Life Story Links: July 15, 2019


“We tend to be preoccupied by the present, with one eye cocked on the future. But history, after all, isn’t really about the past. Our history is about who we are right now and where, as a society, we’re headed (just as an obituary isn’t about death but about a life).”
—Sam Roberts

Noah Garland with his sons and some of their families. Southern Appalachian Project near Barbourville, Knox County, Kentucky, November 1940. Photographed by Marion Post Wolcott, courtesy U.S. Farm Security Administration.

Noah Garland with his sons and some of their families. Southern Appalachian Project near Barbourville, Knox County, Kentucky, November 1940. Photographed by Marion Post Wolcott, courtesy U.S. Farm Security Administration.

Turn the Page

Memoir reading suggestions to inspire your own vignette-style life story writing, from Annie Dillard and Kelly Corrigan to Robert Fulghum and Sandra Cisneros.

“Books are a portal to our personal histories. Pick up a worn copy of a childhood favorite and you might be transported to the warmth of a parent’s arms or a beanbag chair in a first-grade classroom or a library in your hometown. Avid readers could build autobiographies around their favorite books...” With that, the team at the Washington Post has developed a fabulous list of what to read at every age, from one to 100.

The New York Times’s book critics select the 50 best memoirs of the past 50 years. Cool feature: Click the asterisks throughout the article to create your own list of must-read books. Do your favorites make the list?


Continuing Education

Patricia Charpentier’s Orlando–based Writing Your Life hosted its first live webinar, The Art of Editing, on June 8. Catch a replay of the educational 90-minute webinar here.

Personal historian Mary Voell's 16-week online course The Making of a Family Historian provides a framework and tools to organize and research family history before beginning your autobiographical writing.


True Stories Uniquely Told

“Recently two sisters in their seventies asked if I could help them write a joint memoir,” Massachusetts–based personal historian Nancy West says. Though they lived in the same household, the sisters had substantively different childhood experiences, making the exploration of their shared past that much more fascinating.

Thor Ringler has run the My Life, My Story program at the the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, since 2013. In that time the program has recorded life stories of more than 2,000 veterans—and placed the short biographies in each vet's' electronic medical record.

“At almost the exact moment my family left Warsaw for the long trip across Europe to Antwerp and a ship to America, a second group started the trip as well, this one carrying forged visas and passports with the names of my family members,” Kenneth D. Ackerman writes in this investigation into the “the immigrant forger” Joseph Rubinsky.

“The risk of nonfiction is that people are like ‘I know everything about you,’ and I’m like no, you just know this fun house mirrored projection of the people in my life through one lens, which is mine.” T Kira Madden, Roxanne Gay, and other memoirists on the dialogue around their writing.

After chronicling her challenges of living with mental illness while raising two young children, and striking a chord with many people, Jennifer Marshall morphed her blog into a powerful nonprofit that uses storytelling as a tool for healing.


Time for Headphones

Believable is a podcast from Narratively “about how our stories define who we are.” Each episode “dives into a personal, eye-opening story where narratives conflict, and different perspectives about the truth collide.” In this episode, a woman’s struggle to corroborate her own life:

Listen to Lettice Stuart discuss incorporating public speaking into your personal history business marketing plan on the latest episode of Amy Woods Butlers’ The Life Story Coach podcast.


...and a Few More Links


Short Takes

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They were so young. • Bill Cameron was 20 when he fired a 20mm gun at German planes flying overhead his ship. In front of him, American troops landed on Omaha Beach. • Richard Brown was 20 when he flew on a secret mission the night before D-Day. He scanned the darkness for German planes from his mid upper turret as they transported supplies and soldiers behind enemy lines. • Frank Krepps was 21 when he delivered crucial messages on a motorcycle shortly after D-Day. He rode alone through newly liberated land for miles, hoping the unit he was supposed to deliver messages to would still be alive. • Hugh Buckley was 19 when he arrived on Juno Beach to the sight of dead bodies through the gun sights of his tank. There wasn’t much time to dwell on this before him and his crew were moving into the unknown Nazi territory ahead of them. • Jim Parks was 19 when he swam ashore in the first wave of D-Day. Trying to help his comrades who had been hit around him, he found one man badly wounded. “Hold me I’m cold” were the man’s last words before he passed away in Jim’s arms. • Now, they are close to a century old. These five men are among the last Canadians who fought in the Normandy Campaign. Each man played an essential role in a battle that shaped our world today. They don’t boast about their service, but will smile when you thank them for your freedom. Thank you Bill, Richard, Frank, Hugh and Jim.

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