Monday, January 30, 2012

Original Love Poem Postcards for Valentine's Day!

One image by Melabee M. Miller from this set of love poem postcards

This Valentine’s Day, order an original set of love poem postcards from my Etsy shop.

I wrote six original love poems and paired them with photographs of sea, air and land. The photographs were taken by my mom, the wonderfully talented Melabee M. Miller

While these love poems were inspired by my relationship with my husband, their sentiment is universal. Visit my Etsy shop to read one example. 

Place your order this week to have them delivered before Valentine’s Day! 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Keep an Eye Out: Avoid Email Scams & Protect Yourself Online

Gnome keeping an eye out at the Smith College Botanical Gardens

Since I advertise my writing coach services on Craigslist, or maybe just because I have an email address, I receive many attempted email scams. I bet you do, too. 

The set up is generally the same: A parent in another country wants to send his or her child to live with me and/or study with me. Then the parent promises to send me a very large check in return for my services. In the end, I would owe that person money because the check would be fake. (Here’s more on the “tutor scam”.) 

No, I haven’t fallen for it. Someone I knew who worked in the rental business, however, did and she said that there was an apparently hastily written note thrown into the package with the very large check. The note said something about how the check was fake.

I am, however, mildly entertained by the language. So was Hila Ratzabi, who wrote an awesome poem and introduction about spam (often written like a scam) published by Storyscape

Below is one of the classic, oddly written, emails that I’ve received lately. Apparently this scammer didn’t even want to take the time to fill in the blanks. Perhaps it, or something like it, will inspire your own creative (legal) work?

So, beware, friends. This a classic and regular scam, but I’m assuming that (eventually) the scammers will get more adept.

On a more serious note, do all that you can to protect your online identity and internet hygiene. You might be interested (terrified and then busy with a to-do list) in this amazing Atlantic article by James Fallows, Hacked!

Scam email:

Am John
by name, I will like my  Son to relocate to your (CITY for holiday)
His name is Terry and is 14 years old .I want him to be busy in the
time of the day, because Am right now in CANADA for a very important
business and it will took me some month to get back to state  that is
why i  want him to be at your lesson Center , Am okay with your price
and i have decided to let him attend to your lesson and he will be
coming1 hour  per day in the Afternoon, also get back to me with your
own convenient time and days my son will be  coming in 3 days in a
week and when you will be available to start with my son..Hopefully
(next week is ok by me), i haves Someone that will always drives him
down to your lesson center..I will be happy if you can help my son
because my son is highly interested in your  tutor lesson and he can't
avoid to miss it..and i will be happy if you can show him some love
and caring also you can take him as your personal son Thanks

Kindly get back to me with your information below to be on the check.....

YOUR CELL PHONE NUMBER...(i can text you)

The reason why i need the information is that the payment will sent to
you through Ups Or FedEx Courier,So that the courier can deliver the
payment to you. Hope you understand me now.Thanks and hope to read
from you soon

Best Regards

"Smile and Dance to the song of life"

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Writing Prompt: Outdoor Space

Detroit Institute for the Arts

Describe an outdoor space. You can choose a river, patio, beach, bird bath, jungle, woods, park setting, botanical garden, street corner, etc.

Write for ten minutes without stopping. Focus on listing all of the details (consider natural light, colors, growth, temperature, smell, etc.) Do not worry about spelling or grammar.

Write non-stop for five to ten minutes and then go back and underline the key lines/ideas/images that emerge.

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

Monday, January 23, 2012

AWP 2012 in Chicago

I’m looking forward to attending and presenting at this year’s AWP conference in Chicago. If you’ll be there, I’d love to see you. (Send me an email: Chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com.)

Friday, March 2
3:00 P.M.-4:15 P.M

Lake Michigan, Hilton Chicago, 8th Floor

During the past two years, openings in English departments declined more than 40%. Creative writing tenure-track openings declined more than 30%. At the same time, the demand for writing opportunities is widening, encompassing community-based, travel, and virtual writing communities. Panelists will discuss writing lives outside academia, including entrepreneurial ventures in online teaching and mentoring, editing and coaching services, workshops and retreats, and community engagement projects.

A big thank you to Alison Hicks for spearheading our great AWP conference proposal. If you’re free on Friday afternoon, I hope you’ll join us.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

You, The Writer: A (non-sugary, decaf) toast to a year of health!

Doing something else: Visiting the (free) National Zoo

I’ve declared, after a gigantic farewell dinner of sorts that involved Popeye’s fried chicken and buttery biscuits, 2012 is the year of health. THE YEAR OF HEALTH. (Yes, it deserves all caps. I'm pretty riled up about this.)

I know, we all love the fresh start and the new year is always a solid excuse. Or a solid cliché since we commonly make promises in January and forget them.

Regardless of past history of swearing, really swearing to go to the gym, I’m now committed. For real. (Or at least I hope so. If I publish the announcement here, it has to be true, right? Right?)

