by Bender, Sheila
Publisher:Walking Stick Press
There are three layers to Keeping a Journal You Love. For the first, author Sheila Bender (The Writer's Journal) collected journal entries from 15 American poets, fiction writers, and nonfiction writers--no mean feat, considering the way most people who keep journals squirrel away their ragged little notebooks. For the next, Bender asked those writers to comment on their journals and on "how journaling helps them stay productive." Finally, Bender writes about both the journal entries and the commentary, creating a context from which the rest of us can learn to keep fertile journals.
For many writers, a journal acts as a compost pile. They throw a whole bunch of stuff in there, which separately is not worth much more than this morning's coffee grounds or this afternoon's banana peel; let it sit for a while and heat up; and before they know it, they have a rich compost, from which whole stories, memoirs, screenplays, you name it, can be made. This "stuff" varies from writer to writer: it can be memories, opinions, conversations overheard, secrets, quotations from other writers, snippets from the newspaper, observations, dreams. While Robert Hellenga records the off-kilter feeling of living in a foreign country, William Stafford can find a whole poem's worth of new experiences in a typical day. "We take a day trip every day of our lives," says Bender, "when we view our time here on earth as full of surprises." And who knows where a journal entry might take you? David Mas Masumoto's journal entry on a frustration of farm life morphed into an article for the Los Angeles Times about a problematic peach (tasted good; looked bad; became "homeless in the marketplace"). From there, it became a book called Epitaph for a Peach: Four Seasons on My Family Farm (Harper). As Masumoto says, "good things can happen with our journals." --Jane Steinberg
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