Week Two – Entry # 229 – looks at a collection of craft essays, Writers and Their Notebooks, edited by Diana M. Raab and with a Foreward by Phillip Lopate.
During a recent blog entry #228, I mentioned that many wonderful books on the writer’s craft are available and useful. Sometimes writers face a temporary lag in their productivity and the tiny flame of inspiration flickers a bit, and at those times, it helps to read good books on craft. I offer my impressions in no particular order, other than the order in which I plucked them from my reading desk. I hope to offer just enough information to whet your appetite for more. For the next four weeks, I will present some thoughts on each of four books that I recently reread.
Essays in Diana Raab’s (editor) Writers and Their Notebooks, explore a diverse group of writers who use journals to develop their writing craft. Section essays examine five topics. Here are my favorite essays in each section:
- The Journal as Tool – Kim Stafford’s essay, “the Place of No Limit” examines her journal methods as she uses intuitive pocket journal notes that move from the personal into poetry (upon reflection), and her methods recording notes on her computer into files that evolve into prose. Stafford offers examples of each and sample poetry and prose that came from those notes.
- The Journal for Survival – Zan Bockes’ essay, “Musements and Mental Health” speaks candidly of using the journal as a tool for therapy. Bockes’ entries deal personally with her own struggles with mental illness and her attempt to use journals to cope and reach catharsis.
- The Journal for Travel – Bonnie Morris’s essay,”Writing in Public Places” describes the process of writing in public places and the rich insights writers can gather in observational notebooks. Whether journaling at a local coffee shop, doctor’s office, or a train in China, the writer’s notebook captures specifics of essential human behaviors in particular times and places.
- The Journal as Muse – Rebecca McClanahan’s “Thoughts on a Writer’s Journal” explores multiple purposes for writing journals in the development of a writer’s life. Journals function as compost bin, life record, confessional booth or playroom for ideas.
- The Journal for Life – Kyoko Mori’s “Forgetting to Remember–Why I Keep a Journal” describes his memory of his grandfather’s notebook, in which details of culture, language and ancestors were carried from the old world to the new world. It’s a profoundly touching essay.
The following review of this collection appeared in the Midwest Book Review.
I did not write it. Wish I had.
“Writers And Their Notebooks is an anthology of essays by established and professional writers, discussing the value of simple notebooks to collect ideas, play around with words, discover new insights into evoking emotion with language, and much more. From sample journal entries that evolved into published pieces, to valuable advice for aspiring writers, to individual approaches to notebook keeping and much more, Writers And Their Notebooks is filled with tips, tricks, and techniques for getting creative juices flowing. An excellent supplementary reference for any would-be writer’s shelf.”
~Midwest Book Review