The Writing Life



G.O.Y.A., An Antidote to Procrastination

Posted by on Feb 25, 2020 in Writing | 0 comments

Delaying action, putting something off, not dealing with “it” has gotten a bad rap in my life. It came under the heading of “Procrastination,” which was a really big word with big negative connotations ever since I was a young girl.

“You’re just procrastinating!” delivered with a scowl and disapproving tone defined my action or non-action as less than worthy. Well yeah, if it was something I didn’t like, didn’t volunteer for, or plain out was told to do. Heck no, I was going to avoid it anyway I could.
“I don’t feel good.” “I’m scared.”  “I don’t wanna.” And the brushfire that could start and deflect the necessary action, “You can’t make me.” Yes, I had some authority issues. Those childhood messages did get explored and defined and the sting lessened but the equation where delay = procrastination still had an overly negative vibe.

During a sad and shaky time in my life when I had to, really had to, take a look at how I was approaching life situations, a dear friend told me not to think too much about what I had to do. “Don’t think. You know what you have to do. Just go ahead and do it.” This was kind of an early Zen-like approach to “drop the story line” and take action. Wise friend gave me a visual for this too.

“Go to the supermarket, get any Goya product, one you like, or don’t like is also OK, bring it home, and place it on a shelf where you will see it every day. G.O.Y.A.”

“Huh?’

“G.O.Y.A. It’s a visual reminder to Get Off Your Ass!”

Of all the short and trendy admonishments I’d heard, the post-it notes that went ignored, the over-due notices that came in the mail, this one worked. Over the years my GOYA product got me writing, called the dentist, got a lawyer to help me with a will, called the insurance company, wrote that apology letter, did the boring tedious edits for my first, and second book, took the car for inspection- before the expiration date.

GOYA, my faithful companion! I have to acknowledge the relief when the above tasks were done. I took care of my self. The reminders in my head that kept looping – Call. Write. Go- they stopped. I still use G.O.Y.A. After a GOYA session, there’s space to chill out, take a break and do nothing for a bit. And that kind of doing nothing is not procrastinating.

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s been immersed in writing for over 30 years, teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. She also enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Tucson Tellers of Tales, and just about anywhere there’s a mic. 

Ready to Read Part II- Venue, Voice, Vocal Variety

Posted by on Jan 22, 2020 in Writing | 0 comments

Since presenting “From the Page to The Stage” folks have asked for tips to bring their writing to life at public reading events. I’m more than happy to comply.

What to Read? What will you read? What is the purpose? Who is your audience? Choose/edit/revise your piece to be entertaining, informative, motivating, or educational.

 Get Ready! The Venue

  • Visualize the room: Where are you comfortable sitting? Who is the contact person? Who is the tech person? If the lights, mic or temp goes, who’s the fixer? Who else is on the agenda? How much time is set aside for you? If it’s an 8-minute limit, respect that. Who is introducing you? Send them 3-5 sentences about you. Bring a copy to the event also.
  • Size- big room, big gestures and v. v. What is the layout?
  • Practice! Go over your reading/speech out loud. Time it. Do it again. And again. Practice in front of a mirror. Practice in front of real people.
  • You’ve got this! Avoid looking like you are clutching your book. Know if there will be steps/stage. Approach from the left holding book in left hand. Do not lean or tap on the podium. If you have a tendency to do this, move two steps away from it.

Contact me if you are interested in my detailed Event Intake .docx – a one-pager that will help you organize for any event. Get the demographics and other info on that sheet, and then focus on your reading.

10 Ideas Specific to Readings/Keynotes/Presentations.  You

  1. Do not drink: Ice water (constricts vocal cords), coffee with cream (can create mucus & throat-clearing). YES: Room temperature liquids. Save alcohol for later.
  2. Breathe.
  3. Things to remember: “People are coming to be entertained and have a good time. You can too.” “You have a piece of great value that no one else has written.”
  4. Use your voice and body to convey ideas, emotions, attitudes, and intentions of the piece. To some degree, it’s like acting. Your vocal and body cues will allow listeners to recreate the characters and concepts in their mind.
  5. If you read directly from your book, hold it in the palm of one hand to avoid looking like you are clutching. (Here’s where Bill’s idea in Ready to Read Part I is brilliant!)
  6. Will there be a podium, table, or raised surface in front of you to use? Hold material low enough so your face is not hidden. Will you be standing, sitting, both?
  7. Look up occasionally at the audience. Familiarity with your material means you will not lose your place when you gaze up and then back at your book.
  8. Your style: Written work may need editing/condensing/word substitutions for reading aloud. A reading event is so different from reading at home. Listeners cannot go back a few pages to clarify. Make it clear the first time.
  9. Use facial expressions according to the mood. Smiles, grimaces, frowns, sadness. Body language–shiver, shrink, take a bold stance. Match your style to the mood and the character.
  10. Turn the words in your book into a reading with emotional impact!

