Linda Spence: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Personal History

Book Review: Legacy: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Personal History
Linda Spence
Swallow Press/Ohio University Press, 1977
155 pages

“This is a book waiting to become your story,” writes Linda Spence in her book, Legacy: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Personal History.

She then goes on to show you how. Not with fancy words, out-of-touch theories, and dreary writing exercises; but with down-to-earth, practical, anyone-can-do it guidelines and examples. She debunks every myth you’ve ever heard about writing your life story and walks you through the storytelling process simply, clearly, efficiently, and effectively.

Fear of writing is swept away by her calm assurance that you are preparing a gift for your children, grandchildren, and friends. No need to concentrate on whether the story of your life will be an international best seller. Instead, think of the stories of your life that were fun or interesting for you and that helped form who you are.

She divides thinking about your stories into nine easy-to-read sections: Beginnings and Childhood, Adolescence, Early Adult Years, Marriage, Being a Parent, Middle Adult Years, Being a Grandparent, Later Adult Years, Reflections. Each section begins with a few brief paragraphs on what happened in her life during that period, with plenty of quotes from her family members to reveal she is an ordinary person, just like you. The kicker, though, is what comes next: after the brief paragraphs, she lists a series of questions and thought starters to get your remembrance juices going. There are more than 400 questions throughout the book. Here are some of them:

Where did you live during your childhood and who lived with you?
Tell about the animals you loved as a child.
What are some of your summertime memories?
What were you involved in at school other than classes?
Tell about your first crush.
What was the most trouble you found yourself in as a teenager?
What were the significant milestones in your career or personal life in your twenties and thirties?
What was it like for you to leave home?
What organizations were you interested in?
Tell about your courtship.
What were some adjustments you made in your married life?
Describe some common interests and their contribution to your marriage.
What rivalries and alliances developed among your children?
Who were your neighbors and how did your lives touch?
In what ways did you continue to increase your knowledge and skills?
Have you saved anything from your past that your grandchildren now enjoy?
Tell something encouraging about each grandchild.
How is your life different today from how you thought it would be?
Who are the people providing the most satisfying companionship to you now?
Tell a story from your life that you’ve never told before.
In what ways would you say life today is more satisfying than in the days when your parents were your age?
Why did you choose the jobs you had and how did you get them?
What have you fought for in your life?

I highly recommend this book in my monthly classes on writing memoirs. You can get a copy from any bookstore, online, or at your local library.

Linda Spence writes and collects legacy stories in Mill Valley, California, where she lives and works as a consultant.

Cover image courtesy Shallow Press/Ohio University Press.

No comments:

Post a Comment