Story and Why
"Your Life is Your Story" Blog Archives
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I hope you had an enjoyable Thanksgiving Holiday. One of the
noteworthy things about the long Thanksgiving weekend is it ushers in
the next holiday season. At least in America it seems that Thanksgiving
and Christmas shake hands on this weekend. The season is underway.
I don't like to rush holidays...but that is the challenge of this time
of year. A flurry of activity and a blizzard of shopping can detract
from treasuring this time of year. Christmas memories should be fond
ones - time to visit and share our lives with family and friends.
Thoughtful shopping - not rushed consumerism.
This year we may have less obsession with buying things because of the
challenge of our economic time. Maybe a blessing in disguise? I've been
thinking about ways I can creatively give - and I admit it is motivated
by necessity. Money is scarce. My wife has already done some pretty
nifty handpainting of trees and flowers on small pieces of flagstone
and tile. She is creating refrigerator magnets and each one is unique
Christmas memories are made each year. Recalling them and writing about
them can be an intergral part of your family and personal history. I
came across a Google news item about a Christmas memories writing
contest from Deseret News (Salt Lake City). Christmas I Remember Best is the theme and entries
(original stories no more than 800 words) are due by Tuesday, December
This reminded me of a Christmas memory I wrote a couple of years ago
about the year my younger brother and I got cowboy outfits. We were
little buckaroos in Florida at the time. You can read the story here.
The day before Thanksgiving can get hectic. Many of us are rushing
buying items for the meal, traveling, readying our homes for visitors,
and so on.
But gratitude needs quiet, reflective time. Then when our hearts
are centered on what we are thankful for we can express our gratitude
in action by being fully present to those around us on this wonderful
I hope you have a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving. I am grateful for my
family, for the opportunity to work in the field of life story capture
and personal history, and to know that life is about all of us.
Remember that we are connected to our ancestors. We are part
of a line (a lineage) that stretches back...and will extend forward.
Honor your family and your past, but live for today.
National Day of Listening
The second annual National Day of Listening
is Friday, November 27, 2009. This is a day to pick one person and sit
down and listen to their story for an hour (or more!). This is a way to
capture some family history or honor a person, such as a teacher, a
friend, a minister or anyone who is willing to talk about their life.
You can record the audio or use a camera and
on video. Even if you don’t record it, you can at least have
conversation and write notes. Details and helpful resources are
Connecting with Personal History Options
is known for selling in bulk and passing on savings to its
members. But they also pass along some good lifestyle information in
their widely circulated The
Costco Connection magazine. This month they did some
articles on personal history options, including memoir writing,
personal biographies, photo chronicles, video biographies and other
forms of life story capture (See November issue online). Some of my
fellow APH colleagues were
featured, including Paula Slaven, RJ McHatton and Bruce Smith. Also
mentioned was Dick Liersch, creator of a step-by-step CD Rom for
assembling a multimedia life history on DVD. It's a fine DIY (do it
yourself) resource I've featured on the video biographies page of this
site (see here).
Life of the Boss
Bruce Springsteen wrote in one of his most famous
songs that "Tramps
like us, baby we were born to run". He's reportedly been offered in the
neighborhood of $10 for his autobiography (story here from theRockradio.com).
I suspect when it is
published we'll get a greater insight into the man, more than just his
life as a musician.
"The Boss" is a great rock n' roll writer and performer and I've been
thrilled by the E. Street Band and Bruce a few times. I also would like
to know about what makes him tick. He's been involved in many important
causes and the one time I met him backstage in Detroit he seemed quite
genuine and down-to-earth.
Yes, he can command big bucks for his story. Maybe you can't - but it
doesn't make your life less important. Family and friends want to know
"what makes you tick".
Here Comes the World's Biggest Party For Writers
Writing is so important. Of course, as a writer, that is something you
would expect me to say. But I stand by my statement. Being able to
express yourself through the written word brings clarity, insight and
understanding. I love the saying, "nothing listens like
Writing also leaves something behind - a piece of you - a legacy - for
Perhaps you write for your eyes only. That's fine. Many do that in a
journal (more on
journal writing). Others, however, are motivated to
write what is on their minds and in their hearts and share it with
those willing to read it. To express ourselves
creatively is an inner driver that is part of the human experience.
