Blog

5 Ways Sharing Your Story Will Inspire You

1—Everyone loves a celebration. What better event to celebrate than the basic fact of being alive? Whether you’ve had 70 years on the planet or want to celebrate the life of your 5-year-old, it’s a great time to break out the cake and surprise your loved one with a story all their own. Celebrate the events and people that have made your life experience uniquely your own. Looking back over your life will help remind you of the victories, the accomplishments, the overcoming, the kindnesses great and small that have come together in your unique heart and soul to knit together your life. Your story matters and you are important!

2—Experience personal growth and insight. You may have had years to contemplate the why’s and wherefores’ of your life story. Now is the perfect time to consider what you’ve learned, process it, maybe even re-frame your responses in memory to help you heal and move forward in a healthy way.

Where have you struggled? How did you overcome? What would you want your children and grandchildren to know from your hard-won experience? You have a responsibility to pass it on.

The Rev. Berndt of the Good Samaritan Society says: 

“It is an incredible gift to be the recipient of someone’s legacy. It can be life transforming. However, I have also learned that the opportunity to leave a legacy isn’t something that only other people do. As I grow older, I am more and more convinced of the importance of asking myself, “What legacy from the wisdom of lifelong experience am I …sharing with others?” You see, this is the two-way blessing of legacies. Our lives can be shaped by the legacies that others share with us, but in turn, we have a responsibility and a challenge to share the wisdom …“and experience we have gathered over the years.”

Perhaps other forces shaped your life? Do you have an immigrant story or a war-time experience, poverty or wealth, a disability or just making something precious out of the ordinary?

Science has shown that the health benefits of journaling and sharing your story are enormous

In her blog  ”Heart and Craft of Lifewriting” writer Sharon Lippincott comments on a memoir entitled Growing Old, by Swiss psychoanalyst Danielle Quinodoz:  “The book focuses on the enormous value elderly people derive from reviewing their memories and attaining an integrated overview of their lives, …People who are able to view their lives in this meaningful way experience more joy in living…They tend to approach aging more actively, retaining curiosity and involvement with life and the people around them….”

3—Pass along a lifetime of learned wisdom and life skills. Whether it’s your approach to living on a budget, handling life events, recovering from tragedy, the importance of your faith or simply your best tips for leading the good life, your family needs to know this. Think of the many articles (share link) where elders have been interviewed about what they’ve learned over their life, those in your circle of influence crave this same information.

Think of the inspiration others have poured into your life and how you’ve been able to pay it forward to future generations. Connect the past and the present and be inspired to do good!

4—Share your family’s origin story. Where did you come from? How did you get to where you are now? What traditions, customs, food and wisdom were Handed down by your ancestors? Mentoring, life skills, carpentry, music, jewelry making, craftsmanship, farming and ranching, your life experience and family history is uniquely your own.

5—We are inspired by photographs of people place and events. Dig out those boxes of family pics and put provenance with them. Just the process of asking questions from family members about events and people depicted will unearth a great number of stories you probably haven’t even heard yet. Or will add details to those long familiar events.

Preserve your family’s memories of important family stories. Each photo can be used to prompt the story behind it, what was going on in the world, the people’s lives in the picture. What happened before and after? The stories behind the faces in the photos are precious. It might even illuminate world events, think of collections of pioneer letters that let us know what life was like on a wagon train or collections of WWII letters. Take a look at this example, Dear Sis…WWII Letters:

“…letters were written by ordinary young men who answered the call to duty and honor to protect their country and their families. Compiled into a narrative, the letters give a snapshot of life and events both on the war front and at home.” 

Your life story is a gift from you to the future, from your generation to the next one. It may be one of the most important things you share with those who come after you. Leave a legacy, a life legacy.

Remember, not only is your story a gift, each day of life is also, unwrap daily!

Let me know if you need help sharing your story, I’d love to visit with you!