Voice Characteristics

Analyze your piece: What is the most important part? Build to it with volume, pace, inflection, and pauses. Underline or highlight words that will get emphasis. Use different voice characteristics, especially if you’re reading dialogue. Then eliminate the dialogue tags.

  • Tempo: The speed at which you read. The average rate of speaking in most Western societies is 120-150 words a minute. This varies according to the mood. Dramatize by slowing down or speeding up. If you are a fast talker when you are jittery, slow down even more. If you speak slowly when nervous, keep an even pace in mind.
  • Volume: For effect–softer/louder.
  • Pitch: Low or high. Low often indicates gloom or foreboding; high indicates excitement.
  • Inflection: Upward inflection carries the listener forward and adds tension. Downward indicates finality.
  • Pause: A pause is one of the most valuable tools in public speaking. Use pauses at the beginning, during, and ending a reading or presentation. Pausing before you begin settles you and attracts the audience’s attention. Pauses generate anticipation, or allow the audience to reflect on a point just made. Longer pauses indicate emotion. When finished, pause to allow the audience to applaud, and give you that standing ovation.
  • Punctuation gives clues: Comma= pause. Period= slighter longer pause. Exclamation point= usually more volume. Question mark= changed inflection.

You’re ready!

©From the Page to the Stage 2019 Ethel Lee-Miller  www.etheleemiller.com   etheleemiller@me.com

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s been immersed in writing for over 30 years, teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. She also enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Tucson Tellers of Tales, and just about anywhere there’s a mic.

 Ready to Read Aloud Part I: How-to and Where

Posted by on Jan 21, 2020 in Writing | 0 comments

Once The Book is written, published, and marketed, and copies are flying off the shelves, both real and virtual, then what? Yes, do the social media things – Facebook, Instagram, website, newsletters.

Oral Storytelling

And get personal. Oral storytelling offers the option of bringing the page to the stage. I love to capture stories from my life and have done so in books, essays, articles… or over coffee. One of my favorite ways to get personal is an oral storytelling/reading event. I’ve read directly from a book, or told stories by heart, or paraphrased parts or entire stories.

Reading from written material brings its own challenges. Is there a podium? Is there a mic? Will both hands be occupied or one hand free to gesture?

A Simple and Effective Technique

I recently learned a simple technique for handling books while reading aloud. Credit for this goes to my writing colleague, Bill Black, cowboy poet, first-rate performer, and generous supporter of writers.

Reading aloud and holding a book open can be difficult if you want still want to have a free hand. Following one of my “Page to Stage” workshops, Bill ambled over. “I have something that may help in reading.”

He took out what I thought was a spiral journal. I’m paraphrasing here. “Take your paperback book, cut off the spine and have a spiral binding inserted. This keeps the cover for visibility, and allows you to lay the book flat.” Voila! Many thanks to Bill!

 

Reading Events in Tucson

Many writing groups and organizations offer reading events. Writers Read is a seasonal event here in Tucson. I am proud to say I founded Writers Read in 2014 and today it still goes on. Local writers gather at BREWD and share their work with an appreciative audience. I’ve read from printed drafts of stories, and from my books. The National Writers Union has open mics monthly, UA Poetry Center, Antigone Books, Mostly Books, and many Tucson libraries sponsor writers readings. Sign up for one or start your own.

Feel free to contact me with questions or  about other reading events.

Next blog…Ready to Read Part II. An Intake Event .docx for you. Some tips to physically, vocally, and emotionally bring your written story to life.

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s been immersed in writing for over 30 years, teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. She also enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Tucson Tellers of Tales, and just about anywhere there’s a mic. 

Christmas Wishes

Posted by on Dec 24, 2019 in Writing | 0 comments

young boys and girls wearing white robes and angel wings over jeans and scuffed sneakers. A girl fixing the crown of another girlI have seen and met angels wearing the disguise of ordinary people living ordinary lives. –Tracy Chapman

I think there are many people who find it an easier approach to life to be the kind of person Tracy Chapman speaks of. They usually are like a magnet for others to gather ’round, because that cheerfulness, or laughter, or joy, or compassion, is contagious.

