Writing Our Lives


The Writing Our Lives Web Sampler:

The OLLI Course

This web sampler contains lifestories written by members of the Writing Our Lives class offered each term by OLLI at Auburn.

Our writing group began ten years ago, a spin-off of a course in which we read memoir essays by famous writers with Alabama roots. Throughout our discussions in that class, members connected the famous writers’ stories with their own.  I was reminded that we all have our stories to tell—and that we don’t need much coaxing to tell them! Several classmates encouraged me to pursue formation of a memoir-writing class. With the cooperation of the Sun Belt Writing Project, then Auburn University’s affiliate of the National Writing Project, we were able to offer the course for the first time during the 2003 fall term.  Cathy Buckhalt, then a co-director of the Sun Belt Writing Project, led our group during that term.  When the term ended, Cathy had to return to her other obligations, but we did not want to stop our writing.  We decided to assume the leadership for the course ourselves so that we could continue. Since then, Cathy has returned as our leader each fall, and class members and I have assumed leadership for winter and spring terms. We also meet three times each summer.

We meet for ninety minutes each Tuesday morning during each of OLLI at Auburn’s three terms each year. After the leader conducts a brief writing warm-up exercise, class members have an opportunity to share something they have worked on during the previous week. Then the leader provides a stimulus for our writing:  reads to us from a newspaper, a magazine, the memoir book that we have selected for our basic text, or something that he or she has written especially for the class meeting. The leader then suggests topics for writing that are related to those stimuli. We spend quiet time writing. During the last ten or fifteen minutes, volunteers share what they have written. Sharing our writing is always voluntary. At the end of each term, we invite writers to contribute to our term-end publication. So far, we have produced more than twenty anthologies. We are pleased to publish on this website some of the pieces that appeared in recent print anthologies.

The German philosopher Schopenhauer once wrote, “Life may be compared to a piece of embroidery, of which during the first half of his time a person gets sight of the right [front] side, and during the second half the wrong [back] side. The wrong side is not as pretty as the right side, but it shows the way in which the threads have been worked together.” One of the greatest benefits of actively participating in our Writing Our Lives class has been discovering the common patterns that define our lives and sharing our unique stories with others.

I hope that you will enjoy this sampler of our writers’ work.  Perhaps it will encourage you to join us and to apply your own pen to a blank piece of paper!

Terry C. Ley
Coordinator and Instructor
Writing Our Lives


Last Updated: August 29, 2017