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

                     ...and whatever else catches the fancy of personal historian Tom Gilbert

March, 2016

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Building Bridges to Connect Lives and Stories

March 29, 2016

Hildegard Center for the Arts - Art BridgesIn a world where people are too often building walls it is important to recognize that life stories can build bridges that connect us. A family history or life story can connect younger generations with their elders. It can connect people who share similar values. Our stories can bridge the gap between cultures and help people recognize that despite our differences we have many things in common.

Building bridges for the better good is better than building walls out of fear of the other.

One of the wonderful ways to build bridges so that people can connect is through the use of art. There are many artistic activities that allow for sharing lessons, values and stories. An organization based in America’s heartland of Lincoln, Nebraska is using the arts to help facilitate the creation and sharing of life stories and spiritual growth. The Hildegard Center For the Arts
have recently developed: Art Bridges – Lesson Plans for Enrichment, Growth and Healing.

| read more |

A Typical Response for Information to Help with Your Story

March 22, 2016

I get a lot of emails from people wondering about what kind of help they can get to write their story. They also want an idea of what it costs. These are good questions for those investigating how to get their story done. I answer these requests and I thought it might be a good idea to share a typical response. 

This is what I wrote to someone who is interested in knowing more about creating their life story. They are doing their own writing:

Thank you for your email and your interest in knowing more about creating a life story. I am a sole proprietor and do this part time as I am a full time school teacher at this point in my career. My specialty is to coach someone who is doing it themselves and/or co-write or ghost write. I don't get involved in the book layout or publishing, although I know others who do it and can help point people in the right direction. Basically, I like teaching how to write, editing or doing the writing.

Everyone has their own rates. I work on a $50/hour rate which is more than fair for this type of work. It is an investment of a lifetime (pun intended) to preserve your life story and leave a legacy - your words, values, experiences - for others, especially family members. Think about what you would pay to have a memoir from a beloved relative (parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, etc).

The amount of work that gets done in an hour depends on what it is. Heavy editing of difficult to understand and poorly written text is slow going versus someone who writes well, but needs some feedback and additional eyes.

When I interview someone each hour translates to about 15 hours of work - the questions, interview, transcription and then writing/shaping the narrative.

Others to investigate: The Memoir Network, The Association of Personal Historians.

I hope this information is helpful.


Tom Gilbert
Teacher/Writer/Personal Historian
"Everybody has a story to tell"

Hopefully this gives you an insight into the process. I recognize it is just the beginning. If you work with a personal historian you want to begin a dialogue, ask questions, see samples of work and feel comfortable with ability as well as a good working relationship. Keep in mind that goes both ways. Personal Historians want a good interaction with clients because life story work is intensive and can take a long time. I've got more information about life story resources here.

An Inspiring Story About an Irish Mom

March 17, 2016

It's St. Patrick's Day and so an inspiring story about an Irish mom is fitting. It comes from Ruth Bergin, a personal historian who so wanted to find her mom's life stories after she passed away. She didn't, but she did discover a priceless journal her mother kept during a visit to Ireland in 2009. It was full of delightful observances and experiences on the Emerald Isle. This provided Ruth with inspiration that has led her to saving life stories for others.

Even more, she got a precious final gift from her mom once it was discovered that her illness was terminal and death imminent. The mom informed her family of her wishes they remain strong and insisting she and her siblings visit Ireland and explore their family roots. That was her last wish, that they use inheritance for this worthy adventure. 

| read more of An Irish Mom's Final Gift - on the APH Blog |

The True 5th Beatle was Producer George Martin

March 10, 2016

George Martin, producer and 5th Beatle, has diedGeorge Martin, an extraordinary music producer, has died at the age of 90. Without him, the Beatles, an alltime great band, would not have been the same. The Beatles had the songs, the drive, the playing ability. George Martin brought to the studio a trained ear and mind. He understood musical theory. And he made great suggestions and gave the group some terrific ideas. The fact that he produced some of the amazing sounds on albums like Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's cannot be understated.

Many people don't realize that the Beatles had to struggle at the beginning before becoming successful. Despite having a good club following in England, several record companies rejected them. But George Martin heard something they didn't and gave them their first recording deal. He spent many great hours in the studio with them and truly should be recognized as the "5th Beatle".

A really interesting article about George Martin and how he signed and produced the Beatles can be read at the Rolling Stone Magazine site.

Politics and Religion - Taboo or Topic

March 7, 2016

A couple of hot buttons for most people are politics and religion. It's frequently been said that you avoid those topics in conversation. But, can we really do that when we are writing our memoirs or a history of a family member? Quite often what we think about government, service, faith and our quest to find spiritual meaning are topics that help define who we are. Politics and Religion are part of this. So is it taboo or a topic worth pursuing?

I, for one, think it is important to deal with these topics. Having consideration about how our beliefs might impact others and also how we treat others with differing (read diverse) ideas and opinions about politics and religion say a lot about our character. Stick to your values and beliefs, but tread softly could be good advice.

This year's presidential campaign includes a lot of name calling, insults, and personal attacks that have nothing to do with the issues. It is hard for us to not comment on how we feel about that. There are also some major issues that need to be considered.

With the passing of Nancy Reagan, former first lady and husband of President Ronald Reagan, people are getting a chance to look at a life of someone who stood by her husband, was a trusted adviser, and truly loved her spouse. Whether you agree with their politics or not, I think we can admire their relationship.

Fran Morley, a freelance writer, photographer and personal historian shared a thoughtful blog post on the Association of Personal Historians site about Religion and Politics. It spurred my own post here and I suggest you read what she has to say about these important topics and how we can ask helpful and guided questions that will give us insight into people's feelings on these matters.

Teach Memoir Classes and Promote Personal History

March 3, 2016

Many people who work on life stories and memoirs probably think they could help others. And there is plenty of truth in that. If you can write a memoir there is a good chance you could help others do the same. I realize not everyone who is preserving their life story is interested in helping others do the same. But some are.

I find myself drawn to the stories about other people. I also believe that we should all be living lives of value, trying to bring to the world our talents and leaving a legacy that includes our unique contributions.

As part of the process of educating and bettering myself in the field of personal history, life story writing and memoir instruction I have attended workshops, conferences, taken courses, read many books, done a lot of writing and shared what I've learned with others. Not many people take on the job of being a professional teacher and that's fine. It is a lot of hard work and to do it you have to want to help others. It's a calling. Believe me, I know - I work full time teaching 5th grade. But I also have a passion for helping others, young and old, to preserve their life stories.
Memoir Professional Package
One of the things I did a few years ago that has helped me is I purchased the Memoir Professional Package from The Memoir Network. This package of instruction includes a tremendous amount of resources such as a curriculum and presenter's manual for Turning Memoires Into Memoirs workshops. And I got some one-on-one instruction from Memoir professional and mentor Denis Ledoux.
You can do the same. And the timing is good as the Memoir Professional Package is being discounted from $350 to $250 (a $100 savings) from March 7 through 10. I recommend you investigage it. Yes, if you buy it I will get a  commission and that would be nice. But I am more interested in you discovering the value of this package. If you've ever thought about joining in the ever-growing field of personal history and memoir creation then check this out.

Memoir Writing Professionals are needed and in demand. You don't have to reinvent the wheel. The Memoir Professional Package already has the information and resources you need to start your own memoir business. It's a tremendous feeling to help others tell the stories of their lives. This is a way you could part of that.

Everybody has a story to tell!
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