Ilze Duarte, a Senior Planet Tech Trainer, launched a short story discussion group last year that is still growing strong. Here’s her report:
In March 2020, Senior Planet @Avenidas started a short story discussion group meeting twice weekly. Since then, we have listened to short stories on podcasts, which are audio files presented as episodes and available on websites or podcast players. We selected most of our stories from The New Yorker: Fiction and The Writer’s Voice on our podcast players and Selected Shorts on the Symphony Space website (https://www.symphonyspace.org/selected-shorts). We chose these podcasts because they are available to the general public for free.
Our discussions are all lively and stimulating! There is rarely a story that does not keep us going for the entire hour. Our group particularly liked The Years of My Birth by Louise Erdrich for its intriguing characters, beautiful use of language, and insightful treatment of the issues of biological and adopted families, ethnicity and class, birthright and heritage, and moral choices.
Whether or not we agree on the merits and meaning of a piece of writing, we find that sharing our thoughts and personal connections with the story is enriching to all participants. Meeting regularly to talk about topics we care about has allowed us to build community, a benefit participants mention frequently in their feedback to Senior Planet.
“I value all the conversations, thoughts, and ideas that our members share. During Covid, I feel community every Tuesday and Thursday, chatting with everyone.”
C. B., Colorado
In our group, most participants have a lot to say about the stories. We ask everyone to keep their contributions to two minutes at a time, and most participants speak multiple times during our one-hour sessions.
“We have a very special and unique community. I already have a sense of belonging to this wonderful group. I’ve learned to appreciate different readings, view and analyze life from a different perspective.”
Want to Start your Own?
Connecting with friends and relatives via the internet seems to be here to stay, even when social distancing is no longer needed. Starting a short story discussion group can be a fun way to stay connected and learn more about yourself and others!
Once you have formed a discussion group, you or someone else in the group will need to:
- choose a video chat platform such as Zoom, Google Meets, Skype, WhatsApp, or FaceTime
- schedule meetings
- send invitations to everyone
- host the meetings
In your first meeting, you can make decisions about how the group will be run:
- what podcasts or websites to use
- who will assign stories and facilitate the discussion
- how often to meet and for how long each time
The facilitator may want to use prompts or ask questions to stimulate and guide the discussion. In our group, we often discuss what participants found engaging, intriguing, ambiguous, or moving in the story, more specifically:
- why the characters were (or were not) appealing
- whether the plot developed in a way that made sense
- what images, metaphors, and other types of language use were compelling
- whether any points in the story were open to interpretation
Technical Questions? Senior Planet Can Help
If you would like to learn more about the technology needed to access stories online and to host your discussions, look up our Senior Planet sessions on video chat platforms and podcasts:
- Video Chat
- Get Started On Zoom
- Hosting Zoom meetings
- All Things Zoom
If you would like to learn more about the technology needed to access stories online and to host your discussions, visit our Online Events listings to find upcoming classes on Zoom and other platforms – plus fun online exercise, discussion and activities all available online!
Note: Our participants meet twice a week to discuss assigned short stories. Due to the popularity of these sessions, we now cap attendance to eighteen participants. If you are interested in joining our sessions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to be placed on our waiting list, and when a spot becomes available, we will email you the login information.
You can also check out the Senior Planet Book Club for lively conversation and community as well. Anyone can join! Click here to read our most recent updates and learn how you can just us for our next meeting.