It seems to me there’s a distinct uptake in the numbers of these angels around Christmas. There’s a certain shift in mood. I love the whole spirit of Christmas. Yes, it can get chaotic, especially that last week before Christmas; some folks get worried, or anxious or rushed, but those moods don’t last as long.

Days are shorter, the pace slower, moods lighter. We don’t ordinarily get snow here in Tucson, but there’s a kind of angelic magic drifting down like snow in neighborhoods, stores, churches, hiking trails, and homes. Folks are easier in their “ways,” quicker to smile and laugh, and huggers come out “in holiday style.”

Ambling along the pathways at the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun almost ten years ago, there was a festival in the making. A mariachi band was readying to play. Discordant warm-up sounds gradually blended into a harmonious and exuberant hum. There was no slouching amongst the young processional angels waiting to take their places. Grown-ups took photos of shyly smiling angels. This was the day the angels were wearing their wings on the outside. The jeans and untied sneakers peeked out from under white robes. On the angel’s shoulders that day were not the weights of childhood fears or problems, but the light weight of brilliantly white wings. I don’t remember the exact reason for the celebration, but the photo I captured reminds me angels are everywhere.

A bit of Christmas magic for me is that I can see the angels in people that, for whatever reason, might not show other times of the year. Can you see them?

Wishing you the happiness, peace, and joy that, no matter what your belief, this Christmas magic can bring.

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s been immersed in writing for over 30 years, teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. She also enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Tucson Tellers of Tales, and just about anywhere there’s a mic. 

The Holiday Season is Here

Posted by on Dec 18, 2019 in Writing | 0 comments

The Holiday Season is Here

NativAmerican Santa with long beard and dark fabric robe papier mache Santa with cotton beard small red plastic Santa next to black and white photos of mother and her young child and twins circa 1947

Our home is decorated with much-loved winter and Christmas things. Sleds, Santas, snowmen, mistletoe, angels, reindeer,  a small nativity, and our beautiful tree. My collection grows as we add Santas from our travels. This year’s addition on the mantle is a Santa Fe Santa watching over one of our oldest folk art Santas. The small red plastic Santa from my childhood sits next to family photos. A mix of old memories and new ones in the making.

Holiday Expectations

Besides the Santas, the tree, and other decorations there’s a heightened atmosphere of expectation in our home. Expectation of good, of happiness, kindness, and laughter. Me being me I want to bring as many people as possible into this atmosphere. A party, our writing group, our neighbors coming by to choose from our over-abundant harvest of lemons and limes.

Sharing in Words

I also want to share all this in words. This comes from my love affair with words and believing that words are powerful. But what are the best, the perfect words to express this? Striving for perfection has been a life-long challenge for me, one the loving adult part of me knows is not possible. I can imagine that adult shaking her head, but understanding, “There she goes again, trying to be perfect, when she could be outside playing, or sitting by the fire reading, or spending time with Hank.”

Lucky me, a Christmas miracle intervened. As I read some holiday cards and newsletters, I saw two in particular said exactly what I was searching for. I didn’t have to invent the perfect pithy phrase. My friends have done it already.

Two Christmas Wishes

With their permission I offer you two Christmas wishes:

“As we celebrate Christmas this year our fervent wish is that we and all our friends and family stay healthy and happy. We pray that our beloved country will move toward acceptance of the diversity which has made it so great and that everyone will treat each other with a huge dose of human kindness.” ~  A heartfelt thank-you to our dear friend Duke

“Sometime amid the many preparations and celebrations, may you find a quiet moment to hear the angels sing.” ~ With loving thanks to our dear friend Mona

Merry Christmas!

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s been immersed in writing for over 30 years, teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. She also enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Tucson Tellers of Tales, and just about anywhere there’s a mic. 

Thoughts About “Miracle on 34th Street”

Posted by on Dec 17, 2019 in Writing | 0 comments

I’ve watched this movie every year for more than a decade. It’s the kick-off to the holiday season for me. It starts the day after Thanksgiving. I watch the movie, the 1947 version, as a link to my beloved NYC and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Miracle on 34th Street is a 1947 American comedy-drama film written and directed by George Seaton and based on a story by Valentine Davies. Valentine Davies was an American film and TV writer, producer, and director in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s. I would have liked to meet him.

These days, I find I focus on the dialogue, much of it tongue-in-cheek humor with a healthy dose of realism.

