Family Photo Challenge Begins!

Challenge: Take 5 favorite photos from your family’s collection. Collect them all in one day but just do the exercise with one per day. Write a 6-word memoir about each.

What’s a 6 word memoir? These short memoirs are the brainchild of writer Larry Smith, editor of the online SMITH Magazine. The idea was inspired by Ernest Hemingway, who was asked to tell a story in just 6 words. He came up with this: “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”

Here’s how to use the technique with this challenge:

Start with an extensive list of words that describe your photo. Include anything you remember about it, the people, place, time, objects, feelings. Don’t cross anything out and don’t worry punctuation or spelling, just write! It helps to set a timer for 5 minutes and write as much as you can in that time.

Then circle three or four words that describe the photo and what you want to say about it. Now, write a phrase, sentence or list that is your 6 word memoir.

When you’re done with the Family Photo Challenge you’ll have 5 prompts for your memoir or family history. These can make great chapter titles too. Develop each of your five 6 word memoirs further and you’ll have a chapter before you know it.

Fun tip: Make this a family activity and you’ll have even more material for your story.

I’d love to read your 6 word mini memoirs and see your photo prompts, feel free to share on the Remembering the Time FaceBook page at, or join our private FaceBook group at and share it there. You can also just drop me a note at #familyhistory #familyhistorymatters #memoirwriting #genealogy #familyphotos

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Connection is the Key

I love bridge images; they remind me that we connect with others through sharing our stories. This simple activity of talking about our memories has the potential for far reaching impact. It can deepen relationships, help us experience life through others’ eyes and grow our empathy and listening skills.

(Thanks to Jessica Arends via Unsplash for the photo)

Taking action to save your family’s story may be part of your “for such a time as this” motivation. I’ll be trotting out a fun family photo challenge in the next few days via social media and want to make sure you’re given a heads up. This will be a short activity with lots of positives:

* It’s free

* Did I mention it’s short?

* You’ll have quick content for your family history

* You’ll create good ideas you can follow up on later

You’ll be able to find the challenge in the next few days on our page at

When you think about writing your memoir or family history, do any of these defeating thoughts ever raise their ugly little heads?

  • I don’t know how to write a book
  • How do I share it with my family?
  • My story isn’t important

Remember, if you’re stuck, let’s talk! I understand the feeling and would love to brainstorm a few ideas with you to help you cross the bridge and make that priceless connection with your family by sharing your story. Helping people is what I do! I even have a few free links to my Quick Start a Memoir class for a limited number of people if you contact me in June. Now is an opportune time.

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Small Steps to a Finished Memoir

I truly hope you are having a great day!

This past weekend I took a road trip with my grown children to a family celebration In New Orleans. You may have seen a couple photos I posted to the Remembering the Time FaceBook or Instagram pages. It had been ages since any of us had traveled and we stocked up on road trip food, a crossword puzzle book and a new audio book. We had fun, shared driving, and ate enough bright orange Cheezits to pave a parking lot. Because, well that’s what you do on a road trip.

We also celebrated life and learned more about each other through a fun ice breaker app on the phone. Trust me, this is a great way to connect even with people you’ve known their entire lives! “Really, I didn’t know that!” was repeated often.

Each mile we drove, each special event we participated in with cousins, aunts, uncles, and in laws once we arrived was a small step to building a stronger family. We laughed, we cried, we ate and toasted to life together and remembered our family history.

I am a firm believer in taking small steps to build progress toward a goal. It’s one of the best ways to chunk down a big one. Making incremental progress toward your goal is encouraging, these steps keep you moving as you see progress and help keep you from becoming discouraged.

This is not only an excellent life lesson, it works fantastically for family history and memoir projects too. The beautiful old staircase photo in this post, taken in New Orleans reminds me of the importance of taking small steps.

For example, if you are looking to curate, organize, and  make sense of a collection of family mementos, letters, and photos so that others can enjoy them too, you need to do more than just stare at the boxes in frozen overwhelm and frustration.

