Friday, April 30, 2010

Continuing To Write & Be Involved with the Literary Community After National Poetry Month Ends

Can you believe it? Today is the last day of National Poetry Month. Hopefully you were able to get into the habit of writing a new poem if not every day, then regularly, reading more poetry and becoming involved with the literary community.

Before the month ends, consider how you will continue to be involved with the writing world. Here are some suggestions:

To become more involved with a writing community, check with your local, independent bookstores for events.

I also recommend checking out your local college or university’s English or Writing department’s website. Most schools host free readings that are open to the community.

You might consider applying for a writing conference or residency.

Continue to read, support financially and submit to literary magazines.

What else would you suggest?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Forming a Community of Writers

A piece of writing is half of the dialogue between the author and readers. The act of writing, however, can be a lonely act if you don’t have readers of your work. These readers can help encourage you to continue writing and pose the necessary questions to make your work as strong as possible.

I rely on a number of different people to read my work and offer a variety feedback. For example, some friends and family members are good readers when I’m feeling unsure about a piece and need some positive feedback. I go to them to be reminded about my excitement to write. They tend to enjoy my work and encourage me.

There are other readers, for me these are mostly friends from graduate school, who are more critical readers. They catch awkward phrases in the poem and even what is missing. This is a two-way street. We will email each other work, sometimes with directed questions, and offer feedback.

I think I knew that I was in love with my husband, who is not a poet, when he first read my work and offered a critical reading. He noted not only what he liked, but also what he thought could be improved upon. Since then, I trust him to read carefully, be honest in his response and respect my work enough to help prod along the revisions.

I encourage you to share your work with friends and ask for their honest opinions. Non-writers might be hesitant to respond. Especially with poetry, I find that non-writing friends think that they don’t have the knowledge or the ability to critique the pieces. I encourage them that they do. After all, we aren’t only writing for other poets, right? We hope to read a larger audience that includes them.

With whom do you share your work?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Online Memoir Writing Workshop (Prose & Poetry) This May: Less than one week left to register!

Don’t miss out! Saturday, May 1st is the final date to register for the upcoming Memoir Writing Workshop – an online, two week class! Focusing on both prose and poetry, the class will run from May 17th – May 28th. To register, send me an email at ChloeMiller(at)gmail(dot)com. I will send you information regarding the payment.

For more information on the class, click here.

The students who have already registered have a wide variety of life and writing experiences. I’m looking forward to reading their responses to writing prompts and working together. I hope you will consider joining us.

Questions? Email me anytime at ChloeMiller(at)gmail(dot)com.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Writing Prompt: Mangia!

Food offers so many metaphors and associations for readers. For today’s writing prompt, eat something tasty (good excuse, right?) and then write for five to ten minutes on the taste. The food can be exotic or ordinary.

Consider your five senses when you describe the food. Taste is established not only by taste buds, but also through our sense of smell, touch (texture), sound, and sight. When you revise, you can place the food within a physical, narrative or emotional context.

I took a writing workshop in high school in which the instructor gave us all small pebbles to put in our mouths and consider. For this exercise, I prefer to use food to avoid an obvious choking hazard and frankly, because I love to cook and eat. (Have you read my food blog recently?)

Would you share your draft with us?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Presenting at the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature

I look forward to attending and presenting at the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature’s Annual Symposium:

Writing the Midwest: A Symposium of Scholars and Writers

I will be reading a selection of poems from my manuscript “Unrest.” These poems focus on the body, illness and healing.

The conference runs from May 13 – May 15th at Michigan State University in East Lansing. Here is the information about my session:

10 – 11:30 am on Friday, May 14th
Moderator: J. J. McKenna (University of Nebraska, Omaha)
Chloé Yelena Miller (Fairleigh Dickinson University) From “Unrest”
Lylanne Musselman (University of Indianapolis) “New and Selected Poems”
Margaret Rozga (University of Wisconsin, Waukesha) Selections from 200 Nights and One Day and New Poems

See you there?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Writing Prompt: Paint Colors

How is National Poetry Month going? Have you been able to continue writing a poem a day?

To help you along, today’s prompt asks you to meditate on paint colors and their names. You can use a traditional color (red, blue, etc.) or use a paint store’s online palette to help you along.

Sherwin Williams allows you to choose from their seemingly endless collection of colors. By clicking on “explore colors” in the upper right hand corner, you can browse through their colors.

