Monday, February 14, 2011

dear diary

Do you keep a diary or journal? Have you ever? Recently my mom uncovered a big box of my old diaries she'd found in my granny's attic. They've been gathering dust beneath those old rafters for a very long time. The other day I decided to take a peek and revisit them. I was amazed at how much I talked about writing...

April 20, 1971
Got a diary for my birthday! I LOVE to write!

December 12, 1975
Writing poems. Teacher says I have a remarkable writing style. Remarkably good or remarkably bad? I'd like to publish a book someday. But will God let it happen?

November 8, 1980
Working on another novel. College keeps getting in the way.

July 26, 1986
Characters and coversations keep running round my head. All I want to do is write. Not eat. Not sleep. Not work. Just write, write, write!

Seems like when I wasn't writing about writing I made detailed lists of all that we ate back then. Here's a sample from one of my granny's every day suppers at the height of summer when the garden was in - roast pork, fried crookneck squash, okra, green beans with potatoes, coleslaw, kale, tomatoes, pickled beets, deviled eggs, cornbread. This is one meal, folks. Can you tell we're in Kentucky? And I haven't even gotten to dessert:)

On a more serious note, I always discover a trove of historical treasure by reading old diaries and letters which is of benefit to my books. Though the spelling is irregular and the handwriting a challenge, it's worth every minute. Here are a few of my favorites:

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John and Abigail Adams
Martha Ballard (18th-century New England midwife)
Michael Shiner (19th-century slave who rescued his wife and children from slave traders in Virginia)
William Bulkeley (18th-century Welshman who writes of everything from the weather to his daughter marrying a pirate - I'm still trying to get my hands on this one)
Lucy Maud Montgomery (author of Ann of Green Gables and other novels)

I'd love to hear about any journaling historical figures I've overlooked. I'm sure there are plenty so please name away:)

*Please leave a comment for Lady in the Mist giveaway on Friday!


  1. Thanks for giving us a peek at your diary entries. Isn't it great to track the work of the Lord in your life. See how he gifted you for this purpose!

    I love reading journals. I've yet to read Martha Ballard's story and here I am living in Maine! I'm enjoying reading Lady of the Mist right now (no need to include me in the contest, thank you). I've found some wonderful fodder for my stories in reading diaries and letters. Since I have a love of genealogy, I enjoy reading the journal entries that are frequently found in some of the town and family histories (many available at Google books). If I'm researching a particular area I'll go to the town history records and find some fascinating stuff!
    One of my favorite biographical books is George MacDonald, Beloved Storyteller which included some journal entries. Other fascinating biographies that include some diary entries and letters that I've enjoyed are Amazing Traveler Isabella Bird and To the Heart of teh Nile (Lady Florence Baker's explorations), and Jane Austen's letters. I also enjoy reading captivity narratives. As far as those I've used for novel research, the captivity narrative of Olive Oatman, Pioneering the San Juans (Rev. George Darley, missionary preacher to untamed Colorado), the autobiography of Gypsy Smith.

    Your southern food menu is making me hungry! When I attended college in Mississippi I lived with a family and was astonished at all of the vegatables served at every meal, corn bread, etc. We usually only had two veggies at our evening meals and saved the large spread for the holidays. I love fried okra, but we don't have it hear in New England.

  2. aw, I bet going through those old diaries is so much fun! I have a whole stash of diaries of my own from about age 13-18 that I still haven't had the urge to go through and reread. Sometimes you need more distance to appreciate things ;) I've tried to keep a journal now but just dont seem to be able to. Although I suppose my blog is a version of a journal :)

    I guess the most obvious diary tome to read to me is The Diary of Anne Frank. There are a series of historical young adult books though that are written in diary form that I've enjoyed from the library in the past. But you know I love anything old timey... :)

  3. I would definitely put Anne Frank down as a Historical Journalist. Who knew the musings of a 13 yr old girl that journaled in her diary she named "kitty" would have such and impact on people around the world. She received the diary on her 13th birthday. Laura, how old were you when you received your diary in 1971. So different than Anne's World, huh?


