Monday, November 29, 2010

Writing Prompt: 5 Senses


I don't know about you, but I'm still full from Thanksgiving dinner and all of the leftover pies... and I love it.

For today's writing prompt, think about what you've been eating and describe it according to the five senses. This close attention to detail will help you to describe the food for the reader in such a way that she can taste it, too. Write non-stop for five to ten minutes and then go back and underline the key lines/ideas/images that emerge. Yes, of course you can warm up a piece of pie to help start the writing process.

I'd love to read your piece or responses to the exercise below in the Comments section.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Phew, it is already Thanksgiving week? It promises to be a busy time not only because of the holiday, but also because these few non-teaching-days are a good time to catch up on classes (i.e. grading), writing, and reading.

Have a wonderful holiday with your family and enjoying the days off to catch up and relax, too. I look forward to seeing you again on Monday, November 29th.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thinking About Copyright Issues Today

The Copyright Alliance Education Foundation recently sent out a link to a post about copyright issues on the How Publishing Really Works blog. The post ends with a request to blog about copyright today.

With this in mind, I’d like to turn our attention to copyright/plagiarism issues. It is impossible to write or teach without thinking about these issues a considerable amount. From both perspectives, an amazing resource is the Copyright Alliance. You can find helpful information for educators and writers.

When I was preparing a fall syllabus this summer, I blogged about plagiarism. There, I include some links that I find helpful and suggestions about class exercises that dissuade plagiarism.

On a related note, educators might be interested in a recent case chronicled by Inside Higher Ed about cheating in a classroom at the University of Central Florida.

I look forward to reading not only today’s post on How Publishing Works, but the links to other posts in the Comments section. While you are visiting the site, I encourage you to click around and read the many posts. There are some particularly great lists of publishing links there.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Need Quick Help with College Application Essays?

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Remember: Your job is to display your writing skills and your critical thinking skills. The admissions counselors want to learn more about you, too. We can make sure that your skills, experiences and interests are fully represented in your application as a whole.

We'll work around your schedule. I am available to meet with at convenient times in person, online or on the phone.

Email me {Chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com} to sign up today.

*Free 20 minute consultation if you mention this blog post.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Poet Mark Strand: Interview in the Paris Review

Mark Strand was one of the first poets I read as a girl. His stark, matter-of-fact and philosophical lines made me want to be a poet. I have heard him read many times and am always mesmerized by his direct words. Because of this, he seemed like a good choice to share with my students in an Introduction to Literature class populated mainly by non-English majors.

I assigned his Pulitzer Prize winning collection Blizzard of One. Together, we read aloud the long poem The Delirium Waltz and looked at two de Chirico poems that inspired one of the poems. I heard him read The Delirium Waltz at the 92 Street Y a few years ago and the sound of the music, heard best read aloud, came into our 7:30 am class to offer us new insight into the words on the page.

While we were discussing the poet and poetry, we looked at some sections of this Paris Review interview with Mark Strand. I think you’ll enjoy reading through Strand’s responses to questions about how he reads, why we read poetry and more. Here is one of my favorite answers: “You don’t read poetry for the kind of truth that passes for truth in the workaday world. You don’t read a poem to find out how you get to Twenty-fourth Street.”

Friday, November 12, 2010

Writing Prompt: Reflections

My mother, Photographer Melabee Miller, recently blogged about reflections. She offers readers three images of known objects reflected on water. The light and water’s surface shifts the original object into something new. Writing about reflections, or even writing as a reflection, can do the same for the reader.

For today’s writing prompt, consider the word “reflection.” An object, person or maybe even an idea, can be reflected on many surfaces: water, mirror, glass, spoon, and more. Choose one reflection, real or imagined, and focus in on the details. What do you see? What does it remind you of? How did it happen?

There are so many reflections to choose from. There are the beautiful reflections, like the buildings and clouds on the Potomac River when I drive over the Key Bridge at 6:30 am, and the stranger reflections, like my early morning face in the foggy bathroom mirror after a shower. What reflections catch you off guard?

Write for ten minutes without stopping and see if there are lines, words, or ideas that you can expand upon later.

You are welcome to share your writing in the Comments section below.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Poet Beth Bachmann’s Book Temper

Beth Bachmann’s poems in Temper will give you pause. And the pause is what Bachmann writes. In an audio transcript about reading her work aloud as she is writing, she says that she is listening for silence as she revises. Silence is “an incomprehensible experience,” which is a part of the craft of poetry.

Temper is dedicated to and about Bachmann’s sister who was murdered at age 18 when Bachmann was 15. The collection is both memoir and elegy. In this audio transcript about the form of her poem Heaven, Bachmann says that in order to offer a documentary of what happened, she shifts away the usual elegiac attention on the “you” or the “I,” a focus which usually offers commemoration of the life lost or consolation to those remaining. Her technique brings the reader closer to what happened; that is, the event itself. Of course, what happened might not always be clear. In this interview (which begins here) Bachmann notes that the form of poetry allows us, readers and writers, “to remain in a state of interrogation” with respect to what happened.