Karen

Share this:

Surprisingly Creative Writing About Outstanding Objects

Hello fellow memoir writers! Today’s inspiration is all about objects. We often hang onto things because of the emotions or memories they trigger. The object becomes an important touchstone that takes you back to a place and time important in your life. Read on for a fun, easy way to draw out the memories in your favorite things (and a mysterious surprise discovered in an old bookshop):

Pretend you’ve never been in your house before. Now, take a walk through with new eyes, notice the items you’ve collected. Maybe they’re lovingly displayed in a place of honor, or maybe they’re gathering dust, but you just can’t bear to throw them out. Why? Perhaps it’s a box of childhood mementoes stuffed in the top of a closet or a collection of poems you wrote as a teenager.

Pick up the objects, handle them, notice the lines, the color the texture. What memories are triggered?

Did you inherit this item from a relative? Tell the story, talk about your relationship with them and the day you received this special thing. Maybe it’s an item from your childhood or something one of your children made for you. Is it a book that has impacted you greatly or a piece of art that evokes time and place in a special way? Perhaps it’s a record you and your sweetheart danced to that brings back a flood of memories.

Whatever it is, you’ll know it by the emotions and memories that sneak, tramp, dance or cartwheel into your mind. Ask yourself questions as if you’ve never seen this object and you’re telling your best friend all about it. Again, no editing, write down everything that comes to mind:

  • Where did you get it—example, did you bring it back from a trip?
  • When did you get it—was it on that first date with someone special?
  • Who were you with – maybe your grandparents took you fishing?
  • How long have you had it—since your children were young? Maybe you acquired that special rock on camping trip with your dad when you were 5?

Describe it thoroughly using each of the five senses:

Sight – describe what you see as if you’ve never laid eyes on the object before. Now, describe it again with the eyes of your heart, what else is there

Taste—does it have a taste, or is it associated with something that does, example, a coveted rolling pin used by your grandmother to make wonderful pies and biscuits over the generations

Hearing– does it make a noise? An old harmonica, dented and scarred with use, a seashell from an ocean trip that stayed in your memory for years

Touch– is it smooth, rough, flat or bumpy, does it have a warmth or coldness to it. Describe everything you can about the way it feels example-an old saddle passed down, the slight cracking and wear marks from use, does it bring back to mind a horse or pony that was a special part of your childhood?

Smell – take that same saddle above, can you smell the oiled leather, the saddle soap, maybe you can remember the fresh smell of pasture or the heat on the desert in the cool of an evening’s ride.,

The object could be associated with life, loss, silly or serious. Many people save recipes and baseballs, dog leashes and photographs of all sorts. I have a red leather-bound book that belonged to my great grandfather. The title is Ken Saddles Up, with a 1945 copyright. I imagine him sitting in his beat-up old armchair, stacks of books at his side, reading this children’s book to one of his grandkids by dim lantern light. This is a treasured time of rest and escape after a hard day working in the diary barns of his Willamette, Oregon farm. Did this start the seeds of love of education, horses and curiosity about the world in his offspring? I like to think it probably did.

Oh, and the rest of the story? It’s serendipitous, a little sad, and downright cool:

That little red book was signed by my great grandfather. On the same page is a penciled price of $4.50. I found it at my favorite local secondhand bookstore while browsing one day. The book had been in my grandmother’s collection in Corvallis, OR. When she passed away my father brought many items home and shared mementoes with his children. Somehow, this book ended up in an overwhelming collection of books that was eventually taken to the bookstore for resale. It was missed, but meant to be and I was delighted, thankful, and a bit overwhelmed when I found it.

May your years be sprinkled with the occasional bit of whimsy and full of rich memories.

Karen

Share this:

Creative Journaling Tips for Your Remarkable Life

Relationships are top of mind right now, emphasized even due to the social distancing we’re experiencing in the pandemic. This is foreign ground for most of us but will become one for the history books. In the scarcity of human contact we long to connect and are finding creative ways to do it. The silver lining may be an increase in family connectedness and deeper friendships. This is one of the good things to come out of this season of pausing, reflection and in some cases deep loss.

So relationships and how they’ve impacted our lives is the theme for this journaling exercise. Think of it as a creative tool to use in developing your memoir, short or long. It all starts with a few words on a page or spoken into a recorder.

