Since I was a child I have kept a pencil, pad, and flashlight next to my bed. Sometimes I turn the light off only to turn it right back on again to scratch down another thought (see this article). I was so lucky that my high school English teachers, without exception, encouraged and inspired me. Creative writing classes, editing the literary magazine and then the yearbook started me on a path paved with words. Majoring in German literature in college deepened my love. For the past 20 years I have led and participated in writing workshops, including leading numerous weeklong summer workshops at Star Island, NH. My background includes: a Masters Degree in Education, many years teaching early childhood education, special education, German, and teacher education. For 15 years I was the education director in a counseling center and for 17 years directed the Cayuga Community Role Players, an intergenerational, interactive theater troupe.
I am enormously grateful to Louise Albert, author and teacher in White Plains, NY. She taught me how to read when I was 6 and decades later, when I was an adult, nourished my writing in her thoroughly remarkable classes. She has been a close friend, ongoing supporter, mentor and role model in many ways. Other writing workshops along the way, including those with Irene Zahava in Ithaca, were stimulating and helpful for me. Workshops in therapeutic writing added to my scope (see this article).
Two file drawers contain scribbly spiral notebooks, clean worked-on stories, a few of them for children, some poems, journals of the first 8 or so years of both of my children’s lives, and a long memoir written over a year’s time. Many of these pieces helped to create clarity for me and I hope they have provided some insights for those who have read them as well. When I was on the Editorial Board of First Teacher, I wrote a dozen articles that drew on my teaching experiences with young children and my observations as a mother. An article I wrote for the Tufts Alumni Magazine reflected on my life as a student living abroad during the Vietnam War. (I later lived 7 more years in Germany). “Intergenerational Living,” published in Mothering, crystallized my experiences living as an adult in a bilingual, intergenerational family. In recent years I have been privileged to help several nursing home residents to write their life stories near the end of their lives. The May 2008 edition of Senior Circle, the newspaper for seniors in Tompkins County, features an interview Senior Focus: Ellen Schmidt – One Woman’s Journey to “What If”. The 2008 annual edition of the Cornell student publication Minds Matter contains Writing Through The Rough Spots (see the article here). This article provides a closer look at how I have used writing to gain clarity in my own life and includes some tips for writers.
I have become increasingly interested in the ‘midwifery’ of writing. The narratives of others intrigue me. We know so little of others until we hear the stories in their lives. And of course, anyone who has been a child and has lived life has stories to tell. We’re busy telling ourselves (dream) stories even when we are asleep. It’s exciting getting to know people by listening deeply and carefully to their writing voices. I am grateful to be able to stimulate and hearten others to discover and express themselves, sometimes breaking through a feeling of isolation, as they unfold their unique experiences and perceptions (see this article).