Posts Tagged 'Notebooks'

The New Journal – Author Blogging

Dear Reader ~

The art of being an author means that it is no longer enough to craft a compelling manuscript and submit to an agent or publisher. We are now told that no matter what the size of our publishing house we need to do our fair share of marketing.  We must now be excellent promoters of their work and with this revolution comes the relatively new interface of the author blog.

Over the years, my journals have been a conglomeration of personal and impersonal—

scribblings which sometimes lead to published work, but other times include lists of things to do and books to read. Now that some of my scribbles have gone public, I find myself a little more reflective. I try to keep my blog entries general enough so that those who are not authors will also find them stimulating, but those particularly interested in the writing life will gain some personal insight into their chosen field.

In general, there continues to be an intrigue and mystique associated with the writing life. I learned this while editing my last book, Writers and Their Notebooks (The University of South Carolina Press, 2010), and how fascinated readers are to hear about how the writer’s mind works. Even though we don’t get paid much, many people still say they would love to be a writer if they had time. In fact, yesterday I had lunch with a dear friend whose son asked her, “Mom, if you could be famous for anything what would it be?” She turned to him and in spite of working in a completely unrelated field, said, “I would want to be a famous writer.”

Surely everyone else’s grass looks greener, but if you love to read you probably would be proud to call yourself a writer. OK. I’m veering from the subject of blogging, but also making a point that there are different types of author blogs and it’s beauty is that it gives you a chance to ramble and muse. Alas, I have made a promise to my readers that my blog will never exceed 1000 words, and most often they hover around 700. Long blogs will loose readership. We simply all have too much to do.

Many authors already have blogs, but if you are considering one, here are some things you should know about the different types of blogs:

Daily Blog – Even though at first, this may seem like a wonderful idea because it inspires regular writing, these types of blogs are very difficult to maintain over a long period of time. The idea is that writing your blog should not be a chore, but something you actually look forward to doing. You also want to make them stimulating and interesting to read, unlike the journals you kept as a young child. In your first draft, you can start by writing, “Dear Diary,” and write from your heart, write about what really interests you and chances are it will also interest your readers. Then go back and cut what might not be interesting.

Weekly Blog – This is what I do, because a week’s time frame presents itself with enough material to filter through and find something captivating to write about. If nothing happened or sparked your interest in the past week, then write about something in the news which interests you. Write about what you’ve read. Write about a movie you saw.

Subject-directed blog – This is a good type of blog, particularly if you are a nonfiction writer who specializes in a particular topic, whether you’re a politician, scientist, activist, photographer, fashion designer, medical practitioner, painter or filmmaker. These types of blogs stir up the most controversy and will probably get the most comments.

Group Blogs – This is a good way to go if you are unable to make the commitment to a weekly blog. You might want to gather a group of authors together who write similar books and take turns blogging. If you choose this route, make sure you have a list of guidelines laid out in the beginning. In addition to my personal blog, I am a guest blogger and columnist on a few other blogs and I enjoy the occasional and refreshing nature of this arrangement.
What makes a powerful blog? This is an important question because unlike diaries, there’s really no use for a blog without readership. I suppose we should ask our readers, but many of mine have told me that they were just thinking about the subject I blogged about, which I guess means that my blogs are very timely. So here are some tips I live by which might help you:

1 – Have your finger on the pulse on the times.

2 – Let your personality shine through. Readers are attracted to passion in writing.

3 – Write well and compelling text. Sometimes a good writer can make an uninteresting story or life sound very interesting. It’s all in the writing.

4 – Update regularly. My readers expect my entries on Monday.

5 – Stay ahead of yourself. Typically I am one week ahead, just in case and I cannot blog on a Monday, I always have an entry in the hopper.

And the best news of all, (before this blog entry gets too long), is once in a while we hear that blogs can sometimes lead to a book contract – now wouldn’t that be a perk?

The Notebook and Story Ideas

If you are a published writer you’ve surely been asked where you get your story ideas. What non-writers don’t understand is that coming up with story ideas is the easy part of being a writer. The more challenging part is finding the time to write. Crafting a compelling story using an angle that will grab an editor or publisher is also a challenge. Let’s face it, story ideas have been the same for centuries – love, hate, money, women, men and sex—but what has changed is the way in which stories are told.

It’s been noted that 95 percent of the ideas writers jot down in their notebooks do not end up into publishable work and only a mere five percent are what we call literary gems. Figuring out the ideal time out  to launch your idea to the literary community is also crucial. Often times if you think about what is interesting to you, your friends or loved ones, then chances are those are the subjects which will be interesting to your readers as well.

This reminds me of a comment made by an editor I visited at a New York publishing house some weeks ago. I asked her what was selling, and she turned to me while looking for a book on the shelf and said, “We have a saying in the publishing world that anything about Lincoln and everything about dogs, sells.”

So there you have it – just in case you were wondering what to write about!

