From Diary to Memoir
“Dear Diary...” are two words most people have written at some point in their lives. But La Jolla native Pamela Little has taken the joy of writing in a journal and made it a career. In October she self-published her memoir, “The Resting Place: A Graveside Diary” and, with friend and author Jinx Schwartz, will hold a lecture on navigating the world of self-publishing Saturday, Aug. 15 in La Jolla Shores.
Little said her love of journaling began when she was in third grade, but was honed around fifth grade while attending The Evans School. She said her teachers encouraged writing, both creative and academic. As a teenager, she wanted to take her writing from journaling to journalist, and interned at La Jolla Light in the 1980s. “It was my first choice, naturally, she joked. “I walked in and asked if they would let me work there for free, and they did!”
As an adult, the La Jolla High School graduate explored how to take her passion for writing in a diary – which she turned to in times of difficulty, including her battles with addiction and depression – and use it to help others.
“As much as I love journal-writing myself, I love sharing the joys of journal-keeping with people,” Little said. “Your journal can be a laboratory for the writing you want to produce.” She became a journal-writing coach for an addiction treatment facility in Palm Springs that used journaling as a component of therapy. To this day, she is a journal-writing coach and life coach.
In the 1990s, pulling from entries in a journal that focused on the joys of waking up early, Little decided to turn her observations and notes into a book. “My mother actually had the idea, she sat me down and told me I needed to write a book about all the ways to embrace and appreciate being awake in the early morning,” she said.
She prepared a pitch for publishers, but the concept didn’t gain traction. “I couldn’t get people interested in the idea,” Little said. “For all the drafts and outlines I put together I never actually wrote the book.”
Hooked on the idea, she spent the next 20 years trying to get something published, but found herself facing roadblocks and disinterest. After poring through journals looking for ideas, Little said she realized the book she wanted to publish wasn’t within her diary, but the diary itself.
“However, only famous people get to have their diaries published as they are,” she said, citing as an example, the Kurt Cobain Journals, containing notes, sketches and ideas by the late Nirvana singer.
Nevertheless, Little was committed to the idea, and sat down in the cemetery plot she bought to look back on her life “from the perspective of death.” She chronicled her life and its struggles — including mental illness, suicidal thoughts, dependency on food and alcohol, and divorce — as well as her hope for the future.
“The book is like one big suicide note without the suicide, and I felt so good after I wrote it,” she said. “I was confident that if it was published, it would help reveal things to people (they) might have a hard time admitting to themselves. It gave me so much strength. It freed me.”
Little’s mother, Mary Moore Little, the former owner of Mary Moore Gallery in La Jolla Shores, said while the content was hard to read, “I think it was extremely courageous and honest of her to be so personal about her life in an open way like that. It might help people who have those same struggles to know they are not alone. People have told me they’ve found humor in it. I didn’t, but others have.”
Little might have inherited her love of journaling from her mother, who had the same hobby in the 1940s. “I journaled from the time I was about 10 years old,” Moore Little explained. “I wrote a page a day and I also made a war diary of World War II. I took newspapers and summarized the war.”
Hoping to get her book into the hands of people it might help, Little opted for self-publishing. While some might consider it “less legitimate,” she said, “I found the experience super satisfying. I found my own editor, graphic designer and more. There is a freedom there.”
To promote “The Resting Place: A Graveside Diary,” Little will host a book signing and lecture on self-publishing with help from author friend Elizabeth Schwartz (pen name Jinx Schwartz). “Most people are very curious about the whole self-publishing situation and e-publishing,” Schwartz said. “A lot of people have good ideas for books or have already written a book, but they go through this process, get discouraged and quit. My message is for them not to quit but to go about it in a professional way.”
Schwartz is author of the Hetta Coffey series, stories about the adventures of a sassy Texan in her 40s who decides to change her life and live on a boat. The first four installments came through a publishing company (her publisher retired before the series could be complete). The later installments were self-published.
■ Book Signing/Self-Publishing Lecture: 1-4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 15 at 8285 El Paseo Grande in La Jolla Shores; “How I Quit Trying to Write a Book,” 2 p.m. by Little, followed by Schwartz’s talk “How I Fired My Publisher and Started Selling Books.” Free. authorpamelalittle.com, jinxschwartz.com