Journaling Lists and Prompts: A Break from “Me,” Yet a Vehicle for New Discoveries

Close-up of a young girl writing on a sheet of paper

Today I journaled using a pre-made list of questions:


and a list of listing prompts:


What a great experience!

A Break from “Me”

Returning to work (I am a teacher) and keeping up with my writing obligations and a new role as women’s Bible Study leader at church, while not yet fully recovered from this spring’s concussion, has really set me back both emotionally and physically. I am so tired, and when I am tired, I am so prone to feeling sorry for myself. (Pity my poor husband!)

And yet, these past few days I have felt a huge urge to journal.

However, I am so sick of myself, the last thing I wanted to do was open up my journal and write about me and my life.

Enter “Pinterest: Debby Zigenis-Lowery, A Literate Lifestyle” Pinboard

One of the many things I collect on Pinterest are journaling prompts. I decided it was time to pick a prompt resource and use that to inspire my journal entry.

Question 1 from 365 Questions September“What decision do you wish you didn’t have to make?”

At first I didn’t think I wanted to try and answer this, but I had committed to following the list.

I though and I thought. Hmm. There are no difficult decisions I have to make right now. Wow! Suddenly I realized, I am pretty blessed.

I wrote about this in my journal and emerged with a true attitude adjustment in a far more positive direction.

31 Days of Lists Challenge

I had also collected a number of list prompts. The idea of simply listing sounded simple and fun.

Prompt #1: Favorite Sounds

Here is my list:

  • Gently moving water
  • Little birds singing outside the window
  • My granddaughters sweet little-girl voices
  • The summer breeze moving in the trees
  • The boom of fireworks
  • The boom of thunder, especially in the mountains
  • The jingle of little bells
  • The jangle of sifting through a pile of bottlecaps
  • The splash of driving through a puddle
  • The absolute quiet of snowfall
  • The clatter of a jar of buttons
  • The crunch of kicking through autumn leaves
  • The scrunch from crinkling tissue wrapping paper
  • Hymns and Christmas carols sung a capella
  • Gentle piano
  • Gentle guitar

New Discoveries…

I feel so much better, so much less sorry for myself. I have discovered I love journaling to a prompt.

Yes, there is a time and place to journal your experiences and feelings. It is very therapeutic. However, it is also pretty wonderful to turn your mind onto a new track and make discoveries you may have never have otherwise encountered today.

What about you? Have you followed a journal prompt lately? What was it?

And what are your favorite sounds?

*image: depositphotos_72324853_original.jpg


Ode to the English Language: Our Wonderful Treasure Trove of Words

Wonderful Words: Living Well, Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives

Wndrfl Wrds.Zn DngleWonderful Words on Words

One of the long-neglected tasks I attended to this summer was to continue organizing my huge collection of quotes. (Most just inhabit snippets of paper in a fat paper file.) As I was entering and categorizing them, I came across a series culled from an essay by Pat Conroy, “Interpreting the World Through Story,” featured in the June 2012 Writer Magazine.

This is for all you English Teachers, Writers, and Lovers of Literature

Conroy reflected on the joy of living a life centered on reading, writing, and the English language.

What richer way to meet the sunlight than bathing each day of my life in my island-born language, the one that Shakespeare breathed on, Milton wrestled with, Jane Austen tamed, and Churchill rallied the squadrons of England with? I want to use the whole English language as the centerpiece of a grand alliance or concordance with my work.

A Rich and Abundant Heritage

Our language, our words, are such a commonplace thing to us. I sometimes forget to marvel at the richness and beauty of the language I was born to speak. But as I return to school to teach reading, writing, and vocabulary to students whose exposure to the grandeur of our language has been so much more limited than my own, I am awed and humbled by the great wealth of language it is my privilege to share.

What writers have delighted you?

What words or turns of phrases set your heart afire?

Register for the SCBWI Oregon Fall Retreat: Turning a New Leaf

SCBWI Oregon fall-retreatThe retreat is coming! The retreat is coming!

The SCBWI (that’s Society of Book Writers and Illustrators) Oregon fall retreat, Turning a New Leaf, is coming up in just a little over a month. It will be held October 15 to 18, to be precise.

This retreat has long been a highlight of my writing year.

What to Expect at this year’s SCBWI Oregon Fall Retreat?

There will be workshops taught by our outstanding faculty:

  • Heather Alexander, Agent, Pippin Properties
  • Marie Lamba, Associate Agent, The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency
  • Andrea Welch, Senior Editor, Beach Lane Books
  • Tiffany Liao, Associate Editor, Razorbill/Penguin Random House

There will be opportunities to participate in The Line Up–a first line’s critique session,  roundtable faculty group critiques, a Mini Book Launch for PAL members with new releases since last October’s retreat, an Illustrators’ Showcase, optional critique groups by genre, open mic readings, an Illustrator Portfolio Display, and one-on-one Consultations for manuscript critiques and portfolio critiques.

Come Join Us!

  • Where: The Oregon Gardens Resort in Silverton, Oregon
  • When: Thursday, October 15-Sunday, October 18
  • How to Register: Just follow this link to the SCBWI Oregon website.

Why Attend the SCBWI Oregon Fall Retreat?

  • to learn
  • to make writing friends
  • to return recharged for a new season of writing

As I said, this retreat is always a highlight of my writing year. What conferences and events have you found valuable to your literate lifestyle?

My Writing Plan for a New Writing Year

Make a Writing Plan pink polka dotsIt’s September, and this Writer must Return to School 

Teaching is a great career for someone who aspires to write for young people. You get to interact with them on a near daily basis, see what they read, and talk to them about their interests and their lives.

However, teaching can also be an almost overwhelming career for a writer who also wants to write.

