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Whitehall group focuses on life story writing

| Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, 8:59 p.m.

The story could be one about the years spent fighting in World War II or an account of the holidays and family vacations.

Each person has a story to tell, and people across the region are gathering at libraries to record the stories to share with future generations through life story writing groups.

“It's fun to be able to review your life and review all of the important events in it and to leave a legacy for your family,” said Debby Rampolla, Whitehall Public Library adult service coordinator.

The Whitehall library life story writing group, in existence for more than a year with about half a dozen members, is trying to expand, Rampolla said.

Sharon Lippincott, author of “The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing” and facilitator of the Monroeville Public Library life story writing group, will be at Whitehall Public Library, 100 Borough Park Drive, on Saturday at 10 a.m. to share techniques with participants.

Life story writing — not to be confused with memoirs or autobiographies — typically are short stories or “snapshots of life,” that allow people to write in their own style about an event or time that interests them.

“There's no right way to do it,” Lippincott said.

The Monroeville group is one of the original groups in the Greater Pittsburgh area and has met for almost seven years, Lippincott said. That group started with seven members and has had a turnover in participants. Now, an average of 10, mostly new members, attend group meetings twice a month, she said.

Life story writing groups gather at libraries across the region, said Lippincott, noting there also are groups in Pleasant Hills, Plum and Fox Chapel.

The life stories primarily are written to leave a legacy for one's family, Lippincott said. Some the original members of the Monroeville group have gone on to self-publish their stories, she said.

“It's the details of everyday life that seem really mundane to us today, but in 50 or 100 years, it will be really fascinating,” Lippincott said. “There is beauty in the ordinary.”

Group members offer insight into ways each other can improve their work.

“It's a group of people that will listen to their story and appreciate it,” she said.

Talking with others about their past also can help jog one's own memory.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or

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