For today’s writing prompt, I recommend looking closely at one of the colors for at least a minute and considering the color’s name. The names that paint companies give their colors are great places to start your free-writing exercise. Here are just a few that caught my eye:

Carriage Door
Fame Orange
Caribbean Coral

Remember that your goal is to write non-stop for five or ten minutes. Don’t censor your ideas or grammar. Simply write, write, write and see what happens. Later, return to your work and underline or highlight the phrases, sentences, or even just words that seem as though they can be expanded upon for a more polished poem or prose piece.

I hope you will let us know how it goes in the comments section below.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How To Save Poetry Drafts Electronically

It is National Poetry Month and you’ve been writing every day (right?) How do you organize this sudden influx of poems, earlier poems, and various drafts of the same poem?

Some writers organize electronic drafts by date, title, theme or manuscript title. At the summer retreat hosted by A Room of Her Own, Rita Dove said that she organizes her drafts by color. It was easy to choose the color because each poem “feels like a different color.”

I organize my electronic poetry files by both date and title number. Each year has a separate folder and it is filled with individual poem drafts. The poems I write during that year are saved by the original title followed by the draft number. For example, I recently wrote a poem entitled “Grief.” It is located in the 2010 folder. As I revise the poem, I will save the files according to the draft number. I expect that I will later write and save, “Grief1,” “Grief2,” etc.

Of course, the title of the poem often changes during the revision process. To limit confusion, I save the original document title and insert it in italics under the poem’s title on the document. Then, if I find the paper draft later, I can easily find it again on the computer.

Once I find that I have a number of poems with similar themes that will be grouped into a manuscript, I save them in a file with that manuscript’s title. I usually wait until the poems are almost finished to do this. If poems are eventually cut from that manuscript, I return the final draft to the yearly file where they started.

Having a lot of poems to organize can only be considered a good problem! It means that you’ve been writing and revising regularly. Remember to dedicate at least a few minutes of your writing time to keeping your drafts organized. This will help later when it comes to submitting your work and/or creating a book length manuscript. I expect that authors will have to develop their own systems that works best for their writing style.

What tips do you have about organizing your poetry drafts?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Online Memoir Writing Workshop (Prose & Poetry) in May: Less than two weeks left to register!

Don’t miss out! Saturday, May 1st is the final date to register for the upcoming Memoir Writing Workshop – an online, two week class! Focusing on both prose and poetry, the class will run from May 17th – May 28th. To register, send me an email at ChloeMiller(at)gmail(dot)com.

For more information on the class, click here.

The students who have already registered have a wide variety of life and writing experiences. I’m looking forward to reading their responses to writing prompts and working together. I hope you will consider joining us.

Questions? Email me anytime at ChloeMiller(at)gmail(dot)com.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Presenting @ the Ann Arbor Book Festival’s Writing Conference: Brainstorming, Work, and Creativity: Thinking Outside of the Box

I’m looking forward to presenting at the Ann Arbor Book Festival’s Writing Conference on Saturday, May 15th.

Brainstorming, Work, and Creativity: Thinking Outside of the Box

Right brained or left, it doesn’t matter - being creative is essential in the current economy. Access your inner poet and your muse with poet and entrepreneur, Chloe Miller, who will lead a discussion of how to connect creativity with business planning and the generation of concrete ideas. This is a hands-on, interactive, process-driven voyage of discovery. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves.

The conference will last all day with amazing presentations, workshops and readings by published authors. You can read the full schedule online and register, too. While it isn't an official registration (you must do that on their website), you are welcome to RSVP on the Facebook event page.

I attended and presented at the conference last year. It was wonderful. I hope to see you there this year. If you have any questions about my program, you are welcome to contact me directly (ChloeMiller(at)gmail(dot)com.)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Writing Prompt: Share Your Car Story

The Detroit Institute for the Arts offers opportunities throughout the museum for guests to write down their experiences, memories or responses to questions. Essentially, the DIA gives writing prompts! See? They are everywhere you look.

A current exhibit, Detroit Experiences: Robert Frank Photographs, 1955, focuses on images from the Detroit car factories. After the exhibit, guests can respond to the following prompt:

Share your car story

Draw or write about:

     your first car

     a family road trip

     automotive assembly work

     other memorable experiences

Ready? Set? Go!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Blog Available on Kindle!

I'm happy to announce that you can now read this blog on your Kindle. Order it on Amazon today.

Afraid of commitment? You can start with a free trial and then decide if you want to continue.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Interview with Jee Leong Koh published in Eclectica

Thank you to Eclectica Magazine for publishing my recent interview with Jee Leong Koh, author of poetry books Payday Loans and Equal to the Earth.


