Thursday, September 25, 2008

Writer's Block: Turning Roadblocks into Speed Bumps

Every writer reaches a block in production. Many of the people in my classes have found that joining a writing group greatly helps them with their lack of writing. One published author joined my class and came out of her writer’s block. She now writes daily and is well into her second book. Others have joined the class to get fresh ideas and to be surrounded by supportive writers. Sharing one’s stories with others gives you the confidence and desire to continue. Writing in solitude is not greatly productive for many novice writers.

Many people have ideas on how to break their writer’s block, and what works for one may not work for another. ALSO, what worked for you in the past make not be helpful at a different time.

Often a writer can push through the lack of ideas or inspiration, but generally, it is important to understand why you have writer’s block. Knowing the reason you can only stare at a blank paper, holding a mute pen, can help you scale that brick wall, turning your roadblock into a speed bump. Writing Roadblocks vary greatly.

Getting to the source of the problem rather than just finding a way out of your writing dilemma is best. To do this you must decide why you have writer’s block. There are many reasons for not being able to write. Some may be lurking in your sub-conscience.

No Great Family Stories.
You may experience different ones at different times. Some people who wish to write their childhood memories and family stories may fee they have had a sad or uneventful life, perhaps one not worth telling or one which may be of little interest to others. So, let me first state the obvious: If we did not have the bad in the world we would not know what is good. All lives are eventful. Events in our own world over decades shape us and you never know when your words, your life’s stories will help shape someone else.

Writing and Spelling Problems.
Perhaps you are not pleased with your writing or spelling. It does not matter that you write only a timeline, a rough draft stories, or a bound booklet. The idea is to leave these precious memories for your family and the future generations. Any one would rather have a poorly written, misspelled diary, journal or pile of stories over nothing.

What you write is more important than how you write. The goal is to get the stories down. Tips to help improve your sentences are available on the Internet, if you wish to improve. However, remember the goal of writing your family stories is to share them with your descendants. Maybe not the descendants you currently know, but those in the future generations. Any of them would rather have your boring sentences and misspellings than no stories of their ancestors. Perhaps they may wonder about your writing skills, but they will surely cherish every word you write.

Cannot Get Started.
You just do not know where to begin the story of your life. I would urge you not to start at the beginning of your life, but to write on what motivates you at the moment. However, in writing individual stories, you do not have to start at the beginning of any one story, either. You can begin at the beginning or at the end. Give the lesson you learned first, then go back to explain what happened. Remember: You are not entering a contest; you are recording your history. Relax and enjoy reliving it through your writing.

No Ideas.
There are hundreds of writing prompts on the Internet, many books on the topic, and you can email me to purchase a copy of my booklet. I am sure that after you read a single page of my booklet that you will be ready to write, if the topic has any relevance to your life. My booklet is not just one-line topics, but includes many related prompts and ideas to get you jump-started.

Besides using published prompts, you can gather your own ideas with some of these techniques:

1. Brainstorming. On a blank paper start writing the first things that come to mind. Perhaps you have a topic; perhaps not. Then add the answers to such questions as who, what, why, when, where, and how. Read your finish product searching for story ideas.

2. Webbing. This is another form of brainstorming. Write a topic in the middle of your paper and then write a few words that relate to the topic in random places on your page. Draw lines to connect related topics. You can also add ideas under each of those sub-topics. Think of this as a cross between the random thoughts of brainstorming and the organized ideas of an outline.

3. Free Write. Write for a set time, and write anything that enters your mind. If that is only the statement “I can’t think of anything to write” then write it until your mind changes its thoughts. Regardless, do not stop writing. The pen must continuously flow as quickly as you can write. Try to write for at least ten minutes and increase that time, if needed. A timer works greatly for this as you should not have any time to look at a clock. Once you have finished, read what you have and try to locate some kernel that sparks a memory. Maybe it will be a story on how you were stuck when writing a high school essay, even!

