"Have you thought about writing your family history, but found yourself stuck from the start? Writing a family narrative can be a daunting task, but Karen Jones Gowen found a way to bring her mother's story to life." (Homespun Magazine)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Writing from Life

Is there anything more interesting than real life? Not to me. I love real life stories. From the time I was young, the biography shelf of the children's section in the library was my favorite. There was a series targeted to kids, and I read them all. Fantasy bores me. Give me a solid memoir any day. I like to know what people eat for dinner, where they work, where they go on vacation, all kinds of ordinary details that we all have in our everyday lives.

Writing it well in story form is the great challenge. When it's done right, you get Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt. Or the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Sometimes you don't care about all that, you just 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. You can start with a labeled box for your data, and later file and organize it. Collect it, keep it in one place, label and organize.


  1. I should start with a journal. I guess a blog is like a journal, but it is not very personal. I kept a journal during high school where I recorded my daily activies, not even my thoughts. I reread it once and was surprised how interesting it was. I usually like fantasy, fake life, science fiction, but journals are good.

  2. I wrote diaries from when I was little. Then at age 13 I thought they were all stupid, and I went out and burned them all. This scene is in my current wip. Marcie as an adult, wanting to be a writer, and remembering the day she burned her childhood diaries. I still have impulses to destroy my old journals. What kind of sicko am I anyway to want to do that?

  3. My journals have always been sporadic. I have always written little stories though. I only came across a few written fourteen years ago. Stories written about everyday occurrences. That was interesting reading.

  4. Karen,
    Thanks again for the award! I meant what I said about the value of getting it from you...

    Nice new digs!
    Old photos fill me with wonder.

    I was lucky enough to take notes throughout most of my life. Many of them were destroyed or thrown away (by others), but I read them often enough to reatain vivid specific memories.
    My journals usually consisted of the insides of matchbooks, paper napkins, and tons of lined school paper.
    thanks again!

  5. Pat, and I meant what I said about you needing to write a memoir!! On this blog, I hope to share tips and ideas from my own experience and others as we all work at bringing those shadows to the page.

  6. I love this idea. I plan to follow your blog about memoir writing--I have my father's life and hard times journal and I have never known what to do with it.

    Great job!

  7. Well, I'll be following this one as well - although us WordPress lot are probably invisible from a stats point of view, I'm afraid :)

  8. Christine & hampshireflyer, Welcome and yes, I'm feeling some pressure here right now. Christine, you have a life & hard times journal written by your father? That is so awesome!

  9. Great blog, Karen. Looking forward to reading more here!

  10. Great blog! Love all the old photos. I find it tough to write "real life" stories myself, but I sure love reading them.

  11. Wonderful new blog Karen, and extra lovely to see your face :o)

  12. Hi Karen, lovely new blog, really interesting and I love the photos, I will be back for a visit.

  13. Talli, thanks for following. So glad to see your perky, friendly cup on my follower gadget!

    Linda G., and I find it next to impossible to write anything except real life stories!

    Niki, thank you! Hope my face doesn't scare anyone off lol!

    Brigid, somewhere here I must find a permanent spot for that new Celtic word I learned from you. I love it.


I don't post very often, but if you leave a comment I'll know someone is out there reading. And then I will post more! Bwa ha ha!