Anything goes for novice senior authors, according to this encouraging debut primer on the rewards of “elderwriting.”
Barocas, a retired math teacher and current leader of writing workshops for seniors, lays out the basics of creating a “personal legacy document”—a loose-limbed assemblage of valedictory articles. It’s a form that eschews the effort and formal difficulty of longer memoirs in favor of short, easily composed pieces that, according to Barocas, can convey an author’s individuality without overtaxing his or her literary powers. The book covers a large variety of formats, including simple lists of favorite things; collections of jokes, anecdotes and proverbs; character sketches of loved ones; brief accounts of important life events and their meanings; letter-to-the-editor–style polemics on political or social issues; how-to pieces; poems; recipes; and more. She even urges elderwriters to prepare their own obituaries and eulogies. This isn’t a manual of prose style, but Barocas does occasionally provide useful hints on “reducing the monotony of your writing” by varying sentence length, adding rhetorical questions, changing points of view and deploying concrete details. She also includes exercises on brainstorming and memory retrieval to get creative juices flowing and provides tips on using computers to research, print and decorate one’s writings. Most usefully, she includes many engaging examples of her own and others’ personal legacy documents to serve as models. Barocas explains her material in clear, concise and very readable prose that will likely make writerly self-exploration less daunting for her audience. Throughout, she emphasizes familiar, comfortable literary forms that will help elderwriters fluently express themselves.
A simple, reassuring road map for seniors seeking to put their thoughts on the page.