Wednesday, February 24, 2016

New Creative Writing Page on Examiner!

Pleased to announce that I have a new page on -- National Creative Writing!

On this page, I expect to post articles related to the writing process, life as a writer, books, author and literature news, and reviews of "tools of the trade" -- that is, stationery such as journals, notebooks, writing instruments, art supplies, planners, etc.

Check out the articles posted so far:

"Review: Barnes and Noble 'monastery journal'" (pictured above).

"Book Review: '642 Things to Write About' by San Fran Writers' Grotto"

"Harper Lee laid to rest in Monroeville, Alabama"


"Review:  2016 'See It Big' Planner

I hope you find some interesting or useful tidbits coming up in articles on the new page -- thank you for your support!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Hobonichis -- Joy from Japan!

[Above, blue cover of a Hobonichi "Techo Cousin" daily planner from the Hobonichi website.].

I am so pleased to have been introduced to the Hobonichi notebooks! I call them notebooks, though they are really daily "planners," books with dates for scheduling one's work and activities in them.  They are made in Japan.

I'm loving the paper, a thin paper that allows for many pages in a small thickness of space.  It is called "Tomoe River" paper, and it is divine as a writing surface!  I especially love how "crinkly" it gets after one has written on it.  I love the physical feel of writing by hand, as opposed to on the computer, so the Hobonichi gives that pleasure.

As of today, I have 4 Hobonichis that I write in daily -- none of these as a "planner," though, for scheduling my activities!  Instead, as a writer, I have started a daily practice of writing different things in each one as a way to "jump-start" my writing for the day.

I have the larger size -- what is called an "A5," or the English "Techo Cousin."  I also have two "A6" or original Hobonichi size books, and then I have one the company calls its "Weeks," a smaller, trimmer size.

The notebook/planners lay wonderfully flat.  They are sewn-bound, which I also like.  They come with a rather basic, cardstock type of cover, so many fans purchase vinyl or leather covers to slip the books into and help them be a bit more supported and substantial.  Some customers also purchase a "cover-on-cover," which is a clear or decorated plastic cover that "protects" the vinyl covers (if one really thinks vinyl needs protecting!).

The vinyl covers from Hobonichi come in different colors and give you 2 pen loops (as shown above).  Inside of the covers are several pockets for other stationery supplies and two ribbon bookmarks.  One ribbon has a leatherette triangle on the bottom, the other a rectangle.   

Each morning so far this year, I have begun my writing practice in my Hobonichis by writing 4 different kinds of notes, one or two types for each book.  The spacing on each page allows you to be creative in that you have just that limited space to fill each day.  When you feel you don't have enough room, that is a clue that you have stumbled on a subject you may want to write more about -- and that can go in your regular writing journal (I have a new one of these as well, not a Hobonichi, that I'll write a blog post about at a later time).

If you have a hard time starting writing each day, a difficult time looking at a blank screen in front of you, or a blank page, then you might consider trying planner books as a way to freewrite and get started.  There is limited space; sometimes a column, e.g., or a box; the page is not completely blank -- there are dates, sometimes times, etc. already printed in it -- and if you enjoy the physical attributes of that planner -- the paper, decorations, etc. -- it just might help you jump start your writing for the day.

I started with purchasing the planners first -- purchasing them out of curiosity about the paper, etc. that was so highly reviewed by customers.  Then, I found uses for them for writing rather than planning.  This was a case of the notebook suggesting its own use to me rather than the other way around!  This inspires creativity in a way I had not encountered before, and so far, I like it!

Good luck with your writing and creative process!  If you find yourself writing or drawing in a Hobonichi rather than using it for "planning" (dreaded word, that -- ha!), know that you are not alone!

[My Hobonichis currently in use!  Photo by me.]

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Robert Frost: Reading & Interpreting the Works

A new, recast edition of my Frost book comes out this month.  I'm not crazy about the cover (I like more color), but it is part of a publisher's series with this design.

The book is suitable for students or others interested in an introductory bio/critical look at the American poet.

Priced for libraries, though, so check it out there, perhaps!


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Origin of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"

1939 booklet Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer
Cover of the original 1939 booklet "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer." The booklet with the story in it was distributed free to all children who visited Montgomery Ward Department Store during the Christmas season. This is the front cover. According to the Smithsonian, other names considered for the future-famous reindeer included Romeo, Rodney, and Reginald.  (Photo/caption Source)

Recently, I saw a blog article from the Smithsonian website that tells the story of Rudolph's origins.

You can find the article HERE.

Some cite commercialism of the holiday as the source; however, if you read the origin story, you will see that it began, at first, as a father's story written for his daughter.  I prefer to think of it that way.

Either way, the story is a good one and has lasted now for over 75 years.  I like stories about misfits who eventually find their way in the world -- don't we all feel like a "misfit" at one time, or another?

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, & Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 18, 2015

A Writer meets the "Planner" World -- Filofax, Midori Travelers' Notebook, Hobonichi, Bullet Journal

"Plan," to me, has always been a dreaded, 4-letter word!  I just don't plan, like to plan, or enjoy planning.  This has been the cause of some consternation and complications in my life, to be sure.  I don't know if it's the artist in me, the Aquarian birth sign, growing up the youngest child in my family, or what, but planning has always felt like a restriction.  If something gets "planned," then it feels like something I am obligated to do and I immediately want to rebel against doing that thing on that day at that particular time -- just out of principle!

