For 20 minutes, the room was silent save for the inhales and exhales of the 13 people who softly, yet quickly scratched pen to paper. Then, an alarm sounded and the stillness was replaced with laughter, applause and heartfelt “awws” as the members of the Bella Vida senior center creative writing group shared the stories they crafted.
Every Monday, Teri Crane hosts a creative writing class at the senior center. During the class, Crane, who took over teaching the class five years ago after she retired and wanted to use her master’s degree in writing, teaches a lesson about the craft of writing then suggests a topic and has the group write for about 20 minutes. Then the class has an opportunity to share what they have written. This Monday’s class had a writing prompt about valentines, appropriate for the upcoming holiday.
“I’ll give the class an idea of what to write about, and they’ll just run with it,” Crane said. “I like to tell the group that you have different time periods in your life, and to pick one of those time periods and write in context of that.”
Naomi Young, who also takes a journaling and “conscious again” class from Crane, particularly enjoys the creative writing class. Young began writing at age 12 and has published a book of poetry and short stories, and credits Crane for teaching her how to make her writing more engaging.
“I do write by myself, but it is important to have other viewpoints, and exposing yourself to other styles of writing, like through this class, pushes you to make your writing better,” Young said. “This class is an important outlet for creativity, and Teri is a very good teacher.”
Christy Mazzeo, one of the group’s original members, began her creative writing in earnest after she discovered the class, and though she values the lessons Crane has taught her, Mazzeo is especially drawn to the community aspect of the writing class.
“I love to hear the stories each week, and they’re done by people from all different backgrounds from different countries,” she said. “There’s a strong sense of camaraderie because you really get to know someone when you hear their personal stories being read. It’s a sort of therapy, because we can express how we feel and think about things we haven’t thought of for years.”
A vast majority of the class opts to write with pen and paper rather than use a computer. Crane said this wasn’t a result of any prompting from her and is an organic trend within the group.
“We’re from a different generation, so there is that aspect of preference, but also I can write fast with a pen,” Mazzeo said. “And if I was typing, I would probably spend a lot of time correcting those errors instead of writing.”
Crane said one of her favorite parts of teaching a creative writing class is seeing the different directions the writers go each week with the prompts she gives them.
“Everyone has a different story to tell that’s part of themselves, and they tell them in very different ways,” Crane said. “I love seeing what different things the group creates each week.”