Nancy Sharp, born and raised in Easton and daughter of residents Ron and Susan Sharp, has moved to Colorado, but her heart is still here in town.
“While I currently live in Denver, growing up in Easton was a formative experience for me,” Sharp said. “I have fond memories of Silverman’s Farm where I worked for several years, the Blue Bird Inn, the Easton Library, the reservoir, and so many of Easton’s gorgeous tall trees.”
Sharp is now teaching on-line classes in Guided Autobiography. The program teaches people of all ages and backgrounds how to reach back into their life history and capture meaningful moments and experiences that have shaped who they are and determined what they value most.
Guided Autobiography is a decades-old field of study that helps to preserve cognitive skills, reduce isolation, and deepen purpose, connection, and community. It does so by opening the door to important self-reflection while also giving participants the chance to share their life experiences with family and friends who have always said, “I never knew that” or “tell me more.”
Sharp marries the traditional curriculum with strategies to help participants become more resilient on and off the page—strategies she learned firsthand from her own tough life experience of caregiving and young widowhood along with significant findings she’s gleaned from the fields of emotional intelligence, resilience, and growth mindset work, in particular.
No writing experience is necessary. Workshops are held weekly for eight weeks over Zoom and capped at eight students. Each week, Sharp prepares priming questions and exercises that evoke memories and events, and also teaches skills to enhance storytelling and writing. She then guides students to write two pages on universal themes like branching point moments, family, health, work/career, and life meaning. Students share each other’s stories, allowing for greater appreciation of their own lives as well as the lives of others in the group.
“Place factors heavily into Guided Autobiography, and it would be very rewarding to work with Easton’s residents to help them mine their stories—175 years after the town was founded,” said Sharp.
Sharp earned a master of fine arts degree in creative nonfiction from Goucher College and is a certified instructor in Guided Autobiography, specialized in speaking and writing about resiliency. Her memoir Both Sides Now: A True Story of Love, Loss, and Bold Living, won the 2015 Colorado Book Award for Creative Nonfiction and took her across the country on speaking engagements for a variety of audiences.
She also wrote a picture book called Because the Sky is Everywhere that is widely used as a resource by schools and programs serving children impacted by loss and trauma. In the works is a compelling, true narrative about Holocaust survivors who had the foresight to leave Germany before it was too late. After arriving penniless in New York, through their frugality and unexpected serendipity, they went on to amass a fortune and leave nearly all of it to Ben-Gurion University in the Negev. The gift is the largest to any Israeli institution. The story, says Sharp, is one of fortune, moral character, and resilience.
“People are often intimidated by the thought of writing about themselves, but once they begin the process they quickly realize how rewarding it can be,” said Sharp. “For many it reframes how they see themselves and just as importantly how they choose to live the rest of their lives.”
With so many people feeling isolated due to the ongoing pandemic, Guided Autobiography offers a rewarding creative outlet with tangible gifts, she said. For more information about Sharp’s Guided Autobiography workshops visit here. Here, too, is a link to learn more about the history and social emotional benefits of Guided Autobiography.