Sunday, July 29, 2012

Making Time: Forgetting and letting go even in the age of digital memory

Summer in D.C.

In the Facebook era (or has that era already passed and I’m showing my age?), internet users are connected to everyone. We can, and do, keep track of people whose lives give us bouts of agita. We should forget them, but don’t.

What happens when we can’t find someone whom we did, in real life, care for? Sometimes we can happily leave the past in the past in order to stay in the present.

The smell of honeysuckle recently reminded me of an old, summer friend from childhood. On Long Island, we rode bikes, walked on the beach, played card games and went fishing. One twilight, I remember trying to catch silvery ghosts with a net off the dock. We kept throwing back jellyfish that found their way into the net and trying again.

I remember this friend's first name, but not has last. I can’t find him on Facebook or in dusty, handwritten address books or journals. I don’t remember ever calling him, just spending time together whenever he’d ride up on his bike.

It is almost relief not to be able to find him. We were kids and had kid-fun. A few lovely, non-digital memories from childhood. Which leaves me time to keep in touch current friends instead of clicking randomly through old friends, their friends and random others, ultimately doing very little.

And I can return to my writing. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Packing for Plane Travel: Old fashioned magazines

Even as an online writing instructor, I'm pretty old fashioned (perhaps "a dinosaur," as my dad would say.) I like to hold a magazine in my hands, turn pages, cut out articles and share them with friends. Like everyone else, I never seem to have time to actually do that and the magazines pile up.

I may be behind, but I catch up when I travel. As I'm packing to visit family, I have stacks of issues from American Poetry Review, Poets & Writers, The Writer's Chronicle, The New Yorker,  Atlantic and more. Sure, it would be lighter to have an iPad or another electronic reader, but I'm not sure it would offer the same satisfaction or that I would ever finish reading them without the physical reminder. 

But that's just me being old fashioned. I know, I'd probably save money with electronic subscriptions, too. 

How do you read magazines? 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Rejection Letters: Cause for celebration?

Writing takes a strong stomach, thick skin and other metaphors related to staving off illness or infection. And so does receiving rejection letters.

Rejection letters are emailed, mailed or understood through a published list of winners (that is, a list that doesn't include your name.) I’ve received copies of poems X-ed out,  the word “no” scrawled across a cover letter I mailed, ripped slips of paper with a crookedly printed form letter and more.

The more you submit, the more likely it is that you’ll end up with rejection letters. You can save them for posterity, write a found poem or create other snarky art projects, but why not move forward? 

Someone once told my husband that every submission should be celebrated. It takes a lot of work to draft, edit, revise, and polish your work. Then it takes time to find the right home for it and craft an appropriate cover letter. And then there’s the work of keeping track of your submissions

While celebrating your acceptances (more will come the more you submit!), you should also celebrate all of your submissions. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Subscribe to Literary Magazines

The Bellevue Literary Review is one of my favorites 
because of the health & illness focus

If you write and submit to literary magazines, you should read and support them, too. How many subscriptions to literary magazines do you maintain?

Find a new or old favorite through these great resources:
New Pages
The Review Review

Thursday, July 19, 2012

You: Readers' Blogs & Websites

Christa is the author of a new favorite site 
by a friend & reader: the big american

If you scroll down this site, you'll see that I've been slowly gathering together blogs and websites that are relevant and helpful to my readers. I need you to help speed this along.

Do you have a literary or related blog/website that belongs in one of the categories? I'll include yours under "Readers' Sites," if it doesn't fit into the other categories, such as "Writing Blogs," "Writers' Websites" or "Copywriters / Editors / Proofreaders."

Please share the link and proposed section in the Comments section below. You can also email me directly: ChloeMiller(at)gmail(dot)com.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Good news, writers! Creativity proven to contribute to wellness

In this Year of Health, I’m consciously trying to develop healthy habits. Sometimes it is invigorating and sometimes exhausting to squeeze {fill in the blank} between, well, things that have to get done. Reading The Creativity Cure helped to remind me of the importance of wellness and creativity as connected ideas and actions. 

