Story and Why
"Your Life is Your Story" Blog Archives
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How Historical Fiction Teaches
July 30, 2013
For those of you who receive my free monthly e-zine, the latest issue is in your inbox. The feature article is about how historical fiction can teach us about life and history.
There are various ways for us to study and understand the past. History
lessons come to us in more ways than the fat textbooks we studied in
school. It is actually my firm belief that we learn about history in
richer and more meaningful ways through stories, especially those
revealed to us by people we know, such as family members. Ask anyone
who has an elder relative who lived through World War Two or the Great
Depression. It’s not unusual for them to repeat incidents that
have become family lore.
Sometimes history lessons are presented to us wrapped in creative fiction. I recently read a new young adult novel, The Old Lion, that contains parallel stories of two children growing up during the 1940’s in America.
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Thanks For The Memoir
July 25, 2013
Exactly two years ago I included an article I wrote, Thanks For The Memoir, in my Newsletter
for that month. Memoirs continue to grow in popularity, both those
writing them and for readers. And you don't have to be someone famous
to have a solid and meaningful memoir. Your slice of life can be of
great interest and value to others. We are all sorting through the
meaning of our life journey. Sharing your struggles and triumphs is
part of the human experience and others can identify!
The National Association of Memoir Writers frequently provides insight into the art and science of memoir writing, with plenty of encouragement and resources.
I've also found lots of value from the articles, teleclasses and information provided by Denis Ledoux and his Memoir Network.
In fact, he's about two present two free teleclasses in the next few
weeks. There is no cost, but you need to register in advance - details here.
Irena Sendler, Protector and Rescuer of Jewish Children
July 21, 2013
Courage in the face of danger and death. Doing the right thing and not
letting the opportunity pass her by to save young children. Irena
Sendler was a woman who lived dangerously in order to save thousands of
Jewish children from the Nazi death camps during World War II. At the
age of 98 she has passed away. I was surprised to learn of her story as
she was quite the remarkable woman. Some even called her the "female
Schindler" in reference to Oskar Schindler, the man famous for saving
many Jews from Nazi persecution.
Irena Sendler was a Roman Catholic social worker who could not stand by
and do nothing in the face of the Nazi "final solution". The story of
the danger she faced and the personal suffering she endured is
documented online with this excellent story by Richard Pendlebury for the UK's Daily Mail.
Short Professional Bio Could Be Your Starting Point
July 18, 2013
had many clients seek me out to write their short, professional
biography. Many need something for trade publications or other media
exposure, or to provide for companies or organizations who need to know
more about their background, personal experience and life values.
This is also an option to make a beginning on your personal history
story. A 1-2 page biography can be the foundation for a more extensive
Find out more here.
Guys and Memoirs
July 16, 2013
I'm a guy and, as such, I'm pretty typical when it comes to discussing
how I "feel" about things. Women are so relational and tend to love to
talk about their lives, but men, well, not so much. How does this
effect the writing of memoir?
I think it probably plays a big part. It's not that I, or other men,
don't have feelings. Or strong opinions. We do. That's not gender
dependent. But writing about your past, your experiences, sharing what
it meant and how it affected you and how you'd like others to learn
from it seems to me to have more of a "feminine spirit". There's more
of the nature of a poet and artist in this "spirit".
Writing can be lonely work. That is why it is important to associate
with others who are doing something similar. The benefits are that you
don't feel so isolated and you can share and learn from others. Writing
groups, memoir workshops, reading books and blogs all can motivate and
My own experience is that mostly women participate in life writing. But
that shouldn't keep men away. Maybe we just need a little nudge. Take a
guy along, ladies. A writer's group, workshop or personal history talk
is not your typical date destination, but it sure could spur
Fellow men, you can do good writing. There are excellent examples all
around you, from the library to your nearest Internet search. Or maybe
your next door neighbor. And ladies, keep up the good work...and maybe
nudge your guy friends to explore the many benefits of life writing.
Journalist Rick Haliechuk recently wrote about his own grappling with
memoir writing and made some observations similar to mine. His How I learned to put myself into my own story had some great points. And it's rather humorous, to boot.
