We met in a writing seminar I moderate at the University of Dayton Osher Life-Long Learning Institute (UDOLLI). The purpose of the six-week class is for each person to complete one life story. Life-long learning programs are designed for people over fifty, usually meet once a week for two hours, and are not graded. It is learning for the pure joy of learning. Most of the classes are at the university as another stated purpose is to build community and connection.
During the six weeks we cover what makes a good story, how to listen and respond to another’s piece, and some basic revision and editing skills. Sharing personal experiences fosters deep connection. We celebrate by publishing the stories into a book that writers share with their families and friends. UDOLLI recognizes the writers at an evening community event where writers read from their work.
We seven decided to keep meeting after the seminar ended, rotating among our homes weekly. The goal was to keep writing and encouraging one another. Once the shelter-in-place order came and face-to-face gatherings were out, we decided to try meeting weekly on Zoom.
This has been a blessing to us all. Sometimes for the first twenty minutes of our hour and a half session, we just talk about COVID-19 and how it is affecting us and our families. We talk about loneliness and isolation. We talk about the lack of physical connection. We talk about strategies we are each using to make the best of a distressing and frightening situation. It is a relief to just get all that out. It is soothing to see one another’s faces and a source of joy to turn to our writing.
We write poetry, memoir, fiction, and personal essay. Sometimes we write to a prompt. Sometimes people share from a journal or work in progress. Work is emailed ahead or screen shared during the session. We usually read from our work. The time flies by. I believe most of us end the call inspired and ready to write more.
To our pride, we already have had three publications during the pandemic: one acceptance into the very competitive Chicken Soup for the Soul books, a chapter in a nonfiction book on life coaching, and an essay in a literary Zine.
One of our members has a personal connection to a library that is archiving works written during the pandemic. They accept journal entries, poetry, essays, blog posts, pretty much anything done during this time. We are gathering our writing into one file to be archived as the work of the Legacy Writers. What a delight!
Perhaps the best thing about our Zoom meetings is how much we all treasure them. They flame our passion for writing and nurture us as a community that supports and encourages one another.
Prior to the isolation, I doubt any of us would have proposed to meet online. We loved our roving home sessions. I think we will all enjoy meeting in person again some time in the future. For now we will maintain our deep connection and foster our passion for writing via Zoom. We seven Legacy Writers continue to write, to share our life stories, and to support one another’s creative pursuits. Achieving this online is an unexpected but well received benefit of the pandemic. I am grateful for that.