Let’s give it a shot! Review the many relationships in your life; most of us are sons and daughters, parents, friends, spouses, employees, aunts or uncles. Think of the connections you’ve had with others over the years, both personal and professional.

Don’t get stuck, just pick two or three that stand out in your memory.

You can always try this technique with others later.

How have these relationships impacted, molded, changed and directed  the course of your life over the years?

Pick one relationship from childhood, one from youth and one from adulthood. Your choice of how close the relationship was; don’t force it or get stuck with expectations, go with what rises to the top of your thoughts. They don’t even have to all be human.

Many people count a dog or horse among their best friends.

It’s perfectly ok to write about these dear friends too.

Now, for each one I want you to try two approaches:

1—How has this relationship affected your life? Did it inspire you, coach in in a positive way, maybe it deflected you down another path? You can go as deep as you like here. Sometimes even fleeting relationships impact us deeply and change the course of our lives. Other times it may be the long faithfulness of a dear family member or friend.

2—How would your life have been different if you hadn’t known that person? Don’t edit, just write down your thoughts and speculate, follow the rabbit trails, this is just for your own use. A well-known example of this, and one that’s been used in many book and movie plots, is the storyline behind It’s a Wonderful Life when George Bailey’s angel gives him the opportunity to see what life in Bedford Falls would have been like without him. As Clarence says, “You’ve been given a gift.”

Bonus Tip:

Another tool to use is to take a sheet of paper for each person you want to write about. Now do a mind map or a bubble outline. Write their name in the middle of the page and then, using a timer set for about three minutes, write down everything you can think of that’s associated with this person. Don’t second guess yourself, get it all down. Write each item or phrase on the page radiating out from the central person.  When the timer dings, stop. You can always add more later but these are the top of mind and semi-conscious ideas that come out when you brainstorm like this.

When you’ve finished this exercise you may realize some interesting side notes or even have a great light bulb moment (epiphany for you fellow word nerds). Jot these reflections down too. You now have the makings of a fine chapter or two for your memoir. In fact, you may have even discovered the theme of your lifestory. See where it goes.

All the best to you in your memory journey!

Karen

Share this:

Lifecycle of a Memoir

What better way to connect the generations than to start a memoir project together. This can be especially effective right now as we’re isolated and missing friends and family during this pandemic. Let’s close the gap and show we care! It can be short, just seize the opportunity. Set aside an hour, get your recorder or pencil and paper ready and make that phone call. You’ll be so glad you did!

#familyhistory #journaling #genealogy #writing #personalhistory

Share this:

Thoughts on Epidemics and Flu-Revisited

Spanish Flu of 1918

Conversations world wide are focused on the new coronovirus and the pervasive flu season. Headlines and news reports keep a running tally of who is sick and where. We are rightly concerned. But we need to keep this in perspective, study what can be improved in societal responses and take the opportunity to have some important conversations with our elders. I wrote about this a couple years ago in regard to the regular flu season but the topic bears revisiting. We have much to learn from the past and from our ancestors’ reactions to the sweeping illnesses that have always plagued humans.

It’s important to study how we’ve handled past flu epidemics, outbreaks of polio, measles and smallpox. How have we dealt with restrictions and helped each other as decent human beings; individually, and as families and communities?

The word “pandemic” has such an inescapable connotation and creates fear. However, another word that repeatedly comes out of historic references and family letters is this:

Indomitable

It is used to describe how ordinary, sometimes fearful human beings, reach down deep and by the grace of God find the courage and resilience to not only face world changing events but to help those in direst need.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC)  created a project called the  Pandemic Influenza Storybook to document experience and provide a learning tool.

“The CDC’s Pandemic Flu Storybook provides readers with a look at the impact pandemic flu events have had on both survivors and the families and friends of non-survivors. These stories are not folklore, but personal recollections. This collection of stories was first released in 2008 to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the 1918 flu pandemic.”

