Just like everyone can sing, I believe everyone can write. I’ve been teaching writing courses at Kerby Centre, a senior’s centre in downtown Calgary, for a few years now. This is the first time I’ve been interviewed for the Kerby Centre News. Here’s a story from Shelley Den Haan that talks about my memoir writing course. I also do a Life Writing class at Chinook Learning Services and offer private instruction too. I can help you shape your memories into stories.
I instruct writing workshops and one thing I teach is a story has to have a beginning, middle and end. An easy way to accomplish this in a piece is to remember to use the three o’s: objective, obstacle and outcome.
To get the point across I split a class into groups of three. Then I have everyone write an objective (beginning) and pass their paper on to the next person. That person then has to add the tale and write the obstacle (middle) of the first person’s story. After he or she is finished, they pass the story on to the next person, who concludes the story with the outcome.
The end result is usually a pretty cool story: even though it’s been written by three people. But the point is not to write a masterpiece but to show how easy it is to craft a story when there’s structure. Some amazing tales have come out of this exercise. Here is one:
Oct. 23 2013
It was supposed to be a nice day and he hoped the sun would keep shining. He had a ring in his pocket and a proposal on his mind. He loved his girl and it was time to make her his wife.
The only problem was she lived in Toronto and he lived in Calgary. Neither of them had enough money to visit each other in person, even though we were able to converse over e-mail. The man had heard that sometimes web dating didn’t work out because a lovely woman could turn out to be a burly guy. But in his heart, he knew his situation was different.
“That’s it!” he said to himself. “I have to get to Toronto. Nothing will stand in my way.”
He took the ring and pawned it. With the money from the trade he bought a ticket to Toronto. If she loves him as much as he loves her, she won’t care that he don’t have the bling.
I’ve been teaching a short story life writing workshop at the Kerby Centre, an older adults’ activity hub. For our sixth class, we talked about avoiding clichés and stereotypes in our memoirs. So instead of using a banal phrase such as “calm before the storm” or “crazy as a loon” — force your mind into different ways of describing things.
We each got a cliché and had 15 minutes to write something new. Guess this cliché:
She never had THE ring. She never had a proposal. She never had a man bend down on one knee and ask if she wanted to be his wife.
She never had the joy of picking out a beautiful lace white dress with fancy bows on it. She never had a chance to be a Mrs.
But she did have the chance to help her sister Jill, her friends Delilah and Beth and even her fat cousin Tamara make their journey down the aisle. All the while she was stuffed into the ugliest, most uncomfortable dresses. She felt so unattractive next to those blushing brides and wondered if she would ever be one too.