Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Spring Workshop at Politics and Prose Bookstore Open for Registration



I’m excited to announce that my spring 2017 writing workshop at Politics and Prose bookstore, Washington, D.C., is open for registration. You’ll find a link to the full description below. Don’t hesitate to email me with any questions. Do register with the bookstore as soon as you can, as classes tend to fill up quickly.

If you’ve taken my memoir writing workshop before fall 2016, you’ll notice that I’ve restructured the class. Following student recommendations, it will be five weeks long and we will be workshopping student writing as a large group (rather than a four week class in which we split into small groups for workshopping.)

Are you looking for customized help on a particular project? I have a few spots open for new clients this winter starting on Jan. 23. I can read your work, offer feedback, give reading & writing suggestions and meet with you at a convenient time. Email me to schedule our first session together (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com).

Here’s to a generative and productive new year!

Politics and Prose bookstore class details:

MEMOIR WRITING WORKSHOP: WRITE YOUR MEMORIES INTO STORY
Five Tuesdays: March 14, 21, 28, April 4, 11, 10 a.m. to noon


Monday, December 5, 2016

Happy (Literary) Holidays!


The Zoo Lights Mark the Holidays Annually in D.C.

As you purchase gifts this season, consider a giving a literary magazine subscription or donating money to an organization that supports writers in someone's name. Don't forget to buy books for your loved ones at your favorite independent bookstore. Support journalism with a subscription, print or electronic, to a newspaper.

If someone you know is looking to work with a writing coach, contact me (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com) to arrange a Writing Coach Gift Certificate (which can be used in person or via video conference.)

And don't forget to give yourself a break this holiday season. If you're like me, you have a dangerously tall pile of books on your nightstand. Take some time to read, take notes in the margin and think outside of the usual rush of people and sweets. Find that journal that burrowed itself under a pile of time-sensitive papers and start drafting again. 2017 will thank you.


Friday, September 30, 2016

Resources for Adult, Professional Writers

As a writing coach, I sometimes work with adults who want to write more easily and clearly at work.

To encourage writing through prompts, I always recommend one of my favorite books, Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg

Thanks to Amy Bucklin of Clear Sky Writing for these additional resources that they - and you! - might find helpful:

Hemingway Editor: An editing program that helps you to write better through color coding errors, adverbs, etc.

Find quick and clear writing tips from Entrepreneur and Inc. Here are some more tips from Publication Coach.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Black Lives Matter


Black Lives Matter. 

This morning we, two white parents, got ourselves and our son, a white three year old, ready for school.

We didn't worry about his getting shot today.

We fed him, dressed him, got him into the car, drove through our neighborhood, got him out of the car and walked him into his classroom without worrying about him getting shot. We didn't look over our shoulders or worry about what he was wearing. My husband walked to his office without worrying about getting shot, too.

We will pick up our toddler this afternoon, maybe go for a walk, feed him dinner and then go bed without fearing bullets and other people's fear or anger.

We will repeat this routine every weekday throughout the academic school year. We will not fear his getting murdered today or when he's older because of his skin color.

He will go to elementary, middle and high school without this fear. He will not carry the fear with him to college. He will not look for his first full-time job while being afraid. We won't stay up late at night afraid.

Parents of black children should not have to live daily with the fear their boys and men could be shot and killed. Children should not have to live with the fear of getting killed or their loved ones getting killed.

Black Lives Matter. Yesterday, today and tomorrow. Black Lives Matter.

Do your part as parents: 

We, including white people, have to talk about race with our partners, family, friends and children. Studies show that talking early and openly with your children about race makes a positive difference.

Find books with diverse characters on Black Children's Books and VideosThe Brown Bookshelf and  through We Need Diverse Books' resources.

As a white woman, I asked myself, "What kind of white person do you want to be?"

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Hello, Summer!



Summer is here and you might have less time (kids home?), more time (less work?) or the same (day job that doesn't change based on the season?)

