To Write A Life: Marblehead Seniors Memoir Project

We  are all connected.

What do we really mean when we say this? I suspect it means something different to each of us. As a writing instructor, I am reminded each time I teach how closely connected we are through the emotional landscape. Through the recording of our life experiences, shared on the page and, if we choose, aloud, we see that we are joined through pain, loss, fear, grief, joy and, of course, love. We may experience each differently, but through sharing our unique stories, we are immediately bonded to others in the human family. In these fraught political times, how refreshing it is to forge connections rather than divisions.

To this end, local seniors joined me this fall for a three-week memoir intensive, resulting in lively conversation, heartfelt writing, and some serious bonding. Some came to writing afresh; others were published authors but new to the memoir form. Wonderful connections were made among old friends and acquaintances, and new friendships were born that have continued. Once again I was reminded of the power of writing together as a means of reinforcing the human bond.

Older adults in particular have lived through significant personal and cultural shifts. As a result, they have the unique ability to inform younger generations of the past in order to better understand the present. Through the act of writing memoir, we tell the human side of history, from the challenges of wartime to the shifting roles of men and women in public and domestic life.

Of the dozen participants in the workshop, some have agreed to share their stories here: from the childhood memory of weekly visits to a science museum to the recollection of the kindness of friends in the aftermath of surgery. The stories are as unique as the individuals. As an instructor, I am consistently amazed at how the same prompt will generate such a diversity of writings. Please take a moment to enjoy just a few of them here.

Many thanks to the Marblehead Cultural Council and the Massachusetts Cultural Council for funding support and to the JCC of the North Shore for their in-kind donation of our meeting space–a room with a spectacular view, with plenty of hot coffee to keep those pens moving.

In connection,

Julianna