Friday, January 27, 2023

Keeping and Sharing Your Family Stories

One way to keep your Family Stories

Today is the last day this week for our focus on writing your Family Stories. I've posted earlier on why, then where to begin, followed by format, and yesterday some of the tools needed to write your stories. Today, to wrap up this themed week, the topic is keeping and sharing your Family Stories.

Once your first story is complete, you need to decide where to keep it and the many others to follow. What are your choices? 

If you're writing on a computer, an easy choice is to save each story in a file. You could create a Folder and put each story in it. But, what if you're not computer savvy? You could slip that first story in a desk drawer. Then keep adding others as they are written. But that doesn't give you much organization. My preference is to use a three-ring binder with divisions to keep your stories organized. You can create the divisions in any manner you like. By age, by relatives, by years, whatever works for you. 

Even if you put the stories in a file on your computer, make a hard copy, too. If anything ever happens to your computer, and things do happen, you might lose all the stories. Having a hard copy is just a bit of insurance. You can also put those stories in file folders and arrange in a file drawer. 

After you've written several stories about your family, what will you do with them once you've figured out a way to save them? I had three younger brothers. Several years ago, I made copies of the stories I had written about our family, put them in three folders and mailed them to each brother in different parts of the country. I wondered if they would appreciate them or toss them aside. I shouldn't have worried, as all three were thrilled with my gift to them. As I wrote new stories, I sent them to each brother via email, so they could be printed and added to the book. 

You can also keep all of them and designate a younger family member to keep them after you are gone. You've worked hard on this project, so you'd like the stories to continue through the generations. That's one good reason to use dates or eras so that readers later will know approximately when the story took place.

If you would like to share the stories now, bring a few to a family gathering like a summer reunion or a holiday dinner. Pass them around or read them aloud. Each story will most likely trigger some lively conversation. 

I've read some of my Family Stories as examples when I've given a talk to a group about writing Family Stories. One question that often comes up is 'Do I have to write the stories in chronologicall order?' The answer is a simple NO. Write them as you remember them, no special order. When you have a lot of stories ready, you might want to put them in some kind of order, but even that is not necessary. 

I hope some of my readers have been inspired to start writing, or to continue writing, Family Stories after these past five posts about same. You'll have fun, and your family members and future generations will be most appreciative. Every family has good times and bad, happy ones and sad. Your stories should cover all of these. Why not start today?

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Tools for Writing Family Stories


Get Your Ducks in a Row

Today, we will put the spotlight on the actual writing of your Family Stories. Those who are writers will have many of the tools needed to make the stories interesting and shine. People who want to leave a legacy with these stories but are not writers can use a few pointers. Maybe those who are writers can use a little review, as well.

The following list is to make you aware of what can be done when writing your stories. Is it a must to do all these things? Of course not! If you do make use of these suggestions, you'll end up with a more interesting read. As always, it's entirely up to you, but it's going to help you keep your ducks in a row!

A. Show vs Tell:  Yes, you are telling a story, but if you can show your reader what is happening, they will be drawn into the situation. This is not easy. You must work at it. You could say:  John was on his way to the store. Or, to make it more inteesting and show what he is doing, try:  On his way to the store, John ran three blocks, then jumped over a pile of logs someone had left in the way. He fell flat into a pile of leaves on the other side. Uncle Lenny came running.... 

B. Verbs:  It's a common practive to overuse the passive verbs like is, was, were, are. If you change them to an action verb, you will be showing what happened. And no, you do not need to change every single passive verb in your story. Just change as many as you can. ran, jumped, whirled are far more interesting.

C.  Tense:  For the kind of stories you will be writing, you'll most likely use past tense because it happened in the past. The important thing is to keep it all in past tense.

D.  Description:  Here is where you can shine. Take some time to describe a place or a person that is important in your story. When a reader can 'see' a place or person, they will continue to be interested. It brings your story to life.

E.  Tension:  You don't want to give away your ending too soon. Set the scene, introduce the people involved, write about what happened but keep the best part for last. Or close to the end.

F.  Repetition:  When we write, we all have a tendency to repeat words close together. It's something that can be changed when you go back to edit your story.

G.  Edit:  Edit? Oh yes, this is an important step. When you feel like your story is finished, put it aside for a couple days, or longer. Then, go back over it and check for the things listed above. Make your changes. You'll end up with a stronger, more interesting story. 

If the above seems like a lot of work, you're right. It is. But, it's also well worth your time and effort. When one story turns out to your satisfaction, you'll have the incentive to move on to another one. And another....

