Feb 132013

Such was my week February 2-February 9, 2013 at Rancho La Puerta.


The bright faces of my students, eager, committed, confused, leaning forward to hear.

The flash of achievement when one said she understood something at last – my achievement as well as hers.

The nervousness of reading her scene or  anecdote  aloud in class. You can just see her thinking: “is this okay? Am I okay?”

What did she say, they ask each other. Furiously scribbling to get that reference or website down just as I said.

And all of this endeavor in the environs of a resort both pristine and sumptuous.

Stimulating, relaxing, paradise.

Sep 012011

Valerie Camarda was dumbfounded. She took the six-week workshop “Forever Remembered” to guide her in writing her life story.

The San Francisco marketing specialist says, “I really never considered myself a writer but Francine’s class inspired me and helped me discover my inner writer. She guided us through the process and helped me uncover fabulous stories I could relay in my writing. Her interviewing techniques were particularly helpful. Now I’m excited about writing my family’s history.”

That people have reservations about their ability to write “has been a common refrain from the workshop,” observes Brevetti. That’s why conquering so-called “writer’s block” is a big part of the experience she offers.
The author of the history of the Fior d’Italia “The Fabulous Fior — Over 100 Years in an Italian Kitchen”, Brevetti has been writing memoirs for individuals for several years. This past year she has introduced a six-week workshop on the restaurant’s premises.

She realized that under this economy many people cannot afford to have their memoirs — or the biography of a parent — written by a ghostwriter or a collaborator such as herself. “So I started this workshop for people who are motivated to do it themselves,” she says.

Brevetti says the hardest thing people have to do to end up with an autobiography is to finish it.
“Many people want to write their life story and some of them actually start. Very few finish,” she observes. “Actually people frequently arrive in my workshops with manuscripts they had already started but they get stuck.”

In the curriculum for this six-week experience participants are instructed how to organize their project, stimulate memories of important moments in their life and convey those experiences feelingly in their manuscript. She also guides them on doing research to provide background for their narratives.

Berkeley resident Leah Joseph had been keeping journals for years. She says, “I am sure that without taking Francine’s class I would NEVER have poured over my papers. The Saturday classes were so enjoyable, you wanted to come with what ever your self given homework was for the week.”

Josephs says she benefited from guidance about writing a manuscript, interviewing people, editing one’s work and choices for publishing.

Nobody leaves the six-week workshop having completed their manuscript, Brevetti says. “But if they do the homework, they can finish a draft.”

The support and camaraderie experienced in these workshops has been remarkable, participants say. Even after the end of the past workshop, they want to continue meeting and supporting each other.

“Francine’s class will take you to unexpected places. Put on your seat-belt and enjoy the ride,” says Joanne Butcher, a San Francisco filmmaker.

The next session of “Forever Remembered” begins Saturday, September 17 from 1:45 PM to 4 PM at the Fior d’Italia Restaurant, 2237 Mason St. in San Francisco’s North Beach. A six-week course, it ends on October 22. Contact Francine@FrancineBrevetti.com.

 Posted by at 7:03 pm
Dec 142009

Alameda Times-Star (CA)-December 14, 2009
Author: Joan Aragone, San Mateo County Times

As a child, I recall my mother talking about her high school years, showing me scrapbooks and telling me stories.

After much questioning, my reticent father opened up on the subject of his childhood, when he played on the open slopes of hillsides that are now covered with homes. It sounded like another world.

But when our parents and grandparents were young, most of them weren’t taking notes. As they got older, as in all families, life took over. Nobody had time to wonder about the past.

Eventually, the grandparents and their friends, with stories of life in the “old country,” were gone, then the parents. And now, when questions arise about those distant times, there’s nobody to ask.

Experience may have given us insights into challenges our parents and grandparents faced. What happened? Why were they like they were?

But, fortunately, for the benefit of memory keepers, things have changed. With personal computers and a more educated population, increasing numbers of aging Americans, who recognize the importance of writing down their stories, are creating personal records.

Some, who cover specific periods, may work alone or with family members. But others, especially those who write about entire lives, work with memoirists, professional writers who help organize and present often complex information in narrative form.

That’s the process for John De Luca, 76, of Redwood City ˜ executive vice president of the California Wine Institute, chairman of the board of directors of the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at UCSF, and adviser to the president of the University of California on agriculture and business initiatives, among other positions ˜ who is working with San Francisco journalist Francine Brevetti, creator of Legend Crafter, on a narrative of his fascinating life.

Brevetti says her business “kind of grew.” While a business writer at the Oakland Tribune, Brevetti profiled a man who had mentioned he wanted his life story written. After leaving the paper, she worked with De Luca, and he referred her to another client.

“This kind of work enriched my soul,” she said.

Brevetti’s method is collaborative. Using a recorder, she asks questions, then using transcriptions, shapes the story into narrative. The storyteller then reads and revises the manuscript. Other sources may be interviewed as the family or subject requires. Projects can be long or short, some meant for publication, others for personal use within a family.

De Luca’s is a complex story. The son of Italian immigrants, he grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan before moving to California. Then came a doctorate in Soviet Studies, service in the White House during the Vietnam era and, in a career switch that reflects his varied life, appointment as deputy mayor of San Francisco under Mayor Joe Alioto during the period of the Zodiac killer and other tumultuous events.

De Luca was a witness to history in many settings ˜ all before serving as president of the Wine Institute for 28 years, during which time he participated in interviews for UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library Oral History Project on the California wine industry.

“The consensus was that I should put all this down,” he said. “I’m being responsive to family and friends.”

But with a busy schedule, he needed a collaborator.

“I’m 76, but I feel 26,” he said in a telephone interview.

“I’ll probably never ‘retire.’ I’m as busy now as I have ever been,” he said. “Francine provides the discipline that is difficult in my life as it continues.”

“Nobody understands how hard it is to write your own story,” Brevetti said. “It’s challenging, partly because of the memories. Some don’t want to return to bad memories. Some may not have memories. When they work with a professional, they just talk, or they can be guided through the memory. Not everybody wants to be published, they just want to record things for their families.”

For De Luca, the project is proving rewarding.

“There is a beautiful flood of recall that would have never been,” he said. “It’s an enrichment for me and my family.”

For information on Legend Crafter, go to www.francinebrevetti.com or www.legendcrafter.com.

To submit comments or story ideas, call 650-348-4332 or e-mail joanaragone@yahoo.com.