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2019 Writers Conference

On Friday, March 29, 2019, Writing Day Workshops is hosting a one-day conference in downtown St. Louis, in conjunction with Saturday Writers, a chapter of the Missouri Writers Guild. It’s a full day of workshops and optional add-on opportunities to get critiques on your work, pitch to an agent, and network. For anyone interested in testing the waters for a larger conference, like Gateway Con, this is a great way to get your feet wet and see how helpful a conference can be to growing your career and skills as a writer.

Having volunteered at a couple of writing conferences myself over the years, let me tell you, it is becoming increasingly common for agents to do remote pitching over the costs of travel to cons in person, which is what makes the one-on-one opportunity here to be a shame to miss. Some of the workshops are even being taught by agents — it’d be a shame to miss this!

The conference is featuring the following agents and representatives:

  • Eric Smith, of P.S. Literary Agency
  • Eliza Rothstein, of Inkwell Literary
  • Victoria Selvaggio, of Storm Literary
  • Patty Carothers, of Metamorphosis Literary
  • Kortney Price, of Corvisiero Literary

Additionally, I will also be attending the conference to hear pitches, working officially as a “literary agent assistant” for Metamorphosis Literary. What that means is that I’m not a literary agent yet, so, I can’t take pitches on behalf of myself, but what I can do, is listen to pitches on behalf of the agents at Metamorphosis Literary who won’t be attending, and hopefully find some great new work that they may be interested in learning more about in the future.

As of the time of this post, there are still some tickets available but if you’re interested in attending, I definitely wouldn’t wait until the day-of. You can learn more about the conference and reserve your tickets at StLouisWritersConference.com. I hope to see you there!

Elusive Beauty

Taken yesterday with my iPhone. The blue morpho butterflies are currently hatching and mating. There were thousands of them. Quite a marvelous sight. I’m told by repeat visitors that nighttime is actually the best time to capture still shots as they are less active. I was pleased with this photo however.

What’s Playing: Atelier

Viewed: 2016. 01/24-02/09

Netflix episode list and trailer available here.*

This post is in no way sponsored or endorsed by Netflix.

Atelier was my introduction to the world of Asian dramas available on YouTube. And there are so, so, many to choose from. Atelier, which is also branded as Underwear in some regions, is the story of Tokita Mayuko** (Mirei Kiritani), a young woman starting out in the couture lingerie fashion industry, and what sets her apart from other startup designers, is her obsession with fabrics. She’s a total nerd, seriously. It kind of makes her adorable.

Emotion, the company she goes to work for, is renowned for its excellence in lingerie, but its owner, President Nanjo Mayumi (Mao Daichi) is both a demanding employer and harbors ambitions and secrets far beyond the experience of little Mayuko, who must learn, in this coming-of-age Netflix Original miniseries, how to grow into the artist she longs to become, and navigate the treacherous world of the fashion industry.

This is the first extended TV series that I can recall ever watching in a foreign language and I admit, there is a learning curve. Unlike other binge-worthy shows on Netflix, dramas in a foreign language (thankfully, with English subtitles, or I’d be hopelessly lost!) do not allow you to follow the story in the background while you’re doing other things. If you don’t know the native language, you have to be paying attention to the subtitles. So yes, there is a lot of reading involved. Once I was able to transition past that, the subtitles fades into the background in the same way that a translator disappears, and you’re just speaking face-to-face with that other person, and focusing on their message, their story.

Albeit with some racy imagery (it is called Underwear for a reason!), you are left with an engrossing story that is universal in its application, if exotic (to Westerners like me), in its setting. And that is probably where I got hooked. The story is for mature audiences (in my opinion, probably teenagers or up), but if you are a fan of fashion workplace dramas like The Devil Wears Prada, you will probably enjoy giving this a try.

If this post inspires you to see the series for the first time, or if you’re a veteran viewer of Atelier, please consider commenting and letting me know what you liked or didn’t like about the series. I look forward to hearing from you.

Over the next few months, expect to see more updates of other Chinese, Korean and Japanese dramas and romantic comedies that I’ve enjoyed over the years, available on Netflix.

Author’s note:

  • The trailer is in the original language, without English subtitles, so try to focus on the story, not getting lost by the language (unless you can speak it of course).

** IMDB.com seems to list actor names in Western (first, last) style, and character names in Chinese format (last, first). Here, I’ve tried to include them all in Western style, (for the ease of my readers) and hopefully gotten the names down in the right order. Since I just starting out, if I’ve gotten the names backwards somehow, please let me know so I can edit this post and make corrections, thank you!

“So, how’s that internship going?”

We’ve crossed the threshold into a new year and who only knows the plans that God has in store in the days ahead. I am delighted to say that this post to update you all about my literary internship was postponed (since last month) because the internship is still ongoing! That’s right, the awesome folks at Metamorphosis Literary Agency have allowed me an extension on my internship so I can take some additional time to go at a slower pace and still learn the ropes. And what a fascinating journey this has been so far! It is such a remarkable blessing to be able to see what goes on in a literary agency, from the other side of the desk.

