Golden Alley Press
I probably met Beth Finke a decade ago. We met at a party at the offices for Open Court Publishing, parent company of Carus Publishing, parents of Baby Bug, Spider, Cricket, etc. magazines for children. Beth had just wrapped up a picture book about her seeing eye dog, Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound.
Through the years we’ve kept in touch. At certain points living parallel lives. For instance last summer she was attending the IOTA Short Prose Conference on Campobello Island about the same time I was cycling down the coast of Maine to reach the mailboat to take me out to my residency on Great Spruce Head Island (Art Week). In addition Beth is a prolific blogger. But the main thing we have in common is memoir. Beth facilitates 3 or 4 memoir writing groups all over the city. I released an eBook this spring Flash Memoir: Writing Prompts to Get You Flashing while Beth launched Writing Out Loud: What a Blind Teacher Learned from Leading a Memoir Class for Seniors.
Writing Out Loud gets its title from the fact that class participants read their 500-word essays out loud. Everyone has to listen and follow along. Every week she gives out a prompt at the end of class and “students” work on them, sending their essays ahead of time. Beth reads over each and every one, commenting. The essays are kept to 500 words—about the amount of time it takes her to deliver one of her NPR personal essays. Beth has also figured out a system of Scrabble tiles the students select to see who gets to read first. From reading Writing Out Loud you come to realize one has to get up pretty early in the morning to outwit Beth Finke.
Writing Out Loud is part Beth’s memoir of how she became a group facilitator and starting her own memoir-writing class. It’s also a platform where her students could share their work. Beth wrote in loving detail about dozens of her students. Included in Writing Out Loud are essays that fill in the gaps of not only personal history but stories of Chicago, resistance, identity, and rivalry (Sox and Cubs) from class members. We also learn methods for leading memoir-writing as well as some of the prompts Beth has used to great success.