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    Creating Imagined Dialogue: Give It a Try

    In our previous post we discussed  how to create imagined dialogue to enliven your family history book. We looked at

    • How time and place might contribute to what ancestors thought and discussed
    • Imagining the emotions they might have felt
    • Examining retrospectively what motivated them at that time
    • Using what you know about ancestors favorite expressions or style of speech

    All of these things can help you to imagine how they would have sounded in a conversation.

    Creating imagined dialogue is not as difficult as you may think. The best way to test that statement is to try doing it. To help out I’ll give you two prompts to practice on. You won’t have to think about your own ancestors here. Just imagine a conversation involving the people described in the prompt.

    1. It’s 1937. A husband and wife in Enid, Oklahoma are sitting at their kitchen table of their farmhouse. The country has been gripped by depression for almost a decade. Oklahoma topsoil has been blowing away for almost as many years, creating what has come to be known as the Dustbowl. Several of the couple’s neighbors have lost their farms to foreclosure. The couple fear the same fate. They have just received a letter from a former neighbor who moved to California with her family. After several months of looking for work the neighbor’s husband has found a job as a laborer constructing the massive Shasta Dam just north of the small town of Redding.

    Write the dialogue for the conversation the couple might have had.

    1. It’s late 1942. A woman and her neighbor in Ypsilanti, Michigan are sitting at her kitchen table. The United States has entered World War II. Both women’s husbands been drafted into the Army and shipped off to basic training. They will shortly be headed overseas. Some women in the town have already taken jobs at the Willow Run Aircraft Factory. The local radio stations and newspaper are filled with advertising calling upon other women to join those already at the factory. The women want to do their patriotic duty. They are also concerned with their responsibilities as mothers.

    Write the dialogue for a conversation the women might have had.

    There are no rules for what you should do. Let your imagination take over. We’d love it if you would share your results by posting them as comments. Have fun!



    Creating Imagined Dialogue for Your Family History

    Nancy and I attended the Family History Expo at St. George, Utah over the weekend. We had a great time as we always do at an Expo.

    One of the classes we presented is titled A Good Read: Make Family History Books Exciting. Its focus is on how to use family stories to make your book dramatic. We discuss ways family historians can employ techniques of fiction writers in their accounts of their ancestors’ lives. One of the techniques we discuss is using imagined dialogue. We suggest that you can bring your relatives to life by imagining conversations they might have had at key points in their lives.

    How do you do that and remain faithful to a factual portrayal of history? Let’s take a look at some of the things that might guide you. First, people live in a particular time and place. This means that they may face some distinctive challenges or opportunities. Begin by trying to understand as well as you can what your ancestors unique location both geographic and temporal would have meant for them. The situation in which they found themselves will have a lot to do with what they might talk about and what they might say.

    Next recognize that circumstances lead to emotions. Speculate on what a person living in that time and place might have been feeling. Their speech will reflect the emotional tone of their situation.

    People say things because they are motivated to do so. As a historian, you have the benefit of hindsight. You can look back and see what your ancestor did in response to being in a particular situation. Whatever they did, it’s likely that they talked about what they might do, exploring the things that might ultimately have motivated them to take the course of action they chose.

    Finally, you may know something about the way you ancestor spoke. For example, maybe you have heard relatives say that great granddad had a favorite expression or two. If you don’t have that kind of direct knowledge, maybe you have letters written by the relative in question or even a journal or diary. These will give you some ideas about their favorite turns of phrase and how they might have liked to construct sentences.

    With a little thought and imagination you can combine these things, all of which have a basis in fact, and construct a speculative conversation in which what your ancestor might have said is fairly represented.

    In our next post, we’ll offer a writing challenge in which you can try out some of the things we discussed today.



    What's the Difference Between a Chronicler and a Historian?

    What’s the difference between a historian and a chronicler or documentarian? Anyone contemplating writing a family history ought to give the question some thought. A person who wants to chronicle events is primarily concerned with creating and documenting a record of everything that happened. It’s not surprising that the daily newspaper I read is called The Chronicle. It sees its responsibility as capturing events great and small which occurred the previous day. Some are of earthshaking import, but most are not. There’s a reason that newspapers often wind up on the bottom of people’s birdcages.