The Creativity Cure explains the connections between creative activities and a happier life path.  In Chapter one, the authors explain, “The Creativity Cure is unique because of its emphasis on self-reliance and creating your own happiness. But it is the combination of meaningful creative activity (especially using your hands) and a deepened understanding of yourself that truly sets it apart. Research has shown that creating things by hand or tending things by hand is an important part of wellness.” Yes, there's a "self-help" theme that is, at times, a little goofy, but overall, the ideas make sense. 

The authors, Carrie Barron, a psychiatrist, Alton  Barron, an orthopedic surgeon, detail a five-prong approach to life:
Mind Rest
Using Your Own Two Hands
Mind Shift

The Barrons offer definitions, personal experiences, and work experiences with their step-by-step approach to making daily changes. There are writing prompts and concrete examples of things to do and build upon, as well as ways to integrate these changes into a life.  

This book does not emphasize a professional approach to the arts or a particular craft. Instead, it remands readers that creativity, on at least some level, is accessible to everyone. Perhaps, in the name of my writing and wellness, I'll try something new today.

Visit The Creativity Cure’s website for videos with the authors, a blog and more.

Help support this blog by purchasing your copy through our store.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Prince Books in Norfolk, Va.

We love - and love to support - independent bookstores. When we were in Norfolk, Va., we were happy to come upon Prince Books.

The best part about an independent bookstore is that the selection usually includes smaller presses and  a section with titles by local authors. Prince Books didn't let us down. They also have a lovely cafe next to the bookstore.

My husband and I took a quick trip down to Hampton Roads for both a beach vacation and to visit The Virginian-Pilot, a newspaper where he used to work. He is now a co-author of The Mischiefs of Faction, a blog about political parties.

Read more about independent bookstores. What's your favorite independent bookstore? 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Writing in your Field: Not all writing is creative

Creative writers are naturally attracted to the writing process, but don’t always know what to write about. Experts have something to write about, but aren’t always prepared for the writing process.

As an expert in your subject, it makes sense to share your knowledge with others. This helps you to enter into a dialogue on the subject with other experts and allow readers to benefit from your knowledge. The additional publication credits will help others to learn about you and you might gain additional opportunities from the exposure.

Here are some suggestions on starting to write and submitting your work for publication:

Set aside regular time to write. Blocking off the time on your calendar (even setting an alarm!) will help you to not only find the time, but use it well. (More on writing discipline here.)

Give yourself assignments. You might respond to current events, respond to recent articles or blog posts or review books. Think about questions that friends and colleagues ask you about your work. You might respond to them in an article meant for a larger audience (if they have a question, probably someone else does, too.) Attend lectures and conferences and write in response to what you learned there. This will help you to meet more people, too (you've heard it before: "network or not work.")

Create deadlines. Give yourself assignments and deadlines. This will help to keep you motivated to finish. You might find friends (in the field or strong editors/copyeditors) and ask if you can send them work regularly (according to your pre-set deadlines.)

Submit your work. Find at least three venues (that you would be proud to have your work in) and examine the submission requirements. Write to fulfill their requirements and submit your work.


To Blog or Not to Blog?

In a recent Memoir Writing Workshop at Politics & Prose Bookstore, we discussed whether or not the students should blog. Why do you blog? Or, why don’t you blog?

The most important reason to blog is to keep your writing-self honest. That is to say, you will have a reason to write on a deadline regularly. With a clear blog-focus, you can explore a subject and slowly work towards a larger project (a project that takes a different form and builds on what you start on the blog.) You will also have the chance to see your work published and communicate with readers. This will help you to participate in a virtual (which in 2012, also means real) community.

If you are interested in eventually publishing, a blog is an important part of your writer’s platform. When you submit your book proposal to an agent or publisher, you’ll need to address how you will market the publication to potential readers. If you already have regular readers, then you will be further along. If you submit article or essay proposals to anthologies or publications, the blog is a great way to showcase your writing skills and link from your cover letter to previously published work elsewhere. In the end, you'll have a collection of your writing history in one place.