You can read Sadie’s true story here: https://www.cdc.gov/publications/panflu/stories/cure_janis.html

This is the story of the 1918 flu pandemic as told by my 97–year–old grandmother, Sadie Afraid of His Horses–Janis. An excerpt from the story:

In her desperation, my great–grandmother, Nancy, had applied the principals of quarantine, prevented cross–contamination, provided hydration and inhalation therapy, and used pharmacology to save her family. To this day, my grandmother Sadie has a medicine bag with flat cedar, sweet grass, bitter–root, and green tea. However, she says she′ll pass on the kerosene and sugar.

Olivia Huggins father was a newborn when the flu hit his family:

My dad, Manual Pacheco, was born on July 10, 1918 to Juan de Jesus and Amelia Pacheco in Rainsville, New Mexico. He was their sixth child. When Manual was only 2 months old, his mother, Amelia became ill with the flu. Because she was so sick, she was unable to produce breast milk for Manual. Therefore, Juan fed the baby coffee with sugar added to it until he was able to purchase a goat. The goat’s milk sustained Manual and he survived, and so did his mother. No one else in the family became ill.

I can’t help but wonder if Juan had a terrible time getting that little boy to sleep after dosing him with coffee. However, it was a resourceful solution till the goat showed up.

Here’s another one from the CDC’s website, this one taking place in Wyoming and told by Margarita Pancake:

My father, Elmer “Bud” Pancake, grew up around Lusk, Wyoming. During the great flu pandemic of 1918, there was a county doctor who boasted that he had never lost a patient. His secret weapon was “rotgut” whiskey. He would pour the whiskey into a patient to get them to cough up the phlegm. During the pandemic, he ran out of whiskey and there was none to be had in the community. The only whiskey in Lusk was locked–up in the sheriff′s office as evidence for a bootlegger′s trial. The sheriff refused to release the liquor. So, the doctor got a few prominent citizens together for a kind of vigilante committee that promptly seized the whiskey, depriving the sheriff of his evidence.

An excerpt from storyteller Jack D. Bell, who experienced the flu in Washington in 1958 as a kid:

And, I simply was too uncomfortable to sleep! At one point, I kept asking my poor momma if I was going to die and I told her if this kept up much longer that I didn’t care if I died! I can remember my parents discussing whether they should send me to the hospital, but our family doctor (who actually came to our house; remember when doctors did that?!) told us that my fever would break any time, and I would feel much better. He was right, on the third day I stopped vomiting and got a few hours of sleep. When I woke up, my wonderful mom fed me some chicken soup—my favorite, and I kept it down. I missed about a week of school, which I didn’t mind.

Although medical treatments have changed and progressed, much of the simple homing nursing care remains the same and goes a long ways towards helping folks recover. Many of us have experienced the flu running through the entire household and it can truly be said to be a family bonding experience. I bet you still talk about it and I bet your family learned some important coping skills during the process.

Bottom line, wash your hands, take precautions, learn from history and be resilient and courageous. Threats we will always have with us. What you do in the face of it will show your stripes. I choose courage and an indomitable spirit.

Many of us have parents, grandparents or friends who can remember flu, measles or polio scares. Talk to them about how it impacted their lives, schools, and communities. Learn from their resilience, their resourcefulness and step up to the plate if you’re needed.

May you stay healthy and well this flu season and most of all may you be of good courage no matter what you face,

Karen

Share this:

Kick Start Your Story With a Resource Roundup

Memoirs are popular reading around the globe and extending the reach of your story beyond family and friends can be a good option in some cases. I’ve been traveling the last few days but wanted to be sure to get this and some other tips out to you at the start of the year. And not just any year, a new decade!

Many of you have decided that this will be the year to make progress on your story. Perhaps you’ve realized that time is extra precious for your 90 year old grandparents and you want to help them tell theirs. Whatever the case — I want to encourage you, you can do this!

A couple weeks ago Lisa J. Michaels, teacher, illustrator and author at  www.theartofpicturebooks.com, sent me a note:

 “I found this link and I thought I’d share it with your readers, as it is a list of publishers who accept manuscripts from authors without agents….”

Thanks for sharing this resource, Lisa! Remember, if you’re like many memoirists, you also have a couple great children’s book ideas floating around in your mental inbox or languishing in your desk. Just for inspirational fun check out Lisa’s series on children’s book creation via Skillshare. The first in the series is Creating Characters Kids Love

Wouldn’t it be great to finally create that book as a gift for your kids and grandkids?

