Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Telling Your Own Stories

This past Friday was Grandparent & Special Friend Day at our school. As I passed through the halls I noticed the great joy the children took in sharing their classrooms, classmates and teachers with the special people in their lives. Many classrooms also had activities that promoted intergenerational sharing - children teaching skills they may have learned from an older relative, children and their guests writing poems about one another, and so on. This reminded me that I wanted to share some resources that will help you share stories in your circle of family and friends.

Many people feel intimidated by the act of storytelling or simply do not know where to begin. I suggest you explore StoryCorps (http://www.storycorps.org/) an initiative to document and preserve the stories of ordinary Americans. Listening to the audio clips may jog your memory and it will surely remind you of the importance of asking questions of older friends and family members while you still can.

Secondly, I strongly recommend the book Telling Your Own Stories by Donald Davis (Little Rock: August House Publishers, 1993). This small guide by a veteran storyteller will open up a flood of information and reveal new facets even of people you know very well. During a recent family visit, my 12-year-old daughter sat her grandparents down on the sofa, pulled out her Flip camera and our copy of this book, and conducted a series of interviews! Beforehand my parents weren’t sure if they’d have enough to say, but with Davis’s questions as prompts the stories flowed out effortlessly.

Here are some examples from his book:

• Can you remember a time when you tried to cook something and it didn’t turn out?
• Can you remember a time when your first impression of someone turned out to be totally wrong?
• Can you remember a time when you almost won, but not quite?
• Can you take us back home with you for a childhood holiday meal?

Note that these questions aren’t about the big things in life – birth, marriage, death; they elicit responses about the daily texture of life, about smaller incidents that highlight individual personalities, and about all the minor details that in the end aren’t really so minor. The sum of these stories is your unique family heritage. We each have something interesting and valuable to share with those we love.

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