*Think in categories as you look at your collection

*Begin by choosing 5 examples of each category just to get you started and move past the inertia

This is where a set of outside eyes, skilled in separating the gems from the “stuff” can help you make real progress with your story. I can help with that and get you on track! Want to tackle it yourself first? Here’s a couple easy step choices you can make to get started:

*Try my Quick Start a Memoir class for free on Skillshare. Here’s the link:

Take 30 minutes to watch the class, then do the fun project to help you cut through the fluff and organize your story. Questions? Send me a message and we’ll chat about it.

*Give me a call for a free consultation to inspire and motivate you with ideas and action steps to write your family history or memoir.

Maybe, just maybe, you need to stop thinking about this and take a small action step. I want to encourage you, doing this will build momentum and be one of the most satisfying things you can do to seize the day with your story.

Taking incremental action-steps to tell your story will make sure that it is shared with those you love, not relegated to a dusty box stuffed in the garage. Don’t let that happen to you!

You can bless and serve your family well by taking these small steps. No one ever regretted sharing the wisdom they’ve learned and their precious life memories with their family.

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5 Tips for Outstanding Interviews

Today’s short tip sheet is fresh in my mind! I’ve been working with my daughter, who has good videography skills, to create an intro video for the Remembering the Time FaceBook page. I’m usually on the other side of a microphone when doing interviews so this was a fun experience. Got it done in an hour and a few giggly retakes. She’s making it all look pretty and taking out my um’s, ah’s, and mis-speaks.

So…when you’re interviewing a family member or friend for their memoir or another family history project, here’s a few things I’ve learned through years of interviewing people in a wide variety of situations (note: these work great whether it’s a short storytelling session or a longer oral history):

# 1 – Before you set up your recorder – take time to talk story and common ground to build rapport.

# 2 – Don’t stick a microphone in someone’s face if you can avoid it. Set up in a quiet room with few distractions and place the recorder/phone in an unobtrusive position on a table or chair in front of your storyteller. Or make sure their collar microphone is secure. Then engage again in a little small talk to ease nervousness before you begin.

# 3 – Don’t be afraid of silences, they’re thinking. You can gently prompt as needed, “Can you tell me more about…”

# 4 – Don’t turn off the recorder too early! Many of the best side-stories happen when you thought you were done.

# 5 – Have fun, encourage your storyteller, and listen quietly but engaged, making eye contact while they talk.

If you have further questions about interviewing please feel free to get in touch, I’d love to hear from you!


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Great Ways to Celebrate Your Graduate Part 2

In Part 1 we talked about unique ways you can honor the graduates in your life. Specifically, creating a lifestory photo book of their life highlights. If you’ve been busy gathering material like photos, drawings, and keepsakes you’re well on your way to making this memoir gift a reality.

Now, here’s the rest of the story:

11 Interview Questions to Help You Add Interesting Details to Your Graduate’s Story:

What do you think are the 3 most important things in life?

Who was/is your best friend in school and why?

What are 10 things that make you laugh?

What do you imagine the world will look like 100 years from now?

What is your favorite childhood memory?

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

Describe your pet(s) and why you enjoy them.

Describe your siblings and what you enjoy doing together.

What things do you enjoy for fun?

Who has been the kindest to you?

Describe a happy moment in your life.

And lastly, 3 creative ways to bring this gift to life:

Step 3 – Publish Your Story — Print It

Create a tangible book that your graduate can hold and page through, sharing with others. There are several different ways you can do this. While you can craft a beautiful digital book, I highly recommend creating a physical one for this purpose. Here are 3 ideas:

*Scrapbook–A few years ago this was all the rage and can still be a popular tool to creatively share your story. If you enjoy this dig out your supplies, pick up a new album and then give yourself some time to create a beautiful work of art with these saved memories.

