Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Ciao From Florence, Italy!

today's view from our balcony

I apologize for the recent blogging-silence. Our family has temporarily relocated to Florence, Italy, and are now settled into a new, yet recognizable, routine that will last until summer 2018.

As of October 2, I will be available to schedule appointments with new writing coach clients. Click here for more details outlining ways that we might be able to work together. I am flexible and able to tailor a plan for your needs, goals and interests. Please note that I can take up to three new writing clients this semester since I have a number of clients who will be continuing. If you are interested in starting, please email me as soon as possible: chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com.

If you're interested, do remember that I am six hours ahead of the east coast (EST) and the best time for me to meet with you is your morning. We can video conference (WhatsApp, Facetime or Skype), I can call you or we can do everything over email. Send me an email and we can develop a plan together.

Some of you have been asking for details about our lives in Italy. I'm writing and teaching writing online, my husband is on sabbatical researching and writing and our four year old is attending a local school. We've been eating our fair share of fresh pasta, pizza and gelato. We've visited Michelangelo's Davide at the Accademia Gallery, wandered around the many piazzas and churches in Florence, visited Pisa, Fiesole and Piazzale Michelangelo, and have a long list of more art and architecture to see in Florence and throughout Italy. And, of course, we have an equally long list of foods we want to eat.

There has also been a lot of packing, unpacking, organizing, and paperwork (the paperwork-component of a move to Italy cannot be underestimated. And by paperwork, I mean dedicating a number of mornings to going to offices where you take a number, wait a while and then find out there's another piece of paper that you need from another office.) It has been daunting at times, but as my dear friend Mary H. said, that part of the move couldn't continue forever. After about a month, the most time consuming parts have ended. My friend's emphasis on the finite quality of the administrative side of it all helped me to remember that I'd eventually get back to noticing the beauty with my family and settling into writing. A very sincere thank you to my local friends who have helped us to navigate these offices. 

I lived and worked here fourteen years ago when I was the Residence Hall Manager at NYU's study abroad campus in Florence. My senses still need some time to settle before I can really digest the changes in the city and myself. I have returned as a signora (an older, married woman, rather than a younger, single signorina) and mamma. If I were to write a memoir about this time, I think it would be titled, "Becoming a Signora," as it feels as though I receive more respect when I speak Italian (the men listen and respond to me, instead of turning towards my English speaking husband) and our child has been embraced (folks offer their bus seats to him and everyone smiles at him.) 

I'm unlikely to write that memoir, but I do hope to write some new poems and maybe draft a children's book while I'm here. I will give myself a writing routine for structure, but I'm hoping that the landscape nudges me in a new direction. If I were to guess, I think that the light and colors will feature in the new work. We'll see. Vediamo. 

And I hope to see you all, too. Keep in touch and email me with your many successes (former students: let me know if you have published new work) and any questions about writing coaching (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Download E-books from the DC Public Library this Summer

Did you know that DC residents can download e-books from the DC Public Library? Go to the website and click on E-Content to search for content. (Click here if you need a library card.)

While you're (virtually) visiting the library, register for the Summer Reading 2017 program. This year's list for four year olds (our son's age) includes activities like looking for objects in your home that start with a particular letter and acting out a story you've read together.

After downloading the Kindle and OverDrive apps, I found a wide selection of children's picture and early reader books. This summer vacation, I look forward to reading them to our four year old and even listening to narrated books together as the pages turn on their own. I also look forward to lighter luggage!

Is reading on a device the same as reading a physical book together? Maybe not, but if your child interacts with the book and you interact with your child, more reading and together time is always better than less. We started with listening to Robo-Sauce written and narrated by Adam Rubin and shared some serious giggles. Next up: acting out the book.

Happy literary and light-weight summer travels!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Congratulations to Lauren Spavelko!

Composer Lauren Spavelko set some of my poems about a miscarriage to music. And her composition, Baby Book, won the Young Composers Competition dedicated to Gian Carlo Menotti in Spoleto, Italy! Congratulations, Lauren! I'm very honored to be a small part of her inspiration and this project.

