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November, 2013

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Talkin' Turkey

November 28, 2013

Talkin' TurkeyToday in the United States it is the Thanksgiving Holiday. This is one of my favorite times of the year, a time to count blessings, gather with family and eat a big meal. Traditionally, it is turkey, along with plenty of side dishes.

Thanksgiving is also a terrific time to spend finding out more about our life journeys. If you have multiple generations together then you have an audience for the storytelling. Along with some humor and wonderment a few bits of family wisdom and values might get passed along.

Last year about this time I wrote Ten Good Life Story Interview Starters. Take a look; perhaps there are some good tips for you to use with relatives. The idiom, "talk turkey" is sometimes interpreted as straight talk or really meaning business. I think "talkin' turkey" with family members can be fun and revealing.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Listen and Record a Story

November 26, 2013

In just a few days it will be Thanksgiving. Annually the day after Thanksgiving has become something special for personal historians and people interested in preserving family life stories. No, not Black Friday. It's the National Day of Listening, started by StoryCorps. Mark your calendar for 11/29/13 and check out some of the suggested questions and how to upload your brief oral interview.

Where to Write
writing locations - typing at the keyboard
November 24, 2013

I previously wrote about the willingness to write. Being willing gets you out of the starting gate. Doing the regular hard work of writing requires effort and willingness is a key to beginning. But there is a lot more to the ongoing writing process.

One of the things that can help is to have a regular place to write. I have two: one is in my home office (where I am currently composing this post). The other is on my laptop. The location of the laptop changes. So I'm taking a bit of liberty with the "2nd writing location". Often I am at the kitchen table or plopped on the couch. But I could just as easily be at a coffee shop with my laptop computer, enjoying a cup and doing a bit of people watching for inspiration.

Regular writing locations go hand-in-hand with regular writing times. Set a schedule and stick to it. Even if you find when you are at your writer's spot that you have nothing to write about stick with it. Spend the time free-writing, whatever comes to mind. Or even write about how you have "nothing to write about". Sometimes that will get the juices flowing.

Another place to consider for writing would be a specific destination, a writer's getaway. Writer workshops and writer retreats are examples. When you commit to spending a day, weekend, week or more to the process of writing you may very well get a lot accomplished. Some of that will be during those specific days. Some of it will come later, the rewarding inspirations that come to you as a result of the thoughtful period of a writing retreat. That is a most welcome muse.

Consider attending a writing workshop or retreat. It can be a powerful way to make real progress on your stories.

Willing to Write

November 19, 2013

Many people desire to write about themselves. They want to share their life experiences. They hope the inner journey of reminiscing and then putting down on paper their thoughts, emotions, hopes and dreams will help them make sense of their life. And I would agree with this.

How do you get started? That's a question I regularly get on emails and from people I chat with regarding life story work. That is a very good question.

You start by first making a commitment. You decide that you are going to do it.

But that still doesn't get the job done. Making a decision is a necessary first step. Following through with action is critical. If you don't then you won't have a preserved life story. If nothing changes, nothing changes. It's as simple as that. And as profound.

I believe it begins with a willingness. Not just at the start, but always. I know from personal experience that you won't always be willing to write. However, if you make a decision to become willing that may be all it takes.

They are many techniques and work steps if life story writing. Set a schedule to write. That could be every day at a certain time. It might also be three times a week at three different times. Do what works. But set the schedule.

Make a list (memory list, critical life events, timeline). That really helps. Making that list helps you to start organizing ideas and it prevents writer's block. You can always return to your list when you can't think of anything to write about.

Have some passion for the project. I personally think this passion is already inside anyone who considers saving their story and passing it on as part of their legacy. But you have to fan that spark and get the fire stoked. What does that is the process of the work. Sometimes you will get bogged down. If you persevere, however, you will have many satisfying breakthrough moments. And that will help your willingness. See how it all comes full circle?

APH Conference a Rousing Success

November 18, 2013

The reviews have been coming in to the Association of Personal Historians Listserve and everyone who attended the annual conference just held in Washington D.C. has been raving. The workshops, network opportunities and valuable education have all been mentioned. I am sorry I wasn't able to attend, but once again the value of the APH is clear from the many who did go. It is especially valuable for new members.

Every year the interest grows in people wanting to preserve their legacy in the form of a memoir, photo record, video biography or other means of family and personal history. The technology continues to make it possible to do things in various ways. And the work of personal historians is challenging, yet very rewarding. We get to help people save the stories of their lives.

If you are thinking of perhaps doing work in the personal history field I urge you to investigate the APH. Membership has great value and their are three different levels to choose from. Find out more at their excellent website. Mention my name when you join and I will be happy to talk to you as you start your business. That's what others did for me and this form of "paying it forward" helps us all.

Next year's conference is set for October 22-26, 2014. It is a return to the "Gateway City" of St. Louis. Initial information is online here.

Photos without Names

November 12, 2013

I came across a blog posting by fellow APH member Deborah Tomasetti Perham about finding people's stashes of photos and the misfortune of people in them not being identified. I have a feeling this could be widespread in many people's photo albums. I'm guilty of some of this.

Not knowing who people are in a photograph means something is lost in our history. Taking the time to write on the back of the photo or keep some sort of log can be of great help when you finally put together some family history scrapbooks, photobooks or life histories. On the web it is very easy to "tag" a photo. Not so with the actual photos.

Deborah mentions the thrill of finding a trunkload of pictures in her grandmother's basement after she passed away at the age of 97. The excitement turned to frustration when she discovered not one of the pictures had an identifier.

So, now what are you going to do with your photo albums? Time to get out a marker and note for posterity those family members and friends. Future generations will thank you for it.

Center for American War Letters

November 10, 2013

Letters are often a way to travel back in time. Reading letters from years past brings us up close and personal with history. The Center for American War Letters collects the correspondence of war veterans from every American conflict. Yes, handwritten missives from the Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War I & II, Korea, Vietnam and others. And they are continuing with emails sent from Iraq and Iran.

Andrew Carroll has been collecting war letters for the past 15 years as part of something called the Legacy Project (this name is also been used for some other organizations that are preserving personal history). Now he's donating his large collection The Center for American War Letters. What a tremendous Veteran's Day gift.

Those who serve in war face grim realities that are very often difficult to discuss. The Veteran's History Project is dedicated to collecting the stories of veterans who are willing to share about their experiences. But these letters written by veterans is another way of preserving their legacy. Once again Your Life Is Your Story salutes our veterans on this year's Veteran's Day (November 11, 2013), including my father. I wrote about him when after he passed away in January, 2012, including some of his Vietnam experiences.

Lifewriting Month is On

November 4, 2013

Anytime you work on your life story is good. But sometimes we respond better to specific times when we are given the opportunity to focus on our stories while at the same time getting the help we need.

Over at The Memoir Network they are working hard to provide great assistance to lifestory writers. They are observing Lifewriting Month throughout November. Find out more about the resources offered for NILM (November is Lifewriting Month), including a great special on the Memoir Start-up package at nearly half price. It's just $69 and a real bargain considering all that comes with the package.

Everybody has a story to tell!
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