Category Archives: Resources

Encore! 5 Solutions for Recording Telephone Interviews.

5 Solutions for Recording Telephone Interviews. We all know there are times when the only way to get an interview is by using the telephone. And let’s face it, telephones weren’t designed for hi-fi sound. If you’re interviewing for a book, audio quality is not as critical as for an audio or video production.  Having said that, there are some ways you can capture a telephone interview that provides adequate sound.  Remember to use  a land line telephone because … Read More

Warning: Avoiding the Digital Universe Will Hurt Your Business.

Let me begin by saying there are legitimate reasons to be wary of the ever expanding digital universe – a glut of junk information, loss of privacy, time wasting, and addiction. But there are also irrational fears at work based in part on our inherent resistance to  change.

Change happens. And a good thing too. Lucky for us there was the invention of the printing press. Monks no longer toil on illuminated texts for a select few.  Manual typewriters have a certain aesthetic appeal but quite frankly I was happy to throw out the rolls of correction tape.

Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.  ~ Popular Mechanics, 1949

There are those for whom the world was a much better place when we read “real” books, wrote in longhand, and used manual typewriters. There’s a wistful longing for a slower paced, more genteel life.  And while I sympathize, I can’t help but feel that these people are missing a richness of experience that’s just a click away.

Television won’t matter in your lifetime or mine. ~ 1936, Richard Lambert, broadcaster

If you’re not running a small business, it probably doesn’t matter if you’re digitally savvy. But if you want to create a successful personal history business,  you’ve got to stick more than your big toe into the digital stream. This doesn’t mean you have to be sucked under and drown.  But it does mean that you need to be familiar with what’s out there to be able to pick and choose the digital tools that’ll help your business.  Sticking your head in the sand and ignoring the wealth of resources that are available will hurt your business.

Here are a few digital resources worth considering. What would you add to this list?

  • E-books:  add a whole innovative and interactive realm to life stories with text, videos, photos, maps, documents, and more. Read more here and here.
  • Webinars:  increase marketing reach using such services as GoToWebinar.
  • Blogging: build conversations and credibility with clients using a free service such as WordPress or Blogger.
  • VoIP: extend interviewing reach world wide with a service such as Skype .
  • Podcasting: reach a wider audience with information and support using such services as BlogTalkRadio.
  • Booklets: turn a PDF file into a handy information booklet using BookletCreator.
  • POD: print a sample copy of a book using a print-on-demand service such as Blurb.
  • QR Codes: print these codes on your business cards and send clients to a URL site where they can access more information about your services, get discount coupons, access video, and more. You can create a QR Code here.
  • Project management: find a list of 10 free project Management applications here.

Photo by wecand

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From the Archives: Attention Personal Historians! Don’t Miss These Movies!

Attention Personal Historians! Don't Miss These Movies! Get out the popcorn, turn down the lights, and settle back for a feast of  “personal history” films.  These movies vary in quality but are all worth viewing. They address issues that we have an interest in as personal historians. I must admit my two favorites are “Big Fish” by American director Tim Burton and  “The Barbarian Invasions” by Canadian director Denys Arcand. If you have some favorites that aren’t on my list,  let me know. I’d love to hear … Read More

30 Sites That Will Boost Your Personal History Performance.

How many of you could use some further training to enhance your personal history skills? I know I can!

Whether you’re starting out or well established,  here’s a select list of sites that can help.  I’ve combed the Internet to bring you some of the best. If you have suggestions for other resources that you’d like to see listed here, please let me know.


Producing an e-mail newsletter

How to build and use a blog


Writing & Editing

Book production and design



Social Media

Photo Scanning

Photo by Andrew

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What Everybody Ought to Know About Life Stories and Palliative Care.

I’ve been writing about the value of life stories in palliative care since 2008. I felt it was time to assemble these articles in one place for those of you who are interested in this subject. The posts are arranged chronologically from the most recent to the oldest.

Photo by David Hsu

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How to Start and Run a Personal History Business.

Disclosure. I’ve contributed one small item to this book but I will not be receiving any renumeration from its sale.

