Canaan, 58, is the owner of Acti-Kare Responsive In-Home Care, a home-health agency specializing in senior and child care. He said seniors have two attributes conducive to writing memoirs a lifetime of experiences and the time to organize those recollections into a readable text.
People often don't think their lives are interesting enough for a memoir, he said. But that is rarely the case.
"It's not about the content. It's about how you write it," said Canaan, who has authored two of his own memoirs, the first when he was in his 30s, the second about the time he turned 50. "People who lead what many would consider uneventful lives can write extraordinary memoirs if they approach it right."
For starters, writers have to know they're not writing an autobiography that depends on the facts being all straight.
"It's not the literal retelling of one's life but an impressionistic one," Canaan said. "That gives you greater leeway to embellish in the telling of that story. If you remember the key things, you don't have to remember everything."
Getting started is often the hardest part, he acknowledged, so "I provide a structure for the story writing, sequences that will give [participants] a sense of design and purpose for sustaining their work over a long period of time."
After all, Canaan added, "if you're going to create a 300- to 400-page memoir, you have to be prepared to spend a couple of hours a day at it."
Besides leaving a record of one's life for generations to come, he feels writing a memoir can help seniors keep their minds active, even more than doing crossword puzzles.
"Writing really is thinking," Canaan said. "The two are synonymous. Nothing is more therapeutic in terms of stimulating their minds."
Over the next month, Bob Canaan will present a dozen seminars "The Right Time for Writing" at Salt Lake County senior centers to help people write memoirs. The schedule is:
• March 18, 7 p.m. River's Bend Northwest, 300 N. 1300 West
• March 26, 11:30 a.m. Taylorsville, 4743 S. Plymouth View Dr.
• March 27, 11:30 a.m. Friendly Neighborhood, 1992 S. 200 East
• March 28, 11:30 a.m. River's Bend Northwest, 300 N. 1300 West
• April 4, 10 a.m. Sandy, 9310 S. 1300 East
• April 8, 10:30 a.m. Millcreek, 2266 Evergreen Ave.
• April 15, 10 a.m. Mt. Olympus, 1635 E. Murray-Holladay Road
• April 16, 11 a.m. West Jordan, 8025 S. 2200 West
• April 22, 11 a.m. Harman, 4090 S. 3600 West
• April 23, 11 a.m. Columbus, 220 E. 2430 South
• April 25, 11 a.m. Eddie P. Mayne Kearns, 4851 W. 4715 South