Friday, July 30, 2010

Read Literary Magazines

I remember poet Laure-Anne Bosselaar saying in an MFA class at Sarah Lawrence College that writers should not only read literary magazines regularly, but also support them financially. She recommended buying at least one subscription a year.

I agree.

Literary magazines have a very hard time surviving financially, as you could easily guess. By regarding them regularly, you’ll better understand what they publish and learn more about contemporary writing. This will help you with your own writing and submission process, too.

Yesterday I shared a recent interview with Medulla editor Jennifer Hollie Bowles. She ended the interview by generously sharing the names of literary magazines she reads regularly.

What are your favorite literary magazines, online or in print?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Interview with Medulla Review's Editor-In-Chief Jennifer Hollie Bowles

Literary magazines keep writers current. The Medulla Review is no different. It is a fabulous online literary magazine that takes risks with its writing. Dorianne Laux’s jarringly titled poem, “Stupid” and Susan Slaviero’s poem, “Why Everyone Can’t See Ghosts” were among my recent favorites.

Here is how the magazine describes itself:

The Medulla Review is a literary journal that caters to experimental and surreal writing, a place in the hindbrain where breathing, swallowing, and circulation are done through words, a venue for those who believe in creating reality. We want to hear your voices. What jars you? What makes you dance on the staircase of your mind? It's about the core of things, getting down to the essence: that soft center of being and experience where you are free.

I had the opportunity to speak with editor Jennifer Hollie Bowles. As writers and readers, I think you’ll be quite interested in what she had to say about her magazine, submissions and writing.

I love that that you have guest editors. Can you share a little about how the different editors influence the magazine’s aesthetic?

Guest editors balance and enhance the aesthetic. For example, the first guest poetry editor, Gindy Elizabeth Houston, brought a level of beauty and tradition to the poetry. In contrast, when I served as poetry editor, the content emerged with an edgier, rawer tone. The current guest poetry editor, Laura LeHew, may be able to combine the literary and experimental focus in a way that has not been expressed in previous issues. Finally, I think all editors review submissions in a unique way, and I am grateful to have different visions influencing The Medulla Review.

What advice would you give to writers who are considering submitting to your magazine or press?

I would advise potential contributors to read the issues, and if the content speaks to them in profound ways, it is very likely their writing voices will find a home at The Medulla Review. I would also encourage writers to submit works that push the boundaries of genre and express surreal experiences.

How do you know when a submitted piece is right for the magazine?

I can usually tell within the first couple of lines of verse and the first few sentences of prose if a piece is right, and I instantly feel the knowledge through the unique power of the words. On occasion, insight strikes when I read further along, but if I don't have an epiphany of some sort, I'm unlikely to publish the work.

What other literary magazines do you read regularly?

Mud Luscious, Thieves Jargon, Word Riot, elimae, PANK Magazine, Gutter Eloquence Magazine, The Centrifugal Eye, Mad Hatter's Review, ABJECTIVE,, The Del Sol Review, Nashville Review, New Millennium Writings, Sein und Werden, Pedestal Magazine, GUD

Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your thoughts with us!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Natalie Merchant: Poetry & Music

The Natalie Merchant concert at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor last night knocked me over. It offered a push into the past and future with kisses on my forehead.

Her new album, Leave Your Sleep, is a collection of songs based on English language poets such as Ogden Nash, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Christina Rossetti, e e cummings and more. You can read the original poems online and pair them to the music.

The songs, translations of the written words, offer new life and interpretations of the work. Merchant honored the original authors with photographs (it is rare to see a PowerPoint at a live concert!) and briefly described their bios.

Merchant collaborated with musicians, as well as poets, to create these new pieces. The music dances between traditions and styles: bluegrass, jazz, reggae, chamber, Celtic, Chinese and more. (Read the NPR piece for more or her website (under Read). We know her voice from earlier, super-famous (less risky?) albums and it is even fuller here and in person.

The recent New York Times article describes the beginnings of the album:

The project had its beginnings in the poems Ms. Merchant read to her daughter, Lúcia, whose birth in 2003 led to what Ms. Merchant has called a “maternity leave” from her pop career.

“I narrowed the field to poetry that related to motherhood or childhood, because that’s the world I was living in,” Ms. Merchant said. “Some people see that as a valid place of exploration and others just think it’s trivial — oh, another female artist has gone off and had a kid and wants to tell us about it. But it’s about being human to me.”

