Story and Why
"Your Life is Your Story" Blog Archives
quality family history and life story news, views, methods, products,
...and whatever else catches our fancy
I was saddened last week to learn that the brother of one of my High
School buddies passed away from Leukemia. I've known a few people that
have died from this type of blood cancer and it was one of the primary
reasons I got involved with Team in Training to help the Leukemia and
Lymphoma Society (story about the marathon I ran is here).
So today I was checking out Twitter and found the story of Danny
Leonard. He's gone through cancer treatment twice, but that's not
preventing him from soon embarking on a 3,000 mile cross-country
adventure on a bicycle. Check out his web site for more.
Stories are powerful. Stories can connect us. We find out more about
each other. The value for families cannot be underestimated. And
stories can share experience, strength and hope.
Stories can help bring about change, too. How, you might ask?
By relating powerful tales of change agents - those who've been brave
enough to stand up to oppression or fight for human rights and dignity.
It can happen on a small scale or large. Not everyone has the impact of
a Ghandi or Martin Luther King, Jr. But there are agents of change in
communities around the world and their stories are important.
May 16th is the date of the 2nd annual International Day of Sharing
Life Stories and this year's campaign theme is
“Journeys Toward Justice: Capturing the Stories of
Human Rights in the Context of Migration”. I just finished
writing a short bio for a woman originally from Colombia who moved to
the United States and overcame poverty to be successful in business.
Her great desire to help others who are struggling with immigration and
human rights issues. I found it inspiring to learn about her story.
Perhaps you, or a family member, has an inspiring story to share about
justice and human rights. Visit the StoriesForChange
site to learn more.
It is interesting to note the controvery over climate change/global
warming. Some are adamant about doing something; others deny that it is
happening or question to what extent.
I don't think it takes a scientist to show us that our technological
and industrial advances have affected our environment and planet and
there is some negative impact. But the bigger story for our lives
should be our attitude towards our global home - our planet Earth. Down
the road our descendants are going to wonder where we stood on the
So regardless of where you are with the global warming issue be aware
of tonight's appeal by the The World Wildlife Fund. The arei urging
individuals, governments and businesses around the world to turn off
their lights from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. local time as a symbolic vote
ahead of a U.N. conference on climate change. Parts of the world have
already passed through this time period and observances have taken
place, such as Australia and China(Google search on stories)
At that conference world leaders are expected to seek approval of a new
treaty that will replace the Kyoto Protocol, which aimed to have
countries reduce their carbon dioxide emissions.
At some point in our lives many of us are called to be caregivers,
often for an elderly parent or relative. It can be challenging and
emotionally taxing. The time spent can also be very important and
deepen relationships to new levels.
This Saturday (March 28, 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm Mountain Daylight Time) the Coping with Caregiving Internet radio program will be
featuring B. Lynn Goodwin. She will discuss her inspirational book, You Want Me to Do What? Journaling for Caregivers.
The author took care of
her mother for six years while she suffered from undiagnosed
disease. Goodwin shares about the health benefits of journaling,
especially for caregivers.
When you are learning about memoir or life story writing, or trying it
out, it always helps to gain insight from others who've done this and
like to teach it.
There are a number of good books. I like Inventing the
Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir, edited by William
Zinsser (he also contributes, along with notable writers such as Annie
Dillard and Russell Baker). And the Association of Personal Historians
has recently published the anthology, My Words Are
Gonna Linger, featuring contributions from various APH
members (available here).
Fellow personal historian Dan Curtis is pretty good with lists and he
compiled the top 10 best selling books on life story writing (according to Amazon.com) at his site. I
was pleased to see two that I own, The Legacy
Guide: Capturing the Facts, Memories, and Meaning of Your Life
by Carol Franco and Turning
Memories Into Memoirs: A Handbook for Writing Lifestories
by Denis Ledoux.
When it comes to archiving material you will hear the term "acid free"
a lot. This is because so many containers, albums and types of paper
are not conducive to preserving documents and photos.
