Story and Why
"Your Life is Your Story" Blog Archives
quality family history and life story news, views, methods, products,
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Never to Old to Write Your Life Story
July 30, 2012
A few days ago I came across a blog post on the APH Blog
that really touched my heart. Fran Morley, a personal historian in
Alabama, relates the story of a 99-year old retired fisherman in
Mystic, Connecticut who just published his memoir.
It's remarkable that he did this at age 99. It's remarkable that he's
lived to 99! But what is most amazing is that until the age of 91 he'd
never learned to read and write. Captain James Henry dropped out of the
third grade and hid from others his inability to read and write. But at
age 92, thanks to encouragement from his grandchildren and hard work
with a tutor, he fulfilled his lifelong dream. And then - he went on to
pen his memoir. Awesome!
There is a link to a video interview with Captain Henry and more about this great story on the Association of Personal Historians site and you really should read it. A great bit of inspiration for us all.
You are never to old to write your life story. But don't wait forever. If you are looking for help drop me an email or visit the Get Started page and let's discuss options.
Finding the Olympic Gold in Your Life Story
July 27, 2012
Another Summer Olympic Games
is about to begin. This time London is the host for the 2012 gathering.
I’ve been thinking about the Olympics, why it appeals to me and
what might be the analogy to life story writing.
First of all, the Olympics are appealing because it is a global event.
The world is watching and the stage is global. The elite athletes from
all around our planet convene for these games and it is an event that
draws billions of spectators.
It is an event that by its very nature should call to mind all that we are on planet Earth.
There is both the good and the bad in this. Just as in life. We have our proud moment of victory; we have our agony of defeats.
The United States, Russia, Great Britain, France, Germany, China
– the superpowers – tend to dominate in winning the medals.
But the drama that can emerge at any time can come from virtually any
country’s competitor. This is appealing to me, the underdog story.
Competing in the Olympics is hard work. But so is writing a life story.
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Dos Boneheads - the Adventures of Lenny and Tom
July 19, 2012
Sometimes life happens better than you could script it. My ole pal,
Lenny Bloch, longtime compadre and fellow radio broadcaster, suddenly
appeared before me yesterday evening. I was walking down the stairs
from the top level of Isotopes Park. The Albuquerque Triple-A affiliate
of the Los Angeles Dodgers had just been rained out. There'd been hope
for the game as it was first delayed. I’d been at the park for a
couple of hours, getting trained as the backup public address
announcer. That’s a whole ‘nuther story. We had a steady
afternoon shower, much needed here in the desert. Add the lightning and
they decided to call off the game before it ever got started and making
it up as part of a doubleheader today. So my debut over the
loudspeakers at Isotopes Park will be a twin-bill!
But I digress. So there I was, trudging down the four flights of
stairs, musing about my upcoming baseball duty and I come up behind a
guy who from the behind looks quite familiar.
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Breaking Down the Bad
As a huge fan of Breaking Bad
I have been highly anticipating the start of the new, and final, season
of this amazing television series. I started watching the show at the
beginning of season two and it is one of the best TV dramas I've ever
seen. The first show of this, the final season, maintained the tension
with the usual taut drama and excellent script writing.
The show is set in and around my city of Albuquerque, New Mexico. I
enjoy seeing familiar places in the various scenes. Mostly, though, I
like the development of the characters. They all have their dark side
and nobody is a "goodie-goodie". Their grappling with personal demons
makes the show endlessly interesting, especially with the lead character,
There is something for us to learn from this show when considering our
own life stories. How we handle our shadow side and the parts of our
story we consider "bad" is important. Many times we want to shy away
from telling the truth. However, it is in these more private areas of
our lives that much of our learning and valuable experience exist. I am
not suggesting we have to bare our souls and confess our darkest
secrets. But we can't ignore them either. What you choose to share is
up to you, but the struggle in life and the fact that everything is not
black and white are realities for us all. How we work through these
times says a lot about our personal character development. Life lessons
abound from our mistakes and we grow the most when facing and dealing
with moral dilemmas.
Photographic History News - Isenburg Collection Sold for $15 Million and 19th Century Old West Photos by Timothy O'Sullivan.
July 9, 2012
In a bit of syncronicity two significant tidbits of history came across
my email today, both thanks to sharing by other personal historians.
The first was news forwarded by Taylor Whitney (Preserving the Past, LLC)
with a link to a story about photography collector Matthew Isenburg
selling his vast collection of vintage photographs (many historically
important daguerreotypes such as one of only three known surviving
shots of the US Capitol in 1846 by John Plumbe Jr.) and early
photographic equipment. Isenburg was known as more than a collector; he
was fascinated by the stories behind
the photographs and the equipment. His collection has sold for a
reported $15 million dollars to the Archive of Modern Conflict (AMC)
and will be housed in a new museum being designed for it located in
Toronto, Canada (story at British photographic history).
The second news item, courtesy of Beth Morgan (Full Circle Heritage Services)
is about 19th century photographer Timothy O'Sullivan and his
remarkable sepia-tinted pictures of the old west from the mid-to-latter
1800's. Some really great shots from Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, New Mexico,
Arizona and other parts of the western United States. Many of his
photographs were the first to document life during this rugged period
of U.S. history. Go here to the dailymail.co.uk to see these awe inspiring vintage photographs.