Luckily, “Leave Your Sleep” is not the kind of perky singalong, lullaby collection or instructional ditties that are generally classified as a children’s album. Its songs touch on somber topics, like war and death, as well as more whimsical ones. Through the years Ms. Merchant has generally stayed serious and thoughtful, but “Leave Your Sleep” often has a twinkle in its eye.

Last night was magical. Her album is magical. I know, “magical” is a terrible adjective that I would edit out of a poem and remind myself that it is a broad stroke to describe something of our world. But here, yes here, it fits. The music brings us to another land. One that is beautifully built on poetry and music.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Chloé’s Last Ann Arbor Reading: Friday! Poetry & Jazz to Celebrate the Ann Arbor Women Artists Exhibit at the Riverside Arts Gallery in Ypsilanti

I’m excited to be reading with poets Hillary Dorwart and Andrea Jones-Rooy on Friday night (July 30) after jazz musician Bill Clark plays.

The performances will be taking place in the Riverside Arts Gallery, where the Ann Arbor Women Artists exhibit will be showing for the last time.

Don't miss this chance to watch and hear the music, literary and visual arts come together for one amazing night!

Music starts at 7 and the readings start at 7:30pm. We’ll be there until about 8:30. Be sure to get there early enough to see the art. I might be biased, but my favorite is by artist with work there is Laurie Clark.

Riverside Arts Center Gallery
76 North Huron Street
Ypsilanti, MI
You are welcome, although of course not required, to RSVP on the Facebook Event page.

Thanks to everyone involved for helping to set this up.

Monday, July 26, 2010

FAQs: Online Workshops with Chloé

Today is the deadline to register for the Online Memoir Writing Workshop II that begins on Monday, August 2nd. Secure your space today by emailing me with your interest {Chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com.}

The Online Memoir Writing Workshop I ran in May. If you have done some writing or taken a college level writing or literature class, you are qualified to take the second part of this workshop.

I look forward to your joining our writing community!

Below are the answers to the most commonly asked questions about taking one of my Online Writing Workshops. If you have another question, don’t hesitate to email or post your question under Comments below. I also encourage you to read the course description.

What is the daily format of the class?
The class will be held on Google Groups and meet everyday. The class is asynchronous, which means you can post at anytime instead of logging in to "meet" at a certain hour. (The assignments will all be posted before the class begins.) There will be short reading and writing assignments every weekday. Assignments won’t be given over the weekend; this will be a good chance to catch up/get ahead, if you'd like.

Will there be more than daily prompts and weekly submission of work?
You'll submit smaller pieces everyday and a rough draft and final draft of a longer piece each week.

Will there be any phone conference time or any other connections?
The class will be entirely online. If you'd like to schedule individual writing coach sessions, we can do that.

How many people are already enrolled?
The online workshops are always limited to ten adult students. Often students sign up at the last minute, so it is hard to judge the final enrollment too far in advance. If more than ten students are interested, another section may open.

How do I enroll?
Send me an email {Chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com}stating your interest. Enrollment will be final once you've paid for the class, which is due before the class begins. You can send a check to my home address, which I will email you, or I can send you an invoice via Paypal for an additional $4.00 fee.

I have a busy schedule and don’t know exactly when I’ll be able to log in every day. Will that work?
We can definitely make it work. Everything is asynchronous and held on a Google Group. You can sign in at any time and complete your work. The assignments are posted from the very beginning, so you can even get ahead, if necessary. Then, when you do sign in, you can catch up on conversations that were happening throughout the day and those folks will do the same to respond to your posts.

I look forward to working together!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Upcoming Online Classes: Memoir & Poetry Workshops

Are you working on a project and need some feedback? Maybe not sure where to start? There are still spaces available in the upcoming online creative writing classes:

* Online Memoir Writing Workshop II Monday, August 2 – Friday, August 13 (2 weeks)

* Online Beginning Poetry Writing Workshop Wednesday, September 15 – Sunday, September 19 (5 days)

If you pre-register for both classes, you’ll receive 15% off of your total amount due. Don’t forget that current and previous private students receive 10% off group classes.
Join our community of writers. Email me {Chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com} today to save your virtual seat.

I will be offering one online class a month this fall. What are you most interested in studying? (Poetry, Memoir, Revision, Food Writing, Travel Writing, etc.?)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Can Creative Writing Be Taught?

A writing student recently emailed me asking *how* and *if* he can learn to write more creatively.

