Written by Panorama resident, Mary Jo Shaw. May 2017
Why would I enter a religious convent, stay 13 years, leave, and become a high fashion model? (Catwalk: ramp for models to show fashions.)
Before we moved to Panorama in 2011, my family and friends knew most of the answers to those questions, coaxing me to write my stories. I always loved to write, and won the first prize award in two different poem contests…a whopping $15 for each. A lot of money in the 50s, especially to a child!
What opportunities to learn to write at Panorama?
Write Your Life…with Charlotte Wiseman as facilitator, met twice a month (still does) and was free! We’d each read about 10 minutes, but did not critique. We were eager to know the next episode in our class-buddies’ lives. My jaw dropped when I pictured my elderly friends in their missions as fighter pilots in WWII, Vietnam, or Korea. One had been a prisoner of war. Others were teachers, ministers’ wives, farm wives. I always had plenty to write. Encouragement again–to put words to print.
But I craved constructive edits and critiques.
Answer? PanWriter’s Class. World renown playwright, Bryan Willis, taught three writing classes on campus for a small fee. (Today he adds another: screenwriting.) We wrote from a prompt, read aloud from copies made for each student, and offered each other ideas for a better read—constructive critiques! Bryan passed out books to borrow or keep. We could read to learn still more. I claimed the books–with underlines and highlights!
After about a year, a published author Patricia moved into our neighborhood and joined Bryan Willis’ class. The story she read proved she had experience in writing. After walking home together from her first class, Patricia offered, “Mary Jo, would you lend me some of your stories to critique for you?”
“Oh, I’d be honored!” I dashed into my garden home, grabbed some pages from a 3-ring binder, and shoved them into Patricia’s opened chair-walker.
“I’ll call you over when I’ve finished. We’ll talk about the papers.” She putted home.
That began the first of weekly help with her challenges to read books on writing, to study, and to improve. Encouragement from Bryan Willis and substitutes when needed, I braved up to self-print Convent to Catwalk. Twenty years of my life with 60 pictures!
After 5 ½ years, hours of daily writing, I consigned my books in our Gifts, Etc. on April 1, 2017. Volunteers display and sell residents’ handmade items and books.
I am blessed with the explosion and constant excitement of Convent to Catwalk’s success. It has spread to six states in one month, with reorders for gift giving, and encouragement and help from my hubby, Chris.
This is just one exciting opportunity offered by Panorama and its volunteers. Write right!