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Upcoming Speaking Engagements

I love teaching writing – both in the practical nuts and bolts right to the hands-on workshops. I have multiple workshops available and want to share two conferences where I will be presenting in the next four months.

words in 3 dimensions write edit publish alexis marie chute blog

  1. Words in 3 Dimensions

WHERE: Chateau Lacombe Hotel, Edmonton, AB, CAN

WHEN: May 22 – 24, 2015

DETAILS: Words in 3D is unique because it gives writers connection to the full scope of industry resources, workshops and networks. This includes writing, editing and publishing.

WHAT: I will be meeting with aspiring writers in the Blue Pencil Café, giving advice and feedback. I will also be teaching two seminars:

How to Take a Picture Worthy of Your Words – Saturday, May 23, 2015 (Breakout Session 2)

DESCRIPTION: Covering the basics of good photography, including exposure, composition, and technical requirements for different publications, Alexis Marie Chute shares what writers need to know about taking great photos for their projects. This session includes a group brainstorm for attendees’ current projects and recommendations from Alexis Marie on making your photography a stronger statement to support your words.

Memorable Memoir: Writing Personal Stories –Saturday, May 23, 2015 (Breakout Session 4)

DESCRIPTION: Alexis Marie Chute offers tools and techniques for writing your personal story: removing sentimentality, finding alternatives to strict chronological structure, and building authenticity. Featuring memory recall exercises, this presentation is a must-see for anyone writing personal narratives.

 

the compassionate friends national conference hope shines bright deep in the heart wanted chosen planned alexis marie chute

  1. 38th National Conference of The Compassionate Friends

WHERE: The Hyatt Regency, Dallas, Texas, USA

WHEN: July 10-12, 2015

DETAILS: This is a conference for those who grieve the loss of a child (or sibling or grandchild). The conference aims to form a community and give support, both for the bereaved and bereavement workers.

WHAT: I will be delivering two workshops:

Creative Writing to Rejuvenate Bereavement Professionals and Volunteers

 

– and –

Art-Making to Rejuvenate Bereavement Professionals and Volunteers

 

If you would like information about any of my seminars and workshops, please email me at [email protected]

 

Publication Update

As I diligently work away at some of my big writing projects, it’s always nice to pause and celebrate the smaller works that have made their way out into the world. Here are some of my publications from the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015:

  • “The Quiet Rebuild” Portraits – Bellingham Review, Washington University, Bellingham, Washington, USA
  • “Legacy of Love,” Perspectives Magazine, TSC Alliance

Alexis Marie Chute Perspectives Mag blog

 

What have you been working on lately?

 

I’m Teaching Two Sessions at Words in 3D Conferencence

In May 2015 aspiring writers will convene to learn and be challenged in the areas of writing, editing and publishing. I attended the Words in 3 Dimensions Conference last year and found it wildly valuable, plus a great opportunity to connect with other literary artists. With so many good memories in my pocket, it was an honour to be asked to present at the 2015 event.

 

Here is information about Words in 3D and the two sessions I will be teaching:

 

Words in 3 Dimensions 2015

May 22 – 24, 2015

Chateau Lacombe Hotel

Edmonton, Alberta

Registration opens February 1, 2015

 

How to Take a Picture Worthy of Your Words

Saturday, May 23, 2014

11:30AM – 12:45PM

Covering the basics of good photography, including exposure, composition, and technical requirements for different publications, Alexis Marie Chute shares what writers need to know about taking great photos for their projects. This session includes a group brainstorm for attendees’ current projects and recommendations from Alexis Marie on making your photography a stronger statement to support your words.

 

Memorable Memoir: Writing Personal Stories

Saturday, May 23, 2015

4:00PM – 5:15PM

Alexis Marie Chute offers tools and techniques for writing your personal story: removing sentimentality, finding alternatives to strict chronological structure, and building authenticity. Featuring memory recall exercises, this presentation is a must-see for anyone writing personal narratives.

 

 

 

Refocus your Writing Life this Autumn

Summer lovin’, had me a blast. Summer lovin’, happened so fast…

It did happen so fast and now that summer is reduced to a scrapbook full of photos, it’s time to refocus on writing. During the blissfully warm vacation season, it’s easy to slack off and develop poor writing habits. Who wouldn’t want to swim in the lake instead of pounding out the morning pages or tee up on the golf course instead of cracking down on the challenging scene from the work in progress?

