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Memory Man

All of us have a story to tell. And who better to tell it, than us? Fred Chernow is trying to help Hicksville residents share their life stories with his Memoir Writing Class, which takes place at the Hicksville Public Library once a month.

“What I tell people that attracts them initially is that when they leave this earth, nothing will be more precious than their memories, because everyone will want to know what it was like when they were growing up, what it was like going to high school in the 1940s, or how they met their husbands,” said Chernow.

Chernow starts the class by giving a mini-lecture on a topic, such as good opening lines, ways to conclude your memoir or how to come up with a good title. Some students will then volunteer to read aloud other pieces they’ve already written, and Chernow will offer feedback.

Chernow was a New York City English teacher for 37 years before becoming an administrator. After retiring, he taught at St. John’s University for several years, before starting to do classes at different libraries and on cruise ships.

He’s been teaching the memoir writing class at the Hicksville Public Library for the past five years. Each class session has about 20 students, 12 of whom are regulars. He’s had students who have had their works published, while others have been able to pass it along to children or grandchildren. And all his students come away from the class with a greater sense of confidence in their work.

“They gain confidence in their ability to write,” Chernow says. “Some never wrote anything more than a post card, and now they write almost every day. They gain confidence in their ability to communicate through writing.”

Chernow advises aspiring writers to write consistently, using whatever method and time best for them. Chernow also says that new writers should never proofread as they’re writing, but just keep going and come back the next day to edit their work.

He encourages the writers in his group to not show anyone else, such as their friends or family members, their work.

“Frequently at the beginning they show it to a family member who might think it’s terrible or boring,” said Chernow. “Just bring your writing to the group and we’ll help you.”

The next memoir writing class will take place Tuesday, November 26 at 1 p.m. at the Hicksville Public Library. No registration, or previous writing experience is necessary.