4. Notebook or Note Pad.
Even famous aruthors are known to carry a note pad with them to jot down ideas as they live their daily lives. Keep a notebook with you and one beside your bed. Write down thoughts that come to you during the day or as you try to fall asleep. Often something in our lives triggers a memory. Perhaps you may wish to write about what happened that particular day. For your descendants to learn about everyday life is very worthwhile. Just think how much you would have enjoyed knowing about the daily lives of your pioneer ancestors.

5. Writing from a Photo. “A picture is worth a thousands words,” they say. Then you should be able to write a thousand words for it. Drag out the photo album and reminisce about each one. When and where was it taken? Who is in the photo? Why was the picture taken? Perhaps the photo reminds you of a story about one of the people pictured? Many stories can surround even one photo. Make notes so you can write about the other stories later.

Concerns about Sharing Your Stories.
You are concerned about sharing your writing. What if my family says the event did not happen the way I remember? What if some story I tell embarrasses or hurts someone?
These are legitimate concerns, but you must put everything in perspective by thinking ahead fifty years or more. What is the bigger picture?

1. Your Truth.
All of us have reminisced about an event only to discover our experiences and memories were totally different from another who was present. Each of us takes away from a situation the information that is relevant to us at the time. What we store in our memory is directly related to what is of interest to us and what our needs happen to be. Also, memory is stored in fragments in different parts of our brain which is why a smell or sound can help us recall what we think may have been a lost memory. Sometimes newer memories are stored in such a way in our brains that they alter the original memory a bit. These reasons are why people remember the same event differently.

What you write is your truth. It does not make it right or wrong, but YOUR truth; your point of view. If you have family members who disagree, encourage them to write their version and include both. Seeing the different perspectives can be very important as we all take away from any given situation something entirely different.

2. Family Skeletons.
Do not share your stories if you do not wish, but recognize that everyone can find something of value in what you have to say. We all have different abilities so no one can throw stones, really. As you write about a relative who has made some very bad choices in life, remember to find some good in that person as well.

All people have value. There is good and bad in everyone and life’s circumstances and our choices shape our lives. Some of us struggle more than others, but each of us tries our best to do what we think is right at the moment. We all make mistakes, and it is important to recognize those errors in ourselves and others. There are always kind and gentle ways of explaining problems. Focus on the good in people, but do not neglect the bad. Show the mistakes so lessons can be learned by the reader.

Writing these stories can bring the family closer together in a better understanding of the situation. Writing these stories can help the youth see that adults make mistakes and most often all ends well. We touch thousands of lives in our lifetime, and we will never know how we affect others. You affect others with your stories. People can find hope in knowing honestly how life really is. Rose-colored glasses hide sad eyes so bring the darkness to light and surround it with honesty and understanding.

Many more ideas are available to help you turn those roadblocks into speed bumps. After a while, your road will become smooth again.

©aulicno, 25 Sept 2008

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Making a Writing Class Work for You

Joining a writing class is the best way to get your stories written. Most of us cannot continue to write in isolation. We need that weekly stimulus, support, and ideas to keep us focused.

I have a student in my writing class who tried several teachers until she found a good fit. So do not be discouraged if the first class you attend does not work for you. Give it some time, but find another class that meets your style and needs.

Once you enroll in a class, getting the most you can from it is quite simple. Although any choices you make are up to you, it does help if you can attend each class, participate in group discussions, praise and give helpful comments to readers, share your writing weekly so you can get feedback to improve your story, and ask questions whenever you need help.

Besides getting involved with what happens in your class, you can see further benefit by noting what you like about others’ stories and emulating those ideas in your writing. Take notes as people read, jotting down ideas on how they organized the story events, how they present some aspect of their story, and what unique words or phrases they use.

The more you provide for your writing the faster you will progress toward your goals. Try to set aside a few hours several times a week to write and rewrite your stories. Reward yourself for completing a certain task.

