Your Life, Your Story:
A Book to Help You Capture Your Memories

by Pat Flathouse with Catherine Cogburn and Susan Wittig Albert

Older Women's Legacy Circle Program of Story Circle Network, 2003. ISBN n/a.
Reviewed by Judith Helburn
Posted on 08/16/2003

Nonfiction: Creative Life

A few years ago, after my granddaughter was born, my daughter Robin gave my husband and me one of those grandparent memory books that many greeting-card shops carry. I did my duty and tried to remember my first prom dress and other such "important" items and events in my life, but I finally gave up and went to my own personal writings from my SCN writing circle. I copied a dozen or so pages, stuffed them in the back of the grandmother book, and gave the book back to Robin.

If I had received Your Life, Your Story instead, I would have created stories from my life for my grandchildren that were more meaningful than pretty dresses and birthday parties. Those dresses and parties might have been very important in my life, but they also might not.

Your Life, Your Story is a map—one that helps you, the reader, begin writing stories about what is truly important in your life. It also gives hints and writing suggestions that can take you way beyond the covers of this short 62 pages booklet. However, even if you only follow the five chapters of writing prompts in Your Life, Your Story, you will find, when you have finished, that you have before you the highlights of your life so far.

The idea for this book began with the Older Women's Legacy Circle Project in 1998, which was funded by a grant from the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word of Houston, Texas. After Story Circle Network conducted 48 free, guided memoir-writing workshops in the Austin TX area, many of the nearly 500 women in the project did not want to stop writing. However, some were not able to continue in OWL groups. These women and numerous others from across the country requested help to continue on their own. And here it is.

The book begins with an introduction by Susan Wittig Albert, which includes the history of the project, suggestions for how and when to write and cautions about those gremlins who seem to hang around. Then, it is time to write! Chapter 1 is about "The People Around You." What are your strengths and what are your family stories? Onward to "Memories," in Chapter 2 and writing about memorable times and treasures. Here, you'll find a suggestion to check your memory with others who share it. You might even want to check the Internet for what was happening at that time. Chapter 3 is all about "Love and Work," with suggestions to list all those you have loved and who loved you and to write about some of these loved ones. You'll be prompted to think about your life's work too. How many different kinds of work have you been involved with? What was your passion when you were young? How about now?

Our stories are not only about what we have done but also about how we feel. "Sad Times, Happy Times" comes next with suggestions for writing about the difficult times and the uplifting. There is a suggestion to tell a tale on yourself—what funny or awkward situation did you get yourself into? One of the nice results of aging is that we can laugh at or be sympathetic towards the young women we once were. We have perspective. Chapter 5 covers "Your Accomplishments and Your Legacy" and includes an excerpt from Susan Wittig Albert's book Writing from Life titled "So You Want to Keep Writing."

The last chapter, "Other Aspects of Storytelling," includes short essays about self-publishing, writing about and interviewing others in your life, scrapbooking, and other ways to tell your stories—a treasure trove of inspiring ideas for life-writers.

Although this book is aimed at women with 60-plus years of life experience, any woman could use it. One story often leads to another and, before you know it, you may have over 50 pages of funny, poignant, descriptive vignettes. There is no such thing as a boring ordinary life. Use Your Life, Your Story and capture the highlights of your own full and interesting experience.

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