The Thirteen Traveling Journals Project

Friday, July 29, 2005

Featured Diarist: pattierwr

Pattierwr, who is one of the diarists for Thought Waves, was kind enough to do the following interview:


1. I was impressed by the letter you wrote to Waterbrook Press, pointing out the need for a reprint of Jen Abbas’s book Generation EX: Adult Children of Divorce and the Healing of Our Pain. How do you think we, as individuals, can encourage that kind of social responsibility?

I don’t think I was truly involved in anything that could be described as socially active (outside of voting and giving blood) until the mid-90s. There was an issue in the state where we lived that had to do with education, and I started writing letters to my senator and state representatives. I just never stopped after that.

The situation you mentioned, regarding this book, is an interesting one. I had read the author’s blog and she had written about the possibility of her book not being reprinted. Being an adult child of divorce is an issue close to my heart. After I wrote to the author, she asked me if I’d be willing to write to the publisher, telling them what I’d told her. Even if the publisher doesn’t respond, they have my opinion in writing. I took a stand, and it felt good. I encouraged others to do the same, and it felt even better when others followed my lead.

I was taught, growing up, that if you don’t do something, you have no right to complain. There’s truth in that. If a person is unhappy with a situation, it is up to her to do something to make it right. Complaining may help her vent and get something off her mind, but if it isn’t followed by action, it’s just griping. I have taught my students that throughout the years, and I am teaching this to my two young daughters as well.

2. How did you become a community leader for iVillage’s Journal Board?

Last summer, I was searching iVillage boards for something about journaling, and I happened upon the board. I’d been a member of iVillage for many years, but with teaching full-time, I hadn’t had time to be involved. I sent in my Community Leader (CL) application and almost immediately heard back from one of the community moderators. I answered the questions they asked, and within a few days I was placed in the Journaling board as co-CL. A couple of months later, the other CL resigned and I became the only CL on the board. I felt funny about it because I was so new to the whole process, but it has worked out well. I love journaling and everything about it. I think it is a great way I can be involved in an online community promoting something I love.

3. What do you do when you feel overcommitted in your life? How do you decompress?

I suppose overindulging in chocolate and coffee isn’t the response you’re wanting? (Ha ha!) It’s funny you should ask this question, because I am struggling with overcommitment right now. Last spring I left teaching to stay at home with my youngest daughter in her last year before kindergarten, and I wanted to squeeze in as much volunteering and other activities as I could. I have found, however, that I have taken on too many responsibilities. Fortunately, many of the time-consuming ones are ending soon. I am learning to choose more wisely where I spend my time and energy.

When I need to decompress, I write in my journal. Writing always helps me feel better. I sometimes blog about some things that are bugging me, but the really personal things remain in my handwritten journal. I talk things over with my friends, too. Depending on the perspective I need, I will also talk to my husband, my mom, and/or my sister. Each of them has a different view of me, and they can help me see myself more objectively.

4. What is your favorite thing about teaching?

I think my favorite thing about teaching is connecting with students as writers. Sometimes I think of myself more as a writing coach than teacher. I much prefer guiding students into better writing, rather than standing at the front of the room, lecturing and saying, “This is wrong.”
At its best, teaching energizes and invigorates me. At its worst, it drains me. I am thankful I had this past year off from teaching (after almost ten years in the classroom), but I am also excited about my new venture as part-time instructor of English Composition at our local university.

5. Describe how writing with your favorite pen (you mention in your blog that you have a collection of pens) affects your writing.

Oh, I have so many pens that I am constantly discovering new ones I forgot I had! I was at the office supply store with my husband the other day, and he had a new package of pens in his hand. He sheepishly said, “I have a weakness for pens.” I laughed and said, “Oh, so do I!” Different colors, styles, and even free ones fill the pen mugs on my desk.

Different pens give me different handwriting and in a way, a different way to write. When I write with a ballpoint, for example, I tend to be neater, as if I were in school. I am more careful with my words. When I use a liquid gel pen, my writing is faster, but less neat. Fast pens are great for high-speed venting. I have found the “perfect” pen in a particular roller ball, which I find works best for journaling: the perfect mix of speed and neatness.

Oh, and I rarely grade papers using red ink! I prefer green or purple.

Thank you so much, pattie! Visit her site, Pattie's Place.

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