I do believe that creative writing can be taught. Humans are naturally creative and can access the vocabulary and grammar to share their ideas with others.

Practice and careful attention to detail will help you to become a stronger creative writer. Creative writing exercises, like the prompts given here, offer you some space to experiment with language. Readings will give you different ideas regarding how you can present your thoughts. Various texts, like the ones listed in my Amazon store, offer the tools you'll need to move ahead. Even if you don't become a professional author, these skills will help you throughout any career and your personal communications with others.

To improve your skills, your goal should be to read, write and edit as much as possible. Read as a writer and notice how the sentences are put together. If you really like something, look back and figure out what you like and why. This will make it easier for you to start by mimicking that style. Then, write and edit. The more you write and stretch your creative muscles, the easier it will be to continue writing and eventually create something new.

You are welcome to take chances in my writing classes and work to craft something new. You can start by using your five senses to describe something. Connect your description of one very precise thing with something larger and universal. For example, if I describe figs that I ate from a neighbor's yard, you might be bored because you don't have a neighbor who offers you summer figs. If, however, I connect them to general fruit you could eat elsewhere, and how you could cook with them, then you might be a more interested reader.

What do you think? Can creative writing be taught? Share your thoughts below.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Forming a Writing Workshop

It is helpful to meet regularly with a group of writers to discuss your work. The imposed deadline, input, support and sharing of ideas is invaluable. You become a better reader and writer while forming a local community.

Here are some things to consider when forming your own group:

Do you want to limit the work discussed to one genre?

Will you also read and discuss published work?

Will there be a limit to the number of participants?

Where and how often will you meet?

Most workshop groups email the work to be discussed (1-2 poems or 1 short story) a day or two before meeting. Everyone prints out the work, reads it carefully and writes notes on the piece to help facilitate the conversation. The author collects the notes after the discussion.

The discussion usually starts with someone reading the work aloud. If the author reads the work aloud, she learns something by hearing how it sounds in her natural voice. If she hears someone else read it, she’ll notice if the reader stumbles anywhere or if something seems unclear. Hearing the work is especially helpful when editing line breaks and pauses in a piece.

Many groups prefer that the author remain silent during the conversation. This ensures that the readers aren’t distracted by what the author *meant* to write and can focus on the words on the page.

Like a book club, most writing groups gather around food. My current group meets in a member’s home and everyone brings something for dinner. It is lovely to spend some time catching up before delving into the work.

There is nothing like a group of writers who you trust to read your work. I love to see how writers experiment, edit and change their voice over the years. It is also nice to have new writers join the group and have new perspectives.

Tonight is the last time I’ll be joining my Ann Arbor group before we move. I’m sad that one member won’t be able to attend, but I know that we’ll all continue to share work via email and keep in touch. It has meant so much to me to have this group during my time here.

I’m moving to Washington, D.C., next month and will be looking to join or create a new group. If local writers are interested in joining, do let me know below or send me an email!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Writing Prompt: Another World

For today’s writing prompt, imagine that you are in a totally different place with new rules and describe it for the reader. Maybe there’s no gravity, food is absorbed through the eyes and creatures move by bouncing on their earlobes. You get the idea: create another world.

This new world could be as similar or as different from our current one. You decide. Your goal in this exercise is to stand (or hover) in your world and describe it for the reader. Look around in every direction and let the reader know what you experience. Use your five senses as a means to access every dimension of the world.

Will you share your writing with us below?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Writing Questions

Today’s post invites you to ask questions about writing either in the Comments Section below or by sending me a private email {chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com}. I will answer your questions, without naming you, in future blog posts. Maybe you have a general writing question or something specific to a paragraph or stanza that you’d like to share?

As I always say in my classes, if you have a question, probably someone else has a similar one. So, please, don’t be shy!

When I work privately with students, I find that they are more likely to ask questions than in a group setting. Consider this question/answer post a quick preview into working with a private writing coach.

Don’t forget that everyone is invited to try a free twenty-minute consultation. It works like this: Email me {chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com} your interest and 1-3 double-spaced pages of writing. (If you don’t have anything written yet, that’s no problem: we can discuss your goals and ideas.) We’ll make a phone/email or Skype appointment to discuss your written work and ideas for twenty minutes.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Writing Prompt: Change Something

Congratulations to my mother, Melabee M. Miller, whose images can now be found on posters. She has been drawing with pens and pencils over her photographs. By combining different medias, she’s created something new and beautiful.