    PS..I would love to read Lady in the Mist

  4. Loved this entry, Laura. It brought a smile to my face : ) My old diary is lost would fun to dig it up. Have a blessed week!

  5. Carla, It truly is a gift. I love my writing though I've often said (and have been scolded for it) that I KNOW it's a gift because I wouldn't have wanted it otherwise, I would have chosen music:)!

    I was hoping you'd come over and provide some wonderful stuff like you have here. You are in such an amazing place for research! America's earliest roots are right at your fingertips. I'm so glad one of your stories is going to deal with the sea and ships. Counting down till that!

    YES, thanks for mentioning the captivity narratives - I've read quite a few and have several on my keeper shelf. I need to get my hands on Jane Austen's letters and thank you for the other names you've included here. A treasure trove, indeed! I get a bit dizzy with excitement thinking of all I've missed.

    I was on your FB page the other day and smiled when I realized that you'd spent time in Mississippi. That must have been quite an education in itself for an east coaster:) Southern meals are quite large, especially in summer. Our big meal used to be at noon (dinner) and we'd only have leftovers for supper. I remember never being hungry back then and miss those days very much.

    So good to have you here. And congrats on both those contracts! I think this year will be one of your most JOYful yet, Carla.

  6. Oh boy, you brought back memories with that southern supper menu. I grew up with my parents and grandparents in one house, and my grandparents were southern Virginia farm folk. They had a garden in every spare corner of our Maryland suburban home, even across the street in a plot my grandfather got permission to clear, in the middle of the woods! Just like an old time frontier farmer.

    And I love your journal entries. I didn't keep a diary, but I was writing during many of those same years you quoted from. Writing, drawing. Always one or the other, and often both.

    Another 18th century writer I've greatly benefited from is the slave narrative of Olauda Equiano, published in 1792. It figures prominently in my novel, Kindred.

    There are some on your list I haven't read and will be looking for. Thanks for listing them!

  7. Hi Laura,
    Oh, Martha Ballard....I read it years and years ago, and also have the film made from the book that was on PBS in the 90's. I watch it about once a year. Hope you had a lovely Valentine's day, and that you saw my post yesterday in the SIDEBAR, with our Valentine's dinner menu! I also have a new post today---my blog IS MY diary!

  8. I haven't read these journals, but I think I will read a couple. I have read Anne Frank's diary, but didn't think about any others.

  9. That is such an interesting look into your diary life! Wow, talk about a foreshadowing of the future. :)

    I keep a diary and am on my 6th (or is it 7th, I can never remember) book. I started journaling after attending a writing class where the teacher said that writing something by hand, letter, journal, etc was losing its art. I decided then and there to return to keeping one. I don't really write anything "important" it wouldn't make a novel, but maybe someday someone will want to read it. Who knows. :)

    Thanks for sharing!!

  10. How fun to read excerpts from your journals, Laura! This post brought so many things to mind! I used to journal when I was younger. I wrote everything I was feeling and how God was working in my life. As I aged, I found myself writing in the margins of books--my Bible study books and non-fiction books. I would write how God was using some thought or verse in my mind.

    I love to skim back through my Bible study books (Cynthia Heald, Beth Moore, Kay Arthur) and see how "smart" I was in years gone by, but sometimes I find God has had to teach me the same lessons all over again! (sigh) Nowadays I keep quote journals. I pull quotes out of the books that profoundly impact me, write them in pretty notebooks, and read them often. Those words of wisdom change me!

    A book that truly impacted me was The Journals of Jim Elliot. After I had read through Elisabeth Elliot's books, I so enjoyed reading his thoughts. (I've been writing about them both on the blog with more to come in the future!)

    And another thing your post brought to mind was my grandmother's lunches. She followed a farm schedule where you eat a big meal in the middle of the day. I remember tons of side dishes--stewed tomatoes, three-bean salad, carrot salad, and homemade biscuits that were to-die-for. None of us have yet been able to recreate those biscuits!

