1. We are very excited about having this class for the fall, what inspired you to create this class?
I was inspired to create a class devoted to writing one’s life story when spending time with my mother in her later years. She lived to be ninety-four, and although I got a lot of my questions answered about my family and our history along the way, I still don’t know much about a cousin named Roxie Malinda, buried in the corner of a family cemetery plot in Oxford, Mississippi, for example. I also had the pleasure of listening to the stories of my mother’s friends as they aged, and they took such delight in having someone listen, and I felt lucky to be hearing them. So, I want to encourage others to write while they can for those left behind to know them better. Just as important, though, I’m finding that the process of writing one’s life story, in one’s own words, is a valuable exercise in and of itself. For it allows us to look back on what we’ve accomplished and taken some satisfaction; it encourages us to honor our relationships and mourn our losses, and it invites us to address parts of our life that still need some attention.
2. Tell us more about yourself?
I was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, and I moved to Nashville in 1993 to work for a publishing company. By then, I had lived in Knoxville and Washington, DC., and earned degrees in English and journalism. I consider Nashville home, and I love this city: its people, its energy, its creativity, its natural beauty. About ten years ago, I went back to school and got a graduate degree in theology at Vanderbilt. I believe creativity and spirituality are integrally linked, and the divinity school experience allowed me to expand the development of my work devoted to helping people claim and celebrate their authentic voices. I’ve led workshops on creativity, spirituality, and SoulCollage® throughout the Southeast and at the Chautauqua Institution in New York. In addition to writing and reading, I enjoy volunteering, wandering around Radnor Lake, hanging out with my husband and our dog named Norval, and listening to people’s stories.
3. What type of stories will students focus on telling in this class?
Instead of outlining our lives based solely on chronology, we’ll explore memorable events, major milestones, and important relationships. We’ll also celebrate our accomplishments and acknowledge our regrets.
4. What are some stories that are important to you that you’ve had a chance to compose?
I’ve written a good deal about the deaths of my parents, marrying later in life, and aging. Such writing has allowed me to better process these major life events and inspired me to keep going, keep questioning, keep writing my way through. I also wrote about helping my mother adapt to life after my father died in a piece that aired on National Public Radio. That was a great experience for both Mother and me.
5. Why do you believe telling your life story is important?
I believe it’s the sharing of our stories that saves us: as individuals, as corporate entities, as community advocates, as fellow pilgrims. Through the simple act of saying to someone, ‘This is what happened to me,’ we open connection to others. It reminds us that we are all in this thing called life together and that even when it seems we are all alone, we’re not.
Amy Lyles Wilson, M.A., M.T.S., is a published writer, experienced editor, and longtime workshop leader. A co-author or contributor to eight books, her work has been published in a variety of magazines and journals and on National Public Radio. She is trained in facilitating Amherst Writers and Artists and SoulCollage® workshops and holds a certificate in spiritual direction from the Haden Institute. More at www.amylyleswilson.com.
You can register for her new class: Telling Your Life Story, Oct 15-Nov 5, 1:00pm-3:00pm