The Monini Foundation with Casa Menotti founded the competition "to promote the activity of some of the most promising figures of the new musical generation." The prize will be awarded this month during the Festival dei Due Mondi di Spoleto and the entire cycle will be performed in Spoleto on August 10 as part of Incontri Musicali.

If you'd like updates about recording and concerts for Lauren Spavelko's composition Baby Book, sign up here.

Auguri, Lauren! If you find yourselves in Spoleto, Italy, for the festival on August 10th, do congratulation Lauren!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Guest Post by Danielle Foote: Starting with Stillness

In our co-taught writing workshops, Danielle Foote introduces a thoughtful stillness for the participants through meditation. Below, she kindly shares her experience and some resources for you to integrate the same into your writing practice. Thank you, Danielle.

Starting with Stillness

In these increasingly tumultuous times, Chloe approached me with an idea for a single session writing workshop, especially targeting those who might not otherwise access such an opportunity. She crafted what was initially an embryonic impulse to a flexible but thoughtfully developed program that focused on narrating embodied experience. The following questions drove her: How do we translate emotions into words that help us better define ourselves? How do we find our voice?  Starting with the body and its senses, Chloe hoped to make room - even if only for two hours - for us to hear, taste, touch, smell, and see through what often feels like intangible, intractable subjectivity.

Immediately intrigued, I said yes, and the rest is a history of collaboration, a great deal of hard work, particularly on Chloe’s part, and learning, as people from diverse backgrounds impressed us with their imagination and insight. As the writer and teacher, Chloe primarily led the workshop, teaching elements of prose writing and how to keep up with it as well as managing animated, honest discussion. Hardly an expert in the craft of writing, I decided to dig up some tools I learned in graduate school, with Chloe’s support and suggestions, and introduce mindfulness as one way to ground ourselves during the session. Together, we participated in a guided exercise, and over a couple sessions, the potential meditation has to improve the creative process became more and more apparent.

The connection between meditation and writing is intuitive. As one of many tools and assets to the writing process, meditation can help us mute extraneous distraction, quiet the rambling thoughts or, conversely, tap into the rich content of our anxieties, and form words around the honest discoveries our bodies make. In short, meditation can help us more fully inhabit ourselves and in so doing, unlock the embodied coffers of knowledge and creativity. It is important to acknowledge the merits of letting the mind range freely. Or the legitimate circumstances that lead to dissociation and disembodiment. When we become so entangled in our thoughts, however, we sometimes miss sensory opportunities that can help us translate our lived experience.

Fortunately, meditation can be practiced anywhere and by anyone. We can engage in mindful meditation while standing or sitting, walking or washing dishes. We don’t have to be Buddhists or yogis or professional writers. We can begin where we are. From a place of greater stillness, we can then narrate what we notice and allow the sensory input to nourish our writing. A single moment in our world gives us volumes to transcribe. Much can get in the way of meditative writing, and as I frequently remind the clients I’m so honored to work with, we must be kind and gentle with ourselves. Below, you can find a short list of resources. Bon voyage!

Top 100 Must-Follow Meditation Blogs in the World

UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center

Meditation Podcasts

Guided Meditation Videos on YouTube

Sarah Steckler's Ultimate List of Mindfulness Resources

The Couples Clinic Mindfulness Resources

About Danielle Foote: 
Social worker by trade, Danielle Foote hails from Colorado and currently lives in Washington D.C., where her partner, plants, and other passions keep her occupied. By day, she works with some of the most vulnerable, disenfranchised individuals and families in the District. In those interstitial spaces, she reads, cooks, makes home, and schemes to travel more someday. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Claim Your Writing Time: Creating a writing residency

Five minute in-class writing exercises can be generative and show that it is possible to (start to) create something in a very, very short period of time. I try to work this lesson into my own life, too, since writing time can be short.

I took the train to New Jersey alone recently and was inspired (partially by the previous Amtrak Residency) to claim the time as reading, writing and revising time. That is to say, I made the trip between Washington, D.C., and Newark, N.J., a three hour writing residency. I downloaded what I needed ahead of time (since the internet connection never really worked, as I predicted) and arrived at the train station with a clear plan of action.

