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Virtual memoir-writing workshop led by local author returns to Thompson-Nicola library

Everyone has an interesting memories to write about, Eleanor Deckert says
Deckert took this selfie while teaching her online writing workshop and says the quilts she made visualize how a patchwork of individual memories can become a larger memoir. (Photo: Eleanor Deckert).

Starting Feb. 1, Author Eleanor Deckert of Avola will host her second memoir writing virtual workshop at the Thompson-Nicola Regional Library.

This is the second time the Thompson-Nicola Regional Library is hosting the program, and the fourth time Deckert has hosted the program which shows the “Eleanor Deckert method.”

Deckert wrote five memoirs in her “10 Days of…” series, which explore different days that represent a theme in her life.

Registration is free of cost and the workshop is fully booked. Participants will learn about different organizational formats, developing their memoir’s purpose and practical tips for overcoming common struggles.

Catherine Schmidtt is a program coordinator for all of Thompson-Nicola’s library branches. For the past six years, she developed programs for the whole region, which are taken up by head librarians who apply the local needs of a branch to the programs and services.

Shortly after Schmidtt took up her position, Deckert offered to teach some one-session workshops for the library. Many community members want to share their stories and pass them on to future generations, Schmidtt said.

“Having someone who has published memoirs being able to show others how to do what she has done, it’s really impactful for our community,” Schmidttt said.

Deckert designed the workshop to help new writers. She does not expect participants to let her read their work, just discuss the writing process they are working through.

“I love the beginning. I love giving the little nudge to break inertia and just get someone started. After you’ve got started, you can learn so many things. But getting started is always hard when you are thinking about the hugeness of the task you are about to undertake,” she said.

Each session she asks the group how their writing went throughout the week, which resources were helpful, what inspired them from the last week’s lesson. Then, she teaches the session lesson, before closing the hour-and-a-half meeting with a group discussion to encourage one another.

She ran the four-session online program for roughly two years at the Okanagan Regional Library before bringing to to Thompson-Nicola.

Although Deckert home schooled her children, she does not feel like a teaching authority. At first, she was apprehensive about the task. She does not have formal credentials, except for a provincial instructors diploma that she earned in 2003,

Her confidence in her ability to share what she knows grew as novice writers’ began applying the skills they learned to their own stories.

“The stories are all so interesting,” she added. “It is a lot of fun.”

Deckert published her books non-traditionally with FriesenPress after visiting the company’s office in Victoria. As a homesteader who lives relatively “off the grid,” she was originally skeptical about working with a publishing company at all. Throughout the past five years, the “hybrid self-publishing” option worked well for her.

She was first inspired by writing about everyday life at seven years old when she read stories by Laura Ingalls Wilder while living in Colorado, U.S. Deckert was born in the state of Pennsylvania, but her family moved around a lot in Deckert’s youth. When she was 12, her father’s job as a university professor brought the family to Ontario.

Deckert believes anyone’s story can be shown through story structures such as the hero’s journey — a common tool she covers in the workshop. She laughed about her former doubts that she would experience anything worth writing about.

“I thought, well it’s 1965 now, what is going to happen? We already have washing machines and cars. ‘There is nothing new that is going to come, so I don’t know what will be interesting about my life.’ But I started to remember my life and pay attention,” she said.

Her mental notes about her life found were useful in 2014, hen her mother turned 80 years old. She knew she had to finish the memoir soon so her mother could read it. She developed the three-paged chapter drafts she had collected into her first memoir, 10 Days of December.

After finishing the December memoir, which relays memories of her first winter in the province with her husband, she decided to write more. She began organizing how more aspects of her life could be shown through snapshots of 10 different days during a specific month.

The January memoir recounts grief over her fathers’ death and immeasurable worry that she felt before confirming her son’s safety after he was hit by a car. Each non-chronological memoir has its own theme, from experiences with depression and volunteering to breast cancer treatment.

Today, she plans complete seven more books to develop the series into a full calendar year. She also designed multiple lessons more intermediate and advanced writing, which she hopes to develop into future workshops.

More information about the workshop is avalible on the library’s website:

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About the Author: Morgana Adby, Local Journalism Initiative

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