Pictured to the right—
Uncovering Great Stories at The Nottingham
What does it mean to think about writing as something people do throughout their lives, not just in college? This question is central to the work SU Writing and Rhetoric students take on at The Nottingham, a senior living community where they can participate in an internship for the major.
Two or three Wednesdays each month. Eunji Kim meets with members of the Writer’s Club at The Nottingham as they work on their writing. At each meeting Eunji listens carefully as the residents read their drafts. Eunji also creates prompts and writing assignments to keep the topics fresh and elicit ideas from the group members, encouraging them to reflect on relationships, milestones in their lives, and other experiences. And though meetings are face-to-face and many of the writers are most comfortable with print, the members of the Writer's Club are also very interested in the web. Thus, Eunji has created a Facebook page for the club where members can have discussions and share their writing.
The opportunity to work with a long-term writing group has been wonderful, Eunji says, explaining that her internship offers “a real world experience that [she] will never get in class.” But Eunji quickly asserts that the best thing about her internship at The Nottingham is the people: she says that the residents have made The Nottingham feel like her home away from campus. Veronica Boehm, who held the internship in fall of 2010, agrees: being immersed in a community of writers gave her a glimpse into the fascinating experiences that people in Syracuse have had. Veronica, who plans to attend Newhouse's Documentary Film and History program this summer, says that one of the most rewarding parts of her internship was the writers’ willingness to let her into their lives, and she enjoyed learning about their experiences with transportation, technology, and even challenges like wars and the loss of loved ones.
Some of these stories become part of a print newsletter that is shared with other Nottingham residents, families, and visitors to the facility. Interns assist Writer’s Club members in readying their pieces for publication, and the work can include everything from providing typing assistance to offering editing suggestions. Compiling the newsletter helps interns think carefully about assisting writers in developing their work. Eunji is working on the current issue of the newsletter now, and another issue is planned for later this spring.
But the Writer’s Club at The Nottingham is about more than working with good stories, says Eileen Schell, Writing Program Chair and internship advisor. The original project was started in 1999 as part of an SU Vision Fund Grant that the Writing Program received for developing service learning opportunities in upper-division writing courses. Schell started the project with her WRT 400 students taking a course in Intergenerational Lifewriting; students conducted workshops on lifewriting at the Nottingham and paired up with residents to write their stories. A public reading completed the project, with many residents wanting to continue the program beyond the semester. From there, Schell started a weekly writing group at the Nottingham and branched into sponsoring Writing major and minor students as writing interns. Schell's commitment to bringing together students and senior writers at The
Schell, who accepts no compensation for doing this work, hopes to expand the project beyond The Nottingham to a variety of senior residential communities. She also hopes to one day write a nonfiction book about her experience. “We need to think about howwriting reaches everyone,” Schell urges. “Writing and literacy are lifelong processes, and there are older people with valuable stories.”
Creating spaces to share these stories can foster a sense of understanding that younger generations need. Veronica agrees, noting that her time at The Nottingham provided this understanding while also showing her the value of exploring the local community: “You don’t have to be abroad or in a big city to uncover a great story.”
—story by Emily Dressing
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