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

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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.

Savvy’s Best of 2014 List


I cannot believe how quickly 2014 has flown by, and I also cannot believe I read more than 150 books this year. 2015 will be a year of changes for me, as I pull back from reviewing and reading so many books here on Savvy Verse & Wit as I start my own business, Poetic Book Tours.

I did want to share with my readers here the best books of 2014, in case you missed the day-by-day announcements on the Facebook page.

  1. Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James (my review)
  2. Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming (my review)
  3. Lust by Diana Raab, read by Kate Udall (my review)
  4. Any Anxious Body by Chrissy Kolaya (my review)
  5. Going Over by Beth Kephart (my review)
  6. The Descent by Alma Katsu (my review)
  7. Still, At Your Door by Emma Eden Ramos (my review)
  8. A Long Time Gone by Karen White (my review)
  9. The Vintner’s Daughter by Kristen Harnisch (my review)
  10. Children’s Activity Atlas from Sterling Publishing (my review)
  11. Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion (my review)
  12. Women of Valor: Polish Resisters to the Third Reich by Joanne D. Gilbert (my review)

What books have made your end of the year favorites??

Lust by Diana Raab, Read by Kate Udall

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Source: TLC Book Tours and Diana Raab
Audio, 1hr+;
Paperback, 104 pages
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Lust by Diana Raab, read by Kate Udall, is uninhibited, sensuous, and consumed with physical and emotional pleasure.  The poems, as read by Udall, are impassioned and shocking at times, as Udall breathes life into each stanza and word, painting a titillating scene with each image and story.  The poems explore not only the primal lust of the physical body, but the desire we have to feel and be loved, even as we age.  There is an intimacy that the narrator hopes will open readers up to share their own most secretive selves and desires with their own partners.  There are selves inside that we rarely show to the world, and in the lovemaking that we have with our partners, we can abandon the outer shells to regain a connection with our true selves and that of our partners.

Imagine all of the nerve endings and hair follicles coming alive, that is what this collection is — electrified narrative poems.  Udall’s voice is hypnotic, drawing listeners into the stories and letters Raab crafts with seductive language and imagery.  There are marriages kept alive with passion, there are adulterous affairs that are “burps” disrupting the fake smiles on our faces, and there are one-night encounters.

And even in these passionate moments, there is the acknowledgement that these encounters are temporary and fleeting, even among lovers joined in marriage and commitment.  But there is more than just passion here, there is sorrow, regret, confusion, addiction, fantasy, and love.  Raab’s poems are passionate and temporal, but striving to transcend reality and reach an out of body experience where appearances do not matter.

Lust by Diana Raab, read by Kate Udall, is stunning and memorable on more than one level.  Lovers and married couples should consider reading these poems to one another, so that perhaps they can deepen their own desires for one another, their own passions, and reach a new kind of ecstasy.  Lie upon the bed and take turns reading these verses and passions are likely to flare.

***Handle with care, as the language here is very sexual in nature.***

About the Poet:

Diana Raab is an award-winning poet, memoirist, and believer in the healing power of the written word. She began crafting poems at the age of ten when her mother gave her her first Khalil Gibran journal to help her cope with her grandmother and caretaker’s suicide. A few years later she discovered the journals of diarist Anaïs Nin and learned that, like Raab, Nin began journaling as a result of loss (the loss of her father). Much of Raab’s poetry has been inspired by Anaïs Nin’s life and works.

She is the author of four poetry collections, My Muse Undresses Me (2007); Dear Ans: My Life in Poems for You (2008); The Guilt Gene (2009); and Listening to Africa (2011).

Her poetry and prose have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Rattle, Boiler Room Journal, Rosebud, Litchfield Review, Tonopah Review, South Florida Arts Journal, Prairie Wolf Press, The Citron Review, Writers’ Journal, Common Ground Review, A Café in Space, The Toronto Quarterly, Snail Mail Review, New Mirage Journal, and Jet Fuel Review.

She is editor of two anthologies, Writers and Their Notebooks (2010) and Writers on the Edge (2012), co-edited with James Brown. Both these collections have submissions from poets and prose writers.

Diana has two memoirs, Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal (winner of the 2009 Mom’s Choice Award for Adult Nonfiction and the National Indie Excellence Award for Memoir), and Healing With Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey (winner of the 2011 Mom’s Choice Award for Adult Nonfiction).

