What can I teach anybody about writing?

I am scheduled to teach a class next week at New Dimensions Lifelong Learning Institute in Grand Junction, Colorado. It’s a continuing education program for people, like myself, who are in their golden years.

The class is entitled “Writing Your First Book or Writing Family Stories.” Looks like 15-20 people may be attending. The question is, “What can I teach anybody about writing?”

I decided to create a series of worksheets, each of which addresses an aspect of the writing craft. Here’s the first one (the illustration with this blog goes along with the worksheet.)


A popular feature which once appeared in daily newspapers was “Ripley’s Believe It or Not.” In an inked box about six-inches-square, interesting facts from around the globe were illustrated and summarized in succinct captions.

Summarizing a fiction novel or a non-fiction family history in a series of pithy one-liners can serve as an effective prompt to stimulate your writing. Here’s some examples:

Believe it or not: my grandfather once lost a horse and buggy in a flashflood while delivering mail to rural Iowa farms.

Believe it or not: my great grandmother was born in Wales and, as a teenager, came to America on a ship which was forced to land in New Orleans due to an influenza outbreak in New York harbor.

Believe it or not: my great-great grandfather was killed in a coal mining accident and his twelve-year-old son had to take his place at the mine.

[Whether this line of thinking generates ideas for family history chapters, or fictional accounts based on actual people and incidents, these beginning thoughts will stimulate your writing and help make your finished work ‘believable.’]


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