Monthly Archives: September 2009

More Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Personal Historian.

question-hand

I was looking at an earlier article I wrote, Six Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Personal Historian, and realized that I’d missed three important questions.

  • What is your specialty? Be leery of anyone who answers, “Oh, I like to work on everything – books, video, audio – you name it!” It’s true that there are  personal historians who are multi-talented and produce more than one type of product.  But even if that is the case,  I’d ask what the personal historian enjoys working on the most. Chances are that she will have a preference and if her preference doesn’t match yours, then I’d want to see some concrete examples of her work. Bottom line – if you want a book produced, it makes sense to hire someone who has a track record making books. Similarly, if you want a  DVD, hire a personal historian whose specialty is  video.
  • How long have you been a personal historian? There isn’t a magical number of years of experience that turns someone into a seasoned personal historian. But I’d prefer to hire someone who had been working professionally for at least a couple of years. The longer a personal historian has been working, the more experience he will have and the more samples of his work he will also have for your perusal. On the other hand if a personal historian is just starting out, you might be able to work out a discount depending on what he’s charging.
  • What attracted you to this work? There isn’t any right answer to this question.  What you want to be wary of is a reply that sounds too pat, contrived, or rehearsed. Listen for an answer that suggests that this work resonates deeply with this person. For instance, she may have a compelling  story to tell about the path that led her to become a personal historian.

Photo by Massimiliano Giani

Monday’s Link Roundup.

links

Today’s Link Roundup includes two video segments, The Letter From Iwo Jima and Being imperfect. Both are moving testaments to the power of remembrance. And for something practical be sure to check out Safely Storing Digital Photos.

The Letter From Iwo Jima: “A letter taken from a soldier killed in the battle of Iwo Jima is returned to his family.” ~ A New York Times Video [Thanks to Pat McNees for alerting me to this video]

I went fishing and hooked my lost family: “Peter Culver, 75, was cut off from his birth family after he was fostered at the age of five. He spent the next 70 years searching for eight lost brothers and sisters, before a chance meeting during a fishing trip changed his life forever. Here Peter, a grandfather from Beaminster in Dorset, reveals the story behind his emotional reunion…”

National Punctuation Day: 24-hour mark of our failure. “There’s no question that Canada urgently needs a federal Punctuation Improvement Program. The evidence can be found at the heart of our national life, in the logo of the only fast-food chain ever described as a Canadian icon by people who like to call things icons, the so-called Tim “Hortons.”

American Family Stories: “For the last five years storyteller and audiographer Joe McHugh has traveled around the United States meeting people and recording their family stories. These stories have been featured on public radio stations, NPR’s Morning Edition, and Voice of America. Here you can enjoy some of Joe’s favorite stories while viewing Paula McHugh’s illustrations.”

Bridging Gaps, Telling Stories: “Everybody’s got a story to tell. The idea for Cathie English’s three-year oral history project came after a co-worker’s centenarian grandmother passed away unexpectedly, taking her stories with her. Motivated by her coworker’s loss, Cathie started the Aurora High School Oral History Project.”

Being imperfect: “What makes our loved ones so precious to us? You probably jumped to all the good and impressive things first. And that’s fine. But what about those little quirks? What about those sometimes annoying habits? Maybe their imperfections are just as important.”

Safely Storing Digital Photos: “It’s important to keep copies of your digital photos in different places in case a disaster destroys one set of images.”

Photo by fdecomit

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10 Indispensable Self-Editing Books.

self editing

Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned professional, these ten reference books are a must for your library. My thanks to the  following  Association of Personal Historians colleagues who suggested many of these books: Pat McNees, Mim Eisenberg, Stephen Evans, and Philip Sherwood .

