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Tips to Help
Gather Memories of the Elderly
July 31, 2014
We all have family members, friends and aquaintances who are in their
golden years with a lifetime of memories. They have experiences to
share, but sometimes they need encouragement to share them. Eve Pearce
has contributed an article with some helpful tips and I included it in
the July Your Life Is Your Story
newsletter. You can subscribe
to receive it free to your email, but it is also posted online.
Writing About Hardship
July 28, 2014
I've been reflecting this past week about hardship, difficulties and
troubles. The life challenges we face, big and small, can often make up
the bulk of a memoir or life story. Everything from large issues like
abuse, death of loved ones, wars, poverty and diseases to the smaller
and more mundane issues like broken appliances, lost car keys or petty
arguments can be fertile ground for exploring how we live and, more
importantly, how we deal with life on life terms.
What has prompted such musing? It's a subject we all consider and deal
with, the stuff of hard times. Writing about hardship can provide
insight and perspective. We need this reflection. Such musing could
yield something grand. For Charles Dickens it became the sweeping
tapestry forming the backbone of the classic and aptly named
novel, Hard Times. But it also can be
the subject of a personal essay, journal entry or memoir. Jessica
Handler, personal historian, recently posted about her own experience
with family in Three Tips for Writing the Tough Stuff in a Memoir.
She bravely wrote about the loss of two sisters in her first memoir and
has written more on the subject. It's a good article for encouraging
those of us who become timid about delving into life's difficulties for
our own stories.
There is a lot of hardship and hard times going on in the world right
now. Conflicts and tension in the Middle East, Central America and
between Russia and the United States can make any of us who follow
the news uneasy. But these things happen and whether our hardships are
part of a global story or of a more personal nature I know that
exploring our feelings and writing our truth about hard times makes us
stronger, wiser and provides a better story to share with others.
Feel Older and Younger
July 21, 2014
Nostalgia is defined as a sentimental longing for something in the past
that we associate with happy memories. It can be triggered in various
ways, by seeing an old friend, remembering a special date, historic
event, seeing an old advertisement, hearing a favorite old song or
watching an old TV show or movie.
It was easy for me to feel nostalgic yesterday. July 20 is a an
important date in world history and also in my personal history.
Forty-five years ago men walked on the moon for the first time. Even
though I was just a teenager in 1969 I remember our family gathered
around the black and white television set watching at Neil Armstrong
made his memorable first step onto the moon.
Sixteen years later, in 1985, I married my wife, Annette. We've stayed
together and I can say I am still "over the moon" about her 29 years
later. Reminiscing about these two events reminds me of my youth. So
even though I am a number of years older, I feel younger as I recall
the summers of 1969 and 1985. Isn't it interesting how nostalgia can
make you feel both older and younger?
For those of you who grew up in the 1950's you might enjoy this
interesting short video from A Diamond Films titled Lost in the Fifties - Another Time,
Another Place. I spotted many things I remember, from Elvis
Presley to the fear of communism, food products, television shows and
fads and fashion. You can watch this video here. Maybe it will make you feel
both older and younger.
is Not Quick and Easy
July 17, 2014
I do a fair amount of editing of other people's writing. It is not
quick and easy. Nevertheless, I always appreciate it when people hire
me to edit their writing. This is because we all need to have help with
our writing. Nobody does it perfect. All good writers (you know, the
ones you read and quote) have their writing edited.
While it is true that you, the writer, can come up with clever wording
and heartfelt insight in your writing, there is often a need to
restructure, or reconsider what you've written. Another pair of eyes is
invaluable. An editor will help catch grammar, punctuation and spelling
mistakes. But they will also be helpful in how your writing flows and
whether it is vivid enough or descriptive.
Today I was reading a post on the Memoir Network written by Denis
Ledoux, How Memoir Editing Works. I've worked with Denis before and he is good at what
he does. He is a gifted writer, speaker, coach and editor. I thought
his insight on how he approaches memoir editing had good points. He
also runs into the challenge of editing properly, realizing it takes
time and several reviews. His approach is a three part process. You can
read his article here, along with others as part of the free basic
membership at the Memoir Network.
And you might consider signing up for his some of his services,
including the premier membership option, the Memoir Authority.
Animating Past Interviews
Cultural Icons - Blank on Blank and Storytelling
July 14, 2014
Over the years there have been many interviews of famous people by
journalists. Some of these we've heard, but many are tucked away and
could be easily lost if not preserved and presented by someone.
