Workshop encourages writers to ‘Re-Imagine Your Life’ | ParkRecord.com

Workshop encourages writers to ‘Re-Imagine Your Life’

Debbie Leaman will lead sessions

It's normal for older people to feel an emptiness — a twinge of disorientation — when they retire, start a new job or become empty nesters.

Writer Debbie Leaman wants to help these people focus on new opportunities. To do this, she will host a creative writing workshop for the aging called "Re-Imagining Your Life."

The four-class sessions, designed for ages 55 and older, will be held from 1-4 p.m. on Wednesdays — July 26, Aug. 2, Aug. 9 and Aug. 16 — at Temple Har Shalom.

Registration is open and can be made by contacting Liz Anderson via email at elizabeth@jfsutah.org or by calling 801-746-4334. The cost is $135.

Scholarships are available. Call Ellen Silver, Jewish Family Service executive director, at 801-746-4334 for information.

"We can accommodate up to 12 people, so there is limited space," Leaman said. "I would like to encourage people to sign up sooner than later."

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Although the workshop is sponsored through Jewish Family Service and held at Temple Har Shalom, Leaman said it is nondemominational.

"This can be seen as an extension of the Jewish Community Service's community education and clinical offerings, and everyone is welcome," Leaman told The Park Record. "The workshop is great for anyone going through a transition: especially those who are thinking of retiring, or have retired, or are in between jobs."

The workshop is also good for those people who just feel something needs to change in their lives.

"I created a curriculum that I would want to take if I was going through a transitional period," Leaman said. "I want to help them access and organize their thoughts and make some goals for their next step."

Leaman wanted to emphasize that "Re-Imagining Your Life" is a writing workshop, not a counseling session.

"I'm a writer and not a therapist," she said. "So, we are going to approach the changes in these people's lives through writing.

"Since my process of thinking is writing. I came up with some writing prompts, which I see as on-ramps or catalysts that can unlock different parts of their way of thinking to change their perception."

The workshop is open to all levels of writers, and no writing experience is necessary.

"We will talk about questions and issues that hit all of us at different points in our lives," Leaman said. "We will address questions such as 'Where do I belong?' or 'Who am I, now that I'm not who I used to be?' and 'What's my purpose?'"

Writers will also write about loss and regrets in their lives.

"I don't think you can move on if you haven't addressed those things, because they will always be in the back of your mind," Leaman said. "I want to help people come to grips with those concerns and then move on. So, we will go through a whole series that takes us to different areas."

Another issue Leaman will address is self-discovery.

"We'll talk about leaving comfort zones, rediscovering passions and interests, and taking stock of our lives," she said.

Participants should bring writing tools they are comfortable using: pens, pencils, laptops, paper or journals.

"It just depends on how they feel they can best express themselves, because this is an expressive writing class," Leaman said.

Writing has always been a passion for Leaman, who has been writing since she was 12.

"It just resonated with me," she said. "I remember that I would write in a journal that had a lock and key so my brothers couldn't get to it."

Becoming a professional writer, however, was a career change for Leaman.

"I was a managing director of a brokerage firm in Manhattan for 10 years and then moved to Utah more than 20 years ago and became a financial advisor," she said. "I left it all 13 years ago, because I felt I needed to tap more into my creative self."

Writing helped Leaman gather her thoughts and decide what her next career step would be.

"The writing stuck with me and I started getting published," she said.

Leaman, who placed second in humor/lifestyle writing during the 2017 Utah Society of Professional Journalists contest, will talk about her own journey during the workshop.

"Along with that, I will address the concerns people have about making a change but finding they don't like what they chose to do," she said. "That's something that is very common, and you don't know you will like something unless you try it.

"What people need to know is that it's OK to try something else if the thing you chose doesn't work."

Leaman has taught creative writing workshops for the aging in Salt Lake City, and this is the first one she'll do in Park City.

"The workshops came to be when the Salt Lake County Department of Aging Services and Art Access collaborated and did a program about creative aging that included visual arts, dance, music and writing," she said. "They asked me to do the writing workshop."

Jewish Family Service then asked Leaman to do the workshops as part of their community education program.

"I have been with Jewish Family Service for eight years and used to run the Park City Lecture Series," she said. "So, when I was asked to do the writing workshop, it seemed like a natural fit."

Jewish Family Service will present writer Debbie Leaman's creative writing workshop for the aging, "Re-Imagining Your Life," from 1-4 p.m. on Wednesday — July 26, Aug. 2, Aug. 9 and Aug. 16 — at Temple Har Shalom. The cost is $135. Registration is open and can be made by contacting Liz Anderson via email at elizabeth@jfsutah.org or by calling 801-746-4334. For information about Debbie Leaman, visit http://www.debbieleaman.com.

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