Leader’s Statement

Our stories are so much of what links us to our own life development and to each other. Without our stories, how would we know each other? How would we come to understand how we grow as human beings?

If anyone had told me in 1995, when our writing workshop began, that in 2010 we would begin something called a “ Blog” which would mean that people all over the world could read the pieces that our group of retirees have written about their varied lives, disbelief would have been my reaction. Our annual reading for friends and family has been an exhilarating experience every May and we have been thrilled to share our work with some scores of people.

We meet 20 times a year, on Wednesday afternoons, in the pleasant meeting room of Morningside Retirement and Health Services, located at 124th Street near Broadway in New York City. The room has many windows. We see trees and hear city sounds: fire engines, the nearby subway and people’s voices in varying degrees of volume. In all kinds of weather, the group creates an intimacy which leaves us refreshed on steamy spring days and warmed during the chill of mid-winter.

Elders Share the Arts has its traditions in asking people to access memory by using the senses. Newcomers to the group are asked to write a piece with the prompt, ‘a smell from the kitchen’ and then led through the questions: what does the room look like, what do you hear, what textures are there, who is with you. The group has been through many themes since; some prefer to write about their current lives, having felt that they have called on memory enough for them to leave stories for their children and grand- children.

After a writer reads her/his story, we all inevitably have a rich discussion of the story itself, the material that inspired it and the associations that come from it. There are questions asked and encouragement by other participants sometimes to go farther and deeper in the writing. People often get inspired for their own writing projects. And we laugh a lot.

Whatever the remarkable participants in our group choose to write about, it is with great care, immense heart and intelligence, and with the individual voice that every writer strives to find. You will be reading stories about growing up in America, Poland, Germany and England. World War II is of course a huge influence on many people whevever they are from. Mothers, fathers, children, love and fashion, how light plays both outside and inside one’s window, stories inspired by one word like ‘fog’. If you have ideas for us, please share them!

We hope you will enjoy reading the stories from Get Your WordsWorth, the Writing from Life Experience Workshop, and that they will inspire you to create your own writing group or to write your own stories.

Welcome to our blog.

Susan Willerman

Workshop Leader, Elders Share the Arts

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4 thoughts on “Leader’s Statement

  1. nancyeder says:

    Writing is a lonely endeavor. You sit in a quiet room in front of a computer and think. The thoughts either flow or they don’t. The words come tumbling out in reams of pages or they blur the mind with dust.

    Our class is called, “Writing from Life Experience.” We’ve all had experiences worthy of talking and writing about. Some we want to share like cherries in a bowl, and others are too painful to get out even for ourselves to examine.

    Susan is our leader. She provides the perfumed atmosphere, the oxygen in the air. She creates the safety net we need to feel comfortable enough to get those words out on paper. Susan opens the door and says, sniff a flower; remember the warm drops of rain on the picnic; recall your grandmother’s kitchen table.

    Susan has the rare qualities of a writing instructor who finds the good in everyone’s writing, helping us to hone in on our unique life experience and to get it down on paper. She provides the comfort zone needed to express the inexpressible giving encouragement and positive reinforcement to each of us.

    For all of this, we say, thank you, Susan. You are a remarkable teacher.

    Homage to Susan Willerman – our writing teacher – delivered at our May 24, 2012 public reading.

    Nancy Eder

  2. Dear Susan and writers,

    I run a large community engagement program, at Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, England. I am coming to New York in September and I would love to meet with you and find out more about your blog and writing workshops.

    I have been awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship to travel to the US and learn from others to develop the work I, and my colleagues, do. If you would like to know more about my Good Times: Art for Older People programme please see the Gallery website: http://www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk

    I have been in touch with Jennie who will hopefully introduce me to the wider Elders Share the Arts program.

    I look forward to hearing from you soon. Please contact me on the email address below.

    Sincerely,

    Michelle
    m.weiner@dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk

  3. Do you only publish blog entries written by seniors in your workshop?

    • estawriters says:

      Hi Lily,
      Thanks for your question! Yes, our blog is primarily for those participating in Elders Share the Arts’ writing program called “Writing From Life Experience”. For more information or to become a part of the program, please don’t hesitate to call us here at Elders Share the Arts at 718-398-3870 or email programdirector@estanyc.org. Thanks again for your interest!
      Best,
      Remy Kunstler
      Program Director
      Elders Share the Arts

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