Video Memoir specialists Family
Legacy Productions has posted some good
info on their blog about preserving your photos. Check it out
An online source of some interesting and historical documentaries is
available at the Docufest portion of the Museum of Broadcast Communications (MBC).
Top o' the holiday to ya! Happy St. Patrick's Day.
We often hear on this day that "everybody is Irish".
And in spirit we can be.
Checking for your Irish roots is popular for many of Irish heritage
(just as it is true for many other cultural and ethnic backgrounds).
The Family Research - English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy
is one such site to visit.
You can explore the history of St. Patrick's Day at the History Channel.
And in Washington D.C. there is the annual shamrock ceremony and some
events that mix politics with Irish festivities. See this article at IrishTimes.com.
May the sun be on your face and the wind at your back on this special
day - and don't forget to wear green!
Even without the current woes of the economy the traditional book
publishing world has been hurting. Despite the best-sellers
you see on the book racks the publishing business is going through
tough times. Keep that in mind if you plan to publish a
memoir or autobiography for the commercial market.
Now the self-publishing world is doing a bit better, but as
technological changes keep coming we will continue to see an evolution.
One of the few bright spots in the "book" world is the growing use of
e-books. Electronic book sales have reportedly seen huge growth the
past year. And you are probably hearing about (maybe using?) an e-book
reader such as the Kindle.
They still seem a bit pricey to me ($359 for the Kindle 2),
but we'll see.
Could 2009 be the year of the e-book? An article by Paul
Jessup at epapercentral.com indicates it may well be - a good suggested
Maybe we will see more personal history projects offered as e-books,
especially if the readers become more widespread. Certainly
e-books about writing life stories are a valid and affordable product
(such as the MemoryGrabber
by Michael Boyter).
Nothing, however, will replace the feeling I get from holding and
reading an honest-to-goodness bound paper book. And I'd like
think there is additional sentimental value to a family history/legacy
Thanks to Peter Gudmundsson of Priceless Legacy Company and his blog
for pointing out the article by Sue Shellenbarger, Life Stories:
Children Find Meaning in Old Family Tales, which appeared
in Today's Wall Street Journal.
The article references an Emory University study of 65 families with
children ages 14 to 16 in which the results indicate that kids have
lower rates of depression, anxiety and acting out in anger or
frustration when they are able to retell parents' stories.
So, family stories are good for you. Now you have
another reason to preserve your story, for the
health benefits of your children. Of course, you already know
in your heart how important it would be to preserve your personal
history for future generations.
By the way, a very affordable and easy way to capture your life story
is through the Priceless Legacy LifeStory
Service. I'd love to talk to you about it.
Granny gets a wild Hog ride.
Carol Brown was trying to decide what to give her mother for her 84th
birthday. She didn't want to just buy more "stuff".
Her mom, June Pearce, has lived a long and full life.
Still married to her husband, Fred, for more than 64 years.
their time in a retirement area near Lake Okeechobee. June
has had her share of health battles and her memory is not as sharp as
it once was. But she still fondly recalls riding on the back of a
motorcycle in the 1930's. It was one of her most thrilling
That gave daughter Carol the inspiration. She took out an ad
on Craigslist and a Harley owner answered and gave June a birthday
present she will surely treasure - a ride on his motorcycle.
Turns out he'd lost his mother to cancer and the ad touched
This is a great story that deserves to be in a memoir. Who
knows whether Carol Brown has plans to do that for her mother.
It would be great if she did. I saw this story at the online
site for the San
Francisco Chronicle (see it here at sfgate.com). If
this triggers a
fun and adventurous memory of your own I encourage you to write it
down. Preserving and sharing special moments in life such as
June Pearce's adventure on the back of a Harley Davidson is
interesting, fun and special - to her, to her family, friends - and to
If you are delaying doing any writing because you think it is too late
in your life you need to recognize that there are many people who spent
most of their life doing something else before becoming a writer.
Besides, there is the misconception that "being a writer"
means you earn money from it or are published. That's nice,
but that isn't the real definition of a writer. What
qualifies you as a writer is that you...wait for it...write!
