Life Story Writing

at ONEgeneration Senior Enrichment Center (OSEC)

Life Story Writing

Friday 11:40 – 2:25
Instructor: Jeanette Shelburne

Jeanette Shelburne has taught Life Story Writing for 15 years. “The goal of this class” as Jeanette explains in her guidelines, “is to help you discover and appreciate the richness of your life and then communicate that effectively to others.”

She goes on to explain that the class contains four important aspects: writing stories, sharing them with the class, listening to others’ stories, and giving each other constructive feedback. And though her guidelines delve into many techniques on how to best approach those aspects, the most important thing, says Jeanette, is to “just write it down — let it flow in any way that is comfortable for you.”

lifestory_4237Stories to be read in class should take about 5 minutes to read, then there is 5 minutes of feedback, allowing ten minutes or so per class member. More time is sometimes allowed depending on the number of students attending. Feedback is limited to the writing itself — what worked, what questions arose with the listener and what if any suggestions they have to make it come alive, etc.  Each participant agrees to maintain confidentiality so students feel safe expressing themselves.

To come up with ideas on what to write about, Jeanette suggests starting with childhood memories — after all, they must be memorable if you remember them! Or she may give story prompts, for example “write a letter to someone who had a profound effect on your life, like a teacher from long ago. Make it part of your memoirs. We should all do that!”

lifestory_4235Class members are very encouraging in their feedback, and Jeanette is helpful to each reader, discussing story elements like theme, setting and motif. “If this was a movie, where would the scene take place?” she asks.

Toward the end of class, students reflect on the experience of hearing each others’ stories. “We are lucky to be writing like this,” one student says. “We can really process what we are going through and look at things more deeply.”

Jeanette welcomes new class members, so drop in and get started. Like Jeanette says, we should all do this!