10 a.m.-12:30 p.m., April 25, 2015
Instructor: Jeanette Shelburne Facilitator: Carol Ng
Pre-workshop Participant Preparation: participants were asked to choose what they wanted to write about from this list: 1) one ancestor of interest to you; 2) a cultural practice of your family or a saying or proverb; 3) a family celebration or family activity; 4) your trip to China to discover your family village - what you found, if anything; who you found; how you found it; your reaction; 5) your interaction with a particular older relative like a grandparent; 6) the immigration story of one of your ancestors, or the story of your own immigration. They were asked to write down some notes on the topic and bring copies of photos and/or documents to share.
1. Write down everything without judging yourself. Don’t be concerned about correct grammar or be too analytical.
2. Then put on the editor cap- take out, write more about your own memories. Be subjective through your own experiences; hold to own truth. Sometimes relatives have their own memories, which can shut you down.
3. Memories are in the brain; may not be able to access them. Use photos and ask yourself questions. Physically writing can trigger memories. Write what you do remember. DON’T STOP.
4. Ancestors’ Stories: “ not knowing”, “possibly”, “no one knows, but……
”Tell or not to tell”: family secrets, paper sons, multiple wives, etc. Try to understand different sides to a person’s character. Explain things not based on today’s standards and behaviors. Younger generations need to understand what their ancestors went through in order to come here and prosper.
B. General Writing Techniques- What does a story need to make it interesting to read?
1. Suspense- What is going to happen, e.g. chance of being deported? What’s at stake? What is the essential question?
2. Care about the character- creating interest in the character by showing different sides of them; their hopes and regrets.
3. Story comes alive with details- Sensory: see, hear, smell. Create dialogue. Also inner dialogue- What you are thinking or feeling, e.g. trip to village in China? Immigrant story: Why did they leave China?
4. Starting with just the facts is NOT a good way to start a story. Can use dialogue to pull people into story, then action.
5. Use metaphors & similes, “ like an indolent snake”.
6. Use photographs to study details: foreground, background, how they are dressed, expressions, posture, date, etc. Match age of photo with historical timelines.
Document- Don’t just put it in a notebook or box, transcribe. Just do it! What do you want to pass on? Children will love anything from you.
***Many participants wanted Jeanette's family history blog and website.