  • Write It Right: The Ground Rules for Self-Editing Like the Pros. “In a succinct five-step process, this reference shows how to save time and frustration when editing one’s own work, creating stronger, more precise text that holds the reader’s attention. Through its practical, field-tested approach featuring frequently asked questions and key points for reflection at each step, writers learn how to avoid embarrassing themselves on paper, remain objective throughout the process, pinpoint their own unique writing challenges, and recognize when it is time to call for outside help. Tips and examples in the grammar and usage section further illustrate how to overcome the most common writing challenges that plague writers.”
  • The Savvy Self-Editing Book. “… a guide for writers to develop their own editing process to suit their needs and vision. It breaks down the editing process into three stages: Content, Sentence, and Copy Editing. Its concise format gives writers concrete examples, charts, and quick and easy editing techniques that make a difference!”
  • The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications. “…lively, practical manual for newcomers to publishing and for experienced editors who want to fine-tune their skills or broaden their understanding of the craft. Addressed to copyeditors in book publishing and corporate communications, this thoughtful handbook explains what copyeditors do, what they look for when they edit a manuscript, and how they develop the editorial judgment needed to make sound decisions.”
  • Line by Line: How to Edit Your Own Writing. “…over 700 examples of original and edited sentences, this book provides information about editing techniques, grammar, and usage for every writer from the student to the published author.”
  • The Fine Art of Copyediting. “This well-crafted book focuses on the details of copyediting and as a bonus gives advice on human relationships in the editorial process. Well-written, insightful, concise, and punchy, this compact book provides a novice with the basics of copyediting and is a useful and fun review for old hands. I recommend The Fine Art of Copyediting highly.” ~ Reader Review
  • On Writing Well. “… belongs on any shelf of serious reference works for writers.” ~ New York Times
  • Edit Yourself. “As a professional editor, I rely on many tools. I consistently return to Ross-Larson’s book because it is thorough while being easy to use. I can find what I want fast. I particularly like his list of word substitutes: after reading “in addition to” and “in view of the fact that” a hundred times, I forget the simple substitutes. Ross-Larson’s book consistently brings me out of the engineering woods.” ~ Reader Review
  • The Artful Edit. “Susan Bell, a veteran book editor, also offers strategic tips and exercises for self-editing and a series of remarkable interviews, taking us into the studios of successful authors such as Michael Ondaatje and Ann Patchett to learn from their various approaches to revision. Much more than a manual, The Artful Edit inspires readers to think about both the discipline and the creativity of editing and how it can enhance their work.”
  • Grammatically Correct. “For those who value correct grammar, Anne Stilman has written the definitive guide. She holds you to her high grammatical standards, and clearly explains how to follow the rules. There are chapters on “Spelling,” “Punctuation,” “Grammar,” and “Style,” and Stilman patiently elucidates the rules of colons, brackets, and plural formations, while gracefully tackling the common misuses of “lie” versus “lay.”

Photo by Felipe Morin

What Do Fishing and Personal History Clients Have in Common?

fishingWhen I was a young lad, an old friend of the family would sometimes take me fishing. He was a good fisherman and he would always say, “Dan,  if you want to catch fish, you’ve got to go where the fish are.” This got me thinking that you could apply this piece of folk wisdom to marketing.  If you want to get personal history clients, you’ve got to go where the personal history clients are.

Marketing experts  stress  the importance of  knowing your target audience.  Over the years I realize that my clients tend to have somewhat the same profile. And this profile rings true for many other personal historians.  For the most part my clients are:

  • female
  • professional
  • 50 t0 60 years old
  • at least one parent living
  • wanting to record and preserve a parent’s life story
  • too busy or lacking the skill to produce a personal history

Like fishing, knowing who your clients are helps determine how and where you might reach them. If you want to find some personal history clients who meet the profile above,  I’d suggest the following:

  • Join a professional networking group like  BNI (Business Network International), Chamber of Commerce, or eWomenNetwork.
  • Write an article or get interviewed for the Lifestyle section of your local newspaper.
  • Participate in community groups like  fitness and yoga classes, choirs, and adult education classes.
  • Join or offer presentations to women’s professional associations  and groups.
  • Become involved with your Alumni association.
  • Join and participate in Facebook and  Twitter groups that have an interest in family stories.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. What are some of the ways  you reach out to the kind of clients I’ve mentioned? Please share your tips in the comment box below. I always welcome your comments.

Photo by Lindsey Scalera

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Monday’s Link Roundup.

links

In this Monday’s Link Roundup don’t miss The truth has a price by Lauren B. Davis. About memoirs she writes, “The question becomes which is more important, the book or the person (other than the author) written about?” And if you feel that all of your digital connectedness is wearing you down, check out Be Still.

  • The truth has a price: “It’s not that writers shouldn’t mine their lives, and those of others, for their work. But they should be prepared to live with the consequences.”
  • Memoirs and Memory: “Do I — do we — remember only those scenes that fit neatly into the central narrative in which we’re most invested, the one that dovetails most cleanly and neatly with the sense of self that we’ve chosen or that’s been imposed on us by the people around us?”
  • Oral history project to target Latinos: “StoryCorps, the national oral history initiative that documents the stories of everyday Americans, wants Hispanics to tell their historias, and it is turning to an Austin-based firm to help.”
  • New Online Database – 19th-Century British Newspapers: “Gale (a Michigan-based company that creates educational databases), along with The British Library and the UK’s Joint Information Systems Committee, has introduced a new online database of 19th-century British newspapers.”
  • Free Genealogy How-to Videos: “The How To Channel on Roots Television features free genealogy and family history videos, including how-to demonstrations, software reviews, expert tips, databases, and websites. Learn from professional genealogists including Cyndi Howells, Dick Eastman, Megan Smolenyak, Tom Kemp, and Curt Witcher.”
  • Be Still: “We are always on, always connected, always thinking, always talking. There is no time for stillness … This comes at a cost: we lose that time for contemplation, for observing and listening. We lose peace.”
  • The First African Diplomat: “Born of a warrior queen on a Liberian battlefield, Momolu Massaquoi was heir to two African royal families and served as the youngest-ever King of the Vai people. In the 1920s Massaquoi became Africa’s first indigenous diplomat serving for a decade in Hamburg, Germany.”