2011 was a tough year for me and many others. It is possible that 2012 will bring upset, too. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do what we can to stay healthy – mentally, physically and creatively. All the better to live longer, face adversity better and be in a good place to write.

Writers spend a lot of time indoors and alone (which may or may not contribute to our creativity and productivity). Yes, we work, but we also worry, sulk, stare at Facebook, munch on food that we shouldn’t, and sit still indoors when we should move outside.

So, here’s my list of simple goals for my health. I’ll check back in next December to see how it went. As for writing goals, that’s a longer list of current projects, new projects, writing, revision and editing.

We know that we’re supposed to get 30 minutes or more of exercise of a day. During a busy week, I might get off my office chair and into the gym twice a week or so. Not ideal.

We’ve all heard the reasons why we should make time to exercise (for a reminder, read these seven reasons from the Mayo Clinic) and we know we feel better when we actually get into the habit of doing it. This year I promise to try to go to the gym more regularly. Every day might be a stretch, but I’ll aim for going to the gym (or walk or hike) at least four days a week. 

Get out of the house for fresh air and sunshine:
Primarily teaching online, there are days that I have no reason to leave the house. Does that sound healthy? My computer may be next to a window and I may enjoy noticing the sunshine and shadows, but I’m indoors at a window. Not outdoors.

This year, I must get outside – during daylight hours – and experience the world every single day. I simply feel better after my eyes adjust to a non-computer-screen-world and take a deep breath. I must spend some time in the sunlight everyday. Yesterday I sat outside and read for half an hour in the natural light. Sure, I had a heavy coat and gloves on since it’s so cold, but afterwards I felt rejuvenated in a way that coffee couldn’t accomplish. (For more official reasons to leave your house, see this Livestrong article.)

Fresh food:
I love to eat. And cook and write about it. And then eat the leftovers.

This year, I hope to continue to introduce more fresh vegetables, fruit, lean meat and high fiber grains into my diet. Maybe with more exercise and fresh air, I will be able to kick this coffee, high-sugar or hig-salt-snacking-while-I-grade diet for good. (Harvard School of Public Health offers clear guidelines.)

Do something else:
We spent three weeks in China over the winter holidays. It was mesmerizing. I’m still trying to digest it all.

It was also an incredibly fertile writing period for me. It took about a week, but after that, I was regularly taking notes in a notebook I carried around with me. I now have about ten fairly solid drafts of poems that I will continue to work on.

Of course, we can’t afford to travel internationally every time I need inspiration, but we can try to do something new every week or so. My husband and I might try new museum exhibits, shows, a new restaurant, walk on a new path in a National Park or even just play a different board game. The key is to break up the monotony in some way. It doesn’t need to cost anything.

What will you do to keep yourself on track in this new year? 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Guest Blog: Lorraine Ash on Starting a Memoir

Thanks to Lorraine Ash, author of Life Touches Life: A Mother’s Story of Stillbirth and Healingfor this year’s first guest blog post. I think you’ll benefit from her thoughtful encouragement.

Lorraine Ash, MA, is a journalist, author, essayist, and playwright who teaches memoir writing in New Jersey and other venues nationwide. Her next workshop - The Inner Spring: Writing Memoir Using Love as the Narrative Thread - is scheduled for June 8-10, 2012 at Carmel Retreat, a 30-acre country estate in Mahwah, New Jersey. For more information, visit


Are you contemplating writing a memoir? A good place to start is with a question about yourself, a belief you hold, or an experience you’ve had.

Let this be a rich question asked from deep in the heart of your experience so that the reader, convinced you know the terrain well, accepts you as a trustworthy guide into your world.

If the question is vital to your self-understanding and personal peace, the reader will sense and share the urgency and follow you. Anywhere. Personal stories are universal ones, too, because all human beings struggle with the same issues of identity and meaning.

In my memoir Life Touches Life: A Mother’s Story of Stillbirth and Healing, I ask: How do I reconcile my inherited, and heretofore untested, belief that a good person with faith in a just god can experience such a cruel fate? And what kind of god lets a beautiful, innocent baby die, anyway?

To answer the question I had to challenge myself. The memoir is the story of the inner changes I navigated. Each chapter represents a shift in consciousness until, finally, I emerge at the end a person with a new cosmology. My faith is intact, but it is a faith in the order of things as they are.

That new faith includes the reality of a god force, a creative spark, that lives within me and evolves as I do. For me, that spark ignites, and that inner force is activated, through writing. A Native American writer once told me he considered the act of writing memoir sheer sorcery because of its ability to transform the writer and the reader. Perhaps he is right.

The power of asking a seminal question, and having the courage to write your way to the answer, is nothing less than the power to renew your spirit for more living. It also is the power to connect with other people because memoirs, by their very existence, insist every corner of the human experience deserves witnessing.  Each and every one beckons: You are not alone, and here is how it was for me.