I succeeded in drafting an essay, editing a previous essay and reading before spending some time gazing out the window thinking. We should never underestimate the importance of idle time thinking and letting our mind wander...

Union Station, Washington, D.C. 

A Reading Lunch


Whoa, the internet didn't actually work. 
It was probably better that way. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Self-Publishing: On Editors & Reviews from Karen Schechner (Kirkus Reviews)

Self-publishing (working without a traditional publisher to create, publish, distribute and promote your book) is one of the paths you might decide to take with your manuscript. You'll likely want to work with professionals to help with the global and line-by-line editing, cover design and promotion. You may also want to submit your book for review to help with your book's promotion. 

Karen Schechner, Senior Indie Editor at Kirkus Reviews, works with self-published authors. I appreciate her taking the time the share some valuable resources that you might find helpful: 

An interview with Karen Schechner on why reviews matter 
Karen Schechner's piece on the importance of collaborating when self-publishing a book

If you are still working on a book and are looking for an editor, Kirkus can help you find the right professional editor. If you have already self-published your book, you might considering submitting your book for a Kirkus review

For additional resources and recommended editors, scroll down the right side of this website.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Politics & Prose Alum Reading

Teaching memoir writing workshops at Politics and Prose independent bookstore in Washington, D.C., is one of my favorite things to do. The bookstore attracts writers with such interesting stories, perspectives and creative goals. They ask probing questions and challenge me in ways that help me to grow as a teacher and, ultimately, writer.

With the help of the bookstore and, in particular, Justin Stephani, I recently organized a reading for writers who have taken my class. I have been teaching workshops since 2011 and have worked with over 300 writers. On Friday, ten readers shared insightful work and many brought food and drink to share. What a pleasure to be a part of such a strong, supportive and energized community!

We collected $180.00 for the Thea Bowman house run by SOME. I've been connected with them and really admire their work. You can donate to them directly online. (You might write a note dedicating your funds to the Thea Bowman House, where I recently co-led a writing workshop.)

As some of you know, my family and I will be spending the next academic year in Florence, Italy. While I will continue to teach college level classes online and work privately with writing students via email and video conference, I won't be able to teach at the bookstore.

If you are looking for writing workshops at Politics and Prose, Mathina Calliope will be teaching a memoir writing workshop similar to mine starting the end of May. It be open for registration online through the bookstore on May 8th. Here are the details:
This five-session course will help you write your memories into scenes by responding to writing prompts, by workshopping essays and excerpts, and by studying Mary Karr's Art of Memoir. Five Tuesdays: May 30, June 6, 13, 20, 27, 10:00 a.m. to noon.

Also, keep an eye out for writing classes taught by Cynthia Blair Kane, Shaheen Qureshi, Sara Burnett, Linda Kulman and Martha Ertman.

Thank you again to the bookstore, Justin and the writers who read, listened and shared food during the reading!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Leaving on a Jet Plane...

As some of you already know, my family and I will be leaving on a jet plane this summer for Florence, Italy. I can hardly believe that fourteen years after living and working there, I'll be back. This time I'll be with my husband and (soon to be) four year old. It truly feels like a dream (and large organizational project) come true. 

I will be focusing on finishing a multi-genre manuscript and continuing to work as a private writing coach. I still have a few spots available for new clients starting in September, 2017, if you're interested. We can communicate via email and "meet" via video conference (Facetime or Skype.) Read more about my services here and email to set up your first appointment (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com.) 

My husband, Hans Noel, will be teaching a class on Italian democracy at Georgetown University's campus in Fiesole, Villa Le Balze. Meanwhile, our four year old will be attending a local, Italian school and, hopefully, learning to speak the language like a native. Look for us on Firenze's cobblestone streets as we take our evening passeggiata - with gelato, of course - every evening. 

A presto! We'll be back in D.C. August 2018. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

March for Science & Science Stanzas

Saturday, Earth Day, is the March for Science on the National Mall in D.C. and other cities. The poets, led by Jane Hirshfield and the Wick Poetry Center, are joining the scientists and hosting Science Stanzas. In D.C., they will be a part of the main stage rally, teach-ins and workshops before the march. There will be giant posters with poems and signs with poems to hold during the march. You can read through the poems and download your own signs electronically.

