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January, 2009

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January 30, 2009

Colleen Walker discovered the value of keeping a journal by learning from another that did so, writing in her journal things she discovered to be true.  Now Colleen has kept her own book of truth - article here.

Keeping a journal is one of the best things you can do to help you know your story, make sense of your life, and preserve your experiences for the eventual life story you will write or have written.

January 29, 2009

The human experience has been fundamentally the same through the ages.  We have a quest for a life that includes our passions for love, work, spirituality and purpose. And we are often haunted by the demons that infiltrate these areas and frustrate us or lead us to excess.

Each culture's take on these experiences is often best recorded by the writer.  One of the best American writers of the past fifty years died of cancer earlier this week. He was 76. Over the course of his life and writing career John Updike observed the human condition and wrote about it with humor and pathos in many excellent books and short stories.  (See Houston Chronicle story)

January 28, 2009

For all the cheerleading I do about the importance of people writing their story I must also state that I'm pragmatic about your story being commercially published.  Look, I don't want to burst anyone's bubble, but the truth is commercially published memoirs and life stories are rare, difficult, and the exception.

Do you have a bestseller in you?  Maybe you do.  Please don't be discouraged - just realistic.  I get approached frequently by prospects who believe their story will be a best seller and an eventual movie and they just need a professional writer, only they can't pay for the work up front.  They are more than willing to pay out of the proceeds of their "sure fire best selling book".  Unfortunately, that is not realistic for me (unless I've offered out of the goodness of my heart to work for free).

Enter the self publishing business.  You can - and in many instances should - write and publish your life story.  Most should self publish and that means you are going to pay someone to bind, print and publish your book. And many services will also put it on sale for you, but you'll be responsible for the marketing.  

The New York Times posted an article by Motoko Rich, Self-Publishers Flourish as Writers Pay the Tab, and it articulates how tough the publishing world is (especially in the present economy), but that self publishers are making money.  This can be a viable route for authors.  Even if you don't sell many copies you will have that finished book to show to others and to share your story.  Read the article and consider your options.  And look around my site for additional ideas.  Remember, a story never told is lost forever.

January 27, 2009

President Barack Obama has expressed himself in two books.  The first is his memoir, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.  The second is The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream. Because our new president gives us insight into his thoughts, his ideas, values and even into his soul we have an opportunity to know him better.

You can be inspired by his writing, not just for what he says, but for what it can motivate you to do.  You don't have to be a prominent politician or world leader to give the world (or at least your family) your personal story.

I found a site that is encouraging people to read about Obama as well as contribute your thoughts (both positive and critical). The describes itself as Obama Rocks: The Healing of America and the Planet.  The current design of the site could be better and easier to read, but don't let that discourage you from reading the content there.  The prologue of this global Obama Book project describes the purpose and invites others to contribute. The online e-book also culls material from President Obama's two books, along with his speeches, core principles and the many challenges he and America are facing.  Find out more at

January 24, 2009

It's been two years since I ran my very first full length marathon (26.2 miles). It was truly one of the most remarkable - and hardest - things I've ever done. I ran on a cold winter day in Phoenix. Yes, Phoenix, where it should have been sunny and mild, but that particular day the "Valley of the Sun" experienced record cold.  I ran in the PF Chang Rock n' Roll Marathon as a fundraiser for Team in Training (fighting blood cancers).

Last week was the annual event in Phoenix, and they had record participation, including a very large contingent running for Team in Training.  TNT is a fantastic organization and if you participate in one of the their events you'll meet new friends, get in shape, accomplish something important, and help a great cause.  

Life is about participation.  You can read my article, The Finish Line, about my marathon experience - here.

January 22, 2009

Music has always been important in my life.  In many ways various "hit" records have formed a soundtrack for my life memories.  If I hear one of those songs it can bring me right back to that time (high school, college, anniversaries, etc).

I spent many years in radio and helped determine what songs would be played on a variety of stations that I worked at.  Billboard magazine was one of our trade tools as we'd monitor the progress of hit records on the charts.

If you are curious what the #1 song was on your birthday (and who isn't?), check out  You can look up the number one song on any date in history.

You might also want to read an article I wrote about how music can help with your reminiscing - Striking a Chord for Memory.

January 20, 2009

As a personal historian I am naturally fascinated with historic days like this one.  The 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, was inaugurated today.  The media coverage has been feverish, especially in our "new day" of social media, blogging and instant global village.  And the public turnout of over one and a half million people to witness this event was impressive.

