n July 28, the James V. Brown Library offered a memoir-writing workshop taught by Dr. Rachael Hungerford, professor emeriti at Lycoming College.
Hungerford, originally from central New York, earned her doctorate in 1988 from the University of Massachusetts, and taught in the education department at Lycoming College.
Memoir writing wasn't something that Hungerford set out to pursue, but it started off as her favorite genre to read.
"I'm a picky reader. I read mysteries, but I only read the authors that I really like. I also read biographies, but I was getting very tired of just plain biography, they tend to be a little sterile. From beginning to end there's not much about feelings and emotions," she said. "I picked up a couple memoirs and I was hooked. They don't have to be about your life. They can be about a section, a collection of stories from different parts of your life."
Hungerford has been holding workshops on memoir writing for 10 years now, including writing memoirs for people about their own experiences, and helping people get their story out.
She started with an advertisement in the Sun-Gazette, and it flourished from there.
"I had 12 to 13 people respond, and they stayed with me for a while. Two of the writers I have in my group have been with me for eight years now," she said.
Hungerford has taught workshops at Pennsylvania College of Technology, Lycoming College, in Wellsboro and also offers lessons in her home.
"It's very rewarding. I get absolutely joy. I love when they share their stories. My group has cried, roared with laughter and supported each other. We've really become friends," Hungerford said. "That's my reward. Their voices are being heard."
Hungerford has said that many people in her workshops benefit from ideas they never thought of.
"One of my participants said 'I never thought about writing that, but it needed to be written.' "
Judy Olinsky, of Montoursville, attended the workshop taught by Hungerford.
Olinsky, an artist, and member of the Art Alliance and First Friday committees, heard about the workshop from an article in the Sun-Gazette, and wanted to write the story of her experience with helping downtown Williamsport become what it is today.
"I was one of the developers of First Friday events. When we started, our city was having problems, and downtown was not looking good," Olinsky said.
"I wanted to write the story of my participation in First Friday. I'm not really a writer, but the article said it was to help write a memoir. I wanted to write my experience down, but I'm not a natural writer. So I took the class," Olinsky said.
Olinsky benefited from the class greatly, and enjoyed the experience.
"I thought it was wonderful," she said, "I thought the way she [Hungerford] set it up, everyone was comfortable. There were excellent prompts. The most fun part of the class was that she got people to write about their experiences. I was amazed how warm the stories were. In this workshop, people told good and bad, but it gave it dignity. It was really interesting. I've never done this before.
"Telling these stories about ourselves and to each other, it made us feel our lives more," Olinsky said. "We're so busy living all the time. It was sort of a moment to look at our lives."
Olinsky said she was thinking about starting tutoring sessions with Hungerford to help her with her project of writing her First Friday memoir.
Kristina Sampson, an aspiring artist from Williamsport, saw an ad for the class and knew it was for her.
"I called the James V. Brown Library and got enrolled in the class. From there, I kept the appointment and enjoyed myself very much. They were all welcoming, friendly and shared the same interest as myself," she said. "I learned so much from that one class alone. From the other peers sharing their life stories, it had me in awe. I was the youngest there, so it was a great honor to hear their childhood stories."
Sampson said one participant talked about how she cherished her backyard as a little girl, and Sampson said it gave her perspective of how the simplest things matter in life.
Sampson is now taking classes at the library to earn her general education diploma, and further her education.
For more information on memoir writing classes, contact Hungerford at 567-7259 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.