The Writing Memories Society (WM) is a registered non-profit organization located in British Columbia, Canada. Our volunteers are university students and recent graduates eager to discover stories from a time before our own. We talk to elders from our community and ask them about their lives and their stories. During interview periods, each student meets with one senior for an hour per week over the course of about three months. The writers then transform these conversations into memoirs. From September 2017 to April 2019, we interviewed twenty-two people. We are currently preparing our first manuscript for publication.
We have much to learn from the stories of the seniors who have built our community—their narratives are powerful and ought to be respected. Such tales can teach us about our own past and about life secrets uncovered along the way. We all lose when such important memories are forgotten. This project gives seniors an opportunity to share their stories in their own voice and to preserve them for their families and community. It is a chance to conserve the details as they remember them and to pass on their lessons. Seniors are asked a variety of questions but they can determine the course of the interviews as they wish, and the memoirs contain the events that are most meaningful to them.
Memoirs are pieces of creative nonfiction. In crafting these life narratives, the WM writers and editors are able to explore the art of storytelling, to contribute to a lasting legacy, and to gain valuable experience in interviewing, writing, and editing. While writers have a great deal of stylistic freedom, we also have a serious responsibility: real people trust us to tell their stories. The desire to respect and honour these memories lies at the heart of our artistic endeavours.
Dan A. Miller, Margret Rand, Helena Almeida, Emma Kwok, Kyara Hunter
Interviews are joyful moments of conversation and companionship. Students and seniors discover shared interests and values, and the divide of decades fades. We may have different perspectives, but, through dialogue, our understanding of each other and of the world we inhabit grows, and we do too. In the telling and listening of life stories, we find connection and real friendships, which continue long after the interview sessions are over. To many of us, these relationships are one the most wonderful aspects of Writing Memories.
Leonard Tenisci was in a trio and often sang Peter, Paul and Mary’s “Stewball”. Leonard and Dan A. Miller, who interviewed him, bonded over their love for music and performed the song together.