Our most recent double biography and family history has been the most delightful and rewarding project. Originally commissioned for Alex’s 90th birthday, the project grew to include Chris’s life story too. It covered their family histories, their growing up years, their life together, their career, golf and family lives, and finally their amazing legacy followed by their children and grandchildren’s contribution.
My Life in Broadcasting: It’s been a lot of fun
By Cliff Peel
Cliff Peel has spent his entire career on the front line of broadcasting in both radio and television. He has thrived on change and adventure, and now has a remarkable story to tell. He was in news radio journalism and television for forty years and has pretty much seen it all from when journalists used Morse code to send stories from the bush to regional stations, to the first uses of sound inserts that could be played in the middle of a broadcast, to the modern 24 hour news cycle.
There was a great article in The Conversation about the stories that we tell each other and what they mean. Their research revealed that ‘the more children know about their own family history, the healthier and more resilient they are.’
The article also explains the Seven Basic Plots that these stories usually follow.
Briefly, these plots are: the Quest (think Lord of the Rings), Voyage and Return (Ulysses), Rags to Riches (Cinderella), Tragedy (King Lear), Comedy (Will Ferrell movie), Rebirth (The Ugly duckling, Shrek), and Overcoming the Monster (Star Wars’ Darth Vader).
The voyage and return metaphor provides loved ones with hope that despite ‘travelling’ to a far off land in enduring the illness, with time and attention they will return.
It could be a big print run, a small one, a single book. Your biography could just as easily have no print form and be purely an e-book. Traditionally the concept of an autobiography or a biography has almost always included the printed page, often very expensive to produce in small numbers. Producing a downloadable PDF e-book is a very cost effective way of creating a professional text that can be sent to large numbers of people via email.
One new medium of publication is Joomag. They allow you to put music, photos and text together in an interactive presentation format. The advantages are most pronounced when there are limited resources and there are a lot of poignant audios.
When we ask our elders to tell us their stories, and place emphasis on what they ‘have done’, does this devalue what they ‘do now’ and ‘will do’?
There has been significant discussion on the personal historian community about this issue and I hoped to offer my own thoughts.
If conversations with our loved ones were limited to their pasts, then I would agree that their presents and futures are being devalued. In my own experience though it is the present and future that usually occupy the vast bulk of the airtime, and only when I go out of my way to talk about the past.
The present is what is most obvious and most clear. The near past and near future are also very relevant because they are a guide to each other. But just as it is uncommon to talk to a teenager about what they will do when they have retired 50 years hence, talking to our elders about what they did when they were children is also very distanced from our thinking.
The further we move along the timeline from now, whether that be past or future, the less likely they are to come up in conversation unless we direct the conversation there ourselves.
To direct our gaze to any place on our timeline is worthwhile, but none should be at the expense of the others. The danger of focussing too much on the distant past as the expense of the present and near future would be negligible for most.
Creative writing, its not just seeing and feeling, it’s the defining moments. It’s finding out what were the turning points, like branches that helped theme structure a person’s life. What were the big events, that define a person. The defining moments are when you put everything on the line and you don’t know the outcome will be. You just have to stand up. It’s the make or break, the cross roads, you cant go both ways you have to just pick one.
The Association of Personal Historians is the peak organisation that run conferences, events and workshops and provide a number of invaluable resources for their members. They give a really helpful overview of why personal histories are so important. Essentially, connecting the generations is something that is valuable for all generations, we can preserve our memories and leave a legacy.
When our loved ones pass on, if their stories haven’t been recorded, then the grandchildren cannot get as much our of their heritage as they might have liked.