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September, 2008

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September 27, 2008

I just found out that Paul Newman, one of Hollywood's great 20th century actors, died of cancer.  It caused me to reminisce about many of his fine acting performances.  Most of them were enjoyable movies and it is interesting that with his piercing blue eyes and good looks he often played unlikable or rebellious characters.  You'd like the movie and him in it even if you wouldn't consider the character a good role model.

I guess my favorite performance by Newman was in Cool Hand Luke.  A terrific cast and he played the man in prison that refused to be broken.

Newman had a lot of success and he was nominated many times for Academy Awards, finally winning the Best Actor award for his performance in The Color of Money (1986).

Most Hollywood stars go through numerous relationships and marriages. Not Newman. Yes, he was married a second time, but the second seemed to be the charm. He and his wife, Joanne Woodward, remained married and lasting to the Golden Anniversary mark of 50 years.

Newman loved to race cars, a passion he developed in middle age.  And his Newman's Own brands of foods has generated over $200,000 million dollars for charities.  His Hole in the Wall Gang summer camps provided countless fond memories for children with cancer.

In the New York Times obituary that chronicles his career and endeavors (read both pages) he mentioned he wasn't trying to be a saint but believed in following the philosophy of the farmer who puts back into the soil what he takes out.  

September 26, 2008

We may still be a month away from Halloween, but all of us have been getting a real scare with the financial crisis dominating the news this week.  Our President and other advisors are telling us we must bailout out Wall Street investors at an expense of $700 billion dollars or a financial panic and severe consequences may ensue.  And they are probably right, although it irks me to think that we, the taxpayers of the United States of America, must pay for the financial risk failure of greedy investors.

About 80 years ago our country slipped into a depression following similar high-stakes investing.  We have an addiction to spending money we don't have. How will that play out in our personal histories and life stories in the days, months and years ahead?  Time will tell.  But good, honest and hard-working people of character made it through the last time - yes, with lots of pain and dire consequences. I have faith our people can do that again.  

What we really need is to change how things are done.  Who can possibly even fathom a number as large as 9.5 trillion dollars?  That's the national debt. The incredible timing of a documentary just being released that forecasted what we are now witnessing looks like necessary viewing for all of us. Especially so we can recognize that we must do something for the future of our children and grandchildren.  The film, I.O.U.S.A. is an official selection of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and a wakeup call to America.  It features candid interviews with Warren Buffet, Alan Greenspan, Paul O'Neill, Robert Rubin and Paul Volcker.  Directed by Patrick Creadon.  I think we all probably need to see it.

September 24, 2008

I personally love to read the life stories of people.  Biographies are interesting to me because a well crafted book about a person gives us a personalized look at history - it brings it to life.

However, I am aware that many people, especially younger people in school, don't share the same fascination with biographies.  Many people think they are boring, although I often wonder if those who say so have ever really read one.

Even so, our culture seems obsessed with celebrities and famous people.  A lot of it is fluff, the grist for the tabloids.  What we really need to pass on are the key elements of people's lives, their crucial decisions, how they face challenges and deal with life's situations.

I was glad to see in the September issue of the Biographers Craft that there are some who are working hard to make biographies an interesting genre for younger readers.  Diane Stanley, for instance, has written a dozen biographies of famous people targeted at the younger set. The latest is Mozart, The Wonder Child: A Puppet Play in Three Acts.  Jaqueline Edmondson writes in her article, Looking for Ways to Engage Young Readers in Biography, about the importance of using interesting visual aspects of a biography, such as the graphic novel form, to capture the young readers attention.

You can read more here online.

September 21, 2008

A recent blog entry by Courtney Vail discusses various forms of "first person" writing about your life. She also makes a suggestion about writing your story from a third person perspective. I think this is all well worth considering.

Take a look at her entry, Risking Life and Limb with Me, Myself, & I.

September 15, 2008

I've just received my copy of the Fall 2008 issue of the Association of Personal Historians newsletter and I look forward to reading it.  Each issue always has lots of helpful and interesting information for personal historians.  (You can find out more about APH here.)

The cover page caught my eye.  A project that has been in the works for a while now that features a number of contributions from APH members is a new anthology coming out in November.  This is a first for APH, a commercially published memoir anthology that includes stories under three themes.  The first is Why Create a Personal History, the second is Putting the Pieces Together and the third section is The Many Faces of Personal History. Together the three sections present powerful examples of personal history and suggested help for those considering preserving their stories.  I'm looking forward to My Words Are Gonna Linger: The Art of Personal History.

September 11, 2008

It's been seven years now since that fateful day in 2001 when the United States was hit by terrorist attacks that rocked our world. Time has healed some of the wounds. But for the families and friends most directly affected by the loss of loved ones in New York City when the World Trade Towers fell, or at the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and the passengers of Flight 93 (also hijacked by terrorists but it crashed in a field in Pennsylvania), this day will always be a day of sorrow and mourning.

One thing I believe we must never do is fall into the trap of bitterness, revenge, hate or dissolution. And always remember and honor those who heroically helped during the tragedy. So many policemen, firefighters, military personnel and also ordinary citizens did extraordinary things that day to help the suffering and dying. And from that memory we gather strength and hope of how we can unite in a common way to live a better life - because we truly are all in this together.

September 8, 2008

I try through this site to raise awareness about life story telling and preserving personal history.  I believe it is important (and hopefully you do, too - you are here reading this!).

So I write articles about various things related to the "Your Life Is Your Story" theme.  Subjects include preparing your story, music and memories, your life changing event, journaling, family newsletters, leadership values, the importance of play time and dealing with death - Your Life Is Your Story creates new articles on a regular basis so I invite you to check back often.  

September 7, 2008

Is it possible to write a life story on a postcard?  Well, that's what one writer, Michael Kimball, has done for several people, more as an exercise in capturing significant aspects of people's lives in a brief way. And people are willing to tell him some amazing things.

Visit his blog Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard) and read up on some of them - it's fascinating.

September 3, 2008

I'm always on the lookout for both inspiring and practical suggestions for life story writing.  And I do see articles that do either or both. A good example is a short article I came across today, Rules for Getting the Story Down (posted at

This article by a fellow APH member and Personal Historian, Judy Wright (, contains useful tidbits like write fast (you need to get it down and you can fix it later), use the five senses to add descriptions and details, commit to writing for a few minutes a day or a few hours a week or 2-3 pages a day, and be yourself (don't obsess over literary style).

Many people ask me how to get started.  It helps to have a coach or a ghost-writer, but you can always do some writing yourself and it's not as hard as you may think.

Everybody has a story to tell!
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