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March, 2009

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March 31, 2009

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.

March 30, 2009

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.

March 28, 2009

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 matter.

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.

March 27, 2009

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 Alzheimer's disease. Goodwin shares about the health benefits of journaling, especially for caregivers.

March 25, 2009

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 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.

March 23, 2009

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 here.

March 20, 2009

An online source of some interesting and historical documentaries is available at the Docufest portion of the Museum of Broadcast Communications (MBC).

March 17, 2009

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

May the sun be on your face and the wind at your back on this special day - and don't forget to wear green!

March 13, 2009

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 indicates it may well be - a good suggested read here.
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 to think there is additional sentimental value to a family history/legacy book.

March 11, 2009

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.

March 9, 2009

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. They spend 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 moments.

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 him.

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 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 us!

March 8, 2009

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 reader blogs (Blooming Boomer) relates that she didn't start writing in earnest until her 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 memoir 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).

March 5, 2009

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 Cyrus (aka 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.

March 4, 2009

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 do 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.
Try the Journal software free for 45 days

Keeping 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 article.

March 1, 2009

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 reporting.  

He was conservative and at times controversial, but he earned the trust of Americans in rural locales to the big cities.  At one time his 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.

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