Rimon writing workshop teaches seniors "it's never too late"


Sharline Barberio is a natural writer. Give her a prompt, and the stories flow effortlessly. But she is not a novelist, coffeeshop blogger, or an English major with a creative writing assignment. She’s a resident at Sholom, and until recently, she hadn’t written in ten—maybe twenty—years.

Sharline was an English major once upon a time. However, “life happened”—she fell in love, married, and started a family, never continuing to earn her master’s degree as planned. After her husband died young, she was left to raise four kids and run the family business alone. When that became too much, she sold the business and went to work in an office as an administrative professional, a far cry from her true calling as a writer.

Although she always thought she might start writing again, she never found the time or the motivation. Until Rimon: The Minnesota Jewish Arts Councila program of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation entered her life.

After raising her children and retiring from her administrative career, Sharline moved into an apartment at Sholom’s Knollwood Place, lining her walls with hundreds of her favorite books. When she heard about Rimon’s weekly writing workshop in her building, Sharline was elated. She knew this was her chance to start writing again.

Each week, veteran writing instructor Judy Brier presented participants with a prompt. “She made it so easy to get going,” says Sharline. “The stories just started to flow.”

Sharline quickly found purpose in telling her stories, some based on her own life and others inspired by fellow Sholom residents. 

“The Rimon writing workshops gave residents an opportunity to share stories and learn more about each other,” says David Jordan Harris, Rimon’s Executive Director. He adds that the stories aroused many emotions—joy, amusement, bittersweet recollection. “The residents took pleasure in telling and listening to stories that sometimes moved them to tears; writing about the world they came from that no longer exists.”

Over the course of the workshop, Sharline developed a reputation in her class. “I became known for my writing,” she says humbly. “It was kind of embarrassing, and I tried to tone it down.” But word got out about Sharline’s skills, and she agreed to become the correspondence secretary of the Tenant Council, writing get-well and condolence cards on behalf of Knollwood Place.

Sholom staff reported positive changes for many of the participants—from an improved frame of mind to a more careful use of language. According to David, “There’s no question that our workshops’ focus on writing well made a difference cognitively.” Rimon plans to continue the workshops in 2019 with new funding from the Oren and Sharron Steinfeldt Family Foundation.

As for Sharline, she plans to continue writing and says the workshop inspired her to compile her life stories into a book for her family. The workshop took a passion Sharline was never able to follow and gave her the tools to pursue it.

“It’s never too late,” Sharline says.