Archive for the 'Writing, journaling' Category



Writers and Their Notebooks

I am happy to announce the release of my latest book, Writers and Their Notebooks (The University of South Carolina Press) where I have solicited essays of well-published writers on the role of journaling in their lives. I am honored to have had Phillip Lopate write the book’s foreword. The collection includes essays from: James Brown, Wendy Hall, John Dufresne, Reginald Gibbons, Sue Grafton, Dorianne Laux, Rebecca McClanahan,  Kyoko Mori, Peter Selgin, Kim Stafford, Maureen Stanton, Ilan Stavans, Michael Steinberg, Tony Trigilio Lori VanPelt, to name a few.

The actual publication date is January 31st, but as my eager readers, you can already place your pre-order on Amazon,  Barnes and  Noble and  Powell’s Books. If you want a signed book plate, please email me your address and I’d  be happy to send it to you.

Here’s an excerpt from my introduction:

“A journal is the music and voice of our true emotions. It makes no judgments, is free of editors, critics and teachers. By its nature, the journal captures sentiments, observations, ideas, ruminations and reflections. Whether the writer is expressing the depths of their true feelings, snippets of overheard dialogue, observations, ideas for future projects or listing books to be read, the journal is an important accessory in the writer’s tool kit.

The art of journal writing dates back to when men wrote on cave walls. The first published journals were those of Samuel Pepys in the 17th century. Between 1660 and 1669 he wrote an 11-volume diary that was published after his death in 1825. Next, there were the journals of The Lewis and Clark expedition in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Then, along came James Swan, a native American wrote extensively in the mid-1800s about whaling practices.

Walt Whitman wrote in his journal in the mid-1860s, and then Ralph Waldon Emerson wrote about friends and activities of special interest to him. As a matter of fact he wrote about Henry David Thoreau. In 1885, Susy Clemens (the daughter of Mark Twain) was 13-years-old when she began to write a memoir of her celebrated father.

Virginia Woolf, one of the 20th century’s most influential writers said that she wrote in her diary to bring order into the chaos in her life.

In the mid-twentieth century, Anne Frank, for her 13th birthday, received a diary from her parents. Twenty-five days later, to avoid imprisonment, her family went into hiding in the upper floor of her father’s office building. Her book, The Diary of A Young Girl, published years later, was written about her hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam.

The intrigue and curiosity of what is written on journal pages is innate to human character, which might be why the Diary of A Young Girl has been such a classic, as have been other published journals.

The essays in this collection are a celebration of writers who use journaling in their personal and creative lives. The types of writers are diverse—they are poets, novelists, short story writers, essayists and memoirists, They are male, female, young, old, and live from coast to coast. They have all been widely published and many are professors in major college and universities.

The confessional nature of these essays makes each one compelling to read. Many of the authors write so automatically in their journal that they were honestly stumped when I asked them to write an essay describing their journaling practice. After minimal contemplation, they agreed and after completing the essay they felt an enormous sense of satisfaction. In fact, many thanked me for the exercise and the opportunity to contribute to this collection.  During the writing process these writers not only learned about their journaling practices, but they also learned about themselves.

Most people who have made journaling a vibrant part of their lives will agree on its benefits, particularly in how it is the best way to record memories and as a way to ground them in their lives. The journal has also helped writers work issues out.

My inspiration for writing this book is grounded in my own journaling practices that began at the age of ten. It was a maroon hardcover volume without lines. On top of each page were the wise sayings of the prophet Kahil Gibran.  My grandmother and caretaker had committed suicide in my childhood home and to help me cope with this great loss, my mother bought me a journal. Into that journal I poured my pain and sentiments. As an only child, that journal became my best friend and confidant. Initially, my musings were a form of catharsis in an effort to ease the pain of losing my beloved grandmother, but eventually some thoughts lead to school essays and eventually formed the foundation for my life as a writer.

During graduate school I became further inspired to journal while reading writer Anaïs Nin’s four volumes of her journals. She began her first journal as a letter to her deranged father, which she never sent. I was very drawn to her writing style and sensibilities and her volumes are still perched in my writing studio.”

