Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Diana Raab: Healing With Words

DIANA RAAB, MFA, RN is truly my special guest today. She's the author of
HEALING WITH WORDS: A WRITER’S CANCER JOURNEY and she's a cancer survivor.

Welcome, Diana. Please tell us more about yourself.

I am a memoirist and poet and author of eight books. I teach writing in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and at various conferences around the country. I am a member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA), the Author’s Guild and Poets &Writers. My award-winning writing has appeared in numerous national publications and anthologies.

I was born in Brooklyn and raised in Queens, New York. In 1977, I earned my BSc. in Health Administration with a minor in Journalism from Cortland State University. I then pursued a nursing degree from Vanier College and worked as Director of Nursing in Montreal, Canada. A year later I received a positive pregnancy test followed by my obstetrician’s prescription for bed rest. I resigned from my position as nursing director and became a freelance medical writer which resulted in over 300 published articles to my credit. While on bed rest, I chronicled my experience, which evolved into a self-help book called, Getting Pregnant and Staying Pregnant: Overcoming Infertility and High-Risk Pregnancy which has been in print since 1988 and has been translated into French and Spanish. In 1992, it won the Benjamin Franklin Book Award for Best Health and Wellness Book.

In 2009, the book was updated and reissued under the title, Your High Risk Pregnancy: A Practical and Supportive Guide in collaboration with Errol Norwitz, M.D., Professor, Yale University School of Medicine and Co-Director, Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Yale New Haven Hospital.

After recovering from breast cancer in 2001, I returned to graduate school in Spalding University’s Low-Residency Program. My thesis became the foundation for my two memoirs, Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal and Healing With Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey. Both books have received stellar reviews.

Congratulations on the accomplishments. This is an inspiring journey, indeed.

I have three books of poetry, My Muse Undresses Me (2007), Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You (2008) and The Guilt Gene (2009). I am also editor of the anthology, Writers and Their Notebooks (2010) with a foreword by Philip Lopate. I am married and have three grown children, Rachel, Regine and Joshua.

My website is

What a busy lady you are!

Is there a message or common thread in your writing?

I suppose the most common thread in all of my writing involves journaling. My mission is to inform others about the healing power of writing because of how much it’s helped me the past forty-five years. My mother gave me my first journal at the age of 10 to help me cope with my grandmother’s suicide. Therefore, I learned at an early age to find solace in the written word. I believe capturing observations and memories before they vanish is vital to one’s health. Most, if not all of my published work, whether memoir or poetry has originated on the pages of my notebooks.

Tell us more about your latest book.

Healing With Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey is part memoir and part self-help book. It shares my experiences of having had two un-related cancers in five years (breast cancer and the rare form of bone marrow cancer, multiple myeloma). In lieu of allowing cancer to destroy my life, I have allowed the experience to empower me. I embraced the cancer experience and turned a negative into a positive by creating this book. My hope is to inspire others to share their own story. At the end of each chapter are writing prompts and blank journaling pages. In addition, the book also has extensive appendices for tips on writing.

Since early childhood, I have drawn strength from the practice of journaling. Over the course of the past forty-five years, my journals have provided a safe haven and platform to validate my feelings. I really enjoy sharing this passion with others.

How do you promote yourself online and off?

Unlike when my first book was released in the 1980s, that authors must now be very aggressive in marketing their own books. I do all that I can to promote and expose myself online and in person using every oleaddirected my way. Marketing is a 24-hour occupation. For Healing With Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey, I have a Facebook page and a link on my website. In addition, I am on two virtual book tours which run for June, July and August. I have also hired two part-time publicists to follow up on certain leads. I am trying to plan some special events and lectures for October, breast cancer awareness month. I enjoy teaching journaling and memoir workshops a nd doing book signings, all which help to promote my book. In addition, my administrative assistant sends out news releases and postcards announcing my book to magazine editors, agents, cancer and writing organizations. Whenever there is a request for a review copy, I try to send it out immediately and make sure to include all the necessary PR materials.

Where do you write? When? What do you have around you?

I have a writing studio which use almost every day. On the bookshelves are writing reference books as well as my completed journals and other inspirational titles. I also collect antique typewriters which are interspersed on my book shelves along with framed photos of my family.

Where can listeners learn more about your books and events?

I am very accessible online. My website, summarizes all the places where I can be found.
"Though I am a professional writer, it's hard to find words for the admiration I feel for Diana Raab and her inspiring true story: Healing With Words. Time after time, Diana articulates incisively the thoughts and feelings that convey hoped-for meaning and encouragement. She is a woman who knows what it is to live fully in the face of mortality. She will add value to the life of every person who reads this book. That she includes the creative impulse to write and the solace offered by contemplating the beautiful as a vital part of human existence resonates at a spiritual level for me.”~~Sena Jeter Naslund, author of AHAB'S WIFE and ABUNDANCE, A NOVEL OF MARIE ANTOINETTE
“One woman's story, beautifully told and inspiring to those for whom journaling will ease a breast cancer diagnosis.”~~Barbara Delinsky, New York Times bestselling author of UPLIFT: SECRETS FROM THE SISTERHOOD OF BREAST CANCER SURVIVORS
"Healing With Words: A Writer's Cancer Journey by Diana Raab offers unique therapy for cancer patients. Raab is a registered nurse, author, mother of three and happily married woman. Her compelling and inspirational book reflects her two episodes with cancer over several years. She expertly tells her story and captures the reader with her feelings, frustrations and fears that overwhelmed her from diagnosis of breast cancer through reconstruction and recovery through her subsequent bout with multiple myeloma.