    A genealogist’s research is intended to create to create that sort of documented record of his ancestors. It involves gathering facts and demonstrating through documentary evidence the accuracy of those facts.

    But, when a genealogist decides to become a family historian by turning his research into a book his role changes. You need to recognize that you are writing for an audience and that you have a responsibility to present your family’s history in the most interesting way possible to that audience.

    • Rule One: Realize that just because you have gone to great length to acquire knowledge about a particular detail or event and to document its factual basis it won’t necessarily be interesting or important in the eyes of your audience.

    Your readers will probably find it more interesting and significant that your ancestor landed on Utah Beach on D-Day than that he spent eight weeks in training at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. The two facts don’t deserve equal time in your book just because they both happened. One might not even need to be there at all.

    • Rule 2: Recognize that life’s turning points, triumphs and epiphanies aren’t distributed equally over the years of a person’s life. Look for the dramatic and significant events in your ancestor’s life. If there were stretches of years when things just rolled along without anything of interest happening, you don’t have to give those years equal time (or maybe even any time) in your book.

    Getting away from straight chronology is a good way to free yourself to focus only on the big events giving the most attention to the most important aspects of your family’s history.

    A historian interprets events. She makes choices about what is important among the many facts at her disposal and uses them to show why some events are especially significant. By choosing anecdotes that are interesting and unusual to tell your ancestors’ story you will also make that story engaging for your audience.



    Tried and True Organization for Your Family History? 

    What’s the best way to organize a big project, like a family history book?

    We regularly teach a seminar, How to Plan and Organize a Family History Book. We recommend that people begin with the big ideas first, listing what should go into the book. And ultimately, they should arrive at an outline. But in the middle between these two points, there’s a murky area, a process that seems to stump our audiences.

    Ironically, the sticking point comes when we refer to a process we all probably learned in middle school: index cards. Remember them? There are software variations now, using the same principles of organization.

    We like index cards because they are hands on, they’re visual, and they are easy to change, add or discard. You can use different colored cards to designate big ideas, subheadings and specific details. After you develop one organization, it’s easy to move the cards to a different arrangement of ideas. When you’re happy with the way the cards are arranged, you can transfer the ideas on the index cards to paper and you’ve got a preliminary outline.

    For most folks the index card method makes perfect sense, but others just don’t get it. “Should it be a red card or a green card?” they ask. “How many subheadings should I have under a big idea?” The very strength of the system, its flexibility, confuses people.

    Do you have other techniques to suggest? How do you like to organize ideas for a big project? Post a comment and share with us, and our readers, your favorite method of organizing. We’ll look forward to reading what you have to say and I’m sure our readers will too.



    A Question for Family Historians: Do Your Images Lead to Stories?

    As you plan and organize your family history of memoir you should carefully review the photographs and images like documents and letters that you have. When you do you face a potential fork in the road. There are two ways you can proceed. Ask yourself, “Do I want my images to be the primary organizing principle to guide the narrative, or do the stories come first, with images supplementing my stories?”

    When you consider the stories and images you have, you may decide to employ pictorial storytelling. Think about magazine like Life and Look or even Sports Illustrated, which used vivid pictures to tell a story. Text was used to supplement and explain the images. Or think about documentary photography like Dorthea Lange’ iconic depression photos which capture a time and place.

    To create a pictorial history, choose the images first, and eliminate stories that are not tied directly to the illustrations.

    When choosing your images consider the:

    • The physical quality of the images. Are the photos faded, torn or scratched?
    • The vividness of the story told by the photograph. Is it interesting enough?

    Choose photographs that:

    • Evoke laughter or cause emotion

    • Are candid and show character

    • Show stages of life; such as pictures of the same person taken years apart
    • Are action shots; in general they’re more interesting than posed photos

    • Are close-ups rather than long distance shots

    • Are horizontal rather than vertical; these usually make better illustrations.