Life story writing, including the more and more popular memoir form,
has gained traction over the past few years. And that's good.
The benefits of getting your story down on paper are
numerous. The predominant ones, I believe, are that it helps
you gain perspective about your life and passes on your story to
others, mainly family members who often crave to know about you (and
the people you know in your family that have since passed on and didn't
preserve their story).
I'm now 53 and while I've done some writing off and on over the years I
didn't pursue it with much seriousness until about 5 years ago.
A contributor to the seattlepi.com reader blogs (Blooming
Boomer) relates that she didn't start writing in earnest
early 50's. She is spurred on by her writing group and has
been admiring Abigail Thomas' work, particularly her memoir, A Three Dog Life. Thomas has an AARP published book about
writing and some other publishing successes, but she didn't start
writing until age 47.
So it's never too late to begin. And there's plenty of help
and encouragement to be found (including from yours truly).
When are you too young to write an autobiography?
Surely it depends on what's happened in a life. Most
teenagers deal with social angst and the pains of adolescence and some
of that is probably good to be journaling about. But
typically most do not have a lot of life story experience at 16. Miley
Hanna Montana) is of the celebrity status that putting out an
autobiography makes sense (and yes, dollars and cents) for her - and
her fans. Afterall, she already has a hit TV series, a movie and three
number 1 albums.
Miles to Go
is just releasing. She relates dealing with
bullies in 6th grade and a first love with an un-named "Prince
Charming", that is no big secret thanks to People Magazine and other
media, e.g. Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers.
Celebrity bios sell. But for most everyday people the reason
for penning a life story is not for money, but for the value of
reminiscing and sharing. If you have something to write about
your life it is never too early to start doing it. Plus, it can
encourage you to develop a writing talent. Recently I
received an email from a 13 year old who wants to be a writer and is
interested in life story work. I think that's fantastic.
And the young man in Mississippi I wrote a book about
(Believer Poet) has much to say and wanted a personal
historian to do
it for him.
If you make a habit of journaling, why would you choose a computer
program over a bound journal booklet?
I think it depends on your writing style and preference. Some
people like to write their entries with a pen and they enjoy
handwritten entries. Perhaps it is more intimate. And
certainly it is portable so you can tuck it under your arm and take it
anywhere. No waiting for your computer to boot up. The 5 Year Journal is a good option, especially
because you see over time entries from previous years side by side with
the present. It's interesting to see what was important 2, 3,
4 - even 5 years ago.
My personal preference is to keep my journal on a computer. I
prefer typing on a keypad over handwriting (probably has something to
with my lousy penmanship). I can save years of journaling
(and I tend to journal everyday) and it is searchable, which comes in
handy when using entries for other projects. I have found
that The Journal from DavidRM Software works great. There
are so many wonderful features, from writing prompts to unlimited
categories, a calendar, robust word processor and much more.
As a result I use it for more than my regular journal
entries. It's a great tool for tracking my business projects,
writing projects and so on. I'm surprised more people haven't
discovered it, but you should certainly check it out. You can
even try it free for 45 days.
a journal is a wonderful way to make sense of life and is really
valuable in writing your life story. In a way you are writing
a bit of your story everytime you make an entry. I include
some journal writing ideas with this
An icon of radio news reporting has passed away. This
broadcaster's distinctive delivery - inflection, style and
content - was heard over the airwaves for 70 years. Paul Harvey was a
staple on radio stations across the country and would deliver down-home
everyday people wisdom alongside major news stories. And his
endorsements of products often sounded like part of his homespun
He was conservative and at times controversial, but he earned the trust
of Americans in rural locales to the big cities. At one time
broadcasts were carried on 1,350 commercial radio stations, plus
another 400 Armed Forces Radio affiliates.
Harvey died on Saturday at the age of 90.
"Hello, Americans!", "and now, (dramatic pause) page two!",
"Now you know the rest of the story" and
his signature signoff, "Paul Harvey - good day!" are etched in our
minds and hearts. Tribute to Paul Harvey from ABCnews here.