Samara O'Shea

Archive for the ‘Books on Journals’ Category

Red with Envy

Monday, May 4th, 2009

I have motioned to write about this girl and her book many times over the past year. My envy has stopped me each and every time. Today, I’m feeling brave.

Lily Koppel is a writer for the New York Times who came across an old leather diary in a steamer trunk that was sitting in a dumpster outside her Upper West Side apartment. The diary was kept in the 1930s, and Lily set out to find the diarist. She found a ninety-year-old woman named Florence living in Florida who was thrilled to meet Lily and to hold her diary once again. I’ll skip all the details in-between and get to the result, which is the book The Red Leather Diary: Reclaiming A Life Through the Pages of a Lost Journal. The tome is a collaboration between Lily and Florence. Lily retells Florence’s story while excepts from the diary itself are the whipped cream and sprinkles on top.

It’s certainly an incredible story! I read about it just before the book came out in April 2008. But my heart sank simultaneously because my book Note to Self was due to come out in July of that same year. Another book about a journal—just not one found in an old steamer trunk. Lily and I share a publisher—Harper Collins—and it was clear that they were more interested in promoting her book. Unfortunately, publishers cannot promote all books equally, so they zero in on the ones they think will really sell. I understand this. Lily’s written for the New York Times, she’s been mentioned on Gawker, plus finding the diary is just an incredible occurrence. Her story is the more sellable one. A better Lifetime movie. I don’t dispute any of this, I’ve just sighed in complete and total envy more times than I’d like to admit.

In my last blog (below) I boasted about how I’ve overcome jealousy in the past few years. I still say that I have. I believe jealousy and envy to be different things. Jealousy is holding other people accountable for your own insecurities. You want what they have, and you are angry with them or rude to them simply because they have what you don’t. Envy is the plain and simple act of wanting what someone else has. Envy can become jealousy, but it’s best to stop it from doing so. I’ve been able to tame my envy in the past few years. I can walk into a huge house in the Hamptons and think Man, I WISH I had the money to buy THIS. But then I shrug my shoulders, accept that I do not have said money, and try to enjoy the time I get to spend in the house (and by the pool).

It’s been more difficult to dismiss my envy of Lily—although I’m trying. A house in the Hamptons is not something I’ve dreamed of all my life. Literary success is. Her book has sold very well in hardback and is receiving accolades all over again in paperback. Please understand, I don’t wish to strip her of her success at all. I just wish mine had been on the same level. You know what though!? Maybe it can be. Maybe I have to write five books before I bang out a bestseller. Maybe someone will find my book fifty years from now, and I’ll experience what Florence did—late-life fame. Everyone’s story is different. It’s my job to keep trying, and the rest is up to the powers that.

Instead of being envious of Lily I should really be grateful that someone of her caliber found the diary. Another passerby (not me obviously) might have thrown it away or just not bothered to open and read. Lily knew what a treasure it was at first sight, and she has certainly made the most of her discovery. So I raise my glass to Miss Lily and wish her well in all future endeavors and continued success with The Red Leather Diary. Below is a quote that Lily gave in an interview with that I love. Below that is a clip from YouTube.

The fact that young women idealize Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan — not that that’s wrong, but I hope they realize that really, they are the stars of their lives, they’re the ones with the story to tell. Whether they record that in a diary or a blog, it’s important to find significance in your own existence, to be your own heroine and your own celebrity. ~Lily Koppel

As Always, Sylvia Plath

Monday, October 20th, 2008

I have a copy of Sylvia Plath’s unabridged journals on my nightstand. I leave it there with the intention of reading an entry or two every night. More of often than not though I head straight to sleep. That’s actually a good thing for you; otherwise I’d be tempted to post every other entry of hers, and this blog would be all Sylvia all the time. I’m consistently taken aback by the way she describes the simplest things. Little acts. Passing thoughts. All-consuming emotions. I identify with her on many levels. Maybe too many levels—do I really want to identify with someone who committed suicide at the age of 30? Well, I am 29 with no sign of depression in sight (thankfully), so that sets my mind at ease a bit.

