Book Club Survey Question

We know Mt Holyoke alumnae are readers. This is a given. How many of you are in a book club? Or, perhaps the better question is, how many of you are in more than one book club – formal or informal?

The Strand

I am a poor member of three different book clubs. In these clubs, no one buys hardcover books. In fact, in all three clubs, new books are studiously avoided until the paperback versions come out. In recent years, there are many more e-readers coming to meetings and in all three groups, I’d say about 25% of members are getting their copies from the library. How does that compare with your book clubs?

We would love to hear from you with your answers to this question — if you are in a book club, approximately what percentage of members read the selections from:

A. a hardcover purchase

B. a paperback purchase

C. an e-copy

D. a library copy

E. a borrowed from a friend copy?

Thanks! Pass the word along to your reading friends.

Writer’s Notebook(s) – IDEAS


Using the term “the writer’s notebook” implies there’s one such magical thing and one way to properly keep such a magical thing. Wrong. I would argue that for most writers, one thing works sometimes, one thing another time, and you need to find what works for you — and, don’t be afraid to switch it up when you need to. The photo above shows different methods I’ve used: post-its for quick jots of ideas, notecards, mini-purse size notebooks, cell phone when I’ve been without a working pen and left myself a message to jot down later, composition notebooks, spirals, journals, three-ring binders. Don’t think I use all these all the time. I don’t. But, at different points, I have.

For me, the most common and frequent uses of writer’s notebooks fall into categories that fit neatly with the acronym: IDEAS.


This notebook would be considered by purists to be the traditional “writer’s notebook,” and purists would keep a volume continually updated with notes, lists, snippets of overheard conversation, photos, post cards, tickets, magazine clips, names, etc. — everything and anything from daily life that might inspire and inform future writing. I agree this is a fabulous idea, and I will tell you, it’s not effective for me. I’m not that organized and feel constrained by the pressure of updating and pasting and categories. I keep smaller purse-size notebooks where I jot ideas, lists, names, etc. I don’t do photos, clippings, etc. I rarely move the ideas into a bigger notebook, but I keep a basket of the small ones and will occasionally thumb them for ideas. This works fine for me. Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird describes her use of index cards for keeping track of ideas. And, for me, the importance of recording these moments when I first began doing so related to a comment by Lamott, “You start seeing everything as material.” That’s what the Inspiration notebook is for. Find a method you can use, and use it. Or not. Maybe you have a perfect memory and no need for writing things down. I don’t. I need those scrawls.

D – Dumping

This is not a necessary step for all writers, but it is for this writer’s sanity. My “dumping” notebooks are my daily morning pages, my blah, blah, blahs, my venting and my rejoicing. These pages are for my eyes only and my mental health, only. I need them as much as I need my morning coffee. (See an earlier entry on Julia Cameron’s morning pages.)

E- Exploring

Before discovering the convenient IDEAS acronym, I referred to this notebook as my diving notebook. In this notebook, I do writing prompts and if a story or chapter idea is embryonic, I begin drafts here, before moving to my laptop. (See Promptiful for suggestions for writing prompts.)

A – Accountability

This notebook is for writers who are submitting, engaged in the business side of writing. Here, ideally, you track submissions, rejections, acceptances, but you also keep notes of literary journals that seem to fit with your style of writing. If you have a novel that you are seeking representation for, you will have a section regarding agents as well. Again, this is a notebook that I don’t use. My method is to track my submissions to literary journals on Duotrope and my agents on sheets of notebook paper thumb-tacked to a bulletin board. (See – it’s a matter of finding what works for you, and using it.)

S – Specific Notebook for a longer work

It can be very helpful when working on a novel, to keep a spiral notebook with you at all times, related only to the novel. So, if you’re out and about and suddenly, a scene you’ve been struggling with or a character you couldn’t quite envision before becomes clear, you get it down in that notebook — with a big scrawl across the top of the page, identifying the scene or character. As you work on a longer piece, you begin to live and breathe with your characters, this specific notebook helps you save moments that may enhance your draft.

Hopefully, this post has given you some thoughts for what types of writer’s notebooks might work for you. If you use different methods that might be helpful for others, please do add a comment. Try something new if you feel its time.

As always, happy #writing all. (For those of you who may follow my blog as well, sorry, this is up on both sites. 🙂 )

Mothers & Marmees & Moms, Oh My!


Mother’s Day is here, bringing back memories of my sister and I and an Easy-Bake Oven cake presented to my mother, in bed, with purple Kool-aid. She smiled and choked it all down – we laugh about it still. Have you ever considered that it’s likely your mother heard your first laugh? And, your laughter is likely something your mother loved to hear. Her child’s laughter fills a mother’s heart with joy more easily than anything else.  As a mom of grown young men, I miss my boys laughing together at the dinner table (it helped that I raised a couple of characters, rather comedic characters).

I’ve been thinking about literary mothers, too and the two who affected me most as a child are Marmee, Mrs. March from Little Women and Caroline Ingalls (before the television show) from the Little House books. To me, they both were amazing — full of love and very “teacherly” in a non-threatening way. I adored them. They were strong women, living in times and situations that required strength, but strength tempered with unconditional love created something else altogether for me — the ideal mom.

In my life, I’ve been fortunate to spring from strong women. This family snapshot from my uncle’s wedding in 1965, shows me as the unhappy flower girl. (I was ill with a bladder infection and pouting a lot, partly because even though I was almost five, my mother insisted I had to wear rubber pants. She was right, of course, but I was far too old for rubber pants in my little mind – and, quite upset.) I love this picture for so many reasons — my Grandma, in the fur coat (mother of the groom) looks happy, proud and gently concerned about me. My mother shares my great-grandmother’s expression, bursting with pride. Also, my baby brother is barely visible as a tiny bump under my mother’s sailor dress. The hats are so 1965 for mass. My great-grandmother lived the mythic American story, arriving through Ellis Island in the early 1900s. She outlived three of her daughters. My grandmother raised her family under difficult conditions after a divorce, at a time when divorces were scandalous. My father died when my mother was thirty-nine, leaving her with two daughters in college and a teenaged son. Life wasn’t easy for these hard-working women, but they channeled Winston Churchill, never gave up, and taught by example about what perseverance means.

In this writer’s opinion, perseverance is the key word for writers. Those who stick with it will continue to write despite rejections, lack of responses from agents, loneliness, etc. And, when the downs feel overwhelming, it can help to find a new thing to help you continue when the writing life gets hard. I often recall Anne LaMott in Bird by Bird speaking of her writing as a gift. I consider my writing a gift to my fore-mothers. I appreciate their examples of perseverance – whatever life hands you – and especially, the love and importance of family. For Mother’s Day this year, I will reflect on the love and lessons from my mother, her mother and her grandmother. I will hope that by next Mother’s Day, I’ll be able to show my mother more progress in my writing.

Do you sometimes write and think of your writing as a gift? How did your fore-mothers influence you and your writing? If you are a mom, Happy Mother’s Day. I know you had a mom, so I hope you have lovely, laugh-filled thoughts to dwell on this Mother’s Day.

Happy #writing!

(Note: this post first appeared at Finding Meaning with Words.)