CYM My composition writing students are always asking how much the poet intends for the reader to add in his or her own interpretation. What would you say to them? How closely linked do you expect your reading and intentions for the poem to be to the words on the page or do they spin in a number of directions depending on something like spokes on a wheel? For example, you make fairly dense historical references to the American reader in the opening poem to Equal to the Earth . Are you writing for a reader who has the appropriate knowledge, one who will look up what is necessary and/or one who can make assumptions about the meaning based on the context?

JLK The latitude for interpretation can be visualized as a circle, outside of which fall obvious misinterpretations. Some poems are big circles and allow for many different points of view. Other poems are small circles and allow for few. I teach my students to think of a poem as a point, with one interpretation, which they must formulate for themselves based on close analysis of the poem. This approach encourages rigorous reading. They should be aware, however, that their interpretation is a point among many other points. In fact, my students do not need to be told about the relativity of points of view; the wider culture already does a good job of indoctrinating them. What they need to learn is to evaluate different interpretations for their persuasiveness.

As a poet, I write to make my own intentions for a poem fully visible to myself. I spend time and thought to make the poem the embodiment of my meaning. So I appreciate readers who try to understand what I mean. The process of reading is complex and subjective, but it should be undertaken with the good faith that the writer wishes to be understood. As for dense historical references, I don't use them a lot in my poetry. When I do, I write the poems in such a way that a reader not familiar with the references will still get much out of the poem. A reader who knows the references will obviously get more. But I do see it as my job to entice the reader to do the research.

I encourage you to visit Jee Leong Koh’s blog.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Writing Prompt: Where Others Aren’t (Here)

When I teach Travel Writing, I encourage my students to write about where they are. That place, so familiar to you, is a foreign, unknown place and experience to many people. You don't need a lot of travel money to write about place.

It doesn’t matter where you are: at your desk, at a major museum, in your local bakery, etc. Wherever you are can be described in an interesting fashion to someone who hasn’t been there, or even to someone who has been there.

For today’s writing prompt, sit quietly and notice the details around you. You might decide to do this at your desk or take your notebook outside (gas station, cafeteria, café, deli, classroom, doctor’s office, etc.) Anywhere will work.

Start with a description of the location and then add in your experience of it.

Will you share what you wrote?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Writing Prompt: Before the Beginning

Yesterday’s prompt asked you to continue a text you fell in love with. But what happened before the text even started? Let’s move backwards in time.

Free-write (write continuously without stopping or self-censoring yourself for meaning, grammar, etc.) for ten minutes and then return to the work and expand upon the most interesting lines/ideas/words.

Will you share your result?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Writing Prompt: After the End

There is sometimes a feeling of loss after a wonderful book ends. For today’s writing prompt, forget about that: Continue the piece in a poem. It doesn’t matter if you were reading poetry, non-fiction, fiction or even a recipe. Free-write (write continuously without stopping or self-censoring yourself for meaning, grammar, etc.) for ten minutes and then return to the work and expand upon the most interesting lines/ideas/words.

Will you share your result?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

LineBreak Online Poetry Journal & Published Digital Recording

Poetry started as an oral tradition. The online literary journal LineBreak continues in that tradition with a high-tech twist by publishing poems and readings of the poems by a different author.

I invite you to read the poem Carpenter Bees by Jeff Mock and listen to my reading of it. It is a beautiful poem with sounds that are meant to be heard. In particular, I loved these lines about the bees:

They’re beautiful—metallic blue-

black, with salt-and-pepper fuzz like

a wrap about their shoulders

During National Poetry Month, I encourage you to not only read poems, but read them aloud. Don’t be afraid. Listen to how your understanding of the poem and the poem’s music changes based on the directions offered to you by the line breaks and punctuation.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Writing Prompts: Book Suggestions

There are many texts to help you master the craft of writing, in all genres, as well as offer writing prompts. I’ve put together a list to help you get started.

What other texts would you recommend?

If you are looking for more directed, personal help, I am available to work with you as a private writing coach.You might also consider taking my two week, online memoir writing class this May.

For more information, please email me directly at ChloeMiller(at)gmail(dot)com.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Writing Prompt: Botanical Gardens

Nature offers visual mysteries that can easily be turned into writing prompts. Today’s writing prompt in celebration of National Poetry Month: Meditate on something in nature. Look closely and describe it according to your five senses. Then, animate it. Bring it to life with strong action verbs.

To help get you started, I posted pictures at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor, MI. I don’t know the name of the first plant, but the following trees are bonsai and sausage. After one quick glance, you know they could easily live in a poem just based on their general strangeness. The current exhibit, The Healing Garden: Savor Nature’s Restorative Powers, offers activities and descriptions that will help prompt your writing.

