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The "Your Life is Your Story" Blog

© Tom  Gilbert

Read about quality family history and life story news, views, methods, products, links, services

                     ...and whatever else catches our fancy

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Paris Apartment Closed For 70 Years Opened and It's Like a Time Capsule

May 22, 2017

It was a remarkable discovery when a Paris apartment, locked since 1939, was recently opened. It was like stepping back in time - a time capsule of sorts - and the amazing amount of art inside makes it quite a treasure trove.

The woman who lived in the flat for many years, Mrs. De Florian, had fled to the south of France before World War Two broke out. She never returned and after she died at the age of 91 it was opened to take inventory of her assets. And there were some amazing discoveries, including a painting of a beautiful French woman since identified as Marthe de Florian. She was the grandmother of Mrs. De Florian and a French actress and socialite. That painting turned out to be a work by 19th century Italian artist Giovanni Boldini and was sold at auction for over $3 million dollars! Apparently Boldini was one of her many admirers.

There were some other fascinating finds in the apartment. Some great pictures are included in the Daily Mail article, Inside the Paris apartment untouched for 70 years: Treasure trove finally revealed after owner locked up and fled at outbreak of WWII.

Historical discoveries such as this can be quite amazing. However, it is possible you have some great discoveries with interesting family history stories stored away in old letters, journals and photo albums. Unlock these treasures. Preserving our personal history is important.


R.I.P to the APH

May 17, 2017
Association of Personal Historians
A week ago I received a surprising email. It was sent to all the members of the Association of Personal Historians (APH), a not-for-profit trade organization with members around the world, announcing the dissolution of the organization.

This was a shock. But unfortunately a necessary move that the Board of Directors struggled over, but ultimately had to implement. Apparently the 21 year old association has been experiencing increasing difficulties to meet expenses. Not enough membership renewals or new members and the costs of running the fine organization were oustripping the operating budget.

I am saddened by the news having been a member since 2003. But it does not mean the end of the personal history and life story movement. People are increasingly finding ways to preserve their stories (memoirs, videobiographies, digital and material scrapbooks, photo albums, websites and much more).

It is often difficult for people to make a profitable business out of life story work. Most personal historians do it for the love of the work and the countless good reasons for saving life stories. Having the support of others and an organization with resources and networking opportunities is valuable. Fortunately enough of the APH members are interested in keeping connected and already using social media like Facebook to do so.

My intent is to continue to wave the banner of support for people telling their story. I do this work and promotion along with my fulltime teaching gig, so I do what I can on a part-time basis. But I will continue to promote the services and providers that I think can provide quality and rewarding work for those who are interested in preserving their lives with their life stories.

So long and farewell APH. Sorry to see you go, but thanks for the years of valuable resources and friends I've met during your twenty-plus year run.


May is Personal History Month

May 10, 2017

It's already the tenth of May and I've been very busy, but it is important that I remind you that this is Personal History Awareness Month. I've talked about it in past years and you can read an article I wrote a few years ago and just updated right here.



A Publisher's Good Tips About Writing Your Life Story

April 25, 2017

I am not a publisher. I don't publish manuscripts, I don't print books and I am not an agent to help get you published.

I am, however, a personal historian with the skills to help you write and preserve your life story, memoir or autobiography.

You might wonder what publishers think about people writing a book about their lives. If you don't already know it, the field of publishing is extremely competitive. Many people dream of writing a best-seller and getting their book into the hands of thousands or millions of people. But the odds are tough. Publishers don't like to take many risks. They get thousands of unsolicited manuscripts and you can imagine that many hardly get a look, much less a consideration.

Does that mean you shouldn't attempt it? Not according to Henry Quinlan from Omni Publishing Company. He, like most publishers, will tell you how challenging it is to get published. And he will also tell you that in your first effort you should self-publish. I agree with that approach. But he also has some good encouraging advice, such as figuring out who your audience is, coming up with a good title, knowing who you before you try to share your story, and most importantly, focus on the writing. 

You can read the consise post, Publisher offers secrets to scribbling your life story (from the Sippican Week) and see what you think. I believe the publisher has some good timps about writing your life story.


The First Woman to Run in the Boston Marathon Runs Again

April 18, 2017

Yesterday was the 121st running of the Boston Marathon. This is the granddaddy of marathons with a lot of history in a city with a lot of history. For those who have followed my blog and writing for some time you know that I am a huge Boston Red Sox fan as well as a long distance runner. I've never run in the Boston Marathon (it's on my bucket list), but I have run marathons and half marathons. It would be cool to do this race and run past Fenway Park!

Four years ago the world was shocked and angered when two terrorists set off bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. 2013 became the year of "Boston Strong" with rallying cries that included David "Big Papi" Ortiz of the Red Sox. The baseball team fittingly won the World Series that year and it was probably a cathartic thing for all those who were sadly affected by the bombings. I happened to watch the movie about those events of 2013, Patriots Day, on Sunday night. The movie is currently available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

One of the great stories from this year's Boston Marathon was Katherine Switzer at the age of 70 running the marathon 50 years after being the first female to run in the race. It's sad to think that at one time the race didn't allow women runners and in 1967 she had to "sneak" in by using initials in her entry. During the race there was an attempt by the race director to stop her, but other runners intervened and she finished in 4 hours 20 minutes.  Running it again this year was a triumph for her and other women runners, all 14,000 of them.

To me this is a great story. So many people have interesting lives and experiences. I have a special fondness for runners because I know the difficulty of the training and long miles of marathons. Perhaps you are a runner - consider documenting your story and experiences. It could provide inspiration to others.


Find a Team that Works

April 12, 2017

Teamwork is a common theme at our workplaces, schools and homes. If people don't work well together it can create a lot of friction and headaches. If you are part of a team striving to reach a goal it takes all the team members collaborating to achieve the goal.

This is obvious to me as an elementary school teacher. The students work together in teams on a lot of projects. Tomorrow, in fact, we "go to Mars" to join with students from other schools in our Mission to Mars project. It's a highlight of the 5th grade year. All the students have had individual assignments during the year in learning about colonizing Mars, but they also have had many group (team) assignments.

Teamwork applies as well to a personal history project. You can try to do it all yourself. But that is really hard and can be more time consuming and frustrating that it's worth. If you hire a professional to help you preserve your life story you create a team. You are part of the team along with the professionals you hire. 

I do lots of consulting, coaching and writing with individuals, but I've also worked with organizations. I also collaborate and network with other personal history professionals. I've found I don't have all the skills or desire to do every part of a book project. This is particularly true when it comes to the book layout, binding and printing. I'd rather use people who specialize in this work. I'm much better at the interviewing and the writing process.

If you are looking for memoir or life story assistance I invite you to explore this website further, especially for life story services and the many free articles I have written over the years. Additionally, as a member of the Association of Personal Historians (APH), I am in contact with other professionals who may be able to assist you in your life story needs.

 Everybody has a story to tell!
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