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Author urges congregate diners to write life story

Get writing - Elora author Donna Mann challenged her audience to write their own life story during her turn as guest speaker at the Seniors Centre For Excellence congregate dinner on April 7 in Drayton.  Photo by Caroline Sealey

Author urges congregate diners to write life story

by Caroline Sealey

DRAYTON - Writing your own life story can be a challenge. How do I get started? What do I write about? Will anyone be interested in my life? These are all common questions writers have prior to writing their life story.                      

Elora resident  and author Donna Mann shared tips on how to write one’s own life story at the Seniors Centre for Excellence congregate dinner on April 7 in Drayton.
“When I tell people to write their life story most people respond that they haven’t done anything worthwhile or nobody would be interested in their lives. Everyone is wonderfully and fearfully made and has a story to tell,” Mann said.
Attitudes and situations that occur over a lifetime create stories. In any group of people there are many stories that may interest others.
“My writing has been used as a fundraiser,” Mann said. “The church I was once associated with needed an elevator. I didn’t have time to make cupcakes, cakes or pies but I had journals with stories about this and that. Working with a printer in Durham, the book, Take Time to Make Memories was published and sold out.”
Stories play a role in the healing process. In the receiving line at a funeral visitation, Mann shared stories about the deceased with the deceased’s adult boys, who wanted to know what their mother was like as a child. The stories became a part of the grieving process for the boys. As grief is hurtful to think about, Mann suggested writing everything on paper about the deceased to help in the healing process.
In a writing class Mann conducts, students are asked to write their own obituary, which is essentially the last part of their life story.
“Is your life worth remembering? Yes it is. What about it is worth remembering? Get it down in black and white for grandchildren and future generations.
“Even if the children or grandchildren are not interested now, they may be in the future,” Mann said.
Old photographs reveal stories by their contents. Mann received a box of undated, unidentified photographs from her mother.
On a trip to her mother’s home town in Lambton County, a resident of a nursing home identified the people and the year the photographs were taken by looking at the homes in each photograph. The clothing identifies the era and how a person sits or stands indicates their social status.
“You must have a willingness as a writer to look at yourself, talk to yourself and ask yourself, ‘did it happen this way or that?’ Ask someone else if you are not clear on the details. Take your favourite pen and grow your story starting with point form notes,” Mann said.
“Give a voice to family or personal stories. Read your work out loud as the voice makes things more real.”
Mann advised writers to look for topics that would be of interest to others. Some of those topics could be coming to a new country, carving out a new life, or one’s life before coming to Drayton.
“Look for topics that are different. I drove for a year on the 401, up to Barrie, Sudbury and all around Ontario without a driver’s license. I had let the license run out. That’s one example, but each one of you has your own story to tell,” Mann said.

April 21, 2017


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