Sunday, January 25, 2015

Woman Mother Writer

If you are a parent writer, I invite you to read my Woman Mother Writer blog. I share thoughts related to writing - and living - as a parent writer and include guest voices, too. My son is 20 months old and life as I once knew it has changed since pregnancy. Come over to read about the good, the bad, the ugly ... and the sweet.

If you would like to share something (advice, review of a book, resources, etc.) about being a parent writer, don't hesitate to email me with your submission idea (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Plan for Summer (even if it is snowing!)

Applications for summer writing conferences are opening! If you're thinking about immersing yourself in a summer program, start applying today.

Erika Dreifus has a great piece on her blog about how to choose a writing conference. Another good place to start looking at programs is through Poets & Writers Magazine's amazing database here. AWP also has a searchable directory of Conferences and Centers.

In 2012, I had an amazing time at Bread Loaf Writers' Conference (read a quick summary about it here) and in 2009, A Room of Her Own's conference (read about it here.)

What summer programs have you enjoyed? Have you decided where you're applying for summer 2015?

Monday, January 12, 2015

The "So What" of Every Creative Piece

Even if you aren't writing a persuasive academic essay, every piece of literature has an argument (like a thesis statement.) Every poem, description, narrative or other piece of creative writing suggests a world view about something.

I call this your "so what."

Your argument might not be stated directly; usually it will be suggested by a character's action or a description of a place.

Younger readers might say that they love English class because "every interpretation can be right. My opinion matters." That's not exactly right. The writer, through plot and description, nudges the reader in a particular direction. The writer offers a view of the world through word choice and word order. There might be some question - some gray space - as there is in life, but that doesn't mean that the writer isn't inherently arguing something about something.

As you write, test your writing. Ask yourself what your "so what" is. You might not know at first - writing is a form of discovery that might lead you to your "so what." Or perhaps you're trying to choose an action or texture to better illustrate your "so what." Later drafts, though, should not only have an overall "so what," but also smaller ones that help to support the complete project.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Anara Guard on Writing

Thanks to Anara Guard for her today's piece about writing. I was really taken by her welcoming life-long journey. Don't miss her new collection of short stories, Remedies for Hunger.

Beyond the Glass

I invite you to visit my favorite gallery in the Art Institute of Chicago. Enter into the darkened hall and you will see several dozen panes of glass, lit from within. Behind each window is a miniature room, complete with rugs, paintings, fireplaces, chandeliers, delicate needlepoint in process on a tiny stand, tiny dishes on the table. And look at the tiny book, spread open on the table! These jewel-box interiors have been elaborately decorated and furnished to represent particular periods in time or historical buildings. Notice how every room contains one open window or a door standing ajar: a promise of something that lies beyond. But no matter how you press your nose against the glass or twist your head to the side, you cannot see into the garden or the adjoining chamber. 

As children, my sisters and I spent many hours smearing fingerprints upon these panes of glass, pointing out our favorite chairs, marveling over a canopy bed. Whether the home belonged to Louis XIV or a Dutch peasant, we populated the empty scenes with ourselves, pretending we were the farm wife, lady-in-waiting, princess… If only we had received the magic invitation, we would have kicked off our Keds and left our shorts and blouses puddled on the floor of the dark gallery. Once inside the homey kitchen, we would have a new wardrobe: wooden clogs and woolen dress, a white hat whose wingtips pointed up in celebration.

Fiction offers all of us the chance to dissolve that barrier of fingerprinted glass. To me, stories are like lovingly detailed rooms, waiting to be completed. The characters can mount the long, curving staircase and at last explore what lies beyond those half-open doors. The story beckons you in; it requires readers as guests, as participants. When your imagination enters, you add your own touches: perhaps you hang a favorite pattern of wallpaper, bounce on the sofa, or stoke the fire to keep warm. You lay claim to the story, and ever after, you own this room that you have helped to bring to life. 

Anara Guard is a writer based in Sacramento, California. Her new collection of short stories, “Remedies for Hunger,” has been described as haunting, original, fresh, and addictive, “with delicious sentences that melt in the mouth.” Anara studied creative writing at Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Urban Gateways, and Kenyon College. Her poetry has most recently appeared in “Convergences” and “Late Peaches: An Anthology of Sacramento Poets”.