from the Academy of American Poets) and think about where you are.

Planning a trip to Italy? I encourage you to look into Signature Italy's many tours throughout the country. Be sure to tell Elizabeth I say, "ciao, ciao!"

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

Photo of stairs leading down to the Tiber River in Rome 
with green leaves from a nearby tree

October 15th is is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. After my miscarriage, reading personal stories offered me comfort and companionship. Here are a few of those stories available online:

Grieving a Miscarriage: An Illustrated Discussion, by Jessica Zucker and Ryan Alexander-Tanner

After Infertility Diagnosis, Taking Comfort in Jewish Traditions by Dania Rajendra

Adopting A Buddhist Ritual To Mourn Miscarriage, Abortion by Deena Prichep

The Japanese Art of Grieving a Miscarriage by Angela Elon

I invite you to share links to other stories in the comments section.

I have been writing about my own miscarriage and am working on collecting them into a manuscript. You can read a few poems herehere and here at Literary Mama. Composer Lauren Spavelko has also set some of the poems to music, which she is crowdfunding to record. You can support her here. She's already met 26% of her goal as of this writing.

To any readers currently experiencing a loss, remembering a loss or supporting someone who is experiencing the loss, you are not alone. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Publication: Becoming a Signora in Poets Reading the News

Thank you to Poets Reading the News for publishing my piece Becoming a Signora. This journal publishes original poetry about current events. I hope you'll spend some time reading the poems in response to the news, like Catherine Strayhall's poem about gun control, Not the Time. This publication supports what William Carlos Williams famously wrote:
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
  yet men die miserably every day
    for lack
of what is found there.
The title of my piece comes from this blog post in which I wrote a bit about our time in Italy: "If I were to write a memoir about this time, I think it would be titled, "Becoming a Signora," as it feels as though I receive more respect when I speak Italian (the men listen and respond to me, instead of turning towards my English speaking husband) and our child has been embraced (folks offer their bus seats to him and everyone smiles at him.)" From that, encouragement from friends, and my visceral reaction to the news of recent rapes in Italy, came this new poem.

If the poem brings up anything for you or you are working to support someone else, you might start with these resources:

U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Italy, including resources for American Victim Assistance Programs - Sexual Assault 

RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network - USA)

Monday, October 2, 2017

Writing While... Doing Something Else

Fiesole (FI), Italia

My friend Sara Burnett* has as an insightful blog titled, "Writing While Parenting." She's balancing writing and parenting a young child. I love her posts about her path, which includes some goals and successes while focusing on the path. Week 4 hones in on lowering her expectations and finding joy in writing. I highly recommend reading her blog and following her journey.

We're all writing while ... doing something else. I've been juggling (and sometimes dropping) three main balls: online teaching, parenting, and writing. I'm also getting settled in Italy and carving out some time to see the sights and travel with my family. As I find myself repeating to friends, this moving-abroad-adventure has been stunningly exciting and beautiful, but also irritating and frustrating. That is to say, this is life. Everything exists simultaneously.

The trick is to find time to, at the very least, think. Try to give yourself a moment of stillness and regroup. Then, maybe, read something published that inspires you or your own work first thing in the morning. Keep it in your mind as you do fairly mindless thing, like washing the dishes. Look around during your day to try to catch a surprise moment of light or laughter somewhere. If you are open to it, you will likely find it.

An important part of writing is to start with seeing. That is to really see what is around you and then build on that with emotions, metaphor and more. We were in Amsterdam recently and took our four year old to some museums. Did he love being in the museums? Not entirely. But we did have a few good moments in which he was in my arms, close so we could hear each other, and talked about what we saw in the paintings. He usually noticed something unusual - an expression, perhaps - rather than the composition or the larger scene. He doesn't yet have context to understand what the artist did that was novel in that moment in time or what the scene represents to that historical moment. But he can see color, figures and location and draw his own conclusions. That's the sight that allows us to function in the world and then create something new.

Hopefully with some organizing and a notebook or app open near you after seeing, you will write something down. Your muscles - and their memories - might surprise you as you start writing and launch yourself (back) into the habit.