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

How To Format Your Family Stories


Today, let's take a look on how you are going to format your Family Stories. You could write them and toss in a drawer, or several drawers. That isn't a very organized way, however. But, before we get to this part, let's look at how you are going to do the writing and the format you will use.

As said previously, there is no all right or all wrong way to do this project. There are certainly better ways to use which, in the end, will be to your benefit. 

First, you should decide how you will write. Will you use a notebook and write in longhand? There are people who prefer to write in this manner. Do give consideration to your handwriting if you choose this method. Is it legible to others? Or will they have to play a guessing game as to what some of the words are? Also, writing large amounts in longhand can be hard on the hand. 

Another way is to use an old-fashioned typewriter. Typewriter? Yes, there are still quite a few of them lurking in closets in many homes.  If you know how to type and that's the machine available to you, go for it. If you're a hunt and peck typist, it will take longer, but if you're ok with it, so be it.

Yet one more way is to type on a computer keyboard. Again, if you're a hunt and peck typist, it will not be as fast as you might like. If you are familiar with using a keyboard, this may be your best choice. Some computers have the feature of being able to dictate rather than type. If you have that ability on your computer, you might give it a try. 

Choose what is available to you and what is the easiest for you to use. 

If you type your stories and use single spacing, put an extra space between paragrpahs. Do not indent. If you use double space, indent 3-5 spaces and no extra space between paragraphs. The indenting takes care of letting readers know you started a new paragraph. 

Number the pages as you go so you can put the stories together with 2 pages, 4 or 5. Whatever it may be. Each new story should have its own numbering. Story A has 3 pages. Story B has 5 pages. Story C has only 1 page. Don't run them together. 

If you're writing in longhand, indent each paragraph to keep a separation. Number the pages as suggested above.

Consider putting a date at the top right hand corner of each story. It probably isn't important to you now, but it may be to a great-grandchild many years down the road. 

Choose a title for each story. Titles are helpful, but they are not always easy to select. Make the title something that will pique interest. Something like 'The Day Aunt Sue Chased Me' Readers would probably like to find out why your Aunt Sue chased you. Had you been naughty? Or was she trying to find you in a game? Or was she running after you with a home-baked treat? We won't know unless we read the story. You can also use something as simple as 'Fifth Grade.' or 'My Grandfather Peterson.' 

Now, let's go back to that first suggestion. Find a place to keep your stories. I would advise against tossing them in drawer or on a closet shelf. Keep them all in one place. My favorite way is to purchase a large 3-ring binder. Keep your stories in this notebook, and you'll never have to search the house to find them. They'll all be together in one easy place to find. You can buy dividers and separate the kinds of stories in sections. Not necessary, but if you're a very organized person, this might work well for you. If you use a binder like this, buy yourself a three ring hole punch. You'll be glad you did. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Family History Before Family Stories


This week's posts are all on the topic of Family Stories, your own life story, as well. Yesterday, I focused on why we should write these stories. Today let's look at where to begin.

That's always a good question at the start of a new project. Where to begin? Someone once said, 'Where to begin? Start at the beginning.' A bit confusing to someone wanting to launch a new project. Perhaps the beginning would be to write about your family's make-up first. A short family history.

Include the members of your immediate family, parents, siblings, any other family member who lived with you--possibly a grandparent. Add dates of your birth and your siblings, even your parents. Many years down the road, those dates will have some importance. 

Add the place where you lived growing up. Or places, if that is the case. Children of military personnel live in many places over the rather short space of the years in which they were children and teens. As well as the actual place, you could include a descrption of your home or homes. 

You could add something about your ethnic background. That is usually something of interest to future generations as they will share part of that history with you plus others as marriages took place. We become real mixtures of heritages as time goes on. I am one of the rare people who have a half and half ethnic heritage. My father's family was all French, while my mother's was Irish. Perhaps there would be a few other things added in if I had my DNA checked, but the half and half is fairly accurate.

Make reference to what your father's job was. And your mother--was she a homemaker or did she work outside the home, as well? 

Finally, add something about your extended family--grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Did they live close to you or far away? Were they loved by your family or distant by choice? 

As you write this short family history, you will most likely trigger some memories. As they flit through your mind, take some time to jot a note to yourself. You'll have a list to choose from for your first family story. 

This is not a difficult task. Once you start, it's easier to continue. Tomorrow, we'll discuss how you can format your stories. 

Monday, January 23, 2023

No Right or Wrong When Writing Family Stories


I am happy to report that I have made the required days of isolation for those dealing with Covid. In fact, I am a day over that number. Fortunately, my husband and I both had a relatively light case. Two miserable days, then big improvements after that. That means, I'm trying to get back to my normal schedule. 