For today’s writing prompt, I encourage you to do the same. Look at an earlier draft and transform it into something new. You could change the point of view, verb tense, genre or even more than one aspect at once. Maybe you started with a first person poem and want to transform the narrative or image into a third person short story. See what happens. Whatever happens, you’ll create something new.

Please share your experiences below in the Comments Section.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

What Do You Do When You’re Not Writing Or Just About to Write?

Yesterday’s blog post was about writing discipline. Today’s post is about what you do when you’re not writing. It is important to feed your writing mind by learning about new things, having adventures and generally exploring the world.

It is also ok to take a break from writing. We all know that we are better editors when we look at a piece of writing with “fresh eyes.” By turning away from something for a while, we can return to it with a fresh – and less attached – perspective.

When I was advising undergraduate creative writing majors, I would encourage them to take a broad selection of classes in addition to their creative writing classes. Not only is it important to have a topic to write about, but you’ll see the world differently afterwards.

Many writers I know have rituals before they write. This one likes to go to a coffee shop, that one likes to go for a run first. I find that cooking is often a great pre-writing activity (of course, going to the gym would probably be healthier.) By using my hands and turning away from the computer screen, my brain has a moment to relax and wander. I allow myself to think about different things in new ways. I often find myself jotting down notes for later – always later when something is boiling on the stove! – and surprising myself.

What do you do when you aren’t writing or are just about to write?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Writing Discipline

Students often ask me for recommendations on how to improve their writing discipline. One key is believing in yourself and taking your writing seriously. It sounds a little hokey, but it’s true.

I remember a friend in graduate school introducing himself as a poet during our first year. I was, perhaps oddly, taken aback. I didn’t think we were at that point yet. How could we identify as poets if we still had so much more to learn?

I now understand that there is great power in calling yourself a writer. It means that you take your craft seriously. You believe that your writing has merit and value. Therefore, you honor the craft by practicing it regularly: writing, editing, revising and reading.

Practicing your craft takes time. If writing is an important part of you and what you do everyday, then it deserves time. If you see writing as a cute hobby you do on the side, then when it comes to deciding if you spend time writing or doing something else, you will invariably choose the something else. Yes, we all have many commitments and important things to do everyday. We can, however, make the time to write.

That is the first step: allow yourself to have the discipline.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Online Writing Workshop Classes: Some details on how they work

There are still spaces available in the Beginning Poetry Writing Workshop which begins on Wednesday, July 21. If you are interested, please email me {chloemiller(at)} to save your seat today.

Many people have never taken an online class before. I’d like to assure you that after a few minutes orientating yourself with the welcome email and the Google Group site, you’ll be up and running in no time. It is easy enough to use that we can focus on the writing instead of the technology. What an amazing era we are lucky enough to live in!

My private, small-group online classes are for adults interested in starting or expanding a creative writing project. Most of the writers in the classes are busy people with full-time jobs and families. For that reason, the courses have very flexible schedules. The discussions that happen in the free Google Group are all asynchronous. That means that the participants can post their responses at any time of day instead of being restricted to working during certain hours.

All of the assignments are posted on the first day. If there is a particularly busy day and a writer knows s/he won’t be able to log in that day, s/he can post the work ahead of time. The other members of the class are always amenable to reading past conversations since they often naturally continue throughout the week.

The longer classes, like the two week August Memoir Writing II Workshop, have a weekend break. There are no assignments posted over the weekend and this is a chance for the participants to catch up on work and further participate in the conversations that began earlier in the week.

I am often asked if it is possible to get to know people in an online group. Yes! It is a writing course and one of our goals is to practice crafting a unique voice in each piece of writing. The writing samples and discussions quickly offer each person an opportunity to distinguish him or herself. I start off each class with an introductory discussion which gives us opportunity to share some information about ourselves.

If you have remaining questions about how the online courses work, don’t hesitate to ask below or via email {Chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com}.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Summer Online Writing Workshops: Beginning Poetry & Memoir II

There are still seats available in the two upcoming summer online writing workshops. I hope you will consider joining our small, adult writing groups.

Online classes allow you to integrate a daily writing practice into your life. Often, it can be difficult to leave your routine for a week or two to take an in-person class. This isn’t true for an online class. After you’ve completed an online class, not only will you have pages of drafts to edit and ideas to explore at your own pace, you will also have succeeded at figuring out how to make writing a part of your “real” life. This is a gift to any writer.