  11. Oh, I forgot to say that I keep a diary as well. I read where writing is a really good tool for releasing pent up emotions. Eli Wiesel was told to write Night for this reason. Fyodor Dostoyevsky is another author that wrote about experiences, and probably countless others.

  12. Haha I so love that you were pretty much always a writer. I myself could never keep a jouranl or diary even though I wanted too. It's one of those things where I had two pesky little brothers who I didn't want reading them LOL!

    I read A Midwive's Tale as a freshman in college and I really enjoyed it. I did read and review Lady in the Mist yesterday on my blog and thought it was a pretty good fictional look into the life of a midwife plus there was a great romance too boot! :-)

    Have you ever read Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart? I haven't read it yet but my BFF Rachel suggested it to me last week and I believe it's free to download from Amazon! It's about a woman who sets out to try her hand at ranching in the early 20th century. I think it sounds very interesting!

    XOXO~ Renee

  13. Oh, how I wish I was more diligent with my journals growing up! It is so special to go back and read what the younger you was thinking and feeling. Like going through old photo albums, only better! ;) And how amazing when you get to read the dreams of your youth and know your living their reality today! Thank you for sharing little snippets from your journals, Laura :)

    Love this picture, too! How do you always find such wonderful pics? I love antique looking journals that you need a key to open... always thought they looked so romantic... :) Thanks for the smile today, my friend!

    And I would LOVE to win a copy of Lady in the Mist!!! I've been wanting to read that book since you posted the beautiful cover for it a while back. Thank you so very much for the chance!! :D


  14. Heather, I think I know just the YA historicals you're talking about and I love them! I have some on my keeper shelf - the Revolutionary War ones and the captivity stories. They are very well done.

    YES, I think our blogs are very much like a diary. I hadn't thought of that before! Maybe that's why mine has fallen to the wayside lately. The one I keep now is mostly filled with publishing things and what is happening with Revell, etc.

    Thanks for mentioning Anne Frank, surely one of the best read and best loved, not to mention, downright intriguing diaries of all time. It's been quite a while since I've read it but I still remember the feeling while reading (the horror, I guess, that people could do that to other people).

    I have actually considered burning my angst-ridden teen and college journals. I just about wince reading them! My childhood and adult entries are much more palatable:) So I know just how you feel about NOT reading them right now.

  15. Stacie, Oh, another Anne Frank fan! If she only knew the impact she had... I'd forgotten the "kitty" part which makes it all the more poignant.

    I was ten when I got my first diary and it was one of those long, pink and white ones with Holly Hobbie or some such character on it that was popular then:) I don't even remember who gave it to me - my mom, probably.
    But I loved it!

    So glad you want to read LITM. I wanted to post a cover pic but will do that on Friday, giveaway day. I think it's so pretty most CBA readers have taken note of it. Thanks so much for chiming in here!

  16. Colleen,
    Here's hoping you find that diary. If nothing else, it does make you smile - or laugh hysterically in my case! Everything was such a drama to me, even as a child. Oh, we poor sensitive types..:) BTW, I need to send you an email...

  17. Lori, I forget you have southern roots:) So you know just what I'm talking about when I mention okra and those type things:) I forgot to include corn and sweet potatoes which were always on the table, or so it seemed.

    I remember your Equiano post awhile back as that was one of my favorites. Another favorite of mine is when you posted your illustrations from your children's book!! They were so incredible I've not forgotten them. I think it would be wonderful to be gifted in both writing and art. Heather is the same!

  18. Lori, I forget you have southern roots:) So you know just what I'm talking about when I mention okra and those type things:) I forgot to include corn and sweet potatoes which were always on the table, or so it seemed.

    I remember your Equiano post awhile back as that was one of my favorites. Another favorite of mine is when you posted your illustrations from your children's book!! They were so incredible I've not forgotten them. I think it would be wonderful to be gifted in both writing and art. Heather is the same!

