Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life by Diana Raab

Source: the author
ebook, 238 pgs.
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Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life by Diana Raab is so much more than a book about writing and motivation, it’s about looking inside yourself to find what makes you happy and make it your center. Raab uses her plethora of writing experience and combines it with her knowledge of psychology and meditation to help writers create their own seven-step plan for writing not only about their own lives but other artistic projects too.  This is not a book about writing and selling your art, but about tapping into natural creativity and emotion to improve the whole body and psyche.

“Setting an intention involves focusing your thoughts in the particular direction of what you want to bring about or manifest in your life. … One thing to remember is that, even before you set an intention, you need to make sure you believe in it, .. ” (pg. 51 ARC)

Setting goals often is the easiest part for writers and others, it is the intention and believing in those goals that will ensure you reach them. Raab has fantastic advice about maintaining balance, how to find happiness and maintain it, and how this all falls in line with a writing life. However, those who are not in a place to commit will find it hard to begin, let alone sustain big changes. Raab’s advice is sound and writers who follow it are bound to reach the goals they set for themselves, especially after they have created a space where writing will be done (inside their own heads and in a physical space).

Meditation is a big part of her process, and while many may find this too “new-age” or “hokey”, it serves as a marker — a reminder to slow down and make time to think and reflect.  It does not have to be the standard meditation. It could simply be a walk that clears the mind of clutter or a few moments listening to classic music to relax.  It is about stepping away from the busyness of life to move forward with personal goals.

Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life by Diana Raab will help writers and others focus their energy on their own happiness and show them the way toward fulfillment.  Writers often suffer from writer’s block, and there are a number of options in this book to help you break through.  For those who want to write about the past or the future or their emotional trauma, this guide will surely help them toward healing and toward embracing the truth of their lives. Too often we are busy with other things, but Raab reminds us that to be healthy and happy, we need to be busy with our own bliss.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Diana Raab, MFA, PhD, is a memoirist, poet, blogger, speaker, thought leader, and award-winning author of nine books and more than 1,000 articles and poems. She holds a PhD in psychology—with a concentration in transpersonal psychology—and her research focus is on the healing and transformative powers of personal writing. Her educational background also encompasses health administration, nursing, and creative writing.

During her 40-year career, Dr. Raab has published thousands of articles and poems and is the editor of two anthologies: Writers and Their Notebooks and Writers on the Edge. Her two memoirs are Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal and Healing with Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey. She has also written four collections of poetry, her latest collection is called, Lust. As an advocate of personal writing, Dr. Raab facilitates workshops in writing for transformation and empowerment, focusing on journaling, poetry, and memoir writing. She believes in the importance of writing to achieve wholeness and interconnectedness, which encourages the ability to unleash the true voice of your inner self. Dr. Raab serves on the board of Poets & Writers (Magazine Committee), and Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center in Santa Monica, California. She is also a Trustee at the University of California, Santa Barbara. 

Visit her on Twitter and on Facebook.

Writers on the Edge: 22 Writers Speak About Addiction and Dependency edited by Diana M. Raab and James Brown

Source: Modern History Press
Paperback, 185 pages
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Writers on the Edge: 22 Writers Speak About Addiction and Dependency edited by Diana M. Raab and James Brown is a collection of essays, memories, poems, and stories about addiction and dependency, but more than that they are harrowing experiences of surviving with addiction and dependency and the continuous struggle that dogs these writers throughout their lives.  Most, if not all, of these essays are frank and honest about the vacillation between lying about an addiction and being honest about it and confronting it.  The poems are similar in that way.  From alcoholism to suicide and depression as well as overeating addictions, these writers share the struggle with themselves, each other, their readers, and sometimes even their families.  “These writers were more often than not, perps–their own or somebody else’s.  It’s roughly akin to reading a recollection of Nagasaki survivors by people who dropped the bomb on themselves,” says Jerry Stahl in the Foreword.

