College/University, Community Center, Independent Living, Library, Senior Center
“If you want to really learn something, teach it.” Sharon Lippincott took this advice to heart in 1998 when she began teaching lifestory writing workshops at her local senior center. Eighteen years later, she’s learned a lot and written a book on how to go about it, and she’s still learning. In the interim she’s taught dozens of workshop and classes at senior center, libraries, lifelong learning institutes and conferences. Eleven former students have self-published at least one completed lifestory or memoir each, and far more are underway.
Besides teaching, Sharon is the author of The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing, The Heart and Craft of Writing Compelling Description, The Albuquerque Years, and Adventures of a Chilehead, and over 700 unpublished stories about her life. Her blog, The Heart and Craft of Life Writing, has inspired and informed countless thousands of readers around the world. Her collaboration with the Allegheny County Library Association has resulted in over twenty groups starting around the country. She sits on the advisory board of the National Association of Memoir Writers and is a member of PennWriters and Story Circle Network. Sharon recently moved from Pittsburgh to Austin.
I see lifestories in general as a way of creating a legacy of personal history for family and perhaps the larger world. I began writing my own lifestory in 1997 and fell in love with this genre. I began teaching at a senior center, primarily to find kindred spirits to keep me inspired and writing. I found far more than that and have continued to teach ever since. Stories shared in class are amazing. Most are simple, perhaps primitively written, but touching, profound, and authentic. Childhood stories from seventy years ago document a way of life that’s all but vanished, and it matters to document that.
Older students are especially rewarding to me. Nothing can compare with the simple joy of a great-grandmother who manages to record some simple memories from long ago that obviously strike a chord with her peers. Even better is the smile when she comes back to class and talks about the enthusiastic reception her story got from her family. My geeky self gets a kick from helping some students overcome computer phobia and all expand those skills to self-publish volumes of story for family, friends, and perhaps the world at large.