inspired, Tell Me a Story

Tell Me a Story

Margaret purple dress
My sweet grandmother, Mary Margaret Ellis.  One of the great storytellers of my life.

As a child I loved to listen to my Grandma tell me stories.  I would ask her to tell me the same stories over and over.  She never tired of telling them.

As an adult I love it when my parents, aunts and uncles, siblings, husband, cousins, children, or anyone really, start telling favorite family stories.  They draw me in.  They make me feel connected to something.  Connected to my family, to love, struggle, courage, faith, kindness, hope, and so many other things demonstrated in the stories.

Ever since RootsTech I cannot stop thinking about stories.  Stories from my life, from my living family member’s lives, and stories of my ancestors.  The big theme of the RootsTech keynotes was “Story”.

Steve Rockwood encouraged us to think of powerful stories that mean something to us and then tell them in a minute or less to our family members.  To use those short stories to draw them in and help them love their family and feel a connection to their family’s history.

Doris Kearns Goodwin expressed her concern that because of our instant world “we are losing the art of storytelling”.  She went on to dazzle us with incredibly told stories.

David Isay asked the powerful question, if you only had forty minutes left to live, what would you tell this person sitting across from you?  He shared StoryCorps clips that demonstrated the power of the big and small, everyday stories of our lives.

Mike Leavitt told us that he tricked himself into writing his personal history by making a quick list of stories worth telling – just a word or phrase that would remind him.  This list started with 10 items, then 100, then 1,000.  Eventually he wrote these stories out.

As I have considered each aspect of “Story” that was presented to us, my mind has swirled with thoughts all centered on stories.

How often have I found records about an ancestor and said to myself, “There is a story here.”  Or, “I wish I knew the story behind this.”  It feels an awful lot like the little girl version of myself asking Grandma to, “Tell me a story”.

None of my ancestors on my mom’s side left written histories of themselves or other family members.  There are no surviving journals, auto biographies, or short histories.  (That I’ve found.)  What I wouldn’t give to have even a small handful of stories about these people.

All of these thoughts have finally come together into my “Tell Me a Story” challenge.  This is a personal challenge but please feel free to join in.

Each week on Thursday I will post a “Tell Me a Story” post.  There are three elements – story list, one minute story, and detailed story.  My post may include one, two, or three of these elements.

The idea is that I will select a person – myself, a parent, grandparent, child, etc. – and make a quick list of ten stories.  Ten key stories that I think are the most important to tell about this person.  The list only needs to make sense to me.  A word or phrase will do.  Then I will choose one of those stories and come up with a compelling one minute version.  The kind of short story that can hook even the least interested of my family members.  The next step is to tell that one minute story in greater detail, maybe even find a photo, if one exists, to pair with the story.

Preserving one story each week about myself or loved ones will slowly build a treasury of family stories.  I hope these stories will strengthen and connect my family now and in the future.

Care to join me on my storytelling journey?

I’ll post my first “Tell Me a Story” post tomorrow.

Tell Me a Story

31 thoughts on “Tell Me a Story”

  1. Great idea! I look forward to seeing how this works out. I also love stories and am always trying to imagine the stories of the people I never knew (and of some of the people I did know).

    1. I’m giggling because isn’t it soooo true that sometimes we are super curious about living people that we know. We get so used to digging around to figure out deceased people’s lives and then we have to be all polite and non-intrusive with the living. Funny!

  2. What a fantastic idea. When my son was little, he loved being told stories about my family. They started as bedtime stories, spread to bath-time and then to car trips. He called them “shoe down the river” stories because of one about the time my brother floated one of my shoes off down a stream when we were picnicking on a little island.

  3. Hi. I’m doing this offline at the moment. This method is a very good shorthand to jump start the entire process. My late Mom kept her one to three line entries in a book for recording a baby’s first year. I find the short and to the point entries contain enough info to start the process very well. I recommend making the list a fun project, something you’ll consider visually as well as mentally stimulating. You can paste a few photos or even add a graphic or use colors that stimulate memories.

    What might happen is that you go back and develop the shorter entries into longer ones. My advice is to treat each story as a episode that is self contained. Eventually you’ll have enough episodes that can be arranged in some kind of order. Chronological or by topic or however they best flow. It’s a great way to write their stories. You’ll see! Soon they’ll come together.

    1. Great suggestions! Plenty of my work also needs to be offline as a lot of it deals with living people or more personal stories but I’m trying to get myself more motivated. 🙂

  4. I saw your post through Jana Last’s Fab Finds. I was also incredibly inspired by the theme of story at RootsTech this year. I have written a blog post, set to go live next Tuesday, with a very similar challenge. (i postponed my post by a week so I could prepare my first multimedia story to share with the post!) I will share and link to your challenge at the end of my post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and nice to meet you!

    Melissa Finlay

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