Bender, a playwright, essayist, and poet, offers an exciting foray into the inner workings of the writer's mind by focusing on the ubiquitous writer's journal. Here Bender presents excerpts from the journals of 40 talented contemporary writers along with their thoughts on the process of keeping journals. Some, like Brenda Hillman and Naomi Shihab Nye, are longtime, insatiable journalists. Many here, however, admit that their journal-keeping habits are ``sporadic'' (Israel Horowitz) and limited to notions they can't live without (Jim Harrison). A few are even ``journal writers by default, brought to it kicking and screaming'' (Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni). Some of the journals, like Ron Carlson's, are bits and scraps of paper collected in a shopping bag or file folder for future reference. Other authors (Pam Houston, Janice Eidus) find that they can't write as well for themselves as they can for good friends or lovers, so they keep copies of their letters in lieu of the traditional diary. But as much as they differ in their journal-keeping habits, almost all of these writers agree on the importance of keeping notes that they can later access as a spur to their creativity. Many of the authors provide tangible proof of the journals' muselike aspects: Linda Bierds's journal is a step-by-step guide to her wonderful poem ``White Bears: Tolstoy at Astapovo,'' which is reprinted here; Patricia Hampl presents a long excerpt from her memoir Virgin Time, in which a short journal entry is cited in full and to marvelous effect. And for those of us who would like to keep journals but don't know how to begin, Al Young offers 21 journal-keeping ideas that give a good push in the right direction. All writers, aspiring writers, and even just serious readers will be moved to pick up that ratty old diary and start scribbling again.
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