Senior citizens are discovering hidden talents, thanks to the help of a fellow resident, Carol McCollister, who established a writing group at HearthSide Towne Lake, an apartment complex for active, independent adults.
The HearthSide Writing Group is a weekly meeting of aspiring writers that welcomes residents who have the desire to explore the art of writing, and encourages informal, positive conversation to discuss thoughts and ideas. If any attendees would like to share what they have written the prior week, they are encouraged to either describe their work or read it aloud to the group; however, that is optional and up to the individual.
McCollister began writing four years ago and attended a similar program before moving to Woodstock. She gives credit to the members of the Carver Center Creative Writing group in Purcellville, Virginia, for their guidance and encouragement, which inspired her to write two short stories that have been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul books. McCollister formed the HearthSide group in May to share her love of writing, and she also is receiving a great deal of enjoyment and inspiration from each person who attends meetings.
Individuals in the group currently are working on expressing fond memories of time spent with grandchildren, recording family genealogy, completing a children’s book, writing poetry and keeping journals of their private thoughts and feelings.
McCollister hopes other senior living facilities will organize a similar activity to give their residents the opportunity to awaken interests and express feelings, as shared by a few individuals in the group:
“I first joined the group only to listen and was inspired to begin writing poetry — both meaningful and silly!” — Carol Armstrong
“I never thought I would ever be able to write a story. I listened to others tell their stories and finally I realized I have a story. Now, I am excited that I am trying to write about a friend who I went to school with that I did not like. Now, we are best friends.” — Kathy Turner
“Each time I have the privilege to meet with our writing group, I am so inspired. Our instructor is such an encouragement in writing.” — Lela Mayfield
“I joined the group in order to write a story about my youthful past. Through this group’s encouragement, I was able to do that.” — Gwen Fray
McCollister is pleased with everyone’s progress. “Who knows? Maybe I will someday be able to say, ‘I knew them when,’ after one or more become an author on the list of bestsellers,” she said.
As a teenager, McCollister envisioned becoming an author. Her life encompassed higher education, marriage, children, a career, sailing and singing, which did not allow time to pursue writing until she retired to Woodstock to be near her family. Her latest story, “The Cats Paw,” appears in the Chicken Soup for the Soul book entitled, “My Clever, Curious, Caring Cat,” released Sept. 14.