I'm here to encourage you to keep writing. Every season, I like a healthy writing reassessment: What progress have you made? What are your new or continued goals? How and when will you meet them?

Carve out some writing time this summer. That is, time when the ringer is off and your door is closed. Or maybe you are sitting at the library with headphones on. Whatever it is, put writing on your to-do list and treat it like an appointment. Show up. Open a word document or your notebook. And write. Read it over and revise. Read something published by someone who moves you.

For more on writing self-evaluations, here is another post and yet another one that might help you to ask the right questions to move forward. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Give the Gift of a Literary Magazine Subscription

Today is my birthday and instead of feeling all the gloom and doom that a "zero" birthday could leave me with, I offer a birthday gift recommendation for anyone any season: A literary magazine subscription. Most literary magazines are run by small groups of hardworking, big-hearted volunteers. They can use all the financial support you can muster. If you are reading them and submitting your work to them, you should support them, too.

Why not give someone a literary magazine subscription today? You might even make it a habit to regularly subscribe to one to three magazines a year for yourself. As a writer, you'll get to know what the editors of one magazine are looking for and become better acquainted with contemporary writers.

Not sure what magazine you or your friend might love the most? You might try looking through lists and databases of literary magazines from:
New Pages
Poets & Writers
The Review Review

What is your favorite literary magazine?

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Focus Your Editing With Lists & Re-Readings

We often re-read our pieces over and over during the revising and editing process. It is impossible to catch every possible error, awkward moment or inconsistency during a single reading. We might auto-correct in our minds or even while reading the work aloud. 

Here's my editing tip: Read your work with only one issue in mind at a time. And then read it again with another issue in mind. (And yes, this will take a while.)

Start by making a list with two columns. In one column, write a list of the top 5-10 things you usually do well. Then, in the second column, write a list of the top 5-10 things that often trip up your writing. 

Here is an incomplete list of some things you might include in one of the columns: 
Verb tense consistency
Punctuation (particularly commas)
Verb strength (Do you rely on conjugated forms of "to be" often or do you choose more muscular verbs? Do your verbs need adverbs in order to offer a clear action?)
Noun strength (Do you need many adjectives to clarify your objects?)
Plot (Use your outline to check that you have a clear narrative arc)
Character development and consistency

Read through your writing with one of these issues in mind at a time. Start with the list of the things you usually do well. Do you continue to do them well? Then move onto the harder issues: the list of things that don't come as easily.

Don't forget to give yourself some time between readings. Waiting at least a day between a major revision and another revision will help you to have the necessary distance from the piece to edit and revise it. 

What editing and revising tips do you rely on? Click through for more posts on editing and revising

Monday, May 9, 2016

Write!

1. We write to understand. 
2. Our discoveries are our readers' discoveries. 

These two statements have become cliches because they are true.

There is often a line or idea that haunts me, but I don't write it. And then I stop writing because that something is all that I can think about.

Maybe I'm hesitant to write because I don't yet understand the emotion, maybe I feel ashamed or maybe I feel as though I shouldn't reveal a certain secret.

When I'm stuck like this, here is what I try to remind myself: No one has to read early drafts. I might need to write something in order to move past it. This early work might be more therapeutic than craft-oriented. Maybe my readers wouldn't even understand what I was writing anyway.

If I later spend time revising and editing the original piece, I might come closer to something that is ready to be submitted to literary magazines or belongs in a book manuscript. Maybe that original idea, even if it is somehow shameful, can be masked behind a metaphor. I can share the emotion, one that others have likely felt, without disclosing my deepest secrets. This isn't to say that I can't share certain secrets, of course, but there might be times when it isn't necessary for the piece or a larger truth.

This is all to say that you should write whatever it is that you feel compelled to write. See where it takes you. And then revise, revise, revise. 


Monday, April 18, 2016

Thursday is Poem in your Pocket Day

Print out, copy or write a poem to keep in your pocket on Thursday, Poem in your Pocket Day. Then  share the words with your friends, family and colleagues throughout the day.

