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The Golden Pens - Senior Citizens writing poetry, memoirs in Perham writing class

Linda Fossen

Perham Senior Citizens Center

Every other Wednesday the Perham Senior Center hosts the creative writing group called "The Golden Pens" taught by Gail Schoerer.

"I received a call several months ago from a snowbird named Gail who wanted to start a creative writing group like the one she belonged to in Arizona. To be honest, I just was not sure we would get anyone to attend, but Gail's enthusiasm was contagious," said Senior Center Site Manager, Linda Fossen.

Not only has the group gotten off to a good start, but it has thrived as about 10-12 seniors meet regularly to work on their writing skills.

Each class starts off with a 10-minute writing assignment on a secret topic chosen by one of the class participants. Subjects have ranged from first Christmases to first romances to extraordinary life events. During these ten minutes, the seniors just "let the creative juices flow" and after the timer goes off they read their stories to each other.

The biggest project they have undertaken is the writing of their memoirs. Many of the seniors are going to give these writing assignments to their children and grandchildren. It is a way of documenting and sharing with the next generation their life experiences.

"My children and grandchildren have been after me for years to write down my life story," said 95-year-old Evelyn Berger, "I would have never taken the time to do it without this class."

"It will be so good to get to Ma's Little Red Barn so we can have more space to meet," said Gail Schoerer. As it is, the creative writers have to compete for space and peace and quiet with those setting the tables for lunch and arriving by bus.

"It gets kind of noisy some days," said Fossen, "but those not participating in the class like to listen in on the stories and you often hear them chuckling."

John Knight's stories are always good for a laugh as he chronicles his neighborhood gang's adventures in a whimsical folksy way. Knight is a regular contributor to the Perham Enterprise Bulletin. Clara Helvig's life story is an amazing journey of a descendant of Germans living in Russia who immigrated to North Dakota. She describes the heartbreak of dealing with her spouse's dementia and the peace she found along the way. Clara is the mother of Deb Sonnenberg of Marlo Motors. Her husband Donald resides in the Perham Memorial Home.

The seniors involved in this class have a great time and there are always a lot of laughs. They have learned from Carol Weis that as a child she waited so long for a sister that when she finally got one who had red hair she thought "the baby might have gotten rusty". Some of the stories bring a tear to the eyes and pull at the heartstrings. All of the stories come from the heart.

Eventually, some of the seniors would like to see their work get published. In the meantime, they keep honing their writing skills. If you would like to join the class, just give the Perham Senior Center a call at 346-2262.

The class meets every other Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. If you have an interest in writing, come and join us.

Free bus service is provided by the Otter Express courtesy of the Perham Lions Club.