Dani Shapiro
February 9, 2007

Teaching at a Spa

This week I’ve been teaching memoir writing at The Mayflower Spa, which is an unbelievably beautiful place ten minutes from my front door. My best friend Lisa and her family created this spa–built it from the ground up–and when it opened she asked if I’d consider teaching memoir there. I agreed with trepidation. I’ve taught undergraduates, graduate students, private students — but teaching at a spa? It seemed…I don’t know…not serious. Worrisome, even.

But then I spent this week teaching there, and I have to say it has been one of the most intense experiences of my teaching life. These women had stories to tell. Some were bitterly funny, some were impossibly sad. All were genuine seekers of how to shape their stories on the page. And I — who otherwise would have spent the week fretting by the phone, waiting to hear from editors and publicists, checking my email fifty-five times an hour — spent my days sipping mint tea and focusing intensely on my sweat-suited charges. By the end of my time at the spa, I wanted to take them all home with me and keep going. But I can’t offer them Thai massage after memoir writing. Much less something called the deep blue lavender embrace.