The Academy of American Poets has put together a great PDF with poems you might download and print out (or store on your mobile device.)

You might look for inspiration in Split this Rock's Quarry, a social justice poetry database.

Have a verse in mind, but you don't remember the author or title? The Library of Congress has put together some great resources for Lost Titles, Forgotten Rhymes: How to Find a Novel, Short Story, or Poem Without Knowing its Title or Author.

You might try Columbia University's free trial access to Granger's World of Poetry Online in order to find that perfect poem.

Whatever you do, give yourself a few extra moments to read through some poems and then read one or two aloud with someone else. Give the poem new life with your breath. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Happy National Poetry Month!


April is National Poetry Month! I hope you'll celebrate by reading a new poet or two and writing some poems, too. Here are some ways to get started:

Poem in Your Pocket Day is April 21. Print out a poem or copy a poem down and carry it around for the day. Share it with your friends.

Sign up for a poem a day emailed to you by the Academy of American Poets or the Poetry Foundation (with audio.)

Write in response to a prompt a day from Robert Brewer at Writers Digest.

Listen to poets read their poems at Fishouse or watch video poems by Motionpoems.

Shop independent bookstores for poetry. Washington D.C. based Politics and Prose bookstore is featuring poetry collections on their website.

Read and support (subscribe!) a poetry literary magazine. Find one through Poets & Writers' database.

If you're in D.C., hear Malachi Black, Laurie Ann Guerrero, and A. Van Jordan read their original sonnets at the Folger Shakespeare Library on April 11th and attend Split this Rock's Poetry Festival April 14 - 17.

If you're in NYC, visit Berl's Brooklyn Poetry Shop or Poets House

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Finding Time

The endless cliches about time slipping through our fingers are cliches for a reason. Our time each day is finite.

If we only have short bursts of time to write, revise, submit and read each day, how can we make those few minutes count?

Reading my current piece each morning and at night helps me to work through it even when I'm not technically writing. If I choose a particular "problem" or, more positively, "challenge," to sort out during the day, then I can attempt to focus on that during down moments (laundry, washing the dishes.) I might even email myself a copy of the piece so that I review it on the phone at any point in the day.

How do you best use your time for writing?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Amy Bucklin's Guest Post: 5 Reasons Why You Need an Editor for Your Memoir

Are you submitting your memoir to small presses or agents? Considering self-publishing? You want your ideas and writing to shine. Amy Bucklin, an editor and writer, outlines the benefits of hiring an editor below. I encourage you to visit her company website, Clear Sky Writing, for more.


5 Reasons Why You Need an Editor for Your Memoir

Finishing your memoir is a tremendous accomplishment. You’ve crafted your story and revised and honed your manuscript. Now you’re done! Or are you?

There is one more step you should consider: hiring an editor.

All writers, from first-time authors to published pros like Stephen King and Elizabeth Gilbert, benefit from the objective eye and professional expertise of an editor.

A professional editor can make your manuscript more:

1. Focused – Is that scene with Aunt Mabel at your third birthday party integral to the story? No one knows your life better than you do, but that makes it hard for you to spot areas where the narrative digresses or contains too much detail. A professional editor will help you shape your memoir and remain focused on your central theme.

2. Clear – An editor can make suggestions on word choice and sentence structure, help you trim unnecessary words and phrases, and identify where you need more — or less — detail.

3. Readable – An editor can assist you with the flow of your writing and transitions between paragraphs and chapters. He or she will also help you pinpoint and cut dense paragraphs, clich├ęs, and overused words and phrases. This will result in a piece that is easier and more enjoyable to read.

4. Accurate – Editors make sure you use consistent spelling, capitalization, nicknames, place names, and facts. They also correct grammar and typos. While these may seem like trivial details, inconsistencies and inaccuracies can be distracting to a potential publisher and your reader.