She is a regular blogger for The Huffington Post and writes a monthly column for the Santa Barbara Sentinel, “The Mindful Word.” She lives in Southern California with her husband, and has three grown children. She is currently working on her doctorate in psychology and is researching the healing power of writing and creativity.

Other Books Reviewed:

Book 23 for the Dive Into Poetry Reading Challenge 2014.

Mailbox Monday #218

HAPPY EASTER to those who celebrate!

As tomorrow is the kick-off of National Poetry Month, I’m posting this meme early, and it may be on hiatus for the rest of the month until the blog tour is over.

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. April’s host is Mari Reads.

The meme allows 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 for review:

1.  Writers on the Edge:  22 Writers Speak About Addiction and Dependency edited by Diana M. Raab and James Brown from Modern History Press for review.

Writers On The Edge offers a range of essays, memoirs and poetry written by major contemporary authors who bring fresh insight into the dark world of addiction, from drugs and alcohol, to sex, gambling and food. Editors Diana M. Raab and James Brown have assembled an array of talented and courageous writers who share their stories with heartbreaking honesty as they share their obsessions as well as the awe-inspiring power of hope and redemption.

CONTRIBUTORS: Frederick & Steven Barthelme, Kera Bolonik, Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, Maud Casey, Anna David, Denise Duhamel, B.H. Fairchild, Ruth Fowler, David Huddle Perie Longo, Gregory Orr, Victoria Patterson, Molly Peacock, Scott Russell Sanders, Stephen Jay Schwartz, Linda Gray Sexton, Sue William Silverman, Chase Twichell, and Rachel Yoder.

2.  Unexplained Fevers by Jeannine Hall Gailey for review from the poet.

“Unexplained Fevers plucks the familiar fairy tale heroines and drops them into alternate landscapes. Unlocking them from the old stories is a way to “rescue the other half of [their] souls.” And so Sleeping Beauty arrives at the emergency room, Red Riding Hood reaches the car dealership, and Rapunzel goes wandering in the desert – their journeys, re-imagined in this inventive collection of poems, produce other dangers, betrayals and nightmares, but also bring forth great surprise and wonder.” – Rigoberto González, author of Black Blossoms “Unexplained Fevers begins with that most familiar of phrases, “Once upon a time,” but the world we find inside these covers is deeply defamiliarized. Trapped by physical ills, cultural expectations, and the constraints of marriage, these heroines interrogate the world and propel themselves through it with cunning and sass. We follow, for example, Jack and Jill though a prose poem where they “somehow turned thirty without thunderous applause,” after having sworn they “would follow each other anywhere, but anywhere turned out to be a lot like Ohio.” At the center of these poems – urgent, mysterious, evocative – we find the great topic of all fairy tales, transformation. Read Unexplained Fevers, and be transformed.” – Beth Ann Fennelly, author of Unmentionables.

What did you receive?

146th Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 146th Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s books suggested. Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Also, sign up for the 2012 Fearless Poetry Reading Challenge because its simple; you only need to read 1 book of poetry. Please visit the stops on the National Poetry Month Blog Tour from April 2011 and beginning again in April 2012.

Today’s poems is from Diana Raab’s Listening to Africa:

Tse Tse Paradise (page 55)

An early evening game ride
rolls us through high savannah grass,
to where sleeping sickness lurks
and a bug blanket forms
to burrow under
our glistening white skins
coated with toxic repellants
which my doctor says
are better than
the disease they protect against.

We relentlessly duck and swat them away,
those pregnant noiseless flies
smothering us with their bug shower,
my son with a woolen blanket suspended
over his twenty-year-old head,
as we all dart from what could be
the absolutely fatal bite.

What do you think?

About the Poet:

Diana M. Raab is a memoirist, essayist and poet. She has a B.S. in Health Administration and Journalism, and an RN degree from Vanier College in Montreal, in addition to an MFA in Nonfiction Writing from Spalding University’s Low-Residency Program.

Diana has been writing from an early age. As a child of two working parents, she spent a lot of time crafting letters and keeping a daily journal. A journaling advocate and educator, Diana teaches creative journaling and memoir in workshops around the country. She frequently speaks and writes about the healing powers of writing.

***For today’s National Poetry Month Tour stop, Solid Quarter‘s Megan Burns visits Savvy Verse & Wit.***

Listening to Africa by Diana M. Raab

Listening to Africa by Diana M. Raab are the poet’s thoughts on her trip to Africa in 2008.  The poems are not about Africa and the events that happen there, so much as the effect the trip had on Raab and her family.  A trip motivated by death and malignancy, Raab is seeking a spiritual renewal, a way to rejuvenate her flagging will to fight.  She finds what she needs as she watches the village people struggle to clothe and feed themselves by actively pushing their crafts onto tourists and selling themselves to tourist firms as entertainment for the pampered Americans.

