Anyone who knows me knows I love to hear people's stories. I love to listen to what inspires them, understand where they've been, and see the ways their experiences have shaped their lives to show what we all have in common. More often than not, there's a connection, if you're patient enough to ask questions and really hear what people have to say.
Anne Frank famously observed, "our lives are different and yet the same." She saw that we each just want to be happy and to be given the chance to be our most authentic selves. In the limited time she had on this earth, she fulfilled that goal for herself. She chose happiness despite unimaginable circumstances and shared the gift of her voice, her humor, her wisdom, and her stories. She's most famous for the diary she kept from her 13th birthday until her family was arrested and taken away to the concentration camps. But she also drew pictures, penned poems, wrote a series of short stories, and dreamed of one day having her words shared with the world. Sadly, that goal was fulfilled, as well, much differently than she dared imagine.
Most of us have something to say, whether we realize it or not. Getting our stories out there can be the intimidating part, especially if we've never thought of ourselves as good writers or have the first idea about where we would begin. That's one of the reasons Anne's influence is such an inspiring one. She was open and honest in her diary, talking about whatever sprung into her mind, sharing her annoyances over her housemates, her fears about the war, her hopes for what could happen with a family of her own one day and a future life as a modern wife, mother, activist, and, yes, a writer. Beginning with her very first entry in her diary, she showed how the power of pen to paper could help console her and sort out her emotions. She could vent her frustrations, talk back to her mother, and test-drive as many possible worlds as her imagination could produce. Millions of diaries all the world over have been started, in part, because Anne showed the way. Decades after she's gone, she's still such a guiding influence, still assures us that we have a friend and that "paper is more patient than people" allow themselves to be, sometimes.
"The good news is that you don't know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!" - Anne Frank
In that spirit, the Anne Frank Center is proud to offer a series of writing workshops this spring to help get started sharing our own stories -- whether fiction or memoir. We are honored that teaching artist Rhonda Zangwill is dedicating her time to guiding aspiring writers through the steps that can keep them moving. The online forum is intimate and welcoming, capped at just 10 participants for a class that meets four times, once a week, April into May.
Have you always wanted to share the story of your life with your children, your grandchildren, and others? "What's Your Story? An Intro Memoir Writing Workshop" can help you structure the project and practice the sometimes-challenging task of translating memories to pages. Perhaps you're more into whimsy or have fantastical ideas that you'd like to explore. "Tell Me a Story: An Intro Fiction Workshop" provides a safe space to get feedback and fine tune your skills. Either workshop makes an encouraging gift for a family member or friend who's a bit shy but you know has so much to say.
As Passover continues and millions make plans to celebrate Easter this weekend, I hope you'll find a way to connect with loved ones and embrace the beauty of the world that still surrounds us, as Anne Frank often advised. Whether by phone, email, social media, or physically in each other's company in the same room, I hope you'll take a moment to truly listen and take in what others have to say — and to give yourself the gift of telling them what you've always most wanted to share. Even during social distancing we can still find these life-affirming connections if we just look in the right places.
Wishing you peace,