Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Chapter Titles

Your chapter titles should stand out on the page. It will make it easier for someone flipping through your book to find the chapter they are looking for as well as add a visually appealing layout to your book. Select a font that is relatively easy to read, but is different from the body font. Don’t go too crazy with the font for your chapter titles, you want them to add to the appeal of your book, not be distractive. Newspapers usually use San-serif fonts for the headlines and serif fonts (like this font) for the text. (Click Here for Wikipedia about serifs.)

Here are some samples of pages that I like:



Chris Stevenson cs@sgenealogy.com www.sgenealogy.com

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Family History Cookbook

One of the most cleaver ideas that I have seen is a family history cookbook. There are several designs but the one that I like the best has a picture of the person whose recipe it was and a little quote or history about them next to the recipe. It takes a little work to gather, but everyone loves family recipes and what better way to keep a family connected than to see a picture of the ancestor each time you make a dish. Start typing up all the great recipes that you have in your family. Add to it the foods you loved when you were young. Then go though the same process with each of your relatives, especially the older ones. As you visit with them, ask what recipes were handed down and if they know who first created it. Just add a few pictures and some quotes from journals or histories and your cookbook will be a great success and a treasure for years to come. (Suggestion: Coil bind it so it will lay flat on the counter.)

Chris Stevenson cs@sgenealogy.com www.sgenealogy.com

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ghost Writer

Some people love to write and then there is the rest of us. Writing isn’t my favorite part of producing family histories, but I really enjoy producing and sharing them. This is where hiring a writer can be extremely helpful. The challenge then becomes in finding the best writer for your history.

Here are my recommendations based on your desired outcome.

1) If you want to decide every word of the book but can’t type very well, then record your history on a tape recorder or digital recorder and hire a typist to transcribe it for you. They will take the frustration out of the project and you will still have control of how it ends up. Check with young married relatives or neighbors, they often can use a little extra income and have time to type your book.

2) If you have a lot of written journals, stories, histories, and genealogies but need help editing out what doesn’t need to be included, then you can hire an editor to help you with that process. You can often find a good editor by contacting an English professor with the local community college.

3) But if you don’t have very much information that is already written and need help getting started, then you will need a Personal Historian or ghost writer. A good historian or writer can walk you through the whole process by asking questions, doing interviews, sorting through documents and pictures, and eventually writing the book. This method requires the least amount of work on your part, will cost the most, and will usually produce the most professional book. You can find personal historians in your area by checking the Personal Historian web site and searching by your location.

Happy writing!

Chris Stevenson cs@sgenealogy.com www.sgenealogy.com

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Remembering Doesn’t Have To Be Hard

There is one more tip from the Thurstons that I wanted to post before moving on to other subjects. These ideas really helped me and I hope that they will help you. At first, I couldn’t think of what to write from my life, but as I did the following activities a whole flood of memories came back. Try these and see if they help.

  1. Browse through old photo albums. Notice the friends you played with, the vacations you took, the houses you lived in, the furniture in the background, the clothes you wore, the way you wore your hair, the cars you drove, the pets you owned. Jot down memories that come to you.
  2. Look through school annuals. Note the clubs you belonged to, the sports you played, the dances you attended, the friends and teachers who were important in your life. Read the notes your friends wrote to you on the end pages.
  3. Rummage through old memory books, scrapbooks, keepsake boxes.
  4. Call your siblings and other relatives and reminisce about the past. You’ll probably find you don’t remember the same incidents in quite the same way.
  5. Visit homes where you lived, schools you attended, cemeteries where loved ones are buried, and other locales meaningful in your life. Sit in front of these places for a while and write down memories that occur to you.
  6. Make lists about yourself: the cars, homes, and pets you owned, the schools you attended, your favorite books, movies, songs, foods, etc. List the major turning points in your life.
  7. Draw a floor plan of your childhood home.
  8. Create a chronology of your life. Make a chart with two columns. In one column list events and incidents from your life. In the second column assign a date to the event, however approximate. Make a note of which incidents you definitely want to include in your life story.

These are some very effective ways to bring memories back. Try them!

Chris Stevenson cs@sgenealogy.com www.sgenealogy.com

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Writing Conflict

As I mentioned in my last post I attended Education Week and one of my favorite classes was taught by Dawn and Morris Thurston. I would like to share another tip from their web site, www.memoirmentor.com.

“Include Suspense and Conflict--Like novels, life stories need conflict and suspense to keep readers interested. Every good story needs an antagonist, something or someone the hero (you) struggles against, whether it's society (prejudice), nature (weather), internal demons (addictions), or other people (your cantankerous spouse). When you dismiss your life struggles with cursory summaries, you keep your readers at a distance. You hide key information that helps them understand you better. So, develop those conflicts. Your life story should be filled with incidents that let your readers visualize your hopes, dreams, and worries. They'll love you for it and they'll root for your success.”

The example in last week’s post is an excellent sample of adding suspense to the story. As you read that paragraph, don’t you find yourself wanting to find out what happened? Adding suspense can be challenging, but adds so much to your history and will keep them reading (which is the main purpose we are writing these histories). Try it out and see if your readers enjoy the history more with some conflict and suspense included.

Chris Stevenson cs@sgenealogy.com www.sgenealogy.com