Last week I attended the 4th class for the writing project/class I am doing, and I haven’t even finished my write up for class 3.

I skipped class 3 to go to Game 7 of round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Nashville Predators got slaughtered by the Winnipeg Jets. I cried at the end of the game, partly because I hope one of my favorites comes back next year. Mostly though, my tears were selfish – the fun whirlwind adventures were over, at least this year.

What I Missed Playing Hookie

The class had a guest speaker – an author of historical fiction. While our writing will be creative non-fiction, the speaker talked about how to make the setting of the store a character. This concept, when added to our non-fictional stories, will help them come alive.

Also, our facilitators broke the class up into groups of four, and offered classed time to discuss potential writing topics. Someone from the class recorded the speaker, and emailed me the audio file.

My group chatted with me a little via email about their topics, and offered me a bit of advice regarding the small scope of my idea. One lady suggested that I’m at an advantage having a focused idea for my submission. With a passion for my topic, I can then zoom out – only as much as is needed – and fill in the rest with historical background about the topic.

What I Experienced When I Attended

Going into the following class, I felt a bit overwhelmed. May is the last month we’ll meet twice. From here on out, we’ll only meet once a month, and be left to on our own the rest of the time.

The library’s writer-in-residence had assigned the class the homework of putting together a presentation for class #4. He tasked us with putting together a 5 minute presentation, sharing with the class our topic and the resources we plan to use to help with our story.

Before the class, I’d decided to write my article about my grandparents, specifically the Honeymoon Lane story my mamaw has told over and over. Although I was at a loss when considering what sort of research would help.

Thankfully the day of the class, I read some of the submissions for the first Foothills Voices volume. I paid careful attention to the Bibliographies at the end of the stories, and noted that one story used United States Department of Agriculture literature.

Bingo!

My story centers around farm life in Appalachia in the 1950s, and the USDA could help with historical information. I decided to consider “family interviews” a resource and called my homework done.

When I arrived in class, one of the ladies (my groupmate with the excellent advice) along with one of the class facilitators worked to get her PowerPoint presentation ready to show the class. Suddenly my notes scribbled in my Jurassic World notebook seemed pitiful in comparison.

Thankfully, that particular lady is an overachiever. Most of the class presented in a similar manner as me. I picked up ideas as my classmates gave their presentations and felt confident by the time I volunteered to talk about mine.

Funny, some of the things I said – totally winging it – I found restated in one of the suggested reading books in our class Bibliography. I asserted that not only despite the routine nature of my family’s story, but because of it, people would be interested in reading it.

I suppose my college English classes and the prevalence of an “Everyman” character throughout the literature I’ve ready has stuck with me. According to Katherine Scott Sturdevant, this is the exact appeal of writing social history. (Her book, Bringing Your Family History to Life Through Social History – pictured above – focuses on going beyond the bare bones of genealogy, and adding flesh to the story.)

While I’m still a bit behind most of the class, having not started any of my research yet, I’m excited to have a concrete plan. Our assignment for the next class is to have a short summary of our topic written out.

I also hope to have completed interviews with both of my grandparents. If possible, I want to meet with the facilitator-librarian who is passionate about research. I think she will be able to help me find some interesting sources for my story.

I’m so thankful to be a part of this project, and pushing – if ever so slightly – out of my writing comfort zone.

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