I plan to address the topic of Family Stories this week. Our quote for today says: 'Family is a gift that last forever.' The people don't last forever, but our memories are with us as long as we walk this earth, and, if we write them for others, they'll last even longer. 

What better way to leave some of those memories to future generations than to write our Family Stories? Some wonderful quotes illustrate this thought.

If you don’t recount your family history, it will be lost. Honor your own stories and tell them too. The tales may not seem very important, but they are what binds families and makes each of us who we are. Madeleine L’Engle

“It turns out that sharing family stories with adult children and grandchildren is more than a pleasant pastime. Research has found that a strong narrative helps build strong family bonds. .Passing down lessons and values through stories enhances a sense of well-being.” (Mary W. Quigley

“The best-loved stories are not from books or films, but those from our own families” Jane McGarvey

Family stories casually chatted about at the dinner table, or regaled again and again at family gatherings can parallel great epics or notable short stories. The memorable stories of our lives and of others in our family take on special importance because they are true, even if everyone tells different versions of the same event. These tales are family heirlooms held in the heart not the hand. They are a gift to each generation that preserves them by remembering them and passing them on.” (Heather Forest)

When you write those Family Stories, both happy, funny, and sad, be sure to see that they will be handed down to someone in the family after you are gone. Be kind enough to let them know long before they're needed. I'm not addressing only people in their senior years regarding this, younger people need to give some thought to it, as well. 

My husband had an aunt who was the Family Storyteller and keeper of Family History. She had never married so had no children to pass these things on to. She made a large family photo album with information under the photos of Ken's mother's side of his family. Eight children all born in the USA to German immigrant parents. She didn't give it to Ken or one of his brothers, or any of her other nephews and nieces. Instead, she gave it to our, then five-year-old, granddaughter. The message that she was to carry on the family tradition was there for all of us. Our granddaughter was thrilled to be given this family gift, even though at that young age, she didn't realize all the implications. Today, I'm sure she does. 

I keep hard copies of my Family Stories in a large 3 ring binder type of notebook, so that I can easily add new ones as they are written. 

Read the quotes above again, and give them serious consideration. Remember this, as well:  You do not have to be a professional writer to write Family Stories. Anyone can do it. They can be short or long, detailed or just the facts. There is no right or wrong when writing your memories for generations to come to savor. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Blog Announcement


No more posts this week  I was bitten by the flu bug. Hope to be back Monday the 23rd  


Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Making Time to Write


Many writers don't write full-time as their means of support. A good number write part-time, some to supplement income, some for the sheer pleasure, some to fulfill a desire to write. These writers are often battling time problems. "I want to write, but I can't find the time." 

As our photo poster for today tells us, 'It's not about having time. It's about making time.' How do you do that? It takes some discipline and dedication. How important is writing in your life? That's one of the first things to determine. 

If you truly do want to have time to write, you might have to give up some other things in your life. Maybe those coffee dates with friends might have to be reduced to once a month instread of twice a week. Or you might need to say no when a friend asks you go to a movie. Instead of an all-day shopping trip, you could cut it to a couple of hours. You'll have to decide how important your social life is in comparison to your writing life. I don't advise cutting all social ties. Those times are important, but reducing the number and time spent is doable.

What about those who are busy rasing children? Anyone who has done so knows how much time is involved. You don't want to shoo them away so you can write, nor do you want to scold them for disturbing your writing time. A lot depends on their ages. If little ones take naps, make that hour writing time. If they're in school all day, carve out a certain part of the day to write. 

Stay up an hour later than usual or rise an hour earlier. Either time is usually when your house is quiet, and you won't have interruptions. My choice would be the early morning before others in the family get up. You're probably fresher and your brain clicking better than after a long day and you're ready for sleep. 

If you're a dad who works full-time and also has kids to spend time with, you'll have to be pretty creative. Some moms work full-time, as well, so writing time might not happen every day. In fact, making time to write could be a real chore. If you commute on public transportation, bring a small notebook with you, and make use of that time to write. Waiting in a dr's office is down time, too. 

You can find small amounts of time through your day, whether you're at home or working. The time to write may not be in great amounts, but if you truly have the desire to write, you'll make time here and there. 

Retired people are fortunate as their time is not taken up by all the duties of younger people. Even if retirees lead a busy social life, they can still find blocks of time to write. Some retired people are happy to spend their days at home, so they have no problem blocking out a period of writing time. 

It doesn't matter what your situation is. It's up to you to make the time to write, if that is truly what you want to do. Stop and think how many minutes a day we waste on silly things. Wouldn't you rather be writing? 

Keeping and Sharing Your Family Stories

One way to keep your Family Stories Today is the last day this week for our focus on writing your Family Stories. I've posted earlier on...