About ten years ago when I began seriously teaching mature adults to write their life stories, I had been invited to a program called EAGLE held at Nacoochee Methodist Church in Sautee-Nacoochee, Georgia. Every Thursday classes in painting, fly-tying, chair caning, photography and other crafts are taught by volunteer instructors. My friends, Twila and Harvey asked if I’d like to teach a writing class for EAGLE. It is nearly an hour’s drive over the mountains to reach the church where the members and the community have created an excellent program for retired adults and others who are free to attend day-classes.
A similar program has flourished at the Union County Methodist Church in Blairsville, GA where I have attended as a student and as a teacher. This program is called OASIS. All those letters stand for words, but they all mean come and pay a small fee to take a one or two hour class, have lunch with friends, and enjoy an enlightening program after lunch. I don’t know who starts these kinds of opportunities in their communities, but I think this is one of the best ways churches can serve people.
My first class at the Nacoochee Church surprised me with the large number of students. Most of them were willing to work on writing at home and share it with us the next week. We spent our time on quality of the content, getting thoughts on paper, because none of them had done any writing of this sort. My purpose was to help them write their true stories so that family would want to read them. I asked them to write as if they were writing fiction, a short story or a small book. We discussed what kept them reading a novel or short story. The stories were simple with a beginning, middle and end. They caught on quickly to use active verbs and descriptive verbs to provide the reader an image.
After eight weeks of classes, several of the students were excited to read at the closing ceremony. I was proud when several in the audience came to me and said they wanted to sign up for the next writing class.
Moving on to teach closer to home
When gasoline prices rose up and up, I could not continue to drive so far and looked to teach closer to home. Nancy Simpson, resident writer at the John C. Campbell Folk School at the time, asked me to substitute for a writer who could not teach her scheduled weekend class at JCCFS. I was thrilled. After fifteen years of taking writing classes at this wonderful legendary place, I was going to teach there.
That weekend class led to week-long classes nearly every year for six years. Many of my students there have become dear friends whom I see and stay in contact with wherever they live in this country. They know they can ask me for advice, or ask me to connect them with writers or editors who can help them. They share their successes with me and I joy in their excitement.
Now I teach once a week at Tri-County Community College in Cherokee County about twenty miles from my home. I will begin a new course on Tuesday, September 1, at six o’clock in the evening. I teach two-hour classes and the courses last for four weeks.
|Ginny and Nadine were students in my first class at Tri-County College in 2008. Now we are great friends.|
Again, these are beginning writers who are not looking to write a bestseller, but who want to write a lasting legacy for their families. My goal is to help them make their writing entertaining as well as informative. No one wants to waste time writing work that no one finds interesting.
I encourage my students to tell the most interesting stories about their lives, not lay out the daily facts of where they lived, attended school, and games they played. The writer must include the facts within a narrative that moves along and holds the reader's interest.
I look forward to next week when we begin a new class with some seasoned writers from earlier classes and new people who will begin telling their unique stories for future generations.
|Behind Orchard House at Folk School|