The entry below was written at the beginning of Sylvia’s second semester of her Freshman year at Smith College (she was 18). I’ve had days like this where I’m feeling jealous of just about everyone. Jealousy is one of those standard emotions that can get really out of hand—as anyone who’s had an overtly jealous lover knows. I pride myself on not being that jealous of a creature, but even I’m not immune to grinding my teeth occasionally when someone else has something I desperately want. The thing is, you can have everything and still want more. We’re humans and it’s our nature to never be completely satisfied, so it’s best to love what you have and send jealous tendencies to the wayside. I’ve found in the past few years that the best way to deal with jealousy is to admit you have it. It sounds strange but often times we live in denial about being jealous of someone. Denial in jealousy looks like this, “I don’t like her. I don’t know why I just don’t!” If you can’t put your finger on a reason for not liking someone then jealousy is usually the culprit. I find when I admit to myself that I want what someone else has (whatever that may be) then I can shrug my shoulders and follow-up with, “Okay but you don’t have it, so don’t worry about it.” And that’s that. Here Sylvia readily admits she’s feeling jealous, I wonder if the act allowed her to let some of it go . . .

I am jealous of those who think more deeply, who write better, who draw better, who ski better, who look better, who live better, who love better than I. I am sitting at my desk looking out at a bright antiseptic January day with an icy wind whipping the sky into a white-and-blue froth. I can see Hopkins House, and hairy black trees; I can see a girl bicycling along the gray road. I can see the sun light slanting diagonally across the desk, catching on the iridescent filaments of nylon in the stockings I hung over the curtain rod to dry. I think I am worthwhile just because I have optical nerves and can try to put down what they perceive. What a fool!

The Facebook Journal

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

I had a wonderful radio interview last weekend with Kathleen Adams. She’s a pioneer in the world of journaling having written Journal to the Self and Scribing the Soul: Essays in Journal Therapy amongst others. It was an honor to speak with her (as I’ve used her books as a guide for my own), and we had a lot of fun during our hour together. The good news is you didn’t miss the interview! It will air on November 6th at 5 p.m. (EST) on Exceptional Wisdom Radio.

At the end of every interview Kathleen (Kay as she prefers) asks her interviewee for a “Pen Tip,” in other words a journal-writing technique. I told her about one that I’ve been toying with lately. The source of the technique is a little strange. It’s inspired by Facebook.

For those of you not familiar with Facebook there is a featured called “Status Update.” This is when you literally fill in the blank as to how you’re feeling—or how you want your friends to think you’re feeling because it becomes public once you type. It can be as profound or mundane as, well, your feelings. Some examples:

– Joe Schmoe is disappointed with the Dodgers
– Anne Clark just finished the bar exam!
– Jake Paine is falling in love
– Lisa DiCostanzo hates the new 90210
– Katie Tally thinks now is a good time

You get the idea. For no good reason one day I felt compelled to write a list of Facebook-style status updates in my journal.

– Samara O’Shea is dancing in the dark
– Samara O’Shea believes in fairies
– Samara O’Shea wonders why she is waiting by the phone
– Samara O’Shea is ready to spit nails

Of course in my journal they were much more personal and arguably strange. What surprised me was each time that I wrote one status update another would come to me—and another and another. I was literally letting myself in on how I was feeling. Third person writing does this. It invites you to step back and look into your life from the outside in rather than first-person writing which looks from the inside out. They are both beneficial, but it’s been a while since I’ve done any third person writing so I found this to be an especially helpful exercise.

This Saturday . . .

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Calling all civilians in the greater Philadelphia area: I’ll be teaching a journal writing workshop this Saturday from 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. at Book Corner (311 North 20th Street). Here’s the course description, but we’ll make it what we want it to be. A reading group. A therapy session. A game of duck duck goose. A grand old time. Hope to see you there!

Me on TV =)

Sunday, July 27th, 2008