You: a story worth sharing

Earlier this week I had the unique opportunity to hear a presentation by Janette Quinn. She has a company called Living Stories, whose mission is to help people get their memories and stories down on paper.

This is something LifeLines helps people with too, but I think Janette is usually helping people earlier in the process. I often work with someone’s written manuscript, proofing, editing, designing, and/or publishing it, whereas Janette is actually helping people create that written manuscript.

She was speaking at a meeting of the Historical Society in my town, and her message really resonated with them. These are older people with a lifetime of stories to tell, and a vested interest in preserving the stories related to our village. But I think the idea of preserving their own stories was new to them.

“But I don’t have a story worth sharing!”

Janette revealed that there are a lot of people who don’t think they have anything to share. Older women especially, who have never worked outside the home, may consider their personal history unremarkable. But Janette helps them see that it is, in fact, irreplaceable. Her specialty is interviewing people in a way that gets them to remember their history and talk about themselves.

“Why is history important?” she asked us. “Because the history that we carry is wisdom.” Janette believes

Your story is irreplaceable

Yes, it’s nice to be able to leave your kids a financial inheritance. But money is generic. Your kids might just as easily become financially wealthy through a series of better jobs than what you ever had. Or as a result of smart investing. Or from the lottery. Money is money, no matter where it comes from.

But your personal history is something only you can share. Once you’re gone, there is no way to get those stories back.

Take a step

There are three ways I can think of to help you get started:

A book of story-telling prompts
  1. Buy a book of “prompts.” A client of mine, John Geertsema, used a book like this to get his stories down on paper. His family gave him the book for Christmas because they loved the stories he told, and they didn’t want to lose them. I myself have used To Our Children’s Children, by Bob Greene, and there are many similar books out there.
  2. Get your family involved. You might not think your life is interesting, but share some of your questions and answers with your children and grandchildren. Ask them what they want to know more about. And listen, too, when your stories remind them of things they might want to share with you.
  3. Hire Janette. Honestly, I don’t know how much she costs, and she won’t be able to give you a price until she finds out specifically what services you’re interested in. To find out more about the process, visit her website:

Enjoy the journey

None of the clients whose personal stories I’ve published as hardcover or paperback books have ever regretted the investment they made in preserving their personal history. And none of their children have either.

In fact, most have found the process as meaningful as the finished product.

Because it was this journey of discovery that led them to realize the value of their personal history. Through the journey they learned that their lives are, in fact, a story worth sharing.


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4 thoughts on “You: a story worth sharing”

  1. Melanie…important post. My father was writing all of his stories down and then stopped. Something discouraged him, not sure what. I’m inspired to spur him on again. I cringe at all the untold stories my grandfather had. But, then, he didn’t seem ready to share many either. Now that my parents are getting older, I’m finding myself more passionate about writing down these precious stories even if they don’t. There is something wonderful that happens, too, when we have three generations sitting in the living room hearing a great story told.

    • I was fortunate enough that my father read this post and then emailed me to say, “We should start doing this.” So I’m going to type up some of the questions from To Our Children’s Children into a Word doc, and then when I’m at my parents’ house for lunch or something, we can take 15-30 minutes to get their answers into my computer. Or, recently I’ve been experimenting with an iPad app called SoundNote; it lets you record an interview and take notes at the same time. That might be a better way to approach a project like this.

      I hope you are able to discover what stopped your father from writing. I’m glad you’re inspired to see if you can get him to share again. And you’re right, something magical happens when generations share stories together. Maybe if you can get your dad to try it once, he’ll find it irresistible and want to do it more!

  2. Melanie,

    I recently wrote my life “narrative” for Living Fire/The Journey and found it to be a very valuable exercise. While it was necessary to keep it somewhat limited in scope and detail, I can see where expanding on it could be more interesting from a historical aspect. What was even more interesting to me was hearing the stories of others. I agree we all have a story to tell that would provide insight to future generations. Having prompts would definitely help. Since I’ve heard some of your dad’s stories already, I would love to hear more. :)

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