5. Professional – Working with an editor before you send your manuscript out can help catch the attention of a publisher. If you plan to self-publish, it will result in a memoir that is more likely to be read, treasured, and shared for generations to come.

Amy Bucklin is an editor and writer with 18 years of experience helping individuals and companies make their writing more clear and effective. She works with clients across the nation on a variety of projects, including editing and proofreading manuscripts, articles, blog and social media posts, brochures, and website content. 

You can learn more about Amy’s services and experience at clearskywriting.com

Monday, March 7, 2016

Upcoming Spring Memoir Writing Workshops (D.C.)

I’m excited to announce my upcoming spring classes. I’ll be teaching memoir writing workshops at Politics and Prose Bookstore and a one time session at the Guy Mason Recreation Center in Glover Park, D.C. Details below. You’re welcome to take one or all of the courses.

Looking for private writing coach sessions? I can tailor a course that fits your interests and needs. It can include prompts, reading assignments, feedback and more. Read more about my services here.

Don’t hesitate to email me with any questions (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com)


Details: 

At the Guy Mason Recreation Center, I’ll be teaching:

Memoir Writing Workshop: Crafting Scenes
Wednesday, March 23, 2-3:30 PM
Free and open to the public
3600 Calvert Street, NW (there’s a large parking lot next to the building)
Class description:
Make your memoir lively, descriptive and plot driven, just like a good novel. In this workshop, we will discuss how to write scenes, rather than relying on summary. We will do some writing during the workshop. Please bring a pen and paper or a charged laptop to class. Writers of all levels welcome.


At Politics and Prose Bookstore, I’ll be teaching:

Mixed Level Memoir Writing Workshop
Four Tuesdays: April 19, 26, May 3, 10, 10:30 a.m. – noon
**If you’ve taken this class before, you might consider taking it again. There are usually 1-3 returning students in the group. The format of the class remains the same, but the discussion varies greatly, depending on the current participants.
Class description:
It's never too early or too late to start writing your memoir. This four-session workshop will help you write a memoir by breaking it down into a collection of linked personal essays. Participants will respond to writing prompts, workshop one essay draft, and discuss on-going projects. We will consider issues of editing, revising, organizing research and chapters, and publishing. Students will receive feedback from peers and the instructor.
This class is for you if you are thinking about starting a memoir or have already begun writing. You are also welcome if you simply want to try a new writing genre.


Publishing Your Memoir: Submitting to Journals, Presses and Agents
Single Session: Tuesday, April 19, 1 – 3 p.m.
** This is a new class that I will be co-teaching with Cynthia Kane, an author, development editor, and the lead literary agent with Capital Talent Agency in D.C. We went to graduate school together and she continues to be an inspiration. You can read more about her here.
You might also be interested in her forthcoming book, How to Communicate Like a Buddhist.
Class description:
Done with the difficult work of writing and -- having celebrated a piece you are proud of -- are now ready to tackle the submission process? We can help! Whether you are submitting personal essays or have a full manuscript ready, this class, led by a published author and literary agent, will teach you how to put together a successful proposal and give yourself the best chance for success. Creative non-fiction author and literary agent Cynthia Blair Kane and writer Chloe Yelena Miller will discuss the steps toward getting published. Topics will include submitting smaller pieces to magazines and literary journals, the do’s and don'ts of cover letters, what to include in your proposal, myths about publishers and agents, where to find literary agents and what agents and publishers are looking for. Participants are encouraged to bring questions.


Memoir Writing: Legal, Ethical, and Moral Concerns
Single Session: Tuesday, April 26, 1 – 3 p.m.
Class Description:

Writing about oneself inevitably includes others. How do we legally, morally, and ethically portray living or deceased people in our memoirs? If you are thinking about writing memoir or have one in progress, this class will provide guidance on these issues. Memoirist, Attorney, and Professor Martha Ertman and memoir writing workshop instructor Chloe Yelena Miller will discuss these issues, followed by a Q&A session in the second half.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Books Alive! The Washington Independent Review of Books' Annual Conference



Looking to learn more about writing, hear readings and speak with agents? Check out this upcoming local conference in Bethesda, MD, coming up this spring. Learn more about it on their homepage

For the fourth year running, the Washington Independent Review of Books (WIRoB) is proud to sponsor the Washington Writers Conference. WIRoB exists to serve the literary community in the DC area, and each year the conference draws more people, strengthening our network of writers, agents, and publishers with a full day of insightful conversations and panels with successful industry professionals.

