Since February of this year, I have led what finally amounted to four Memoir-Writing Classes twice a month (eight classes per month in all), and due to the varieties in schedules and the specific coaching needs of developing writers, I have also made room for some additional two or three private phone appointments per month. This means that over a seven-month period, I have taught some 77 classes! All this for $150. I obviously was not prepared for a total of 15 individuals signing up, nor did I know how much time I was committing myself to giving (an estimated 105 hours of teaching, not to mention the organization and preparation requirements in addition to the fact that I wrote up notes after each week’s session in order to email that record around to the group).
No wonder a former literary agent, now a book group friend, insisted that I should be charging $800 to $1200 for the class.
However, when I tally up what I received from the class, my fee for the next round of memoir-writing teleconference sessions—to begin in February 2016—my new fee of $400 seems fairly sensible. Here’s the list:
New friends, both men and women.This is always a delight, to meet new people and to journey with them for a while, sharing our lives together. Particularly, this is true when people share their stories, and that indeed is exactly what memoir writing does—it forces the teller to organize, reconstruct personal memories, design the writing in such a way that it has meaning for the readers, then send it forth into the world, hopefully to do good as it goes.
The very fact of listening to one another read aloud portions from his/her life creates an amazing bond considering we will probably never see one another, could not pick one another out in a crowd, and most likely will never talk to one another from this time forward. At the end of each of our sessions in this our last week, someone, maybe more than one person, thanked the other participants and gave specific reasons why being in an encouraging, safe group had been a “healing” process in their lives. I take no credit for the “healing” process, but I feel really good about being the catalyst who helped it happen.
The privilege of being trusted to hear and hold (and even gently help to frame and form) these stories. I am a wiser, more compassionate, more patient woman for having journeyed with these new friends for seven months out of this year.
Frankly, I’m overwhelmed with love for all those trapped in this human condition. I’m amazed at their courage, humbled by the fact that the memoir writing has helped many to come to terms with painful perplexities, and that I, Karen Mains, get to be a witness to it all. At 72 years of age, I’ve seemed to reach that condition termed “amour mundi” (or as I translate: “to be in love with the world and the creatures in it”). The classes (some 105 hours of teaching and listening) have been largely responsible for this.
The accountability of teaching has made me scramble to be prepared to teach. I’ve re-read memoirs I’ve loved from the past, researched the memoir-writing format, read books recommended by members of the class and stretched my own critical and analytical capacities. The teacher always grows more than the students. That certainly has been the case in my circumstances.
I’m not sorry that the memoir classes are ending, because they have demanded huge chunks of my time; for eight months every other week has been a memoir-class week, and this responsibility has interfered in my own writing schedule. But I’m a much, much better woman than I was when I started. Scientists who study the impact on the brain of the process of listening—hearing and being understood, listening and being listened to and consequently understanding one another more deeply—talk about contingent communication, a kind of empathy that develops between the hearer and the listener. Memoir reading and memoir classes provide just this kind of opportunity. I am a witness.
A handful of participants have indicated that they want to sign up for the next round of classes. I may be the biggest learner in these last seven months, but it is deeply satisfying in knowing that so many found the experience so gratifying they want to go forward. So perhaps the memoir classes are not really ending, just taking a pause.
Award-winning author Karen Mains has long had an interest in spiritual formation and the obedient Christian walk. She has written about the God Hunt in her book by the same name, The God Hunt: The Delightful Chase and the Wonder of Being Found. A hardback copy can be ordered from Mainstay Ministries for $10.00 plus $4.95 shipping and handling. Contact Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will be happy to autograph a copy for you.
Karen continues to write content for her Christian blog, “Thoughts-by-Karen-Mains.” In so doing, she desires to touch the lives of Christian women and men and help them find ways to walk closer with the Lord Jesus Christ. In addition, through silent retreats, spiritual teaching, women’s retreats, Christian vacation opportunities, and other ministry activities, Karen helps each Christian woman and man receive vital spiritual food.
Through her Hungry Souls ministry, Karen serves as a spiritual coach to many Christian women and men, and teaches a mentor-writing class. And, through the Global Bag Project, she is working to develop a network of African women who sew exquisite cloth reusable shopping bags, Africa bags. This micro-finance women opportunity helps provide a much-needed sustainable income for struggling African families. For more information on this critically important project, please click here.
For decades, Karen and her husband, David, have served God through religious communications—radio, television, and print publication. They are the co-authors of the Kingdom Tales Trilogy: Tales of the Kingdom, Tales of the Resistance, and Tales of the Restoration. To find many valuable resources for pastors and congregations at the Mainstay Ministries main website, please click here.
Likewise, pastors will find special resources to help them prepare effective, life-transforming Sunday sermons by visiting David Mains’ website by clicking here.