Old Journals — Destroy or keep?

I just returned from Atlanta, where I facilitated a workshop called, “The Healing Notebook,” at the Wellness and Writing Connections Conference. The group included bright women from many walks of life, including mental health professionals, medical writers and poets. After lecture and writing exercises, we tossed around many ideas about healing notebooks, but one woman raised the most interesting question which stirred an enormous amount of interest.

“Do you believe journals should be burned?” she asked. The woman was referring to where those journals we write for cathartic reasons to help us navigate through a difficult time. After healing and recovery sometimes we simply rather not revisit or readdress the issues of that time and might not even want the volumes around.

After going back and forth on the subject, the consensus was finally, “No, all journals should be cherished.” The reason is that you never know how they might come in handy in the future and once they are destroyed they will be gone forever.

What do you think? Please share your comments with me.

Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month !

Today marks the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness month. I think it is a great idea, but personally, I do not want to be reminded. Seven years ago I was diagnosed with early breast cancer, was treated and today I am fine. I believe in routine mammograms and examinations which lead to early diagnosis. This is what save me. However, my writing also saved me. Instead of harping on my disease, I harped on wellness and writing once again became my distraction and savior. I just wanted to move on with my life.

So this month, I will wear my breast cancer pin, but if anyone asks I will just tell them I made my donation and paid my dues. I am giving back by teaching others to write their way through difficult times.

Incidentally, if you are in Atlanta, I am teaching a workshop called, “The Healing Notebook” at the 2008 Wellness and Writing Connections Conference on October 11th from 2:45 to 4:15. It would be great to see you. Check out my website for details (

In the meantime, here is to good health!

My Love Affair With Moleskins

Unfortunately, I can no longer locate my favorite Kahlil Gibran journal used in the 1970s, but that’s okay, I’ve developed a love affair with Moleskins. After all, they fit all the criteria of a perfect notebook—they lie completely flat, the lines are well-spaced, the gel pen glides smoothly along the page, they have pockets for memorabilia and they were used by famous artists and authors such as Hemingway, Chatwin and Picasso.

I got really excited after attending this year’s Book Expo Association (BEA) in Los Angeles and visiting the Moleskin Booth. I learned that before the end of 2008, the company will release an entire new collection of Moleskins in every color of the rainbow. My appetite is already wet. Today, I wandered into Barnes & Noble and noticed the red notebooks are already on the shelves. I must admit, I do occasionally yearn for those Kahlil Gibran’s journals with sayings on top of each page, but these are almost as enticing.

PS. If you know where I can get my hands on old Kahlil Gibran journals, please write me, ASAP !!

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Juicy Inspiration

Some people ask where I find my inspiration. My answer is always the same:

“just look around you; the world is full of inspiration.”

One of my favorite pastimes is people-watching, probably learned from my grandfather during our annual trips to Paris. For hours, we’d linger in outdoor cafés as I sipped espresso and jotted observations in my notebook. Parisian cafés are the center of social and culinary life, as well as being prime meeting places. This many years later, I still practice the ritual. For example, yesterday afternoon I sat in a café in Newport Beach and watched the passer-byes and imagined what they did when not strolling on the beach slugging beers or building sand castles. It’s a fun exercise to do in your notebook or verbally with a loved one.

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Notebook Savoire-Faire

Many friends and students say they want to keep a notebook, but they don’t know how to start and what to write. Being the sort of writer who has more ideas than hours in the day, I find this hard to believe, but we cannot assume everyone is like us. For me the notebook or journal is my creative net, catching anything and everything that crosses my path during the day. It contains dreams (nighttime and daytime), compelling quotations, overheard dialogue, observations of bizarre characters, situations which irk me, current events, stories about loved ones, selections from favorite books, and of course, my course random daily musings.

It’s important to carry the notebook everywhere because one never knows when the muse will strike, and even though corners of newspapers and restaurant napkins work in an emergency, they often get misplaced or saturated in spilled beverages.

I learned the art of notebook-keeping from my most admired diarist, Anaïs Nin who had her own particular ritual. She would designate a time to sit and write. Then, she closed her eyes and described the first image which appeared. Most often, it was something that had been on her mind.
Try it. It really works and you’ll be surprised how the words flow and even if they take you away from the initial images, that’s okay.

Write me and let me know how it goes!

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Addicted to Musing

Today is my 31st wedding anniversary and I have a confession. I am addicted to musing, not only verbally with my husband over coffee, but in my notebook. Truly, there could be worse addictions. Today I am writing about the passage of time and how I got to be 54 years old with three grown children. The big joke in our family is that we were married on the 18th and had all three of our kids’ on the 19th. Yes. My husband is an engineer and this is precision. Both our daughters were born on August 19th two years apart and our son on May 19th. What does this all mean? I suppose numerologists would have a heyday, but I’ll let it go.

What are you musing about today?

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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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