  19. Mary,
    I must come over and look at your menu and all else! I'm a bit behind on my blog reading lately. You are so good at posting in the sidebar and that is usually where I look first, especially to see any new offerings:)

    I didn't know they'd made a show about Martha Ballard. Glad you told me that as I will look up at the library, if they have. Also, I've enjoyed 1900 house and Colonial House (hope I'm getting the names right as it's been a few years since watching). They are certainly eye-opening though I don't know how historically accurate they are.

    Anway, be right over!

  20. Adrienne,
    That's so interesting about Wiesel and Dostoyevsky. I'm glad you keep a journal/diary for the reason you mentioned. I'd actually included here in this post the health benefits of keeping a diary but deleted it as the post was getting too long. So am glad you brought it up. Researchers have found that journaling boosts immunity and reduces stressful events. When we pour things out on paper it diffuses them, so they say. Also, it makes great writing practice for writers. The benefits go on and on:)

    Glad you're getting some new reading fodder from these comments, etc. Bless you for your comments!

  21. Casey, I think so many writers begin their careers by keeping journals. It's just so natural to us, I guess. I always delight in finding a pretty journal. Not long ago a Ky friend made me a journal out of all the natural fibers/plants in Kentucky! It's so lovely and I hate to write in it! Truly a work of art, and yes, she's sa gifted artist. If you're reading this, thanks so much, Gin!!

    I've read that diary-keeping is very helpful to novelists at least in their formative years as they have to focus, be persistent in coming back to the page, and then form their thoughts into words, which is what writing is all about really.

    Hope you're having a good writing day!

  22. Ah, Renee Ann, I'm all for those big midday dinners:) They really are a thing of the past, sadly. Glad we are old enough to have shared that tradition!

    I wonder if it's our season of life as I'm now writing in the margins all the time and also keeping quote journals:)

    Your blog is full of rich things. I have really benefitted from Elisabeth Elliot books - and anything Jim wrote. He's the reason my brother spent 20 years in Ecuador on the mission field. What an amazing, obedient life he led in so short a time! He's one example of how death can reap far more results than a Christian's life.

    Here's a quote for you - Hurry is the death of prayer.

    I've been taking that to heart lately.

  23. That's a great quote, Laura! And, unfortunately, too often true in my life. That's so neat that Jim Elliot inspired your brother. I be he (your brother) has a few stories of his own he could share!

  24. Oh Renee, You know what I like - the Letters of a Woman Homesteader sounds terrific! Now where's my Kindle?! Yet another reason to buy an e-reader. Stacie here sent me a list of free Kindle downloads recently and there were quite a few!

    I think pesky brothers make great diary-deterrants (is that a word?)! Besides, be thankful you never kept one. Now I have to dispose of mine or bear the embarrassment of passing them down. I'm all for the burn pile:)

    Glad you've read LITM. And I LOVE the covers you posted today on your blog! I'm sure they'll delight readers here like they did me. I'd not seen any but the top one:)

  25. Amanda, So glad you want to read Lady in the Mist! I'll even include a matching bookmark, thanks to Laurie Alice. I have it right here on my desk and it's such a stunning cover. I am still wanting to morph to the Virginia coast!

    Love your link between diaries and old pictures. They are a nice complement, I think. As for these blog pics, thank Google Images! I used to use Flickr! but they have such copyright restrictions now, I've gone with Google. I love the little key, especially, and wish those were my stack of stuff:)

    It IS so neat to see that God gifts us to do certain things early in life. It's a testament to His faithfulness and love that He brings things to fruition and doesn't drop the ball! I'm living proof:)

  26. Great post. Thanks for making me hungry with that list LOL! Thanks for the neat diaries you cited. Make sure you post a few of those on CACW, too! Used to keep a journal. Kind of feel a blog is one. My favorite journal is my prayer journal where I can look back and see how God has answered my prayers!

  27. Carrie, I'm so glad you keep a prayer journal - that's THE best kind! I love looking back at how God has answered, often in such creative ways, AND often in ways we've not imagined! Superabundantly more.

    Glad you like my granny's table:) I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. Glad you like the links!!

  28. I enjoyed reading the peeks from your diaries. I've tried to keep a diary several times over the years, but I always used to have problems writing about myself.

