Archive for December, 2009

Honoring Children’s Literature

Well we survived Christmas, and now we have to survive the rest of the year! It shouldn’t be too difficult – one week to go!

Last week I was gathering some books to give a friend going through a difficult time. I went to our local independent book shop, Tecolote, which is my absolute favorite. I asked for the inspirational section and one of the store’s employees recommended, What the Dormouse Said: Lessons for Grown-Ups From Children’s’ Books Collected by Amy Gash.

Initially, the title did not grab me, but as I flipped through the 146 page book which could be held in one hand, I found it to be a gem. I fell in love not only with the layout, but with the quotes Amy Gash chose to put in the book. It’s neat revisiting some of these books and some of the values and virtues we were taught as kids through children’s literature.

As a mother of three, I know I’ve read dozens of  kids books, some in which the moral of the story is easier to ascertain than others. What is nice about this book is that Amy spent a great deal of time gathering the essentials in some very prominent children’s books, including: The Little Prince, The Secret Garden Aesop’s Fables, Charlotte’s Web, Good Night Moon, 101 Dalmatians and many more of our favorites!

What a treat it was revisiting books I hadn’t picked up in almost twenty years! They also sparked some writing and journaling ideas –which is always welcome during those times of drought!

  • “Nothing is always” – The Girl Who Loved In The Wind
  • You can’t expect two starts to drop in the same field in one lifetime.” – Mary Poppins
  • “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” – Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
  • “There’s nothing as cozy as a piece of candy and a book.” – Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic

  • I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” – The Little Engine That Could
  • “It is such a secret place, the land of tears.” – The Little Prince


And the one most appropriate for this time of year:

  • “To him it was not the gift that mattered, but the giver.” – The Turnip

The Red Book by C.J. Jung

Last week I had the special opportunity to visit Pacifica University for James Hillman’s Lecture, entitled “The Active Imagination,” which was prompted by the recent and controversial release of C. G.Jung’s The Red Book (Liber Novu) which last month was published by his heirs with the assistance of the translator Sonu Shamdasani. Hillman encountered Jung in Zurich in 1958 after obtaining his Ph.D. Jung began the journal in 1913 after a falling-out with Freud. Apparently he was afflicted by a psychotic episode which he viewed as a voluntary confrontation with his unconscious. At the time he was having strange dreams and frightening visions. Because of the personal and quirky nature of the manuscript, it was not published during his lifetime. The book’s theme is about how Jung regained his soul and overcame his imbalance and spiritual isolation.

In The Red Book, Jung described his dreams which reflected what was going on in the world—what was happening during the horror and crumbling of the 19th century. According to Hillman, Jung was thrown off by all the events of the time. Hillman described The Red Book as the theory of madness and the defending of madness. He continues, “Many have written that Jung was psychotic or had something called, ‘creative illness.’ This makes the point that in order to do something radical, one must leave the safe terrain. What held it together for Jung was his commitment to his own world, which had no acceptance and had no real authoritative background.” Apparently, Jung stayed committed to the journal for about 15 years and wrote in it at the end of the day, in spite of a busy practice, a wife and children. He was desperate. He was going crazy and had to do something. He was trying to survive with his demons, images and voices, which is why he wrote in the journal.

Jung believed that imagination is the reproductive activity of the mind in general. He believed that people often suffer from a lack of imagination. According to Hillman, many might have thought this book to be a book of instruction, but in fact it’s not – it is simply a book to learn from. The book retails for $195, but is available on Amazon for $ 114.07, although I noticed this morning that it is temporarily out of stock. I also understand the book is on display until January at The Rubin Museum of Art in NYC.

What Moves You?

This was a question frequently posed by my mentor, Anaïs Nin, and today I pose the question to you, my readers. During the past few weeks I have been in the midst of what could aptly be called a literary slump. Thankfully, my recent sojourn to Paris healed me. Many writers, both living and dead, have professed that you should write what you know—but I will take this thought one step further and suggest that you write what you are passionate about or what moves you. The energy of your passion will be enough to carry your creative energy across the page.

Beyond writing about what interests you, the question is: what do writers do when they simply cannot be ‘moved?’What do they do when their pen stalls on the page and words do not churn out as quickly as they would like?

The Poets & Writers website has a section called, “Writers Recommend,” which is a collection of interviews with writers whose work has previously appeared on their pages. In this section, writers discuss what inspires them and what they might do to stimulate their creative juices. I believe many of these suggestions apply to all creative persons. Many of the writers’ responses may seem obvious to my readers, but it is amusing, nevertheless, to see these ideas all lumped together. Below is a summary of the most interesting and helpful tips offered by these writers, some which have been used for centuries by artists and writers alike. My recent trip to Paris was a testament to their efficacy because I have returned to the U.S. with a heightened literary charge. In fact, during my week in Paris, I managed to fill up an entire leather journal, accompanied by jottings on my laptop of future article ideas.

Here’s a summary:

1)    Go to places that inspire you—whether it is a bookshop, local park or café

2)    Read the works of your favorite writers to stimulate or alter your own world

3)    Sit somewhere outside of your typical writing area

4)    Do something different to recharge your battery, like learning a new hobby or sport

5)    Drink coffee, sip alcohol or use other mood-altering vices… in moderation, of course

6)    Listen to music

In addition to this list, there are other things I personally do to stimulate my own creativity or to give me a literary boost. For example, I might visit my local bookstore or library, walk around and pick up a  book which interests me and skim through its pages. I might carefully study the Edward Hopper print on my writing studio wall, which depicts a woman reading her book in a moving train. Something about her demeanor and sense of calm stimulates my creativity. For some poetic inspiration, I might focus on one image or emotion for an extended period of time and this might percolate into a poem. Sometimes while traveling, (which I frequently do because all three of my children live on the east coast), I might write a poem on a hotel pad, in the same way that William Carlos Williams used to draft poetry on prescription pads between patients. Speaking of Williams, while in Paris, I visited one of the three or four English bookstores, The Red Wheelbarrow.

The Red Wheel Barrow

So much depends

upon

a red wheel

barrow

glazed with rain

water

beside the white

chicken.

Et voila! Here’s to inspiration. Let me hear from you as to what you might do to get your own creative juices churning and if you found any of my tips useful.


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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