Thursday, March 13, 2008

Ask Amy Expounds on Family Histories


Only the other day, Amy Dickinson, nationally distributed columnist, was asked why it "so hard to get my parents to write down their stories before it is too late."

Amy, whose column appears in the LA Times's Calendar section, suggests that the child (at whatever age) get involved. She suggests "interviewing them and taping the sessions." She says, "Start by asking them to tell stories you've heard many times before." Then move on to asking about how they met, and other open-ended questions about their earlier lives. She suggests the National Story Corps Project's website www.storycorps.net.

Now, I'm going to tell you something she was telling you indirectly. Stop whining. Get in there and do what it is you want your parents to do. Write down vignettes you were told by your parents, your grandparents, and the ones you tell your kids. Then go one step farther and write down what you didn't tell your kids. Do some genealogy work with your relatives. Once you're doing something yourself, you'll find it easier to enlist them in your project. You'll be inspired. So will they.

My book This Is the Place, would never have been published if I'd waited around for someone else to tell me their stories. I simply used the ones I had been told and wove them with my own. To make a novel of it, I had to embroider a bit and that was lots of fun. You'll never be done once you've started but I promise you will have something to leave generations to come. If I can do it you can do it! This one went on to win several awards.

Ahh, the power of storytelling! You might end up with a book to publish.

If you you want to do that, my other books, the Frugal Editor and the Frugal Book Promoter will help you with that. If you don't, just type them up and stow them with your other valuables. Make a copy for your safe deposit box.

Or go to www.creativememories.com or e-mail Debra Synott (Debra4CM@sbcglobal.net), and she'll get you started on publishing individual books with your stories, books that can even be illustrated with your pictures. You can give them to your parents for Christmas. They'll tell you how you got it all wrong. And then they'll be inspired to do books of their own. Writing is like that.

Maybe later, you'll move on and make a novel out of it. (-: If you don't believe me, ask Amy (askamy@tribune.com).

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author THIS IS THE PLACE; HARKENING: A COLLECTION OF STORIES REMEMBERED; TRACINGS, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books, THE FRUGAL BOOK PROMOTER: HOW TO DO WHAT YOUR PUBLISHER WON'T; and THE FRUGAL EDITOR: PUT YOUR BEST BOOK FORWARD TO AVOID HUMILIATION AND ENSURE SUCCESS.
Her other blogs include TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com and AuthorsCoalition.blogspot.com, a blog that helps writers and publishers turn a ho-hum book fair booth into a sizzler.

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