Fourteen local writers publish a collection of stories that click with readers

Posted:  Monday, January 8, 2018 - 7:30am
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When local residents signed up last April for a workshop called From Memory to Memoir, they had no inkling that their writing would be appearing in print by the end of the year. Their prior writing experience ranged from nil to private journal entries, and none of them had seen their work published in a book. But today they are all published authors, with stories and poems appearing in the new paperback, “Stories That Connect Us,” available at local libraries and Sherman’s Book and Stationery in Damariscotta and Boothbay Harbor.

“We begin each workshop with an agreement that all the writing heard in the workshop is confidential,” explains workshop leader Barbara Burt. “We are only allowed to share the amazing stories we hear in the workshops if we have the explicit permission of the writers. So, readers are especially lucky that this project came about.”

Each of the book’s writers attended at least one From Memory to Memoir workshop in 2017. (In most cases, they attended more than one session.) The five workshops, ranging in size from three to five participants, were held in Damariscotta at Inn Along the Way, and in Boothbay Harbor at the Community Center and at the Congregational Church, with writers hailing from towns along midcoast Maine from Harpswell to Camden.

Included in the collection are works by Sharon Abair, Grizel Barreto, Chris Chapman, Margaret Coolong, Bob Crink, Jane Eastwick Eames, Dorothy Ferrell, Kitty Hartford, David S. McHold, Pat McHold, Nancy Prisk, Gail Ruwe and Judy Shepard. Workshop leader Barbara Burt also contributed some work, as well as acting as editor.

A member of the Transformative Language Arts Network, Burtweaves her background in writing, editing, education, communications, leadership, and music into a tapestry of creative encouragement, attentive listening, and empathic caring. While not a therapist, she strongly believes in the therapeutic value of personal narrative. “That’s why I insist on confidentiality,” she says. “When there’s trust among group members, creativity can thrive.” Burt says it’s an honor to be entrusted with the workshop participants’ stories.

The narratives in “Stories That Connect Us” cover a wide variety of topics, yet readers will find many themes that resonate with their own experience. The trepidation and joy of childbirth, the sorrow of caring for an ill loved one, the fun of Christmas surprises, the longing of a romantic relationship, the mystery of childhood perspectives, affection for animals wild and domestic—these feelings and more are explored in the stories and poems.

Burt plans to hold another round of workshops beginning in April. She can be contacted at barb@barbspen.com for more information.