Photo by fdecomit

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Do You Want to Bolster Your Presentation Skills?

presentation

In my previous article I covered six ways you can “Get Control of Your Pre-Presentation Jitters”. In this post I’ve assembled seven great sites that provide a range of practical ways you can improve your personal history presentation skills.

  • Presentation skills training: Practical tips covering: preparation, style, dealing with nerves, working your audience, structuring a presentation, and developing as a presenter.
  • 10 Ways to Reclaim Your Power as a Speaker: “Lee Glickstein, creator of Speaking Circles (worldwide) thinks speaking is relationship not showmanship. Glickstein believes that good speakers communicate for connection. He says that the best technique is no technique.”
  • Oral Presentation Skills: “Next time you have to make a presentation to a group …, check out these tips to help you prepare, organize, and deliver your speech as well as create visual aids to accompany it and answer questions when it’s over.”
  • Six Minutes: This is a great blog that brings you public speaking and presentation skills tips, analysis, insights, and strategies.
  • Public Speaking & Presentation Skills Articles: “Patricia Fripp offers you her articles on public speaking and presentation skills to reprint or repost – FREE – provided that her name and contact information (supplied at the end of each article) are included.”

Photo by Daniel Greene

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How to Get Control of Your Pre-Presentation Jitters.

I’m a “ham” at heart so I love to get in front of an audience, big or small.  But when it comes to an important presentation where I know I’ve got to jittersmake a good impression, I can feel the pre-presentation jitters creeping in. Over the years I’ve learned some practical steps to calm myself. Try these the next time you’ve got to make a “big” presentation.

  • Know your stuff. The best way to keep the jitters at bay is to be well prepared.  Practice your presentation in front of a friend and get some constructive feedback.
  • Arrive early. Nothing adds more to your anxiety than rushing madly to get to your presentation on time. Check Google Maps for the best route from your place to the venue where you’ll be speaking.
  • Do a room check. If possible, check out the room prior to your presentation. Make sure that the equipment you requested is in place and works. Is the seating arranged in a suitable manner for your talk? Is the room at a comfortable temperature?
  • Mingle. I find this a real tension buster. If you have a chance, move about the room and introduce yourself to people who’ve come to hear you. When you get up to talk, you’ll feel that you’re talking to individuals, not a big, amorphous group.
  • Don’t forget to breathe. Before starting your presentation, check your breathing. Chances are it’ll be somewhat shallow. Take several deliberate, deep, slow breaths  and you’ll find it helps to relax you.
  • Go slow. Nothing broadcasts nervousness more than a speaker who breathlessly rushes into his presentation and never stops. Be focused, deliberate, and slow at the outset.

I hope you’ll find these tips helpful. Let me know what you do to calm those pre-presentation jitters.

Photo by K. Nicoll

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Monday’s Link Roundup.

links

This week’s Monday link roundup is rich with articles on the recovering of lost stories – the Cherokee in the Unites States,  Eastern Europeans in  Canadian labor camps  during WWI, and survivors of the Great Depression.

  • The Story of My Life: “For Peggy Orenstein, it was one of those books—the kind you keep forever and read again and again. It taught her about dreams, about love, and—in a remarkable plot twist—about the courage it takes to really live.” [Thanks to Sharon Lippincott for alerting me to this.]
  • The “Soul of a People” Memory Book: “A major accomplishment of the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) was the collection of life histories and slave narratives. These autobiographical accounts give us a first-hand account of life during the Great Depression. Now you can help continue the work of the FWP and share your family stories of the Great Depression in our “Soul of a People” Memory Book.”
  • A Storied Career: 40+ Story Practitioners Talk about Applied Storytelling (eBook): “… covers a wide range of disciplines, such as organizational storytelling, storytelling for marketing and branding, storytelling for job search and career advancement personal storytelling/lifewriting/memoir writing, digital/video storytelling, and more. Representatives of those storytelling genres and more speak their minds in this book. “

Photo by fdecomit

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5 Tips to Overcoming Your Marketing Blues.