Alas, now that September has arrived there is no better time to get your writing practice back to where you want it to be. Just like any habit, it will take some time but do not fret. Developing good writerly habits is a matter of mental determination and will power.

Try these tips to help you refocus:

  • Write out a list of projects you wish to accomplish and how you are going to achieve them.
  • Free write to get the creative juices flowing.
  • Read a new book to get your mind alert and engaged.
  • Take in a theatrical performance or visit an art gallery for inspiration.
  • Go for a jog and think about your manuscript as you sweat.
  • Tell your family and friends that you can’t hang out on certain days because you are writing – and get them to hold you accountable.
  • Visit a writing group or attend a workshop.
  • Duck tape your butt to your chair and get started.

Sometimes the most challenging part of getting back into routine after the summer is just getting started. Once you pound out a hundred boring words, I’m confident you’ll find your rhythm. Even if those first hundred words take you an hour, remember breakthrough is just around the corner. Writing is not easy. It is a habit of perseverance, determination and hope.

Good luck with all your writing projects this autumn!

 

 

A Pep Talk for the 3 Day Novel Contest 2014

The 3 Day Novel Contest is not a marathon; it’s a sprint. It requires stamina, determination and vision.

The first time I participated in the 3 Day Novel writing competition, which is held every labour day weekend, I had a newborn on my lap and an outline in my hand. My husband was supportive and kept my three year old busy and delivered plates of yummy food to my desk at semi-regular intervals. I knew roughly where my story would take me, what characters would be major players, and my approximate plot arc. The rest of the details were filled in as I wrote. I didn’t sleep much that weekend – but having a newborn to care for and nurse prepared me well.

The weekend was an adventure of speed and imagination – and I enjoyed every moment of it.

To coach writers in preparation for the 3 Day Novel Contest, in the final days leading up to the challenge, my advice is straightforward:

Perfectionism is your enemy.

First drafts are not meant to be flawless. The most important concern at this stage is getting your ideas out on the page. Perfectionism, while unattainable, is a characteristic better saved for the editing stage.

You can edit later.

Turn off the left brain urge to edit while you write; it will slow you down and bog you in details that should not matter in the initial time of creative expression. While writing, let the ideas flow. You can critique your sentence structure, grammar and pacing later.

Drink lots of liquids.

If your body gets run down, your writing will suffer. Creativity is a mental and physical engagement. Be present, mindful and aware of your body, taking care of it as if you were running a race. Water is essential.

Get some exercise.

This can be achieved by literally running to the bathroom after all the liquids, but, seriously, getting up, stretching and flexing your muscles is tremendously important. You will be challenging the muscle of your brain but getting the blood flow throughout your whole body will make all the difference.

Trust your imagination to fill in the gaps.

At this stage of the writing, don’t worry if you accidentally changed the eye colour of your main character part way through your manuscript. Don’t worry if you are unsure how to end your story or how to get your protagonist from point A to point B. As you write, your imagination will give you solutions to the problems perturbing you and any errors can be fixed later. Free write to see what will come out of you but don’t worry. Worry inhibits your best writing.

Believe in yourself.

Write a novel in three days? Yes, it is possible. You can do it. I have done it, lots of people have done it, and so can you. Challenges are fun and push us to the limit. It’s worth the effort. (Even if you don’t “finish” your novel, if you survive the weekend and gave it your all, that’s something to be proud of.)

Have fun.

The 3 Day Novel Contest is not meant to be work. It is a fun weekend getaway (in your office or at the coffee shop); a chance for writers to do something silly and goofy like write a novel in three days! Go with the flow. Make it a game. Also, join in the conversation about the writing process by tweeting using #3DayNovel. I connected with a few individuals during the weekend and we ended up continuing the conversation and starting an online writing group.

Well, do you accept the challenge? Tomorrow, Friday August 29, is the last day to register.

I believe in you! The 3 Day Novel Contest is upon us. Good luck!

 

 

Writing about Difficult Subject Matter

Writers amongst other artists have the amazing ability to challenge, question, critique and explore our society.

They ask:

– What do we believe as a people?

– Why do we believe this?

– Is there another way?