If you have a particular writing problem, ask for help from your instructor in how to make corrections. Examples of typical problems include:

1. All sentences sound alike. Most start with a subject, then a verb and then an object.

2. Verbs are boring. Over use of the same verbs as went, bought, sat, walked, ran, etc.

3. Words are redundant. You tend to use the same words over and over.

4. Story sounds dry or boring. If your story sounds more like a manual or a news article, you probably lack description and details. Use exciting verbs, phrases and action to get your reader involved with the characters. Readers must care about the people in your story.

5. Story sounds stilted or formulaic. You are probably being too descriptive or not writing with emotion. Write from the heart and show feeling. Use description and detail to paint a picture in your reader’s mind.

6. Paragraphs are confusing. Many small or large paragraphs can be a sign that organization is weak or you do not understand topic sentences and supporting details.

7. Story does not flow smoothly. Transitions may be lacking from one paragraph to another or from one story to another. This can be an organizational or word choice problem.

Come to class with questions about your paper. Be armed with a focus and be specific, asking listeners to pay attention to whatever particular problem you feel you may have. Ask for feedback on areas you feel are weak and make a note of the group’s comments. For example: If you are concerned that a certain part of your story may not be descriptive enough (or too much so), then before you read ask the group to watch for that issue.

As in any undertaking, the more involved you are, the more you get from the situation. At times, the effort may be difficult, but persistence does end in reward. Never judge your writing against another’s work as writing styles do vary, and we all have different skill levels. Everyone can improve their writing skills, but not everyone will have the same results just as not everyone will be a great swimmer. However, remember the original goal: It does not matter in the end how well you write, but that you leave whatever stories you can for your descendants.

E. Aulicino

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Gathering Information for Writing Your Memories

Gathering information for your family history comes from a variety of resources, including your particular memories as a child, family stories passed through the generations, tangible objects around you such as photos, and artifacts you have inherited or ones you wish to pass to future generations. Information stored in your memory can be stimulated through various sources outside of those in your possession, as well. Those sources may include researching on the internet or in books about your family’s history or the time periods in which they lived.

Memories are stimulated by sharing your stories with others and listening to theirs. For this reason you are encouraged to participate in a writing class on an on-going basis. You will be amazed at what you will recall and how much you can complete for your descendants.

Following are a few techniques that will help you gather more information.

Photos, Artifacts and Memorabilia

Take an inventory of all the items you have inherited and those you wish to pass to the next generation. These would include photos, recipes, ticket stubs, program booklets, documents, certificates, and various artifacts. An artifact in this situation is any tangible object you have acquired from a relative or friend that has sentimental value to you or to some family member as well as those you possess or have purchased that you wish to leave to your descendants.

By plowing through boxes of old photos and memorabilia and as you recall those keepsakes you inherited, you will remember many stories. As you sift through these items, consider these ideas:

..........When and where were the photos taken?
..........Who are the people in the photos, and what are their stories?
..........How did you obtain the memorabilia, and why have you kept it?
..........Who gave you the items you inherited; what is the history behind them and to whom did they belong?


One of the best collecting and organizational tools for writing your memories is making a timeline of your life. This timeline allows you to recall the events of your life and to collect them in an organized manner. It will be your “Table of Contents” and should appear first in your filing system. Consider a timeline your outline while writing. You will add to it as you work and as your memories return to you. Although you may begin writing only a sentence or two, it can become a source of stories on which you can expand. If you do no more than just complete a timeline for your life, you have still left your descendants a wonderful gift.

To begin, write the years from your birth to the present on the left side of your paper. If writing by hand, leave several lines of space or put one year on each page. Be prepared to revise it. If you are using a computer, leave one line of space between each year and add information as you go.

Timeline (or you could title it: Events of My Life)

1947: Jun 6. Birth of Emily……blah, blah, blah….
Sept. Parents moved from an apartment to 1997 South
8th Street, KCK


1949: Apr. 28. Sister Teresa is born


1951: July. Major flooding of the Kaw (Kansas) River in Kansas
City, Kansas.

Information about the years you skip will be added later, wherever possible. As you will have more than one entry for many years, put them in the best date order, even if you have to guess. Note that each event has a separate line. Make certain that you indicate it is a guess by adding some note or symbol, such as: circa, ?, pos. (possibly), or prob. (probably). Try to add a location for each event. Be sure to add all the addresses where you have lived with a short notation of why you moved.