End of the Line Doesn't Have To Be
July 14, 2013
A recent discussion among members of the Association of Personal Historians got a lot of us thinking. Tom Cormier (Legacy Stories)
asked for reasons why people would invest in a life story or personal
history when they are the last remaining descendant. What would be
their motivating value when they are essentially the end of the line
for their family?
Many people desire to preserve their family history in narrative form
so that future generations will know about them, their lives, what
mattered, the challenges and the values they want preserved as lessons
or to tell the stories that shaped their lives. But if there aren't any
more family members why does it still matter? This is a worthwhile
consideration. The answers can be varied. To leave your mark (I was here) or to pass on history (many kids today know nothing of living in a world without computers, cellphones or the Internet).
An even more important reason, I believe, is because we are all
connected. The Family of Man is bigger than just our own personal clans
and relatives. People who read a vivid memoir of another's life are
often seeking meaning for their own. Even if you are "the last in line"
you can do a great service for the rest of us by preserving your tale.
Sarah White, a personal historian (First Person Productions) and current President of the APH, summed up much of the discussion on this topic in a wonderful blog post. You can read it (and other insightful posts about personal history) on the APH Blog.
Remember, the end of the line doesn't have to be. Share your story. The world, and you, will be better for it.
Soleil Lifestory Network is Now the Memoir Network
July 8, 2013
For years I've used the services of Denis Ledoux and his Soleil
Lifestory Network. I subscribe to his newsletters and I've been trained
in his Professional
Memoirs Workshop Program. I still regularly use his fine Turning Memories into Memoirs book (available here) and highly recommend it to others interested in doing their own writing or working with a writing coach like myself.
the continued growing popularity of life writing, particularly memoirs,
Denis Ledoux has revamped and renamed his presentations under the
umbrella title, The Memoir Network. There is a lot offered through their site - get an upclose look from me to see what you think.
July 3, 2013
On the eve of America's 237th birthday I've been reflecting on what it
means to be American. The United States declared its independence from
the British Crown in 1776. The settlers at that time were primarily
European and mostly British. But over the years we've been a country
that has attracted millions of immigrants. The multiracial and
multicultural diversity is part of what makes this country great. It
saddens me when we have conflicts because of our differences. History
has shown that these conflicts have been around since the beginning,
but that there are often those brave people willing to put differences
aside and look for common ground to build something stronger and better
than the separate parts.
Much of my reflection has been spurred by watching Faces of America,
a 2010 PBS series hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. He searched the
roots of some interesting and prominent Americans, many whose families
were immigrants from various countries such as Ireland, England, Spain,
Japan and China. Yo Yo Ma, Eva Longoria, Meryl Streep, Dr. Oz, Queen
Noor and Stephen Colbert are a few of those whose family trees were
researched. In the wonderful series we get to watch these celebrities
learn about their past and their family history, often to their
surprise and delight. Each of these celebrities has earned their fame
in various ways, but their ancestors helped make it possible by
reaching for a dream that America offered.
We all have rich histories and personal history that should be
discovered and treasured. Being American to me means celebrating these
stories and appreciating how we are all different and yet have many
important values in common.
July 2, 2013
I had a chance to babysit the grandkids today and it was great fun. I
learn so much from them! Jacob is three and Sophia is 8 months. If you
have grandkids, or small children of your own, you know of what I
speak. Each of us must enjoy and experience the world of young people
to keep fresh the sense of wonder we are all born with.
giving Jacob a bath this morning I had Sophia in her "kid/walker/stand"
watching and I took a couple of iPhone pictures that came out great. I
sent them to my daughter at work and she used the InstaFrames app for Instagram and suddenly we have a great keepsake.
You can do much more, of course. Everybody likes to take pictures. What
about asking small children their thoughts on life? That's one of the
featured services APH member Peter Savigny (timestories.com) offers. He calls them kidographies.
Your little ones have opinions on their room, pets and toys. And,
sometimes the most amazing things come out of their mouths about life.
This afternoon when my wife finished her appointments she came over to
resume her normal duties of watching the kids, so I took Jacob to the
park where we ran around and kicked a mini soccer ball. Jacob kept
telling me to "kick it high, up to the clouds!" I kicked it as high as
I could, but my heart was soaring even higher.