Women’s History Month – You can record stories!


Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t. Mark Twain At holiday dinners, on Sunday visits and the like, we’ve all heard entertaining, emotional, thought-provoking stories from female family members and friends. Sadly enough, stories which deserve to be recorded in history from the feminine viewpoint remain in the minority. “The names and dates are the easy stuff; it’s the intimate, unwritten histories ― women’s histories ― that die when we do.” Chloe Angyal – deputy editor of HuffPost Opinion

A dear friend, Iris Dunki-Jacobs, often entertained me with scenes from her charmed childhood. Her descriptions of sharing a saddle with a pet monkey while horseback riding in the jungles of 1930s Java intrigued me. The useful skills she employed to survive being interned by the Japanese as a young girl amazed me. I offered to write a biographical timeline for her, so that she could gift it to her descendants. A few of her favorite stories surfaced during luncheons, others while we traveled to volunteer at museum functions. I found inspiration to keep writing in her positive outlook, cleverness, and belief in the power of love. The timeline became an enhanced memoir which we collaborated on, and published. During the process, I learned a few tips and tricks. I’ve noted some key points below.* If you’d like a full copy of the document I put together for Zoom book club presentations, contact me through my website: http://www.sallybrandle.com

*Write those stories. How to collect and organize someone else’s memories.

Take time to reflect. Are you trying to document an event or find clarity on something that’s a bit of a family mystery?

Research is key. Are there photo albums? Newspaper clippings? Draw up a list of possible questions prior to your session. Offering prompts by searching the internet and noting movies, songs, foods, apparel and slang are all ways to coax forgotten details.

Arrive prepared to record. Bring a recording device (a phone has several options), a laptop, and a notepad. Find a quiet space and plan for at least thirty minutes to get comfortable and explore the topic you’ll discuss. Don’t let a timeline stop the flow.

Approach sensitive topics with care. The goal is connection, not interrogation and your visit may bring forth unpleasant memories. Let them know they can opt out at any time. There may be awkward pauses, but staying silent while they access memories can produce the forgotten jewels.

Seize the opportunity. Time is precious. None of the above needs to be perfect. A caring attempt to record histories from firsthand experience is a dual gift. Dementia can cloud over answers. Take advantage of the time you have now, so you don’t live with regrets later.

If you’d like to learn more about Iris and see wonderful photos from eighty years ago, The Indo Project interviewed us and featured her story on their website. https://theindoproject.org/sapphire_promise/ Treasured stories need to be documented…I hope you will let me know if you capture some!

About Sally Brandle

Author, horse lover, gardener, pastry enabler, and thankful wife and mother. Very proud of my novels, The Hitman's Mistake, Torn by Vengeance, and The Targeted Pawn. Multi-award winning author Sally Brandle weaves slow-burning romance into edgy suspense, motivating readers to trust their instincts. Growing up as a tomboy alongside brothers prepared her to work in a male-centric industry, raise sons, and create action packed stories featuring strong women. She thrives on creating unintentional heroines who conquer their vulnerabilities and partner with heroes to outwit cunning villains.
This entry was posted in Friends, Historical Romance, Inspirational Romance, Perserverance, Simply Stated By Sally!. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Women’s History Month – You can record stories!

  1. gailingis says:

    Sally, congratulations on a job well done.

  2. sueberger3 says:

    Great information on doing a book like yours. I started it but work has gotten in the way. I will return to it. Blessings

    • I’ll send you the full piece I compiled, and feel free to call me. I truly learned a great deal. Connecting with the man in Holland who is a 1930s Batavia (now Jakarta) expert allowed me to explore areas I never would have considered.

  3. Having written a historical novel based on another’s life, I agree completely with your points of preparation. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Wonderful! I have some of my mother’s typed notes from when she was writing her “memoir.” They are amazing and I will definitely put something together for my family using them. I’ve been plodding along on my own memoir for years–so this was an impetus to get back to it in earnest.

  5. viola62 says:

    My historical novels are takes on my own family history. I’m glad I listened to my parents’ stories and wish I’d listened more.

    • I hear you…and you should be so proud….I can throw a few family stories into my novels. My big regret is that I was very close to Grandma Em (Emma Springs :), but I know nothing of her childhood 😦 I offered to teach a class to kids at the elementary school.
      Teach them tips to listen and draw out details kind of thing.

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