Your Life is Your Story Go To Your Life is Your Story Home Page

The "Your Life is Your Story" Blog Archives

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

                     ...and whatever else catches our fancy

July 2012

current blog entries
blog archive index

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

London 2012 Summer Olmpic Games
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.

| continue reading |

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.

| continue reading |

Breaking Down the Bad

Walt and Jesse of Breaking BadAs 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, Walter White.

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 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 ( 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 hard work.

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

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 within!

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.

Independence Day in the USAI'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 all.


July 3, 2012
Andy Griffith gone to heaven
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.

Everybody has a story to tell!
Copyright © 2003 - 2012 All rights reserved
Email Tom Gilbert