As a writer I consider words to be my primary medium, but great photography can inspire and impress us.
The Many Names of Personal History
July 8, 2012
When I tell people I am a Personal Historian it often prompts looks of
confusion. People know what an historian is. But what do you mean, Tom,
that you are a personal historian?
It's a fair question. When I teach students history I like to tell them that the definition of history is inside the word: hi-story. Sometimes I even tell them the first two letters, "h" and "i", stand for human interest. That gives you human interest story
as one definition. In essence, history is made up of our stories. They
are recorded and passed down. The events, places, times and experiences
are part of this great tapestry.
Personal History is recording the events, places, times and experiences
of an individual's life. We call our stories legacies, memoirs,
journals, diaries, autobiographies, ethical wills and assorted other
names. All of these terms are valid. I like to use the term life story. We all have a life and we all have a story.
Recently the APH (Association of Personal Historians) updated their website (personalhistorians.org) with an entire section
that describes what personal history is, what's involved, what a
personal historian does, an idea of costs and a great deal of
additional helpful information . I recommend you spend some time
looking over this information. Then when you approach someone about
your life story project you will have a headstart on discussing your personal history.
Work Your Story Out Through a Workshop
July 5, 2012
Judging from the communication I get these days (email, social media,
phone calls and even old fashioned "snail mail") there is a growing
interest in people writing about their lives. I guess that's no
surprise judging by the increasing number of memoirs being published.
How to go about doing the writing is the obstacle many writers and
would-be-writers bump up against. Writing can be very rewarding,
particularly reminiscing and writing about your life, but it is also
Making a start, staying disciplined, keeping your focus, shaping your
narrative, finding your voice, using "show/not tell"
technique, deciding what to include and what to leave out - these
are all important considerations. If you are wanting to do this writing
it can be extremely helpful to enroll in a life writing workshop. You
probably can find one being offered in your community.
Even though I am a certified teacher I still took it upon myself to get
training in lifestory workshop curriculum through the Soleil Lifestory
Network. Denis Ledoux has been training others in life story workshops
using his highly successful Turning Memories Into Memoirs® format (see www.turningmemories.com).
Personal Historians who teach lifestory writing enjoy engaging you in
the process of writing about your life. We also like to discuss the
craft with other teachers. I had an excellent conversation today with
Mary Ann Mayers. She is a personal historian working in Cincinnati,
Ohio (Extraordinary Lives) and has been a member of the APH for many years. She teaches workshops and gives a helpful description of what you can expect from one of her writing workshops.
Getting personal instruction at a workshop where you also participate
with others in sharing, critiquing and editing your writing can be very
helpful. You don't have to sit in front of your computer alone, afraid
and uncertain how to begin. Sign up for a class and free the writer
Independence and the Freedom to Be
July 4, 2012
Independence Day in the USA - a day to celebrate our country's heritage
and freedom. This freedom has always come at a price, so lest we ever
forget and just take this as a free day from work to play, I hope we
also savor what it is all about.
I've been looking at some of my past blog posts
for July 4th and over the years I often have commented on our freedom.
It is good to appreciate it, to be patriotic and to remember what that
freedom means to us. I don't like it when people become overly
righteous about their countries. That kind of nationalism can easily
slide into prejudice or even facism. We must guard against that. But I
do relish (ah, there's the hotdog pun!) the freedom to be. We all have
a life to live and as a personal historian I get to hear the stories of
people's lives. Those stories are best when you are choosing to be the
best person you can be. Be bold! Live fully! Happy 4th of July, one and
July 3, 2012
And the fireworks must have begun early in Heaven. They are celebrating
the arrival of a true "good ol' boy". If you wanted a definition and
picture you could hardly do better than Andy Griffith.
The sheriff of Mayberry was a wonderul man who gave us baby boomers some great memories growing up with The Andy Griffith Show. When Andy was talking to Opie he was really passing along life lessons to us.
From what I know of Andy Griffith (actor dead at 86), he not only "acted" out those scenes, he lived them. Thanks, Andy, for the memories and the lessons.
Comparing Notes on Interesting Life Story Work
July 2, 2012
Annie Payne, Personal Historian in Australia (History from the Heart),
and I were chatting on Skype today. It was in the early morning hours
for me and late in the evening for her, but it was a great conversation
across the miles. Technology gives us some wonderful ways to connect.
We were sharing about the business of personal history and how we are
helping people in various ways to save their life stories. We both have
a similar interest in how we approach interviews (a conversation, not
an interrogation) and how the narratives should read (show, don't tell;
keep it interesting with visual language and anecdotes). Annie and her
husband, John (her webmaster), are doing some great work "down under".
In particular, you might want to check out the audio stories she is
helping capture with the Life Story Circles
group she has been meeting with. She is encouraging these people to
open up and share stories with each other. They give feedback and discover
some fascinating memories worth relating. The art of
storytelling carries on! Annie Payne is teaching her fellow
storytellers to preserve their oral tales by uploading them to the Legacy Stories archive. You can find some of them under Talking Photos.