    Documents tell important family stories. Including scanned images of old letters, diaries, birth or death records, property records, military records, marriage certificates and wills can add to the stories told by your photo collection.



    Interactive Narrative: A New Tool in Storytelling

    Bill Smith posed a question on his blog, Dr. Bill Tells Ancestor Stories, “Have you seen Welcome to Pine Point?” (Thanks, Bill!) I hadn’t. I followed the link to the Nieman Storyboard, the blog of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard.

    Blogger Andrea Pitsker opened her post with this introduction:

    What if your hometown disappeared, literally vanished from the map? How would you hold onto it? Would the community of people who had lived there continue? “Welcome to Pine Point” is a website that explores the death of a town and the people whose memories and mementos tell its story today. The site lives online under the auspices of the National Film Board of Canada and came into the world via the creative duo of Michael Simons and Paul Shoebridge (also known as The Goggles). I haven’t seen anything quite like Pine Point before — it incorporates music to haunting effect but is especially innovative in its use of text and design.

    I had to watch. The result, which Pitzer describes as interactive narrative, incorporates text, old photographs, audio recordings, home movies, animation and music to tell a deeply engaging and entertaining story which had a surprising emotional impact on me. It’s somewhat hard to describe, but well worth watching. You’ll need about 15 to 20 minutes to watch the film. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

     Click here to watch Welcome to Pine Point.

    Enjoy the video? I hope so. Now you may want to read Andrea Pitzer’s interview with its creators Michael Simmons and Paul Shoebridge on the Nieman Storyboard.

    Click here to go to the interview.

    Is this kind of new media what family history or memoir might look like in the future? Interesting question to ponder.

    Post a comment and let us know what you think.

    Click here to read Dr. Bill Smith's post.



    Making Family History Books Interesting for Young Readers

    In a recent post on the Grove Creek Family History Blog titled “What is Family History?” blogger Rayanne Melick posed a question most family historians face: How do we engage children and grandchildren in the family’s history? Melick explained that her son said to her, “Mom, whenever people ask you what you do for fun, you say family history. Do you ever notice that their eyes glaze over?”

    Since the younger generations are the intended audience for most family historians, certainly most of the authors we work with, capturing children’s interest is essential.

    So let’s look at what people who try to do this for a living – authors and editors of books for children – suggest.

    “If you want to teach young read­ers about the Irish potato famine…tell them a story,” says Susan Brown Taylor author of several historical titles for children including Robert Brown Sails to Freedom.

    Family history is, of course, rooted in fact, but as Reka Simonsen, Editor at Henry Holt and Company says, "Storytelling is storytelling. In nonfic­tion, the story happens to be true rather than invented, but the same rules apply: There should still he a strong story arc; there still has to be a problem that needs resolution; the characters have to be fully developed; there must be moments of dramatic tension and emotion of whatever kind appropriate to the events.”

    Stories help kids learn to think by engaging their curios­ity," says Shannon Barefield, Senior Edi­tor at Lerner Publishing Group. "It makes readers ask, `Then what hap­pened? Why?' and so on…storytelling techniques can bring to life a subject's significance in a way that just-the-facts writing can't always do. It's crucial for kids to learn the nuts-and-bolts facts of the Holocaust, for example, but to learn the human side of those events is critically important as well.”

    Once engaged by family stories children may find themselves drawn into the pursuit of  more knowledge about their ancestors. Judy O'Malley, former Editori­al Director of Houghton Mifflin Books says, "I prefer to focus on the literature of fact books that tell the shaped story of what is known about lives and times, and that include the documentation of those facts that model for young read­ers how exciting authentic research can be. That leads them to read further and deeper, starting with the author's trail and following wherever their pas­sion for the subject leads them.”

    So as you plan and organize your family history book make sure it has plenty of family stories to appeal to the young audience for which it is intended.

    Click here to read Rayanne Melick’s post, “What is Family History?”




