Posted in How to, Interviewing, Life stories, Personal historian, Questions, Resources, Tips
Tagged How to, Interviewing, listening, questions to ask, Tips
Memoir writing, gathering words onto pieces of paper, helps me shape my life to a manageable size. By discovering plot, arc, theme, and metaphor, I offer my life an organization, a frame, which would be otherwise unseen, unknown. Memoir creates a narrative, a life story. Writing my life is a gift I give to myself. To write is to be constantly reborn. On one page I understand this about myself. On the next page, I understand that.
~ from Sue William Silverman’s Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir (U of Georgia, 2009)
If you’ve been contemplating the writing of your own life story, this observation by Sue Silverman may convince you to start. The effort it takes to craft the work is more than amply rewarded by seeing your life, often for the first time, as a coherent and intricate pattern.
Photo by Colin Campbell
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I’m constantly on the outlook for innovative ways to record life stories. I recently came across Microsoft Photo Story 3 for Windows XP. It’s free but you must be running an “activated” version of either: Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition, Windows XP Professional, Windows XP Media Center Edition, or Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. You can download Photo Story 3 here.
I think this is a great program for honoring special events such as wedding anniversaries, graduation or retirement. Here’s a brief summary of what it can do:
Create slideshows using your digital photos. With a single click, you can touch-up, crop, or rotate pictures. It’s that easy! Add stunning special effects, soundtracks, and your own voice narration to your photo stories. Then, personalize them with titles and captions. Small file sizes make it easy to send your photo stories in an e-mail. Watch them on your TV, a computer, or a Windows Mobile–based portable device. (source Microsoft)
For a Beginner’s Guide to Photo Story 3 click here.
If you’ve used Microsoft Photo Story 3 for capturing some aspect of a life story, I’d love to hear from you. Tell me how you used it and what you think of the the program.
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Posted in How to, Life stories, Photos, Resources, Tips
Tagged digital slide shows, How to, life story, Microsoft Photo Story 3, Photos, Resources, Tips
Posted in Editing, How to, Life stories, Personal historian, Tips, Writing
Tagged Editing, How to, life story, life writing, personal histories, Tips, transcripts, Writing
So when you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not part of it.
Jiddu Krishnamurti ~ (1895 – 1986) spiritual philosopher
At the heart of a good interview is your ability to be an active listener – to listen , as Krishnamurti notes, to the whole of what someone says, not to just the words. Here are seven things you can do that will help you do a better job of listening.
- Non-verbal – an open relaxed body position, facing the person squarely, eye contact, nodding and appropriate emotional response, i.e. smiling, sad, or curious. Use of silence to give your subject time to think and reflect.
- Verbal – “I see.” “Uh, huh.” “Okay.” “Yeah.” “Oh, really.”
- Use open questions, How? What? Where? When? rather than closed questions that lead to yes or no responses. Example: closed – “Did that affect you?” Open – “How did that affect you?”
- Stay away from “Why” questions which can make a person feel defensive.
- Avoid an interrogating style and aim for a conversational tone that is calm and gentle.
- Ask one question at a time and keep questions short and simple.
- Refrain from verbal expressions of disapproval. Don’t use words such as “should”, “ought” or “must”.
- Avoid non-verbal disapproval. Don’t grimace or shake your head or cast your eyes heavenward.
- Don’t give opinions unless asked.
- Leave your concerns outside the door and be fully present.
- Focus on your subject and be alert to when your mind wanders. Gently bring it back to the “here and now”.
- Express warmth and caring in a personal and appropriate way.
- When you’re not clear about what your subject said, ask for clarification or paraphrase what they’ve said to be certain you’ve understood the person correctly.
- Pulling together feelings, experiences, ideas and facts without adding any new ideas helps provide a sense of movement to the interview. It also demonstrates to your subject your ability to listen attentively to what has been said and as a result builds trust.
Photo by Caleb
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Posted in How to, Interviewing, Life stories, Personal historian, Questions, Tips
Tagged How to, Interviewing, Jiddu Krishnamurti, life story, listening, Questions, Tips
A tip of the hat to Diane Haddad at Genealogy Insider for giving me the idea for this article.
These days there’s a lot in the news about Twitter. Some of you might be tempted to dismiss it as a fad and of little value to you as a personal historian. I’ve been using Twitter for awhile and see its potential. Here are eight reasons why I think you should give it a try:
- Expand your network. Open up to a whole new group of personal and family historians. Go to the search box on Twitter and enter “family stories” or “life stories”. All kinds of folks will pop up who have some connection to these topics. When you’ve found some people to follow, check out who they’re following. You might want to follow some of these people as well.
- Drive traffic to your blog or website. The Google search engines like activity. The more they see, the more your site will rank higher on Google pages. You can feed your blog posts to your Twitter account and attract a whole new group of readers. I’ve noticed a definite increase in visitors to my blog since I started using Twitter.
- Get great ideas. Many bloggers (including yours truly) find a wealth of ideas for material to write about in their blog. In addition, there are creative ways that people are preserving family stories – ways that you might never have considered.
- Ask questions. Twitter is a good way to get some feedback. You can ask a question of all your followers or direct it to one person using @ and their user name like this: @dancurtis.
- Find how-to advice. There are lots of great tips and links to useful online articles.
- Be on top of the latest personal history news. Twitter is a huge interconnected web with millions of users picking up news and often “Retweeting” it before a story hits the newsstand or airwaves.
- Find bargains. Whether it’s travel, supplies, or equipment there are great deals and giveaways often exclusive to Twitter users. You can go to Twitter search and type in #bargains where you’ll find a goldmine that would warm the heart of any “shopaholic”.
- Your own “virtual”water cooler. If you work from home, it can sometimes be lonely. With Twitter you can jump in at any time of the day and follow the conversations or join in yourself. It can break the sense of isolation that can too easily be part of self-employment.
Okay, so have I convinced you to give it a try? If you’re already using Twitter, are there other benefits I forgot to mention? Drop me a comment and let me know.
Flickr upload by Rane
You can follow me on Twitter by clicking here.
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If you want photo tips, DIY photo projects or news on the latest camera gear, go to Photojojo. It’s a great site. One of their ideas, a photo history, is a novel approach for personal historians to consider. For a special anniversary or birthday, a photo history of the year the event occurred would be a wonderful gift.
Start by going to Google Image Search or Flickr and search for images from the year in question. Also look for events that happened in that year. Find out what cars people were driving. Who were the movie stars? What were the newest kitchen appliances? These will give you leads in your search for other photos.
After you have a good selection of pictures, you can organize them in any number of ways such as a Photo Book, Photo Blog, or Photo Collage.
Here’s a small sample of Flickr photos from 1939, the year my parents were married:
Phoenix car dealer, 1939
Gone With The Wind, 1939 - Clark Gable & Vivien Leigh
1939 Kodak Brownie
Collage photo by Cactus
Gone With The Wind Flickr photo Michael Heilemann
Kodak Brownie photo by Zoë
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Posted in How to, Life stories, Personal historian, Photos, Resources, Tips
Tagged How to, life story, photo book, photo collage, photo history, Photojojo, Photos