A to Z April Challenge

During the month of April I will be doing a different spin on my memoir posts. It starts with a song. Each song will be followed by a brief essay that is evoked or inspired by that song. You might want to click on the YouTube link to hear the song as you read the piece I've written. Or you can listen to the song lyrics first and then read. Whichever way you choose, I mostly hope you'll read and leave a comment with your thoughts about my post. Thank you for visiting and please follow the blog if you are not doing so already.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas: A Time for Memoir Research

Family Christmas Eve 1958
Family Christmas Eve 1958 (Photo credit: catchesthelight)

       The Christmas holiday season is here which means it's a good time to do research for that memoir you've been thinking about writing.  I'm not talking about libraries or hunkering over the computer--though if you have vacation time that needs filling, this type of research can also be a good thing.   The kind of research that suits this season best is time with family and friends, talking, sharing, and remembering.    This is some of the best memoir research we can do--and usually the most fun.

      Like many of us, you'll probably be spending time with loved ones who have played a role in your life.  Especially if you're with parents, siblings, and other family members, you can share memories and ask them to fill in the blanks.  Listen for new stories and information.

      Here are some tips:

  • Conduct interviews--Try to capture it on video if you can.  For those who aren't hams or comfortable with being on camera get them used to talking on camera before delving into the serious topics.
  • Take pictures -- Not just of people and events, but of things around the house that evoke memories.
  • Break out the photo albums-- This doesn't have to be boring.  It's fun to peruse the old albums to talk about old times and people from the past.
  • Make a game out of remembering-- Start an outline or timeline and get everyone to fill in what they remember.
  • Take a drive--Visit places from your past or places with stories behind them.
  • Have a family video chat--Everyone gather around the computer and have a video visit with another relative who can't be with you.  
  • Get plenty of one on one time--The group gatherings are great fun, but richer detail with less inhibition can be garnered with individual conversations.
  • Let the kids get involved--Sometimes younger people don't care what older folks did in their day, but if they show interest tell them what they want to hear about and let them ask questions.  They may provide a different way of looking at things.
  • Write it down!--Have a journal or notebook handy for recording thoughts, quotes, and observations.  In quiet times alone write down what you've done, what people have said, and your reflections about your visits.
        Whether you're writing you memoir or just in case one day you might, if you do the things I've listed here, you'll have a good resource for remembering.  What you do in this time might be something you won't have an opportunity to do later.  Take some time to remember and record those memories for posterity.

          Will you be visiting with relatives and close family during the holidays?   Do you have any genealogy buffs or family historians among your relatives?    What are some ideas that you would suggest for doing memoir research during the holidays?

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Kelly Robinson said...

Good ideas. One of the things my sisters and I did was start a shared document in Google Docs. We can all contribute as we think of things. It's a big free-form list of things from our lives, some expanded, some just in note form ("the puppy incident"). Since we can all edit and add to the same document, it's neat to see the little arguments that break out. One sis will add a story, another will add a note to say "I'm pretty sure that was in summer, not winter." I'll come in and disagree with both of them. It's meant to be something we can pull from for our own projects, but ultimately, it's a project in itself.

JoJo said...

Most of my family has passed away. Some of my older cousins have done geneological research....we can only go back to the late 1800s in Italy and there are still distant relatives who live in our ancestral hometown.

D.G. Hudson said...

"Have a 'family' video chat--"

We did something like this when my sister in Atlanta called a few days ago and I talked to my uncle (like a big brother to me), and several cousins. They all meet in Atlanta early to celebrate. It's a good time to get them all in one place.

Great suggestions, Lee. A writer has to always be a writer, thinking ahead.

shelly said...

Great suggestions, Arlee.

Susanne Drazic said...

Great post, Arlee. We do have family members who are into genealogy.