David Bester is the instructor for the fall portion of the Scarborough Seniors Write workshop, seen here with a participant, 78-year-old, Barbara Jamieson.

Seniors Put It Into Words

Scarborough Arts launches first workshop designed to create late-in-life writers

At 78, Barbara Jamieson knew that she wanted to record her memoirs for her children, she just didn’t know where to start.

On Sept. 26, Scarborough Arts launched its first Scarborough Seniors Write workshop at the Kennedy/Eglinton library branch. Each week participating seniors work on developing their creative writing, poetry, story sharing and digital media skills.

Jamieson, who is an eager participant in the workshop, wants to learn how to organize her thoughts.

“I have a rich history,” she said. “Sometimes I wish I could show them (her children) my history and my work ethic, my accomplishments and my failures.”

Being born five years after her siblings, she says she has a unique take on life that she would like to share.

“I have a birth certificate that says ‘Born on or about Nov. 6,'” she said. “Right on my birth certificate! Is that interesting enough to write about?”

Jen Fabico and Dania Ansari from Scarborough Arts were excited about the launch of their new workshop.
Jen Fabico and Dania Ansari from Scarborough Arts were excited about the launch of their new workshop. (Jamie Anderson/Scarborough Observer)

Jen Fabico, the program director for Scarborough Arts, said the workshop is shaped on input from the community’s seniors.

“If their interests are mostly in recording their memoirs, then that’s what we’re working on; if they’re interested in doing lyric writing, then that’s what we’ll do. But it seems at the moment that most of it is memoirs and poetry,” she said. “We do have some people who are also interested in story writing … so we have quite an eclectic mix in there.”

One thing instructor David Bester — an Amherst Writers and Artists (AWA) workshop leader — tries to create, is an environment where the participants have no fear of being judged or criticized.

“People in general are very hesitant to share their writing, [but] this group, right away everybody was willing to share their stuff,” he said. “After they started getting into it, I could see that by the end, more people wanted to read then we had time for. That is very unusual in my experience.”

After attending the first class and presenting her work to the group, Barbara Jamieson said there is definitely an opportunity for her to learn how to properly organize herself and become a better writer.

Dania Ansari, the program coordinator for Scarborough Seniors Write, was excited to see that so many of the participants were getting involved in the discussions even if they were a little nervous.

“Everyone is so enthusiastic, and I know some of them feel very hesitant about sharing their work, but after they’ve read it, after they’ve shared it, I don’t see why they should be,” she said. “Just now, one of the participants came up to me and he was like, ‘It’s a bit of a challenge for me because I had trouble

Scarborough Seniors Write launched on Sept. 26 and will run until March 2014.
Scarborough Seniors Write launched on Sept. 26 and will run until March. (Jamie Anderson/Scarborough Observer)

at school so I’m not very good at it.’ I don’t see why they’re scared.”

The workshop runs until March 2014. In the winter semester another instructor, author Sarah Sheard, will take over the storytelling and audio recording portion of the workshop.