I love real life stories. From the time I was young, the biography shelf of the children’s section in the library lured me in. Fantasy bores me. Give me a solid memoir any day. I’m curious about what people eat for dinner, where they work, where they go on vacation, all kinds of ordinary details that make up our everyday lives.
How to write the everyday details in story form is a challenge. When it’s done right, you get Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. Or the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Sometimes you don’t care about all that, you simply want to get the information down in one place, in some kind of organized format to save it for posterity. Either way, we’re talking lots of time and effort– no easy task at all.
Where to start? With a collection of data: journals, letters, photographs, shopping lists, sales records– anything saved that gives information about the life in question. Start with a labeled box for your data, and later file and organize it. Collect it, keep it in one place, label and organize.
One time I did a presentation and signing at a small-town library. The women in this audience were from rural areas and identified strongly with Farm Girl. At the end, one lady sat there longer than all the rest, and with tears in her eyes she said, “I thought I would have more time to get my mother’s story written. She died last year. She was only seventy-two.”
Since then, I have thought many times of this lady. And many others who have read Farm Girl and related similar sentiments:
“I have pages of my life story written, but I don’t know how to organize them.”
“We can’t get my folks to talk into a tape player.”
“Oh how I wish I could do what you did. But I’m not a writer.”
“I don’t even know where to start.”
“My dad traveled all over the West. He was a cowhand. He told me stories of his life, but I’ve never written them down.”
“You wouldn’t believe my life. It would make a great book, if I could only get it written.”
Common thread– “I have a story to tell, memories to record, and I wish I had started sooner.” But there is no sooner. There is only today. And tomorrow. Are you ready to begin?