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    Family Letter Collections Make Wonderful Books 

    Do you have family memorabilia like collections of letters you’re not sure how to preserve or share with others? They would make a wonderful book. We’ve worked with clients who have created books from collections of love letters between grandparents, correspondence sent home by relatives serving in the military or by a loved one traveling abroad. No matter the nature of your letters, a few simple ideas will help transform them into a book you will be proud of.

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    Can a Book Hold a Lifetime of Stuff?

    Wow, you have a lot! A lifetime of stuff, and your parent's stuff, too. You’ve been researching your genealogy a long time, have you? Recently, Carol Davis wrote me an email, "My first goal is to have my collection cleaned up enough if so I drop dead tonight I will not have to listen to my family moan and wail because they do not know what in the world to do with what I have. They would not toss it, but I would know truly how they feel about me if that happened. More to the point, this is my mess and mine to straighten up." I replied, “Carol, believe me, you're not the only one with this problem.” 

    Carol, like many genealogists, wants to leave a family history book as a legacy to her family. They may never be interested in “the whole mess”, but they will treasure a book, one that contains her most important knowledge, and one that was written for them.

    Here's a way to think about sorting through your “stuff” that may speed up the process and make it more manageable. What if you consider all your stuff, and put it into two categories: digital and print. Not the form it's in now, but whichever form would be the best outcome. For example, anything that's strictly factual can be stored as digital, database information, and therefore it is easily preserved and can be archived for later.  Consider that family members can step in and complete this work for you most easily. You can feel safe about putting that factual digital information on the back burner while you deal with the rest.

    The second category contains anything that is wonderful to look at and handle, like documents and photos. Many are suitable for a print project - and they are also more fragile and likely to be lost if anything happens to you! These are your most important artifacts. Most likely, they need you and your memories to explain them and bring them to life. After all, what does your family care about? You, and your memories.

    Now, these objects can now also be sorted into two categories: worthy of a book project, or not. You may have one or more, even several, book projects in mind. Select and scan all the essential, book worthy stuff first.

    Then scan the other, secondary stuff that won't go into one of your book projects and so will remain digital. Make folders of all those scans, grouping them simply by topic or period. That way, someone else can make sense of them if anything happens to you.

    Next comes the fun part: narrowing down your first book project so that it doesn't overwhelm you. Instead of throwing in the whole kitchen sink (or your whole family history) into one book, look at your best scans, and think about what's most important for you to say, and for your family to hear after you've gone. For this first time out, limit yourself to a small book. Cover just four generations, instead of twelve. One do just one branch of the family. Why a smaller project? Because you will finish it.

    Write the book simply, in your natural voice, and tell your stories. Utilize lots of the scanned images of your precious family artifacts. This way, you don't have to write as much text and the book will be move along more quickly, because the pictures will help to tell the story. You can always supplement the book with a CD, if you want to include more stuff, without taking the time to write a longer book.

    Remember, you’re trying to finijsh this pproject before you “drop dead”. To do that,  you need to set a deadline, say within a year, and work on the book exclusively – expect to giveup your research time until you're done!

    This method will also allow you to publish quickly, and to get that book into your family’s hands. They will be delighted! And they will want more. After all your hard work, they will still want more, because what does your family care about? You, and your memories. So, you put one book into their hands, satisfying your original goal, and if your hurry, you’ll live long enough to do another family history book. Even as you write your first, you can plan the second to include the things you didn't get to cover in the first. You'll be more experienced the second time around, and the process will be easier, so the second can be a bigger book.

    But first, start with an easy, smaller project, and finish it. You know what they say... "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."


    Do Books Still Matter in Genealogy?

    Nancy and Biff Barnes, editors from Stories To Tell, will join host Thomas MacEntee on GeneaBloggers Radio, at 6:00 p.m. (CST) Friday, December 16th to discuss the question, “Do Books Still Matter in Genealogy?”

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    What Do a Book and a Pair of Shoes Have in Common?