In my own journey — from a reader, to a writer, to a book reviewer and blogger, to a managing editor of a small publication, and now, an intern for a literary agency — I can see the shift gradually moving into more of the publishing industry. What I’m finding is that my experiences, as varied and unpredictable as they’ve been, have been kind of a training ground, preparing me in ways I never realized. I learned about story structure and the fundamentals of writing (in high school and college); being a blogger (originally a book blogger) led to my being a reviewer for the Historical Novel Society. This trained me to look at books critically in a market for readers, as well as was my introduction to what is being published in certain genres. Even my background in the library field has well-acquainted me with reading trends (on the ground experience), recognizing self-published titles as opposed to traditional presses and educated me in cover design. All of these are skills I can now draw from as needed in the future, and I am thankful for these experiences.

I am so excited for 2019 and am immensely grateful to Stephanie Hansen, Patty Carothers, and the other great folks at Metamorphosis for being willing to take me under their wing and allow me this opportunity to learn and grow.

Life List Revised 2.0

A number of years ago, I published a “Life List” featuring a to-do list of personal aspirations I’ve had for over the decades and would still like to accomplish. Over the countless iterations of my website, this page was buried, lost, forgotten, and recently, resurfaced. I’ve resurrected the original list in an archived post (backdated to when the page was originally published in 2015), which, you are welcome to read the full list here.

Thinking over Chris Guillebeau’s idea of an annual review, I thought maybe it would be fun to bring my life list back and make some tentative goals for 2019 of experiences I’d like to have to still try and achieve.

I think some of the more doable ones for 2019 might include…

Spring 2019:

#41. I’ll be attending a writing conference as a literary agent assistant and hearing pitches from writers. The conference is paying me an honorarium for my time too, so multiple reasons to be stoked for this event, where hopefully it’ll mark my first real payment for work in the literary world.

#49. Visit a lavender farm. I think that lavender blooms sometime in spring (although I need to double-check this…) and I’ve learned in the past year that there are lavender farms only an hour or two from where I live so it could potentially be one of those doable day trip experiences, but I need to get it on the calendar.

Summer 2019:

#15 & 16. I’d really like to try and go to a local(ish) horse track this summer and place some bets. It’s no Churchill Downs but it sounds like a lot of fun really and I love horses.

#45. Bite the bullet and join a major literary organization as a member. Also, get professional headshots taken for my media packet.

Another lifelong goal achieved, I will be able to attend a floating lantern festival for the first time. It’s been cancelled twice by golly, and I’ve got tickets. Let’s light them up!

Autumn 2019:

#26. Walk the Ted Jones Trail In autumn. I’m feeling less thrilled about this idea than I have been in the past. I do want to get out and about more but walking this particular trail holds less meaning for me today than it did seven years ago. I’m honestly debating just taking this off the list altogether. Perhaps there’s another fun autumn outdoor activity I could try. Suggestions anyone?

Winter 2019:

#32. Memorize the “12 Days of Christmas” song.

#50. Memorize a poem.

Life List

#1. Attend Pentecost (indoors) at the Pantheon in Rome.

#2. Be baptised in the Jordan River.

#3. Tour the Crayola factory.

#4. Watch a Broadway show in NYC.

#5. Visit the dollhouse exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago (Midwest activity!).

#6. Have a singing role in a musical performance.

#7. Climb the pyramids.

#8. Eat a breakfast alfresco on a balcony somewhere in Paris the Mediterranean.

#9. Volunteer at an archaeological site. Completed! (Archaeology Day at Cahokia Mounds, August 2010)
08-08-2010

#10. Explore Petra by horseback riding.

#11. Go spelunking.

#12. Zipline through a rain forest.

#13. Walk across a bridge over a waterfall. Completed! (Watkins Glen State Park, September 2018).

img_0856

#14. Publish a novella or novel.

#15. Place a horse bet.

#16. Attend the Kentucky Derby a horse race.

#17. Relax in the hot springs at the Cotton Castle, Turkey.

#18. Watch the ‘Running of the Bulls’ in Pamplona.

#19. Photograph an Aurora Borealis.

#20. Visit a bluebell wood in season. Completed! (Shaw Nature Reserve, April 17th, 2014)
lauren miller_hike

#21. Go stormchasing!

#22. Hike to Machu Picchu.

#23. Selfie with the heads on Easter Island.

#24. Tour the Holy Land.

#25. Take the Amtrak on a jaunt.

#26. Walk the Ted Jones Trail (Midwest activity!).

#27. Attend Book Expo America.

#28. Attend another “meet” with fellow gamers across the pond Completed! (April 2017).

#29. Successfully keep a houseplant from dying.

#30. Ride in a hot air balloon.

#31. Learn archery.

