C us sm l or a p e e

Writing 1: Lifelines
A course in autobiographical writing by Brian Lewis and Reini Schühle with the support of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation

About the authors:
Brian Lewis is particularly interested in the education of mature students. He has been Head of History at a college of education and is currently OCA Regional Organiser for the North of England. He has written or edited eighty-odd books on subjects as varied as autobiography, canals, love letters, Robin Hood and housing. He also paints and works as a publishing consultant. He has started writing and performing long poems as his latest venture in the arts. Reini Schühle is the Key Coordinator of the Yorkshire Arts Circus, a community publisher and arts organisation based in Castleford. She is in charge of their publishing programme. Currently she is working on ‘books for nooks’ - bespoke methods of publishing. Her particular interest is the modern novel. She also runs Pontefract Press. Brian and Reini are partners in life as well as in Lifelines. This course has been written jointly but there are occasions when we wish to make a point based on our own individual experience. In particular when 'we' becomes 'I' in the text it is Brian speaking, and on occasions we identify with our initials some of our own writing.


You and your course
Tutorial procedures Your course materials Learning journal Assessment Aims and outcomes Structure of the course Where do I start? Keep a diary Write fast

Tools of the trade
Filing cards New technology Reading support Feedback Source material Notebooks Patches – collection method Planning Thinning Deadlines Tape recording The family tree Go forth


Why autobiography?
Your reasons for writing The mission statement The reader

Exercise 1: write a mission statement
A great tradition

Exercise 2: a friend Exercise 3: brief lives Exercise 4: a journey Exercise 5: photographic memory 2 ‘Dear diary’
How far will you go?

Exercise 1: no-go areas
Language Beyond prose Curriculum vitae

Exercise 2: the key date CV Exercise 3: the social/emotional/biological CV Exercise 4: another CV Exercise 5: bringing your CVs together
Diaries and letters

Exercise 6: expand your diary
Writing someone else’s story Make a life plan Watch the language Learn to listen

Assignment one – dear diary 3 Patches Exercise 1: ten acres of activity Exercise 2: providence and patches

Exercise 3: writing against the clock
Patches – a structuring device Tone and mood change

Exercise 4: seven deadly sins Exercise 5: seven cardinal virtues
A sense of self Body and soul

Exercise 6: the senses Exercise 7: doctors and patients
The stereotype

Exercise 8: stereotypes
Faculties and emotions

Exercise 9: a sense of awe Exercise 10: conjugality
Belief systems Brainstorming

Exercise 11: world views Assignment two – patchwork 4 Milestones in your life

Exercise 1: expanding focal points
Style People-centred lifelines

Exercise 2: seven influences Exercise 3: further influences Exercise 4: positive and negative
Making natural links

Exercise 5: regulars
Writing about friends

Exercise 6: a friend
Moments and tides

Exercise 7: your moments
Avoiding what is expected

Exercise 8: the unexpected
Handling what did not happen Tides

Exercise 9: tides
How to live

Exercise 10: quotations Exercise 11: changing world views Assignment three – longer pieces 5 Houses
Homes and places

Exercise 1: objects with history Exercise 2: bedrooms Exercise 3: a friend’s environment
Rooms and relationships

Exercise 4: picture your home

Exercise 5: your history in houses
Homes and gardens

Exercise 6: your history in gardens
Small objects Alternative structures Poetry

Assignment four – breaking the mould


The family
Family history

Exercise 1: family anecdotes
Parents and grandparents Ritual writing

Exercise 2: funeral ceremony

Exercise 3: children
Family language

Exercise 4: secret sayings
Ourselves and history

Exercise 5: history and you Assignment five – in a nut shell

What now?
The unique book If you are looking for a publisher

Autobiographies, biographies, diaries and letters Books referred to in the course A further list of key autobiographies Some key biographies

Appendix A:

if you plan to submit your work for formal assessment

Exercise 1: write a mission statement
Before you start on your Lifelines, write your mission statement for doing this course. Make sure that you produce something that is short and to the point while being specific enough for you. Come up with about half a dozen points, including one which relates to your envisaged readers.

A great tradition
We have selected a number of writers whose methods of autobiographical - or in the case of John Aubrey, biographical - writing relate to exercises or issues covered later in the course. Some of them write in English; others - Heloise, Villon and Basho - are presented in translation. The Bede extract gives the elementary thumb-nail sketch, the Heloise letter shows what happens when you are bold enough to present your deepest thoughts, Villon is included for his unusual content, John Aubrey for the raggedness of his presentation but the joy of his anecdotes, and Basho for his diversity. Here we will canter through history; throwing into the text the words of well known writers but we also believe that it is important to listen to writers whose work is less well known, people who would not expect to find their words printed in someone else's book. These are the people who Basho refers to in his passage about a 'mass of gold buried in clay'.

Bede: leave your mark
Writers have always had an almost irresistible need to say who they are and where they came from. The Venerable Bede (673 - 735) ends his An Ecclesiastical History of the English People (a dull title for a quite remarkable book) with a postscript telling us the name of his patrons and sharing something of his personal history. With God's help, I, Bede, the servant of Christ and priest of the monastery of the blessed apostles, Peter and Paul at Wearmouth and Jarrow, have assembled these facts about the history of the church in Britain.

I was born on the lands of this monastery, and on reaching seven years of age, I was entrusted by my family first to the most reverend Abbot Benedict and later to Abbot Ceolfrid for my education. I have spent all the remainder of my life in this monastery and devoted myself entirely to the study of the Scriptures. And while I have observed the regular discipline and sung the choir offices daily in the church, my chief delight has always been in study, teaching and writing. I was ordained deacon in my nineteenth year, and priest in my thirtieth... From the time of my receiving the priesthood until my fiftyninth year, I have worked, both for my own benefit and that of my brethren, to compile short extracts from the works of the venerable Fathers on Holy Scripture. Bede's autobiography is slight but he comes close to composing the earliest CV written in English. He tells us about his birth and his education, his previous employers, his succession of jobs and, by implication, his experience and qualifications to take on similar new jobs. We know nothing about his emotional life. We know a lot about his scholarship and his religious faith, but nothing about what it felt like to be Bede.

This is a sample from Writing 1: Lifelines. The full course contains 44 Exercises and 5 tutor-assessed Assignments.

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