Author Phyllis Barber will teach memoir writing
Ryan Summerlin October 18, 2013
Park City resident Elizabeth Fetter, who oversees vacation rentals with Pilgrim Management, started writing essays and stories 15 years ago.
She’s had her work published in various volumes over the years and, earlier this week, her essay "Full Circle," which recaps Fetter’s journey from becoming a paraplegic to Paralympian, placed first in the Seventh annual Salt Lake County Silver Pen Essay Contest.
The awards ceremony, hosted by the Salt Lake County Aging Services, was held at the 10th East Senior Center in Salt Lake City.
The judges were comprised of three volunteers from the Salt Lake Community College Community Writing Center, which helps writers of all levels develop and improve their craft.
Fetter, who moved to Park City from Minneapolis, Minn., three years ago, said while she has taken some workshops at the Salt Lake Center, she would like to start something similar up in the Wasatch Back.
"I’m interested in getting some Park City writers together that will meet on a regular basis," Fetter said. "When I moved here, I started looking for writing opportunities around here, because I’m the kind of person that needs a lot of support to write.
"When I’m with a group, I can write prolifically, but not very much when I’m alone," she said. "So I’m looking to organize some sort of writing group."
Fetter’s friends, who knew her plight, referred her to local author Phyllis Barber.
Barber, who has published eight books, including three memoirs, agreed to teach a weekly writing class at Fetter’s home in Silver Springs beginning Tuesday, Oct. 22. The classes will run from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m.
"We looked for some places to hold this class, but couldn’t find any that were accessible," Fetter explained. "We are planning to use this class as a way to hopefully recruit people for a Park City writing group."
Barber said the classes will be about memoir writing.
"I’m most interested at this point in my life to help others tell their life stories," explained Barber, who received the Associated Writing Program Award in 1991. "People have great tales to tell, and I think I know how to help them make the processes more simple than they think it is."
The classes will be open to writers of all levels and the cost is $125. Contact Barber by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .
"I have been around the block with memoirs and feel I can be a good teacher," she said.
Barber, one of the co-founders of the Writers at Work Conference, has taught fiction, creative nonfiction, narrative voice, structure, how to work with landscape and how to develop character.
"Most students are deficient in one of those areas," she said. "A student may be good at characterization and forget about setting or a student is good at dialogue, but not good at developing character.
"The main thing is, I don’t care how long you’ve written or how good you are, you will always have to go back to your stories and say, ‘Did I develop the character well enough?’ or ‘Did I stay with the scene long enough?’" Barber said. "I ask myself that all the time and look back to what I’ve done to see if there’s a plot somewhere."
Barber said she would like to see Fetter’s writing group idea grow.
"She had this idea to provide a place like the Loft in Minneapolis or Lighthouse Writers in Denver where writers can meet, learn from each other and write," Barber said.
"I have taught at the Lighthouse Writers and at the Vermont College of Fine Arts and feel it would be nice to do this and I would like to support the idea."
Fetter said writing exercises the creative side of her brain.
"But more than that, it connects me to a much deeper part of myself, my heart and my soul," she said.
Phyllis Barber will teach a weekly class about memoir writing at the home of Elizabeth Fetter in Silver Springs. The cost is $125. To register and get the address, email Barber at email@example.com .