Just about everyone has them — family stories. Yours may be a sweet account of how Grandpa proposed to Gram, or only a whisper of something bad that happened that no one ever seems to want to talk about.
Good or bad, detailed or vague, old or new, they’re worth capturing, says Elizabeth McNeil, host of “Creative Remembering: Writing Your Family Stories” on April 18 at Art Intersection in Gilbert.
That’s because stories are tied to a family’s culture.
“Maybe it’s that story about Uncle Who’s-It, who just disappeared one day and showed up 20 years later,” says McNeil, an instructor of writing and literature at Arizona State University. “How does that story define us all and how we’ve maybe lived afraid of someone leaving us one day? Or how does it define the wonderful, independent spirit we all have because adventurous old Uncle Who’s-It was brave enough to do that?”
McNeil will help writers of all skill levels settle on a particular story and flesh it out in the workshop, which will be followed by a revision session on May 4.
“I call it ‘creative remembering’ because any autobiographical story or story you’ve heard that’s supposedly the truth — we’re going to have to creatively reconstruct dialogue that may or may not have happened but is still genuine to the significance of the story,” she says.
Participants will bolster abstract portions of their tales through a series of exercises designed to draw vivid detail from their memories. One is a character interview, where classmates will stand in for the people in each other’s stories to help generate background.
McNeil, who works on similar projects with seniors at Tempe’s Friendship Village assisted living campus, says writing experience isn’t necessary.
All one needs is a desire to grab hold of the stories that make their family theirs.
“When people want memoirs or want family stories, ... what they really want is to see the story that has been so verbally significant and defining to their family and who they are in print. They want to capture it, so it’s there for posterity. It’s there to pass around at Christmastime and spark conversation. It sparks love of family and a deeper understanding of how to define oneself.”
If you go
What: Capture your family’s signature stories in a workshop for all levels of writers with Arizona State University writing and literature instructor Elizabeth McNeil.
When: 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, April 18, and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 4. The Saturday session is an optional meeting to revise your work.
Where: Art Intersection, 207 N. Gilbert Road, No. 201, Gilbert
Cost: $65-$70 per person
Information: (480) 361-1118
Contact writer: (480) 898-6818 or firstname.lastname@example.org