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                     ...and whatever else catches the fancy of personal historian Tom Gilbert

August 2015

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Hurricane Katrina 10 Years Later

August 29, 2015
Hurricane Katrina
Ten years ago today, August 29, 2005, one of the most devastating hurricanes ever hit the Gulf Coast of the United States. Hurricane Katrina washed over New Orleans and surrounding areas. It was bad. The levees surrounding "The Big Easy" broke. Homes, cars and roads swept away by huge waves.

We remember significant anniversaries for various reasons. Obviously there is joy and celebration for lifetime milestones like birthdays, marriage and careers. But why tragedy? I think it is because we need to mark historical events. It is not to dredge up sadness. Rather to look back, see where we are now, learn from the past and put perspective to our lives.

There is another reason. That is to honor those who rise above the floodwaters of life and become the type of heroes who rightly are remembered for their selfless service. During, but especially in the days after Hurricane Katrina, there were a number of stories about such heroes. The New Orleans Advocate has a special section on Katrina. 

Kenny Bellau was on a bike tour in South America when Katrina hit New Orleans. But the city native returned after the hurricane to rescue his cat and ended up over a two week period helping to save the lives of 400 people!

Ex-marine John Keller had a kayak. He says he wasn't trying to be a hero but the big New Orleans native (six foot four, 260 pounds) repeatedly fended off thugs and the elements to help save more than 200 people.

There are many such stories. Let us give thanks for those who rise about the difficulties in life and sacrifice their safety to help those in need.

The Big Why for Your Story

August 27, 2015

I just finished listening in on the Right Focus/ Write Memoir tele-class offered by Denix Ledoux of The Memoir Network. The key focus of this free tele-class was figuring our why you are writing memoir. The BIG WHY is your theme. This is likely the life lesson you want to impart to your readers. An analogy Denis used is that your theme is your hero's journey and the holy grail you bring back from your journey is the story you finish and publish for your readers. I like that.

This tele-class was a valuable stand-alone freebie offered by the excellent memoir teacher, Denis Ledoux. Of course, there is the hope that those who attended will want to sign up for an upcoming course, the Write Your First Memoir Draft. This course will be intensive work and very helpful for anyone intent on getting their memoir written. It's a lot of work, sure, but so is creating the story of your memoir. Do you want help? Or would you rather go it alone, perhaps getting lost or sidetracked and wasting valuable time?

If you act right away you can save $100 on the fee for this 7 month course. After Friday the discount ends. If you are interested in learning more you can follow my affiliate link to the course info (I get paid an affiliate commision on any signups for this course and I only recommend services I believe have good value). I hope you investigate it.

The Right Focus for Your Memoir
Write Your First Memoir Course
August 24, 2015

Knowing how to write a memoir is helpful. There is a lot more to it than good writing technique. What is the focus of your story? Is it about a particular time in your life? What story are you trying to tell in your memoir?

Denis Ledoux of The Memoir Network is about to launch his new class that will get you to Write Your First Memoir Draft. The course is bound to be helpful to memoir writers at any stage in their writing journey. 

I am an affiliate of The Memoir Network. That means I believe in the services and products they offer and I also get a commission on any purchases you make when you go there from my site. I am picky about who I endorse, so take it from me that this course is a valuable investment in your writing efforts. Denis has a lot of information on his site to help you and I wanted to share this blog post with you. | continue reading |

The Strangers Project

August 17, 2015

So a few days ago I wrote about The Forgiveness Project (see below) and today I am telling you about The Strangers Project.  This is an ongoing collection of 15,000 stories, and growing.

Lots of people are writing their life stories. So what's so special about The Strangers Project? For one thing, all the stories are anonymous. Another interesting twist is that they are handwritten right on the spot. So they are spontaneous. No doubt many people have carried around their story for years, but to be asked to write it right there, right then is interesting. No dwelling, dawdling or revision. See some of the stories here.

Have you ever been sitting in a cafe, coffee shop or in a public place and while you "people watched" you wondered about their story? This was the impetus for this project started in 2009 by Brandon Doman of Brooklyn, NY. He's been busy collecting these stories and a book is coming out next Spring.

The Forgiveness Project

August 14, 2015

Sometimes the pain and suffering of life inflicted on us by others can feel like more than we can bear. Many people understandably struggle with feelings of anger, resentment, revenge and downright hate.

It's not healthy. But how do you deal with it? Many people who go travel this hard road learn that it is better to forgive. Not easy. Hearing the stories of others who've been able to forgive in situations that are difficult (to say the least) can shine a light on how it can lead to recovery and a better way of living.

Reading some of the stories on The Forgiveness Project has been quite moving. Former convicts, parents of terrorist bombing victims or murdered children, other victims of violence or abuse - these stories of redemption are incredible. The purpose of The Forgiveness Project is to explore the possibilities of forgiveness through real stories. You can check it out yourself.

The Narrative Arc of Your Life Story

August 12, 2015

Does your life story have a narrative arc with multiple plot points?

Why, yes, I think that is pretty common. At least, how we interpret our life experiences takes the shape of story. That's a good thing and here is a very interesting article from The Atlantic about this that states it is a fundamental part of being human.