Quotes from Miracle on 34th Street

Whether you‘ve seen the movie or not, the following quotes may make sense:

Reframing- It Still Works

Kris Kringle: Talking to Susie, the precocious nine-year-old who does not believe in Santa Claus, elves, fairies, or giants. “Oh, Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind.”   I’ll go with that. When I’m out shopping, eating out, or hiking, folks give a shy smile, a nod of recognition, or even a wide grin when I say, “Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas.” And I think there’s just a little more openness than usual.

There’s Hope for the World

Alfred: the young custodian at Macy’s whose childlike naïveté belies his honesty and understanding of human nature.“There is a lot of bad ‘isms’ floating around this world and one of the worst is commercialism.”

One Man’s Approach to His Moral Dilemma

Mr. Shellhammer: the head of the toy department at Macy’s.  Torn between being honest and downplaying a possible problem in his department to keep profits up, he says of Kris Kringle,“But… but maybe he’s only a little crazy like painters or composers or… or some of those men in Washington.”

‘Nuff said.

A “Reality” Check from Santa Himself

Kris Kringle: “Now wait a minute, Susie. Just because every child can’t get his wish that doesn’t mean there isn’t a Santa Claus.”

Mick Jagger tried a different tack. “You can’t always get what you want.” Of course, in the movie Susie does get what she wants. And I believe Christmas is a frame of mid. Frame your Christmas with openness, a quickness to laugh, forgive, smile, hug.

May you get all that you want this Christmas.

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s been immersed in writing for over 30 years, teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. She also enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Tucson Tellers of Tales, and just about anywhere there’s a mic. 

Halloween From a (Good) Witch’s Point of View

Posted by on Oct 29, 2019 in Writing | 0 comments

CUTTING THROUGH HALLOWEEN STEREOTYPES

It’s not all gore and ghoulish stuff #2

Two little darlings came trick or treating. They were quite well costumed, a ninja clothed all in black, and another super hero with huge wings AND winged feet.

I asked them if they had any tricks.

They looked puzzled, then looked at each other. Each reached into their plastic pumpkin loot collector, pulled out one piece of candy, put their hands behind their back and looked at me expectantly.

Then they whisked their hands in front, fists closed, covering the candy and twirling their little hands around.

Voila! They opened their hands! And there was a piece of candy!

“Magic,” I exclaimed.  “Where did you learn that incredible trick?”

Ninja said, “It’s called The Nothing Trick.”

We all laughed. Ok, so my laugh was kind of a cackle, but still…

Happy Halloween!

(Attributed to a Halloween lover in Tucson)

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s been immersed in writing for over 30 years, teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. She also enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Tucson Tellers of Tales, and just about anywhere there’s a mic. 

Halloween From a Skeleton’s Point of View

Posted by on Oct 28, 2019 in Writing | 0 comments

CUTTING THROUGH HALLOWEEN STEREOTYPES

It happened at a skeleton’s residence on Halloween.

It’s not all gore & ghoulish stuff #1

A pint-size trick or treater had a superhero costume on complete with cape, fake muscles, head totally covered with a rubber mask that looked like a green ant.

I said,  “Oh, what a great costume.”

He said, very earnestly, lifting his mask, “It’s really ME.” (He looked just like the little boy in Jean Shepherd’s beloved “A Christmas Story,” glasses and big eyes. We in Halloweenland watch this movie every year. Really.)

I gave him his candy and he and his dad turned to go.

Then at the turn of my front walk he turned back and said, “Thank you, Have a lovely evening.”

(Attributed to a Halloween lover in Tucson.)

Tomorrow: Story #2

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s been immersed in writing for over 30 years, teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. She also enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Tucson Tellers of Tales, and just about anywhere there’s a mic.

A Colorful Way to Travel Pack

Posted by on Oct 18, 2019 in Writing | 0 comments

Travel Packing

I’m packing for a trip to Santa Fe. My very organized process for packing consists of printing out our Vacation Checklist ( yes, I can send it to you if you are in need of a detailed list). Anyway, it’s got what needs to be done around the house before departure, and what clothes, toiletries, health items, aka Rx’s and the ever-expanding lineup of anti-aging jars, supplements, and creams, and “my stuff” must go with me.  What starts out as categorized piles of clothing items becomes a panorama of clothes, shoes, socks, scarves, snacks, brochures, and “my stuff” all vying to get in the suitcase.

A Color Palette for Planning

A dear friend advised years ago to have a color palette for what clothes to pack. “Start with black.” Of course, and then decide whether you want mostly blues, reds, oranges, pinks. As I looked at the burgeoning piles I saw my palette. Green and pink.