This year's line-up is highlighted by our keynote lunch speaker, Bob Woodward. Kitty Kelley is also going to receive the second WIRoB Lifetime Achievement Award. Donna Britt, Nora Pouillon, Audrey Wolf, and Paul Dickson, among many others, will be joining us, too. It's our honor to bring such successful professionals to the community and to hear from them about the current state of the publishing world.

We are also pleased to offer up our Agent Pitch sessions throughout the day on Saturday. Here, all participants have the chance to sit with three agents, for five-minute sessions, and pitch their ideas and their work. Agents know that DC is a vibrant writer's town and they are happy to sit and talk and share their expertise. Prepare yourself well, and you might even sign with an agent, as past participants have.

Lastly, don't forget that we have a lovely social scheduled Friday evening, at which several of our panelists and agents, as well as other conference participants will be gathering in relaxed camaraderie. Last year's social was a great success. This year, we're adding a "How to Pitch an Agent" panel after the social, so that those participants who intend to pitch will have the evening to incorporate any suggestions into their Saturday sessions.

The Washington Writers Conference is quickly becoming a significant event on the DC area literary calendar. Join us and find out why!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Audience

Who is your ideal reader? Your content will be partially determined by who that reader is and what she knows. From that point, you can build your plot, narrative and all that you hope the reader will learn, consider and delight in.

As you write and revise, you'll make decisions about what to name, explain or offer background on. Maybe you want to challenge your reader to do some research as she reads. Or maybe you hope that your reader already knows all of the cultural, historical, religious or other signifiers throughout your piece. Perhaps you are writing for someone in between.

Here's your writing challenge of the day:
Describe your ideal reader for your current writing project.

Here are some questions to get you started: What does that person know about your subject? How immersed is the reader in pop culture? What cultural references do you share (music? visual art? poetry?) Will you define foreign words? Will you name technology or brand names?

After you finish this writing challenge, you can apply this knowledge of your reader to your current piece.

For more, consider tone, words and content in your memoir and audience in terms of marketing (as you work to sell and later publicize your book.) 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Custom Bookcase By Designcraft Woodworking

Terry Nagorski of Designcraft Woodworking, Inc., designed and constructed our built-in bookcase this fall. We couldn't be happier. As a poet and political scientist couple, we have many, many (but not too many) books and we love them so. This bookcase displays our favorites and gives us easy access to them. The books are organized first by genre and then alphabetically.

Our condo feels like it is truly ours with this custom addition. 

And, best of all, our son talks about books even more than he did before. Growing up with books, even before he can read, will make a difference in his literacy, creative thinking, empathy, knowledge and, perhaps, writerly interest. Sure, we still borrow stacks of books from the library, but he knows that he has his own growing library at home. And, happily, this built-in bookcase can't possible fall on him if he decides to try to scale it (he hasn't yet, but...)

Thanks again to Terry for this lovely bookcase. If you're interested in creating a custom home for your books, contact her directly through her website.

Scroll down to see the bookcases as they were created and the final piece. The recent, final images were kindly taken by my mother, Melabee M. Miller, a New Jersey based architectural photographer and visual artist. 


Our Home





Previously... 







Wednesday, January 27, 2016

FACES of NCCOnline


I have been teaching writing classes online through Northampton Community College since 2009. I was excited to recently be featured as one of their "faces" of the college. Click through to see the page here

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Upcoming Classes at Politics and Prose Bookstore


*There are still a few seats available. Register today! 

