Books and More

It’s been way too long since I’ve blogged and I do miss it. I won’t start with any apologies or false promises of blog posts becoming more regular soon. My life is just in an emotional chaotic state right now…being a caregiver and having a multitude of unanswerable questions about the future. I’m doing the moment by moment living thing and never know what each day will bring.

I’m still writing and thought I’d just share some of the things I’ve run across lately. I just finished reading a fantastic book I found at the library last week. My mother came for a visit and it was the first trip I’ve had to the library in a long time. The book was Pain, Parties, Work : Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder.

I’ve been interested in the writer Sylvia Plath since I learned about her and watched the movie Sylvia, which starred Gwyneth Paltrow. The book provided an insightful look into Sylvia Plath’s life, most of it, of course, focused on the month she spent as a guest editor at Mademoiselle. It was more about who she was as a person during that time than about her writing, though it was touched on throughout. There are excerpts from her journal as well, but from other times, as the author says Sylvia only wrote a paragraph about the whole month in New York.

It’s a different kind of book, but a good read. There are things in it about the 50’s from fashion to the way women were viewed by men. It even has quite a bit about her various boyfriends. There are many quotes in the book about Sylvia by some of the other guest editors and old boyfriends. The last part of the book had information I never knew about her nervous breakdown and suicide attempt soon after her return from New York.

I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever read offering a better view as to who she was as a person. It still makes me sad. She was so talented and had two beautiful children when she committed suicide at 30 years old. It makes me wish she could’ve seen what others saw and realized she had so much more life to live.

Since I finished it and had to move on, I found a book I’ve never read sitting in a stack in my living room. The book is Founding Mothers : The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts. I picked it up at a used book store years ago, because it sounded interesting. Who knows why I haven’t read it before? (Must have had my nose in another good book and forgot) 🙂

It’s incredible! I am utterly amazed at how articulate the founding mothers were and I’m only to page 65 in the book so far. Women poets even contributed to the beginnings of America as a country independent from England. Some of the excerpts of Abigail Adams’ letters demonstrate a vocabulary surpassing many women of today, though she had no formal education other than that by her father. (No insult meant and I am including myself here) 🙂

Well, those are my current reads. Need to add to my “To-Read” list. I found a list of memoirs in a post Writing Memoir? Read Memoir over at the blog of Marion Roach Smith, which has some possibilities. One last thing I’ll leave with you is a neat post I read that made me smile. As wonderfully ideallic as I think it sounds to write sitting in a café somewhere, the writer of this post Squirrel, over at the blog A Thought Grows, is so how I’d be…a writer with “writer ADD” and getting little done. I’ll settle for my tea and the quiet of home or a nice grassy spot outside.  🙂

Happy writing and share any thoughts and/or any suggestions for good books you’ve read…

Of Course, More Books About Writing…

Photograph of one of Ronald Skirth's journals.

Photograph of one of Ronald Skirth’s journals. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of my great loves above writing is reading.  Sometimes I’ll read one book for hours and other times I have several going at once.  Not reading them at once, but I’ll read a bit of one and then read a bit of another.  Well, I discovered some more gems at my local public library I thought I’d share.  I’m always on the look out for a good book.

I’ve dabbled in journaling through the years.  More of an on again, off again type journaler, but attempted to journal.  Usually my results are a few entries and then it may get picked up again several months or a year later.  Well, I decided to pick up my journal again and start anew, so timing was perfect to spot the book Note to Self : On Keeping a Journal and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Samara O’Shea.

I’m almost halfway through, but have enjoyed this book.  Makes me feel so much less guilty in my journal attempts and gives me some thoughts to free my mind to journal.  She says even the sporadic journal entry will shed a lot on your life through the years rather than not journaling at all.  The author is even so brave as to share many of her actual journal entries with her readers.  She even gives ideas on topics you may want to journal about if you find yourself lacking ideas.

It’s funny how small the world is and the coicidences which occur at times.  Not too long ago I saw the movie Sylvia, which had Gwyneth Paltrow playing the American writer and poet Sylvia Plath.  I  had never heard of Sylvia Plath and have been reading up about her as well as some of her works.  Well, in the book, it says Sylvia was an avid journaler and there are some of her journal entries included as well.

I’m looking forward to finishing this book and have began to start journaling at night before I go to bed.  I’m trying to do it nightly, but giving myself permission to skip a night or nights if need be.  Hopefully will fend off discouragement and plan to do what you do if you fail at dieting one day, which is just get back up and try it again the next day.  Some reasons to journal are it’s cathartic, provides some historical evidence of your life for personal reflection, and provides another opportunity to write. 

The other book I discovered was Shimmering Images : A Handy Little Guide to Writing Memoir by Lisa Dale Norton.  It’s a small book and is written in a good conversational tone I quite enjoy.  I finished reading it in one evening.  Thought it might give me some helpful advice as I continue to plunge into writing a couple of memoirs and personal essays.  I’m not closing the doors on fiction, but have decided I am  more of a personal and non-fiction writer.

I really like the first part of her book, which shares our right to writing truths and at the same time doing so compassionately.  This includes being soul searchingly honest with ourselves as well as not playing the blame game.  While being careful not to persecute others unjustly, we must also not overly berate ourselves.  This is probably very hard for most, as it’s often said writers are their own worst critics.  I know I’m quicker to criticize myself than anyone else.

The second half of the book she shares what she means by shimmering images, which is basically a kind of memory in your mind you can see bits and pieces of, as well as gives ideas how to fill in those memories some.    Some of the ideas are doing things like memory mapping, asking family members questions, looking at old photos, and researching what was going on in the world during the time period of your memories.  Lastly in the second part she discusses how to get to the heart of what your story is actually about, so it has meaning.

The third part of her book shares information about useful tools for the writer.  She covers such things as choosing which perspective to write from and creating scenes in your memoir, which are important in memoir writing just as in writing fiction.  There is also helpful information on imagery and ways to avoid using cliches.  This was a good book and I appreciated the examples of memoir writing included by the author.

Do you journal?  What kind of journal writer  are you?  Besides Anne Frank, can you think of any other famous journalers or writers who keep/kept journals? . . .