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January 2013

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Rolland's Life Stories Inspire His Fiction

JaNUARY 31, 2013

I met Rolland Love, a grand elder of fishing, exploring and life stories, last June in Kansas City. We'd communicated by email prior to that, around the time my Dad was passing away, just over a year ago. He is the driving force behind, I'm A Story, a website designed to get you to write and post (for free) your life story experiences.

Rolland is instantly likeable. Sitting next to him you don't need to talk much. His presence speaks volumes. One of his loves, besides fishing, is writing. He's good at it, sort of a modern day Mark Twain. I've been reading his youth targeted novel, Blue Hole, to my fifth grade class and everyone is enraptured by the adventures of two young boys.

I'd always thought it was just a good, fanciful story about two youngsters gone camping and searching for the town doctor who'd previously dissapeared in the Ozarks. There's a mysterious cave as part of the story. Now I get the distinct feeling truth inspired the tale (I might be wrong, though). At any rate, Rolland has started blogging about his life and the entry, Death in a Cave, is riveting and reminds me of the two young boys in Blue Hole. It's a good reflection and I think you'd enjoy it - more here.

Journal Writing Reflection

January 26, 2013

One of the comments I often hear from others who want to write about their life is that it is hard to keep it up. And they are correct! Life writing is not easy. But there are simple things we can do on a regular basis.

All productive writers tell us that regular writing sessions are essential. I best practice this by writing in my journal. I've been doing this for many years. I've tried different approaches, from handwriting in notebooks and bound books with lovely blank pages, to typing away on the keypad and storing it in computer documents. I recommend you do whatever works best for you. I find I am more productive if I can type it on a computer. But the handwriting work can result in a slower pace and more reflection and you can also spend time doodling and drawing. Adding artwork to your journals can be a wonderful. It can inspire you to deeper and richer writing.

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One Day Inaugural Special From Richard Blanco

January 23, 2013

On Monday, as part of the ceremonies surrounding President Barrack Obama's inauguration into a second term, Richard Blanco read his poem written especially for the occasion. One Today, in my humble opinion, is an instant classic. It captures the spirit of our people, our country and our times. The piece was not pompous or bombastic; neither was it pious or particularly political.

Richard Blanco gave us words that capture the essence of our diversity, our varied economy, our sense of grandeur and commonality. It spoke of our humanity.

It is common for presidents to have a poem written for their inaugurations. As one can imagine, it is a prestigious honor and a challenge. Richard Blanco rose to this challenge magnificently and gave us a gift in both his words and how he spoke them at the ceremony. You can view and hear his rendering here.

What is it about poets that can inspire, incite, uplift and accost us? In a word, truth. Poets who honor their calling must labor over their lines and verse. It is hard work to craft and revise until the words come to life. It is akin to the sculptor who chisels away at the stone to reveal the artistic object inside.

I admire poets. It hasn't always been so. Over time I've been introduced to some good ones. Maybe it is the perspective I have at this stage of life. It was a privilege to work with a young poet in Mississippi on a book about his life so far (Believer Poet: The Mission and Early Life of Ahrend R. Walters, on sale here). Now we are working together on a new book. He is awakening to his ever-evolving inner voice and his poetry is growing in new and exciting directions. The Soul Awakening he is experiencing coincides with his ongoing discovery of who he is (including changing his name to Ahrend Torrey). It's fascinating to help chronicle this journey. 

Thank you to all the poets who speak their mind and heart. We need your honesty, courage and vision.

Legacy Letters, Value Statements and Ethical Wills

January 17, 2013

Values - we all have them even if we are not consciously aware of them. The things that are most important to us in our life journey shape and influence us everyday. The need to be in touch with these values and communicate them to others has spawned a growing trend of writing Ethical Wills. The popularity and necessity of "last wills and testaments" or "living wills" is well established. An important component should be the legacy letter, value statement or ethical will.

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Writers Whose Life Story Inspired Others

January 15, 2013

Many people aspire to writing. It is a gift to be able to write well, but many people often don't explore it.

In school we are encouraged to write. I know this as a fact; I teach 5th grade and each day includes many opportunities for the students to express themself by writing. But it does take some hard work.

Our lives are our stories and thankfully throughout history there have been many writers whose life story inspired others. A guest post by Eve Pearce gives us insight into some of these writers, including Thomas DeBaggio, Dave Pelzer and Anne Frank.  You can read the article here.

Portrait of a Father as a Young Boy

January 14, 2013

Father as a young boyMy sister gave me this picture some months ago. At first I thought it was a picture of me as a toddler. But I soon realized it is a picture of Dad. On this one year anniversary of his death I am finding some comfort in focusing on the happy, smiling boy. I only knew my father in his adult years, yet it is good to recognize that he was once a young kid. He experienced youth, he played and laughed, cried and got scraped up. He learned about the world with the wide-eyed wonder that children have and which we so often lose in our later years.