Timeline Ideas
To expand your Timeline and to help you prepare for other stories, try to accomplish the following as you write about various topics.

1. Go through your photo albums or boxes and record their events on your Timeline. (Organize your photos, if you have not done so and be certain all names, dates, and locales are on the back. Use an archival photo pen to prevent damage to the picture—a huge task, so start now, doing a little at a time.)

2. Find those old Christmas Letters you wrote or you received. They are full of clues for your Timeline.

3. Did you or family members keep diaries or Journals? Locate them and record the information.

4. Do you have old letters from family and friends? They are full of great news which can enhance your stories.

5. Were you the one who wrote appointments and events on calendars and are lucky enough to have kept them? OR…perhaps you keep a date book. (HINT: These may be things you will want to do and keep for future memories, as well, and especially if you have children or grandchildren.)

6. Jot down ideas that come to mind when talking with friends and relatives. (I was at a friend’s house, and seeing a photo of her and her sister in a galvanized wash tub on a hot summer day reminded me of three short stories of my life—ones I had not remembered for years!) You never know when the memories pop into your mind so carry a notepad with you and leave one on your night stand or by your computer. Recording the memories that pop into your mind can be called “Flash memories” as they can leave as quickly as they arrive.

7. Go to many of the Web timelines by doing a Google search and seeing what historical events have happened during your life. Add these even if you do not remember them. Some you will remember, and you can write a brief sentence or two on them. If you were too young to remember these historical events, it will still be of great interest to your descendants how your life paralleled the great events in history.

8. Use your holiday gatherings to reminisce with friends and relatives about everyone's youth. You may be surprised what a relative remembers, and most people are thrilled to talk about the past.

9. Write the “flashing memories” from your notepad to your timeline.

Unknown Dates
When you cannot put a date to an event or a memory in your timeline, try these ideas:

1. List the month or season (summer, fall) under the year in your

2. Give an approximate date or age, but be sure to say it is a “good
guess” on your part. Example: about 8-10; teen years

3. Have a page or two for miscellaneous memories—ones that have no dates or have date ranges. Perhaps you could put them in groups such as “Elementary Years,” "High School Years,” “The 70s Decade,” etc. Just give each event some time frame.

Interviewing Tips

If you are fortunate enough to have living ancestors who can be interviewed, now is the time! There are several methods which can be used, but realize that once the ancestor begins sharing his or her memories your interview questions may change.

Interviews can be conducted over the phone, in person, by writing letters, by sending a blank tape (and perhaps a tape recorder), or by video taping the interviewee.

Many people love to be asked about their life’s stories, but they may not offer such stories on their own. Once deep in conversation with someone who genuinely cares, the interviewee may steer the interview in his or her own direction, sharing with you much more than expected.

There are many steps to good interviewing, and you need to be alert to the signals that will provide you with the stories you seek. Whether you are writing a letter, making a phone call or interviewing someone in person, let these tips guide you:

1. Always record the date, place and time of any interview along with the full name and relationship of the interviewer and interviewee.

2. Use a tape recorder since taking notes as someone speaks is difficult. Be sure to ask permission to tape record, however. Another option is to send blank tapes to a person to record their answers to your list of questions. Sometimes you may have to furnish a tape recorder for them, as well. It is very nice to record the voices of your family members for future generations. See future blogs for preserving cassette tapes.

3. If you are interviewing a person directly, make a morning appointment, if possible so everyone is alert. Often after lunch elderly people become quite tired.

4. Let the interviewee know how you will use the material and, if possible, have the person sign a release form giving you permission to record their story.

5. Ask clear questions with the easiest ones first.

6. Do not ask for too much information at any one time. Focus on one topic or area and let your questions come naturally from what you learn.

7. Refocus on the question or topic as needed from time to time, but permit the interviewee to follow the memories he or she recalls rather than constantly returning to your topic.

