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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Stories: Understanding Our Life Backwards

"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."
        ---Søren Kierkegaard

And so we have stories.

Often those stories are about, or influenced by, those formative experiences we have while growing up, "origin stories" from childhood, through adolescence, and often into young adulthood. These experiences may not determine who we become, but they often shape us, even explain certain tendencies we acquire later in life.

I first became aware of my interest in life stories while an undergraduate at the University of Illinois at Chicago. It was 1969, I was 26, and newly returned from New York, having separated from my husband of just two years.

I’d left college as an education major when Philip and I married and moved to Manhattan. When I returned to my city, I also returned to my studies, but this time in psychology. Not surprising, I suppose. I was reeling emotionally, not sure what had happened to my marriage, to my life.

It was in a course on the psychology of old age, ironically enough, when I first realized how much the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves may help us better understand our lives, especially as we age. After all, by the time we’re moving past 50 and into our 60’s, we have lived a lot of life forwards. As such, we have hopefully gained the perspective needed to understand all those years that came before, a perspective grounded in our stories.

Over the years, it has been my immense privilege to help people tell their personal stories, especially to write and pass them along to others, whether as published memoirs and personal essays or as family stories.

Which is all prologue to this:

I am thrilled to be invited back to this year's Printers Row Lit Fest, where I'll be conducting my workshop, "Finding Your Voice, Telling Your Stories" (based on my book of the same name).

And double-thrilled because the theme of this year's Fest is "What's Your Story?"

Dates for the Fest are Saturday, June 11 and Sunday, June 12. The final listing of authors and events is not yet complete, but you can get the latest update by clicking here:

I will send the official schedule along when it's available. But for now, hold those dates for yet another fabulous celebration of the written word in CHI. 

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