I really enjoyed gathering this collection of stellar writers all who have been a pleasure to work with. I was so honored that world-renowned essayist, Phillip Lopate offered to write the foreword and here is an excerpt:

“I salute the editor of this valuable collection, Diana Raab who ahs done such a sensitive job of gathering these diverse, eloquent, and experiences voices and encouraging their thoughtful, heartbreaking, rambunctious, free flights of testimony and speculation into  being. Freedom is a frequent theme in these pages. The freedom to try out things, to write clumsy sentences when no one is looking, to be unfair, immature, event to be stupid. No one can expect to write well who would not first take the risk of writing badly. The writer’s notebook is a safe place for such experiments to be undertaken.”

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Boomers Become Elders

This past week my dearest uncle Lou [cousin Jed’s father], suddenly passed away. Lou was a dynamic, vibrant, enthusiastic, loving 91-year old whose presence brought a smile on the face of whoever’s path he crossed. He had this indescribable lightness of being and he was a gentleman in every sense of the word. He was a man who right until the end, continued to give back to his community by helping to care for the less fortunate. Lou was from my father’s generation of men and women who I greatly admire. This was the generation I called upon for doses of wisdom and a sense of perspective when life had a tendency to go astray or when there were no answers to unexplainable problems or concerns.

As I sat on the airplane on the way home from his funeral in Florida, my eyes stretched out towards the heavens trying to grasp onto his spirit and keep it close to my heart. I hoped that wherever he might be, he was peaceful and would continue to watch over us.

After twelve hours of travel, I returned home, unpacked my suitcase and sat down at the vanity in my bathroom. For some reason the gray hairs encircling my face were a little brighter and more obvious. I suddenly realized that for my children’s generation,  I am the generation they will look to for their wisdom, in the way that I looked to Lou’s generation for my solace. I stood up from my chair, pulled back my shoulders and walked to the liquor cabinet for some Armagnac [special brandy from France], something I learned from the previous generation to do at the end of the day. My father-in-law swears by its healing powers to help with everything from sore throats to depression. I also learned from my father to be kind, non-judgmental and to treat people with respect. Habits like these are ones I’ve learned after years of standing on the shoulders of giants. I now realize that every snippet of wisdom they shared is now cherished more than ever. Today, there are only a few remaining who were born in the early 20th century. For me, it’s Uncle Bob, my father’s brother who voiced his somber sentiments at Lou’s funeral by saying, “It’s so sad, it’s as if our generation is all standing in line waiting to die, and we never know who will be next.”

Uncle Bob’s words stopped me in my tracks as I tried to imagine what it must be like not having anyone to look up to, or to glance  around the room at family gatherings to see that there is no one older. Also, there was a sense of the end of the road, a sense that there is nothing to look forward to and that everything that generation has seen has been seen many times over. My response  to Uncle Bob got lodged in my throat and all I could say was, “Uncle Bob you’re fine; you look great.” I really did not know what else to say but I did start some serious thinking. I thought about how my generation needs to prepare for the role of being the seniors and bestowing wisdom onto the next generation. We are soon to be the pillars holding everything together, but the big question is are we ready? Are us baby boomers ready to walk in those shoes and share the wisdom of our predecessors?

This New Year brings so many things to think about!

Happy New Year — resolutions, yes or no?

I made no resolutions for the New Year.  The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me. — Anaïs Nin

It’s 2010 and this is the first year I toasted the New Year without any resolutions. What’s the point, we never keep them anyway! Instead of pronouncing my resolutions over a glass of champagne, I decided to write mine in my journal. First and foremost, I decided to slow down a bit this year, do more reading and less published writing. Four books in eighteen months has given me a little bit of heartburn and although I’m happy about my accomplishments, I’m somewhat tired of reviewing galleys.

