For the past several weeks, the students in the class I teach on Writing Your Memoirs have been submitting stories, vignettes, and memories in various poetic forms about the Thanksgiving season. I was impressed with the multitude of ways in which they expressed their feelings . . . and I had an idea.
I marched into the Adult School office and said, “Do we have any money?” You can imagine what the answer was! But I thought my idea was a good one, and I wasn’t ready to give up. I told my supervisor what a boost it would be for these students to see some of their work “published.” We could create an in-house book for the cost of paper. Someone on staff would do the spiral binding for free. “Besides,” I said, “think how impressed the school board will be when they see how creative a program for older adults can be.”
Before you start clapping, let me tell you that I hadn’t thought all this out. Though many of the papers I collected were typed neatly, others were written in long hand on lined paper. I even received several that were torn from something that had part of a grocery list on the other side.
Here’s where “Using Your Writing as a Gift to Others” comes in. I realized that the book we were producing needed an editor. It needed a preface. The individual submissions would have to be examined not only for spelling and punctuation, but for continuity of thought — and appearance. I didn’t want Times New Roman on one page and an unreadable scrip on another. Neither did I want bold face mixed helter skelter with regular type.
I decided to type the whole thing myself. It would be my gift to them — a sharing of my talents so that they could enjoy theirs more fully. Yes, it took hours. Yes, I sometimes grew frustrated, especially when more manuscripts arrived by e-mail when I thought I was finished.
Was it worth it? You bet. I can hardly wait until these books with autumn leaves on the cover are ready to be distributed — no, not distributed. They will be presented, with my love, to the people who teach me every week far more than I can ever teach them.
Contributed by Marilyn Donahue