I signed up for a class through the local adult ed office: Writing Memoir taught by Katherine Mayfield. There were 8 of us registered for the class, which is held on two consecutive Monday nights. When one person did not show up on the first night it made us a group of 7.
The group started just about on time, but in fairness the instructor was waiting for the missing student (but only for five minutes). She began by having us sit in a circle and we went around and (briefly) introduced ourselves to the group. Then the agenda was presented: a short talk by Katherine about what memoir is (creative non-fiction) and is not (autobiography), followed by some questions and answers.
Then we got down to writing. A prompt was given but we didn’t have to use it. We wrote for 10 minutes (Katherine gave us a one minute warning so we could finish up) and then we took turns (by volunteering) reading aloud to the group the pieces that we wrote.
This is where Katherine’s class differs from one I took a few years ago. She offered suggestions for how to structure the feedback that we providing to each other in a safe, non-threatening way (for example, referring to the writer as ‘the narrator’ instead of ‘you’). She even went so far as to say that if the writer determined that the writing produced during the exercises was too personal, (s)he did not have to share it with the group. I found this to be tremendously freeing.
I knew that I would be reading aloud what I wrote because, after all, that was one of my objectives for signing up: to see what other people thought of my writing. Still, it was a gift to know that the decision about whether to share my writing ultimately, was (just as it always is) mine.
Katherine brought a couple of resources for us to look through but I forgot about that while I was there. This book: Writing the Memoir by Judith Barrington is one of them, which I have seen before and I may even have already; I’m embarrassed to admit that I can’t remember! (Please refer to prior blog posts about clutter).So, I will be checking my bookshelves first, and if I don’t find it then I’ll check the Library’s bookshelves next.
P.S. Everyone shared their work and their nice, motivating comments with one another. It could be that 7 is a lucky number. 🙂