*You might remember Sara Burnett from earlier posts here:
Poetry and the Process of Unlearning
The Next Big Thing Interview Project

Monday, September 25, 2017

Fundraising for Baby Book's Recording

Composer Lauren Spavelko has set some of my poems about a miscarriage, second pregnancy and early motherhood to music. These poems come from a (yet unpublished) manuscript titled Baby Book. You might remember that she won an award to have the song cycle performed in Spoleto this July. This month, Lauren, soprano Natasha Lynn Foley & pianist Bethany Cothern are raising funds to record the song cycle.

You can learn more and donate to them through their Indiegogo page. Click through to read sample pages from the score and watch a video in which the three artists discuss the project and their interest in it. 

I hope that you will consider supporting the poems, music and women artists. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Ciao From Florence, Italy!

today's view from our balcony

I apologize for the recent blogging-silence. Our family has temporarily relocated to Florence, Italy, and are now settled into a new, yet recognizable, routine that will last until summer 2018.

As of October 2, I will be available to schedule appointments with new writing coach clients. Click here for more details outlining ways that we might be able to work together. I am flexible and able to tailor a plan for your needs, goals and interests. Please note that I can take up to three new writing clients this semester since I have a number of clients who will be continuing. If you are interested in starting, please email me as soon as possible: chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com.

If you're interested, do remember that I am six hours ahead of the east coast (EST) and the best time for me to meet with you is your morning. We can video conference (WhatsApp, Facetime or Skype), I can call you or we can do everything over email. Send me an email and we can develop a plan together.

Some of you have been asking for details about our lives in Italy. I'm writing and teaching writing online, my husband is on sabbatical researching and writing and our four year old is attending a local school. We've been eating our fair share of fresh pasta, pizza and gelato. We've visited Michelangelo's Davide at the Accademia Gallery, wandered around the many piazzas and churches in Florence, visited Pisa, Fiesole and Piazzale Michelangelo, and have a long list of more art and architecture to see in Florence and throughout Italy. And, of course, we have an equally long list of foods we want to eat.

There has also been a lot of packing, unpacking, organizing, and paperwork (the paperwork-component of a move to Italy cannot be underestimated. And by paperwork, I mean dedicating a number of mornings to going to offices where you take a number, wait a while and then find out there's another piece of paper that you need from another office.) It has been daunting at times, but as my dear friend Mary H. said, that part of the move couldn't continue forever. After about a month, the most time consuming parts have ended. My friend's emphasis on the finite quality of the administrative side of it all helped me to remember that I'd eventually get back to noticing the beauty with my family and settling into writing. A very sincere thank you to my local friends who have helped us to navigate these offices. 

I lived and worked here fourteen years ago when I was the Residence Hall Manager at NYU's study abroad campus in Florence. My senses still need some time to settle before I can really digest the changes in the city and myself. I have returned as a signora (an older, married woman, rather than a younger, single signorina) and mamma. If I were to write a memoir about this time, I think it would be titled, "Becoming a Signora," as it feels as though I receive more respect when I speak Italian (the men listen and respond to me, instead of turning towards my English speaking husband) and our child has been embraced (folks offer their bus seats to him and everyone smiles at him.) 

I'm unlikely to write that memoir, but I do hope to write some new poems and maybe draft a children's book while I'm here. I will give myself a writing routine for structure, but I'm hoping that the landscape nudges me in a new direction. If I were to guess, I think that the light and colors will feature in the new work. We'll see. Vediamo. 

And I hope to see you all, too. Keep in touch and email me with your many successes (former students: let me know if you have published new work) and any questions about writing coaching (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Download E-books from the DC Public Library this Summer

Did you know that DC residents can download e-books from the DC Public Library? Go to the website and click on E-Content to search for content. (Click here if you need a library card.)

While you're (virtually) visiting the library, register for the Summer Reading 2017 program. This year's list for four year olds (our son's age) includes activities like looking for objects in your home that start with a particular letter and acting out a story you've read together.

After downloading the Kindle and OverDrive apps, I found a wide selection of children's picture and early reader books. This summer vacation, I look forward to reading them to our four year old and even listening to narrated books together as the pages turn on their own. I also look forward to lighter luggage!

Is reading on a device the same as reading a physical book together? Maybe not, but if your child interacts with the book and you interact with your child, more reading and together time is always better than less. We started with listening to Robo-Sauce written and narrated by Adam Rubin and shared some serious giggles. Next up: acting out the book.

Happy literary and light-weight summer travels!