I searched for my grandfather’s name on a whim. While designing books about other people’s family history, I had started to wonder about my own. Growing up, I was told little to nothing about my family heritage. Only as an adult did I learn about my great-grandparents. My grandma’s dad ran a carnival in a mall for a time and her mom immigrated to the United States from England; she is the one I’m named after. Their pictures now sit a on a bookshelf in my home along with a card she wrote shortly after my birth. My grandpa’s dad was an evangelistic preacher and pastor and his mother was an immigrant from England as well. Knowing I am also in ministry, a cousin mailed me one of my great-grandfather’s ministerial certificates – a gift I treasure. But this is all I knew of my dad’s side of the family and I wanted to know more.
We’re at RootsTech, the annual Salt Lake City extravaganza which melds the latest technological bells and whistles with genealogy and family history. It’s a wonderful event. Stories To Tell founder Nancy Barnes will be presenting two computer lab sessions on restoring historical photographs with Adobe PhotoShop. We picked up some good ideas for better ways to help authors from the Innovators’ Summit today. But, at the moment, I’m thinking about what technology can’t do for the family historian.
When I started writing this book, Finding Love’s Way, I did it without knowing where I was going. I wrote about whatever caught my attention or the words and thoughts I needed to get out. I let myself go without concerning myself about where it would end up. It’s much like starting a journey without planning where you’ll go but taking one step at a time. Some may call this poor planning and they may be right. But my poetry is, first and foremost, an expression of me and my relationship with God. It’s honest and open and real. If I planned the larger story out, I believe it would come across as faked and unsubstantial. So I let it go knowing I would look back later to find the way I went. I’m now at a stage where I’m doing this looking and finding the over-arching story. Having the title has helped immensely with this process. It’s given me a point to the journey and now I can go back and retrace my steps in order to find out how I got here. What have I struggled with? What did I learn through those experiences? What have been my joys along the way? Where is the path through the hills I created with the tread of my feet?
In English class this past week, my teacher handed each student a copy of The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss as we walked in. Some students reacted the same to it as if it were a copy of a George Orwell novel, and some students had a good laugh at it. None of us understood the reason for the books until my teacher wrote the word psychoanalysis on the board.
Have you thought about keeping a genealogy blog as you discover and research your family history? Are you working on compiling a family history book but are not sure where to start? Let's look at some of the benefits both provide.
Sometimes a writer just need to get away. There are times in our lives when we need to shed our skin. There are times when the life we have been writing about has become too heavy and needs to be let go of for a while or released completely. Maybe you’ve had a lot going on, maybe the growth has outpaced the roots, or maybe it’s just time to retreat to somewhere else far away.
Every writer, young or old, has experienced it at least once in their writing career. You put your pen on the paper to write words, but words don’t flow onto the paper like they usually do. You are stuck in the writer’s block.
Have you ever watched the way a child explores a new book? She might pick it up an examine the cover image, then flip through the pages, stopping occasionally, usually on a picture or photograph. She often has a fully formed opinion of the book before she begins to read it. I have watched adults examine books and seen the same thing. They peruse the books images before going back to examine the text. As you create a family history book, consider making yours an illustrated book.
Just about all my book titles have two things in common: there was another “working title” before it and I came up with the final title while in my bed. So often they come to me in the night and even now, I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s the lack of outer stimulation when my mind is finally quiet enough that the right words have the space to come into my conscious awareness. Whatever it is, it’s developed into a rather mystical habit.
As I was applying to colleges this fall, I was one of the few kids that knew his or her major before starting their first year. Or at least I thought I did.
For this book thus far, I’ve been writing whatever comes to mind, whatever message has to get out at the time. I know the book is about love and there are a lot of water references in it (a theme my editors pointed out to me) but it was all mixed together with no conclusion. The words weren’t going anywhere. Something was still missing. Every book needs a focus. Every book should be able to be summed up in a sentence or two. Find it, shape the book around it, and your writing will be far better for having a point.
New Year’s Day presents us with a bright hope that better things lay ahead in the coming year and a dilemma regarding how to turn that hope into a reality. Do you just buckle down and “keep on keepin’ on,” relying on determination and effort to produce results? Or is it time to embrace the mantra, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten,” and strike out in bold new directions? As you reflect on your writing goals for 2015 here are some excellent ideas you might want to consider as you set your goals for the new year.
For many genealogists it’s all about the tree. Creating a factual record of generations of ancestors is the focus of years of research. Filling in lines on your tree and adding names to your pedigree chart is a worthy goal, but it’s only a part of creating a family history. There is a story behind those entries on the tree. Capturing that narrative is what will interest readers. Begin with an old idea which appeared first in Greek concepts of drama: unity of time, place, and action. Each of your ancestors was born, lived and died in a specific place at a specific time. Part of their story is entwined with the historical context of their time and place. Here are some questions that will help you discover the relationship between your ancestors and their time and place.
(This is the fifth article in a series by Stories To Tell editor/designer Sarah Hoggatt recounting her experiences in publishing her poetry and nonfiction.) Do all authors think the book they’re working on is crap at some point in the writing stage? I’m beginning to suspect most authors struggle with this at some point and I have recently been finding my place among them. Are these ideas worth following, worth exploring? Are these words worth writing down? And what’s more, how are these struggles of my own ever going to help someone else?
Believe it or not, being a writer in a time of rapidly-evolving technology is not easy. Even though we have unlimited information at our fingertips, the information can be useless in the long run and even a distraction at some times.