Writers conference coming to campus focuses on finding humor in our life stories

The “Our Life Stories” event on campus will gather the writers and published authors to celebrate and learn more about writing self-reflective autobiographies and family memoirs, on Saturday at 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the recital hall.

To mark the 10th anniversary of the event, the focus this year will be centered on applying humor into a writer’s autobiography or memoir. Joining the festivities will be a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, a short story writer and a comedienne.

“I think this is a really good way to see how learning can take place outside of the classroom and why anyone would engage in a professional activity like this,” said Heather Hutcheson, an English professor.

Hutcheson is  one of the main coordinators of this event and is working in tandem with the City of Sacramento’s Hart Senior Center as the Cosumnes River College representative.

According to the Our Life Stories event website, the conference is designed to promote the art and importance of writing memoirs and autobiographies to a wider general audience at a lower cost.

To commemorate this year, 2016 Pulitzer Prize winner and associate editor at The Sacramento Bee, Jack Ohman will be attending the event as a guest speaker, joining alongside him will be published author James Cagney and actor/playwright Allison Page.

This year’s theme will be “humor” and how it can be applied when writing an autobiography or memoir in order to find the lighter moments in someone’s life, or to reinterpret something in a comedic way.

Despite the theme’s lighter tone, Hutcheson believes that “humor” can also bring new meaning to past experiences. “I think it’s edgier than what we’ve had in the past,” she said. “What humor allows us to do in terms of confronting grief is really powerful.”

One of the special guests in attendance is Jack Ohman, a political cartoonist who uses his skills to analyze today’s current political situation in order to provide his satirical comics.

Hutcheson said his ability to find humor in these scenarios is important.

“This is a politically charged environment right now,” Hutcheson said. “This would be a good way to see how we deal with tragic, difficult, depressing and demoralizing political issues in a humorous way to kind of put our arms around them.”

The event will also focus more on allowing attendees to learn and discover more unique ways to retrospectively look into a person’s past and glean new information or inspiration from these events to write more.

It will also allow writers from different age groups to interact and share their stories and skills to help discover new ideas from different perspectives.

“Attendees will take away new ideas for creative projects, strategies for creating, connections and resources,” said Kerstin Feindert, an English professor who has attended and presented at the event in previous years.

Feindert has also said that the conference attendees are always open and friendly whether they are new or old and are willing to help others in their creative processes.

“You can write a memoir or a story about your life at any stage,” said professor Emmanuel Sigauke, who teaches creative writing and English at CRC.

“What if you had a grandmother or grandfather who wants to tell their story? You might come and get the sort of ‘how-to’ skills to be able to do that,” Sigauke said.

The event aims to help attendees improve their writing skills and ensure that they have the tools to write about themselves and others.

“It really shows us the power of celebrating what we have and sharing it with other people to make a difference,” Hutcheson said. “So even if we think it’s vain to write our own story, what we’re looking at is the potential to reach out and connect with other people.”

Registration for the event ends Friday, April 21. Students can register by going to ourlifestories.org. There will be no onsite registration.