Tag Archive | writing

Book Review – The Oral History Workshop

One thing we must all strive to do when researching our family history is interview people. We are taught this from the beginning. We are given lists of questions to ask. We are referred to books and websites for more questions. We are told to record the interview via tape recorder, video, phone, or the camera on our computers. That is all fine but let’s examine this from a different angle.

How about interviewing YOURSELF?

The book The Oral History Workshop by Cynthia Hart with Lisa Samson, walks you through the entire process of setting up an interview, preparing for the interview, the do’s and don’ts of interviewing and provides many chapters full of interview topics and questions. The appendix also holds forms you could create to get permission to interview, hold copyright, and use the information acquired.

You can also use this book for yourself. Start out with the questions that deal with childhood. Work through them in a journal or on your computer. Move into youth and young adult life. And gradually move into other areas. Use the various subjects like school, sports, hobbies, travel, military, holidays, hopes and dreams, and other topics to expand the short stories you write. Use those to explore areas of your life you may not have thought about in years. Use those to discover new hopes and dreams, hobbies, and paths to take in your life.

As you write, think about which pieces you can pass to your descendants or share with living family members. Think about how you wish to preserve these memories. On video, on tape, through a photo book with stories, a written family history or an auto-biography or memoir. Create a plan to do this project and stick to it. Find a buddy to hold you accountable.

As Mary Oliver once said, To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.

Isn’t that what we do as family historians?

© 2013, Sort Your Story, Sonoma, California


Book Review – A Writer’s Book of Days

One of the goals of Sort Your Story is to help you tell YOUR family’s story. Not just collect the photos and documents, but actually go beyond that and write what happened. To help you do this, from time to time we will provide book reviews on various writing guides. We’d love to hear from you on suggested books so we may all learn to better tell the stories of our ancestors.

A Writer’s Book of Days

Written by Judy Reeves

This book is an excellent place to start for those just getting into writing. It is not a guide as in a textbook, but a guide to help inspire you. To help you move beyond the critic in your head. To help you establish a time and place to write. And it offers many writing prompts and pieces of advice to get you motivated and keep you writing.

The book is broken out into months of the year as chapters. Within each chapter there are many writing prompts, one for each day of the month. Each chapter focuses on some aspect of writing, has inspirational quotes in the sidebars, and longer writing exercises at the end of the chapters. What’s great about these prompts is you can use them over and over and write something different each time. There is also NO rule that you have to go day by day. You can skip around the book and pull out prompts that speak to you at that moment you are ready to write. How great is that?!

There are no wrong ways to write. Simply select a journal or notebook you will enjoy writing in often. Choose a good pen or pencil, something that feels good in your hand and will flow easily across the page. Find a quiet place to write and figure out the best time of day for you to write. Once you have a writing schedule established, change it up once in a while. Go to a coffee shop or park to write. Sit in the art museum or just people watch at a restaurant. You never know where inspiration will strike!

One quote I enjoy is Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go. — E.L. Doctorow

That’s true don’t you think?

© 2013, Sort Your Story, Sonoma, California