IAJW Member Spotlight Interview with Paula Hagar

Our IAJW Member Spotlight Interviews are a way to introduce our amazing members within our global journaling community to our Museletter readers and to fellow journal writers worldwide.

This month, our interview is with Paula Hagar. She has been journal writing for 55 years and I invited her to this interview because I am always moved by her writing in our monthly Writing Alone Together Circles in our IAJW community.  Journaling is not just something she does but it really is part of who she is, at least that has been my feeling in meeting her as a fellow journal writer.  I hope you love what she shares with us here because the journal is her home.

Member Spotlight Interview

Where do you live?

I have lived in Denver, Colorado USA for the last 36 years. I was born and raised in Northern New York, just 25 miles south of the Ontario border. I recently spent the summer in the North Country after 33 years away and am trying to figure out how to live in both places.

Why did you join the IAJW?

For the community of those who understand the importance of journal writing. A bonus has been the resources. I’ve been a journal writer for 55 years (since my first lock and key diary at age 11), as well as a writer of everything else non-fiction. My B.A. is in poetry writing, which I have not written since college. These days I only write non-fiction vignettes. But the journal is my passion.

I was involved for many years with Kay Adams and her Center for Journal Therapy here in Denver, and was in several journal and poetry groups with Kay in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Since then I have focused on writing short non-fiction pieces, several of which have been published in small anthologies. But the journal is my home. My roots. It is the place where the seeds of all my writing begins to germinate. I’ve always had a quest, and intention, to make my journal writing the very best writing it can be, so the many writing classes I’ve taken over the decades have all been helpful in making my personal journal writing better.

What do you like best about journal writing? How does it enrich your life? How has it helped you? 

The journal contains all stories, feelings, questions, joys, sorrows, and every other aspect of my life. It is the shoulder I cry on, and the ear that hears the deepest words from my heart. It is proof that I exist, and that I am heard and seen, even if just by me.Honestly, without my journals I might wonder if I truly exist, if that makes sense.

What is one journal writing tip that you would like to share?

I love to write to prompts. They take me places I would likely never go otherwise. So if I am feeling unsure about what I want to write about, I have an endless list of prompts. I close my eyes and pick one, and off I go. They always take me to new and unexpected places. I recommend collecting them and either keeping a list, or typing them up and putting them into a word bowl and just choosing one whenever you might be feeling stale. One of the benefits of IAJW are the wonderful prompts Lynda posts regularly.

What are some of your favourite books on journal writing?

I love Kay Adams’s “Journal to the Self” for many different ideas on ways to write in a journal.  It almost seems like a cliché, but Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones” truly changed my life when I discovered that book, and the concept of freewriting, in 1988. My husband bought me the book at a bookstore on Canyon Road in Santa Fe, and my writing life has never been the same since. All these years later, I can still pick up that book, open it at random, and find a prompt that will spark me. I also like Judy Reeves’ “A Writer’s Book of Days” for 365 daily prompts to take one through a year of writing.

The one thing I would like you to know about me is…

I have traveled through 49 states – all but Alaska – and all on back roads. I avoid interstates because I love feeling the roll of the land beneath the tires, and I especially love traveling the U.S. across the back roads and seeing the small towns. I am working on two books of short vignettes. One is writings on the topic of awe and wonder, and the other is a series of pieces on my back roads journeys, where my heart has been broken seeing the dying and death of Small Town America.

My favourite part of being an IAJW member is… 

the community, connecting with fellow journal writers (I especially love the Writing Together Alone monthly groups), and Lynda’s generosity in general with her resources. She shares so much about journaling in her interviews and workshops with journalers around the world. There are so many opportunities to connect with my fellow journal writer lovers through her groups. The resources offered are more than I could have imagined.

Final words about your journal writing journey…

Although I began writing in my first diary when I was 11, it wasn’t until I was 25 that I began writing regularly. In 1981 I took a job working as a mud logger in the North Dakota oilfields. My four years working up there was the Big Adventure of my life. We lived and worked right on the drilling rig sites all over western North Dakota and eastern Montana and I was determined to keep a record of those years and the many adventures, and ever since then I have more or less kept a regular journal, though I do not always write every day, especially if I am doing a lot of living.

In the late 1990’s, with the advent of the internet I became involved with several journal groups, including the National Journal Network, where dozens of us exchanged journal entries (“Journal shares”) by mail. This later morphed into a feedback group who exchanged short writings we were working on polishing.

At this same time I also got involved with several artist journal groups, and began to combine art and collage with writing in my journal, and I pursued that avenue for well over 10 years. Today I still keep art journals full of paintings, collage and other mixed media, but they are mostly separate from my writing journals. I do love combining art and text.

Thank you Paula – your words and presence are appreciated in our IAJW Community.  Thank you for all the wonderful stories and writing you share in our writing alone together circles too!  Your passion for journal writing and your devotion to it in your life is truly an inspiration.  

If you are not a member with us yet, you can check out all of our member benefits and join here>>

A shout out to all of our amazing IAJW Members all around the world!