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Excavating life’s layers

Excavating life’s layers

In the age before digital diaries and online over-sharing had become the norm, the act of trying to fathom the depths of your thoughts and dreams on paper in the off-line world (no computer needed, no instant feedback expected), was a rewarding and enriching activity.

In her latest book, Write to the Centre, Manawatū poet, teacher, writer and yoga practitioner, Helen Lehndorf, makes the case that a journal is a site for a sort of archaeological soul digging - a place for uncovering what lies within. She throws open her personal treasure-trove of visual journals, offering a peek into her inner world in the hope of inspiring a new generation of off-line journal-ers.

Although most of us would seek to hide such personal records of our inner lives away, Helen bravely shares excerpts from her colourful stack, along with contemplations on what a journal can be and writing ideas to inspire readers to pick up or begin their own personal journal-writing practice.

“I began journaling when I was a teenager in Taranaki and have never stopped”, she says. “I think of my journals as a ‘blanket fort’ for my psyche, somewhere to dig in, hide, rest, play and invent.”

Brought to life with funding from the Earle Creativity Trust, Helen’s book was decades in the making and a just a year in production: “I still have almost every journal I’ve kept since I was 20, although I did destroy a few. Twenty-three years of keeping a journal amounts to something like 30 large notebooks, enough to fill three plastic crates! For me, the notes I’ve captured in my journal are like messages in a bottle from all my earlier selves.”

The richly-layered pages of Helen’s journals have been crafted into book form with the help of Anthony Behrens of Swampthing Design, Greenlees Print in Masterton and local boutique publishers HauNui Press. All are welcome to attend the book launch being held next Saturday, 29 October, at 4.30pm on the First Floor of The Palmerston North City Library.
The book retails for $35, and will be available at the launch or can be bought from all good booksellers nationwide (or online at

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