To register, please email me (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com) and let me know which class you’d like to take. Remember, previous and current students receive a 10% discount on all classes.

I look forward to reading your work and helping you to develop your literary voice.


Beginning Poetry Writing Workshop: Online July 21st – July 25

Interested in writing poetry, but not sure where to start? In this workshop we will discuss how to write, edit and read a poem carefully. Short reading, writing and peer editing assignments will be given throughout the week. A virtual writing “staycation,” you’ll learn to integrate a regular writing routine into your life. The environment will be a safe and nurturing one which will challenge you to discover your individual voice.

You will write and workshop your original work with published writing teacher Chloé Miller and receive longer, individual feedback from her on your two longer assignments. Through group peer editing sessions, you will hone your editing abilities and receive additional feedback on your work.

The class will be held from Wednesday, July 21st – Sunday, July 25. Class enrollment is limited to ten adult students. Beginners are encouraged in this class. Adults (18 +) only, please. The class will be held in a private Google group that will be available 24/7. With a free Gmail account, you will be ready to start.

The cost is $100.00 payable by check due July 15th. Chloé’s current and previous private writing students receive a 10% discount. To register, email Chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com.


Memoir Writing Workshop II (Prose & Poetry): Online August 2 - August 13

In this creative writing workshop, we will discuss memoir writing in both prose and poetic forms. You will write and workshop your original work with published writing teacher Chloé Miller for two weeks. She will present writing prompts and exercises, links to short online readings and lead discussions around your work. You will receive longer individual feedback from her on your two final assignments. Through group peer editing sessions, you will hone your editing abilities and receive additional feedback on your work.

Short assignments will be posted every day. Your longer assignments will be due each Friday. It is suggested that you spend 30 – 60 minutes per day on the class. No assignments will be given over the weekend, although the lively discussion and writing will continue.

All levels welcome; beginners encouraged. In the two week Memoir Writing Workshop I, we spent some time defining memoir, creative non-fiction and approaches to writing, editing and revising pieces. This conversation will continue in Memoir Writing Workshop II, with new readings and questions. It is not required to have taken Memoir Writing Workshop 1 to take the second level. The only requirement is that you’ve completed some brief memoir writing and considered the genre.

The class will be held for two weeks from Monday, August 2 – Friday, August 13. Class enrollment is limited to ten adult students. It will be held in a private Google group that will be available 24/7. With a free Gmail account, you will be ready to start.

The cost is $200.00 payable by check due July 26. For an added fee, you may also pay via PayPal. Chloé’s current and previous private writing students receive a 10% discount. To register, email Chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Full Notebook

Throughout our honeymoon travels in Greece and Italy, I wrote in my notebook. I took notes for poems, described funny episodes, recorded the foods we ate and more. The views of the earth from the high places we climbed, art in the museums, archeological sites, sunsets and perfumes were all mesmerizing. Each one seemed better than the last and I never wanted to leave wherever we happened to be.

And we were a lot of places. This wasn’t a honeymoon in which we sat on a beach and alternated between napping and gazing at the sea. No, we were up early every morning to see what we could see.

I didn’t write everyday, but I did write often. Sometimes I thought I should be doing it more and sometimes I wondered if I shouldn’t be doing it at all in order to take a break from my usual life. Instead, I allowed myself to write when I had something to remember or understand. My notebook is a thoughtful, if not sometimes haphazard, record instead of a dutiful one.

For the things I didn’t write down, I will rely on my memory and my husband’s memory. And pictures. We took over 3,500 pictures between the two of us. (You can see a sample of them on Facebook.)

I encourage all of my students to write regularly. This practice often fits well into keeping a notebook. I often teach Joan Didion’s essay “On Keeping a Notebook.” Here she offers lovely insight into the “point” to keeping a notebook:

So the point of my keeping a notebook has never been, nor is it now, to have an accurate factual record of what I have been doing or thinking. That would be a different impulse entirely, an instinct for reality which I sometimes envy but do not possess. At no point have I ever been able successfully to keep a diary; my approach to daily life ranges from the grossly negligent to the merely absent, and on those few occasions when I have tried dutifully to record a day's events, boredom has so overcome me that the results are mysterious at best. What is this business about "shopping, typing piece, dinner with E, depressed"? Shopping for what? Typing what piece? Who is E? Was this "E" depressed, or was I depressed? Who cares?

Do you keep a notebook? What form does it take?