    Begin Your Family History Book With the End in Mind

    Stephen Covey offered some sound advice when he said that highly effective people “begin with the end in mind.” That’s certainly true for family historians setting out to create a book. It would be difficult to ever get your family history into print if you didn’t have a pretty clear idea of what it will look like when it’s printed.

    In some of our workshops Nancy and I use a simple exercise to help authors at the beginning of the process of creating a book visualize the finished product. It’s designed to help focus on the book’s intended audience. We ask the workshop participants to create a dedication page for their book by answering two questions:

    • Who is this book for?
    • Why are they special to you?

    Having decided upon whom you will be writing for, you can decide what will make your book special for that person.

    Many people we meet want to write a book for their grandchildren. A book for younger readers should focus on a lively account of ancestors using stories and anecdotes to pique the kids’ interest. You should also understand that younger readers growing up in a digital world are often much more visually oriented than their elders so effective use of photos and other illustrations will be an important way to draw them into the book.

    On the other hand, a person whose goal is to create a serious document for future family historians and genealogical researchers will want to emphasize facts, documentation and sourcing. Charts and graphic may be very effective in organizing the factual details of the book. Extensive footnotes or endnotes on sources and documentation will play a more important role in your book.

    Your initial visualization of the type of book you want to create will help you decide the best way to organize your family history research and make choices about what to include and what might better be left out. It can also help you decide how you might deal with more than one goal while focusing on you target audience. If you are writing primarily for the grandchildren you can still attend to source notes and documentation in an appendix or even in a CD placed in a sleeve on the inside back cover. The kids may never look at it, but future researchers will thank you.

    Some early thought to the exact type of book you want to produce will save you a lot of time during the creative process and will help you produce a much better book in the end.




    Every Author Needs an Editor

    I am always interested when someone chooses to write about book editing, so it’s no surprise that I was happy to find Alex Clark’s article “The Lost Art of Editing” in The Guardian’s online edition.

    Clark laments changes in the publishing world where the bottom line of the conglomerate has become more important than the quality of the books sold. Says Clark, “For some years now – almost as long as people have been predicting the death of the book – there have been murmurs throughout publishing that books are simply not edited in the way they once were, either on the kind of grand scale that might see the reworking of plot, character or tone, or at the more detailed level that ensures the accuracy of, for example, minute historical or geographical facts.”

    He recalls one particularly amusing incident: “One evening at the end of last September I found myself all set to interview Jonathan Franzen about his new novel, Freedom, on the stage of the Southbank Centre in London. I had anxiously worked and reworked my list of questions, but while my preparation was not in vain, it was swiftly put into perspective by an unexpected turn of events. It transpired that Franzen had that very afternoon, during the filming of a BBC television programme, discovered that the UK edition of his novel contained a number of errors – errors that he thought had been corrected during previous stages of production. In other words, the copies of the novel stacked high in the foyer, not to mention the tens of thousands on their way to bookshops, were not as Franzen, or indeed his publisher, intended.”

    At first glance, none of this may seem like it pertains to a memoirist or family historian considering limited distribution or self publishing. But on second thought, Clark demonstrates that even our greatest writers need a diligent, skilled editor. Experienced, thoughtful editors help authors shape the content of their books to make sure their stories are well told. They also help authors to make sure that they are correct on the sentence level.

    With the decline of editing in publishing houses and the rise of self publishing an increasing number of authors are turning to independent editors to help them make sure that their books are the best that they can be.

    Unfortunately a fair number of self publishing authors skip the editing step or gloss over it. Having a sympathetic friend or writing group review a manuscript is not the same as what an author gets from a skilled editor. The result can be a book with a story less sharply drawn than it could have been and a series of errors that could have been avoided.

    Even after a good editor has helped polish your manuscript, realize that the final responsibility rests with you, the writer. Diana Athill, who as an editor worked with literary greats like Phillip Roth, Norman Mailer, John Updike and Simone de Beauvoir, and after retirement wrote Somewhere Near the End, a memoir which won the Costa Prize for Biography, observed “The answer I found for myself is that I take much more trouble than I used to in the line-by-line editing of my own manuscript, and I think authors should now take that responsibility on themselves if they don't want to be annoyed by minor details.”

