10 reasons to take a memoir writing class in a cemetery

I attended a memoir class at a cemetery yesterday. There were about 25 people who walked through the gates of the cemetery for a happy reason, to participate in a community outreach program hosted by West Laurel Hill Cemetery, in Bala Cynwyd, outside of Philadelphia. Thank you for hosting this event,West Laurel Hills! I love community outreach in any form, and while this comes from a surprising direction, I’ll take it. And I love writing classes. The writing teacher, Mary Beth Simmons was also reaching out to the community. And there we were, enjoying the company of physical people, rather than electrons on a computer screen, which seems to be where much of the socializing is taking place these days. One of the participants is my sister, which adds an additional dimension to my memoir writing. The experience was so much fun, I thought I’d list some of the benefits. Perhaps this will help motivate you to take a memoir writing class at your local cemetery or wherever you can find one,

  • When listening to people introduce themselves, and hear their writing, it confirms that everyone has a story.
  • Free writing in groups is fun, and opens mysterious parts of your mind.
  • The desire to write has lots of power. Many people seem both drawn to and intimidated by it, like a tall mountain.
  • The history is in there, waiting to get out. Every time I think about my past, it gets easier to think about it.
  • Meet writing teachers like Mary Beth Simmons, the director of Villanova University’s Writing Center, who like a midwife, helps people give birth to their story.
  • It makes cemeteries less creepy and more like real places.
  • I learned about how someone’s grandmother or great aunt (I’m not sure which) from a small town really ran away and married the trapeze artist from the traveling circus . Life is at least as strange as fiction.
  • It’s okay to share with strangers – things I did when I was 10. In fact, sharing bits of ourselves made me feel closer to everyone in the room.
  • It’s a good excuse to hang out with your sister. Comparing and hearing memories with a sibling adds texture to the past as well as enriches my relationship with her today.
  • I made another memory. What was yesterday’s memoir class is tomorrow’s memoir material.

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