photo: Judy Ferrara
Photo Credit: Tracy Raphaelson




September 2005

"Every morning between 9 and 12 I go to my room and sit before a piece of paper. Many times I just sit for three hours with no ideas coming to me. But I know one thing: If an idea does come between 9 and 12, I am there ready for it."


Flannery O'Connor by way of Donald Murray



Reflection on One Year of Judy's Journals

Dear Reader:

That salutation, "Dear Reader" is steeped in tradition. Instead of writing to myself in one of my three journals (October 2004), I am enjoying the challenge of writing these monthly entries. It has been the most surprising benefit in having a website. The journal keeps the writer in me alert all month, as I search for an opening quotation, a strong lead, a story that binds a topic together; it also produces a little constructive anxiety (a.k.a. pressure) in keeping me on a deadline.

Why look back at the year's journals? When I was a classroom teacher, my students kept a daily journal. On Fridays, I asked them to go back and read all the previous pages. What did they notice? What had they learned? What would they do differently in the future? I have done the same with my archived journals, and here is what I came up with:

September - Using the dictum: Write what you know, I brainstormed eight topics that I knew I could write about. At this point, I have managed to write about five of the topics. I remember looking at September's list when I was in full panic mode: it was mid-month and still no journal. It would probably be a smart thing to brainstorm another list to get me through the next year.

October - I am still keeping three journals: daybook, art, and museum. Yesterday, in my daybook, I added this quotation from Li-Young Lee [The Sun, August 2005] because it made me understand an important, but contradictory part of being a poet: "…I feel the real medium for poets is silence, so I could write in any language. To inflect the inner silence, to give it body; that's all we're doing. We use the voice to make the silence more present. It's like in architecture, where the medium is not really stone or metal, but the space they enclose. We use materials - brick, glass, words - to inflect space, both outer and inner. So, I would say the real medium of poetry is inner space, the silence of our deepest interior." When I find a quotation that speaks to me with such force, I reach for my daybook.

November - This was my tribute to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York. I wrote that their current $10 entry fee was half of MoMA's in New York, but that I would be paying that as soon as I could. When we visited New York in June, my reaction to Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi's renovation is linked to Li-Young Li's above comment. I believe that Taniguchi got it right: he gave air and space to one of the world's finest collections of modern and contemporary art. No gallery seemed overcrowded or closed in. Seeing familiar paintings and sculptures again was like seeing old friends: "Piano Lesson" by Matisse, "The Persistence of Memory" by Dalí, and "Man Pointing" by Giacometti. I wrote in my museum journal: "There were pieces I had never seen, such as Dalí's bust of a woman wearing a hat made of bread, with ants all over her face." After seven hours, we were leaving and told a guard how much we had enjoyed ourselves. He said, "Come again. We change stuff around here all the time."

December - This entry was devoted to making revisions in writing and painting. The aqueduct painting I wrote about is now ready to be painted over completely. I am ready to let go of it. The point I made then about giving your work time becomes even more important when I can recognize a painting that is not worth keeping. I have become a stronger self-evaluator in the last year, more confident in my own opinions of my work and less reliant on others. However, I still appreciate and need feedback on my work.

January - Reading "Museum Shoes" brought those experiences back. It makes me appreciate once more how powerful writing is as a tool for memory. I am ready to pack those shoes again for a visit to the ancient city of Istanbul. I'll be removing them to enter the mosques, wearing them to walk through the churches, palaces and the new Istanbul Modern, which sits on the Bosphorus.

February - Reciprocity is still a manuscript, and not yet a book. The search for a publisher continues… (see March's journal)

March and April - Rejection continues as a motif, as does acceptance. As far as poetry is concerned, the six sets I sent out in January yielded three acceptances: The Comstock Review and Xanadu will be publishing my poems, and another was a finalist in The GSU Review Writing Contest, so it will be published in The GSU Review. It is part of the cycle: do the work, send some out, hope, do the work, send some out, hope...

May - The Amsterdam diary acrostic was fun to write, but as I reread what I wrote about each location, it occurred to me that I wrote it too soon after the experience. Not enough simmer time for this soup.

June - My kinship with rocks continues: I now have seventeen paintings featuring rocks. I had a dream last night that I was in a large empty gallery, hanging these paintings. I think I need to see them together and find out if they speak to each other.

July - One thing I neglected to write in "Fourteen Tips on Selecting Work for Submission" was so obvious, but needed saying: you need to have a substantial body of work from which to choose. So, keep working.

August - I can add another piece of advice to the group exhibitions journal entry: try not to work on four exhibits at the same time. It can make you nuts.

Next month, I will be writing about an experience John Gaumond and I had in July. It was the 100th birthday celebration for Pulitzer Prize winning poet Stanley Kunitz, who was born in Worcester, Massachusetts. We traveled to the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown on Cape Cod for the occasion. Stanley would be there and "might say a few words, and maybe read one poem," promised the FAWC. It happened that we were in for quite a treat.

If you have comments or suggestions for future topics having to do with the creative process, please email me at