Journaling

Photo showing 13 journalsI have kept a journal since I was about eleven years old. Writing has always been an outlet for me, and a journal serves me as a way to release and cope with stress as well as to document mundane moments or celebrate the personal triumphs in my life. It is a place to experiment with styles and formats, although I confess I did this more in the past. Since grad school poetry has taken a backseat to other stiffer modes of expression, something I hope to change in the relatively near future.

Photo of journals stacked on top of each other

The bindings tell their own story.

I have finished every journal I have ever started, with the exception of a very first attempt from 1995 which functioned as much as a notepad as it did a journal. After a second “start” in 1997, though, each journal is complete. In middle school my handwriting was tiny. So neat and minuscule, I could never now replicate it. My entries became into letters to the important people in my life. A couple of my friends then also kept journals, and we would spend hours reading entries to each other. In high school I crafted elaborate collages of images and quotations to illustrate the day-to-day descriptions. I was not the healthiest version of myself in high school, and one horrible day I left my journal at school. Thank goodness two friends found it, and both denied reading it but from their concern-tinted voices and eyes I knew they had. I felt mortified but mostly grateful that they had found it and not someone else. In college my handwriting changed to the hurried but legible scrawl that it still is today. At the busiest periods I didn’t write as much.  Still don’t. So, for example, there isn’t as much about the time I spent living in France and later Thailand as I wish.

Photo of two journals

These two journals are remnants of my time in Thailand. The one on the left was a gift from my husband, purchased from a journal-maker in Bangkok. The one on the right I brought to Thailand with me, but the painting on the cover was done by an umbrella artist in Bo Sang near Chiang Mai.

I don’t write as much as I did when I was younger. I have had only three journals since college. But I always have my journal on me just in case, and would feel uneasy without one. Almost all of my journals have been gifts. I haven’t received a new one in years, actually, and that hardly matters because I still have empty journals that people gave me well over a decade ago. There has never been any method to my selection process. I don’t use them in the order in which I received them. I tend to just choose whatever journal feels right at the moment. At one point I liked to reread all of my journals once I completed one, but have long since stopped doing that. Less time and more journals. However, I did go 20140113-125735.jpgthrough and number them, as well as add the start and end date to each journal. That way I can easily figure out which journal to look in if I ever want to reference a specific event. Two days ago I finished my fourteenth journal. (In the first picture, you may notice there are only thirteen journals. I didn’t miscount, one is just in a different box that has yet to be unpacked.)

Lately I have been wondering about the relationship of blogging and journaling. Things like, what proportion of bloggers also keep journals? How many used to but stopped after they began to blog? If I were a middle schooler now, would I still have that circle of friends to share journals with, or would we have jumped to a blog or online journal format instead? I’m sure someone has written about this and even studied it.

Do you keep a journal? How have your own journals changed? Share if you’re willing!

Photo of journals packed in their unglamorous bin.

Packed away again in their unglamorous bin.

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Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw

Cover image for Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinnMcQuinn, Anna. Lola at the Library. Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, 2006.

Plot:  A little girl and her mother share a special routine on Tuesdays when they go to the library.

Setting: Modern-day town or city

Point of View: 3rd person

Theme: libraries, books, storytime, reading, routines, responsibility, librarians, mother-daughter relationships, parent-child relationships

Literary Quality: Lola at the Library describes a routine that many children and their parents or caretakers know in some variation. And hopefully it introduces a routine to many more! McQuinn’s simple text in large bold typeface is appealing to young readers. The bright acrylic illustrations bring us into Lola’s world at her perspective. We only see the upper half and faces of adults (and then only her mother) when they are at Lola’s level — waking her mother up in bed, sitting down for a treat at a cafe, and reading a bedtime story. The effect keeps the focus on Lola and a child’s worldview. This is a celebration of routines as much as it is of libraries, and should hit a chord with any child (or adult!) who loves the patterns of their days. It is worth noting that the board book edition of Lola at the Library lacks the complete story and is not nearly as rich as the picture book.

Audience: Ages 1-5. A great book for storytimes, bedtimes, and every time in-between.

Personal reaction: I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but it was the cover of this book that totally drew me in, so warm and inviting. But it was the cover of the board book I was looking at! After a bit more research I realized how much better the picture book was and I’m so glad that I got a hold of it. My son and I go to storytimes at different libraries multiple times a week most weeks (we are fortunate to have some wonderful libraries in the surrounding area!), it is my favorite part of our day-to-day routines, and it was exciting to find a book that captured that experience. I look forward to the day my little boy will pack his own library card and books into his bag just like Lola!