And so, as summer has crept to its close, this writer has looked to this day with both trepidation and excitement.

Good-bye Extended Writing Time

It is simple fact, I will not be able to spend as much time in my home writing office as I have these last three months. The hours (note, that is a plural) long time summer provided for writing each week will be more limited. Therefore, it is good to have a plan.

My School-Year Writing Plan

The secret to being a writer and having an additional career (any kind of career) lies in having a plan. Here is mine:

On weekday mornings I am blessed (or cursed, depending on how late I stayed up the night before) to arrive at school nearly a half hour before my start time (the joy of carpooling). Therefore, I have time to write. This year I have to do a quick, final edit for my middle grade fantasy novel, Set in Stone. When that is complete–hopefully by October–I will then edit my non-fiction picture book Roaming Mt. Rainier and then resume drafting my latest young adult fantasy novel, Thrice Cursed.

I have Wednesday afternoons off for writing. At first I will use this time also for Set in Stone–as you can see I really want to get this done. In addition I will prepare for writers group meetings and continue drafting my middle grade fantasy novel in verse, The Butterfly Blessing.

“So How Are You Going to Get Published?”

Good question. I actually need to take the time to make submissions if my work is ever going to get out into the world. Therefore, after school on Mondays I must do submissions. No dinner on Monday nights until I have made two submissions. (The Swallow’s Spring, a coming of age, historical fantasy, is now in agent-quest stage, as is my picture book, An Astonishing Array of Animals.)

And What About Literate Lives?

Thursdays, or Saturdays (my catch-up day), I will blog.


This writer is definitely committed to a teaching/writing lifestyle. If you are an employed writer, how do you make your two careers work for you? The secret to being a writer and having an additional career (any kind of career) lies in having a plan. Here is mine…

Critique Partners Release Books! Books! Books!

Confessions of a Lousy Critique Group Partner

I have been a lousy critique partner. I feel terrible, but there you have it. The concussion I received last spring not only knocked me off my blogging feet, but knocked me off my cheer leading feet as well.

Books! Books! Books! New Releases!

Three of my writing friends have released books these past three months and I have failed to support them. (I even missed a launch party, yikes! My apologies, Diana.)

I intend to remedy this, TODAY. We’ll go chronologically.

When Sparrows Fall by Diana Blackstone-Helt

When Sparrows Fall

by Diana Blackstone-Helt

Middle Grade, Historical Fiction

Sometimes doing the right thing means risking it all.

After her mother’s arranged marriage to her recently deceased father’s bitter brother, thirteen-year-old Susanna Stutzman faces a crisis of faith. Everything seems to be going wrong in her life.

As if her new father’s nasty temper isn’t enough, her cousin Mary, now her stepsister, hates her, as does her new teacher.

When Susanna’s discovery of a strange nighttime visitor at her mysterious neighbor’s home leads to the unveiling of secrets, Susanna is forced to make a choice between her conscience and her Mennonite community.

It has been my privilege and pleasure to watch this book and my friend grow–the book, from an idea to a rich, middle grade novel, and Diana from a fellow teacher with dreams of writing to a full-fledged novelist. I recommend both the book and Diana’s blog “Passing Notes.” Her most recent post, “The 8 C’s: Practical Steps Toward Publication” can be found here.

51L7bUgCkML._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Babylon: Center of the World

by B.G. Brainard

Biblical Fiction

Babylon: Center of the World opens with the biblical Daniel living in the city of Babylon, which is about to fall to the invincible Persian army under the leadership of King Cyrus. The wise man Daniel is an interpreter of dreams, signs, and visions, including the handwriting on the wall heralding the end of the Babylonian Empire. The novel traces the high stakes final days before Babylon falls, as foretold by Yahweh, the God of Israel and Marduk, the chief god of Babylon. In the midst of this confluence of divine activity, the prophet Daniel lives an exemplary life and stays true to the God of Israel.

Babylon: Center of the World provided our critique group a fascinating journey, Bev shared each chapter in the order that she wrote it, not in non-chronological order. (However, you don’t have to read it that way.) Bev is devoted to her Biblical studies and through the novel provides fascinating detail to help readers understand the times of this beloved prophet. You can visit her here.

The Body Institute modified for Liz approvalThe Body Institute

by Carol Riggs

Young Adult Science Fiction

This is a new, new, new release–just out Monday!

Meet Morgan Dey, one of the top teen Reducers at The Body Institute. Thanks to cutting-edge technology, Morgan can temporarily take over another girl’s body, get her in shape, and then return to her own body–leaving her client slimmer, more toned, and feeling great. Only there are a few catches…

For one, Morgan won’t remember what happens in her “Loaner” body. Once she’s done, she won’t recall walks with her new friend Matt, conversations with the super-cute Reducer she’s been text-flirting with, or the uneasy feeling she has that the director of The Body Institute is hiding something. Still, it’s all worth it in the name of science. Until the glitches start…

Suddenly, residual memories from her Loaner are cropping up in Morgan’s mind. She’s feeling less like herself and more like someone else. And when protests from an anti-Body Institute organization threaten her safety, she’ll have to decide if being a Reducer is worth the cost of her body and soul…

Carol and I have been roommates at SCBWI Oregon conferences and retreats for more years than I can count. I heard about this book while it was in the works, read it as a beta reader, and cheered for it in its odyssey toward publication. The Body Institute is a well-imagined, exciting read. Like many young adult novels, this one will appeal to more than just teens. Carol is a gifted writer and artist. Find out more about her here.

What About You?

Have you or any of your writing friends published a book lately? Feel free to share it in the comments. Give us the title, author, and brief summary. Who knows, I might have to add it to my reading list!