    Click here to read Alex Clarke’s article “The Lost Art of Editing”



    A Graphic Approach to Family History

    Family historians often find themselves awash in a flood of factual data gathered from their genealogical research. How should you present the facts in a book? More importantly how can you make them lively and interesting when you do? Fast Company Magazine’s online site offers a feature called Infographic of the Day. Yesterday’s suggested an approach to presenting biographical and historical facts that might be useful to a family historian.

    One page of Nicholas Felton's Timeline. Others focus on other stages of his father's life.

    The feature spotlights a project by award-winning New York graphic designer Nicholas Felton. In 2005 Felton began creating a graphical Annual Report reports in which he displays data compiled from his everyday activities throughout the year using ingenious charts, diagrams and maps. Says Fast Company, “For 2010, he's created a masterpiece. Instead of looking at his own life, he's captured the entire life of his father, Gunter, who passed last September.”

    “Gunter worked as an elevator engineer and settled in California, which in all honesty sounds pretty structured and even, perhaps, boring. In actuality, Gunter was a fascinating man who led an unbelievably textured and rich life: Here was a guy who was born into Nazi Germany, was bombed by Germans during World War II, traveled to 48 countries, met the Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale, and in old age practiced Tai Chi and saw Willie Nelson play with the Yamato Drummers.”

    Nicholas Felton

    Felton’s tribute to his father is a long way from the rather mundane family group sheets, pedigree charts and timelines that appear in family histories. True, he does have a family tree graphic and several timeline pages documenting his father’s life. But vibrant color, dramatic typography, and photo inserts transform these often staid items. He uses atlases to show his fathers residences, socializing and travel. Felton even includes a bar graph of books his father read categorized by genre and an electrocardiogram. These facts jump off the page and Gunter Felton comes to life in his son’s tribute.

    Take a look! While you might not have Felton’s graphic design skills – I certainly don’t – you may get some ideas of how you can enrich your family history book by finding unique ways to present your facts about your ancestors.

    Click here to visit Fast Company’s Infographics of the Day: A Son Honors His Father’s Life with a Masterpiece



    Photo Choices in Your Family History Book

    Have you ever watched a person look through a book they’ve picked up for the first time? If it has pictures, you can bet that’s where they’ll stop to take a look. That’s great news for family historians who have photographs to use in creating an illustrated book. Good pictures will make the book much more visually attractive, especially for younger readers who are growing up in a digital age.

    To gain maximum advantage from your photos there are some important choices to make:

    • Which photos will be featured? After reviewing your photos decide on 10-15 you think are excellent. The two best can be used on the front and back covers. Others can be displayed throughout the book as full pages (or significantly enlarged if the original is too small).

    • If you don’t have many photos to use in illustrating your book, there is an alternative. Scanned family documents or photos of the time and place where ancestors lived, which can often be found by consulting local libraries, historical or genealogical societies, can give a sense of the lives your ancestors lived.

    Historic buildings  in Deadwood, South Dakota

    • There are a number of considerations in placing photographs. When possible, locate photos to accompany the text describing people or events in the picture. It is often wise to group photos of the same branch of the family tree to accompany their stories. However, not every image is, or must be so literally connected to your stories. To include more loosely related photos, you can group them together or place them between chapters. You can place up to a dozen photos on a page, but you may want to limit groupings to two to four photos so that they are bigger for better visual effect. We don’t recommend photo collages because they are often difficult for the reader to comprehend.
    • Consider whether the image needs identification (who, what, when, where, why, how). Not every photo needs a caption, and documents often speak for themselves. Consider grouping pictures without captions in some sections of your book. Self explanatory photos, such as multiple images of the same person, are better off without a caption.
    • Graphics like timelines and charts often benefit from effective use of photos. For example adding wedding pictures and fiftieth anniversary photos to a timeline can bring it to life. Thumbnail photos of heads of different branches of the family will bring a family group sheet will make it more interesting.