*Shutterfly or Similar Photo Book—photo books that can be created online give you quite a bit of creative flexibility and will turn out a nicely bound high quality book. Coupons abound for these types of gifts and the digital creation process is designed to be pretty simple. And yes, you can have both text and photos in the book. Make sure to use both as years from now they’ll want the story behind the photos. Frequent sales with these companies can often bring the price down to not much more than producing it at the local print shop.

*Copy Shop Coil Bound Book—if dollars are tight, never fear, your young person will appreciate and cherish this book format just as much. Here’s a couple ways to do this—first–computer set up– take the photos and text you’ve collected and arrange them in a document on your computer. You can get creative with color, text styles and photo placement. When you like the way it looks create a PDF file to lock everything in place. Then, put it on a jump drive, take it to your local copy shop and have them print up several copies with a coil binding and nice quality paper. Use a heavier glossy cardstock for the cover and glossy finish paper inside to really make those photos pop. A book like this will usually run less than $20 to print.

For each of these options I encourage you to include at least a couple photos that are black and white. You can easily convert your color images to this classic style. They have a timeless quality that somehow shows the subject in a different way that really draws out their personality and character.

Now print or order several copies of your gift book. I guarantee it will stand out and it will be cherished, there is nothing more unique and precious than someone’s life story. Your graduate will treasure this always. And of course, you’ll want one for yourself and other family members as well. 

Got questions about how to do this? Feel free to contact me! Have fun and happy graduation to all those students.

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Top 5 Free Classes to Help You Write Your Memoir

Occasionally I curate a few excellent resources that I’ve found helpful and highly recommend. If you’re serious about sharing your memoir or family history here’s my top pick of short classes that will give you the necessary tools, confidence, and encouragement to begin telling your unique story. Each of these can help you make amazing progress writing your memoir or family history.  Two of these classes are specifically about writing memoir. The others contain tools and ideas that will help you craft memorable stories, a key element in any writing.  

Best part – you can listen to all of these free for 2 weeks. Take mad notes, listen again, dream big, and take action. Here’s how it works: try all of these premium classes for free for 14 days via Skillshare. If you decide you’re loving the great value this teaching platform provides, you can join for a low annual fee that will pay itself back in value many times over. While you’re trying out the platform explore a few other topics from their extensive offering of over 27,000 premium classes and more than 2,000 free classes. (as of March 2019)

For example, the technique of taking an event from your life and flipping it into a fiction story will give you an entirely new slant on the events. Excellent teacher Adam Janos will walk you through how it’s done with examples that are sure to get your own creative thoughts flowing.

Author Roxanne Gay will show you how to create short memoirs, also known as personal essays. These can stand alone or be part of a larger work but you’ll learn from a pro about what will resonate and how to write it.

Rebecca Livermore will walk your through an encouraging and very doable writing challenge that you can use over and over again to boost your writing sessions. Try her 7 day challenge in conjunction with one of the other classes and just see what kind of progress you can make. I think you’ll be thrilled!

Ready for the nuts and bolts of how to start writing your memoir? Best-selling memoirist Kathy Karr shares “the processes she relies on to write beautiful, visceral scenes.”

How about a jump start on your memoir writing? My own class on how to Quick Start a Memoir will give you a fun, creatively practical project and easy directions to help you begin .

  1. Autobiographical Fiction: Write a Short Story from Personal Experience, by writer/reporter Adam Janos

Adam will teach you to brainstorm ideas from your life, transform yourself into a character, and write details. You’ll learn about conflict and pacing with excellent examples. This class can help memoir writers think beyond their ideas for standard memoir and expand their storytelling skills. Click this link to try the class:

2. Creative Writing: Crafting Personal Essays with Impact, by Roxanne Gay

Roxanne’s course is full of “practical guidance, actionable tactics, and example essays” She’ll lead you through the important step of “finding a specific purpose for telling your story”, then how to “connect your work to a larger theme”, and inspire you with how to use your “personal memories to write your story.” Click this link to take Roxanne’s class:

