GUILTLESS PLEASURE: It’ll be a busy couple of weeks for Santa Barbara writer Diana Raab. But to call her simply a “writer” doesn’t quite capture the scope of her career: all manner of text has flowed from her pen, including nonfiction texts, essays, poetry, and memoir. The Guilt Gene, her latest book of poems, came off the press just this month. Here’s an excerpt from her poem, “The Library”:
the only place I could find peace
from the yelling and screaming
and the fallout shelters at school.
That little library card
bearing my name beneath
lamination could protect me
On Saturday, October 31, at 3 p.m., Raab will appear at Tecolote Books (1470 E. Valley Rd.) to sign and discuss The Guilt Gene, and on Sunday, November 8, she’ll lead a day-long workshop, titled Memoir: From Journal to Manuscript, at Blue Agave (20 E. Cota St.) in association with the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. Recently, she answered questions via email about her many projects.
What, aside from binding glue, unites the poems in The Guilt Gene? The thread that holds this book together, and all my poetry collections, is the personal narrative relating my internal and external world. My goal as a poet is for my poems to be easy to read and accessible. I want to provide universal truths that my readers can relate to and say, “I have felt that,” or, “That happened to me.” Typically, the way my poems come to me is through a first line and then I just write to see where it goes. The reason I carry a journal with me at all times is that I never know when that first line will arrive!
Your November workshop focuses on journaling as the starting point for memoir writing. How do you teach that process to your students? I teach memoir in the traditional format, in that I discuss the key elements of writing a compelling memoir, including the use of fiction techniques, finding the memoir’s theme, finding one’s voice, and how to organize the material. I advocate the journal/notebook as a nesting ground for developing ideas, storing memories, and developing voice, and as a place to practice writing techniques.
You write in so many different genres; is it challenging to move between them? I have been writing for more than 40 years, and the earliest work in my diary was personal writing and poetry. After studying nursing, I became a medical writer, but still nurtured my love for personal writing. When I returned to graduate school for my MFA in 2003, I became more serious about publishing in the memoir form. Essentially, I view my writing as creative nonfiction. I see my poetry as creative nonfiction with a fantasy or imaginational twist. I have dabbled in fiction and gotten kudos for my work, but for now, I feel out of my realm in that genre. Writing poetry has vastly improved my prose and I believe that in general, moving between prose and poetry keeps the muse busy, fulfilled, and nurtured.
For more information about Diana Raab’s October 31 signing at Tecolote, call 969-4977. For details about her memoir workshop, call 964-0367 or visit sbwriters.com.