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July 2024

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May 2024

Emergency Preparedness: Are You Ready?

Farewell from the 2023/24 Social Work Interns

Gina on the Horizon

Mark Your Calendars for the Healthy Aging Research California Virtual Summit

Meet Our New Development Associate

Putting the Strategic Plan into Practice

Washington Park: Pasadena’s Rediscovered Gem

Introducing Civil Rights Discussions

Rumor of Humor #2416

Rumor of Humor #2417

Rumor of Humor #2417

Rumor of Humor #2418

Springtime Visitors

Freezing for a Good Cause – Credit, That Is

No Discussion Meeting on May 3rd

An Apparently Normal Person Author Presentation and Book-signing

Flintridge Center: Pasadena Village’s Neighbor That Changes Lives

Pasadena Celebrates Older Americans Month 2024

The 2024 Pasadena Village Volunteer Appreciation Lunch

Woman of the Year: Katy Townsend

April 2024

March 2024

February 2024

January 2024

Writing Memoirs Together

By Sue Addelson
Posted: 03/25/2024
Tags: sue addelson

Memoir Groups have been happening at Pasadena Village since our inception—and they’re still going strong. Over the years, as members die or move away or just decide to not continue in the group, new members fill the empty seats. In this way, the groups stay dynamic and interesting. 

Today, there are three memoir-writing groups. Correction: two memoir groups and one that recently morphed into a creative writing group. As of this writing, all three groups have a few empty seats.

Think you might be interested? Read on.

Note: Confidentiality is something all our memoir groups take very seriously. All the content in this article appears with permission.

Why join a memoir group?

People join for different reasons: Karen Whitmore was looking for a group to help her write the stories of her childhood. “Grandchildren and youth today won't know how we lived unless we chronicle it,” she says.

Marv Dainoff was motivated by the loss of his wife to write a memoir of their lives together, “And, I wanted a place—and people—to share these writings,” he says.

While one of Sally Asmundson’s reasons was to record her stories for her children and grandchildren, now she’s doing it as much for herself.

Many members have tried writing on their own, only to discover they need the discipline of the group.

 What do you write about?

“We all share our life stories—both significant and insignificant moments in our lives,” explains LuCinda Haagenson. “Some stories are amusing, some heartfelt, all are true.” 

They run the gamut, from a crush someone had in high school to a tragic childhood growing up in Vienna during World War II, to a piece of music that was particularly moving.

One story that Linda Stowitts wrote, “The Burden of the Heirloom,” was about the antique bed her mother was born in. “Later, it was my bed. Then, one of my daughters’ bed. Now it’s in the basement. Everyone is too big for it, but I can’t let it go,” she says. 

Writing personal stories can be, well, personal. Some people choose to share intimate stories, some do not. Either way, these groups operate just like Pasadena Village on the whole operates: non-judgmental, compassionate and with a high degree of trust. 

“One of the most powerful stories I have written and shared with the group is my abortion story,” says Kären Bagnard. “Abortion has always been a heavy subject and, for those of us who have experienced it or gone through it with someone we love, it becomes a dark secret. The secret just weighs us down and festers. I felt a healing power in writing and sharing my story. That was huge.”

Memoir groups promote bonding

In the meetings, members take turns sharing their stories, which often lead to rich and lively discussions. “So far, the only issue for me is the trade-off between continuing an almost always fascinating discussion and not running out of time for the remaining participants. This is a good problem to have!” says Marv.

“Members opening their hearts and telling their life stories has enriched my life beyond words,” adds LuCinda.By sharing this experience, we learn more about ourselves, and we certainly learn a great deal about each other. 

Is it right for you?

Feel nervous about joining a group? Worried you aren’t a good writer? Fear not. 

I joined a group that had been meeting for years, and I immediately felt welcomed and included. As for writing, you don’t have to be a good writer. Or a good storyteller or even have a good memory. People in a memoir group aren’t trying to meet some literary standard. (With the exception of Bonnie Armstrong, who wrote a book, An Apparently Normal Person, that’s about to be published. Congratulations, Bonnie!)

All groups meet once a month. Members of Pasadena Village are welcome to “tryout” any of them.

For the Friday Memoir Group, contact Sally Asmundson.

For the Thursday Memoir Group, contact Sue Addelson.

For Random Acts of Writing, the creative writing group, contact LuCinda Haagenson. 

See the Membership Directory for contact information.

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