For today’s writing prompt, visit a formal garden, look at pictures online, take a walk or just look out your window. The goal is to pause and think for a few minutes before writing.

Thinking of nature, a recent poem draft I wrote combines nature, from a more fearful perspective following Friday's writing prompt using words from another field of study.This poem uses words from my husband’s study of political networks. Here are the words I used: neighborhood, geodesic distance, node, connections, betweeness (this is my favorite), tie, edge, actor, relationships.

Interdisciplinary Networks of Ants

I’m connected to a family,

or maybe a neighborhood, of ants.

They taunt my sleep by pulling all nighters in the bathroom,

which must have been a mistake.

They map the ground, find the mother lode: the kitchen.

Crumbs under the microwave and who knows what in the coffee maker

travel the geodesic distance to their miniature ant homes.

Their black skeletons nodes connect me to their leader.

Take me to your leader,

I plead as they scuttle to a dark hiding place between the cracks in the wall.

The queen commands this takeover

and so the connections deepen. She lowers our betweeness

with every influx.

Finally, I hire someone to do the job I am unwilling to do.

The exterminator breaks some of my ties with the ants.

Post-spray, they die mid-fight, mid-walk, under my shoe.

Why won’t they collect their dead?

I leave one in a spider’s web as a warning.

The winged ones appear later, post attack.

I tell them, There’s no food under the covers, on the curtain or in my purse.

Yesterday, my husband killed their queen.

Three times as large, but just as slow as the others,

she hovered on the wall behind the microwave,

not having been told I wiped it down.

I want to slice the edge between each actor.

These connections must be severed by quick chemicals.

Oh, exterminator, can’t you rearrange our relationships?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Writing Prompt: Use Words From Another Field of Study

A writing prompt to help spur your imagination for today's poem: Look up a set of words in a field that is not your own. Work to integrate those new words into a poem. Some of the words might be familiar, but have different meanings in these contexts. As we know, every field has a jargon different from colloquial English. You never know what you'll find.

For example, my husband is a political scientist and does work on networks. Some of the words, which are familiar in different contexts, are used differently in this field. Through the list on this Wikipedia page, I am going to challenge myself to write something new and inventive. I invite you to try the same vocabulary or use another list of words.

Here are some other sets of vocabulary to consider. Of course, anything would work. If you find a great site, I hope you will share it with us.

Botany vocabulary

Astrology vocabulary

Sailing vocabulary

Production and Manufacturing vocabulary

How was writing yesterday?

I admit that I started to doubt my ability to write everyday immediately. With the piles of grading that are coming in as one school’s semester ends, I thought that perhaps I wouldn’t be able to do it. And with those doubts, I wrote the first draft of the first poem – about writing a poem a day.

I invite you to read the draft below. Please note the importance of the word “draft” and allow yourself the same freedom to try somethign new. Each poem we write together this month will be a draft, as we are writing them in just a single day. A final poem can take days, months, even years, to revise.

I hope you will share some of your poems with us. You are welcome to email them to me at ChloeMiller(at)gmail(dot)com and I will post them the next day.


The duty of writing a poem a day.

More exciting than laundry or washing dishes left to “soak”?

Poetry should be a walk on a black sand

beach on a Greek island in September.

This poetry month,

the To Do list grows like Alice and her boots.

The rabbit’s clock provides a tune,

as does the faucet’s leak

and the winged ant between the window panes.

But I said I’d do it.

Here is the first.

The duty of writing a poem a day.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

National Poetry Month: Day 1 of Writing a Poem a Day

Happy National Poetry Month!

Today is the first day of National Poetry Month. The challenge: Integrate poetry into your life this month and beyond.

I will be participating in the month’s festivities by writing a poem a day. This challenge feels both invigorating and daunting. I write often, although I don’t always write every day. Like most people, I have a schedule that makes it hard to carve out time. That said, I am committed to (re)beginning a daily writing practice. Will you join me?

You don’t need a fancy journal, computer program or anything other than a pen and a piece of paper. Write freely, don’t censor yourself and don’t worry if the drafts are just that – drafts that eventually need to be edited and revised. Final drafts need time to be molded.

What if your words turn into prose poems or even prose without poetry? No worry. Just write and save your drafts to review later.

To start with the day off right, I was happy to open an email from to find the first “Poem-A-Day,” A Story by Philip Levine.

Incidentally, it is also April Fool’s Day and the anniversary of meeting my husband four years ago!