From "Amplified Melancholy" (page 8):

. . . and all I can tell you is that
on the tenth anniversary of dad's
passing, the doctors removed

my right breast and five years later
stabbed by a second diagnosis,
bone marrow malignancy,

no cure, just treatment --
the holiday lights sharpened.
Past dripping menorah candles,  . . .

Emotions run the gamut in this collection from fear to nostalgia for the past, and a new understanding of how the past has shaped each of us.  She sees the grandfather in her son in “Your Camera” as he approaches the world behind the viewfinder of a camera.  There is fearsome beauty in Raab’s poems as she explores the wild with her family, even though her trip is controlled.  The beauty of the sunrises and sunsets, the hidden dangers of genteel looking hippos, and the fight for survival among all nature’s creatures.  For example:  “The forces of life and death/are at play like the day I found/my grandmother dead in her bed –//” (from “The Scent of Death” on page 19) and “We are snapped into silence, the comes the roar/of dragon breath and then silence again./The purple scarred panorama lingers//” (from “Balloon Rides” on page 21).

Readers will become steeped in the melancholy and the tentative observations of Africa from which the poet is seeking to draw strength and understanding.  Like the hippo in “Hippos” and in nature, the poet has a deep, hidden strength and history of survival from which to draw from as she fights what ails her, but also the cancers have their own hidden strengths and it is clear there will be a battle of wills.  “Our jeep arrived at sunset//at the edge of their swamp/as their big papa sat and stared/deep into our foreign eyes, long enough//to bring ten more in his company,/as if this army could infiltrate/our veins with fear.  They sat proudly//” (from “Hippos” on page 43) illustrates the duel going on within the poet between the cancer cells staring her down eager to win the battle, and her doing the same as she gathers her inner strength and support systems around her.

Listening to Africa by Diana M. Raab is a wonderful reminder that we each struggle for survival, though we all may not live in the wilds of the jungle.  Raab is a talented poet who takes her memorist talents and weaves them into imagery and verse that creates emotional tension and verse readers can reflect upon and apply to their own lives.

Poet Diana Raab

About the Poet:

Diana M. Raab is a memoirist, essayist and poet. She has a B.S. in Health Administration and Journalism, and an RN degree from Vanier College in Montreal, in addition to an MFA in Nonfiction Writing from Spalding University’s Low-Residency Program.

Diana has been writing from an early age. As a child of two working parents, she spent a lot of time crafting letters and keeping a daily journal. A journaling advocate and educator, Diana teaches creative journaling and memoir in workshops around the country. She frequently speaks and writes about the healing powers of writing.


This is the 6th book for my 2012 Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.

***For today’s National Poetry Month blog tour stop, please visit Necromancy Never Pays.***

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.

Interview with Poet Diana Raab

I’d like to welcome poet Diana Raab to Savvy Verse & Wit. Yesterday, I reviewed her poetry collection, Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You. You can read my review of her collection, here.

Please welcome Diana:

1. Do you see spoken word, performance, or written poetry as more powerful or powerful in different ways and why? Also, do you believe that writing can be an equalizer to help humanity become more tolerant or collaborative? Why or why not?

I find all forms of poetry powerful—spoken word, performance and written poetry. Poetry nurtures the soul and expresses core emotions and for this reason it can serve as an equalizer to help us all become more tolerant. This is particularly true for what I call “accessible poetry,” or poetry that reaches out with words that the reader can understand, feel or touch.

2. Do you have any obsessions that you would like to share?

My obsession is writing and getting my words out into the universe. I spend at least ten hours a day in my office, either creating or marketing my work. My other passion is reading. I suppose there is a fine line between having an obsession and a passion. For me, writing and reading wear both of these hats.

3. Most writers will read inspirational/how-to manuals, take workshops, or belong to writing groups. Did you subscribe to any of these aids and if so which did you find most helpful? Please feel free to name any “writing” books you enjoyed most (i.e. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott).

I have been writing since the age of ten, so it would be impossible to list all the books and resources which have inspired me as a writer.

In the 1980s and 1990s, I attended many writing conferences and workshops. There was something contagious about being around other writers producing work. Both The University of Iowa’s Summer Writing Program and AWP have sparked a great deal of interest for me. These days I teach at the conferences and even as a teacher it is inspiring.