Join the poets and scientists as they stand up for science.

Here is the March for Science's Mission: 
The March for Science champions robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence based policies in the public interest.
You can read their full mission here

Why will I march, as a poet, mom, teacher and wife of a political scientist? Because I believe in science. Science allows us to question what we know, learn more, experiment, keep humans, animals and the earth safe and healthy and, hopefully, improve our overall health, safety and progression into the future. I need science for fresh water and air, safe food, this laptop and internet connection, my son's vaccines, my eyeglasses and contacts, and endless other things. We, scientists and non-scientists alike, need the scientists to be free (supported financially and materially, as well as safe) to investigate our world and worlds beyond.

Monday, April 3, 2017

National Poetry Month

Happy National Poetry Month! 

Poetry happens all year, on good and bad and in-between days, of course. But April is a great time to celebrate the genre.

How will you join in?

You might start by looking at the National Poetry Month page from the Academy of American Poets (complete with my favorite: sign up for a poem a day to be emailed to your in-box throughout the month), attend a reading (the Beltway Poetry Review publishes a thorough calendar for the D.C. area), visit your local library or favorite independent bookstore and browse for books, watch and listen to poets read their work at the Dodge Poetry Festival on their Youtube station or try writing a poem a day.

For more, scroll through the resources I've gathered on the right side of this website.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Connecting with Writers, Reading Series and Venues

Do you run a reading series? Have a new book out and hope to schedule some readings? You might check these directories to help you to connect with other writers, reading series and venues that host readings:

Directory of Poets & Writers from Poets & Writers Magazine

Have Book Will Travel: Connecting Authors with Reading Series and Venues

AWP: Directory of Members from the Association of Writers and Writing Programs

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Students' Publications & Beryl Radin's Upcoming Politics and Prose Reading

I'm excited to be linking to current and former writing students' publications on this page. Click through to read what folks are publishing: blogs, articles, literary magazines and books.

If you are a former writing student of mine, please email me a link to your work so that I can add you to the listing (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com.

Speaking of former students, if you are the D.C. area, I hope you'll stop by Politics and Prose bookstore on Sunday, March 5th at 5 pm to hear Beryl Radin read from her new book Leaving South Dakota: a Memoir of a Jewish Feminist Academic. Details on the event on the bookstore's website.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Writing & Thinking about Taste

The five senses can help you interrogate your words when your descriptions seem dull (for example, you can ask yourself what something sounds like when sliced or dropped or what something tastes feels like on a cold or warm day.) I recently offered a generative, creative writing workshop at Georgetown University. Since we were meeting during lunch, I couldn't help but focus on taste. Here are the taste and senses-related materials that I shared with them and now you:

Isabel Allende’s book Aprhodite: A memoir of the senses

Diane Ackerman’s book A Natural History of the Senses

Grace Cavalieri & Sabine Pascarelli edited The Poet’s Cookbook: Recipes from Tuscany & Poems by 28 Italian and American Poets

Poet Jane Hirshfield’s essay Five Utensils of the Spirit (including two poems: Da Capo and Green-Striped Melons

Martín Espada’s poem Coca-Cola and Coco Frío 

Mark Strand’s poem Eating Poetry

What else would you add? 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Support Facts. Support Journalism.

image found here

We all need some giggles to get through the "alternative facts." What else can we do? We can support journalists and journalism with our wallet. Here are some places to send our dollars in exchange for facts:

Start with a print or digital subscription to The Washington Post or The New York Times.

Find a local NPR station and donate.

Browse the Global Investigative Journalism Network and choose a place to donate (they list nonprofit and related organizations worldwide that work in support of investigative journalism, listed by region.)

Donate directly to the Fund for Investigative Journalism.

For more organizations, here are great lists from PEN Center USA and Medium

Friday, January 13, 2017

Books Alive! 2017

I'm excited to be participating in the upcoming Books Alive! conference as a panel moderator. Register today to hear agents and writers talk about their craft April 28 & 29th in College Park, MD.

