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Making the most of their memories

“As You Write It, Volume Four,” Edited by Laura Rodley (Violet Fields, 123 pages, $12)

For almost six years, a writers’ group has been meeting weekly at the Gill/Montague Senior Center with author and poet Laura Rodley.

In a handsome new paperback book funded in part by local cultural councils and businesses, Rodley shows off the work of her students, who range in age from their 70s to their 90s. The current volume of “As You Write It” is the fourth put together by the group. It features 50 short essays by eight different authors.

The essays are roughly organized by theme — life, childhood, schooling, seasons, and so forth. In them, the writers recall past family members, teachers, and friends. They ski and skate on the hills and rinks of memory. They inhabit houses they will never see again.

Above all, they express their views of the world. Rosalie Bolton, the group’s oldest member, died at 95 while the book was being organized, and it is dedicated to her. She writes of missing the car she gave up driving … and then pragmatically moves on to consider how handy the car will be for her grandchildren.

“Isn’t that what a car is for? To be used,” she states. “Go on. Use it.”

Also from Bolton’s pen comes the book’s most political essay, in which she marvels that when she was born in 1919 women couldn’t vote—and notes that it is high time for the United States to elect a female president.

The personalities of Bolton’s fellow writers are almost as strong as hers. The reader comes to know Joseph Parzych’s family and to sense the strength and humor that have gotten him through tough times. Lillian Fiske often employs a “less is more” style, inviting the reader to draw meaning from her words.

Patricia Carlisle shares her love of nature. Estelle Cade writes in half prose, half poetry. Frances Hemond’s writing explores the rhythm of life and work and includes my favorite line in the book, “Kitchens are the center of the world.”

Dorothy Hmieleski has only one essay in the book, but it resonates. “Gifts” acknowledges that every time she looks at a flower or a bird she recalls the mother who taught her about nature. And Robin Panagakos explores the larger lessons about life one can glean from a vacation, a fair, or a film.

Reading their book is like sitting in the midst of a lively, wise group of elders. They choose their words carefully but always sound informal and genuine. We are lucky to have them in Franklin County — and to have Laura Rodley to help them share their words and their lives.

“As You Write It” is available at the World Eye Bookshop and at Boswell’s Books. It may also be ordered (for $12 plus $2 shipping) from Laura Rodley at P.O. Box 63, Shelburne Falls, MA 01370.

Tinky Weisblat is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook” (www.merrylion.com) and “Pulling Taffy” (www.pullingtaffy.com). She is always looking for new books from Franklin County-related authors to review for this paper. If you have a book suggestion, email her at Tinky@merrylion.com.

(Editior’s note: Some information in this story has changed from an earlier edition)

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