DEBORAH TREFTS – STAFF WRITER
Everyone has a life story to share. Some people are comfortable doing so in public, while others only let their closest friends in on it, and still others open up only to family.
Celebrities, executives, politicians and people in the news often secretly hire professional writers to pen their memoirs and other texts on the condition that the attribution for the writing go to themselves, rather than to the writer impersonating them. There are so many ghostwriters in the United States, in fact, that there are ghostwriting organizations, such as the Association of Ghostwriters and United Ghostwriters.
For over 20 years, Marjory Diane Lyons has encouraged others to share their life stories, and she has helped them to do so without the subterfuge of ghosting.
At 4:30 p.m. Monday, July 19 in the tent on the front lawn of the Chautauqua Women’s Club, she will lead a workshop titled “Telling Your Story in Words and Pictures.”
This is Lyons’ fourth visit to Chautauqua. In 2014, she taught a Special Studies course on the same topic.
“I have been a writer and educator all my life, starting in first grade when I ‘played school’ with my little sister, writing the alphabet on the blue walls of our playroom — with our mother’s permission,” Lyons said. “I still write and teach; it is my passion.”
Hailing from Port Jefferson, New York, on Long Island’s north shore, she said she majored in English and minored in history at New York State College for Teachers at Albany, which after World War II became the State University of New York at Albany.
“I had an excellent education that I often spoke about,” Lyons said. “I got married, and I had four children, and they all went on to college and graduated. I have four great-grandchildren as well.”
As it happens, one of her sons, Tim Jefferson, is the CWC’s new house manager.
“I then spent five years teaching in the public schools on Long Island — first in Huntington and then Shoreham,” Lyons said. “Huntington was on the ‘wrong side of the track.’ For the first two years I taught kindergarten, I taught wherever there was room (for me).”
In 1970, Lyons moved to Indianapolis.
“I went on to get my master’s in guidance and counseling at Butler University in Indianapolis – the same June 1964 that my daughter graduated from college in Connecticut and my second son graduated from high school,” she said.
After someone suggested that Purdue would be interested in her, Lyons said, she taught extension classes there in English.
“I had all boys,” Lyons said. “Then the school merged and it became Indiana University and Purdue University at Indianapolis. What I did then was I went to the Indiana Department of Instruction and wound up as assistant director of the Projects Division.”
At the time, schools across America were being desegregated.
“We gave workshops on how to integrate schools,” Lyons said. “People resisted it and they did not know what to do. I stayed with that work until I went to Florida in 1986.”
She also earned her doctoral degree from Walden University before heading to Fort Lauderdale to be near her family. She served for 22 years as a college professor in English and doctoral studies.
“During that time, one of my colleagues asked me to write his memoir, and I established Telling Your Story in 2001, to write and produce books of memoirs,” Lyons wrote on her company website. “I continue that work today.”
Since her retirement from teaching in 2008, Lyons has “been giving book talks, teaching writing for adults, and holding memoir-writing workshops in Vermont, Maine and Florida.”
For 15 years, every Friday from October to June, writers in Broward County have been gathering for “Marjory’s Friday Writing Workshop” in Pompano Beach, Florida.
“In 2018, I wrote two books in the Think you can’t write? series on the craft of writing with co-author, Beverly Johns,” Lyons wrote. Her short story “Good-bye, Volvo” won several awards and was later published in Lighthouse Point Magazine.
A live reading of her play, Revisiting To Kill a Mockingbird, will be performed at various places in Fort Lauderdale in early 2022.
“During this workshop, I will speak about how participants can utilize their own photographs to record their life story or memoir,” Lyons said of her CWC presentation this afternoon. “The story can be a glimpse of a life history, or telling the entire life history.”