For more, I’ve written about why I blog, quick tips for blogging, and a summary of things learned after attending a blogging workshop.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bread Loaf: Choosing poems to workshop

The application to Bread Loaf, like most programs, asks for a sample of work. I chose a group of polished poems that fit together thematically and showed a variety of styles. I started with some published poems (outside recognition feels good and, hopefully, means at least a little something.) It was a challenge, but not as tricky as choosing poems for the workshop.

I could not choose poems based on who the workshop leader will be because I won't know until mid-July. If I knew, I could submit work that would most benefit from that author's approach and aesthetic.

I didn’t want to chose poems that need so much work that I’d be embarrassed to have them read and then sit through a discussion about them.

Submitting poems that I feel are done and refuse to edit would be a waste of everyone’s time.

The challenge was to put together 10 pages of poems that I’m proud of, but know need some work. I ended up choosing 7 shorter poems and 1 longer poem. They are from my poetry manuscript in progress, Elsewhere. Like most of my writing over the last few years, the overarching theme is illness and grief. Perhaps the next challenge will be to write something with some cheer.

How do you choose poems to workshop?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Facebook Basics: Privacy, Friend Lists & More

Beginning writers ask me many basic Facebook questions; I will work to answer them here. If you have additional questions or advice, please share in the Comments section below.

Facebook is a great tool to meet and keep in touch with other writers (see a related post.) Of course, Facebook can also be a part of a writer’s platform. The key is to use it sincerely. Don’t just ask readers to buy your book, but rather engage with them as your friends (which, hopefully, they are.) For more on how to use social media effectively, Amy Bucklin at Clear Sky Writing has some helpful posts about social media tools and more.

Privacy Settings & Friends List
As you design your Facebook page, be sure to carefully set the privacy settings. Start by clicking the down arrow in the upper right hand corner, then “Privacy Settings.” From there, you’ll be able to make decisions. To check your settings, go to your profile page and then click on the gear (right side under your cover photo) and click “View As.” You can type in someone’s name (someone you're connected to because you are "friends" in the Facebook world) and view the page as they’d see it (i.e. if you’ve set the privacy settings correctly, you will only see the posts/pictures/etc. that this person is permitted to see.)

You can also keep track of your friends (and better set your Privacy Settings) by organizing your friends into lists.

Business Page
I have two separate Facebook pages: a private one for friends and one for my writing coach business. You can set up a business / professional page by following the instructions. You will want to set up your business page privacy settings, too, under “Edit Page” and then clicking on “Manage Permissions.” You can post anywhere on Facebook as yourself or as the company name. Do this by clicking on the down arrow on the upper right hand side of the page and choosing an identity under “Use Facebook As...”)

“Tagging” someone on Facebook means that you have created a link on a status update (either from your profile or business page.) This puts the status update on that person’s Facebook profile page, too (depending on the other person's privacy settings, the post might not go live until that person has approved it.) To tag someone, start with an “@” symbol and then type the person’s name (no space between the ampersand and the name.) You can only tag someone if you are that person’s "friend." (If you are "friends" with someone as an individual and they haven’t joined your business page, then you will not be able to tag that person on your business page if you are posting under the business name. You’ll need to write the status update as an individual and tag the person.)

Have you joined my Writing Coach Facebook page yet? 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Bread Loaf Writers' Conference 2012

Even in this record D.C.-summer heat, I'm excited about being invited to attend the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vt., next month. I've heard sunset-perfect tales about the workshops, readings, lectures and writerly wanderings around the area.

I'm waiting to hear about which poet's workshop I'll be placed in and deciding which poems to send for the workshop. And travel plans. I guess I can't stay on this poetry cloud, but rather need to make some plans.

I had been wait-listed and was less-than-patiently trying to figure out when I might hear (of course, the program doesn't know when participants might drop out, so it is hard for them to give a firm timeline.) Because of all of my (fruitless) searching, I thought I'd save you the trouble:

I applied on February 6, heard I was wait-listed on May 25th and received the acceptance email the night of July 1st. The program begins August 15th.

Interested in the program and considering applying for next summer's program? Listen to past Lectures & Readings.

Have you been or are you going? I'd love to hear about your experiences and any advice you might have (that is, beyond saving up to pay for the tuition.)