    Identifying People in Old Family Photographs

    Are you a mystery fan? I am. I love to watch detectives on the trail of clues, unraveling the past before my eyes.

    Old family photos can offer the mystery-lovers among us a chance to become the detective. We’ve all got at least a few of those family photos that are interesting and probably important, but they feature people we simply can’t identify. It’s frustrating, but don’t throw the photos back into a box and bury them back in the garage. Here are some tools to help you discover your mysterious ancestors.

    Kimberly Powell on offers 5 Steps for Identifying People in Old Family Photographs. Her suggestions:

    • Identify the Type of Photograph – Daguerreotypes were popular from 1839-1870, Cabinet Cards from 1866-1906, and no Polaroid photo could have been taken before 1948 (when the Polaroid camera was invented).
    • Who Was the Photographer? – Check the front, back and frame or cover of the photo for the photographer’s name and possibly location. Local city directories, libraries, and historical or genealogical societies can help you track when the photographer was in business.
    • Check Out the Scene or Setting – Clues to the time or location may appear when the family is posed in front of the family automobile or home. The Family Chronicles site on Dating Old Photographs suggests that it is often possible to establish the date by carefully comparing with other pictures of known date. For example, note details in the painted canvas background used for a studio shot. The drapes or woodwork in the scene may be clues to the photo’s date.

     Visit Family Chronicles Dating Old Photographs to see how to date this photo.

    • Focus on Clothing or Hairstyle – The Costume Detective website helps you to analyze costumes, fashion, hats, and jewelry to achieve a date within five years of the date the photo was taken. The Costumer’s Manifesto site offers numerous links for dating old family photographs, using fashion history and styles of photo-mounts. It promises, “These links are provided so you can teach yourself to do this for yourself.”

    Visit The Costume Detective to see how to date this photo.

    • Match Up the Clues with Your Knowledge of Family History – Once you’ve identified the time and place of the photo, use your knowledge of ancestors to begin trying to identify who is in the picture.

    Click here to read Kimberly Powell’s 5 Steps for Identifying People in Old Family Photographs

    Click here to visit Family Chronicle’s Dating Old Photographs

    Click here to visit the Costume Detective

    Click here visit the Costumer’s Manifesto



    Tools for Preserving Your Digital Family History Files

    We’d like to thank blog reader Richard Skooter who commented on our previous post “how to Digitize Your Family History.” Richard advised, “I'd like to add that once you've digitized your family's information, store it online so it won't become lost due to a hard drive crash or lost or stolen CD-ROMs. And you won't have to transfer the files from one to another every time you buy a new computer.” I agree.

    Preserving data is essential. CNET UK’s Cloud Computing Guide offers a simple explanation of  online storage is a great way to achieve this goal:

    “…backing up data to the cloud means you're backing up data to a hard drive in a secure data centre via your Internet connection, instead of just to a hard drive in your house. In fact, that data centre might be located on the other side of the world.

    Using cloud backups, you've removed from your shoulders the burden and stress of protecting whatever device your data is stored on.”

     Richard recommended two services for online storage. Amazon’s S 3 and Rackspace.

    Amazon S 3 promises to protect your data with a “a highly durable storage infrastructure designed for mission-critical and primary data storage.” New users get up to 5 GB of storage free for a year, then modest fees kick in. The Best Techie website review concludes, Amazon S3 provides a highly durable storage infrastructure designed for mission-critical and primary data storage.”

    Rackspace is a bit more expensive. But Clloud which offers “Web Hosting Tips and Reviews” observed, “We quite like that Rackspace Cloud File comes with a control panel to allow you to manage your files, unlike Amazon’s S3 that throws you in at the deep end so-to-speak and expects you to find your own tools.”

    We’d like to add a word about our own favorite, Dropbox. Dropbox promises, “A single secure place for all your stuff.” This includes providing you easy access to files from all of your devices including phone, laptop and desktop. Says CNET, “It’s a breeze to use, works as intended, and is stable.”

