Saturday, February 28, 2009

Family Stories - any time of year

The end of winter is a perfect time to capture some of your family stories. They will make wonderful gifts for your entire family and for generations to come.

During this next month, think about your experiences during the winter. Jot down notes about the holidays - who did you visit, what did you do, where did you go?

Consider writing about the weather - was there a snowstorm in the Midwest, fluke snow in South Carolina, heavy ice that broke trees and power lines?

Write a few paragraphs about what you experienced, then be sure to share that wonderful bit of wisdom with your family.

Show your love by taking the time to record your family history!

To join our mailing list, please visit

Monday, February 23, 2009

Achieving Your Dreams with Wishcraft

I have been blessed by personally meeting and following Barbara Sher, who is the author of many books, including Wishcraft, How to Get What You Really Want. She wrote it 30 years ago and the publisher is issuing a 30th Anniversary version on March 24, 2009.

Too often, we don't even know exactly what it is that we really want. For me, it was to get out of the corporate environment and accomplish something. But what? As Fate would have it, I got laid off from IBM about 18 months ago. My first reaction was to be scared to death. After more than 30 years in data processing, all of a sudden I lost my identity as well as my income.

Fortunately, I dug out Barbara's Wishcraft and immediately started deciding what I wanted and how to get there. Once I identified my repressed goal of becoming a writer, the rest was (almost!) easy. For me, the chapter on creating a backward flowchart was a lifesaver. It helped me figure out exactly how to get the credentials I needed, first by taking writing classes at the University of Chicago, then by blogging and building a web presence, and finally by writing a book.

Could I have done the same things without Wishcraft? Probably. But it would have taken much longer and it would have been much more difficult. Thank Goodness for Barbara Sher and Wishcraft. Happy Anniversary!

Stories that Matter

I decided to start this blog so that other people could learn from the mistakes I made over and over throughout my life. I spent considerable time with my maternal grandparents while I was growing up and again later as a young adult. My regret is that I never asked them questions that really mattered. I have the same regrets regarding my parents as well and now it is too late.

If I can help a single person understand the importance of recording their personal or family stories, or those of their ancestors and loved ones, then my omissions will not have been in vain. Even better, if I can make the process of gathering those stories both fun and painless, then that is icing on the cake.

Everyone has an interesting story to share. Anyone can write their own stories when given some guidance and help. Some people may need friends or family to write for them. Some people may not have stories about family members, but they have close friends who have shared wonderful times. All of these stories are important to record and to share with other people.

And my goal is to make that process fun and fabulous!

Like many people, I didn’t write down stories about my parents and grandparents when I was younger. Now that they are gone, I regret not asking them the questions that really mattered. If I can help a single person understand the importance of recording their personal or family stories, or those of their ancestors and loved ones, then my omissions will not have been in vain. Even better, if I can make the process of gathering those stories both fun and painless, then that is icing on the cake.

Monday, February 16, 2009

How Well Do Your Children Know Their Grandparents?

In today's society with our families scattered across the country, it is becoming much more difficult to keep in touch with our grown children and young grandchildren.

Most kids don't know much about their grandparent's early life. In fact, they most likely think of their grandparents as "old people," not as "real people."

One way to correct this situation as grandparents is tell them details about our own growing up. Talk about the games you used to play, such as checkers, cribbage and dominoes. Better yet, teach the kids how to play with you. What a great opportunity to spend quality time together and establish a true relationship with them.

I have already started teaching dominoes to my grandkids at 3 and 5 years old. Each time we get together, I plan to show them simple games that I always enjoyed. And no batteries needed!

Obviously, the age of the children and the frequency of your time with them will make a tremendous difference. But how much better to play interactive games with them than to plunk them down in front of a video game.

A delightful blog that I follow deals specifically with generations in different locations and how to use technology to bridge the distance. I recommend it highly to all grandparents. It is called

Friday, February 13, 2009

Will Your Words Linger?

