Story and Why
"Your Life is Your Story" Blog Archives
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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
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.
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
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.
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
interesting visual aspects of a biography, such as the graphic novel
form, to capture the young readers attention.
You can read more here online.
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.
I've just received my copy of the Fall 2008 issue of the Association of
Personal Historians newsletter and I look forward to
Each issue always has lots of helpful and interesting
information for personal historians. (You can find out more
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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 YourInfoGuide.com).
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.