    Your granny's summer menu sounds like something my grandmother would have had during the summer too. I. can hardly remember any summer meals where we didn't have tomatoes. She made coleslaw all the time. Deviled eggs were reserved for Christmas and Thanksgiving though. I'll have to add her fried cornbread to the list of things I miss.

    I've heard of Martha Ballard, but I've not read the journal nor watched the documentary. One of my college professors told me about her.

    I've always wanted to read the Lewis and Clark journals, but I've never gotten around to it. From the excerpts I've read William Clark was quite the inventive speller.

    Please don't include me in the drawing, I bought Lady in the Mist last week.

  29. Michelle, I think we had coleslaw every meal but breakfast, then it was jowl, eggs, biscuits and gravy:) I miss all that, too. The only thing that I can make that tastes the same is granny's cornbread, mainly because I have her pan which was my greatgrandmother's pan and it's over 100 years old. It's an odd shape and black iron - I think it lends a certain flavor...

    I understand about the journal keeping. As I get older I have less patience with it and sometimes it seems silly.

    As for William Clark, I actually became quite smitten with him, red hair and all, while reading those journals. I nearly fell for Meriwether Lewis, as well, though he had a terrible end. But I'm head over heels for all the Clark boys, especially that rascally George Rogers:) They're worth reading, let me tell you...

    So glad you have LITM. We must clear the decks for Jack in Mine is the Night! I can hardly wait! A month from today, you said:) Thanks for that!

  30. I'm always looking for diaries. One resource I have, thanks to googlebooks, is Peter's Letters to his Kinsfolk, which is just as the title implies. Peter traveled around Scotland in the late 19th century. Much of his discussions involve food as well, Laura!

  31. You're welcome. But I didn't like the comment that you hated to write it the journal. I understand, but scribble away. That's what it's for. :)

  32. Hi Laura,
    Mary here again. Yes, There is a fantastic film called THE MIDWIFE'S TALE. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich appears between some scenes and does a lot of narration and explaining. It was filmed in Maine, in 'the Kennebec', and is very authentic, with excellent period clothing and furnishings.

    We have been to the area of Maine where Martha lived, and you can easily imagine her life there when visiting. I had a dear friend (now deceased) whose maiden name was Pit---one of the families in the film and book, and she was a direct decendant. Much of Maine, and even our area of New Hampshire retains a lot of the feeling of time having stood still. In the old houses and the landcapes, in the stone walls and old graveyards, the ghosts of the past are all around us...It is one big reason this area appealed to me so much when I came here years ago, and bought my little 18thc. cape.

    This film was a documentary made for PBS, and appeared on American Experience. I saw it about 15 years ago in Chicago. I have it, and the good news is that it is available for purchase! Here is one link:

    This is truly a wonderful film, and one that both Adam and I enjoy re-watching. By the way, I have Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's THE AGE OF HOMESPUN (book), and that is just great too.

  33. Mary, I love when you say that in your area and historic areas like Maine that time seems to stand still. I certainly get that feeling even from looking at photographs. When I was a girl, my family vacationed in Maine at a very old inn/resort in the woods on a lake. I remember it vividly and I was only about 9 so it must have been a wonderful place. Another historic place I've visited and loved is Old Sturbridge Village. I get the same feeling I had there when I "visit" your house on your beautiful blog!

    Thanks so much for the link - I will certainly purchase the film. Also, I'm so eager to get my hands on The Age of Homespun as I've overlooked that and the very title grabs me:)

    I'm loving my linen shift - it has a feel all its own. So different than cotton! Cotton came into the picture quite a bit later and I'm glad as there isn't anything quite like linen. Can't wait to post about that and those other 2 lovely items on the blog next week:) Thanks so much for the wonderful info here!

  34. Debra, You said the 2 magic words - Scotland and food! I knew you'd have a treasure to mention:) That sounds great - I need to go over to googlebooks and take a look. I'm finding they have a wealth of info there that is great for us historical lovers like Carla said. Seems like we're all on the same page there:)

  35. Gin, Now that I have your permission I will scribble away! But honestly, it is such a lovely book, it seems too fine for mere ink:) Maybe I'll get out the old quill and inkpot and make something of a celebration of it...