As the article states, we all have a lot of things happen during our lifetimes and not all of it is interesting or important enought to preserve in a memoir. But we commonly view our story as a narrative with multiple plot points, such as rising action, climax and resolution. These are all valuable parts of the typical storyline.

If you believe you have a good story in you with something meaningful to share with the world then you probably should take a stab at a memoir. One of the nice things about memoir is that it can be a part of your life, not the whole enchilada. You can have a theme or a particular message that you feel the need to write about, both for helping you gather meaning from your life journey and for readers who may resonate with your story. Learning from others can be helpful, especially with guided instruction. The first draft can be a challenge, so seek assistance.

Father Roca, Santuario de Chimayo's Little Priest, Dies at 97

August 9, 2015

He was born in Spain and when his brother, Pedro, died in the Spanish Civil War, his mother lamented, "I ask God for two priest sons. He took Pedro to Himself; now, it’s up to you to be the two priests I asked for." He fulfilled that destiny and then some.

Father Casimiro Roca was 97 years old when he passed away on August 5. His legacy is as the priest who both restored and served at the little church in Chimayo, the Santuario where many people have claimed healing from the dirt dug from the chapel's floor. It is a sacred site for many pilgrims in Northern New Mexico. I visited it years ago and it certainly felt like a holy place. Many people consider it the "Lourdes of America".

By all accounts Father Roca was quite a man. Short in stature, but big in heart. His 97th birthday was just a couple of weeks before he passed and the Valley Daily Post reporter Robert Naranjo interviewed him that day. The article gives you a good insight into the priest. You can also discover more about him at this official site for El Santuariode Chimayo.

Using a Master Memoir Mentor

August 5, 2015

You've thought about it, written down your compelling reasons for doing it and made the decision that you are finally going to write your memoir. Congratulations.

Can you do it? Yes. Will it be difficult? Yes. Would you like some help? Well, uh, of course.

Course is the operative word. Taking a course that will guide you through writing your first memoir draft will help you a great deal, especially when you have the assistance of a master memoir mentor.

This is where the Memoir Authority membership will make all the difference. Denis Ledoux, noted writing mentor and memoir specialist has just unveiled a new course, what he's calling his best ever. The Write Your First Memoir Draft Course includes Master teachers, such as Kathy Pooler (The Memoir Writer's Journey), live teleclasses, focused critiques, a mastermind group to help you with the many questions writers have, a series of e-books on various aspects of memoir writing, and yes, even more.
The Memoir Network and Memoir Authority Membership
You can preview some of the elements and get more information here. Plus, there is an advance $100 discount from August 7 through August 28. Register by Friday, August 7 and get an additional bonus, the excellent Memoir Start Up Package!

If you are one of those people who've thought long and hard about your life and its story then you deserve a memoir. The Write Your First Memoir Draft Course from The Memoir Network will accelerate your process and highly increase your odds for getting a finished memoir. Sure, you have to do the work - this is not a something for nothing deal. However, it will put you on a strategic path towards your finished memoir destination.

Making the Memoir Decision

August 4, 2015Monumental Head of Pierre de Wissant 2 from Flickr creative common license

Making a decision to write a memoir isn't arrived at easily. When you consider all the hard work that will go into such an undertaking it can be intimidating. And after the first flush of inspiration and excitement it can be hard to maintain motivation.

But if your heart does burn with the desire to write your life story (or a portion, a slice of life) then you should act on that desire. Make the memoir decision!

The good news is that now, more than ever, there is a lot of help available to writers and would-be writers. Sites like this one abound on the Internet. Many helpful writing books about preserving personal history or writing memoir have been published. And memoir continues to be among the most popular genres.

Tomorrow and the next day I will be posting some exciting and specific information about how you can Write Your First Memoir Draft with guidance and inspiration from master memoir instructors. For now, if you are already considering how to finally move from desire to reality in writing your memoir, I urge you to take some time to write out your reasons. Give it some detail. Nothing listens like paper! This can include the all important "writing for yourself" reason, but can also include your desire to preserve a bit of history, set the record straight, celebrate your achievement, and to share your life lessons.

Iron Mountain Archives

August 3, 2015

Do you remember that scene at the end of the movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, when you see a man pushing a cart loaded down with a big crate and he takes it down an aisle with shelves and boxes upon  boxes stacked on either side? The implication is of a mysterious repository of unusual items kept in a secret location.

Apparently there is a real place like this in a rural location in Pennsylvania. Certain companies, many of them anonymous, are storing some priceless treasures. The immense size of this underground location is mindblowing. Amazing storage of original movies, negatives, audio recordings, and so much more in gigantic warehousing carved out of the mountain. You have to see this short video from a newscast to appreciate this vast storage spot. Thanks to The Daily Digg for tipping me to this story.

That's Major Bambi!

August 2, 2015

Donnie Dunagan was a 25-year career officer in the United States Marine Corp. That means he was one tough cookie. He has Valor and Purple Heart medals to prove it. But he also has a secret he kept from his fellow Marines. No way was he going to let them know that at one time he was a child actor and the voice of Bambi in the 1942 Disney animated film.

Years later he has revealed this story to his wife in a short interview he did with StoryCorps, the organization that collects oral history and archives it with the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

Listen to the short interview clip here.

Everybody has a story to tell!
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