During the holidays, I read two books—Mary Karr’s third memoir, Lit which was great, but just a continuation of the tragic drama in her life. It’s mind-boggling how one woman my own age could have already written three memoirs. I bow to her writing style and story. The second book I read is one which has to do with my written New Year’s Resolution and it’s called, Awakening The Buddhist Within by Lama Surya Das. The first chapter is called, ‘Contemplating Your Life,’ which for me will be the subject of 2010, the year my first child gets married. Das writes in a very compelling and easy-to-understand manner and much of what he says appears to be common sense, but it’s nice to see it on the page. He says that self-reflection helps us heal our lives and accept any problems we have and realize that something might need to be changed. He says that everything in our life depends on our relationship with the self, the world and the other. He says that when something is going on inside your head, chances are it will have something to do with at least one of these parameters.

On the path to happiness, he suggests sitting down and trying to change one of these relationships. He poses some interesting questions which can make great journaling prompts. Try these:

  • Where do you want to be in a month, a year, five years, ten years?
  • What or who might you be if you were given the choice or the chance?
  • If someone gave you a cosmic credit card what would you do with it?
  • What do you want to do with your creativity?
  • What would you do about your compassion for others? How would or could you help others?
  • Who am I and who can I be?

In summary, the tenets of Buddhism includes being mindful or pleased in the pleasures of the moment. Focus on the words, ‘just this here and now,’ while you inhale and exhale (important part) and simplify, simplify, simplify and remember what the Buddha said, “Wherever we go, wherever we remain, the results of our actions follow us.”

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL OF YOU AND THANKS FOR BEING FAITHFUL READERS!!

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.

Thanksgiving in Paris

I am writing you from Paris where my family and I just celebrated our favorite holiday together—Thanksgiving. My son, Josh, an NYU student, is in the midst of a semester abroad here. Although this is not a French holiday—we thought we would join him and have our own celebration. It has been a feast, the days before and after our Thanksgiving, as we enjoyed the pleasures and decadences of French dining from the cheeses, French breads and pastries. (Although I must say there is a strong lack of fresh fruits and vegetables, and today’s task will be to locate a fresh market).

On Thanksgiving Day, we only had one glitch—the French do not eat turkey. In fact, through the eyes of Frenchmen, turkey is served to peasants and sometimes only at Christmas. It is rarely, if ever seen on restaurant menus. At the restaurant we chose for our private Thanksgiving feast, I did manage to find a small hen which was a fabulous substitute. I ordered mashed potatoes and salad—just the type of meal I would have prepared, had we celebrated at home. In the end, I came to realize that home is where your family is and the fact that we were all together was even more important than the food which was served. After all,

Thanksgiving has always been our favorite family holiday for as long as I can remember. One of the reasons we love it, is that it is does not have religious connotations. I recently learned that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in St. Augustine, Florida, America’s oldest towns and the one that all Florida school children (including my own) have visited at least once during their youth. The one thing I remember about that town, this many years later is the old school house and the dunce cap worn for misbehavior and as the name implies, ‘stupidity.’ In those days they definitely knew nothing about being politically correct! They would never get away with such a practice today.

In addition to Thanksgiving being a good excuse to get together and eat with loved ones, it is a time to give thanks for the harvest and to give thanks, in general. The dinner table as a perfect place to reconnect and tell stories and catch up. It’s fun to reminisce about past holidays and how in the 1970s my husband and I had our honeymoon in France. We discussed all we are thankful for. In years gone by, when my kids were young we used to feed the homeless at the local shelter in Orlando where they fed 1500+ people in a big tent downtown. My kids would go to the buffet and fill up plates of turkey, mashed potatoes and yams accompanied by a bun and serve all the homeless men, women and children. There was enough gratitude to go around. They were thankful for the warm meal, and we were thankful to be able to help and for the life we lived. As we struggle with social and economic issues we must never forget all the good which surround us and to always find time to journal our blessings.

In fact, this is a good week to do some powerful gratitude journaling!

Writing and Tooting Your Horn

Publishers used to be involved in both the editorial and marketing aspect of  most (if not every) books they  launched. These days, unless you are a New York Times bestselling author, publishers do little in the way of aggressive marketing, regardless of the size of the publishing house.

It has been said that authors must do their fair share of marketing. Most authors, myself included, would prefer to spend their time writing rather than promoting their books, but the truth of the matter is if we don’t do some marketing, our nearest and dearest friends, family and colleagues, may never know about our book.

