Telling Their Stories

It never ceases to amaze me how these groups come together in their own unique way, summer after summer. Last week was my fourth experience teaching memoir to adults at Interlochen College of Creative Arts, and while each group is different there are some things that always remain the same: People are kind. People are brave. People surprise each other with their assumptions. People open up to new beliefs. People start to identify as writers. People take deep breaths at the end of the week, lift their gazes to the audience, and read out loud–sometimes for the first time in their lives.

Stories ranged from well-written anecdotes describing a scene from class, to pondering the suicide of a childhood friend, to the “travel years” of youth on a fishing boat. Participants considered siblings and parents, moves across the country, past loves and good, old fashioned, outside games played for hours as children. In all cases, they worked to employ descriptive and sensory detail, paying particular attention to the balance between scene, summary, and reflection. If a line-level or big-picture metaphor found its way into their work–as it frequently did–all the better.

One could almost write a recipe for our adventures: Take a sampling of strangers from across the country, put them in a room, shake them up with a lessons on literary technique, stir in some life stories, wrap them in a beautiful campus full of music and art, then cook for 5 days at a temperature slightly warmer than perfect.

Check in every once in a while to see if the juices are flowing, the words are crisping, and there’s circulation through the major think-patterns in the brain.

Turn up the temperature a little more by setting the timer with a deadline.

Just before the deadline, sprinkle in some spices by allowing for critique from other writers as work is shared, reviewed, and revised.

When the timer goes off: cheer, smile, and celebrate. Enjoy a long, leisurely meal together. Toast the creative spirit! Find inspiration in the possibilities to come!

ICCA Memoir Class, Summer 2014

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