Archive for March, 2009

Journaling Women’s History Month

In celebration of the last day of Women’s History Month which has been celebrated since 1987. I would like to mention some of my favorite books by women which are worth reading:

Isabel Allende – My Invented Country

Maya Angelou – I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

Kate Chopin – The Awakening

Annie Dillard – An American Childhood

Lucy Grealy – Autobiography of a Face

Natalie Goldberg – Writing Down the Bones

Vivian Gornick – Fierce Attachments

Kathryn Harrison – The Kiss

Carloyn Heilbrun – The Last Gift of Time

Eva Hoffman – Lost in Translation

Kay Redfield Jamison – An Unquiet Mind

Mary Karr – The Liar’s Club, Cherry

Jennifer Lauck  – Blackbird

Reeve Lindbergh – Gift From the Sea, No More Words

Anais Nin –  The Journals of Anais Nin

Tillie Olsen – Silences

Francine Prose – Reading Like a Writer

Tristine Rainer –  The New Diary

Virginia Woolf – Moments of Being, A Room of One’s Own

Jeannette Walls – The Glass Castle

Winterson, Jeanette – Art Objects

Most of these are nonfiction writers because I mainly read nonfiction and surely there are many many more in this category, but this is a  good start!

Happy Reading!

In Memory of Sylvia Plath and her son, Nicholas Hughes

I was particularly moved by the news that Sylvia Plath’s son, Nicholas, took his life by hanging himself this past weekend at age forty-seven—forty-six years after his mother, Sylvia, took her life by sticking her head in the oven. There’s no doubt the most common prerequisite to suicide is depression. Sylvia and Nicholas both displayed this profile. Sylvia became depressed when her then husband, Ted Hughes, had an affair. Nicholas had just left his position as professor of fisheries and ocean science in Alaska due to depression and had begun a pottery career from home. Perhaps those closest to the victims were too close to identify the gravity of the situation and if they did, they did not know how to help or were too late.

My sympathy goes out to the Plath-Hughes family and all victims of suicide. Below is a poem Sylvia Plath wrote to Nick sometime during his first year of life. It brings tears to my eyes:

Nick and the Candlestick

I am a miner. The light burns blue.

Waxy stalactites

Drip and thicken, tears

The earthen womb

Exudes from its dead boredom.

Black bat airs

Wrap me, raggy shawls,

Cold homicides.

They weld to me like plums.

Old cave of calcium

Icicles, old echoer.

Even the newts are white,

Those holy Joes.

And the fish, the fish—-

Christ! They are panes of ice,

A vice of knives,

A piranha

Religion, drinking

Its first communion out of my live toes.

The candle

Gulps and recovers its small altitude,

Its yellows hearten.

O love, how did you get here?

O embryo

Remembering, even in sleep,

Your crossed position.

The blood blooms clean

In you, ruby.

The pain

You wake to is not yours.

Love, love,

I have hung our cave with roses.

With soft rugs—-

The last of Victoriana.

Let the stars

Plummet to their dark address,

Let the mercuric

Atoms that cripple drip

Into the terrible well,

You are the one

Solid the spaces lean on, envious.

You are the baby in the barn.

I was planning to write a column in honor of Women’s History Month when I learned about the suicide of Sylvia Plath’s son. This tragedy should not hinder celebrating the works of wonderful writers, but it does make one stop in one’s tracks and think about the genetic component of suicide.

Journaling For Stress Release – Part II

Even though many of us complain about stress, in many ways it can make you feel both alive and alert. Personally, I do my best work when under a little bit of stress. The pressure of deadlines, for example, is a great motivator. There have been many studies around the benefits and perils of stress. One study I read recently indicated that those who say they need stress to survive might have been abused as children or permanently affected in the womb after being exposed to high levels of cortisol during gestation. Years ago, my Aunt Lilly gave me a book called, Stress Without Distress by Hans Seyle and many of the principles have stuck with me. Lilly said that book saved her life. She was not only as a female entrepreneur after World War II, but also a survivor of Auschwitz and a widow. Hans Seyle was in the forefront of stress research and science in the 1930s and he believed strongly in good stress, which he coined as, “eustress.’ In fact he saw stress as “the salt of life.” Seyle believed that stress made us human. On a recent trip to Africa, I witnessed that animals experience stress, on a very primitive fight or flight level. It was interesting and enlightening to witness the stress response in animals who were actually in life-threatening situations. Sometimes it helps to remember what may be threatening us isn’t so extreme after all, and may in fact, be positive and life-affirming.

Journaling and Persistence

Last weekend was Arts Day at UCLA and I was honored to be asked to be on a panel called, “Getting Your Work Out There,” for the Writers’ Program. This subject is an important one these days, particularly since the publishing industry is in such a slump. My message was to write your passion and your best writing will emerge. Writing for the market does not always provide the best results. For the neophyte writers in the audience, I reminded them of the thick skin necessary to be a writer and how rejections should not be taken to heart—it’s just a part of the territory of being a writer. If you don’t send your work out, you will never get published. So what should you do with all these rejections? I usually toss out any form letters, and there have probably been enough to decorate the walls of my study twice over. Over the years I’ve made a habit of keeping letters from editors who’ve taken the time to actually write personal letters. For me it’s a possible sign hat I should resubmit to that publication again. Sometimes a piece of work does not fit into the current editorial plan, but it might in the not so distant future. As writers, we need to believe in ourselves and our work, if we don’t who else will? Persistence pays off, trust me.

Journaling For Stress Release

Journaling for Stress Release In view of all the economical changes plaguing this country and the world, many people are feeling very stressed and overwhelmed. Even though some scientific studies have indicated noted stress is good for us, in order to stay healthy it is important to effectively manage stress. Stress can be bad for you and can turn against you if your response to it results in rage and/or depression. One healthy way to cope with stress is to turn a negative into a positive and use the time to express yourself in a journal. Writing can be used as a cure to what is ailing you. Studies have shown that free-writing or writing non-stop for 15 to 20 minutes a day can improve your outlook on life, decrease emotional tension and increase your immune response. In my classes I usually have my students write for at least ten minutes without stopping. In this way the subconscious takes over. Just allow your pen to take you wherever your mind leads you. Put aside the editor and spell-checker. Write yourself out of the frenzy!

Quote of the Week

"A writer uses a journal to try out the new step in front of the mirror."

~Mary Gordon

About Me

I am a memoirist, essayist, poet and teacher whose passion is keeping a notebook. My notebook is my muse and my alter ego. It contains personal snippets of my life and observations from the world around me. Diarist Anaïs Nin has been a great source of inspiration for me. My hobbies include writing, writing and more writing, but when I have extra time, I enjoy reading, walking, hiking, yoga, working out, cooking and hanging out with my family and Maltese Poodle, Spunky. In order not to become ensconced by the glare of my computer screen, I also teach in the UCLA Extension Writers' Program and in various conferences and festivals around the country. My pleasure comes from sharing my joy of journaling with professional writers and anyone interested in writing.

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