One of Eleanor Coppola's childhood memories is of her mother, Delphine Neil, writing at sunrise in her seaside cottage in Sunset Beach, California. "For many, many years, my mom wrote when she got up in the morning," Coppola says, "just on an index card, a few thoughts, like meditation. And after a while, she had hundreds of cards, and then thousands of them."
When she got older, Coppola -- an artist, author, and mother of filmmakers Sofia and Roman Coppola -- encouraged her mom to gather her loose notes together into a cohesive collection. "I said to her, 'Mom you should publish these, because they'd make a nice little book.' You know, like those kinds of books that you flip through that have a few little sentences of wisdom on each page. And every time I'd ask her, she'd say, 'Maybe next year. Maybe next year.'"
Now Neil is 99 years old and suffering from dementia, and the time is long past when she could have put together a book to create a record of memories for her children and grandchildren.
That's partly what prompted Coppola to write Notes on a Life, a collection of her own journal entries over 30 years -- jotted down at odd moments on scraps of paper, receipts, airplane napkins, or whatever was handy when she had something she wanted to say. "I had these boxes with reams and reams of paper," she recalls. "And I thought, 'Oh, my God, this is like my mom, I'm going to leave all this stuff that my kids are going to feel burdened by.' And it set me to thinking that I should try to see if I could make something out of it."