Monday, March 23, 2020

COVID-19 Protocol from Italy: Stay home & follow this protocol

Hi, friends. I hope you are all doing as well as possible in this period.

We are healthy and the three of us are home. My partner and I are working remotely and the first grader is homeschooling. We are settling into a new rhythm while anxiously watching the news and trying to stay healthy. Nightly dance parties with the first grader help to naturally keep our spirits up.

Am I writing? Editing? Submitting? Not right now. Maybe some of you can and are, but I can't find the space to do that. Yet. I'm hopeful that one day soon I'll have some time, space and quiet, and emotional calm to return to my writing. For now, I'm trying to be kind to myself and listen to what I need. It is ok to pause. If you are able to write, of course it is ok to continue to move forward with your project. Do what you can when you can.

I encourage you to do whatever you need to do to keep yourselves healthy, safe and able to work, if you have a job that allows you to work remotely. If you are an "essential" person working outside the home, my family and I deeply thank you for all that you do.

A friend translated the protocols below from Italian. You might find these helpful to review and share.  While there are many unknowns concerning the virus, I find these practical steps quite reassuring.

Meanwhile, my best wishes to you. Please stay home to keep yourselves and others as safe as possible.

I'm not sure if I'll be able to continue posting in this period, but I will return when I can.

If you are a current private client, I am happy to continue working with you. I will consider taking new clients in a month or so, depending on how things are going.

Don't hesitate to email with questions at any time: (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com

best, Chloe


Friday, March 13, 2020

Writing Challenge: #SocialWriting2020

I picked up a notebook for our six-year-old at the incredibly crowded supermarket today.
What kind of journal or paper will you use?

As many of us practice social distancing, let's also practice social writing and collectively keep journals. The goal is to keep a journal that documents these days of social distancing. Then, if you like, share pages from your journal online (#SocialWriting2020). In the end, we will be together while documenting history.

There are no rules, but if you could follow these guidelines, if you like:

Write every day.

Date your pages.

Write as clearly as possible or type your words.

Or don't write; draw, paint, collage or otherwise create something that represents your day. Tomorrow is Pi day and maybe you can think of an equation that represents your day.

Start with what you are doing that day. Be as specific as possible about what actions you took, what you wore, what you ate, etc.

Write about your thoughts, questions, observations and feelings.

Post images of your work on Twitter with the hashtag: #SocialWriting2020

Of course, adults and kids of all ages are welcome to participate.

If you'd like to share some of your pages here, please email me images or text from your journal: chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com.

I'm wishing everyone health, food, safety and the space to continue to live our lives. Please follow the CDC guidelines. For kids, you might share this comic.

To writing and continuing on, despite social distancing. To #SocialWriting2020!

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Online Teaching Resources

Many schools are turning to online courses right now. I've been teaching college-level writing classes online since 2008. If you have questions that you think I can help with, don't hesitate to reach out.

First, remember that you can always work with your department and school's tech support for help with translating your in-person class into an online class.

Some students might not have access to the internet at home, so consider asynchronous classes to give everyone the best opportunity to succeed. The students might have as many questions as you do, so be sure to offer them resources, too.

Here are some outside resources that might help:

Chronicle of Higher Education's How to Be a Better Online Teacher by Flower Darby

Chronicle of Higher Education's Going Online in a Hurry: What to Do and Where to Start
By Michelle D. Miller

Webinar Teaching with Zoom

If you've never taken or taught an online class, you might benefit from seeing or experiencing one. Ask your colleagues if you can be added as a guest to their classes in order to look around the course and see how it is built. You can also sign up for a free online class just to get a general sense of how an online course could be set up. There are free online courses offered by edX and Coursera

Wednesday, March 4, 2020


The annual AWP conference (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) is happening in Texas, but many writers and presses have canceled due to the coronavirus. The book fair, including the many conference discounts, is partially taking place online. 

Follow along on Twitter with this hashtag: #AWPvirtualbookfair or scroll through this Google document. The document links directly to the presses.

If you are a reader, this is a great way to discover new voices and follow your favorite authors. If you are also a writer submitting your words to  journals, buy a subscription or a few back issues to learn more about a journal before submitting.

I encourage you to purchase books and subscriptions to favorite and new-to-you journals. This conference is an important way for these presses to stay afloat financially and for you to read their curated words. Support them today with your purchases. 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Writing Family History and Your Own Story

Julianne Mangin, writer, researcher and family historian, writes on her blog about "The Intergenerational Self." For those of you writing memoir or family histories, you might be interested in clicking through to read her experience and resources.

Julianne links to this interesting piece: "The Stories That Bind Us: What Are the Twenty Questions?" These are great questions to consider during an interview with a family member or to use as a writing prompt as you work to stir your own memory.