Someone, for instance, like Blank on Blank, a multimedia nonprofit with the
simple mission of taking unheard oral history interviews and bringing
them to life on radio, YouTube and other platforms. This is an
interesting way to present storytelling.
These raw journalist interviews are edited and produced with music and
animation. The list of interview subjects is varied and fascinating:
JFK, Carol Burnett, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Bono and Merryl Streep
are a sampling. They are not long (averaging about 5 minutes), but
quite revealing. A very worthy project supported by PBS Digital Studios
I first learned about this project from a FaceBook sharing of a link to
one of these interviews, this one of Princess Grace Kelly. In it she
recalled her first meeting with the future president. She visited John
F. Kennedy in his hospital room in the mid-1950's following his back
surgery. JFK's wife, Jackie, came up with the idea and Ms. Kelly
introduced herself as the new night nurse. JFK knew, of course, who she
really was, a famous movie star. The interview goes on to describe what
she thought of Kennedy as a dynamic and youthful president, something
unusual in America. And she reflects on his death and legacy.
Meaningful Home Objects
July 10, 2014
I came across a cowbird (cowbird.com) story
yesterday that fit right in with the idea of using common and/or
treasured items as prompts for stories. Our lives are full of
experiences and some objects help us recall them.
The recent popularity of "Show and Tell" events hosted by APH Personal Historians has
demonstrated this and I love the idea of people getting together and
talking about why a particular object or keepsake is meaningful to them.
The cowbird story, Spoons by June W., tells of
discovering a spoon she saw in a dream. It was an odd Twilite
Zone-like occurrence, and since then spoons have become especially
significant to her.
As I look around my home there are many things I see that are important
and prompt special feelings and memories. Photographs, artwork, my vast
CD collection, the vase gifted to me from my late aunt, and even the
coffee maker in the kitchen. It gets lots of use and is one of my first
destinations each morning.
What are some of the meaningful objects in your home? Take some time to
reflect on one or two and perhaps do some writing about it. Then share
your reflection with someone. The objects that matter in your home can
spark opportunities for worthwhile conversations with the people in
your life that matter most to you.
History Is Often a Later in Life Career
July 7, 2014
Not long ago I was interviewed by writer Lynne Strang about the field
of personal history. Lynne is the author of Late-Blooming Entrepreneurs and
she has a keen interest in work done by people 40 and older. Since
I began working as a personal historian at the age of 47 I was a good
candidate for an article she was writing.
That article, Telling Life's Stories: Four Late-Blooming Personal Historians, is now
finished and online as a guest post for Debra Eve's Later Bloomer (Creativity Never Gets Old)
site. In her well written piece she explores the interest, drive and
satisfaction of four personal historians (myself included) who entered
the field later in life. Each of us had careers prior to life story
work in such varied areas as advertising, radio broadcasting,
non-profit organization management and hospice/geriatric patient care.
Lynne Strang did an excellent job showing how important working in
personal history can be and gives insight into the needed skills,
aptitude and how to get started, including (of course), the importance
of networking with other personal historians. It's no coincidence that
each of the four PH'ers profiled (Sarah White, Bruce Summers, Lin Joyce
and Tom Gilbert) are members of the Association
of Personal Historians (APH). That organization continues to be a
rich source of encouragement and information about the genre of
of Lou Gehrig's Farewell Speech
July 4, 2014
This July 4th marks the 75th anniversary of the inspirational and
heartfelt farewell speech given by Lou Gehrig, a giant of baseball who
was forced into early retirement when he was afflicted by the disease
that would come to be known by his name.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease) took Gehrig's
strength and muscle control and eventually took his life all too early,
just days shy of his 39th birthday. It was ironic for a player who was
known for his endurance. He once played in 2,130 consecutive games
earning him the nickname, The Iron Horse. He was also a tremendous
slugger. In his career for the New York Yankees the first baseman
batted .340, hit nearly 500 home runs and knocked in nearly 2,000 runs.
Those totals undoubtable would have been greater if he'd been able to
play longer, but he was still an easy choice for Cooperstown and was
inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame in 1939. Gehrig was part of
the dynasty in the 1920's and 30's that won six World Series titles. He
and Babe Ruth might have formed the most fearsome batting duo in the
history of baseball.
His farewell speech in front of adoring fans on this day in 1939 still
resonates with humility and gratitude. In it he mentioned he "had a lot
to live for" and was "the luckiest man on the face of the earth". It
was a short speech, just 275 words. But often the shortest speeches
have the greatest quality. Marty Noble has posted a wonderful about
Gehrig and the speech on this diamond anniversary and you can read it
and view Gehrig's iconic speech at this link on MLB.com.