A Cadre Connected

The Magic of Memories: Your Story in Your Words is the name of a workshop I just conducted that we hope will become a writers group. Why? Because in eight hours together, 10 people over 55 bonded. They shared short life stories and feel better for it; connected. They want encouragement to continue and interest to move them to write more.

Initially, they posed questions and intentions: “Where do I begin?” “Will this be an autobiography?” “I want to pass something on to my children.” The answers set them on paths into their pasts; ones they found were intriguingly in common.

Subjects included Catholic guilt, dangerous immigration, historic neighborhoods, childhood pranks, school crushes and teacher clashes; devastating break-ups, the hazards of parenting and career joys and capers. They told of the influence of elders, the pain of their losses and continuing health crises. They described fascinating hobbies from kayaking to amateur radio.

Finally, they wrote about the value of unveiling events and feelings long asleep, but not forgotten. A retired coach wrote, “The workshop brought back memories that generated interesting feedback from my kids.” A former office administrator added, “The exercises pushed me to start a process and schedule time to work on it. I love having the input of peers for better results.”

A wife, mother and grandmother said, “The workshop got me thinking and writing about both great and awful memories that should be shared. It became a time to step back and reflect.” Her husband, a retired executive, admitted he’d never written about himself before. “It’s been good therapy for my mind and a great way to leave stories for kids and grandkids while learning more about our neighbors.” A former teacher wrote, “This gave me the inspiration to write my memoir for my sons. The hints helped me to express myself, and once I got started, the pen wouldn’t stop!”

A woman who began as a journalism student and then switched to political science and urban planning, where she spent her career, summarized: “If not for this workshop, I’d still be thinking of, reading about or talking about what to write. The array of options showed how a memoir could take shape. It opened a door to my creativity that I seemed to close when I gave up my hope of writing the ‘great American novel.’ I now remember how fun it is to play with words and phrases to tell a story.”

Groups that write together, if motivated and guided, gain immediate insights that when honesty disclosed buoy their spirits. Members crave the attention of peers who share their stage of life and are ready to review all that came before. If supported, they waste little time in drafting priceless narrative gifts for the next generation.


Janette Dennis





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