Tuesday, August 14, 2018

DC-area writers: Narrative Memoir Workshop at Politics and Prose Bookstore


Front of the t-shirt reads, "so many books so little time" and the back reads the name of Politics and Prose Bookstore. While wearing this t-shirt in a cafe in Reykjavik this summer, a woman asked me where I found my shirt because, she said, "it would be perfect for my daughter!" Here's to celebrating reading, writing and independent bookstores locally and from abroad!

I'm excited to announce that this fall I will be teaching a memoir writing workshop at Politics and Prose Bookstore. Please scroll down for the details and register directly through the bookstore. The class will be held at their Northwest location on Connecticut Avenue.

Spaces filled quickly in the past when I've offered this workshop, so I encourage you to register sooner rather than later.

If you have any questions about the class, don't hesitate to email me: chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com or contact the bookstore directly.

Five Mondays. Oct 15, 22, 29, Nov 5, 19, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
Price: 
$175 (10% Off for Members)
Memoir, like all creative non-fiction, relies on literary craft tools such as scene and plot to mold a clear storyline and develop characters. 
This five-meeting workshop will help you to write your memories into scenes for essays or chapters of a full manuscript. Participants will respond to writing prompts and workshop one essay or manuscript excerpt (up to 750 words.) We will consider issues of editing, revising, organizing research and chapters, and publishing. Students will receive feedback from peers and the instructor during group workshop sessions throughout the last four classes.  
This class is open to all levels, from first-time memoirists to experienced writers.
In-class writing prompts will change every session; you are welcome to take this class more than once.
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 starting with the first session.
We will rely on email for communication and distribution of student writing after the first week.
To participate fully in the class, it is necessary to have an email account that you check regularly. 

Required Reading: 
Current issue of Creative Nonfiction (https://www.creativenonfiction.org/issue)

Recommended Reading:
The Art of the Personal Essay, ed. by Phillip Lopate
Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoirby Beth Kephart
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King
Chloe Yelena Miller has been teaching writing privately and at the college level since 2005, when she received her MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Her poetry chapbook, Unrest, was published by Finishing Line Press. Her writing has been published in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Poet’s Market, Inside Higher Ed, The Cortland Review, and Narrative, and others. Read sample publications and writing advice here: http://chloeyelenamiller.com

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Returning to Washington, D.C.

Geysir steaming in Iceland
My family and I are back home in Washington, D.C., after our academic year in Florence and some travels through parts of England and Iceland. Much like a new year, this moment feels like a good chance to encourage thoughtful habits and live the lives we wish to live.

From a writing perspective, the distance from our usual routines, tastes, sights, conversations - well, everything - encouraged me to look at things differently and literally shake things up. The usual voices keeping me quiet with, "no, you can't write that," or sarcastically asking, "you think you're good enough to try that project," were mostly overtaken by better voices. I hope to continue to give myself this distance from those negative voices, real or imagined, and explore our surrounding world as if it were new. 

It was lovely to live in an apartment in Florence with large windows and a view of the hills. Sure, we couldn't run the dishwasher and the washing machine at the same time without blowing a fuse and the internet didn't always work, but the airiness and having few of our personal belongings gave us space to be together. From counter and table space to closet space, we literally had more space to move about and focus more deeply. This year we hope to continue to live more simply from a materialistic point of view and make room for more important things. 

My first impressions of returning to Washington, D.C., are mostly startling. It was familiar, but didn't immediately feel like home. Of course, I followed the news from abroad and continue to be shocked by what I read and work to counter, but it was the daily life around me that first struck me. Driving for the first time in almost a year felt difficult at first and then freeing. Such wide roads and so much space compared to sitting in the passenger seat of Italian cars and motorini zooming around! The supermarket looked like three stores knitted together after shopping in Florence. The prices seem insanely high after Florence and insanely reasonable after our time in Iceland. Walking through the local Trader Joe's and collecting jelly beans and my favorite cookies felt like a happy dream. I'm trying not to be offended by no one saying, "good morning" or otherwise acknowledging each other's presence, even after sometimes feeling like it was too much talking with strangers in Italy. 

Our child is thrilled to be back in his room with the many things we didn't ship to Italy. While he woke up the first morning needing help finding the bathroom and claimed he never, ever ate oatmeal before, he otherwise remembers this version of life. And, yes, former-Italian-teachers-of-his, we promise to keep up his Italian with a class, books, movies and friends!

I look forward to working in-person as a writing coach and teaching a class at Politics and Prose bookstore this fall (registration should open next week.) Don't hesitate to email me (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com with any questions.





Friday, June 15, 2018

Until September!



Our academic year here in Florence, Italy, is (somehow!) coming to an end. We've experienced so much that I'm sure I'll be writing about it for years to come. We'll be spending the rest of the summer saying, "ciao, ciao," to our friends, city and many "last" bowls of pasta before settling back into life in Washington, D.C.

If you are interested in writing coaching, I will be available to meet with you in-person or virtually after Labor Day in Washington, D.C. Email me to schedule your appointment (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com. You can read more about my writing coach services and packages here.

I'll be back to blogging in September, too. Until then, maybe we'll cross paths on Twitter or my Writing Coach Facebook page.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

New published piece: Do Your Parents Have Amnesia About Parenting? (Hint: Yes)


I'm excited to have a new piece, Do Your Parents Have Amnesia About Parenting? (Hint: Yes), up at Sammiches & Pysch Meds today. I hope you'll read it for a laugh.


PS: This is not memoir. My parents and in-laws are very supportive. But my friends and the internet talk. A lot. I changed the details and braided in some fiction.

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.