The Writer's Journal: 40 Contemporary Writers and Their Journals

Overview

Writers rarely share their unedited journals with others. On these most private of pages - or on odd scraps of paper - they jot down bits and pieces of their lives and thoughts. This unique anthology presents excerpts from the journals of forty of today's most noted writers, and editor Sheila Bender asked the authors to comment on the role of journal-keeping in creating their art. As a guide to creating a journal of your own, or simply as a riveting collection of never-before-published pieces from our finest ...
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Overview

Writers rarely share their unedited journals with others. On these most private of pages - or on odd scraps of paper - they jot down bits and pieces of their lives and thoughts. This unique anthology presents excerpts from the journals of forty of today's most noted writers, and editor Sheila Bender asked the authors to comment on the role of journal-keeping in creating their art. As a guide to creating a journal of your own, or simply as a riveting collection of never-before-published pieces from our finest contemporary talents. The Writer's Journal is a superb work - a classic on the creative process no serious reader, or writer, should miss.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Playwright, essayist and poet Bender (Writing the Personal Essay) has done working writers a tremendous favor in compiling this collection of journal snippets and meditations on journal-keeping from a number of contemporary writers. Among the best meditations are those that illustrate how the quoted entries find their way into a contributor's work of poetry or prose, as in the case of Linda Bierds's poem "White Bears: Tolstoy at Astapovo." Also fascinating is the variety of ways in which writers define their journals as journals. Omar S. Castaeda, for example, does "not keep a writer's journal" but uses "scraps of napkins, clippings, full-page notes, unordered quotes, character sketches, interesting lines, paper-clipped photographs, ripped-out-of-magazine things." Some turn to letters, while others keep only travel journals. Yet no matter what the form, or what they call it ("project notebook," "scrapbook", etc.), all recognize as a "writer's journal" that well from which they draw ideas, phrases, thoughts and insights for their finished work. The gravest weakness of the volume is that, despite the oft-emphasized cultural diversity of the contributors, there is a telling sameness to their essays on journal-keeping (and sometimes even their entries). This derives in large part from the artistic and occupational uniformity of the selected authors. There are no writers of popular or genre fiction, for example, and at least three-quarters of those included appear to make their livelihoods as college teachers or professors. As is, the volume is too long and might have made do with only half the number of contributors. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Bender (Writing Personal Essays, Writer's Digest, 1995) has brought together excerpts from the journals of 40 well-known and not-so-well-known novelists, poets, and dramatists writing today. The length and style of the entries vary widely, from laconic single sentences to complex prose pieces. A few selections include some of the author's finished work, allowing the reader to see the process by which random jottings are transformed into a poem or portion of a story. Some contributors, like Kim R. Stafford, write in a journal every day. Others, such as Jim Harrison, record only material that seems important for germinating a story. Different writers will appeal to different readers, but among the most interesting contributors are those engaged in unusual pursuits, such as Pam Houston (an expert horsewoman) and David Masumoto (a farmer). This collection will be of interest to aspiring writers. In addition to the entries, it contains useful appendixes about the contributors, other books on journal keeping, and writer's anthologies. Recommended for public and academic libraries.-Caroline A. Mitchell, Washington, D.C.
Kirkus Reviews
Bender, a playwright, essayist, and poet, offers an exciting foray into the inner workings of the writer's mind by focusing on the ubiquitous writer's journal.

Here Bender presents excerpts from the journals of 40 talented contemporary writers along with their thoughts on the process of keeping journals. Some, like Brenda Hillman and Naomi Shihab Nye, are longtime, insatiable journalists. Many here, however, admit that their journal-keeping habits are "sporadic" (Israel Horowitz) and limited to notions they can't live without (Jim Harrison). A few are even "journal writers by default, brought to it kicking and screaming" (Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni). Some of the journals, like Ron Carlson's, are bits and scraps of paper collected in a shopping bag or file folder for future reference. Other authors (Pam Houston, Janice Eidus) find that they can't write as well for themselves as they can for good friends or lovers, so they keep copies of their letters in lieu of the traditional diary. But as much as they differ in their journal-keeping habits, almost all of these writers agree on the importance of keeping notes that they can later access as a spur to their creativity. Many of the authors provide tangible proof of the journals' muselike aspects: Linda Bierds's journal is a step-by-step guide to her wonderful poem "White Bears: Tolstoy at Astapovo," which is reprinted here; Patricia Hampl presents a long excerpt from her memoir Virgin Time, in which a short journal entry is cited in full and to marvelous effect. And for those of us who would like to keep journals but don't know how to begin, Al Young offers 21 journal-keeping ideas that give a good push in the right direction.

All writers, aspiring writers, and even just serious readers will be moved to pick up that ratty old diary and start scribbling again.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385315104
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/1/1996
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.22 (w) x 9.28 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction
The Tenor of Memories 1
Francisco's Library 6
Healing Songs 17
A Journal Where the Mind Can Live 21
The Journal and the Poem 29
The Shopping Bag 36
Specific Project Notebooks 40
The Mind in Repose 46
The Journal and I 50
Bearing Witness 55
My Own Particular Custom 70
A Book with a Lock and a Key 81
Germinating Work 94
Time for Amendment of Life 104
A Special Breed 119
Very Precious Tools 131
Questionnaire 146
In Service of the Next Step 150
Ordinary Acts 163
Like Five Finger Exercises 171
An Eerie Note 175
Enriching the Inner Life 179
My Writer's Journal 187
Two Thumbs Up 194
Peaches and Prose: Keeping a Journal 203
Consigned to the Unconscious 212
Like Running 218
Re: The Writer's Journal 231
Keats in Burns Country Etcetera 241
Notes on Notes 253
A Repository of Secrets and Experiences 265
Heart Pocket Book 269
A Confessional Silence 274
Jottings 291
Enough to Convince Me 296
Life Stand Still Here 302
The Skylight 308
Dear Rhonda: The Letter as Journal 313
Articles of Memory 318
Moments Noticed 327
Keeping Your Own Writer's Journal 339
Appendix I: About the Contributors 347
Appendix II Helpful Books on Keeping Journals 369
Appendix III Writer's Anthologies 372
Appendix IV Published Journals of Literary and Historical Figures 376
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