Friday, January 13, 2012

MLK Day Writing Coach Sale!

Happy Martin Luther King Day! To celebrate, I am offering a Fourth Free Hour to writers who book three hours of private writing coach services by midnight EST, Monday, January 16th.

During your four hours of private writing coaching, I will read your writing and discuss it with you. You are welcome to write something in response to a prompt or submit previous writing.

Beginning to experienced writers can benefit from my services as a writing coach. We will meet in-person in the Washington, D.C., area, on the phone or Skype video conference.

Email me (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com) before midnight, Monday, January 16th, and you’ll be eligible for a Fourth Free Hour!

This promotion costs $300.00. You are welcome to purchase the hours for yourself or a friend. You can also split the hours between yourself and a friend.

If you book by midnight EST, January 16th, and receive a free fourth hour, you are not eligible for the usual 10% discount on booking at least three hours at once. This sale ends at midnight EST, January 16th. Limit two discounts per customer.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Attention Online Instructors and Students: Suggestions?

Good coffee: A fine online teaching companion

Are you teaching or taking online classes? I’m writing a handbook on how to be an online student and I need your help. I’d love to share your advice & suggestions to future online students.

How would you answer the questions below? Please leave a comment here or email me (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com.) Be sure to include how I should refer to you if I publish your comment (name, school affiliation, years experience teaching/studying online.) If you prefer to remain anonymous, please let me know.

If you have other suggestions about being an online student (specifics about email, online etiquette, course navigation, etc.), feel free to include those, too.

The handbook will be applicable for all subjects (not only writing or literature classes.) I hope you’ll share this request with friends, classmates and colleagues in any field.

Thank you again for your help and good luck with the new semester.
Best wishes,

Online Teachers:
What do you wish students knew (about online classes, not the content of your course) before they started to study online?

How can online students make a good first (and lasting) impression?

What kinds of online activities are easy for most students?

What is the biggest mistake online students commonly make?

What advice do you regularly give your online students?

What do you wish you knew before you took an online class?

What was the biggest mistake you made – and could have avoided – in an online course?

What advice would you give future online students?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Somewhere Else: Taking a break and refueling for you and your writing

Somewhere else: In Beijing, China, wearing a very warm new hat and a face mask to (sort of) protect against the air pollution. The character on the front of the mask means "double happiness."

Smith College graduate Rita Foley wrote in the winter 2011 issue of the alumnae magazine (page 29) that we all need to recharge. She’s exactly right.

After spending almost a month traveling in China – a place whose culture, food, landscape, history and language is quite unfamiliar to me beyond books, restaurants and art exhibits – I am ready to start a new year and semester. Ok, maybe I’m a little behind (it is January 11th, not 1st, after all), but, I’m ready now. (Mostly. There’s always something else to do, but I’m trying not to stress about it.)

I left my laptop at home, shut down my email and Facebook (ok – I cheated a little by using my husband’s laptop), and took notes in old fashioned paper notebooks. I haven’t done that in years. Before I left, I set up my spring 2011 online classes completely and tried to work as far ahead as possible. It was hectic, to say the least, at times, but it made the transition back much easier. The 2012 me appreciates what the 2011 me did.

We’d been planning this trip, with books, a savings account and blog, for years. Literally, years. It was no small voyage. Still, while I was in China, I lamented that I hadn’t had more time to read more Chinese poetry, study the history and better understand the religious, imperial and everyday art. (Ok, maybe I go a little overboard, but it felt like a possibly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, considering the cost.) Except for the pollution, I fell in love with the world there and look forward to continuing to learn about it.

What does this escape from the familiar do for my writing, teaching and everyday life? It offered me a new perspective (one which I’ll probably understand better with time) and a break from the everyday work which can, as we all know, become boring at times. What’s worse for your writing than being bored?

With this break in mind, I hope to take 2012 more slowly. Sure, there are always things that seem to require rushing (laundry! work deadlines! bus schedules!) but, I hope to integrate more space to think and explore new ideas. I am excited to look over my poetry notes from the trip and write new poems in this new year. Instead of doing things because I feel that I have to (and I want to cross something off my to-do-list), I’m again excited by the professional, creative and personal life that I’ve crafted.

We love to make resolutions for the new year. The trick, as we all know, is to keep them. I’m setting time aside (quite literally writing it into the calendar) for myself every week to write and read. If I call myself a writer, I cannot put writing on the back burner. I’m also setting time aside to not write and read. Those art exhibits and energetic walks in the woods with my husband help to make the writing happen. I’m committed to taking time off – an hour here or there – throughout the year.

What will you do to make sure your writing happens? You must write, as well as do other things that fuel – creatively and financially – your writing.  

If you need some help, I’m here to help as your private writing coach. And I’m ready for you.