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Writers in residence

Created date

August 23rd, 2010

At family gatherings, whenever I mentioned something about my childhood, my children would say, You never told us that! recalls Ruth Davis. So I decided I should write my memoirs. But as the years went by, I just couldn t seem to find the right time to start the project, she continues. Then she moved to Riderwood. I learned about the memoir writing class and immediately signed up. Entitled Write Your Own Story, the college-level course is offered through the Prince George s Community College SAGE (Seasoned Adults Growing through Education) program. For the last several years, the course has been taught by Riderwood resident Dorothy Sucher. She will give us topics to write on each week then make suggestions and write notes in the margins about things she especially liked, says Davis. At the completion of the course, Davis fulfilled her dream of sharing her story with her family members. I wrote nine chapters, from my birth to how I met my husband, she says. All except one chapter included a picture at the beginning about what I was writing. My son bound them in a spiral notebook with my picture on the front and I gave all my children, grandchildren, and first cousins a copy for Christmas.

Write around the country

Since taking the class, fellow Riderwood resident Ion Deaton has written his memoirs in a book containing almost a hundred tales covering the seven phases of his life. It is entitled Tales from Appalachia s Ionic One. He s also written more than a dozen stories about his years in the hills of Kentucky that were published in the first two volumes of the book Remembering Breathitt County and Jackson by the Kentucky Explorer Magazine. I believe that several of my other stories will appear in the third volume of this book when it is published in the near future, he says. In the meantime, he continues to put pen to paper and incorporate feedback from the memoir writing class. Among the positive outcomes of taking the course, he says, I enjoyed the added benefit of getting to know more about my neighbors personal backgrounds, interests, and memories.

Writing resources

In addition to the memoir writing class, the Writers Guild, led by a five-person, resident-run Editorial Review Board, is organized to provide both new and experienced Riderwood writers with a variety of opportunities to expand their skills. One example is the continued publication of the popular Tales from Riderwood magazine, containing prose and poetry written by and for Riderwood residents, on a quarterly basis. Currently, the Writers Guild is considering future opportunities including a short story writing class; memoir, poetry, and fiction writing contests; presentations; open microphone nights; reading events; book signings; and writer mentoring. I keep telling all my friends and relatives they should also write their memoirs for their children and grandchildren, says Davis. I only wish they all had a Dorothy Sucher to help them get started.

Tell your story

Putting your memories down on paper is a great way to share your experiences with family and friends. And the good news is that it s easy and fun to do. Start by creating an outline, highlighting all the key stories you d like to write about. Once you know what story you d like to tell, begin wherever you wish. There s no need to start at the beginning. Instead, lead in with a memory that triggers great emotion such as a wedding or the birth of a child. Don t take yourself too seriously. Wherever appropriate, infuse your story with humor and levity. Don t try to write like a writer. Speak in your own voice. Try reading what you have written out loud, then ask yourself whether it sounds like a story you would tell. Keep yourself in the habit. Be sure to write something every day even if it s just a one-sentence lead-in to what you want to write about tomorrow. This will keep your mind focused on your story. Confer with others. Tell other people that you are writing your memoir. Often, they will remember stories and events that you may have not thought to write about. These everyday stories are what make a personal memoir truly special. Most importantly, have fun! Writing your memoir should be a labor of love.