Want to kick start your journaling this year? Try author and teacher Nina Vangrew’s One Sentence a Day Journal Card System. It’s fun and this easy to build habit will painlessly help you build your memoir a bit at a time. Ideas and story snippets add up fast! You can easily take her class in less than an hour on Skillshare and enjoy starting your life story journaling.

The publishing world is full of memoirs with a variety of themes appealing to a wide range of people. I love reading them and typically have several in my line-up for the year. Your story may have broader appeal that would be a great fit for making public so many others can enjoy it.

Many memoir writers consider independent or self-publishing to be an excellent choice. This gives you full creative control and you’ll have the option to publish it privately for family and friends, or list it on Amazon or through other book outlets.

At the start of this new decade consider reviewing a few options to make progress on your personal history project:

  1. Take a look at the list of publishers in the link Lisa provided
  2. Try out Nina’s one sentence journaling technique
  3. Spend half an hour watching my class — It’s Time to Tell Your Story: Quick Start a Memoir
  4. Sign up for a memoir coaching session
  5. Set up your memoir box to start collecting your material

Start small or go big, the choice is yours! But whatever you do, commit to making some positive incremental change and see how much you can accomplish this year. Even better, team up with some friends for encouragement.

Karen

Share this:

If You Give a Wild Thing a Taco

I’ve made a discovery! Many people interested in writing their memoirs also have wonderful children’s stories they’ve shared with their kids over the years. They talk about these with a grin, a gleam in their eyes and laughter as they recall the fun of creating these special stories for their children. They confess that their kids have always told them they should make a book with those favorite tales. My family and I have our own collection of made-up stories but I’ll save those for another day.

To learn more about the art and process of children’s book creation, I’ve been watching a few of Lisa Michael’s Skillshare classes. Michaels is an award winning professional freelance illustrator and author as well as a skilled teacher. You can take a look at her profile here:

 www.skillshare.com/r/profile/Lisa-Michaels/4511946

After sharing my observations about memoir clients and their children’s stories with Lisa she responded with additional insight into the “why” of this phenomenon. You can find out more about her at Lisa Michaels  www.theartofpicturebooks.com. She graciously agreed to share her thoughts so here you go:

It makes complete sense. A large percentage of children’s books are based on the author’s childhood experiences. You know the old saying…”Write what you know!”…it’s so true.

As I’m sure you know, personal experience adds authenticity to the work, and gives a good writer the ability to make you (the reader) feel that you are a participant in the story, rather than an onlooker. Not to mention, most memories have strong emotions attached to them, which also enriches the story.

I find that stories written from childhood memories (even if they are outlandishly embellished) make for the best children’s books because the author usually isn’t looking to “teach a lesson”. They are simply hoping to share a wonderful or touching experience that they believe still has value for today’s kids. That’s one of the very BEST reason to write a children’s book!

Below are links you can follow to Lisa’s classes on Skillshare. They’ll enable you to learn from her and many others for two free months with a trial Premium Membership. You have nothing to lose and much great professional, fun guidance in store. I highly recommend it! (disclosure – although I will receive a small commission if you sign up, I only recommend classes I’ve taken myself and found exceptionally useful).

Writing a Picture Book/Part One – Creating Characters Kids Love

Writing a Picture Book/Part Two – Gathering Story ideas

Writing a Picture Book/Part Three – Building Blocks

These courses are excellent resources in developing further ideas for my own children’s book concepts as well as helpful when I visit with clients who have their own fun, fabulous tales to share.

Try your hand at jotting down some of your kids’ favorite bed-time stories. Then, visit with them about the characters and sketch out a few ideas for the artwork. You’ll have loads of fun together and create new memories from the old ones.

May you find joy in life today!

Karen

Share this:


Contact Me

Please contact me for more information or to to schedule a free consultation. I look forward to visiting with you.






Karen Ray Photo

Karen Ray

Address: 2877 Willow Creek Lane, Las Cruces, NM, 88007

Phone: 575-323-1048


X