Writing at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC is an experience that can change your life. Tonight I read a post on a blog by a former student, Rebecca. She tells about her experience at the folk school and how the writing class she took there made a difference in her life. That is all a teacher can ask, to make a positive difference in the lives of their students. Rebecca gave me permission to post the following on our Netwest Writers blog in 2010. I'm sure she won't mind having it published again here, in an abbreviated form.
From Renaissance Rebecca:
On Christmas morning when I was seven, I received my first diary. An avid reader, I loved the idea of writing down my own personal thoughts and what transpired during my days.
I never intended anyone to read the words I had written. But my siblings apparently thought I had something juicy in there. I had to change the hiding spot often so my siblings wouldn’t steal it.
Twenty-six years later, stored in my parents barn, is a twenty-two gallon plastic container filled with years of my thoughts. Despite all these words written, I never considered myself a writer. Though I didn’t know the technical definition of a writer, in general I figured that they wanted their words to be read. I didn’t. Upon reading The Diary of Anne Frank, I felt such pity for the girl – she was just writing in her diary and someone thought it a good idea to publish it for all the world to read! I was sure that wasn’t her intention. I was so sure, in fact, that I wrote in the front of my diary that year that I did not want mine to be published ever. But that the guilty sister who always stole it could have the honor of reading it upon my death.
No, I never intended my words to be read. So when I found the John C. Campbell Folk School in the book “100 Best Vacations to Enrich Your Life,” I wanted to take a blacksmithing course. When the catalog came, I skipped over any writing courses. I realized there was one week in March that was a perfect time for me to go, so I flipped to see what courses were being offered that month. The last one was “Your Life. Your Stories.” Hmm. I loved our family stories. And would love to get them down on paper. They said beginners were welcome. I never in my life thought I’d sign up for a writing class, but it was the one of most interesting to me on the page of courses being offered that week in March.
My fear that I’d be accused of being too young, of not having lived long enough to have anything to write about only proved partially true. I wasn’t the youngest – at 31, I was the second youngest in our class of eight. And though no one said anything, I later found out that the woman who would become the most inspirational to me had her doubts about us younger girls when she first saw us. She held her tongue on that, but thankfully spilled out her words of wisdom to us over the next five days.
When the youngest student in our class confessed to having a blog, we all asked if she could show us how to set one up. And here’s the great thing about the John C. Campbell Folk School – the teachers modify things to fit student requests. So all of us gathered around our fellow student’s computer one evening and she gave us an introductory blog lesson.
photo by Ellen Andrews
So not only did you teach me about writing memoir, you also taught me about reading and thinking about how others write memoir. Thank you so much! Rebecca