This is not to say, of course, that I never make plans or keep them.  Books under contract, obviously, have deadlines a writer must meet, and I have met them.  If you value family or friendship, you must agree to meet at certain times or make other plans to enjoy time together or be there for these people you care about when they need you.  If you have a job outside the home, you have to plan ahead for many tasks involved in that employment, including getting up early enough to get yourself to wherever the job takes place!  Plans happen, and plans get fulfilled.

However, to make a conscious effort of setting up calendars, notebooks, etc. for the chief purpose of planning out one's days, weeks, months, years, activities, and tasks has seemed like a drudgery beyond anything I would ever want to put any more energy toward than is required.  It would certainly not be anything I'd ever consider doing for fun!

I still pretty much feel that way, but browsing on the Internet (as one does when perhaps avoiding some "planned" task that one should be attending to instead!), I have come across a community of artisans, craftspeople, and enthusiasts who like the mechanisms of planning.  These folks relish calendars, pens and notebooks, etc.  Called "planners," the books these people buy, trade, and work in take on various configurations.

Surprisingly to me, I have found that I share some interests with these kinds of "planner people."  To get to the point -- they love stationery, and I do, too!  The hassle of grocery shopping, for example, has always been helped a bit for me by taking a quick stroll through the small books and stationery section in the grocery store.  Like all writers I know, I frequent bookstores and stationery stores wherever I can find them and haunt websites for these places all the time.  To find other people, who are not necessarily writers, but who share the passion for ink and paper, notebooks, and stationery supplies, etc. has been an unexpected and pleasant experience.

There are various kinds of "planner" books.  Many crafters work in them to create modified scrapbooks of their lives.  They decorate the pages and create keepsakes out of them.  Other forms of these books are what writers such as myself would call more specifically, journals.  Crafters may decorate these as well, but in these they also record thoughts, happenings, creative ideas, stories, etc.  It is a pleasure indeed to find people returning to paper and ink over the speed and invisible existence of electronic technology -- to value the recording of their thoughts, ideas, etc. on paper, BY HAND.  Warms the heart to read about their passion and watch videos of them sharing their excitement!

The book pictured above is what is called a travelers' notebook in the Midori style.  Bascially, it is a simple flat cover wrapped around several little notebooks held together inside with elastic cords and held together on the outside with another elastic band.  The sizes of these "TN" (Travelers' Notebooks -- or "MTN" for the Midori brand of these) vary, but this one is the traditional "narrow" size -- roughly about 5" x 8".

I traveled with a travelers' notebook like this one recently from the U.S. to the U.K.  It fits easily in the hand, even while dragging luggage with the other hand.  It doesn't take up as much space on a table in a restaurant or cafĂ© when one is eating and writing alone as a wider notebook does.  The irregular height vs. width ratio still gives a fair amount of room for writing on each page.

What you lack in width gets made up a little in the height.  Having more than one notebook bound under one cover can be a writer's dream -- different projects, types of notes, etc. can be separated by notebook.  There are typically not as many pages per little book as a writer might prefer, but that could be helped by finding a notebook that fits the size but has more pages and just using that inside the cover, or perhaps with just one other small notebook or folder for loose paper in there besides.

Not sure yet how long I will use this (I like to call my process "organic" -- pretty much the opposite of how a true planner person might like to work!), but I'm really liking the "TN" format right now.  Currently, I have 5 little notebooks (or what are called "inserts") in mine + a file folder and plastic zipper pouch for stationery accessories.  There is a built-in pen loop.  The loop is a little large for the pen I currently like to use in this set of books, but I solved that by adding another pen to help fill the gap.

Each of the 5 notebooks serves a different purpose in my current creative process and practice on-the-go.  To carry small notebooks with different purposes all in a pack like this is enjoyable, indeed.  It solves the problem I used to have putting a small notebook in my bag -- when I had some time to work with some ideas while out, the little notebook in my bag always seemed like the wrong one I wanted to work in at the time.

So, we shall see!

I am also experimenting with other journal, calendar, or notes formats such as a Japanese brand like Hobonichi, ringed binders such as Filofaxes, and a concept called the Bullet Journal (bascially, a notebook of dotted lists -- no guns involved!) with which one can use a notebook without a pre-printed layout.  Rather than use the calendar sections of these much for planning beyond the obvious, I've been finding them useful for what I call "tracking" instead -- not what is coming up so much, or planning for things on certain days that I will likely do on different days! -- but rather to track what has already happened, to help remember when something last happened, perhaps things I'd like to track on a regular basis, etc.

Will let you know how I'm getting along with these in future posts.

Thank you to all the planners, bloggers, stationery enthusiasts, etc. who share their journeys on the Internet.  As a writer, non-planner, stationery enthusiast (ha!), I'm enjoying reading and viewing your pages, drawings, decorations, pictures, ideas, and videos and will continue to watch, read, and learn from you!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Four Years Today

Something special happened 4 years ago today that I want to stop for a moment and remember.

It won't mean anything to many people, but I just wanted to mark it with this little mini-post.

A door opened, and I walked in, bringing courage.  The door opened again, and someone new walked in, bringing kindness.  Courage and kindness met that day.

I have not forgotten.

4 years ago.


Sunday, March 1, 2015



All life involves suffering.  Whether we give meaning to our suffering is up to us.