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  Issue #78

Free Writers' Newsletter

   Aug 28, 2009  

        

On journal writing
By Marcella Simmons

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For many years, writing has been a very important aspect of my life, long before I decided to make a profession of it. Late at night, when everyone was sleeping, I could be found at the table writing. During that time, I kept a journal and wrote fluently filling notebook after notebook day after day, week after week. Most of the things written in each journal consisted of daily activities with my children, things that were going on at school and the animals we kept, as well as the hardships we faced as a poor family in East Texas.

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It was so hard living with an alcoholic husband. Page after page in my journal was filled with my daily thoughts of: What were we going to do now? How were we going to make it? What if he quits his job again? Many painful memories were captured on the pages of my inexpensive spiral notebook journals.

I wrote about the funny things the kids did growing up, about their first day of school, about the camping trips we’d take and end up camping alone while their daddy went off with his buddies; about the many cuts, scrapes and bruises the kids picked up along the way and later on, about leaving our tiny little home to escape further abuse from their alcoholic father.

I wrote about the experience of sleeping in the car at the river a time or two because we had no money to rent a room, about sneaking through the back door of the church long after everyone went home and we’d bathe in the bathroom sinks and sleep on the pews until we were caught by the pastor one day. He and his wife helped us find an apartment and helped us rent it. All this and more went into page after page of my journal.

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There were many painful memories captured in the many pages of my journal. The passage about my mother’s death still brings tears to my eyes as I read it ever so often. The pain and suffering she went through was unbearable, as was the sadness she left behind.

Even now, my journals are filled with pain – there for awhile, we coasted along after my divorce – with little pain from death of loved ones until a few years back when nephews, uncles and friends started getting killed. David, my next to the oldest son, got killed during this time several years ago. Again, my journal became the resting place for the suffering I was going through after tragically losing David. I was facing despair and managed to write in spite of my pain. Then, I lost another son named James – he was killed accidentally in a logging accident. A couple of years later, my 17-year old daughter Melanie was killed in a car accident. Life hasn’t always been a bed of roses.

Each of my journals has a past all its own. Each page is filled with memories good and bad. I have taken them out a few times and read through one or two. With eyes full of tears, too painful to read any further, I put them away in their plastic storage unit in the closet to keep from furthering my hurt.

I can relate to the writing and recall each memory vividly. It’s as if going back to a certain place and time and reliving it momentarily. Some of the memories I recorded were good ones, and still make me smile. Keeping a journal is a wonderful idea and you can pass it on to your children and grandchildren. I wish to leave my journals to my living children someday.

My journals are kept safe and someday, I hope they will become a tribute in some small way to history. If they do that, then I’ve accomplished something worthwhile after all.

My stories were meant for deaf ears, but who knows that someday I might want to write my life story – my journals can be a springboard for memories and wonderful family stories long forgotten until refreshed by the pages of my journals.

Keeping a journal is really simple – an inexpensive spiral notebook works well, and is handled easily. The more comfortable you are with the book you use, the easier it is to write.

Start each page with the day's date, day and time, skip a line and start brainstorming awhile. Write whatever comes to mind until inspiration takes hold and you’re writing freely those memories and events that unfold day by day in your life. Write about the things that make you happy, or sad, your likes and dislikes – write about your spouse or sweetheart who may be aggravating you or whom you love so much. Remember – your journal is as private as you want it to be. You can keep it hid or let every body in your family read yours – that’s up to you. Write whatever you like, as much or as little as you like. The more, the merrier. Include details that will someday spark your memory and you will look back and say, “I remember that.”

I have included a journal entry from June 27, 2001. Tragedy struck again, claiming the life of my oldest son James. He was at work when he was killed. Later, after everyone met back at the house, and I had a moment of privacy that evening, I recorded this passage in my journal:

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"Wednesday, June 27,2001, 11:00 p.m.

This morning, I started to leave for work like I do every morning, but stopped off at Jack’s to use the phone. While I was there, I decided to go car shopping and needed the day off so I called in to work and told them I wasn’t coming. A few seconds after I got off the phone with my boss, the phone rang. Candy and James’ number showed up on the ID. I knew they wouldn’t be calling at this time of day – besides that, James was at work and they each knew I would not be at Jack’s either. Not knowing why they were calling here at this time of morning, I quickly picked up the phone, only to hear Candy sobbing in the background. I asked, 'What is it, Candy?' And she began to tell me that James had been in an accident at work – a tree had fallen on him.

Dropping the phone, I started screaming, knowing what was coming next although I never heard her say he was dead. Jack took the receiver and I ran out the door screaming, fixing to jump in my car and race off home. But Jack caught me and took the keys out of the ignition..."

Though this was a painful memory, it happened. I can further look back and see how everyone reacted to this tragic news because I recorded it in my journal. I was looking back through one entry dated Easter of last year and recollected James and Candy and their two daughters being here and the joy James got out of hiding eggs in my yard for those two little girls. I could see him in my mind hiding eggs and helping his two little girls find them before anyone else did. This particular entry makes me smile and glad that I had recorded it. It sparked a wonderful memory that I may have eventually forgotten.

All was not lost. I still have my memories and journals to remind me of the good times, and the bad. We had some wonderful times together and for that I am thankful.

Journal writing is healthy and good – you can get things off your chest and come to terms with what life is all about. Journals can become a family heirloom and a showcase for the entire family to enjoy long after you’re gone. They can be helpful in writing family histories or just a springboard for good ideas. Don’t let good years be wasted when there are people out there who want to know about you, the past and how you lived. Write down your thoughts, dreams, and goals – let it become a treasure for those left behind. Write every day, as much as you can. Record your thoughts and memories – someday - someone will enjoy reading them again and again...

About the author
Marcella Simmons has been writing professionally since 1988 – she has over 650 published credits in over 350 small press publications nationwide. In 2005, Simmons had her first book of poetry published, and is working on several book projects at this time. She continues to write a regular weekly column for a local newspaper in her hometown, as well as many other writing projects. "Writing is a way of life for me," she says. Simmons is the mother of eight children (all are grown now) and she has seven grandchildren with another on the way. "My family is also a way of life for me, and my inspiration."

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In this issue:

Spelling conventions

fwn uses English spelling conventions. Spellings such as "realise" "colour", "theatre", "cancelled", etc. differ from other spelling conventions but are nonetheless correct. 

News:

Vamplit Publishing launches new site
On September 1, 2009, Vamplit Publishing is launching a new website, ebookundead.com, selling ebooks from new authors in the horror, Gothic, fantasy and vampire writing genres.

Vamplit Publishing has an open submission policy. For more details, click here

For over 1,200 other publishers, click here

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Anglo-Brazilian agent seeks UK/US authors
Literary agent James McSill is looking for new US/UK authors to trial the Brazilian market. He is interested in hearing from fiction writers who have sold more than 1,000 books in their home territory.

For more details click here, or go to www.mcsill.com  (the text can be translated using Google).

For over 850 other agencies, click here

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New literary magazine launched
A new literary magazine, Gutter, has been launched, which is hoping to become a Scottish equivalent to Granta.

Gutter publishes poetry, short stories and novel extracts, and has just celebrated the launch of its first issue. The deadline for submissions for the second issue is October 30, 2009.

For more information, click here

For over 1,150 other magazines, click here 

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