Spevak: Life stories class poised to return on Jan. 22

By John SpevakJanuary 10, 2013 

Among the most popular forms of writing today is autobiography. Memoirs and autobiographies constituted a significant percentage of new books published in 2012.

Autobiography seems to appeal to both readers and writers. Writers like to write them as much as readers like to read them.

Several reasons have been suggested for the popularity of memoirs and autobiographies. First, they are stories, life stories to be exact, and everyone likes a good story.

Second, life stories enable readers to understand what a person went through in his or her life -- not only experiences, thoughts and feelings but also the times and conditions in which a person lived.

Third, autobiographies enable writers to reflect on their lives and recognize linkages and patterns.

The national popularity of life stories can be seen in the continuation of a local class that encourages people to write the stories of their lives. This informal class, called "Writing Your Life Stories," will begin its ninth session in Los Banos later this month.

The class will reconvene Jan. 22 and will meet every Tuesday from 2 to 4 p.m. this spring, in a meeting room of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The class is free and open to everyone in the community.

Newcomers are especially welcome. Anyone seeking more specifics about the class can call (209) 752-8800.

"Writing Your Life Stories" is not so much a class as a gathering of people who write stories of their lives. It started 4½ years ago at the Los Banos Campus of Merced College, moved to the Miller & Lux Building, and now meets in the Los Banos LDS facility at 1826 Center Ave.

I have been fortunate to be the instructor of this class since it began. I've been impressed with the number and kinds of people who have participated.

In each spring or fall session there has been a blend of individuals who have been part of the group for a while and people who are coming for the first time.

In "Writing Your Life Stories," I don't really instruct; I encourage. I'm like the gym teacher who rolls out a ball and says, "Go play."

People enjoy the informality of the group. There are no requirements, of attendance or writing. I don't do any "correcting"; in fact, I don't even collect anything. People who have written a story for a particular class session and want to read it do so. Others sit back and listen.

Some write a life story each week and enjoy reading it aloud. Some write and read one story every month or two. Some write stories but choose not to read them. Some do not write stories at all; they simply enjoy listening to the stories of others.

Each week I provide an idea about which people can write. Some write on that prompt; others write about some other topic that interests them that week.

Why do people keep coming back to this class? Why do new people keep appearing? I think the participants like the relaxed atmosphere of the class. We all have fun and enjoy the two hours together, including the break midway through each class session.

The participants have also discovered that they, like all human beings, are natural storytellers.

Many participants have also found that their children and grandchildren enjoy reading the life stories. One of the participants collected several stories she wrote, asked a friend to type them, and then made photocopies of the collection for each of her children and grandchildren as Christmas presents.

I expect to see many returning class participants on Jan. 22, and I hope to see many new people join the group.

On other notes: Kudos to Carolann Demoss and Barbara Mello. They were honored earlier this month by the mayor and City Council for more than 20 years of service as members of the city's Tree Committee. That is dedication!

And condolences to the families of Parky Falasco and Ann Iacopi, two marvelous women who lived their lives with a positive, generous spirit and with a sense of grace and joy. They will be deeply missed.

Comments on the writings of John Spevak, an Enterprise columnist for 29 years, are encouraged, and can be sent via email to john.spevak@gmail.com.

Comments on the writings of John Spevak, an Enterprise columnist for 29 years, are encouraged, and can be sent via email to john.spevak@gmail.com.

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