Please note: The Memoir Writing Workshop is sold out. I look forward to announcing spring dates soon.

I'm excited to be teaching memoir workshops again this winter at the independent bookstore Politics and Prose, in Washington, D.C. Classes fill up quickly, so register through the bookstore today!

MEMOIR WRITING: LEGAL, ETHICAL AND MORAL CONCERNS (1623)
Downstairs at Connecticut Avenue: Tuesday, February 16, 1 – 3 p.m.

Writing about oneself inevitably includes others. How do we legally, morally, and ethically portray living or deceased people in our memoirs? If you are thinking about writing memoir or have one in progress, this class will provide guidance on these issue.

Memoirist, attorney, and Professor Martha Ertman and memoir writing workshop instructor Chloe Yelena Miller will discuss these issues, followed by a Q&A session in the second half.

Register through the bookstore here

Monday, January 18, 2016

Stay Involved: Readings, Lectures, Workshops

 

Writing and reading can be solitary, but it doesn't have to be. I encourage you to attend local readings, workshops, lectures, workshops and festivals in your area. Pay careful attention to each author. Listen to how the reader presents her work. Can you hear the music?

In Washington, D.C., check out the regular Poetry News (put out by the Beltway Poetry Quarterly.) My favorite series are the readings at the Folger Shakespeare Theater, Politics and Prose, and Georgetown University.

For more local connections, check out the links on the right side of this blog. Is something missing? Let me know (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com.)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Build On Previous Work

Do your best to build your writing project through your personal, professional or academic pursuits. If you are engaged by your writing project, then you will probably find that it relates directly to many other things that you are doing.

Here are some examples: Are you teaching a course on something related to your writing project? Write lectures that can be molded into chapters or shorter articles. Are you writing emails to friends about various aspects of your project? Save the key parts to edit and fit into your query letter as you start to submit to agents and publishers. Are you reading widely on the subject? Write reviews of those books as you work towards becoming an expert on the subject.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Sharing Your Work with Friends and Family: Shout or Whisper?

Reading published and unpublished poems at the Tenley-Friendship Library 
in Washington, D.C. The audience's reactions, preparing 
and then reading the poems all help the editing process.

You've been working on a piece and need feedback. When should you share your work with loved ones? Consider the content and your needs.

What did you write about? Is the reader mentioned or involved in the material on any level?  If so, you might wait until you feel comfortable and confident with the draft. Or, you might decide that you need this reader's input early in the drafting process to further your writing and memory. Either way, decide how much you are willing to change based on the reader's reaction.

For more on this potentially complicated subject, Washington, D.C., area writers might consider the  class I co-teach at Politics and Prose bookstore with Martha Ertman: Memoir Writing: Legal, Ethical, and Moral Concerns (next offered Tuesday, Feb. 16, 1-3 pm). We recommend reading Family Troubles: Memoirists on the Hazards and Rewards of Revealing Family

Editing is about both confidence and craft; readers can help you with both. Try to foster and maintain readers who offer you different kinds of feedback and support. For example, when I'm feeling less confident and need a boost, I will show my work to my mom. She's always ready to encourage me. (If you're reading, "Hi, Mom!") When I'm not sure if I've strayed from the world I've created or the grammar isn't right, I ask my (former journalist) husband to look closely at the sentences and ideas. I have a fiction and memoir writing friend with a good eye for filling in gaps when something feels incomplete. 

Aside from family and friends, I strongly recommend that you take classes with writers experienced in your genre. This can be helpful at any stage. Instructor's feedback and the feedback of peers in a workshop class can offer you the necessary craft, plot, idea and creative input to push your work to the next level. Even if you don't agree with their feedback (they are unlikely to all agree with each other), you can see what seems to work and what areas trouble readers. 

And of course, if you are asking folks to read and respond to your work, offer to do the same for them. If you are considering forming a workshop group, you might find these tips helpful. 

When do you show your work to readers?