by Deborah Nielsen
Every family has stories. Usually told around the dinner table. Do you remember all the stories grandma told about growing up when you were little? Or the story about when your great uncle ran after the Model T yelling, “Whoa, damn you! Whoa!” just before the woodpile stopped it?
Memories fade, and people die, and the stories are gone along with them. That’s the problem with oral history. It has a tendency to disappear. Families can lose history and the threads binding them all together.
When I’ve attended a writers’ event of some sort over the years, I usually meet a person who is there because they want to learn how to preserve those family stories in writing. Then they say, “But I’m not a writer.” They take copious notes and end up feeling overwhelmed. In their mind, a writer is this mystical creature who can effortlessly put words on paper that everyone wants to read. “I just want to do a book for the family,” they say.