Now is as Good a Time as Any: Writing Your Family

Now is as Good a Time as Any: Writing Your Family

Natalie Bright

I spoke at my hometown library this last week. The Dimmitt Book Club meets at the Rhoades Memorial Library every month. We talked about the changing tide of books for writers and readers, and hopefully, inspired a few people to write their family. I heard several wonderful stories about the people from my hometown.

After a show of hands, about three indicated that they owned eReaders. (As I shared with the group, the two things that sold me on an eReader is that I can make the words bigger and I can read in the dark while my hubby sleeps.)

According to a recent Pew Research Center stats, half of American adults either own a tablet or an e-Reader. In 2014, 12 million devices were sold. It’s no surprise that Amazon Kindle has the largest share of the market, with 75% of all eBooks sold in the US. Other countries are close behind the eBook craze with markets opening up in India, Germany, Indonesia, and Brazil.

For people who love stories, like Book Clubs, this is an amazing time for readers. Original material is in high demand, which makes this an amazing time for writers as well. The irony of our time is that while eBooks continue to gain a solid hold, it’s never been easier for anyone to create a book for print.

Family Stories

Many of you have thought about writing the stories you heard from your childhood, or putting your family genealogy research to paper. I think today, more and more people are interested in family stories and the history of their communities. Family historians and genealogist can bring community and family members to life through the written word, and reveal them as real flesh and blood souls. With the ease of self-publishing options, you can write it and have something in hand you’d be proud to hand out at the next family reunion (or sell it to your cousins to cover your costs).

A Million Ways

Whatever you think a family memoir or collection of stories might be, forget those preconceived notions. Through the ease of self-publishing options, you can create whatever you want. I shared several of my favorite examples of family memoirs and personal reflections that have been turned into published works. I’ve listed them below:

PATCHWORK PRINCIPLES by Jerry and Martha McClenagan. A heartwarming collection of life lessons featuring original quilt designs hand made by Martha. (Infinity Publishing)

TEN SISTERS by Doris Wenzel. Unique POV from ten sisters who each wrote a chapter about the day they were taken from their mother and adopted out to different families. (Mayhaven Press)

TAKE TWO & BUTTER ‘EM WHILE THEY’RE HOT, by Barbara Sewell. Heirloom Recipes & Kitchen wisdom from her grandmother. “If you want some hot bread and free advice, step into my grandmother’s kitchen.” I love this collection of recipes and wisdom.

             GROWING UP IN THE BRADFORD OIL FIELDS by Jim Messer. (Xlibris) Written for his children, Mr. Messer reflects on memories growing up with a father who was an oil field shooter. A fascinating look at how they stored, transported, and ignited nitroglycerin during the completion process of fracing wells in the 1930s.

             A WOMAN TENDERFOOT by Grace Gallatin Seton Thompson. Published in 1900, this Rocky Mountain adventure is written by a Victorian woman who did the unthinkable: she accompanied her husband into the wilderness of U.S. and Canada. What I wouldn’t give to have some of this detail about clothing, food prep, adventure, and life from my own grandmother.

             LETTERS FOR COACH by Libby Cleveland. Author Coop Action Printing, Lubbock Texas. A collection of letters from players to their favorite coach.

SO GREAT A HERITAGE by Kathie Jackson. A collection of letters by her father who was an army Chaplain. She sprinkled this book with details of the war in between letters to home.

OIL PEOPLE by Natalie Bright. Nonfiction targeted to upper middle grades about the varied workforce used in the discovery, production and refining of oil. Lists the many products we use every day. Self-published 2010 based on my husband’s work as a petroleum geologist, and now available on Amazon as an eBook.

           “A Cowboy’s Christmas Blessing” WEST TEXAS CHRISTMAS STORIES. Based on an old ranch hand on a college friend’s ranch, I wrote the story as an exercise for a writing class, and years later it was selected for this anthology published by TCU Press. Never delete those story ideas. You never where they might find a home in the future. This great collection contains both fiction and nonfiction about West Texas.

Writer’s Secrets for Non-Writers: You CAN do This!

  • Your writing is not going to win a Pulitzer Prize. If you’ve ever wanted to record your family history, write it down now. It’s not going to be perfect the first time. Writers call it the vomit draft.
  • On the next pass through your work, narrow the focus: smells, sounds, fear, taste, grit on your face. Add the details that brings the reader into your story.
  • Write to one person in particular. Don’t worry about who will be reading your work. Just write.
  • I’m not talking about literary writing. Write in a Conversational tone. Don’t worry about grammar or complete sentences. Just write. You can go back and fix it later. You can’t fix a blank page.
  • Read your story out loud. Every author I know does this final step before submitting their work for publication. This helps you find awkward sentences, typos, and determine the flow of your story. Again, it’s not a literary piece. It’s you telling a family story.
  • Have someone else read your work for an honest critique.

Libraries of Tomorrow

The library in my hometown continues to thrive. I used to spend every Saturday there while my mother did the weeks laundry around the corner. I’m glad to know that the folks in Dimmitt continue to use the facility.

In addition to several groups using the meeting room and a Tuesday reading program for children, the Dimmitt library features a lighted glass case of collections from local patrons. This month were porcelain tea pots from England. The previous month featured Elvis memorabilia. Librarians are thinking outside the box to keep their facilities vibrant even in today’s eBook revolution.

Now, Take a Deep Breath. Whether you’re a multi-published author or first-time writer, be open to the possibilities of your creation and WRITE. Don’t forget to schedule a talk at your hometown library after you get that book finished.

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