There are perfect examples in these writers’ lives of what addiction can lead to, and there are examples of friends who successfully killed themselves that haunt these writers and scare them to keep away from their addictions.  But even the scariest moments in these addicts lives may not be enough to stave off addictions for long, while there are times when addiction is held at arms length for a longer period of time, there are always moments of weakness around the corner.  What these writers strive to illustrate through these essays is that life and addiction go hand in hand, and some addictions may be more destructive than others, but it is when they become obsessions that people can lose control of themselves and lose all that they have and love.

From John Amen's "23":

... Jul called an ambulance,
and I came to in intensive care, sunlight flooding
through barred windows, tubes flowing like power lines.
I'd been here before, each survival bolstering some
myth of invincibility, but this time I knew I was treading

Clarity is the moment when each addict learns that they are addicts and that they must do something differently or die. “The language of poetry is the means by which one human consciousness speaks most intimately, directly, and precisely to others. Yet it is also an empty mirror, if I tell the truth of what I see,” says Chase Twichell in “Toys in the Attic.” More than a look at the addiction that has shaped these writers, this volume offers lessons and examples of struggle and includes an appendix of organizations and support groups to help those who need it.  Writers on the Edge: 22 Writers Speak About Addiction and Dependency edited by Diana M. Raab and James Brown is heartbreaking and inspiring, with selections that echo off one another to shout the louder truth of surviving addiction — it is a never ending process that must be undertaken every day, every hour, and at every moment.

Mailbox Monday #171

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. This month’s host is Cindy’s Love of Books.

Kristi of The Story Siren continues to sponsor her In My Mailbox meme.

Both of these memes allow bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received this week:

1.  Archie’s War by Marcia Williams, which I bought.

2. The Aleppo Codex by Matti Friedman, which I received from Algonquin and will be finding a new home for.

3. A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash, which I received unexpectedly from William Morrow.

4. Sacre Blue by Christopher Moore from William Morrow. I cannot tell you how excited I am to read this one!

5. Listening to Africa by Diana M. Raab from the poet.

6. Oklahoma City by Andrew Gumbel & Roger G. Charles from William Morrow unexpectedly.

7. Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick from Novel Places for Book Club.

8. Ashes by Ilsa Bick from Novel Places for Book Club.

9. The Day the World Ends by Ethan Coen from the publisher for review in April.

What did you receive?

The Guilt Gene by Diana M. Raab

Diana M. Raab‘s The Guilt Gene is a collection steeped in nostalgia that fails to glorify the past.  The collection is broken down into six sections:  “Cherry Blossoms, Book Tour, Two Evils, The Devil Wears a Poem, Yad Vashem, and California Roll.”  Additionally, “guilt” is defined in the pages preceding the table of contents, although most readers are aware of its definition and uses.

In “Cherry Blossoms,” Raab revisits the bloom of her youth when she was just beginning to discover boys and realize that she wasn’t popular with her classmates.  Hindsight is 20-20 in these poems as she examines how the behavior of her mother impacted her adolescence, particularly in “Moth Balls.”

The “Book Tour” section of the book is amazing in its raw honesty about never taking advantage of friendships because they are incredibly loyal and the emotional toll writing books, publishing them, and marketing them to the general public.  Raab discusses how writing is a reflection of who authors and poets actually are, the depression that follows the completion of a book, and many other scenarios.

Author Blues (page 26)

If women after delivering a baby

suffer post-partum,

why can’t writers

after delivering a book

suffer post-ISBN?

Raab’s frank perspective is like a hammer hitting readers with a deep sense of loss in “Two Evils.”  Her personal struggle with breast cancer is vivid and pulsates with anger, but also with confusion and a child-like wonder about the world around her.  Like her previous collection, Dear Anais (my review), some of the poems take on the tone of a diarist, an observer of life.  The Guilt Gene covers a range of events and emotions, and Raab will draw in readers through her casual tone, witty turn of phrase, and images that anchor readers to a time and place.  One of the best collections I’ve read this year. 

Thanks to Bostick Communications and Shirley at Newman Communications for sending along The Guilt Gene by Diana M. Raab for review.

This is my 7th book for the Clover Bee & Reverie Poetry Challenge.

