Thursday, February 7, 2013

People In the Workshop I'm Conducting

During the last 3 weeks, I taught my memoir writing class – a workshop really, an introduction really, for local folks who’ve been thinking about writing in this genre for a long time but haven’t gotten going. It’s not for lack of interest. More likely, it’s from not knowing where or how to proceed. That said, it’s a tough go. I know. I, too, faced those dilemmas for an incredibly long time.

The workshop title - Writing Your Life: Beyond Journaling. The people who attended - one by one,  claimed they weren't writers
  • But here is the misperception; a writer is someone who writes. Whether their writing is published, whether publishing is a goal or whether their writing is tucked away in a desk drawer to be savored privately - this doesn’t alter the definition of “writer.”

  • The people in my workshop were an incredibly diverse and complex group. The people in myworkshop are passionate writers – each one approached the in-class writing exercises from uniqueperspectives and in highly creative ways. One gentleman drove two hours each way to attend. Heintrigued us with insights into rural life, reading aloud about horses, scriptures, and farming. All of thisso removed from my own urban life experiences. He arrived to our third and final meeting bearing agift: a huge jar of natural honey.

  • There was the doctor and his wife who shared their common goal: to write their memoirtogether. But amazingly, they also wrote their own detailed pieces; he - about transporting childrenfrom overseas to the USA for specialized heart surgery; she - about her good fortune of having attendedcooking classes in Normandy.

  • There was the man who could attend only on the first session but who came to learn whateverhe could in order to write about the search for his Polish roots. One woman, who hailed from NewYork to Idaho via thirty years in Los Angeles, wrote words that landed on paper as poetry. We sharedshort essays written in response to prompts. There were photos brought in, drawings of floor plansof childhood homes, and during our last meeting – scents contained within a group of containers thatranged from antiseptic cleaners to cinnamon and peanut butter.

  • The people in my class may have learned about memoirs and prompts, about methods forapproaching the difficult task of organizing their memories and family documents, but I learned more. Iwas heartened by their willingness to read their written exercises, by their efforts to put into words theanswers to my challenging worksheets, and by the complex and well thought out questions they asked.
The people in my class may have taught me more than I taught them!

1 comment:

  1. Marlene,

    I loved reading this and learning about your students. I loved the sentiment too, about teaching. I share it with you--it is always an honor to teach and I learn so much each time. Your students are lucky to have you.


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