Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Lifelong Learning With Thor

Avengers comic book
"What's that mean, Mommy?"

I'm reading our four-year-old an Avengers superhero comic book that we bought at a newsstand in Florence. It is in Italian. The text is small. When I stumble on a word, I have to figure out first if the word is an Italian one or a superhero-specific one that I don't know. I don't know a lot about superheroes.

I could write a dictionary of words I've learned from the four-year-old's children books. To think I once called myself, "almost fluent;" his books have set me straight.

"Look it up, Mommy!"

This year, we rely heavily on Google Translate and are learning new words together. A hammer is a martello. Thor's hammer, however, is called, Mjolnir.

When I teach college composition writing classes online, most of my students are busy adults going back to school while raising a family and working full-time. I always love their stories of doing homework at the kitchen table while their kids do their homework. The kids see that the parents value education and everyone studies together. What role modeling! (If you're going back to school with younger kids who need more attention, here's some helpful advice about keeping them busy while working to balance everyone's needs.)

None of this is easy. Sometimes I want to "lose" these harder books that I have trouble following in Italian (and probably would in English, too.) I'm tired at the end of the day and don't always have the energy to "work" through a kid's book.

It is scary to say, "I don't know," especially to your kids. This year I'm trying really hard to encourage our child, who is slowly learning a new language, to keep asking questions. That it is fun to learn something new and enter into new worlds, with or without Thor. 

Hopefully these lessons, along with a big one about patience, will sink in. (Yes, for both of us.)

As the Italians say, "Forza!" (strength!) to each of us as we encounter new things we might not have chosen for ourselves. I admit that I'm starting to find the superheros' powers intriguing, as well as the imaginary worlds. I wonder if or how these images might show up in a poem or two... 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Holidays & Writing Schedules

Four year old child sitting on the floor
 reading in a bookstore in Florence, Italy
Our four year old has been known to knock on the butcher's glass window in the evening just to wave an enthusiastic, "Buona Sera!" He loves meat and has developed a friendship with the butcher near our home in Florence, Italy. The other day I stopped in to buy something while our child was in daycare. The butcher looked at me kindly and reassured me, "Don't worry, Signora. Your child will be home for the holidays soon and you'll have something to do again."

His response startled me.

I just smiled and nodded instead of expressing my anxiety about how to keep up with work (as an online instructor, my adult students take classes over the holidays and study more when they are home from their jobs), writing and family time over the holidays. With a non-stop child who wakes up at six am on a good day and has given up the afternoon nap, it isn't easy to balance everything.

Maybe the goal isn't to balance everything, but rather to choose to do some things one day and other things another day. As the holidays start in the U.S. this week with Thanksgiving, I hope that you can shift your attention easily and focus on your current activity. That might mean a self-imposed writing residency while you have time off from work or it might mean putting your writing on hold until little ones are back at school again. Whatever works for you, try to do it with self-awareness, purposefulness and openness to whatever changes inevitably happen.

For more on writing over the holidays, click through if you're thinking about gathering family stories or keeping notes during the busiest times.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Flash Sale!

Are you interested in private writing coaching? I'm offering 15% off appointments on December 1st - December 15th which are booked and pre-paid this week. Please email me (chloemiller(at)gmail) to schedule your dates before the sale ends on Friday, November 10th (noon, EST.)*

You can read more about private writing coach sessions with me here. My goal is to help you meet your writing goals. We can work on developing or completing a project, strengthening your voice and developing scenes. I can offer you writing prompts, reading suggestions, editing and organizational recommendations and anything else that might be helpful to you.

The cost is per hour, including the time it takes me to read and prepare comments on your work, as well our meeting time. I can usually read and prepare 8-15 pages double-spaced, Times New Roman 12 point font, in about half an hour. For our meeting time, I prefer to meet with writers in half hour or one hour appointments.

Since I'm in Italy, the best time for me to speak with you (phone call or a Skype, Facetime or WhatsApp audio or video call) with someone in the US is in the morning. Therefore, 6 am - 11 am EST weekdays or weekend times are best for me to give you my full attention.

Please plan on submitting your work in a .doc or .docx form one week before our scheduled appointment so that I have time to read, prepare and think about your work before we meet. I will send you comments before we talk so that you have time to read them, think of questions and otherwise plan to make the best use of our time together.

Don't hesitate to email me with any questions (chloemiller(at)gmail(dot)com. I look forward to working together!

*This sale will end early once each available appointment time is booked.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Extra Help

Sometimes we need some extra help answering a pesky grammar, punctuation or citation question. Here are my three favorite websites that I recommend regularly to composition writing students:

Grammar Girl

Purdue University Online Writing Lab

Writing Commons

If you are an enrolled student, see if your school offers tutoring services, in-person or online. This is a great resource for additional, usually free, one-on-one customized help.

If you are working on something for publication, you might consider hiring an editor. I highly recommend my friend and colleague Amy Bucklin of Clear Sky Writing.