Have you read Temper or other poems by Beth Bachmann? I welcome your thoughts below in the Comments sections.

Monday, November 8, 2010

What Are Your Favorite Memoirs?

The Online Memoir Writing Workshop begins today! (If you email me today, I can squeeze you in.)

I have some favorite memoirs listed in my Amazon Store and would love to add more. What are your favorites? Please share in the Comments Section below.

One of my recent favorites is Natasha Trethewey’s Beyond Katrina, a collection of poetry and prose which I recently blogged about.

To access the Store, click the link and then choose the category on the right that interests you. You might start with “Creative Non-Fiction / Memoir Collections” or for writing suggestions, “On Creative Non-Fiction / Memoir Writing.”

Friday, November 5, 2010

Online Memoir Writing Workshop Starts Monday

There are still spaces available in the upcoming Online Memoir Writing Workshop. To save your space today, email me {ChloeMiller(at)gmail(dot)com}.

Still undecided? Here is a quick preview of one day's activities. Each day there is a short reading assignment with directed questions and writing prompt. The class is asynchronous on a private Google Group. You can respond any time throughout the day, depending on your own schedule. (You can even work ahead or catch up, if necessary.)

Sample day’s work:

Reading: “To Dorothy” by Marvin Bell

Discussion: Reading and word choice. What words did you notice that Bell chose? How would you describe the vocabulary and the diction? Be sure to read the poem aloud to yourself to fully understand its sounds.

Writing prompt: Write for 5-10 minutes nonstop on a memory you have with a loved one. You may decide to write something directly to them, as Bell did. Simply free-write. Don’t let your pen leave the paper or don’t stop typing. Don’t censor yourself for meaning, sentence structure or even grammar. After you’ve written nonstop, look back at what you produced. Underline the key words or ideas that you intend to explore for the final piece. Respond to at least one other author’s piece.

I look forward to working together!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Natasha Trethewey & "Beyond Katrina" at the National Book Festival

I was so happy to hear poet Natasha Trethewey at the National Book Festival, where I also heard Orhan Pamuk and Elizabeth Alexander. (Yes, it took me too long to finally share my thoughts with you.)

I’ve been reading Trethewey’s new book Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which she read part of at the Festival. This memoir combines prose, poetry and photographs as a means to tell both a personal and regional story from the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Creative writing, like other art forms, allows the reader into a historical moment. If I were to pair Beyond Katrina with other books to offer the story of Hurricane Katrina, I would recommend Patricia Smith’s poetry collection Blood Dazzler and Dave Egger’s Zeitoun. Through poetry and prose, the reader can learn certain human truths about survival and conflict, as well as gain an understanding about the storm.

In Beyond Katrina, Trethewey gives voice to her family and land. She said at the Festival about her multi-genre piece, “I didn’t think my poems could hold something so large.” She added that she has great kinship to Irish poets because of a “similar sense of exile.” The enormity of the storm can only be understood in its moments and details. She opens the book with a quote by Flannery O’Connor, “Where you came from is gone. Where you thought you were going to was never there. And where you is no good unless you can get away from it.”

When I teach and write memoir, in either poetry or prose, there is always the question of the importance of the personal story. There is a possible danger in unearthing intimate or local stories. After recently finishing Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy, I asked my students to write a paper arguing for (or against) the value of memoir. Many of them agreed that an important aspect is the life lesson – a certain kernel of truth – that can be gained from not only a personal story, but the author’s insightful analysis of a moment in life. Trethewey quotes Phil Levine in her book when she writes, “’I write what is given to me to write,’ Phil Levine has said. I’ve been given to thinking that it’s my national duty, my native duty, to keep the memory of my Gulf Coast as talisman against the uncertain future.”

If you are interested in learning more about Natasha Trethewey, you’ll enjoy listening to this NPR interview with her as much as I did. She offers more about her family history, including her mother’s murder by her stepfather (this is the subject of an earlier book, Native Guard, which "represents the idea that I am a native guardian to the memory of my mother’s life" (from this NYT article.) You can watch and hear her reading poems in this Youtube video.

If you are interested in working on your memoir, in small pieces, you might be interested in an upcoming, online memoir writing class that I will be leading.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Post-Halloween-Sugar-Rush-Special: Online Memoir Writing Workshop Starts in One Week!

There are still virtual seats available for the Online Memoir Writing Workshop which begins next week. Since it is online, you’ll learn to integrate a regular writing routine into your life.

Too busy? Instead of thinking of it as something else to add to that long to-do list, remember that writing is already on your list. This class will help you to accomplish your writing goals.

To make it even easier for you, today we are offering a Post-Halloween-Sugar-Rush-Special. If you sign up for the workshop by midnight tonight, you’ll receive one free hour of writing coaching on the project of your choice.

To save your space today, email me {ChloeMiller(at)gmail(dot)com}.