Here is the Press Release for a wonderful new book from the Association of Personal Historians (APH):

TAMPA, FLA February 12, 2009 /PRNewswire/ — The passion for sharing personal stories is not only the most powerful way to pass on the experiences, wisdom and voices of one generation to the next—it's an expression of a deep human need to shout to the future, "Do not forget me! I was here!"

A new anthology, My Words Are Gonna Linger: The Art of Personal History, celebrates the preservation of stories to ensure that our eyewitness accounts of history endure. Available February 1 from Personal History Press, the publishing arm of the Association of Personal Historians, the book differs from other anthologies by providing insight into the memoir-writing process and practical tips on how to start writing your own or someone else's life story.

This rich collection of forty-nine true stories—gathered or written by members of the Association of Personal Historians Inc.—breathes life into history, places, and cultural differences. My Words Are Gonna Linger shows how personal history can convert experience into wisdom and growth for both the storyteller and those who listen. In the foreword, best-selling author Rick Bragg (All Over but the Shoutin', Ava's Man and The Prince of Frog Town) shares a riveting tale passed down in his family.

My Words Are Gonna Linger explores and explains various ways of presenting life stories, including thematic memoirs, linear autobiographies, and reminiscence about food and possessions. Legacy letters and ethical wills show how personal values and beliefs can be passed to future generations.

"Each story in My Words Are Gonna Linger shares a unique insight," says anthology editor Paula Stallings Yost. "When we realize the challenges others endured, we discover new strength within ourselves. We learn that contentment and wisdom come as much from our small daily achievements as from grand deeds."

To order:
Or e-mail

Association of Personal Historians Inc.
The Association of Personal Historians is a nonprofit international trade association whose members preserve memoirs, life stories and community histories in an ever-increasing number of formats.

Press Contact:
Paula Stahel, APH President

Paula Yost, Anthology Editor

Pat McNees, Anthology Editor


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

More Ideas on Family Stories

Another easy way to find family stories to write about is to look at all the memorabilia around you. Photographs are terrific tools to recall memories. Think in terms of who?, what?, where?, when? and why?

Who are the people or locations involved? What was the occassion of the picture? Where was it taken? When was it taken? Why does this particular snapshot draw you in?

Write down all the details of what you remember about the photo, or perhaps about where your thoughts lead you. As you take time to let your thoughts wander, a whole world of experiences may unfold.

If nothing happens to capture your attention, then try other exercises, such as looking through an old family recipe box or an heirloom trunk in the attic. Anything that opens up your thinking and shakes loose a few cobwebs is great for digging out prescious memories. Once they have been dug up, make the effort to preserve them forever.

Just write about a few of your personal history to get started and you'll be glad you did. And so will your friends and family.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Finding a Family Story to Write

When you start to write, it is easiest to write about what you already know. You can tell stories about things that you have experienced yourself. What is your favorite or most vivid memory? Is it your first day at a new school, winning a prize at the fair, or learning an important lesson about life?

Think about the stories that you enjoy reading. Notice that the author starts with an idea, such as a day at the lake and builds the story piece by piece. Was the weather warm and sunny, or cool and windy? Who are the people in the story? Can you picture what they looked like from the writer’s descriptions? Did they roast hot dogs or marshmallows? A story does not need to be fiction to be fun to read.

Stories don’t have to be exciting to be interesting. Writing about things that happen on a normal day can make a wonderful story for a person who hasn’t experienced the same thing. In fact, even someone who is familiar with the actual events will enjoy reading about it. When people read your stories, they may experience something new by seeing it through your eyes.

Think about it. You have dozens of interesting stories in your life. Consider the stories that you like to tell to friends and family. Other people will be interested in reading them as well. You’ll have an endless source of stories when you draw from the huge base of what you do and see every day.

When you get an idea for a story, start writing it as soon as you can. Don’t worry about cleaning it up while you write. Otherwise, you may forget a really great idea. If you do happen to lose the thread to the story, try coming back to it a little later. Remember to use your Writing Journal to capture snippets of thoughts and ideas. It makes a wonderful tool when you are ready to start writing.