I am grateful for this portrait of my father as a young boy. And I am grateful for the legacy he left. I didn't get all of his story and it is now up to me and my family to construct what we remember if we are to put together a commemorative book. But I do know he gave us his heart, even if it was hard for him to express it.

I am reminded of the U2 song, All I Want with the lyrics:

You say you want
Your story to remain untold

But all the promises we make
From the cradle to the grave
When all I want is you 

More Music Memoirs

January 10, 2013

Music memoirs and biographies continue to be a popular trend, fueled in part by the very large baby boom population hitting senior citizen status.

Leonard Cohen Biography "I'm Your Man"I'm Your Man, a biography of singer/songwriter/icon Leonard Cohen, was released this past year and made some best of lists. The author, Slyvie Simmons, tackled the difficult subject of documenting Cohen's life (he is enigmatic, a modern-day bard contemporary of Bob Dylan). She reportedly got some great insight into the man best known for songs such as "Hallelujah" and "Suzanne" (NY Times review). I love the great insight of another Cohen song, "Anthem", with the line, "Ring the bells that still can ring / forget your perfect offering / there's a crack in everything / that's how the light gets in."

Springsteen biography, Bruce, by Peter Ames CarlinBruce Springsteen is the subject of a new bio by Peter Ames Carlin, who despite being a huge fan restrained himself in the project so as to ask the probing questions and get a more fully human story of "The Boss" (Pat Healy review here).

Although there have been other Springsteen bios, this was the first time in 25 years that Bruce collaborated with a writer and he apparently really opened up. It was a three year process that both Carlin and Springsteen found satisfying. “He told me later, after he read the book, that part of what he valued about it was that he was reminded of how special the people in his life were,” says Carlin.

One of the most fiercely independent songwriters and rock musicians of the past 50 years is John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival fame. He ended up splitting with fellow band members and went through a long battle with them and his record company over the right to perform his songs. He's also put out some powerfully good solo efforts and he's got a quite a story to tell, which he will divulge in his forthcoming autobiography, currently untitled but planned for a 2014 release from publisher Little, Brown and Co.(AP story).

These music masters have lived big lives with great stories. But they are also just human beings, not unlike you, who have a desire to get their story preserved in print. The trend will undoubtedly continue and I enjoy reading about them because it helps frame my own story since I grew up during the time that rock n' roll came of age.

You might want to also read this previous post, Rock Star Memoirs.

Honoring Fallen Sandy Hook Students

January 6, 2013

The tragedy of the lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut rocked the world. Violent shootings seem to have increased over the years, but this mass killing was particularly horrific in that 20 very young students were gunned down.

It will take a long time to heal the hurt. We can't change what happened. But we can honor those who died. We can learn a lot from those children by looking at how they lived their all too brief lives. Youngsters at that age (6, 7 & 8) are full of awe, wonder, curiosity and enthusiasm. They didn't live long enough to have careers or titles. Their obituaries aren't about what they accomplished, but rather on how they embraced life fully. They danced, played soccer, laughed and didn't have to obsess over mortgages or what people thought about how they made a living.

Are there lessons in that for adults? Jenn Singer thinks so and her thought provoking blog post, Life Lessons from the Newtown Obituaries is profound. It has her contemplating her 75-year old mother, family tributes and most importantly, how to more fully appreciate whatever time we are given in life.

It's a fact that we will all one day die. How we live and the legacy we leave are important considerations. The beginning of a new year can be a good time to give this some thought. If you haven't read Gemini Adams, Your Legacy of Love: Realize the Gift in Goodbye, I recommend you learn more about it. You can prepare for your life end with dignity and loving purpose.

Getting Started on a New Year

January 2, 2013

It is a New Year and that is always a time to look back some and then look forward. Seeing where you've been and then considering where you want to go is important as part of life reflection. The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said it well, "Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward."

I think it is important not to get caught up in the past. Don't dwell morbidly over past mistakes, but learn from them. Don't wistfully wish for bygone days of enjoyment, but treasure them for the joy they've given you.

I like to think of life story work as both preserving our journeys and also living every day fully. Now is the only real time. Be present to the present. But don't discard the value of an autobiography, memoir, family history or ethical will. These are just a few ways to document your life journey and also include the lessons, meanings and values you want to pass on.

Getting started is often the toughest part. However, you've heard it before: the longest journey starts with the first step.

A previous article I wrote might help you with some questions to consider as part of interviewing a person for their story; or use them on yourself. Read Ten Good Life Story Interview Starters here.

Here's a toast to the New Year! Make it one in which you live fully and preserve the story. Others want to know your life. It helps them appreciate their own journey and just maybe will help them realize that their life is their story.

Everybody has a story to tell!
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