Dear Anais by Diana Raab

I received Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You by Diana M. Raab from the author for review, I’m thrilled to say that Raab’s use of language in a format that resembles diary entries is fantastic. The volume begins with a letter to Anaïs about how she inspired Raab through her journals, particularly Anaïs’ entries about the house Eric Lloyd Wright built for her.

Each poem provides the reader with an insider’s look at Raab’s life and her interactions with family and others. Mirroring Anaïs Nin’s style, Raab seeks to demonstrate how important love is to humanity and how important it is to maintain our connections to one another.

Here’s her poem, “Weekly Lottery“:

Giving into his obsessions
was one thing my father did
almost every day of his life
for the fifty years which
he lived after The Holocaust
which robbed him of his parents
and baby brother Josh, putting
he and his brother in Dachau’s
kitchen, slicing potatoes and
saving friends from starvation
as the Nazis dined off Rosenthal
plates confiscated from Jews
tossed into frigid barracks and
stripped of everything ever
important to them.

Dad’s first treat, after arriving
in the United States with his brother Bob,
was using his factory paycheck for
a weekly lottery ticket, awaiting
the easy windfall, a sham of
good fortune, as if winning
the lottery was a ticket for
a new freedom boat. His
bliss stretched to winning five
tickets, five more scratches of
horizontal square boxes with
the same 1945 nickel which
he always carried in his pocket
for good luck, maybe not
enough cents to keep the
inveterate smoker alive past 70.

Raab’s poetry is detailed, vivid, and critical of its own subject matter and the narrator’s voice is often ironic in the final stanza or lines, reminding readers of how haiku can shed light on the most mundane of natural circumstances. In this poem, “Weekly Lottery,” Raab uses short lines and long sentences to build momentum, which invariably builds suspense for the reader.

Poems about the holocaust and WWII and war in general often attract my attention, which is probably why this poem has stuck with me since I first read Dear Anaïs. And I’ve already read through this book several times. There are a number of poems in here about Raab’s relatives and their dealings with war and the concentration camps.

This is an enjoyable collection of contemporary poems for every reader. Readers can connect with Raab through her poetry, including the hardship of loss and the nuances of daily living. Writers will enjoy her poems that deal with the writing process such as “Sketch of a Writer’s Studio” and “Sheets.” My personal favorite in this section was “On Demand,” which is about much more than just writing poems upon request.

About the Poet:

Diana M. Raab, MFA is a memoirist, essayist and poet. She teaches memoir, journaling and poetry in the UCLA Writers Program and the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. She also narrates and teaches workshops around the country.

Diana has been writing from an early age. As an only child of two working parents, she spent a lot of time crafting letters and keeping a daily journal. In university she studied journalism, health administration and nursing, all serving as platforms for her years as a medical and self-help writer.

Raab’s memoir, Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal (2007) won the National Indie Excellence Award for Memoir and was the recipient of many other honors.

Raab’s work has been published in numerous literary magazines and has been widely anthologized. She has one poetry chapbook, My Muse Undresses Me and one poetry collection, Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You (2008).

She’s editor of a forthcoming anthology, Writers and Their Notebooks (USC Press, 2009) which is a collection of essays written by well-known writers who journal, including Sue Grafton, Kim Stafford, Dorianne Laux, John DuFresne, James Brown and Michael Steinberg, to name a few. The foreword is written by the world-renowned personal essayist, Phillip Lopate.

Stay Tuned for my Interview with Diana, tomorrow March 12.

And now, for the giveaway information: (3 Winners)

Diana has graciously offered one copy of Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You and 2 copies of her chapbook My Muse Undresses Me.

1. Leave a comment about what inspired you to give this collection a try.
2. Tune in tomorrow and comment on my interview with Diana

Deadline is March 18, 5PM EST.

Randomizer.org will select the three winners; the first number selected will win Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You.


***Another Giveaway***

Check out this link to win a copy of Mr & Mrs Darcy: Two Shall Become One by Sharon Lathan.

***In Other News***

Savvy Verse & Wit has a spotlight guest post up at She Is Too Fond of Books; Check out my bookstore spotlight about Politics & Prose.