    What do a book and a pair of shoes have in common? A slogan. Nike has made a fortune admonishing people to “Just do it!” The writer, staring hesitatingly, at the blank first page of a book would be well served by the same advice.

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    How Photos Help to Tell a Story

    When it comes to placing images in your book, not all images are equal. Nor should all images be used in the same way. One of the most important things to consider in deciding how to place the images in your book is to consider the relationship of the text to the image. How do text and image work together to tell a story? Let’s look at some examples of the kinds of choices you might make in placing photos.

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    Seth Godin on Books: Is It All Marketing?

    When Seth Godin talks, it’s a good idea to listen. But it’s also a good idea to question some of his conclusions. Leo Babuta recently hosted the man American Way Magazine called “America’s Greatest Marketer” on his zenhabits blog for a session titled On the Future of Books: A Discussion with Seth Godin. Godin had just decided to end The Domino Project which he had conducted in partnership with Amazon with the goal of reinventing the way books are created, purchased and read. It was a stimulating and provocative conversation.

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    Guide for Memoirists: David Brooks' Life Lessons

    The holidays are a time when lots of us resolve to get a record of our lives down on paper. That’s great! But before you begin banging away at your keyboard take some time to consider your goals for the book. There are several ways to tell your story. We work with a lot of genealogists who have been researching for years and want to turn their research into a factual chronicle which documents their family’s history. Others are raconteurs who love to spin a good yarn. They are practiced storytellers who want to regale their audience with the best stories from their lives. But others seek to reflect upon the facts or the stories to draw meaning from them and to see what lessons their life experiences have to teach. These are the memoir writers. It is with people from that last category that New York Times columnist and author of the recently released book, The Social Animal: The Hidden Source of Love, Character and Achievement, David Brooks, conducted a project that should interest anyone who cares about memoirs.

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    How Do I Find an Illustrator for My Self Published Children’s Book?

    In our previous post we explored some advice to authors of children’s books seeking an illustrator.In today’s post we’ll explore the question of how to find an illustrator if you plan to self publish your children’s book. Begin by deciding how many illustrations and what size you want. Then decide on you budget for the project. Armed with this knowledge you can begin searching for your illustration.

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    How Do I Find an Illustrator for My Children’s Book?

    In the course of editing and designing books for people we often get questions. One we’ve heard a lot lately is, “Can you help me find a good illustrator for a children’s book?” Like many things associated with creating a book, this question is more complex than it seems. To begin with, you must deal with another question: How do you hope to get your book published? Will you follow the traditional process and submit it to a publishing house or do you plan to self publish? Your answer will take you down one of two very different roads. Today we’ll focus on the road to traditional commercial publication.

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    Should Young Children Read Ebooks?

    Matt Richtel and Julie Bosman of the NY Times reported that many tech savvy adults may love their Kindles, but For Their Children, Many EBook Fans Insist on Paper. They found that, “Print books may be under siege from the rise of e-books, but they have a tenacious hold on a particular group: children and toddlers. Their parents are insisting this next generation of readers spend their early years with old-fashioned books.” Their reasons for limiting children to paper books are based on personal feelings about the reading experience. Other than parental feelings about books is there a reason children are better off with print books than ebooks? Not really.

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    Family History Books: Using Literary Techniques to Tell Stories

    A family history writer is something very different from a family history researcher even if they are embodied in the same person. A researcher ransacks the vital records to discover the facts. A writer goes beyond those facts to find their meaning. “History at best has to be literature or it will go to dust,” said historian David McCullogh during his 2003 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities. How does that transformation of fact to literature occur?

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    A Rosetta Stone for Cursive

    Have you watched a young person’s fingers fly across the keyboard of their computer or contort in seemingly impossible gyrations as they text on their smart phone? The dexterity of the so called “digital natives” is amazing to those of us who were educated in the pre-electronic age. We spent hours in elementary school classrooms trying to master Spenserian Script, the Palmer Method, Getty-Dubay, the D’Nealian Method or some other form of cursive writing. On the other side of the coin, for the current generation the gently flowing script we all worked so hard to cultivate has become nearly as remote as hieroglyphics or cuneiform.

