The 411 on The Original Journal

I am not the first person to ask people to sign my journal.  And I will not be the last.  But I have a unique project that I’ve been working on for the past decade and a half.  I have been asking people to sign my journal since I was a senior in college.  A friend gave me a multi-pack of journals with sunflowers on them.  The pocket-size journal of that pack became the first journal of The Original Journal Project. 

When someone would say something funny or wise or obscene, I’d say, “Write that sh*t down.”  And so began the journal.

After I graduated, I carried my journal everywhere I went.  In 1996, I made a pact with myself to take out my journal and begin writing wherever I was if muse came a-knockin’.  So wherever I was, there was the journal, out on the coffee table, bar, sidewalk, street, bus, airport — you get the point.

I, then began asking random people to sign my journal.  I am a writer and I see stories everywhere, especially in people.  I would tell them there are three rules:

Front Door

1.  There is a Front Door, which is Rated PG-13 (you enter the Front Door in the front of the journal).

Back Door

2.  There is a Back Door, which is Not Yet Rated (you enter the Back Door by flipping the book around and going in the back of the journal).

3.  There are no rules.



The images below are part of The Original Journal Project, which includes signatures from many of the hundreds of journals.

I met Dan from England on the Greyhound Bus.  He was bored and not a big fan of Greyhound.
I met Dan from England on the Greyhound Bus. He was bored and not a big fan of Greyhound.

fire hydrant

NYC Journal circa 1998
NYC Journal circa 1998

People write all kinds of stuff in the journal.

I ask people in train stations, bus depots, airports, en route traveling, cafes, bars, pubs, taverns, friends, business associates, students, teachers, my dentist, you name it, people from all different journeys – walking, running, tripping, skipping, singing their own song of life, to sign the journal and I am still collecting signatures.

Some people politely decline. Some enthusiastically accept, and some simply don’t get it, but what matters most, are those that do. Most people accept the invitation and leave their unique thought. Some journal signings are big thoughts; some are medium thoughts; some are deep thoughts; some are naughty thoughts; some are nice thoughts and some are tiny thoughts. Some are thoughtless. Some are random. Some aren’t thoughts at all. But one thing that is unique about all the journal signings and the people who sign them, is they are all original.

I wrote a book proposal for this in 2007.  It took a really long time to export the creative idea into a well-written, expository frame.  I polished it and mailed it to a major publisher in January of 2008.  It made it all the way to the acquisition meeting.  I remember the day I mailed it out as it was the day Obama was inaugurated.  And there was a blizzard in Eastern North Carolina.

The journal has traveled some of the world (me with it).  It has been to half of the United States, Holland, and the UK. It has traveled and been signed on airplanes, Greyhound buses, cabs, cars, on foot, in parked cars, and many other forms of traveling.  The journal is still traveling, just a little bit slower, as I am a mom now to a toddler.

There is a New York Journal, Greyhound Journal, Holland Journal, Boston Journal, California Journal, and now most recently, the UK Journal. There are many others.  You will meet the people that signed the journal through this website.  You will also have the opportunity to participate, as The Original Journal is an on-going project.

There have been similar book projects that have been created, organized, and published.  I get so frustrated when I see a book project similar to mine out there on book shelves.  Mainly because I just can’t get left brain organized to publish it myself.  I call this crossing the left brained rickety bridge.  I have pitched the book to four literary agents and they all say it is a great, unique idea, but it needs some more time.  Dude (or Dudette), I have been working on this for almost 20 years.  The dude that invented the printing press went broke and had to hand it over to someone else (I learned this recently at the British Library).

I believe in this project. I believe it’s my calling to create journals for people to journal their journey.

I believe this journal project will get published.  There will be more journals, as a result of The Original Journal’s publication.

So, I have started this website and I’ll see where the journey leads.

The Original Journal is a celebration of people and their story.  I want this project to ultimately be published as a journal with quotes to inspire someone (you) started on their (your) story.

So, stayed tuned and check in every once in a while.

A couple things:

1.  I’d love to have you participate in the Original Journal Project. Photograph a sign, draw a picture, send up a smoke signal, collect a moment, randomize some thinking, shoot some wisdom out the ole’ cake hole. Capture it. Write it. Upload it. Email it. Don’t sit there. Journal Your Journey. I’m waiting. Ask my husband; I hate to wait. Here, you’ll need this: email address —; Twitter — @OriginalJournal; Facebook — The Original Journal Project; Tumblr — The Original Journal Project. <foot tapping>

Go old school. Pick up a pen. Personalize it. Put some passion in it (or not). Participate by scanning or taking a selfie of your signature; tweet, tumblr, facebook, or email your handwritten signature to The Original Journal. You don’t have to handwrite it, but I am trying to re-create a person to person journal signing. If your handwriting is illegible, please provide a typed translation, but do include the scanned handwritten version. Journal Signings (signatures) can be anonymous.

