It’s that belief in others’ stories that led me to begin teaching a writing class titled, “Write Your Memoir/Life Story.” Last week I concluded my first three-week course with a group of folks at a local senior citizens center and - true to form - each had stories worth telling. Not sure their lives were that remarkable at first, over time we learned different; one man began life in a most unusual place by telling us he was born on a state prison farm; one lady, who insisted in the beginning that she had nothing worth writing about, eventually told us about the time she witnessed an Alaskan volcano erupt, and a third lady recounted her experience as a Navy nurse working aboard the hospital ship USS Hope during the Second World War; others had different but no less-interesting tales. Almost to a person the students didn’t feel their experiences were worthy because they saw them as but installments in their long lives but, to me, all of their stories were fascinating, and I did my best to encourage them out for the benefit of family, friends and possibly the larger world.
During our last session we shared their completed stories and, though some results were clearly works in progress, all of them had great potential to become fascinating tales. In three short weeks I couldn’t possibly teach them everything they needed to know in order to make a story work, particularly because most of them were not natural writers to begin with, but I did my best to convey the power of sensory-laden description, solid story structure, point of view, voice and audience identification; enough, I hope, to send them back into their memories and through the use of such tools to coax their shimmering images out of the shadows and onto the page.
For these students the journey to their stories has just begun and I wish them well. Sharing their lives will only contribute to the world of their loved ones and, who knows, maybe there’s a publishing gem in there somewhere?
What about you? What’s your story? And when do you plan on letting it out? Don't keep it in, the world awaits your story and I urge you to sit down today with pen and paper and let it flow. If you need help getting started let me know.
As Van Morrison reminds us: “Precious time is slipping away.”