Today I am pleased to have WOW author, Diana Raab joining me.
She is the author of eight books. Her most recent release, Healing With Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey (2010) is a memoir/self-help book which includes reflections, experiences, journal entries and poems all emphasizing the healing power of writing. In addition to extensive appendices, each chapter finishes with blank pages and journaling prompts for the reader to write about their own experiences.
Her first memoir, Regina's Closet: Finding My Grandmother's Secret Journal (2007) is the recipient of the 2009 Mom’s Choice Award for Adult Non-Fiction, and the 2009 National Indie Award for Excellence in Memoir.
Diana’s has been writing since a very young age. Currently, she teaches creative journaling and memoir in UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. She facilitates workshops in journaling and writing for healing around the country. She is a frequent moderator for panels on writing.
She's editor of the anthology, Writers and Their Notebooks (USC Press 2010), a collection of essays written by distinguished writers who journal, including Sue Grafton, Kim Stafford, Dorianne Laux, John DuFresne, James Brown and Michael Steinberg, to name a few. The foreword is written by world-renowned personal essayist, Phillip Lopate.
After experiencing three successful, but high-risk pregnancies, she wrote a comprehensive guide for other women. The award-winning Getting Pregnant and Staying Pregnant (1989) which was recently updated and revised in collaboration with Dr. Errol Norwitz of Yale School of Medicine under the new title, Your High Risk Pregnancy: A Practical and Supportive Guide (2009).
Raab's award-winning work has been published in numerous literary magazines and is widely anthologized. She has one poetry chapbook, My Muse Undresses Me and two poetry collections, Dear Anais: My Life in Poems For You winner of the 2009 Next Generation Indie Award for Poetry and the newly released The Guilt Gene.
How Writing Can Help Us Heal
Diana M. Raab
At the age of ten, I made my first journal entry. My grandmother had just committed suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping pills in her room next to mine. It was Labor Day Weekend, 1964, and my parents were both at work. I cracked open her bedroom door and grandma lay in bed completely still with a Graham Greene book and a pair of glasses resting on her chest. The sheer curtains swayed in the breeze as if waving good-bye.
After the commotion of ambulances, paramedics, and my parents frantically rushing about, the grief of this loss penetrated like a deep-seated bullet. But, healing only began days later, when my mother handed me my first journal. I poured my grief onto its pages. Little did my mother know that her seemingly benign gesture set the platform for my life as a writer.
In fact, over the years, I’ve learned that when in distress, many writers do turn to writing because it is a form of catharsis and/or therapy. We can say that when life takes an unexpected turn, journals can become our best friends. Poet Langston Hughes said, “When I feel bad, I write in order to keep from feeling worse.” Writing to feel better is probably the most common reason people crack open their journals. Therapists often suggest journaling as a part of the healing process to help channel problems. Poet Kim Stafford says that the journal lets him wallow, if that’s what he needs. “But,” he says, “the act of writing lifts me out.”
The challenges surrounding illness can also become a catalyst for journaling. “When it hurts write harder,” one colleague tells me. During the my breast cancer journey, my journal became the forum for venting my fears and frustrations. Eventually parts of my journal entries ended up in my recently released self-help memoir, Healing With Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey.
Over the years, journaling has been a healthy habit like brushing my teeth. It’s such a powerful tool for our fast-paced and hi-tech existence where TVs, radios, and cell phones clog up our auditory receptors. Some argue that journaling on a computer provides quicker results, but I’m really against it. Not only does the act of using a pen and paper slow us down, but recent studies have shown that we dig deeper into our psyches with a pen in hand.
For the writer, the journal or notebook is not only to a place to play around with words and voice, but it is a place to foster a more intimate relationship with who we are. The journal is also be a place to gather momentum and excitement about writing, akin to the artist’s sketchbook. Many writers, including myself, use their journals as catch-alls for personal experiences, observations and seeds for future works.
Writers such as James Brown says that his journals serve as tools for their creative work: “For me, the journal is a kind of stepping stone to a larger, more refined work. That could be a memoir, a novel, a short story, the personal essay or a script.”
Don’t laugh but it’s important to secure the proper tools for journaling, which include having a seductive and readily available notebook and pen. A few years ago while on vacation with my husband in Hawaii, I was caught without my tools. We’d gotten up early for a drive in the country. Moments after we climbed into our rental car and had already driven a mile up the road, I realized that I’d forgotten my notebook. In a literary panic, I asked my husband to stop at a remote gas station, but, much to my dismay, they had nothing that resembled a writing pad. A few miles later, standing on its own, was a general store, glowing with promise. I entered like a child searching for candy, only to learn that they also had no pads. Head hanging low once again, I walked back to the car, but before pulling the door open, I made an abrupt about-face.
I returned to the cashier and asked for the key to the ladies’ room. From the roll on the wall, I yanked out a stack of paper towels, a suitable, but fragile substitute for a journal. I pondered about what a desperate writer would do for something to scribble on. I was now set to continue my private internal dialogue and ready to plant the seeds which might one day blossom into fine verse. And this is one of the greatest joys of being a writer!
Graciously, the author has offered a copy of this book to one of my readers. Please comment below and you are entered. Contest is open to US/Canada residents and ends Tuesday, Aug. 17th at midnight. Winner will be chosen at random and posted on the 18th. Good luck...spread the word!
About Healing With Words: Healing With Words: A Writer's Cancer Journey is a compassionate and wry self-help memoir written by an award-winning prolific author, nurse and poet, who at the age of forty-seven found her life shattered first by a DCIS (early breast cancer) diagnosis and five years later by another, seemingly unrelated and incurable cancer--multiple myeloma. The book includes the author's experiences, reflections, poetry and journal entries, in addition to writing prompts for readers to express their own personal story. Raab's journals have provided a safe haven and platform to validate and express her feelings. Raab views journaling to be like a daily vitamin--in that it heals, detoxifies and is essential for optimal health.
Readers will learn to:
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