When I inquired about the background and purpose of the Chugiak Eagle River Senior Centers’ writing group, I was referred to the group’s facilitator, Darlene Halverson. This is her story.
“The Chugiak-Eagle River Historical Society is always encouraging people to write their family history. It is an amazing experience in which we discover ourselves. Your family wants to know about your life, and they will treasure every word that you write,” Halverson told me.
She said she was urged by the historical society to facilitate a writer’s group. The Chugiak Senior Center was asked if the group could meet in one of their rooms. The goal was to get the seniors engaged in writing their memoirs. The Center said yes, and the group’s first meeting was in Oct. 2008. Six interested writers attended, five of them are still in the group today. Others have attended on and off over the years. Now, we have a group of seniors, most are living at the senior center.
The oldest person in the group is 96-years-old and the youngest is a 10-year-old boy who comes occasionally when he wants group members to review his creative writing. Every age group is welcome.
The group works on nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. Our format is as follows: The author reads his or her paper. The group gives the author feedback on what they liked about the story. Then we discuss what would make the story even better. After the discussion, it is the author’s turn to answer questions or comment on remarks others have made.
When members of the group were asked to put into words what they receive from the experience of writing, their responses were enlightening.
One writer said he joined the group to help me to organize my book that I had begun planning on writing for a long time. Another said, she writes about everyday life when events occur and words tumble into her head. She then brainstorms by putting the main idea in the middle of a piece of paper and a story is born. She loves writing and then loves sharing what she’s written.
Another writer said the writing group has kept her on track with writing her life story. She admits to having lofty intentions, but in reality is good at procrastinating. The weekly sessions push her to get with it.
One of the members said she was drawn to the group because of getting to know another member through writing for the Alaska Star. She thought the member’s true life stories are so interesting and she hopes to find more time to write and share her writing with others. She likes being part of a group where people write for fun and not just for a class.
Another writer said he is in the group for self-discipline in the matter of improving his writing skills and also to continue finishing a book in progress that my ghostwriter said needs, not only “improvement” but finishing. It is partly biographical involving experiences in Korea, adjusting to returning to civilian life, and going to college.
The youngest writer reports that he used to make up stories when I was two years old. He said his brother would say them and he would repeat the stories making them just a little bit different. He told me he wrote his first story about the Cave Slayer in third grade along with two friends. He admits it wasn’t the best and there were a lot of errors. His current writing effort is called “Infected” and he has decided that it will be published. He writes because he loves making things up. Now he is in the fifth grade, ten years and has a wonderful teacher that encourages his writing efforts. For him, writing has been something he has always loved and despite being the youngest person at the group by several decades, he said he will continue to attend.
One of the group said her children told her they can hear her voice when they read her stories and it has created a written legacy they can pass down to the next generation to share.
The writing group meets every Friday afternoon between 1:00 and 3:00 at the CERSC in the conference room. New members are always welcome.
Editor’s Note: Carol Warren is a resident of the Chugiak Eagle River Senior Center’s independent living and is a correspondent for the ECHO News.