I’ve been attracted to green for two months since our trip East which surrounded us with the green of the Berkshire and Adirondack Mountains. It was quite calming and peaceful. Stream of consciousness here.

Colors of Joy

I thought of Colors of Joy by Nancy Andres. A delightful book for “self-discovery, balance, and bliss.” The gem of Ms. Andres’s book for me has been the growing awareness of not just what colors I like, but why. It’s how they make me feel. Relaxed. Confident. Energized. Calm. Also what colors crowd me, stifle, block me.

I take you to page 26 of Colors of Joy: “Green is the color of nature and growth, pink stimulates compassion, and yellow helps keep you lighthearted.” Perfect for our road  trip to celebrate our 30 years of shared joys, sorrow, challenges, love, and quite a few laughs along the way.

Nature’s Green in the Northeast

Before Mother Nature turns to autumn art, dark forest green was reflected in Palmer Pond, the shadows were almost a black/green near the Hudson River, and a silent path in the woods soothed me. What greens will New Mexico bring to my palette?

The blue of the pond reflects that forest green of the woodsPrivacy among the treesGreen as calming

A Harvest of Autumn Events

Posted by on Oct 1, 2019 in Writing | 0 comments

IF YOU LOVE WORDS, STORYTELLING, WRITING, & BOOKS …

Every Tuesday. 11:30 AM-1:30 PM – THE EASTSIDE WRITING ROOM. No fee, no phones, no talking. Just write. Contact Ethel etheleemiller@me.com or   https://etheleemiller.com

OCTOBER

Thursday, October 3 – 7:00-9:00 PM  – ODYSSEY STORYTELLING: “Spirits”   An eclectic group of storytellers share personal stories about spirits! Curators: Phil Gordon, Jess Kapp. Sea of Glass Center  330 E. 7th St.  $10 Adults, $7 Students.   https://odysseystorytelling.com

Saturday, October 5  – 9:30-11:30 AM – TUCSON TELLERS OF TALES: “Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem Brittle Bones” Join us to tell or listen to spooky or broken bones stories. Unscrewed Theater 4500 E. Speedway Blvd #39. $0 Members. $5 Guests.  https://tellersoftalestucson.com

NOVEMBER

Saturday, November 2 – 10:00 AM–12:30 PM – TUCSON TELLERS OF TALES   A very special holiday kick-off. Brunch and Dia de los Muertos stories. RSVP. Contact Ethel or Tellers of Tales.   https://tellersoftalestucson.com

Thursday, November 7 – 7:00-9:00 PM – ODYSSEY STORYTELLING: “Second Chances”  You messed up, goofed, “forgot.” Did you get a second chance? He/She lied, cheated, misunderstood. Do you give a second chance? Storytellers Gina Rooney, Susy Plummer, Jennifer Treece, Hank Miller, Paloma Ibanez, Riley, Andrea Carmichael, and Tim Bentley share their second chance. Curators: Ethel Lee-Miller & Bella Vivante. Sea of Glass 330 E. 7th St $10 Adults, $7 Students.   https://odysseystorytelling.com

Saturday, November 9  – 12:30-1:30 PM (afternoon session) – ARIZONA MYSTERY WRITERS hosts Ethel Lee-Miller “From the Page to the Stage” Turn your next reading, lecture, or presentation into an entertaining, effective performance! Get some very good answers to: Best way to use notes. Stage fright, Talk into a mic? Eye Contact and Read at the same time? And more. Tucson City Center Inn Suites, 475 N. Granada Ave. $30 non-members, includes lunch; $25 for RSVP’d members. Info:   https://www.arizonamysterywriters.com

DECEMBER

Saturday, December 7 – 9:30-11:30 AM – TUCSON TELLERS OF TALES:  “We Remember” Tell or listen to stories remembering Pearl Harbor and honoring our military service men and women. Unscrewed Theater  4500 E Speedway Blvd #39, Tucson, AZ 85712. Free for members; $5 guest donation.     https://tellersoftalestucson.com

Saturday, December 7 –  10:00 AM-12:00 noon – HOLIDAY BOOK FAIR Santa Cruz Valley Chapter- Society of Southwestern Authors. Gifts for the book lovers in your life. Or take advantage of this wonderful, low-cost event to showcase/sell your books. Village of Green Valley Recreation Center 400 W. San Ignacio, GV. Handicap accessible. Reg.: https://www.ssa-az.org/santa_cruz_chapter.htm

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s been immersed in writing for over 30 years, teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. She also enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Tucson Tellers of Tales, and just about anywhere there’s a mic.