8. Ask your interview subjects “story-ending questions” as a way to wrap up his or her stories or memories. For example: Where do you go from here? What have you learned from your experience? What message do you want to pass on to the readers or descendants?

9. Take a photo of the interviewee.

10. If you are writing letters, include a self-addressed stamped envelope, and only ask a few questions in any one letter.

Research Tips

1. Always begin your research with yourself, recording the facts of your life.

2. Interview any and all members of your family, even on the same topics, as different perspectives on a situation can add more information about the event.

3. Check the backs of your photos as well as those photos of other family members for clues and information. As you do this, have family members help label the photos with full names, dates, locations, and relationships.

4. Add historical background to your writing by searching the Internet or the public library for information of the time and event.

5. Contact the family genealogist for more stories of the family or become the family genealogist. Your local genealogical society usually has beginning classes, and there are books in the public library to get you started.

6. Use the public library to locate newspapers of your ancestors or relatives. Depending upon the time period and location, you may find a few lines in the newspapers on your ancestors’ visits to relatives or about a family tragedy, marriage announcements, and obituaries.

Web Sources

Google is your friend! The Internet is the window to the world. At your fingertips, you have billions of pages covering every topic imaginable. There are many timelines on different aspects of our culture to give some background to your story’s setting. Google some products of your childhood (candy bars, cereal boxes, laundry soap your mom used, cars owned by you or your family, pets, etc.) or some scene from your past (vacation spots, movie theaters, etc.) and include a photo of it with your story. This is most helpful, if you do not have many photos that apply to your story. You may not have a photo of a family car, but recall many wonderful vacations or troubling repair stories. Using the Internet to find an example of this car will greatly enhance your story. The information for your stories that can be found on the Internet will surprise you.

The Internet has many resources which can help you identify time periods for photos as well, for example:

Hundreds of photos and clippings for fashion from late 1800s to mid 1900s

You can also use the Internet to locate various topics on which to write. However, these topics are usually one liners, and often that does not help you compile ideas on a topic quickly, leaving you using your time trying to think of information for the topic rather than writing.


There are many more books available than those mentioned here and on many more subjects related to researching and writing family stories. For example, there are excellent books on antiques to help you date your precious treasures and inexpensive booklets for birth years that give you prices of items, tell you who won the Oscars, report the news headlines and much more.

Although there are other excellent books on dating photographs the following two show how to use every clue in a photo to gain more information about it. As the author states, sometimes what is not in the photo is just as important as what is.

1. Forensic Genealogy by Colleen Fitzpatrick, PhD, 2005, Rice Book Press, Fountain Valley, California, pgs. 220. ISBN: 0-9767160-0-3

2. The Dead Horse Investigation by Colleen Fitzpatrick, PhD, 2008, Rice Book Press, Fountain Valley, California, pgs. 239. ISBN: 978-0-976-71605-1

As for writing topics, what you need to know, however, is that most books give you one-line topics with little space to develop that topic. This does not stimulate writing. If you scrapbook or are a genealogist there are many other books available with wonderful ideas on journaling and writing your family history. The following sources are much more thorough.

1. “Memoing” My Memories by Emily Aulicino, 2003, self published. Contact:

2. Celebrating the Family by, Inc, Editors of Publish, 2002 Barnes & Noble Publishing, 256 pages, ISBN: 1586635921

Gathering information for your family stories can be a rewarding experience. You can reconnect with family to get their versions, and you can get your photos and artifacts arranged and properly archived for your descendants. You might even organize a family reunion to reminisce and to collect more stories. You will have many lost memories return just by the interactions of attending a writing class. You will enjoy recalling those wonderful memories and get a better perspective on the unpleasant ones. BUT, best of all…you will have a compilation of cherished family stories to leave as your legacy.

©Aulicino, July 2008

Friday, September 5, 2008

Making Progress on Your Writing Project

Writing a family history, whether it be one with a genealogical focus or just a compilation of your childhood stories, can take months and even years. How does one endure when the goals look so daunting? Just how do you progress and still keep your sanity?