Many individuals have mixed feelings about writing about controversial topics and taboo subjects. There is a part of me that relates to that and wants to keep the peace, not rock the boat, and ensure everyone is happy. That’s the boring side of me though and she often takes backseat to the other part that’s BOLD and COURAGEOUS.

I want my work to matter and because of this I need to write about what matters to me first and foremost. My topics often seen unpopular or reflect a concealed part of accepted human behavior. For example, for the last two and a half years I have been writing about the death of my son, managing grief and finding healing. It never fails to amaze me how these topics make people uncomfortable – unless they have lived through them. People who have lost a loved one speak my language and I to them. Those are the people who I write for with this focus on bereavement.

The Three Minus One anthology features an essay I wrote where I reveal my raw state of sorrow in the early days after my son died.

The Three Minus One anthology features an essay I wrote where I reveal my raw state of sorrow in the early days after my son died. Read more about Three Minus One.

The different topic I’m embarking on with my new writing at the moment is also somewhat taboo yet equally important I believe to bring into the open. That’s what I care about: opening up topics that should be talked about, breaking the silence. I ask myself all the time: Why are these things hidden?  Should they be? What will happen if I talk about them? Will I tarnish my reputation? Spontaneously combust? Will my work be accepted? How can I change the world?

Here are four principles that provide internal navigation for me in writing about difficult subject matter:

 

– When you are just beginning to write, do not think about who will read your words. Write from the heart.

– Tell the truth. The truth is scary but needed in our day and age. Your work will matter and stand the test of time if it reflects the time it which was penned.

– If it matters to you, it will likely matter to other people. They are who you write for.

– If it crashes and burns, who cares? You only live once and might as well give it all you’ve got. 

 

What helps you when you have a challenging topic on your mind? How do you get your thoughts down on paper and out into the world?

 

 

Writers have important work to do…

… But everyone deserves a day off. 

Have a great weekend everyone!

 

 

MFA Reflections: I’m a Booklover at Heart

There are so many things I love about grad school. The keener in me jumps for joy, for one. I absolutely cherish the immersion in my passion for creative writing and the challenge to improve. The interesting thing I’ve discovered is that this improvement has seeped into every area of my creative practice as writer, artist and human; how I read books, the way I appreciate art, the descriptions I chose when telling my friends about a really amazing experience.

Alexis Marie Chute Harvard Bookstore Books Things I have learned 2 Alexis Marie Chute Harvard Bookstore Books Things I have learned

The reading part is one indulgent pleasure of school. Oh boy, I sound like a nerd – but I love that I have an excuse now to brush off other things to curl up like a cat and read (although I’m more of a dog person). At my school residency in June, a friend introduced me to the Harvard Co-Op Bookstore. It was two levels of row upon row of books. Pure eye candy.

I never thought I’d compare the spines of books lining the walls to a great work of art – but they are sublimely beautiful to me.

Alexis Marie Chute Harvard Bookstore Books Writing

I’ve always loved reading, from as young as I can remember. Summers were spent cradling the pages of novels throughout the warm days till I went cross-eyed every night. And what else is there to do in winter for someone who hates being cold? I have an almost photographic memory and because I imagined all the stories I read, I can still see many of them, like movie clips in my mind.

As a memoir and personal essay writer, I read a lot in these genres. There are many sad stories out in the world. Maybe this is because the challenging moments define us and reveal the people we are, that at the core of the human experience we want to become our best, most happy selves and thus we search for meaning. My first memoir, which is so close to the finish line in editing, is a challenging story. What I’ve starting to work on now is more cheeky and definitely more scandalous (wink, wink) – but in the end they are two stories that connect. One could not have been without the other.

Alexis Marie Chute Harvard Bookstore Books Best American Short Stories 2013

Right now I’m taking a needed break from reading memoirs to delve into short stories. I love the short story form. There are so many craft techniques that jump out at me. Currently I’m working my way through The Best American Short Stories of 2013 and up next is the Best of the 21st Century… which is a mighty large volume.

Writing speaks to the reader, it calls to the child in us who read for pleasure before life got busy and complicated, it plants new ideas and waters the old ones. Writing sings.

What does good writing or your favorite book do for you? And please, please tell me about your favorite book stores and which worn spines decorate your walls like art.

Happy reading day!

 

Rejection as a Badge of Honour

Not many people I know talk about how many rejection letters they’ve received. It’s not a popular topic. People would much rather discuss areas of their life that are going well; the job promotion, the award, the scholarship, the blossoming relationship…  And who would blame them?

