Santa Clara University

Osher Lifelong Learning

The Art of Narrative Archive


                Treasures are stored in our personal memories, and in family histories. These are gems of experience, humorous or touching encounters, wry anecdotes, wisdom for living.  How can such things be both saved and shared? Bring them back to life in the form of stories! The telling of tales is a native and natural skill for all humans. Sadly, it sometimes lies unused.

When I first imagined this class – at the invitation of Dorothea French – I knew I did not want to make it strictly a writing seminar. Many writing classes already exist; they tend to rigorously focus on technique; and they hold out false hope that a few weeks of study can transform one into a writer. Trust me: writing is a major artistic discipline. Mastery is a lifelong project.

But story-telling is already a big part of everyone’s life. Those seeds have been planted, and most people have seen their growth. To encourage those green shoots to spring more robustly into view, just add irrigation with permission, and some sunshine of enthusiasm.

I feel pleased, proud and happy to say that this formula worked for OLLI’s first “Art of the Narrative” class. Some two dozen students came for five weeks to the class. Tentative starts were soon followed by strong renditions of important events in the lives of these individuals, as well as their friends and relations.

By the end of the class, these new tale-tellers were able to stand up and proclaim to the room their struggles and triumphs, health and relationship issues, acts of daring by their ancestors, bygone days in their home towns, and the love stories that eventually resulted in their own births.

Naturally, since these stories are written, elements of writing were taught. But it was done in an atmosphere of fun, and so an increase in skill was achieved in a painless manner. Tricks and techniques for better public speaking were also revealed and shared. And awareness was heightened about the ocean of narratives through which we sail as we simply live our lives.

Some of the students were willing to share their stories beyond the boundaries of the classroom; you will find them posted here. As you read and enjoy, take a moment to think about your own tales, the ones that are so important to you and your families and friends. If you would like to bring these gems out into light of day, show them around and share them, perhaps we’ll see you at the next Art of the Narrative class, offered in spring of 2009.

Concluding note: If the next Art of the Narrative goes as well as the first, then we will have two beginning classes to draw from for an intermediate class in the fall,  ‘Continuing the Narrative.’ Discussions are underway!”


Narratives from the Fall 2008 Class:

1) Diane Snow- "Fanfare not Foreclosure for the Common Man"

2) Julianne Simone- "Chants of a Survivor"

3) Jack Gorham- "Drafted"

4) Richard Simone- "One of the Biggest Breaks of My Life"

5) John Marinshaw- "Coal Mine" & "D.C. Kid"

6) Ann Idzik- "In an Instant"

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