The answer to these questions and to making progress on your project lies in your desire to meet your goals to a great degree, but also in good planning. Planning begins with breaking your goals into manageable steps, creating a routine, and using all available resources.

Goals Within Goals

When the goal looks very large, break it into smaller goals, smaller steps. If your goal is to complete all your family stories within a year or in time for a certain date as a gift for someone, then organize your tasks into smaller chunks and give yourself deadlines.

Maybe that smaller goal is to write ten stories a month covering a certain time period. In this case, make a list of what those stories will be and break those ten into what you can accomplish in a week. Some stories may be longer than others, so do not commit to three a week, but do work to get ahead of your schedule when possible as you just never know when other events of your life will interfere with your routine. Perhaps your style is to write your first draft for everything and then edit. Edit as many times as needed to make your writing clear for your reader.

Regardless of your plan, allow time between each draft before editing. After you have written, put the story aside for days or weeks before you return to it to edit. By following this plan, you will easily find places to correct. We often think we are writing what is in our mind, but upon closer reading (which cannot be done immediately after writing), you can discover omitted information, unclear sentences, and disorganization.

Pacing Your Work

As we are all creatures of habit, good and bad, finding time to write on a daily basis may cause much strife since adopting new habits is most difficult. Some writers may feel that they would not have enough about which to write during an hour or two daily. However, there is not just story writing to do, but adding to your timeline, rewriting a draft, and polishing the final paper. You may find that you will be writing more than one story at a time, thus having them in different stages of the writing process. Regardless of how much time you spend on writing, whether it is daily or a few times a week, make it a routine.

Getting Ideas From Others

Everywhere we turn there are ideas for stories if we are carefully watching and listening. Various books offer topics for writing our memories, and the Internet is crowded with them. The television or a movie may remind us of a past event. Even in our daily lives we often find a stimulus that takes us back to another time and place. It could be the comment of a friend, the mention of a location or certain event, or some memory that pops to mind while we are deep in our thoughts. Any interaction with people, places, and things can trigger a story from the past.

As these ideas quickly enter our minds, they are also apt to leave just as suddenly. For this reason, carry a notebook and jot down the ideas and the interesting phrases you hear. Keep a notebook beside your bed as ideas may occur as you fall asleep, during the night or just when you awake.

Of course, the ultimate way to find ideas for writing is in a writing class. As people read their papers, you will find some similarities to your life. Sharing stories helps everyone remember more stories from your past, thus giving you more ideas on which to write.

Making the Class Work for You

The old adage, what you put into something is directly proportional to what you get out of it, is also true of a writing class. If you come weekly with a story to share, the group will give you encouragement and help. As stories are read, you may find some clever phrase or a writing style that you wish to emulate thus improving your work.

Writing groups often discuss various aspects of their stories and memories related to a person, object, or event in someone’s paper. Often one topic of discussion leads to another with many people recalling their early days. These wonderful discussions can produce more ideas for your stories. In turn, your stories can provide all this for another writer.

Over time, a writing group bonds and friendships develop. You feel appreciated for your hard work, and, in turn, you receive more ideas for writing stories, learn how to improve your writing, see your writing style develop, and reach your goals. A writing class offers many opportunities to relive your childhood, to work through the tough times with support, and to produce a wonderful legacy for your descendants—even those who may never know you.

Make continual progress on your goals, and reward yourself for meeting those goals. You deserve it!

©Aulicino, July 2008

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Organizing in the Early Stages

When we speak of organization some of us will immediately look at our desk and scream! That is, if you can find your desk at all! However, when it comes to writing, there are a couple levels of organization. We can speak in terms of how to organize our stories into a finished product such as a book or CD, or we may mean how we keep our files organized while we are writing.
Regardless of your organizational choices, be flexible enough to change or update your system as needed.
* * * * *
Organizing in Preparation for a Final Product:
Some people write all their stories and then try to determine how to organize them. Other people need to build outlines not only for individual stories, but for the total overview of the finished product. No matter what you decide, be flexible as you may alter your organizational ideas mid-stream.