#32. Memorize all ’12 Days of Christmas’. Invariably, we go Christmas caroling and my voice trails off the higher up the list we go…

#33. Become a wine connoisseur.

#34. Sail down the Nile.

#35. Visit Stonehenge.

#36. Travel to Italy.

#37. Travel to France.

#38. Camp out at Ayers Rock and watch the sun rise or set.

#39. Write daily.

#40. Earn an honorable mention (or place) in a writing competition.

#41. Get paid for writing work.

#42. Write a review/blurb that is included on the back cover of someone else’s book.

#43. Write a review that is published in a major journal (e.g. Library Journal or Publisher’s Weekly).

#44. Write a review and have a blurb of it featured in the “Advanced Praise/Reviews” pages inside of someone else’s book. Completed! (“Death Deals A Hand” by Janet Dawson, June 2016).


#45. Become a member of a major writing/book organization (e.g. JASNA, Historical Novel Society).

#46. Speak in public at a workshop event. Completed! (St. Louis Writers Guild, November 2013).

#47. Publish an e-book.

#48. Successfully paint a single word in Chinese Calligraphy.

#49. Visit a lavender farm. Take photos! Pick gorgeous in-season lavender.

#50. Memorize a poem.

A Poem on Sowing

I spent some time this morning, at the request of a friend, composing a short poem in honor of farming and the gradual transition from winter to the vernal season. It’s so grey here in the Midwest that thoughts of warmer weather and springtime were most welcome. This is the first time I’ve shared this work (as I literally wrote it this morning over a 90-minute period) and it is written with an A-B-C-B scheme. The inspiration for this song was Camille Saint-Saens, “Le Cygne”, from The Carnival of the Animals. I hope you enjoy it.


The Fieldworkers’ Song
by Lauren Miller

Frozen archways of leaf and twig,
Underfoot yield as we descend,
the shade of spring as yet to come,
to sundered fields from winter’s end.
Eight plodding hooves of oxen keep,
Apace with each furrowing line,
as hand steers plough, the rapids churn
up earth and stone, beneath bovine.
Embers of starlight cast abroad
on starry fields, we now await,
With hopes aloft and broadcast seeds,
in silence as our dreams gestate.

Practicing at Impromptu Poetry

I’ve never exactly excelled at writing things at the drop of a hat. I’m far too focused on producing a polished product or that and the pressures of writing on demand has been something I’ve avoided with a 10-foot pole. Last night however, I had the opportunity to contemplate on a quest with some friends in the gaming world, Avalon the Legend Lives, and composed a short ditty.  I fully confess to having the medley of “Feed the Birds” by American songwriters and brothers Richard and Robert Sherman in mind as a launching point for the rhyming schemes.

The sea gulls cry as the dawn breaks the night,
and an old fisherman comes into view.
“Mend my nets,” he cries, so often, the wise,
come bearing nets, far and few.

“Nets of pearls, the jewels of the deep,
a lady’s fine tresses alone will they keep,
bring me the gnarled knots, the balsa wood wrought,
Come, mend my nets,” the fisherman cries.

Writing fan fiction is of course, never going to lead to anything serious (they retain copyright, for one), but the practice of writing (often, and forcing myself to be better about writing on the go) is, I think, something I should really try and devote more time to even as I continue to pursue my literary internship and other professional goals. Sharing here as I tend to never jot these things down and quickly forget them again.

Encountering Soul-Changing Beauty

What is it about art that draws us, compels us to a state of contemplation, humbles our souls before the light of the beauty of God’s creation, or moves us to tears?

Over the past few months, many changes have occurred in my life but one of the best ones was an opportunity to travel, where I was able to encounter, what I’d like to call, “soul-changing beauty”, unexpectedly found at an exhibition at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY.

This is the piece of art in question, a work by Louis Comfort Tiffany, of Tiffany and Co. fame:

And here is a small gallery of close-up shots (at least, as close as my camera phone would allow!):

In the foreground, there appears to be a garden of wild grapes, pink hollyhocks, and purple climbing clematis, with a field dipping down to a lake and a rolling hillside in the background.

I am in awe of the level of detail and exquisite colors employed in these stained glass panels and the serenity of the surrounding countryside. I admit there is a certain amount of awe, in seeing Tiffany glass in person, for the first time.

More than that, there is something about beauty that touches our souls. I can’t speak for everyone but speaking for myself, I yearn for beauty and sometimes, a piece of music or a painting or in this case, a stained glass, touches my soul and moves me past my humanity and I feel closer to God. It was such a privilege of being able to see this exquisite work in person, so far from home, and yet its depiction reminds me of the heartland that I love and its people.

My hope is to encourage you today to make time to visit a museum near you soon. Just take a half-day if you can spare it, even a lunch hour, and wander and witness and wait. Wait to meet God in that one painting that moves you beyond your humanity until, like Adam, you are close to touching God. And then, embrace the gift He has placed within you to seek and admire the beauty of His creation and give thanks for it. I know that I am.