I’ve just finished Jennifer Campbell’s recent book  Start and Run a Personal History Business published by Self-Counsel Press. If you’re thinking of making personal histories a business, you owe it to yourself to get this book. Jennifer knows her stuff. She’s been a professional personal historian since 2002 and prior to that had a 25 year career as an editor, writer, and interviewer.

This 180 page book is packed with the kind of information I wish I had when I was starting out. The 16 Chapters cover:

  • the world of personal history
  • the business of personal history
  • getting started
  • business foundations
  • pricing
  • producing a sample
  • a guide to producing a personal history
  • interviewing
  • marketing
  • an online presence
  • publicity and promotion
  • sales
  • client relations and customer service
  • time management and project management
  • growing your business
  • accelerating your success and managing growth

In addition, the book comes with a CD-ROM which includes all of the sample templates used in the book as well as resources to help you in your business.

If you buy Personal History Business for nothing else than the chapter on pricing, it’s well worth the investment. For personal historians who are starting out, determining what to charge clients is a challenge. Jennifer’s detailed step-by-step approach will give you the help you need to ensure that you keep your business profitable.

What struck me about the book is that Jennifer makes it clear that running a personal history business takes more than just a love of people and their stories. Her book is like a splash of cold water.  After reading it, if you’re still enthusiastic about establishing a personal history business, you’ll  go into it with your eyes wide open. A word of caution. Don’t become overwhelmed by the content. There’s a lot to digest. Read it through once for an overview and then come back to chew on smaller portions.

I like Jennifer’s candor. For example, on business plans she says, “Like a lot of small business owners, I resisted doing a business plan for a long time. I think it was a psychological block…I finally got some serious business coaching…”  In my eyes, her honesty makes her more credible because I know that she’s writing from personal experience.

The book is also sprinkled with useful tips. They’re terrific. And I wish she’d included more of them and highlighted them so they stood out from the surrounding copy. This brings me to my only real concern and that’s the overall layout and design of the book.

My personal preference is for some breathing space around blocks of text. I found the information on the pages visually congested. I longed for more white space, bolder titles, and little sidebars with tidbits of information, like her “tips”.  I would have found it easier to absorb the wealth of material with more visual help. Having said this, I’m aware that there are production costs to consider when designing a book. And Self-Counsel Press, the publishers,  probably have a standard layout from which there can be  little deviation.

Layout and design aside, this is an excellent book. If you’re serious about establishing a personal history business, you need to do two things -  buy a copy of  Start & Run A Personal History Business and join the Association of Personal Historians.

From the Archives: Get Help Now With These Photo Restoration Services.

Get Help Now With These Photo Restoration Services. I find restoring a damaged photograph to its original splendor satisfying work.  I’ve  been using ArcSoft PhotoStudio 5 which came bundled with my Canon Pixma color printer. There is a newer version PhotoStudio 6 for US$80. Click here for details. It’s not as professional or advanced as Adobe Photoshop but it’s easy to use and does the trick. You can have someone else restore your photos if you’re not a “Do-It-Yourselfer”. I’ve assembled … Read More

6 First-Class Short Run Printers.

Are you looking for a reliable, quality, short run printer? These six  all come highly recommended by my colleagues at the Association of Personal Historians.

If you have other printers that you’ve had a good experience with, let me know.  I’ll add their names to a future list.


“In 2010 a book is no longer just a book. A book is a paperback, a hardcover, or, of course, an ebook. It needs to be in the form the reader wants it, when the reader wants it. As a publisher you see opportunity in this epochal change. As BookMobile, we see the vision we created in the ’90s being realized.”

Custom Museum Publishing

“Custom Museum Publishing specializes in the creative design, production and printing of full-color books, exhibit catalogs and marketing materials for artists, galleries, museums and historical societies. Located in beautiful mid-coast Maine, our newest printing technology makes your showcase-quality products affordable in either small or large quantities. In addition to perfect-bound and hard-bound books and exhibit catalogs, we offer calendars, note cards, post cards, brochures, and large-format signage.  We also offer experienced exhibit photography and copy editing.”

