a life story Writer's Tale
Stories to Keep is my brainchild and something I nurtured in the back of my mind for a long time. I wanted to provide a life story writer service so families could share in their own family history.
As a reporter and editor, I won awards and had many front page stories, but the stories that I recall with the greatest affection are those of ordinary people with great yarns to tell.
They may have lived through a different era or done something to make them a bit special. Or maybe they just survived or flourished through an illness, 50 years of marriage, or a dramatic event. These stories often had pride of place for their families, placed on fridges, on pin boards or in frames.
It proved to me that every person had a story inside them, that they could and should tell. While they were enjoyed by readers, they were treasured by family members.
For every story I wrote, there was almost always an element that was too embarrassing or hurtful to be shared with a wider audience. It was only fit for friends and family and not the world wide web.
Or they had an interesting life story which would not fit into a 50-centimetre colour story.
Getting our humanity back with life stories
Sadly, that beautiful skill of spinning a feature story about ordinary Australians is rarely told in the modern media. So hellbent on chasing the ‘here and now’ stories, we are losing touch with the very fabric of our own humanity.
My love of story telling and career as a journalist comes from my grandfather, Gerry. He could entertain his nine grandchildren for hours with stories of when he was little – peppering the tales with funny songs from his childhood.
We never tired of asking him to retell the one about . . .
As he grew older, with my grandmother gone, he would talk to me about more serious parts of his life story. As a young adult, I felt touched and honoured to have heard his thoughts and philosophy on life. He was a great man who lived a quiet yet amusing life.
I’m grateful my mother recorded much of his life story while waiting for his endless medical appointments. I take a lot of my inspiration from her work as a life story writer and the joy it gave our family.
When I embarked on this venture, I intended to interview my surviving, paternal grandfather. Christy was a 91-year-old Irishman, full of brogue and Blarney cheek.
By the time I was ready to record his life story, I was too late. I thought I had time. Just months before he died, he had been digging potatoes for my family out of his garden.
Stories to Keep knows it is not just important to hear family stories. It is important to treasure and preserve a life story in a way that is easy to pick up, read and enjoy. We should hear those stories when a person is well enough to tell them fully. They are important not just for ourselves but for future generations.
We can’t know ourselves unless we know our life story.
– Deborah Gough