Today there is an undeniable air of hope, this despite the enormous challenges we face.  Regardless of whether you voted for Obama, the man has clearly captured the fascination of the world.  In difficult times we need strong leaders.  In Barack Obama we have someone willing to take on the challenges while making sure we are aware that we all have a responsibility to do our part.

How will you remember this historic day?  What will people think about it 10 years, 50 years - even 100 years from now?  I hope that you are recording some of your thoughts in a journal, online (perhaps on a blog or social media service) or even by exchanging phone calls, emails and letters with your family and friends.  The New York Times Facebook account has been encouraging people to record their thoughts about the Inauguration - see the link here.

History is not some abstract thing - we are part of it.

January 19, 2009

I watched the We Are One - Obama
Inaugural Celebration last night.  It was a powerful concert with many of today's top music performers (Bruce Springsteen, John Legend, Beyonce, Herbie Hancock, U2, Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crow, James Taylor, Usher, John Mellencamp, Garth Brooks and others) along with top celebrities, movie stars and speakers (among them Denzel Washington, Tom Hanks, Laura Linney, Jamie Foxx, Queen Latifah, Martin Luther King III) speaking about the challenges and hope ahead for all of us.

The outdoor concert took place in front of the Lincoln Memorial and the many thousands in attendance on a cold Sunday afternoon were present at the same place that other historic gatherings have taken place, including the historic March on Washington in 1963 that featured Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech (read his speech here).

This certainly is an historic time for America.  It is both important and appropriate to reflect on it today, a national holiday, as we honor the great American Prophet and Civil Rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. Tomorrow will be the inaguration of our 44th President.  The election of our new President is part of the realization of King's dream, the first African-American elected to the office.

President-elect Barack Obama spoke about our challenges and his hope - our hope - that as Americans we will face our difficulties together, with courage and hard work.  Our current troubles will not be reversed in a day, a month or probably even a year.  But the process we must participate in will help shape the future for our children.  

Friends, remember this time and be a positive agent for change.  Plan on preserving your experience so that you can pass it on and "pay it forward" for generations to come.

January 18, 2009

The immediacy of today's media, especially with the Internet, can connect us in ways never before possible.  Truly we are living in the age of the Global Village.  This was evident once again as so many of us saw the story unfold of the crash landing of US Airways Flight 1549 into the icy waters of the Hudson River on Thursday (read Associated Press story).  

We should all express gratitude that no one perished in the plane crash.  That is sadly not the case in most airline accidents.  What we don't know - unless you were on board, or you are closely connected with any of the passengers - is how the experience will impact their lives.  Events like these are often what I consider life changing events.  What happens as a result of the experience, and perhaps more importantly, how it changes lives, are stories worthy of preservation.

What about you?  What has been your life changing event(s)?

January 15, 2009

In the wide world of web, and especially social media interaction, there is a challenge in communicating in a consise way. forces you to keep your posts (your "tweets") to 140 characters.  While I find a lot of the Twitterers to be a combination of code and banality...there is also the occasional gem. Pithy comments meaty with meaning.

I came across a blog posting by Richard Skaare for the 140-Character Resume. And he also suggested trying it for your life story.  So I took him up on it and posted to my Twitter account (twitter/imstom)

live for music, love for family, learn from others, listen for wisdom, laugh for freedom and write for purpose

January 14, 2009

From time to time I write short vignettes from my life - little stories that someday may become part of a bigger story, such as a memoir or biography. Whether they do or not, writing these vignettes is helpful.  I gets me reminiscing and writing, two important ingredients in life story capture.

The primary purpose of Margaret Randall's is to get you to write and post some short stories about your life.  There is an option to share these stories with your friends - or the Internet community at large. I think if you take advantage of her service it will help push you along in getting your story (or stories) done.  And, besides, you surely have something to share with the rest of us! is very affordable, less than $30 for an entire year. Plus, you get a free 30 day trial to see if you like it.  When you post your story you have a couple of font options and you can upload a photo.  The stories get saved in a PDF format that you can easily download and share with others - or invite your friends to see your writing at the site.  I've had fun posting two of my own stories.  Give it a try.

January 12, 2009

Thanks to the Internet and all the associated web phenomenon we have the ability to do research in our PJ's, connect with others half way around the world and shop multiple price points before making a purchase.