Family Heritage Publishers

“Utah Bookbinding Company is the binding division of Family Heritage Publishers.  It has been in continuous operation since its establishment in March 1952. It has been owned and operated by the same family since the beginning. It is the premiere library binding company serving the Intermountain West. Its experience is unsurpassed in the industry with employees having a collective experience of over 100 years.”

First Choice Books

“Book publishers, small publishing presses and independent authors who wish to self publish will find our self publishing  company affordable, trustworthy and dependable. Quotations are provided within 2 to 3 business days and a hardcopy proof within 2 weeks. Our high tech book printing equipment and experienced, friendly team of professionals will make your publishing experience enjoyable and informative.”


“Our company will be successful only if our customers are successful.”  Those were the words of D.W. Friesen who started our company in 1907, in Altona, Manitoba. What started as a small confectionery store has grown to become one of Canada’s leading independent companies, specializing in book manufacturing and printing.”

Gorham Printing

“We are a Pacific Northwest book printer specializing in book design and book printing for self-published books. At Gorham Printing, it’s easy to turn your manuscript into a professional quality book. If you are looking for exceptional book design combined with quality book printing, you’ve come to the right place!”

Photo by John Biehler

Attention Personal Historians! Don’t Miss These Movies!

Get out the popcorn, turn down the lights, and settle back for a feast of  “personal history” films.  These movies vary in quality but are all worth viewing. They address issues that we have an interest in as personal historians. I must admit my two favorites are Big Fish by American director Tim Burton and The Barbarian Invasions by Canadian director Denys Arcand.

If you have some favorites that aren’t on my list,  let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

Must Read After My Death. (2008) “While raising a family of four in 1960s Connecticut, Allis and Charley tried to repair their marriage by turning to therapy, the consequences of which are revealed in a bombshell collection of audio diaries, left to the children after Allis’s death. For filmmaker Morgan Dews, what began as a simple documentary about his grandmother becomes a shocking portrait of one American family, as well as a detailed rendering of a bygone era.”  ~ Netflix

51 Birch Street. (2006) “Married 54 years, Mike and Mina Block were the picture of if not wedded bliss then at least rock-solid stability — or so thought their son, documentary filmmaker Doug Block. But when his mother dies unexpectedly and his father swiftly marries his former secretary, Doug suddenly realizes there was more to his parents’ union than met his eye. Turning his lens on his own family, he discovers much he never knew about the people who raised him.” ~ Netflix

Uncle Nino. (2005)  “An elderly Italian peasant who barely speaks English, Uncle Nino (Pierrino Mascarino) travels to America to reconnect with nephew Robert (Joe Mantegna) and his family (played by Anne Archer, Gina Mantegna and Trevor Morgan). Trouble is, nobody communicates because they’re too busy leading hectic, disconnected lives. It’s up to wise Uncle Nino to bring them together and teach them what’s important in life: each other. Robert Shallcross directed. ” ~ Netflix

The Notebook. (2004) “Two young lovers (Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams) are torn apart by war and class differences in the 1940s in this adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’s best-selling novel. Their story is told by a man (James Garner) who, years later, reads from a notebook while he visits a woman in a nursing home (Gena Rowlands). Nick Cassavetes directs this heart-tugging romance about the sacrifices people will make to hang on to their one true love.”  ~ Netflix

The Final Cut. (2004) “Robin Williams stars in this futuristic tale as Alan Hakman, a “cutter” who edits people’s digital memories into compositions fit for viewing at their funerals — but things change when he finds his own childhood memory in the databank of a client. This thriller also stars Mira Sorvino as Hakman’s girlfriend and Jim Caviezel as a former cutter who is in search of a corporate bigwig’s incriminating footage.” ~ Netflix

Big Fish. (2003) “In this Tim Burton fantasy based on the novel by Daniel Wallace, William Bloom (Billy Crudup) tries to learn more about his dying father, Edward, by piecing together disparate facts from a lifetime of fantastical tales and legends of epic proportions.”  ~ Netflix