Following are some steps to help you organize when you begin your project:

1. Make a brief outline before you start to compile your stories. It should not take you longer than a few minutes. A Timeline of your life may be your guide. This becomes your map.

2. Write a few notes on what your finished product is. Not only does this help you develop and stick to a theme, but it helps you focus on an introduction and conclusion for your finished product.

3. Write—or at least think about—your story in sections, chapters, blocks, sub-themes. Again, it helps to keep you on track and forces you to toss out the material you do not need. Yes—as hard as that is—we all have to do it; however, as we want to chronicle all our stories, you may put some that do not fit well in an addendum, so do not throw them too far!

4. Interview family members or people relevant to your writing. Make a list of names, contact information, and the date of the interview. Be sure to get a signed release form allowing you to use the material. (Interviewing will be covered later.)

5. Stories are always more fun to read when you sprinkle anecdotes and quotes from people you have interviewed. Other quotes may come from diaries, letters, books, or old newspaper accounts. Use famous quotes if relevant to your story. (Be sure to document your sources.)

6. Try writing without your notes, but refer to your notes when you need to. Also make notes as you go about your daily life or as they occur to you. You may choose to incorporate them later or they may become other stories.

7. As you write, use transitions to move your story from one story to the next or one chapter to the next. Transitions help readers follow the story easily.

8. Justify everything you use. Ask yourself questions: Is this advancing the story? Why is this important? What happens to the story if I leave it out? (Remember, do not toss it far, but you may wish to “relocate” it until which time it may fit your overall goal.)

9. Know how you want to end your story before you start. It makes it easier to write when you know where to stop. So when you are thinking of your opening, think, too, of your ending.
* * * * *
Maintaining a Filing System:

Whether you decide to store your stories which are in progress or finished on your computer or in a paper filing system, there are several steps and approaches you might use.

One author I know keeps a filing system of folders in her computer for Stories in Progress; Stories Which Need Proofing; Completed Stories; and Stories Sent to Publishers. This system can work in paper form as well.

Another approach could be to keep folders for various topics or time frames. For example: School Years; Vacations; Teenage Years. Also, there could be some overlapping in some cases, and you may wish to consider a Miscellaneous file.

You may wish to use your computer for organizing your work in a series of folders and sub-folders, but , wisely, you may wish to print your stories as well. AND...don't forget to back-up your files!

There are many approaches to organizing your stories, and you need to find the one that works for you!
©Aulicino, 3 Sept 2008

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Getting Started

For some of us, it is difficult to fill that stark white paper. Although you could just start writing or brainstorming ideas for your story, there are a few preparations that will help you reach your goal. You could make these decisions at a later time, but by making your choices now, the entire writing process can be much easier.

Before You Begin Your Project...

1. Establish your goals (purpose) and determine your audience.

The basic goal or purpose in writing your family stories and childhood memories is to record them for your family’s future generations. This can be done in various ways and many ideas are found in Chapter 8 of this booklet. Although you may be completing a booklet for your grandchildren, niece or nephew, your main audience should be those future generations who will only know you through your writing. Remember, whatever you write, make it as clear as possible to your reader, but do not worry about quality over quantity. Your descendants will love to have your misspelled papers rather than nothing.

2. Be committed to your project.

All of us have years of history behind us, and this means, of course, a lot to record for those descendants. In order to complete the task, it will be important that you have a commitment to writing often. Naturally, you will never “finish” your story as you create it daily, but by using a Timeline (This will be explained in a later post), you will have provided a great “outline” of your life as you continue to write individual memories.

Remember that from time to time your commitment may have to be renewed. Being in a writing class does help you to accomplish that as well as bring you to a higher level of commitment.

3. Provide time to write.

In order to strengthen that commitment, you do have to spend time writing on a weekly basis—ideally on a daily basis. Find a few hours to yourself and write whatever story comes to mind or work on your class topic. At the least, write weekly.