I, on the other hand, want to talk about rejection. Silly me, I know, but I’ve got rejection on the brain since my latest one arrived. When I was a young writer, rejection was a dirty word, a word I avoided at all costs in hopes of self-preservation. Now, after many years as a professional writer and artist, I have learned that rejection letters are a badge of honour. Let me tell you why.

Alexis Marie Chute writer rejection illustration

Rejections reveal perseverance.

The writer is writing, words are being put to paper, there are ideas being explored. This is the first hurtle of every creative person, to believe enough in one’s own work to create in the first place.

Rejections reveal courage.

The writer is brave enough to submit and query which in itself is a terrifying process likened to a blind date. The palms sweat but there is hope and curiosity – and who knows how it will turn out? It takes vulnerability and belief in one’s self to put the work out there. It’s admirable, commendable, and just plain heroic actually.

Rejections reveal humanity.

Most writers curse the form letter that arrives in the mail or, heaven help us, the email (I loathe rejection emails by the way – unless the query was sent by email in the first place.) I remember feeling terribly down, and shedding a tear on occasion, after receiving my early rejections. They stung – but that in itself was evidence of loving the craft, profession and the calling of being a writer. If it didn’t sting, it would show a writer cared little for their work.

Rejections reveal determination.

What is the writer’s response? Determination rises up in the face of the lost opportunity. It says, “Screw it. I’m not done yet!” and get’s back to work. It asks, “What can I do to improve my writing? Where should I send this query next? What of my writing would better fit this particular publication? How can I become even better at what I do?”

When I was a kid, Mom repeated a phrase to me over and over until I ate, slept and breathed it: If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.

I am proud to announce that I have received over fifty (5-0!) rejection letters for my writing and artwork as of this week. I’m actually at 52 and that is just my record over the last few years where I’ve kept track. Fifty. 50. It’s an accomplishment. I stopped fretting over rejections at around the 30-mark and now just swear, sit once again at my desk and continue on.

Alexis Marie Chute writer rejection illustration image 2

The fiftieth anniversary gift is traditionally gold but for now a pat on the back will suffice. Yes, it’s my own hand doing the congratulating, it’s a good arm stretch really, a needed break from all the typing. Writing is a solitary act and if you can’t give yourself a pep talk, you’re in for trouble.

If I were to time travel back to my earlier self and offer encouragement, this is what I would say:

Keep writing. Never give up. The rejections will always bite but eventually you’ll learn to bite back. It does get easier. One day at a time. Success is for those that believe in themselves and their work. Good luck!

 

How many rejection letters have you received? How do you cope? 

 

MFA Creative Writing Reflections

How do I feel finishing my first year as a creative writing MFA grad student? Thank you for asking.

I feel:

  • Exhausted
  • Excited
  • Proud
  • Motivated
  • Educated
  • Ready for a vacation!

When I reflect on my first year at Lesley University, it’s apparent that I like to challenge myself. Oh the leisurely life of a slacker… that has never been me. In my first year I have experienced creative and craft breakthrough, honed my voice and forced myself to edit like a samurai. It has really has paid off. I have developed an awesome work ethic when it comes to my writing. It’s not always fun, but I sit my but in the chair (or stand at my make-shift standing desk) and get to work. I love being productive and that is a reward in itself many days.

My MFA program has not been all work and no play. I LOVE (love, love, love) my school residencies and count many of my peers dear friends. Sometimes I daydream about them, wonder what they are up to in their part of the world, hope that their writing is going fabulously and of course eagerly anticipate seeing them at the next residency.

 

Over the last year, as a writer I have learned:

  • To never give up
  • Following your passions involves sacrifice
  • Sleep is often optional
  • The harder you work the better you become

 

Over the last year, as a human being I have learned:

  • To see the beauty in every person and hope for the best
  • When busy with your passions, make every moment with loved ones quality time
  • Regular, boring life can inspires greatness
  • Family time is never optional

 

The craziest part of my exhaustion after the first year? I am already considering my PhD options. Go figure!

This coffee mug was given to me by my second semester mentor, Pam Petro. It’s become my, “I’m a writer” mug, and I love it.

Alexis Marie Chute MFA creative writing Lesley University coffee cup 2 blog