25 September 2014

On-line Personal Storytelling Helps

There are several websites that facilitate family history writing when it comes to writing your own story. These sites each encourage us to take the sting out of writing our histories by doing it just one story at a time.

Legacy Stories has been around for awhile. Tom Cormier, the president and CEO, has long been a proponent of preserving personal history.  He works with an expert advisory team with the aim to “educate, motivate and activate people to rescue their highest priority recorded and living memories before they are lost.” The website and the mobile app both provide what they call “rescue tools” and a place to both store and share priceless personal and family history. They also provide training for workers to help senior citizens use these tools.

The basic Legacy plan is free, with one gigabyte of storage. An additional $5.95 a month gives the user unlimited storage and other upgrades.  Besides regular story prompts, the site gives the user a place to store their journal entries and stories, their photos and the oral recordings made about the photos. They even provide a “Legacy Shop” connected with Amazon.com to sell products associated with sharing personal and family history. 

Art by Julia Stubbs
In contrast, the year-old StoryWorth, is the essence of simplicity. It is geared to make storytelling easy and accessible to anyone with an email account. They email the person with a question about his or her life and the person replies with a story by email or by telephone. Then the company saves the story and shares it with other family members. The costs are nominal. Up to 6 family members can write their stories to be shared with an unlimited number of recipients. Photos and audio files may also be uploaded. Stories can be edited and saved on the site and downloaded at any time. Even printed books are available at an additional cost. The price is $25 for 6 months or $49 for a year.  More story tellers can be added for an additional cost. This company has been featured in a New York Times article.

Still another site also mentioned in the Times article is memloom.com. This site, run by two Michigan women, offers limited “showcase” templates which gives a story a professional look and feel. They do not support export or printing options at this time and the amount of storage for stories, images, video or audio is also limited. A free basic account gives the user 3 gigabytes of storage and when you switch to a standard or premium account, the storage increases. The prices for these upgrades are not apparent on their website.

In addition, there are other worthy programs geared to helping us write our life stories. The Story Circle Network is especially for women with stories to tell, and it encourages the formation of local groups of storytellers.  Women’s Memoirs is another site for women.  Nina Amir writes a great blog about writing non-fiction, as does Lynn Palermo who writes The Armchair Genealogist.

Hopefully one of these helps will inspire you or your loved one to make progress in preserving your stories. Maybe all you need is a good friend who is also a good listener and willing to encourage you. Maybe you just need a pen and a cheap notebook or an app that does audio recording on your cellphone. Your local church or library may sponsor a writing group or series of classes. But probably the most important ingredient in actually writing your memoirs or autobiography is the simple willingness to just sit down and begin. Begin with one memory or one story. But just do it. Yes, we can.