“In a community meeting room, participants in a reminiscence-writing workshop are gathered around a table. As we shift from discussing writing technique to sharing our stories, I witness again the power of writing in small groups. I see my participants gaining satisfying skill at a craft, discovering joy and perspective as they explore the meaning of their life experiences. I observe friendships forming, often at a stage in life when we lose more friends than we make.”
those words are excerpted from a grant proposal I wrote ten years ago. The application was successful; in fact a reviewer said, “That’s the first time I cried while reading a grant application.”
I’d been teaching small writing groups for five years by then–it all began in summer 2004 when I wanted to join a reminiscence writing group and, unable to find one, found ten people who’d join me around the table with James Birren’s Telling the Stories of Life through Guided Autobiography as our curriculum.
Over the years I’ve evolved my curriculum but always kept in mind that the people in my classroom are “outsider artists” of a kind–not striving for literary perfection or a career as a writer, just intent on bearing witness to a life of choices and chances.*
Here’s what has stayed constant: In my writing workshops we explore different aspects of the writing craft. For each class meeting participants write a few true pages about their life experiences. Each class meeting includes time to share what’s been written. Rough first drafts, but boy do they move the heart!
In April I’ll start a new workshop, at a new venue for me–the Arts + Literature Laboratory on Madison’s East Side. We’ll meet for five Tuesday evenings, April 17 through May 14, from 6:30-8:30 pm, at 2021 Winnebago Street. You’ll find information about the workshop and registration here–
*Do some of us go on to achieve success, however we define that? Absolutely! I received this note from student Jackie Langetiegrecently–
“every time you send me one of these notes, it brings up the memory of you and the wonderful Memoir class at the Verona Senior Center and our 1:1 meeting later. You were of great help with my manuscript and I went on to complete it and publish it as Filling the Cracks with Gold, available on Amazon” (print and ebook).
I’m proud of Jackie and all my students who have fulfilled their intentions. And I’m eager to meet you in my classroom in April!