We also have to suffer through surveys, spam, distraction and "everybody's expert opinion".  

Ah, the good with the bad.  Today I read a humorous, but pointed, article that got me thinking about all this.  What Would "Bloggers" Twain and Franklin Think of the Web?by Martha Rosenberg is posted at Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain have always caused me to reflect, ruminate and laugh.  But what would they think of this brave new world? 

January 9, 2009

We're all aware of the enormous challenges facing us, our countries and our world.  We are especially confronted with the troubled economy, but we also have the very real difficulties in our education system, the ecology and various world conflicts (i.e. Israel and the Palestinians).

So today's posting is not specifically about life story capture options.  Instead, I want to point you to Kenny Moore, a very interesting man who writes a very interesting blog.  Kenny works in the corporate world and has a lot to say about how things work (or don't work) in that environment.  He's not afraid to comment on how we really treat customers and colleagues, or to tell us the "emperor has no clothes".

Among other things, Kenny used to be a catholic priest in a monastery and he successfully survived late stage "terminal" cancer. His newest article, Letting Go of our Love Affairs with Leaders, had me nodding my head in agreement. We do need to take more personal responsibility for our happiness, life direction and purpose.  We must admit that we put leaders on pedestals only so we can knock them off.  We've got to stop expecting our leaders to be messiahs.  And we need to get back to a greater respect and appreciation for our elders and what they have to offer.  (Ah, see, I did tie in a personal history angle).

Read the article here.  And you can see what I wrote some time ago about the quality of leadership - here.

January 7, 2009

I hope I don't disapoint all you cutting edge techy types - but I've been a bit slow to adapt to the social media web 2.0 phenomenon.

If you are scratching your head over what social media and web 2.0 means, don't feel bad.  Internet time is faster than our normal chronological time. Things change fast in the web world.

But the truth is that YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter (to name just a few...yes, there are several more!) social media sites are all the rage.  A lot of people are using it to connect, share, learn and chat.  The Global Village is a-buzzing.

The trick for me is balancing my time and focus.  You can easily get sucked into the vortex of social media...and I can't spend all my time there. However, I'm learning there are important reasons to use it.

Twitter is the one that seemed at first to be the most frivolous, but actually the Twitterv
erse can be an interesting place.  Fellow personal historian Stefani Twyford (Legacy Multimedia) is pretty savvy with Twitter and I'm trying to follow her lead.  And following others, as well as others following you, is part of the Twitter deal. Each member (don't worry, it's free to join) creates a Twitter ID and you can find people with their ID tagged to the end of the Twitter URL.  For instance, I'm at If you want to know more about Twitter, visit  And the article, 8 Ways that Twitter Can Grow Your Freelance Business, by Jenny Cromie, articulates some good reasons why Twitter can work to generate leads and contacts.

January 5, 2009

Is it me or did the first few days of January just fly by?  Hope your year is off to a good start.

Some of you are making resolutions and plans for 2009.  Will you finally take action on your life story? Are you looking to be involved in personal history for your family, friends or others?  Perhaps you are just getting more acclimated to using various web tools, like all the social media of web 2.0 (Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, MySpace, and so on).

Participation on and with the Internet is part of everyday life.  It was predicted, but I don't think we quite knew what shape it would take ten years ago. And things will continue to change. But if you are finally getting online for a hobby, business or passion you will need to work hard and smart.  You may not take action with Site Build It in time for the "2-for-1" special (ends tonight at midnight), but before you choose a hosting platform or web building application I urge you to research SBI.  It really works - a steady pace as you follow directions and implement the action steps.  In the long run you will save money and be rewarded for following your passion.  Take a couple of minutes to watch a quick video.

January 1, 2009

The new day has dawned with bright sun and blue skies in Albuquerque.  I notice about three hot air balloons up in the chilly morning air and I remembered that it is traditional for a group of balloonists to fly on New Year's Day.

I am optimistic today.  There is much work to be done for all of us, but all things are possible with faith and action.

Take some time today for gratitude, to be in the moment (don't spend too much time fretting over resolutions and plans, but it is good to do some forward thinking).

Great opportunities to make 2009 a year when you tell your story.  More ways to do that than ever before.  I'm particularly excited that more of you can me providers of life story work, as well as engage in getting your own story preserved.  One of those exciting new ways is with the Priceless Legacy LifeStory approach (see more here).

Choose hope, joy and peace on this New Year's Day.

Everybody has a story to tell!
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