Descriptions of her personal journey are accompanied with powerful poetry and journal entries she wrote at various stages. What is unique about this book is that its messages are universal. Any cancer patient or survivor can relate to and learn from what she experienced.

Included in the masterfully written book are writing prompts to encourage the readers to write about what is happening or has occurred in their lives.

As a college writing professor, I give Diana Raab an A+ for her writing. As a two-time cancer survivor who has taught Writing for Wellness classes for patients at City of Hope Cancer Center for eight years, I congratulate her for her significant contribution to the field of writing-to-heal techniques.
Her book is a must-read for any woman diagnosed with breast cancer.”~~Julie Davey, author of

“Diana Raab has shared her breast cancer journey with an honesty that is truly compelling. Anyone receiving a cancer diagnosis should have Healing With Words ,A Writer's Cancer Journey to turn to time and time again for comfort and guidance. I highly recommend it!”~~Beverlye Hyman Fead, Legislative Ambassador and Hero or Hope for American Cancer Society and author of I CAN DO THIS
“Healing with Words is a riveting memoir which follows the author's journey through two cancer discoveries in eight years. Within the first thirty pages tears filled my eyes as I felt Diana's pain and rebellion to enter a new life, a new world. The book's structure allows the reader to find her own words to write beside Diana's enlightening story which enlists it as a personal journal. Her poetic flavor of writing with lines like, "My cancer diagnosis became like a stir-fry of emotions cooking inside me," stretched my writer's mind and urged me to post my own note to my computer screen which was gleaned from this book, When it hurts--Write harder.”
“As a cancer survivor myself this book touched parts of my soul I thought I'd forgotten about. Ms. Raab did a phenomenal job at writing a memoir while including the reader in her journey. I knew I was in for a great read when I teared up during her Introduction. This will be an invaluable tool to those currently battling cancer or loving someone going through it. It enlightens, inspires and even gets us standing up and cheering the author on her fight. I have always admired those who can go through turmoil and use positive, proactive ways to carry them to tomorrow. Beautiful job and beautiful words. Thank you, Ms. Raab--you'll help many.”~~Chynna T. Laird,author of LILY WOLF WORDS
“Diana’s book, Healing with words: a writer’s cancer journey documents two processes for her readers. One in eight women is afflicted with breast cancer. I am one of the remaining seven who wonders and worries when and if one of my breasts will be invaded by the cancer that she so thoughtfully and realistically explains at each stage of the assessment, diagnosis, treatment and surviving process.
Even though Diana is a medical professional she documents this process also as a women, daughter, friend, wife, and mother using words juxtaposed with journal questions, entries and poetry. One such poem, A women’s life, utilizes 37 verbs to describe our many developmental stages. One of these identified verbs is writing.

Writing is the second process and gift that Diana shares with the reader. For any individual surviving a trauma there needs to be strategies and tools that can be utilized to help the individual move from feeling like a victim to knowing that they are a survivor. Diana’s shares how writing impacted her journey but also makes suggestion for readers to use writing as a process that can help to increase feelings of strength and personal power.
This is a thoughtful book that will touch the hearts of women and those who love us.”~~Theresa Fraser, MA

Diana, thank you so much for this most inspiring story. I appreciate your letting me interview you to coincide with the recent release of Killer Recipes, a cookbook. Killer Recipes is great family recipes submitted by mystery writers all over the country: hence, the title. We had fun renaming the recipes to fit the "mystery" theme. However, the real idea behind Killer Recipes is not only to promote each writer who submitted a recipe but also to donate all proceeds to cancer research so that we can annihilate cancer in our lifetime. 

Diana, thank you for being a part of this promotion, and again, continued great health and happiness!
Available in print, ebook, and Kindle


Betty Gordon said...

Diana, an inspirational post covering your journey. Susan is an indepth interviewer.

I look forward to reading your new work.

Betty Gordon

Pauline B Jones said...

Diana, truly an inspiring story. Susan, another great interview and congrats on Killer Recipes!

Diana M. Raab said...


Thanks for the invitation to be on your wonderful blog. I hope my self-help memoir, HEALING WITH WORDS will help many people.

Diana Raab

Jacqueline Seewald said...

An inspiring story. I agree completely that journaling is healthy for the soul whether people want to be professional writers or not. Best of luck.

Susan Whitfield said...

Diana, it has been my pleasure. Pauline, thanks for the Killer Recipes comments. We hope to sell millions of these books to benefit wonderful folks like Diana, who has reaped the benefits of incredible doctors and the latest in cancer research. Please help us spread the work, y'all.

JFE said...

Great interview with Diana. I hope that you will be able to meet and hear Diana's workshop at the Wellness & Writing Connections Conference in Atlanta, October 22 and 23rd.