Two ways to tell a story

New classes at Norway House

Photos courtesy of Norway House
Brenda Hudson (left) and Carrie Finnigan (right) are new instructors at Norway House in Minneapolis.

Carstens Smith
Class and Education Coordinator
Norway House

“Storytelling is so important to us as people and as a community, and there are so many ways to do it,” says Brenda Hudson. Brenda, a writing and journaling teacher, is part of Norway House’s new lineup of classes. Her focus is helping people get their lives on paper in a way that is manageable and enjoyable. Brenda will be teaching single session classes and in 2024, four-week classes for people who want to write a memoir or longer work.

“These workshops help families capture their stories across generations and encourage individuals to articulate, in their own words, who they are and who they want to be,” says Brenda.

Another teacher, visual artist Carrie Finnigan, also uses story in her classes. In this case, Carrie is the storyteller, relating mythic cycles while guiding students through drawing exercises emphasizing line and composition. She helps students express what they have to say through images. She says, “Humans have always had an inherent need to give meaning to our existence, to place our mark, calling out ‘I was here.'”

A class for those people who like food

Brenda will be teaching Savoring Memories, an in-person writing workshop, on Aug. 12.

“Food is such a delicious way ‘in’ to our stories,” she says. “Ingredients, dishes, and meals can instantly transport us back to specific moments in time, often shared moments.”

Brenda uses the New Nordic Cuisine gallery exhibit at Norway House and guided activities as the springboard for writers’ recollections.

The class is ideal for participants who want to capture stories for a memoir or for food bloggers wanting to hone their writing skills.

“No prior writing experience is necessary, just a willingness to explore the rich and complex world of food memories,” says Brenda.

Making the mythic personal

Starting in October, Carrie will be teaching Introduction to Drawing Mythology: Nordic, Celtic, and Inuit Water Beings. She tells the story of selkies, the shape-changing seal women whose stories originated in Orkney. The stories spread to coastal areas of Scandinavia, Scotland, and Ireland. Carrie then tells the story of Sednu, the seal woman who becomes the guardian of marine mammals in the Inuit culture. Both story cycles are tragic, compelling, and vivid.

Participants hear the stories and view other artists’ interpretations of the myths to learn the fundamentals of art and design. Each class ends with replicating a piece of art so students can build their skill set, train their eyes to truly see, and develop their own creative processes.

Making the daunting doable

Both Carrie and Brenda understand that people often want to write a memoir or learn to draw but see the process as overwhelming or that they don’t “have the talent.” They gently break the process into incremental, easy-to-accomplish steps.

“I strongly believe that anyone can learn to draw exactly what is seen. It takes practice, commitment, joy, and most of all, permission to make mistakes,” says Carrie. She strongly encourages students to bring an eraser or two to class.

Brenda is committed to helping others gain confidence in their writing and to complete their goals. Realizing that writing a memoir can be daunting, she created a system, breaking tasks down to manageable size. The less painful the writing process, the more enjoyable the end product is to read. Brenda’s classes and writing exercises help writers create a product that doesn’t just collect dust, but is shared enthusiastically in a family.

She has repeatedly won the Loft Literary Center’s award for excellence in teaching and partners with Family Voices of Minnesota, working with children with rare and chronic health conditions and their families.

More to come

During Norway House’s Gingerbread Wonderland exhibit in the fall, there will be two opportunities to take a class in gathering family stories. Brenda will present Besteforeldre & Barnebarn Heart to Heart: Capturing Your Cross-Generational Stories. In this class, grandparents and grandchildren listen to each other and share stories through writing and, if desired, drawing.

March 2024 will be a month of classes exploring the parallels and cross influences in Celtic and Nordic culture. Carrie Finnigan will bring the dark world of trolls and leprechauns to light in a three-part, in-person class that explores the original and not-so-cute magical beings of our cultural imaginations.

If you are interested in these and other classes, please visit norwayhouse.org.

This article originally appeared in the July 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.