    As you make the transition to digital files for all you family history research, documents, photos and objects consider one of the many good options for online storage to assure that your data will always be there.

    Click here to read the CNET UK article Essential Backup Services Compared

    Click here to visit the Amazon S 3 website

    Click here to read the Best Techie Review of Amazon’s S 3

    Click here to visit the Rackspace Storage website

    Click here to read the Clloud Review of Rackspace

    Click here to visit the DropBox website

    Click here to read the CNET Review of DropBox



    How to Digitize Your Family History 

    Got questions about digitizing your family history research?

    Make it Digital available on the website of Digital New Zealand has answers. “The Make it Digital approach is to identify elements of good practice for digital content creation.”

    The site offers guides to digitizing documents, photographs, audio and video. There are a series of Guides to various aspects of the process of creating digital content. The most relevant for family historians and genealogists is the Guide to Digitising Family History and Whakapapa (Maori Genealogy). (One thing you’ll see is the British spellings of some words like digitising.)

    The Guide begins with a section to help you “Choose What to Make Digital” which includes the Make It Digital Scorecard to help you decide.

    The “Create Longlasting Digital Copies” deals with issues like how to digitize family photos, documents and objects, the best scanner settings and image formats, and digital cameras.

    There is a section on “Recording Family History Digitally” with information on both audio and video recording and a separate guide to “Transferring Oral Histories from Cassette to Digital.”

    The final section offers advice on “Protecting Your Digital Copies.”

    Make It Digital offers simple, but complete advice to people who need some guidance in navigating the available digital technologies to enhance their family histories. It’s definitely a site worth visiting.

    Click here to visit the Make It Digital site and the Guide to Digitising Family History and Whakapapa



    New Books for Memoirists, Family Historians and Self Publishers

    My bookshelf is stacking up. I have three books that I want to get to in the next few days. You may hear more about them when I do.

    The first to arrive is Mark Levine’s The Fine Print of Self Publishing. Levine is the President of a division of the Hillcrest Publishing Group, Inc. He has researched self publishing options offered by 45 companies. The book’s goal is to help writers choose ethical self-publishing companies and avoid book publishing companies that are nothing more than dream-crushing scam artists.

    Tim Bete, Director, Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop said of Levine’s book, "It would take years for an author to compile all the research that Mark Levine has and, even then, most authors wouldn't be able to analyze the self-publishing companies and their contracts the way Levine does. The Fine Print of Self-Publishing will save time and money with your next self-publishing project."

    I am sure this will be a valuable tool to help us in advising clients. I’m sure you see some of that advice here in future posts.
    Click here  for more on The Fine Print of Self Publishing

    Next, I ran across Piers Steel’s, The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done at my local public library. After my most recent post, Write a Family History in 28 Days? Maybe!, not to mention my ever lengthening to-do list, and the diet and visits to the gym that I really will start tomorrow, I had to see what Steel, a professor at the University of Calgary, Steel is one of the world’s leading researchers and speakers on the science of motivation and procrastination, has to say.

    Library Journal promises, “Why you ‘put off till tomorrow what you can do today’ forms the crux of Steel’s book, in which he not only answers that question but details specific techniques to reign in the impulse. . . . Offers good advice.”  

    Let’s hope!

    Click Here  for more on The Procrastination Equation

    Finally, we’re always looking for examples of memoirs, biographies and family histories that use stories to bring their subjects to life. On a recent visit to the Redding Barnes & Noble (No, we’re not related. Too bad!) we ran across Stacy Schiff’s, Cleopatra - A Life

    Schiff is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for her biography of Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov, Vera.

    Margaret Flanagan, Booklist says of the book, “Demonstrating the same narrative flair that captivated readers of her Pulitzer Prize–winning Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) (1999), provides a new interpretation of the life of one of history’s most enduringly intriguing women.”

    It looks like exactly the kind of creative approach to using literary techniques we like to recommend to memoirists and family historians. Look for a review soon.

    Click here for more on Cleopatra.

    What are you reading? Post a comment.