Most people know The Waters on 50th in Minneapolis as a senior living community, but over the past four years, Kathleen Novak has also found it to be something of a storytelling mecca. “Here are personal histories woven into the history of our country, all told with wisdom and humor,” she said. The accomplished poet and writer, whose father lived at the community from 2014 to 2017, has been leading the community’s writing group since Feb. 2016. With her help, the group is about to release its third published book.
Distinctly I Remember: More Stories We Love to Tell by The Writers Group at The Waters on 50th features the work of eight residents, ranging in age from 80 to 95. The book will officially release on Sat., Jan 25 at 2 p.m. during a launch party at the Waters on 50th, located at 3500 W 50th St, Minneapolis, MN 55410. The event will take place around the fireplace in the Great Room, and feature readings by several of the authors, followed by signings.
Novak served as both the writing coach and editor of the 40-page book, which is divided into three sections: essays people have written about home, essays about love and courage, and original stories ranging from funny anecdotes to serious reflections. “Our group demonstrates how stories bring people together, transform a difficult time and connect the present to the past as though the years had never gone by,” Novak said.
Two of the authors are being published posthumously. Dave Shryer and Janet Shapiro, longstanding participants, passed away during 2019. “Dave Shryer’s wife shared the journal he had kept while on a Navy ship heading to India during World War II. I read it and excerpted a piece he wrote about home when he was a 20 year old man,” said Novak. Two of his more current writings are also included.
Janet Shapiro has four stories in the book: “Tale of Two Houses,” “One Day in September,” “I Had So Much Fun,” and “Considering What is Right.”
The other writers whose work is featured are June Kelly, Gerry Sell, Jeanne Dyste, Earl Carson, Helen Laird and Arminta Miller, who said of the group, "It was so exciting for me to join a writers group. I was always interested in becoming a writer and the fact that the instructor was a writer herself was intriguing to me. The group has become a major part of my life. I know so much about everyone and they have become dear friends!”
“I look forward to the gatherings which are never dull, always interesting with the many ways we all look at life. It has helped me write of long-forgotten happenings and is the closest I’ve come to recording my life.,” said June Kelly.
“The fellowship is the main gain of meeting every two weeks,” said Earl Carson,” but we also learn about each other’s pasts, growing up in the Depression and during World War II. It gives me something worthwhile to do every other Monday and my grandkids love to get copies of what I write.”
Gerry Sell remarked that, “It (the writing group) stimulates my mind.”
Most of the authors of Distinctly I Remember also have stories in the first two books published by the group: Cardboard in Our Shoes and You Should Have Been There.