Do you ever have what I like to call the  “Marketing Blues”?  It’s not pretty.  For me, it starts with a gnawing sense that it’s time to get out from behind my computer and  let more depressedpeople know about my services. I  know all the marketing stuff I’m supposed to be doing – networking, writing articles, asking for references, making presentations, yadda, yadda, yadda. But it all seems overwhelming. Where to start? Who to call? What to write? In no time  my “Inner Critic” starts berating me. “Who would want your personal history services? Who said you could market yourself? Others have far more experience than you do.” Before you know it, I’m back behind my computer feeling defeated, discouraged, and blue.

So how do I get over my “Marketing Blues”?  These are the things that work for me.  Maybe they’ll help you.

  1. Turn off your “Inner Critic”. Simply tell it to get lost. Imagine locking your Critic up in a box and shipping it off to a deserted island. Or come up with your own method of cutting it loose. A great little book I recommend is Taming Your Gremlin by Rick Carson.
  2. Do one marketing task in one hour. Pick one simple thing you can do in the next hour. Don’t worry about whether it fits some larger marketing plan or whether your “Inner Critic” pops back to tell how silly you’re being. For me, it can be sending a note and card to some former clients. In it I wish them a Happy Fall or Spring, whatever’s appropriate. I briefly tell them what I’m up to and wish them well. Sometimes I’ll set aside an hour to learn something new about marketing. The point  is to do one marketing task in an hour.
  3. Reread a favorite marketing book. One of my favorites is Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Red Book of Selling. It’s only 219 pages. I can open it up anywhere and get great advice and motivation.
  4. Make a date with a positive, successful friend. I have a friend who, unlike me, is an extrovert with boundless energy. She’s very successful at her home-based business. Getting together, not to have a pity party, but to generate ideas with her is a great antidote for my blues.
  5. Make an Action List. I write down a list of five marketing things I can do the next day. These are manageable, limited, enjoyable action steps I can accomplish in a day. The next morning I’ve got a plan in front of me and I’m ready to start.

What are some of the ways you overcome the marketing blues? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Photo by Gary Jungling

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How to Salvage a Damaged Audio Cassette.

audio tape brokenThis article was inspired by a personal history colleague of mine  in Victoria.  She wondered if I knew anyone who could fix an audio cassette that no longer seemed to work in her recorder. I confessed that I didn’t have any recommendations. So I got to thinking, “How difficult is it to repair an audio cassette?” I did some research.  Then I took apart a cassette  and amazingly put it back together again!  It requires patience and a steady hand but it’s not an impossible job. A word of caution. Tapes that have melded from prolonged exposure to heat and humidity are not something you’re likely to fix on your own. This will require a professional conservator and be a costly undertaking. But if your problem is a tape that has become mangled inside its case or the cassette mechanism is broken, then here’s what you can do. My advice would be to  practice first on another tape before tackling the one you want to repair.

Broken Cassette

  1. Purchase a cassette shell from an A/V supplier or find a good cassette that you’re no longer using. Open it up and remove the original tape.
  2. Find a clean table and place your cassette flat with the screw side facing up.
  3. Take a small Phillips screw driver and carefully remove the five screws. Place them in a small container.
  4. Carefully lift the top off, noting how the tape is threaded in the mechanism and the placement of the components. The picture below should help.audio cassette 2
  5. Lift your tape out of the old shell and thread it carefully into the new one. Make sure to keep the tape untwisted.
  6. Place the top back on the cassette, making sure that all the pieces fit and that nothing is pinched. Insert the screws and tighten.

Mangled tape

  1. Open the cassette as described above and survey the damage.
  2. If the tape is crinkled, just leave it. The sound may not be perfect but cutting out the offending piece or trying to smooth it out will only make the situation worse.
  3. If the tape is broken, you can purchase a splicing kit or do it yourself with some sharp scissors or razor blade and Scotch tape. Not perfect but it’ll work.
  4. If the edges of the broken tape are ragged, trim just a fraction off each end. Remember that whatever you cut off will also cut out some of your recorded audio.
  5. Cut a piece of Scotch tape exactly the width of your tape and about 3/8″ long. Trim off any overhang. Failure to do this will cause the tape to stick to the internal mechanism.
  6. Place half  of the Scotch tape on one end of the audio tape and press it down firmly. Make sure your tape is straight. If it isn’t, the tape will run unevenly and may be damaged further. Now attach the other half of the Scotch tape to the remaining half of audio tape making sure to form a seamless joint. Don’t overlap the ends. Press down firmly on this remaining segment.
  7. Carefully rethread your tape and seal up the cassette as described above.

One final word. Once you’ve made your repairs, plan to transfer your tape to a digital format as soon as possible. You can find out how to do that here.

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