Bettina Deda originally started writing to find out more about her family history and to share their stories with her sons. But a tumultuous few years of change saw her start to investigate her own upbringing and how it had shaped her life. With the help of Patti Miller’s Life Writing course, Bettina began to explore her own memories and experiences, culminating in the publication of her memoir Dare to Dance, published by Vpi Publishing.
“My vision for Dare to Dance is to inspire women to celebrate midlife as an exciting phase in their lives rather than the beginning of the end,” Bettina says. “I hope to encourage women to step out of their comfort zone and follow their heart. It takes a lot of courage, trust, and faith, but great joy can wait on the other side of fear.”
Learning to be vulnerable
When Bettina first shared her writing in the Life Writing course, she found it a very emotional experience.
“I read out a chapter about how I witnessed my mother's passing in the hospital after a long battle with cancer,” Bettina recalls. “In the middle of reading it, I started crying. Patti encouraged me to keep reading, which I did. This was a healing experience. And after a while, I got used to sharing very personal stories and being more vulnerable.”
That vulnerability is at the heart of Bettina’s journey. Shortly after doing the course, she separated from her husband of 23 years and was faced with a year of great life changes. Her memoir focuses on this year of change, and also how the Second World War had influenced her German upbringing and the relationships with her parents.
“I eventually realised that I had been living my mother’s life, not my own,” Bettina says.
She found solace in Buddhist teachings and then, at the age of 52, took up ballroom dancing, and now participates in Pro-Am (Professional/Amateur) dancing competitions.
“The memoir reflects on what dancing means to me, how it has become a topic with my teenage sons and how it has benefited my life.”
Writing a memoir can be a challenging experience, but Bettina felt supported within the AWC Life Writing group.
“When I first shared this with my writing group, I felt very vulnerable. But I pushed through, and the feedback was very encouraging. Memoir writing requires a lot of courage, but it's worth it because it's the personal stories that connect people with each other. And connection is what a lot of people crave these days.”
Through the course, Bettina also developed a daily writing habit, which enabled her to finish the first draft of her manuscript.
“With Patti's writing exercises, I managed to write 75,000 words in 10 months,” she says. “I also met the members of our memoir-writing group, which is still going today. I realised how important it is to surround myself with like-minded people and keep cultivating a strong mindset.”
Courses completed at AWC: