Friday, October 7, 2016

Teaching Adults to Write about their Lives - fascinating and fun

Dana Wildsmith, excellent writer, poet and teacher, writes about her week at the John C. Campbell Folk School, and for a few minutes I long for those times when I taught there, when I ate at the family-style dining tables and talked with strangers I would likely never see after the week ended. The folk school is a magical place, and if there are ghosts, I know they live in those buildings and walk those grounds so lovely in the evening and early morning fog.

At the end of this post by Dana she tells us what her students say about taking her class and writing personal essays. Like me, Dana teaches students to write about themselves, tell their stories and put words to paper on subjects they would never have thought to write about had they not registered for her writing class.

Tonight my group at Tri-County Community College was thin as one student had to drop out and another was absent. But the writing by those present was thick and heavy with family stories and happenings from their youth.

“I would never have thought of this if it hadn’t been for you,” Roger said as he explained how he came to write the story, The Smell from Hell. He was a stock boy in a store, just a teenager, and worked for $1.00 an hour in south Florida. In a short page of writing he entertained us, made us laugh, informed us of what life was like back then, and enlightened his readers with knowledge and history of gender specific jobs and how in today’s world a stock boy has a new politically correct title – inventory engineer- or some such thing. Roger has written serious, thought-provoking articles as well as hilarious stories of his youth. He submits opinion pieces regularly to the Graham Star, his local newspaper, and he is a political news junkie.  

Diane also wrote a humorous piece for tonight. She chose the prompt, Write about stories that are told and re-told in your family. She took us on a trip across country in an old VW Bus loaded with a bunch of kids and her Aunt Elaine who confronted a bear in the campground one morning. The trip changed Aunt Elaine’s life forever. Diane has writing experience, but in this class she has learned to take her skills further and deeper as she explores the use of the five senses and includes details as well as dialogue in her creative nonfiction. In another story she wrote, we all fell in love with her Irish Grandmother.

Kathy brought one of her children’s stories – What if?  Kathy is a dedicated writer who will one day be well-published. I can see this manuscript illustrated by a good artist and in the hands of children who will love it. Kathy has also brought us to tears when writing about her pet squirrel.

Like my mother and my sister, June, I delight in hearing the unique stories about the lives of others. I think June enjoyed her life at Assisted Living because she met so many people and heard their personal stories. I liked for her to tell me about them and often I had the chance to meet them as well. 

I thrive on seeing my students’ work improve each week. I will miss these creative writers over the winter. My next class at the college is scheduled for Fall, 2017. But I hope to teach at my home studio next summer.



2 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

Reading/listening to those stories would be WONDERFUL.

Glenda Beall said...

They are, EC. We all have some stories to tell and only we can tell them.