Local publisher looks to unlock life stories

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

The way that John Patrick Grace sees it, everybody has a story tell.

The editor, educator and publisher will head to Ohio University Southern on Wednesday to show others how they can set their stories free.

Grace, who runs a Huntington, W.Va.-based publishing house called Publisher’s Place, Inc., is the originator and teacher of the Life Writing Class, which shows students how to transform their life experiences into a literary work.

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“Many genres are possible, including straight memoirs, autobiography, confessional literature, there are people who have done travelogues, we’ve had one novel published out of the Life Writing Class,” Grace said. “The one thing I really exclude is people coming in and just making something up wholesale, just straight fiction out of their head that has nothing to do with their life or their experiences, it just doesn’t work.”

Grace said that the works produced by the 15 Life Writing Classes that have been offered so far are not just interesting; they’re marketable. Grace’s company has published 10 books from the students of the class.

“I would say, with one or two exceptions, all those people would not have done very well just making up a story and publishing it,” Grace said. “But out of their life experiences, they were able to create something very compelling.”

Grace, who received his master’s in journalism from Columbia, said that writers of almost any level could take something away from the Life Writing Class, whether they’re a published author looking for a new experience, or a grandfather wanting to leave a testament of their life for their grandchildren.

“Both things are perfectly valid for the class,” Grace said. “There have been experienced writers who have come into the class, there have naturally good writers who didn’t even realize how good of a writer they were and there have been people who didn’t write all that well, but have made great leaps of improvement in the class.

“That’s often just because they’re around other people who are writing. They hear what good writing is like and they get closer to that themselves.”

The full process takes 10 weekly, two-hour sessions, the next round of which will begin on May 1 at the Huntington Museum of Art, though Grace did say he would consider moving the class to Ironton, were there enough interest.

The free demonstration at OUS will simply introduce the method to those who are interested. The workshop will be held at the OUS Academic Center Caucus Room on Wednesday from 4 to 5:30 p.m.

More information is available by calling the Briggs Lawrence County Public Library at (740) 532-1124 or Ohio University Southern Library at (740) 533-4622.