The Barbarian Invasions. (2003) “When 50-something divorcé Rémy (Rémy Girard) is hospitalized for terminal cancer, his estranged son, Sébastien (Stéphane Rousseau), returns home to make amends in this Oscar-winning sequel to Denys Arcand’s Decline of the American Empire. As Sébastien steers through the moldering health care system to bring comfort to his father, he finds common ground with Rémy as he learns about the man through friends and lovers from his complicated past.” ~ Netflix

Iris. (2001) “Iris Murdoch (Judi Dench and Kate Winslet, in Oscar-nominated roles) was l’enfant terrible of the literary world in early 1950s Britain — a live wire who thumbed her nose at conformity via a voracious and scandalous sexual appetite. In this snippet of her life, an aging Murdoch (Dench) faces the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and the loss of memories about her younger self (Winslet). Jim Broadbent won the Oscar for his portrayal of her husband.” ~ Netflix

In the Arms of Strangers. (2000) “Filmmaker Mark Jonathan Harris’s Oscar-winning documentary tells the story of an underground railroad — the Kindertransport — that saved the lives of more than 10,000 Jewish children at the dawn of World War II. Through interviews and archival footage, the survivors movingly recount being taken from their families and sent to live with strangers in the relative safety of England. Judi Dench narrates.” ~ Netflix

After Life. (1999) “At a way station somewhere between heaven and earth, the newly dead are greeted by guides. Over the next three days, they will help the dead sift through their  memories to find the one defining moment of their lives. The chosen moment will be re-created on film and taken with them when the dead pass on to heaven. This grave, beautifully crafted film reveals the surprising and ambiguous consequences of human recollection.” ~ Netflix

Nobody’s Business. (1996) “Director Alan Berliner takes on his reclusive father as the reluctant subject of this family documentary. Through interviews with his father, mother, sister, and other family members, Berliner examines his father’s personality, family dynamics, and history.” ~ Library Media Project.

My Life. (1993) “Advertising executive Michael Keaton has it all: a beautiful, pregnant wife (Nicole Kidman), a great job, a stately house … and three months to live. Tears are jerked in this affecting drama as Keaton tries to make up for lost time and come to terms with the inevitable end of his life. Screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin (Ghost) makes his directing debut here.” ~ Netflix

Defending Your Life. (1991) “After Daniel Miller (Albert Brooks) crashes his BMW convertible into a bus, he’s transported to “Judgment City,” where he meets the love of his life, Julia (Meryl Steep). Unfortunately, Daniel needs to defend his life on Earth before he can ascend to heaven with Julia. He frantically attempts to explain the positive things he’s accomplished, but soon realizes that Julia may be too good for him.” ~ Netflix

On Golden Pond. (1981) “An aging couple Ethel and Norman Thayer (“Ethel Thayer, I almost didn’t marry you cause it sounded like a lisp.”), who spend each summer at their home on Golden Pond. They are visited by daughter Chelsea with her fiancé, where they drop off his rebellious son. The story explores the relationship, among other things the relationship that she had with her father growing up, as well as what can happen to a couple in the later years of a long marriage.”  ~ The Internet Movie Database

I Never Sang for My Father.
(1970) “Hackman plays a New York professor who wants a change in his life, and plans to get married to his girlfriend and move to California. His mother understands his need to get away, but warns him that moving so far away could be hard on his father. Just before the wedding, the mother dies. Hackman’s sister (who has been disowned by their father for marrying a Jewish man) advises him to live his own life, and not let himself be controlled by their father.” ~ The Internet Movie Database

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I’m Celebrating!

This week marks an important anniversary for me. Drum roll, please!

Two years ago I launched this blog and wrote my first post. Since then I’ve written  310 articles and 41,365 viewers have visited the site. A big thank you to all of you who’ve dropped by. And a special thanks to those who’ve taken the time to leave a comment or two.

From the collection of articles, I’ve selected 15 of my favorites. These are not necessarily the ones that received the most attention from readers but they are the posts that I really like and I think deserve an encore. For those of you who haven’t seen these posts, I invite you to stop awhile and have a read.

Photo by Jule_Berlin

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