3. 7 Day 15 Minute Writing Challenge by Rebecca Livermore

Developing a daily writing habit, for even just a few minutes at a time, will set you up for success in completing your story. This short challenge can launch you into storytelling productivity with 7 daily writing prompts, help in “setting personalized writing goals”, and tips and tools for writing quickly in short time chunks with minimal distractions. Click here to enjoy Rebecca’s class:

4. Writing the Truth, How to Start Writing Your Memoir, Mary Karr

Through a series of memory-focused writing exercises, Mary guides you through a clear, actionable plan to help you write your memoir. She “shares her wisdom and perspective on life, writing as a craft….” Mary’s class will help you develop your personal writing voice and hone your storytelling skills to connect with readers. Don’t miss this class, click here to jump right in:

5. It’s Time to Tell Your Story: Quick Start a Memoir, Karen Ray

Yup, this one is mine and I’ve seen these tips, tools, and techniques work wonders! You don’t have to be a “writer” to share your story in a meaningful way. This class will jump start your memoir or family history project, helping you clarify the 5 W’s of your story, the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and WHY. You’ll create a foundational framework to build your personal history project  and have fun in the process. This can even stand alone as a mini-memoir. Click here to make fast progress with your memoir or family history:

Start today — Celebrate your life and begin saving those important family memories!

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Great Ways to Celebrate Your Graduate – Part 1

graduation gift ideas

Students all around the country are working hard and preparing to wrap up their education. The internet is exploding with pet videos to distract and soothe their weary minds and familys everywhere are making plans to celebrate. In this 2-part article I’ll share ideas for saving your favorite graduate’s life memories and adventures to date. Student memoirs rock!

Sharing about what life was like back in the day when our parents and grandparents were in school is a much-loved holiday dinner tradition. Their stories of adventures, struggles and the chore of walking uphill both ways to school always make us groan and laugh. We learn much from their experiences. It sure does me good to hear about not only their grit and determination, but their shenanigans too.

That said, years from now your young person’s family will want to see photos and hear the stories of events that helped shape them into who they are. This will become part of their family history.

You can help with a gift you can make yourself! Here are the first 2 of 3 steps you can take to focus your ideas, gather material, and then share this wonderful story. The key to creating this in a short amount of time is to narrow the scope of your project, gather all your material in one place and then use easy online or physical tools to make it a creative reality.

Step 1
Pick Your Graduate and Your Theme
Let’s use the example of a high school or college age student about to graduate. Decide whether you want to run through quick highlights of their life or focus on a theme of sports, music, hobbies or other interests.

For young folks I highly recommend doing an overview of their life as it shows so many different sides of who they are as a person. This will delight and honor them! Even big “kids” love seeing photos of themselves and hearing stories about growing up. Yes, even though they’ve heard them before. In fact, especially because they’ve heard them before! Include things that show them how valued and loved they are.

We all know the importance of having physical copies of photographs around. In fact, a gifted wedding photographer friend said she could not emphasize this enough. A photo storybook carries the same weight of importance and will be loved and treasured by your graduate.  

Besides, when that solar flare or some other catastrophe finally hits, don’t you want your family to have keepsakes they can enjoy without electricity? Oh yes you do! And we all know those convenient cell phones that hold most of your photos sometimes meet an untimely end in laundry or toilet. Don’t make them the sole repository of your life’s memories.

Step 2
Gather Your Material
Pull together photos, artwork, notes, and stories from your graduate’s growing up years. If you decided to work with a theme keep this in mind as you make your choices. I like to take material and photos from about every 2-3 years during a young person’s life. This  usually captures major changes and life events and illustrates their progression of growth and interests.

A fun idea is to interview your subject about some of their key memories of growing up. Don’t tell them what it’s for! Even an hour or two of visiting can give you a wealth of stories to transcribe and include in your book. Best of all, you’ll both enjoy the process and you’ll also have their voice telling the stories. How awesome is that?

Best tip ever:
Do include a few school photos … BUTInclude primarily candid photos, not those posed school photos; casual shots truly capture personality.

(Next week, the rest of the story, stay tuned!)
Thanks for sharing your time with me!

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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