For more, click through for some more Family History websites I gathered together a few years ago. 

Monday, February 17, 2020

Your Story is Your Story

Your story is yours. Memoir writers often struggle with the idea of ownership over a story. We will say something like, "But.. it happened to someone close to me; my response doesn't matter." Or, "The other people involved don't agree with my memory."

I'm here to remind you that everything that you've done, that has happened to you or you experienced in some way or another is a part of you. It makes you. You are composed of your actions, your responses, the actions of those around you, things you've read and the events that happen in your home, neighborhood, country... the list goes on and on. For example, if you were affected by a friend's loss, then your response is indeed a part of you.

Give yourself permission to write your story. If you learned something or changed from an outside event, then you might have something interesting to explore in writing.

Of course, you don't necessarily have permission to use other people's names or identifying details or specific event details. Your response, however, is always yours. (This is where you might need a disclaimer before your creative non-fiction piece to describe where you've taken some creative liberties.)

For more on this, you might read Family Trouble: Memoirists on the Hazards and Rewards of Revealing Family, edited and with an introduction by Joy Castro.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Valentine's Day Reading & Shopping

The Bay of Marseille, Seen from L’Estaque
c. 1885,Paul C├ęzanne, Art Institute of Chicago

This Valentine's Day, show your love by supporting writers and literary journals. Browse New Pages for the latest issues of your favorite literary magazines and subscribe for yourself or a loved one. New Pages also has a great guide to local independent bookstores. If you're in D.C., head to Politics & Prose bookstore for some great recommendations.

For more, here's a Valentine's Day writing prompt I posted a few years ago.

The love poem that I read this morning to my husband? Wife by Ada Limon. Meanwhile, I'll be referencing another art form when I surprise our child with Star Wars Blue Milk on Friday morning. Happily, the movies have led to reading many related books, so we'll add a treat to the fun.

Happy Valentine's Day in every genre and color!

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Before and After the Book Deal by Courtney Maum

If you are a writer of any genre and at any stage of the writing process, I recommend that you read Before and After the Book deal: A Writer's Guide to Finishing, Publishing, Promoting and Surviving your First Book by Courtney Maum. I was so taken by her frankness, accessibility, research, encouragement and humor. This is your MFA in the writing and publishing life contained within a single book. The chapters are easy to digest and the resources listed at the end will save you time in the future. I will be assigning this book to writers for years.

I'll stop praising it only so you have time to read it.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Memoir Writing Prompts

Young Woman Writing Calligraphy, Kubo Shunman, Japanese, 1793 

I am in the middle of teaching a level two memoir writing workshop at Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, DC. I am moved by the students' openness to work and their empathy for one another's shared lives. Most of all, I'm moved by their insight into their human experiences. I share this with you to encourage you to write your own truths because we truly do want to learn about one another. How do we live in this world? You have an answer that we can learn from.

Here are a few prompts from that class that might be helpful as you write, edit and revise your own work:

1. Write two timelines. The first timeline contains key moments from your memoir's present tense (remember that memoir places a frame around a particular theme or moment in your life.) The second timeline is a long and thorough timeline of key events from your entire life (I know, that's a daunting task.) The idea is that you will be able to see which past events will serve the main timeline as flashbacks, if your memoir follows that structure.

2. Write profiles of your main characters. Give the characters flesh and blood (describe them physically) and give them actions (how do they behave, gesture, eat, etc.) Writers often shy away from physical description and you can build on these profiles as your characters speak and act in your memoir.

3. Make a list of questions. What do you want to know about something? What is knowable through research? What is unknowable? This list should offer you various insights (a list of things to research, doubts, desires, etc.)

Monday, January 13, 2020

Some Drafts Are Just Drafts

Looking up at the sky through bare branches

You can abandon some of your drafts. Here is a (very imaginary) permission slip to give yourself whenever you need it.

Of course, I would never advocate for throwing out early drafts. But you don't have to keep editing and revising them. Instead, make time for whatever it is that you really want to write. I know that I've gotten stuck on a draft because I think I have to finish it before I "allow" myself to start the next thing. 

Sometimes drafts are just drafts; they don't always lead to something more. They might be practice for something else, a playful attempt that you enjoyed trying out but didn't work or something you had to write to get on to the next thing. 

You might feel comfortable jotting notes in a journal that you don't necessarily come back to. A titled word processing document can live in that same space if it just doesn't feel right.

The road to a final draft is paved with many, many earlier drafts. But there are also some roads that don't end in a final draft and that's ok. These roads are just, well, drafty (thank you to 2020's first blog-pun-permission.)