Plan your work time. How much time should you allow to write each chapter? If you have a deadline or one you have set for yourself (I have to get this finished before the family reunion!), you can readily determine how much time you need to allocate for the book. Do not forget to allow time for the pre-story (Introduction) and post-story (Conclusion and Appendices) sections of your book.

4. Be flexible in altering your goals as needed.

From time to time we get side-tracked. Life’s other commitments do get in the way. However, just be aware that you may have to alter your original goal of writing a 200 page book and opt for a CD. Or perhaps you will not be able to re-write all your work to perfection. Over time you may become interested in doing genealogical research on your family and incorporating those records as well as writing biographies of your ancestors and other family members.

5. Develop some type of organization.

The earlier you establish some sort of organization, the better, but do not make it an obstacle to keep you from writing. Whether you choose to use a computer or file folders, organize your writing chronologically until you have decided upon a particular format for the finished product. It will be easier to locate time related material if you decide to organize your final booklet, CD, etc. by topics or date ranges. Remember to back up your computer and to print copies of your work for safe keeping.

If you are not using a computer, you can write in a journal type booklet or on notebook paper and organize these into file folders in time related groups such as: “Childhood Years, up to age 12”; “Teen years, ages 13-19”; “Early Adulthood,” etc. It would still be wise to share your stories with a family member as you write so there will be a copy outside your home in the case of disaster. Family members also may help proofread, assist in clarifying the writing, and give praise for the wonderful asset you are giving the family.

Next we will cover Organization in the early stages of writing.

©Aulicino, 2 Sept 2008

Importance of Writing Your Memories

Many people neglect recording their own history and that of their immediate family. This is especially true of genealogists who are more busy collecting information on their ancestors than realizing that some day they will be the ancestor their descendants wish had left a journal of their life.

Many people do not have the time to start or know where to begin. In my presentations I show how to continue with your busy life and still find some time to record your childhood memories and family stories.

Often the question is asked by those living now: Why is it important to write my memories and family stories? They lament: My family knows me; knows my life's story. No one will really care about my life; it's really uneventful.

Most of us enjoy knowing a bit about the lives of our grandparents or parents and we often tell our children what we or family members did when very small. All of us possess a desire to know about our heritage. Those descendants in the next fifty years will also wish to know about their heritage and their ancestor's every day life.

We know that history is written by the victor, but it is the history…the story…of the common person that is most important. There are many untold stories that need preserving. It is important that these memories continue to live.

We also know that history which is not written soon after it happens is often forgotten or inaccurately remembered. Like the old telephone game, passing information orally looses its accuracy and detail...or becomes greatly embellished! Over the generations oral history can take on an aura of folklore.

Just as we are interested in how our grandparents made a living or paid $.17 for a gallon of gas, everyday life of the common people will be of interest to the future generations. Think about all the inventions and events that have happened during your lifetime. Our lives have moved rapidly in many ways. Yes, one can read about them in various archives or on the Net, but these are not YOUR stories. Those personal stories, full of your emotion, bring YOU to life in the eyes of your great-great grandchildren long after you are gone.

So why write our family stories? The following are only a few reasons.

1. For its personal healing. Writing is therapeutic. You may write learn about ourselves; to heal wounds; to realize how your life experiences have shaped you.

2. To create a bond with the family, as stories are shared and remembered.

3. To understand the skeletons in the family closet and to help family members accept everyone for whom they are/were and see their worth.

4. To bridge the gap between generations.

5. To better understand of ourselves, our family and its traditions, and of the trends we set for our children and future generations.

6. To leave your descendants a wonderful legacy of your family’s life.

7. To let your descendants know that life has its struggles and its rewards. To show them that even if you had a rough time, you landed upright. This gives the younger generation who struggle the hope and direction they need in difficult times.

In some cultures there is a belief that a person never dies until his or her name is spoken for the last time. Our friends and family do stay in our hearts after they are gone, and for that reason, it is all important to celebrate their lives through by writing your memories of them. It is equally important for you to record your life as someday, you will be the person whose name is spoken for the last time and by writing your memories, your legacy will live on.

Let's get started!

©Aulicino, 2 Sept 2008