As a journaling advocate, I have found that reading the journals of Anaïs Nin helped me find my own voice. This is the main reason I have decided to dedicate this latest book of poems to her.

4. Poetry is often considered elitist or inaccessible by mainstream readers. Do poets have an obligation to dispel that myth and how do you think it could be accomplished?

I think the idea of poetry being elitist and inaccessible is an old concept. Much of contemporary poetry is accessible. I believe that the former poet laureate of the United States, Billy Collins, is greatly responsible for this change. He brought poetry 180 into the schools. His accessible poetry has inspired many people, including myself, to write poetry.

5. When writing poetry, prose, essays, and other works do you listen to music? Do you have a particular playlist for each genre you work in or does the playlist stay the same? What are the top 5 songs on that playlist? If you don’t listen to music while writing, do you have any other routines or habits?

The decision to listen to music while writing depends upon my mood. Sometimes I need music, other times, any bit of noise irks me. If I do listen to music, I might listen to the words of Leonard Cohen and also some instrumental music such as new age music geared towards productivity and concentration.

My writing habit entails working on a few projects at the same time, often times in different genres. I enjoy the variety and find that each genre feeds off the other. However, if I have an impending deadline, I am able to focus and wrap up a project if I either put a ‘Do Not Disturb,’ sign on my door or just go away to an undisclosed place for a writing retreat.

6. In terms of friendships, have your friendships changed since you began focusing on writing? Are there more writers among your friends or have your relationships remained the same?

This is difficult to answer, since I have always written. I have a mix of literary and non-literary friends.

7. How do you stay fit and healthy as a writer?

I work out at the gym with a trainer three times a week. I try to walk every day with my dog anywhere from 30-60 minutes. I also do restorative yoga once a week and meditate every day. All these activities help me focus on my work.

8. Do you have any favorite foods or foods that you find keep you inspired? What are the ways in which you pump yourself up to keep writing and overcome writer’s block?

I do not believe in writer’s block. It’s just an excuse not to write. I think that those who keep journals rarely experience writer’s block. If I am not feeling creative, I will just free-write in my journal and usually something interesting will come of it. Sometimes I read the words of my favorite writers to inspire me. I also often read the journals of Anaïs Nin because both her sensibilities and voice seem to resonate with me.

9. Please describe your writing space and how it would differ from your ideal writing space.

I have a writing studio which is my favorite room in the house. In taking Virginia Woolf’s advice quite seriously, I have found a room with a view overlooking the mountains of southern California. I use a laptop on my desk and there are many bookshelves behind my desk with my favorite books, most of them autographed. I have a painting by Edward Hopper hanging on the wall opposite my desk.

Other framed items include the book jacket of my memoir, Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal, and a quote by Mark Twain which says, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word, is really large matter—it’s the difference between the lightening bug and the lightening.” I am a lover of quotations and over the years, I have collected many favorite ones.

10. What current projects are you working on and would you like to share some details with the readers?

I have just finishing editing an anthology I compiled called Writers and Their Notebooks. It is forthcoming by the University of South Carolina Press in February 2010. I am very excited about this collection. It includes essays written by well-published writers who used journals in their practice, such as Dorianne Laux, Sue Grafton, John DuFresne, Kim Stafford, Ilan Stavans, Michelle Wildgen. The preface was written by Phillip Lopate.

I am also working on another poetry collection and a memoir.

11. I’ve noticed reading some of your initial poems that there is an ironic sense near the end of these verses. Was this sense of irony intentional? Like in “Jones Beach” where the mother is an environmentalist and yet serves her children cookies that are appetite suppressants.

Yes. My poems just come out of me in one fell-swoop. They are not premeditated or calculated.

12. Anaïs Nin was a diarist and your poems seem to be like diary entries as well. Did all of these poems come immediately following your in-depth reading of her work or did they evolve over time? Would you consider Dear Anaïs representative of all of your work or do you craft a variety of poem forms and types?

All of my poems were born on the pages of my journal. I create best with pen in hand. I devoted this latest collection to Nin because reading her journals helped me find my voice. I am a narrative poet and yes, my latest book of poetry is a fair representation of my work. I will be experimenting with other forms, but this is representative of my work at this point in time.

Thank you Diane for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions. I wish you luck with your latest projects and look forward to seeing your latest projects in print.

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 on my review post, here.

2. Comment on this interview with something other than “pick me” or “enter me.”

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.