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    A Visit to the World Your Ancestors Lived In

    What was it like to live in Great Grand Dad’s day? That’s a question any family historian trying to bring his ancestors to life in the pages of a book ought to ask. Getting beyond the rather cold facts of a relative’s genealogical record requires drawing upon family stories when they are available. But it also means trying to recreate the time and place in which that person lived, their historical context. That’s the realm of the social historian. The City University of New York has placed the work of its American Social History Project a mouse click away.

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    Are You A Good Listener?

    A week from today is National Day of Listening, a new national holiday started by StoryCorps in 2008. On the day after Thanksgiving, StoryCorps asks all Americans to take an hour to record an interview with a loved one…” It’s an extension of the mission of StoryCorps, an independent non-profit that has recorded over 35,000 interviews conducted by over 70,000 participants since the organization was founded in 2003.

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    An Ode to Wikipedia

    I am old enough to remember hard-bound encyclopedias, those infallible sources for grade-school reports. And I am old enough to remember the pre-Google era, when I would wonder, and wonder, and yet my questions remained unanswered. Do you remember the days when you had to wait to go to the library?

    Now, for a quick answer, above all, there is Wikipedia. Of all the innumerable sources of internet information, Wikipedia is my go-to source for quick answers to my constant questions. On my computer’s browser, it holds the place of honor, that first, left button on my bookmarks toolbar.

    Here’s a small example of Wikipedia’s usefulness: Today, someone cryptically wrote“TIA” in an email to me. I was at a loss. I Googled it, and discovered that TIA is the acronym for a transient ischemic attack, and for the Telecommunications Industry Association, too. No luck. Wikipedia was more helpful: It listed every instance of TIA, categorized from medicine, transportation, people’s names, and literature and the arts, and that’s where I found my match. In my case, the meaning was "TIA" (thanks in advance), common usage in internet slang. How could I not know that? Well, now I do. Thanks, Wikipedia.

    Today there was a banner at the top of the Wikipedia page, with a message from the founder, Jimmy Wales. I idly clicked on it and read the message. I'd never thought of it before, that Wikipedia is "a humanitarian project to bring a free encyclopedia to every single person on the planet." I was touched by Wale’s earnest idealism. I donated a few dollars.

    What does it mean to have facts at your fingertips? What is it worth? A lot, to me. I think it has changed the way I navigate the world. Now, I expect to know – and if I don’t, well then I’ll find out. Thanks, Wikipedia.

    Read Jimmy Wales’ message about Wikipedia, and consider donating a few dollars yourself by clicking the button below.

    If everyone reading this donated a dollar, we would be able to keep Wikipedia strong, secure, and ad-free.

    Not everyone can or will donate. And that’s fine, because each year just enough people support Wikipedia with a small donation. If you feel it's your turn, please make a small donation of $10, $20, $35 or whatever you can to keep Wikipedia free.

    Most people don't know this, but I'm a volunteer.

    I don't get paid a cent for my work at Wikipedia, and neither do our thousands of other volunteer authors and editors. When I founded Wikipedia, I could have made it into a for-profit company with advertising banners, but I decided to do something different. Commerce is fine. Advertising is not evil. But it doesn't belong here. Not in Wikipedia. Wikipedia is something special. It is like a library or a public park. It is like a temple for the mind. It is a place we can all go to think, to learn, to share our knowledge with others. It is a unique human project, the first of its kind in history. It is a humanitarian project to bring a free encyclopedia to every single person on the planet.

    Every single person.

    We're a small organization, and I've worked hard over the years to keep us lean and tight. We fulfill our mission, and leave waste to others.

    To do this without resorting to advertising, we need you. It is you who keep this dream alive. It is you who have created Wikipedia. It is you who believe that a place of calm reflection and learning is worth having.

    This year, please consider making a donation to protect and sustain Wikipedia.


    Jimmy Wales

    Wikipedia Founder

    Support Wikipedia

    click the botton to donate