What would the world be like without writing? No books,
written history, scriptures, poetry or literature. No drama or
screenplays. No blogging!
Encourage your children (and you, as well!) to take part in the 8th
annual I Love To Write
Day. It is a grassroots effort to have people of
all ages practice their writing skills. Events are being organized in
schools, but you can do it at home or at work. The day is Sunday,
November 15 and you can find out more about the day and
John Riddle here.
Today is Veterans Day. Nobody but veterans know what it is like to
experience combat and deal with some of those horrors of war. People
are deeply affected by such experiences. This is true for
civilians in war zones, too. But it cannot be easy to deal with those
experiences for members of the Armed Forces.
We should be grateful for our veterans' service. We also should be
sensitive to their experiences. And hopefully we all learn from the
stories preserved and shared. We need the collective history. Not all
vets want to share those stories. But some do. It is our obligation to
listen to them...and if we are able, to find a way to preserve them.
As we age we begin to consider things we may not have spent much time
focusing on when we were younger. Life review and reminiscence
certainly seems to be one of those areas. The Creative Age: Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life
is a book by Dr. Gene D.
Cohen. He was the first director of the Center of Aging, Health and Humanities at Georgetown University (bio)
and wrote about a phase in the lives of people, usually late 60's to
80's, where they are "summing up". Essentially, this is a ripe time to
look back at our lives, not only for what happened but what we've
learned from our experiences. I think that is an essential part of life
story capture. And apparently our "older" brain tends to integrate both
hemispheres, whereas when we are younger we tend to favor one side or
the other (right or left brained). According to Cohen, "Autobiography,
because it engages
both sides of the brain, is like chocolate for the brain." I
think that's neat.
Some personal historians in an email listserve I belong to have
mentioned that Dr. Cohen has passed away. I've yet to see anything
official, but I think we should give kudos to a man who has done some
important research into creativity and aging.
Veteran's Day will be
observed in just a few days on November 11. This
is a good time to remind everyone that there are many veterans whose
experience should be preserved. You can help those who want to share
their stories, especially the remaining World War Two veterans. The Veterans History Project
and preserves the extraordinary wartime stories of ordinary
people. It is a project of the American Folklore Center of the Library of Congress. I've written
about this important endeavor (here).
Veterans History Project relies on volunteers
to interview, record, compile and donate materials and they have
helpful information on how to proceed on their website.
Many personal historians have participated in this project. The APH
(Association of Personal Historians) has officially partnered with the
Veterans History Project.
I'd also encourage anyone interested in preserving a veteran's story to
consider the Priceless
Legacy LifeStory Package as it is an ideal way to get an
oral history along with a finished hardbound book and DVD digital slide
show at a very reasonable price. More information here.
Personal Historians spend a great deal of time
When we capture a life story we want to know about the life experiences
that have shaped their lives. I know when I do the writing part it
helps to have conducted the interview. When I review the transcriptions
and then start writing the narrative I enjoy hearing again in my head
their voice and "seeing" the expressions on their face as they recount
An anthology of stories published by the Association of Personal
Historians contains some excellent examples of
"told-to" stories excerpted from a variety of biographies,
autobiographies and memoirs. I just finished reading a very good example. "Through a Persicope" is a
harrowing tale from Jack Smalling's World War Two experience on a
submarine in the Pacific Ocean. The mission he recalls was
photoreconnaissance as their sub took pictures of Iwo Jima prior to the
invasion. Some of their greatest danger came from American
bombers who decided to try and bomb the submarine! Jack's daughter,
Jeanne S. Archer (saveyourhistory.com), wrote the
story in his voice. I felt like I was in
the submarine with Jack and his crewmates.
You can find out more about the anthology, My Words Are
online at the APH website. The book is on sale
in select stores arournd the country as well as online at Amazon.com,
BarnesandNoble.com and the APH site (here). I highly recommend it.