  36. Hi Laura! I've read some diaries and kept some as well, but I want you to know how much I really enjoyed COURTING MORROW LITTLE!! That is an awesome book and I am thrilled to have come across your writing! This probably isn't the right place to comment on something other than diaries, but I had to let you know how I enjoyed the story of Morrow and Red Shirt. I hope there is more to come!

  37. Ellie, You've made my day with your comments! I always welcome book talk here, especially about beloved characters like Morrow and her man:) I'm so happy you enjoyed their story as it was such an amazing experience to write. I learned so much along the way and fell in love with the hero who I delighted turning into a godly man. Am thrilled, also, that you took time to find me here in my little corner of cyberspace! Please stay in touch! I'm so thankful to have you as my reader!

  38. I hope you're better with a quill than I am. Can we say ink splatters on the wall?

  39. Thanks for sharing your journals. Its neat to see your love for writing at a young age.

    I smiled when I saw you mention L.M. Montgomery. I never finished those but enjoyed digging into them.

    I have to agree with Carla on the genealogy. I think my favorite journals are the notes written in my grandmother's charts. Just little jots at times, other times pages and pages.

    And I have to confess thanks to Renee's great posts on the newest Jane Eyre I'm reading Agnes Grey for the first time.

  40. Aw, Gin...hmmm...maybe I'll rethink that:)

  41. Julia,
    So glad you're here! Enjoy Agnes Grey. Renee has some great ideas - did anyone see her cover reveals? All new to me but one.

    I think grandmother's get top billing. Anything written by my granny gets saved. When I look at genealogical charts I wish I'd known all those people that came before me. Isn't it interesting to think you might be sporting a certain nose or temperament from way back? An interesting sidenote is that I'm a Laura who married a Randy and in the 19th-century Randy's great-great grandfather, also named Randy, married a Laura. I find that quite strange!

    Hope you're warm in your neck of the woods and the littles are well! Chris, too!

  42. Ellie, I was reading your comment again for the sheer pleasure of it and realized I hadn't answered completely:) I wish there was a sequel coming after CML ~ I always see so many threads that can be developed once I type THE END. I think Jess needs his own story, don't you think? And then there's little Jess and Rose(bud)which would take us into Missouri territory which was the wild west back then. Endless possibilities...

    I hope, if you read my first book and then my next book, that you'll like them just as much. BTW, you share the name of my heroine in book 2 of the series I'm writing. When you popped up in my inbox I smiled. Love that!

  43. Just a note to say I love your work! I agree with Ellie, reading Courting Morrow Little was a beautiful experience ... made me want to step into the book. I enjoy you website almost as much. It makes me smile everytime I read one of your postings. They are always so warm and inviting. I have always dabbbled at personal diaries and journals and have always enjoyed reading from others.

    One I found at a historical national park and pick up was "A Northern Woman in the Plantation South" It was a collection of letters of a northern woman who marries a southern doctor and moves to Lousianna during the civil war. It reveals alot about the society of the time, and the conditions.

    Thank you for sharing the gift God has given you in such a beautiful way!

  44. Stephanie, Wow - twice blessed now with Ellie and now YOU:)! It's such a delight waking up to your comments this morning - love and appreciate every word. So happy you find my blog a welcoming place. That's certainly my hope.

    The fact that you wanted to step into Morrow's world means more than I can say. That's a high compliment - thanks so much for that. I know I say this too much, but sometimes you really hate to let go of those characters and I really do miss them. Probably because I spent so much time with them! Due to the research involved, CML took a long time to write...

    You've hit upon a great secret of historical lovers - visiting historical places and finding books that aren't available anywhere else! You're treasure sounds so interesting, especially told from a northern/Yankee woman's perspective. That alone is bound to make the book very vivid. Sounds like my cup of tea:)

    Thank you for sharing your gift of encouragement with me this cold morning. Please stay in touch! I'm usually here 2-3x a week. Would love to hear from you again!