2.  Please pass the word along.

3. Eventually there will be some homemade, handmade journals available to purchase on Etsy or somewhere.  I have to consult my left brain and work that out.

4.  Thank you for taking the time to visit The Original Journal.  Please “like” it on Facebook and/or follow this blog. Find The Original Journal on Twitter and Tumblr.


Chicago Is My Kind of Town

Fast Eddie signed the journal in 2000 at Ed Debevic’s in Chicago

Ed Debevic’s is just about the coolest diner ever.  It is located at 640 North Wells Street in Chicago.  It is a diner, but not just any diner.  The waiters and waitresses are of the thespian nature, and will stand on the counter and dance, insult and shout at you, and just plain ignore you.  It’s their job to be rude to you and to entertain you.  It’s a lot of fun, and the food is delicious.

Photo Credit: So Very Vicki

Here is a review from Center Stage Chicago if you’d like to read more about this sassy diner.

Here is another review, from American Project.

So Fast Eddie was about to break from the stress of his new job, he slid into the pink plastic shiny booth and we started chatting.  Turns out standing on tables and dancing and shouting at customers is quite stressful.  Fast Eddie was one cool cat in my book.  Of course, I took out the journal (which is called The Chicago Journal), and what do you know — that is what he wrote.

This is the cover of The Leap Journal, also referred to as The Chicago Journal

The Leap Journal (The Chicago Journal) traveled from California where I was living at the time.  I call it the Leap Journal because I had no idea what my next move was going to be.  I was twenty-six, and had to make a decision.  I had been accepted into the Art Institute of Chicago’s writing program.  I was in Chicago to see if that is where I was supposed to go. I also was born and raised in Chicago, so the trip was a blast because I was able to see my childhood home.

I knocked on the door of my suburban home and asked the homeowners if I could go inside.  It was a strange feeling to see the home I grew up in, completely remodeled.  The flowers and gardens I remember so vividly were gone.

That’s me as a little one with my foot sticky out — always the observer — a writer in trainer, or perhaps always an outlier. Look at that garden — my parents were garden magicians.

The most delightful experience was seeing a red tulip that bloomed, still fragrant with the deep soil of memory.  I asked the owner permission if I could pick and place the petals in my journal.  They obliged. The hallway of my childhood home was much shorter than I imagined in my mind.  For some reason, the hallway in my mind was much longer.

I am gearing up to get my journal self-published, so stay tuned to the blog.  I am going to try Kickstarter.  Any tips for this process are welcome.  I am also going to use the funds raised from Kickstarter to build a website where people can sign the journal virtually.

Some of my favorite stops in Chicago were:

Lincoln Park Zoo (my mom always took us there — it was her favorite Chicago landmark)

Lincoln Park Zoo holds magical memories; my sister and I used to hold our faces smack right up to the glass and the polar bear would do flips for us. He (or she) was magic.

Riding the L

Sears Tower

Northern Trust Bank (my father was a security guard there and he always brought me home extra NTB newsletter blank paper to write on)

Navy Pier

Oak Street Beach

Buckingham Fountain

Photo Credit:

The Art Institute of Chicago Museum (oh I love the lions)

Click on the fountain photo to read about more great Chicago attractions, including Lincoln Park Zoo.

Chicago is a great city and I love the people.  You have to know a Chicagoan to truly understand what I am talking about.  Just enough honest to not be rude, but no sweet syrupy phoniness. How I love that city.  It’s my kind of town!

If you are interested in following my other blog, it is where I write about cowboys, motherhood, creativity, writing, photography, gardening, and earthy-thinky stuff.  You can also follow me on Twitter: @memomuse1.

I have also just started a Twitter account (@600DavisSt) for my food memoir of my great grandmother’s iconic bakery — The Community Kitchen, which was located at 600 Davis Street in Evanston, Illinois.  My great grandmother, along with women from the Evanston Woman’s Club started it in 1918 during WWI as a food conservation project.   The women of the Evanston Woman’s Club canned 7,000 jars of fruits and vegetables from wartime gardens, donating half to charities and selling the other half — netting a profit of $250 for the Wartime Emergency Fund.   In 1918, these same women made homemade soups during the Spanish Influenza outbreak, delivering hot soups to families.  I come from a long line of Chicago women. And damn proud of it!

Thank you for stopping by.  Journal Your Journey

~ memomuse