A native of New Orleans, the sights, sounds and soul of the South are very much a part of my own writing. As an African American, my culture plays a critical role in my work as well. My love for writing and stories began as a youngster sitting around the table, before and after meals, when the grown-ups told fascinating stories of the joy and pain of life in Louisiana. Their stories were so much more interesting than whatever the other kids were doing!
The Art of the Memoir residency includes the writing and sharing of personal narratives, with a focus on older adults. Louis Porter II took part in the pilot Arts in Healthcare program for COMPAS, where he observed that writing is a wonderful way for people to sort through their experiences, and that the teaching artist must be very patient and aware of each person’s particular circumstances and challenges. One group in this project was a hospital unit of elderly people, many of whom were Alzheimer’s patients. He has also led service projects at a nursing home and taught a class at a senior citizens center in New Orleans. Besides the work listed above, Louis also teaches in other COMPAS programs, serves on the COMPAS Board, and teaches at the U of Wisconsin-River Falls.
Given our theme of “reflecting on aging,” my method will be to: 1. Introduce myself, and the “art of the memoir.” This would include hearing the personal narratives of other people, with a focus on other older adults. 2. Provide writing exercises, guided by a variety of prompts to help bring out each participant’s unique story. 3. Share stories and feedback. (Always given gently and with directives made in the form of “suggestions.” I always emphasize that the writer owns the story and it is theirs to tell. This is critical and helps with fragile egos of all ages!) 4. To the degree that participants are willing: guidance on rewriting and polishing. 5. If appropriate, planning and executing a formal, live presentation of work. Here, presentation skills would be taught to group members.
Note: Materials and mileage costs may also apply.
Memoir & Poetry
Student begin their residency "free writing" and then are led through the many steps of memoir and poetry writing: editing, rewriting and polishing. One of the most successful journeys I take students on begins with “free writing.” That is, participants don’t worry in the beginning about spelling or grammar. The important thing at this point is to get the ideas out, while they are hot! Then, we begin the process of editing, rewriting and polishing. All of this works best if the jumping-off point for the writing activity is tied to what is going on during the regular school day. Indeed, connecting and coordinating with the classroom teacher is critical. Finally, I encourage students to share their work in a setting that is almost like a performance. The end result is almost always powerful.