Writing a Journal in Extraordinary Times with Deborah Shepard

Discover the joy of journal writing through the art of observation, reflection and contemplation


Course outline

Currently we are living through an extraordinary time in world history. In 2020 all the familiar norms of our known existence were turned upside down by the global pandemic. This state of uncertainty continues into 2021 and tests our resilience. Yet inherent in this situation, some call it a ‘dangerous opportunity,’ is the potential to deepen your experience of the present. Through writing a daily journal you can begin to make sense of what is happening. Through the art of observation, reflection and contemplation, you will find the balance you need to live more peacefully and more fully in each and every given moment. The journal genre is the ideal genre to discover and practice your writing skills. On this course, as well as establishing a writing routine, you will be creating a record of your life’s experience for yourself and for future generations.

This journal workshop, presented by experienced tutor and journaller, Deborah Shepard, offers a quiet writing sanctuary where you can reconnect with your inner life and discover what is on your mind. Over eight sessions you will receive: an introduction to the pleasures of the journal form, its history and development; guidance on how to establish a writing routine; writing techniques and triggers to stimulate a series of writing exercises; discussion and analysis of writing samples from some of the great proponents of the genre: Henry David Thoreau, Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf, Lord Byron, Thomas Merton, Etty Hillesum, John Keats, Samuel Pepys, Sylvia Plath, May Sarton, Joan Didion, Anais Nin, Kate Llewellyn and Helen Garner. Working on your own and as a group sharing the writing as you go, you will be building a community of writers to nourish the ongoing writing project.

Sessions topics:
1. Getting Started. Why Write a Journal?
2. My Writing Space: Settling in
3. What is my content?
4. What is my purpose?
5. Writing a journal in extremis
6. Ethics: How deep do I go?
7. Journalling in nature
8. A commitment to the journal project

Value and appeal
The course will appeal to people wanting to experiment with using a journal for self-exploration. It provides tools for developing and strengthening writing skills along with inspiring prompts to assist with chronicling and preserving your daily observations during the time of coronavirus, from the humble and small, to the alarming and reassuring, the splendid and sublime. A resource handbook with tips on writing, relevant quotations, journal excerpts and a bibliography of the literature will be provided.

Writing experience
This course is suitable for all comers who have something they want to share about this moment in history. We all have the capacity to write from our personal experience on the subjects that matter to us. On Deborah’s courses you are introduced to techniques and triggers that help strengthen and develop your writing voice.


  • 5 X sessions, 12 - 16 April 2021, 9:30am - 1:00pm
  • $310.00 incl. GST
  • The University of Auckland, City Campus
  • Presented by Deborah Shepard

April 2021

5 X sessions, 12 – 16 April 2021, 9:30am – 1:00pm
Cost- $310.00 incl. GST


Presented by

Deborah Shepard

Deborah Shepard

Presentations Skills Coach

Deborah Shepard is a biographer, oral historian, journaler and life writing mentor for the New Zealand Society of Authors with many years of experience teaching memoir through Public Porgrammes and the Michael King Writers’ Centre. Her books include: Reframing Women: A History of New Zealand Film (2000), Between the Lives: Partners in Art (2005), Her Life’s Work (2009) all of which were critically acclaimed for documenting the contribution of women to the arst in New Zealand. Her journal Giving Yourself to Life: A Journal of Pain, Hope and Renewal (2015) was described by poet, journal writer and novelist Elizabeth Smither as, “Humane, delicate and bold as the journals of May Sarton or Elisabeth Tova Bailey’s observation of her snail. Her latest book The Writing Life: Twelve New Zealand Authors (2018) provides an inspirational glimpse into the writing lives of twelve of New Zealand’s most loved and acclaimed elder authors.

In her spare time Deborah enjoys photographing nature and posting her photos with short stories on Instagram.

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