My grandmother's sister, our Auntie, was a master story-teller. We kids delighted in her telling and retelling of the tales of how her "husband," Mr. Mcgillicutty had come to his death by falling out of the back door of a Ford car before car doors had locks. Or how she belonged to a social club called the Homely Mugs Club, and how she was the president because she was the homeliest one of them all.
There was always a grain of truth in Auntie's stories, she did work for Ford Motor Company, but she did not, as she claimed, install the locks on the car doors. And though she made lots of jokes about her looks, or lack thereof, she was always beautiful to me. I admired her storytelling skills and hoped that, when I grew up, I would be able to tell stories like she did. And I guess I assumed that, if I got good at it, like Auntie, younger people would ask to hear my stories.
Well, I'm not as good at it as she was, but life has handed me many stories worth telling. Within a period of nine years, I went through the illness and death of my closest woman friend, and two of my three adult children. The storytelling, singing, and dancing forms of InterPlay gave me ways to play creatively with these often overwhelming circumstances. Because I had these opportunities to tell my stories, in the presence of people willing to witness them, I could get inside the stories and embody them more fully. And then, letting them go from this deeper level, I could allow them to change, and to change me.
Recognizing what a gift this was, I began using the InterPlay principles and forms to help me write about my experiences. I had written in some form or another all of my life, but I decided to write these stories in a genre new to me, that of creative non-fiction. This genre involves telling a factually accurate story while using the fiction writers' tools of literary crafting. This approach produces a more compelling and vivid story, like the lively personal telling approach that Auntie used.
So, in the past five years, I've enlisted the help of a writer's group in Pittsburgh and made yearly trips to the Iowa Writer's Summer Festival to learn these literary crafting tools. And since this is the age of the internet, I've instituted a website, sheilakcollins.com a by-weekly blog which is my writing practice, sheilakcollins.com/blog a facebook fan page, Dancing With Everything, www.facebook.com and this monthly newsletter to keep in connection with folks who want to follow my InterPlay and writing activities. I am currently revising and polishing my manuscript, "Dancing on Behalf of Life and Death" with the aim of getting it out into the world as a book in 2012.
Stay tuned to any of these spaces to learn more about my stories and perhaps, how you might get started telling yours.
Sheila K. Collins © 2011