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Guided autobiography

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
—Søren Kierkegaard

Even as we live each day in the fullness of life, we draw on the past to make sense of where we are and where we’re going. Guided Autobiography can be your companion on the journey.

Let me share a personal story. I recently attended a special friend’s celebration of her 50th wedding anniversary. As I listened to revealing, often hilarious, tales about the honored couple and watched a stream of photographs of their life together, their family, and their friends, I viscerally absorbed the importance of telling our stories. Stories connect us. No matter who you are, what your experience in life has been, your stories have value, and people you love want to read them. That’s what Guided Autobiography is all about.

This is your invitation to explore the magic of Guided Autobiography.

What is Guided Autobiography?

In a Guided Autobiography, or GAB, group, you’ll join others in writing and sharing stories from your life, two pages at a time. Over a series of weeks, as your trained facilitator, I’ll introduce selected themes for your writing—themes such as the turning points in your life, your family, the role of money in your life, health and self-image, and your life’s work, among others.

Meeting weekly, usually in 2-hour sessions, you’ll participate in activities that stimulate creativity and stir memories, and we’ll explore the following week’s theme through priming questions, or prompts, to help focus the writing you’ll do at home.

A portion of every GAB class is set aside for sharing stories. The experience of reading your story and hearing from others’ in this small group setting often deepens understanding and appreciation of the events of your life and can lead to meaningful connection with classmates.

Who will benefit from GAB?

  • Anyone in transition, whether it’s a life transition (divorce, loss of a spouse or partner, becoming an empty-nester, or entering a new life phase) or a career transition (retirement, loss of a job, seeking a new career, or starting an entrepreneurial venture)
  • Anyone who wants to leave a legacy for children and grandchildren
  • Writers looking for a jump-start on a memoir
  • You, if you’re open to a new experience and interested in exploring your life through the powerful medium of story

What will I gain?

  • Writing your life story becomes accessible through facilitated, small groups where you’ll receive guidance, support, and encouragement to inspire your effort.
  • Writing your story in short, thematic pieces, rather than in a chronological approach, prevents the boredom that can scuttle the best intention.
  • You’ll find a safe, supported environment in which to explore your life through your stories.
  • You’ll discover the value of sharing your stories and gain appreciation of others’ experience.
  • GAB participants connect with fellow class members, and many develop lasting bonds.

What if I’m not a writer?

A Guided Autobiography class is not a writing class. It’s an opportunity to look back, dig into your memory, and find the threads that have made you who you are today. If you can answer some easy questions about your experiences in a number of key areas, you can write stories from your life. No one is judging; everyone’s supportive.

Who’d want to read about my life?

Every life is interesting. Believe me, almost any event, circumstance, or encounter can make a good story. Your life is uniquely yours and only you can tell its stories truthfully.

Where can I find a GAB class?

Through Your Life, Your Stories, we’re offering Guided Autobiography classes in public and private venues along the Connecticut Shoreline and in other areas as requested.

Classes can be customized for special groups, and tailored to fit almost any program, from a one-day workshop to a multi-week course.

Contact us to learn when and where classes are forming, and how to bring a GAB class or workshop to your area.

GAB at a glance

  • Write your story, two pages at a time.
  • Share your writing in a small, supportive group.
  • Hearing others’ stories stimulates recall of your memories.
  • Make new friends.
  • No writing experience needed.
  • Everyone has a story. . . . Now’s the time to tell yours.

A personal note about my GAB experience

Guided Autobiography, or GAB, is a popular and highly regarded technique for telling life stories, pioneered by a leading gerontologist, the late James Birren, Ph.D., at the University of Southern California. Today, Dr. Birren’s work, which is firmly grounded in decades of academic research, is carried on through the Birren Center for Autobiographical Studies, which trains GAB instructors worldwide. I had the privilege of training with Cheryl Svensson, director of the Birren Center, and found every week of the course to be an adventure in the story of my life.

As a writer and experienced group leader, I’m excited to bring this program to new audiences in Connecticut and beyond. I hope to meet you in a GAB group soon!

 We help you tell your story.

Contact us to learn more