I am lucky because years ago I had a small publishing company and therefore I understand some basic marketing techniques which over the years have become second nature to me. I have learned to do something much against my grain, which is to ‘toot my own horn.’

In the November 16th issue of Publisher’s Weekly there was an article called, “Blame it On The Rep: When An Author Has to Sell His Own Book.” The content of the article really hit home with me. I love the opening line, “Along with developing a patent for a cordless extension cord, being a writer was one of my life’s goals.” This is in alignment with my belief that most of us are writers not because we want to be one, but because we have to be one. It’s a passion that pulls us. Michael Spradlin, the author of the article, began his career as a publishing rep and then began writing his own books, a similar track to my own.

The biggest difference is that when I wrote my first book in the 1980s, The Internet was not a vital part of modern living like  it is today – but selling and reselling postal mailing lists was the best option for reaching an audience. I licked one too many stamps for envelopes announcing my latest book. These days, authors do not have any excuse not to market themselves. When Penny Sansevieri’s book, Red Hot Internet Publicity was released a couple of years ago – I devoured all her tips and ideas – something an author can do in the privacy of her home, without the risk of having doors slammed in her face. This new dimension to our profession is here to stay – whether our books are in book or kindle formSo all you writers out there, promise me when you finish reading this entry, you will change screens and announce to at least one person what you are working on or what is your next release! Don’t rely on others to do what is now your work.

Celebrate Collaboration

I am always up for a good reason to celebrate and today is a special one for me as it marks the launching of my latest book, YOUR HIGH RISK PREGNANCY: A PRACTICAL AND SUPPORTIVE GUIDE. This book was originally published in 1988 under the title of, Getting Pregnant and Staying Pregnant: A Guide to Infertility and High-Risk Pregnancy. Since its initial publication and cover designed by my daughter, Rachel at the age of three, there have been two subsequent editions.

The first edition was written while I was on bed rest with Rachel. After she was born, my husband and I self-published the book in our basement on what was probably the first desktop publishing program, Ventura Publishing. From that basement I sold 10,000 copies and was then went on to sell the rights to Hunter House Publishers who released all the subsequent editions. This newly updated version could not have been completed without the generous assistance of Errol Norwitz, MD, Professor of Yale School of Medicine, Co-Director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Yale-New Haven Hospital. When the publisher asked me to update the book, I knew I wanted to collaborate with a physician specializing in high-risk pregnancies. After a thorough Google search, Dr. Norwitz’s name was first on my list.. Our connection was truly serendipitous. I phoned him to ask if he would be interested in updating this book with me. When I mentioned the book’s title, he stopped and said with enthusiasm, “I would love to. You know, I am familiar with your book. It’s on my bookshelf. I’ve had it since I was a medical student in South Africa!”

That moment reignited my belief in the value of my book. After Dr. Norwitz graciously accepted my invitation, we spoke nearly every week for three months. During each conversation I would interview him about the latest developments in high-risk pregnancy management. He has been a sheer delight to work with: professional, knowledgeable and eager to craft a book which will continue to help many women. Because I’ve heard that not all collaborative efforts are successful, I certainly consider myself lucky. I want to celebrate this new edition, and perhaps more importantly, celebrate an effective collaborative effort. On the book’s new back cover, just before describing the book’s contents, “You are not alone,” is printed in bold letters. This not only applies to all pregnant women who will read my book, but to it also applies to me for having had such a great collaborative partner for the rebirth of this title. In addition to the many medical updates, one change that is close to my heart is the addition of a “Journaling Corner,” at the end of each chapter, which provides prompts for women to write about their own high-risk pregnancy experience. As a journaling advocate, I just could not help but to share my passion with others. I invite you and your loved ones in need of such a book, to purchase it on Amazon or from your local bookstores. Errol Norwitz and I both thank you, our readers!

http://www.amazon.com/Your-High-Risk-Pregnancy-Practical-Supportive/dp/0897935209/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1257832398&sr=8-8

Pregnancy Book Cover


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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