On Life

Advice to Beginning Writers: Start By Telling Your Family Stories

family-quotes-roots-3Today in our second to last class of feature writing, the students had the opportunity to ask any remaining questions they wanted or make a comment about anything related to writing. During this session, they posed great questions, from how to find a good story angle to how to start writing in their spare time.

My answer on the latter one was simple, and it’s one of the biggest regrets I have in terms of my family’s history: you should write down your family stories.

As all of my grandparents and great-grandparents are long gone, so, too, are some of their stories. However, those stories that have lived on through my parents can still be told through their lenses. While it may not be the same as hearing from the source herself or himself, still the story lives on. However, what happens when those stories can no longer be told? Who will remember the family’s history? For some reason, this thought petrifies me, and it’s actually one of the messages in my upcoming novel.

I find now, more than ever, I want to know more about my own family’s heritage. My great-grandparents came from Italy; my great-grandfather was a landscaper. I’m not sure what my other great-grandfather’s occupation was. My grandmother was the youngest of twelve. My dad’s father was a printer and writer and published a newspaper.

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I’ve scratched the surfaceโ€”barely. These are mere specs that make up vibrant lives these people lead, and yet sadly, I don’t know more.

When I was in junior high and high school, I always wanted to write. I wrote really bad, horrific poetry, but nevertheless, I was writing. If only I’d taken some of that energy and interviewed my grandparents who were all alive at the time, I might have recorded some meaningful family history.

So to my students who want to write, start by capturing tales of your family’s history. Begin to uncover the depth and breadth of your lineage and your roots. It is not time wasted; in fact, it’s time well-spent, and you will have pages of information that you can use to craft a story of your family.

Perhaps it could even be next year’s Christmas gift to them all.

xx |

Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice.

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