I will be moderating this panel on Sat., April 29th:

2:50-3:40 p.m.: The Twilight Zone: Between Memoir, Fiction, and Family History 
Moderator: Chloe Miller, a memoir-writing instructor at Politics and Prose
Tom Shroder, author of The Most Famous Writer Who Ever Lived: A True Story of My Family (named a Best Memoir of 2016 by the Washington Post)
Michael Dirda, Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist and author of Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books 
Jenny Yacovissi, author of Up the Hill to Home

Books Alive 2017

5th Annual Washington Writers Conference

April 28-29, 2017

Presented by the Washington Independent Review of Books

Join the DC literary community and successful authors, agents, and publishers from around the country for the 5th Annual Washington Writers Conference at the College Park Marriott Hotel & Conference Center in Hyattsville, MD. See why this inspiring and instructive two-day conference has quickly become a leading literary event in the DC area.
It kicks off on Friday, April 28th, with an informal meet-and-greet (cash bar), followed by a "how to pitch an agent" session.
On Saturday, April 29th, the schedule includes:
  • Agent pitch sessions throughout the day. (All participants will have the chance to sit face-to-face with up to three agents for five-minute sessions and pitch their ideas. You might even sign with an agent, as past participants have.)
  • An exciting line-up of panels and conversations with authors and other industry professionals.
  • Lunch with keynote speaker Judith Viorst.
  • And much more.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Great Day Washington TV Segment

This morning may have started off with a little one's feet under my chin, but then it progressed to the set of Great Day Washington, a morning show on the local CBS affiliate. I spoke with co-host Markette Sheppard and special guest Darrell Green about journal and memoir writing, as well as Politics and Prose bookstore.

You can click through to watch the full clip here and read the follow-up article, with recommended books to get you started, here.

Great Day viewers and new clients, mention the show for a free writing coach consultation. Email me (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com to set up your consultation and first appointment. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Happy New Year! Ok, Now It Is Time To Write

Happy New Year! I hope you had a lovely holiday that included some rest, treats, and time with loved ones.

Now is the moment to shake off the holiday cookies, keep the joy and settle into your writing spot. You can be your own administrative assistant who organizes and encourages you to meet your goals. Here are some tips:

What are you working towards? When do you want to accomplish those goals? Do you want to write, edit and submit an essay? Write a full manuscript and submit it to agents? Start a writing practice by journaling every day? Write your goals down. Give yourself a final deadline. Know that you can and will reach that deadline step by step.

If you sit down to work on your long term goals and only see, "write my book!' written in cursive at the top of the page, you are more likely to finish your laundry than start working on your book. Break down the large project into small chunks with deadlines. For example, maybe you want to complete some research this month and finish the outline and the opening chapter by the following the month.
List the actual steps that it will take to reach your goals. Read this post for some tips on what to short term goals to include.

At the start of last year, I wrote about trusting your calendar. If you schedule the time you have to write, you will be more likely to leave those hours free and focused on writing.

Dedicate the last ten minutes of each writing session making a very short term to-do list. Do you need to research a city? Does a particular scene need more dialogue? Is there a contest you want to submit work to? This list will help you to use shorter periods of time more effectively and to better jump into your writing project.

The beginning of a new year is a natural fresh beginning. I recommend checking-in to see how you are progressing every three months. Here are some tips on how to do a self-evaluation of your writing process.

Many writers are balancing a day job - or juggle a few day jobs - and a personal life with a writing life. You will need to say, "no" to things. This piece, "How to Say No to Taking on More Work" offers some great times. One friend recommends keeping a list of all the things you say, "no" to during the year to review at the end of the year.

I'm a big fan of using my computer's calendar program to block off time to write. I also regularly update a word processing document titled, "Writing To Do List" which lists both the large and small goals.

I haven't tried it yet, but I'm interested in the Bullet Journal, which helps you to prioritize and see the different categories your (overall) to-do list might include.

If you are looking for individualized help setting goals and meeting them, I am accepting a few new clients this February. You can read more about my writing coach services here. Email me to discuss our first appointment (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com.