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Linda Weaver Clarke stops by to share...

October 1, 2009
I am so very excited to have author Linda Weaver Clarke stopping by today, to talk about her Family Legacy Writing Workshops. The workshops piqued my interest, as I am very interested in family histories, and have been tempted to try and at least pull together a representation of my family tree... =) Come & check out what Linda has to say!

Hello, Linda! Welcome to drey's library, and thank you for taking the time to share some thoughts with us on your Family Legacy Writing Workshops. I like to jump in, so let's get this show on the road! =)

drey: What is the Family Legacy Writing Workshop?
Linda: I teach people how to take their family history or their own autobiography and turn it into interesting stories. It’s important to teach our children their heritage. Each of us has a story from our ancestors to tell. If these stories are unwritten, then they’ll be lost forever. Our children need to be proud of their ancestors.

drey: What prompted you to start doing these workshops? How long have you done these?
Linda: I found that my ancestors’ stories were quite intriguing but they were only the facts and I knew they could be written in a more interesting form. Leon Garfield said: “The historian, if honest, gives us a photograph; the storyteller gives us a painting.” What I’m teaching people to do is how to paint their stories, to be the storyteller. To read samples of what you can do with your stories, visit my website at and read the “short stories” of my ancestors. I’ve been teaching this workshop since 2006 at libraries. They sponsor it and it’s usually free to the public.

drey: Why is it important for us to learn and document our family legacies/histories?
Linda: We are the people we are because of our ancestors. It’s very important to document our family histories because we need to be proud of our heritage and teach our children so they understand who they are, too.

drey: How do we go about gathering details of our ancestors, and their lives, etc?
Linda: First, write down any experiences that you remember. Talk to family members and discuss memories. Use letters they wrote to one another. If possible, go to the area your ancestors settled, walk around, find specific places of importance, where your ancestors lived, went to school, and played. If you can’t go there in person, then do research and find pictures of that area. Study books at the library or search the Internet.

Time Period is another important part of research. Find out what the country was going through, and insert it in the history of your ancestor. The turmoil of a country helps you to understand what your family went through and why they suffered. Did they live during the depression, and if so, how did it affect them? If they lived during war times, it helps your children understand why their grandparents had such tough times. When writing my father’s biography, I found out that in 1942 they rationed gas to three gallons a week. To me, that was amazing. How about prices? Did it cost ten cents to go to the movies and five cents for an ice cream cone? And what flavors existed? Did they travel by horse and buggy or a Model T Ford?

During the roaring twenties, bobbed hair was the rage. If your grandmother bobbed her hair and went to the dance marathons, write about it. If your ancestor loved reading books in the evening before retiring, it would be interesting to add what kind of light he used. Little details like this warms a story up and can bring your ancestor to life. Did he use electricity or an oil lantern? Instead of saying, “Grandfather read extensively before retiring,” it sounds more interesting to say, “Grandfather sat in his overstuffed chair and read for hours with an oil lantern at his side.”

drey: What if there's a language barrier in communicating with our oldest family members? Or other family members aren't as interested?
Linda: My neighbor is Finnish and her daughter wanted to visit her grandfather. She knew a little of the language but her aunt knew English quite well so that helped a great deal. I would suggest finding someone to interpret the language so you can ask questions about their lifestyle and any stories they might have that they could hand down to the next generation.

drey: How should those from "broken homes" work on their family legacies, especially if/when not talking to one parent or one branch of their family?
Linda: If your relationship with each side is okay, I would suggest questioning the one side privately and then the next side. You don’t want to cause waves and family friction. Getting the stories from each side is very important but if the two sides don’t get along, you may have contradicting points of view. I would do the best you can in this situation.

drey: Do your workshop participants follow up with you later to let you know that they've made progress in capturing their family's legacies/histories? Do they share these with you?
Linda: I’ve had many people share some very touching experiences about their ancestors. One woman was Chinese and was writing her great grandfather’s stories. He had many interesting experiences. She told me that it was tradition for the women to not eat at the table with the men. The wives were supposed to cook the meal and serve it and then eat in the kitchen. But her great grandfather was not happy with this tradition and decided to put a stop to it. When the relatives came by to eat, he told his wife to sit down beside him. She was embarrassed but her husband had told her not to leave so she sat down. The relatives got quite upset and demanded that she leave. When she stood, her husband took her arm and pulled her back down as he said to everyone, “If she’s good enough to sleep beside me, then she’s good enough to sit beside me and eat.”

drey: Is a 2-hour workshop enough for the true enthusiast? Are you planning on expanding your workshops?
Linda: I give an awful lot of information in my workshops. I’ve had several people comment that they learned as much as a six-week writing course.

One person from Thousand Oaks Library in California wrote: "I learned as much as a full-blown writing class."

A woman from a Phoenix Library in Arizona raised her hand and said, “I’m a professor at the University here.” I gasped and thanked her for not telling me beforehand or I would have been so nervous. The class laughed and she continued, “Well, I have attended many writing classes here at the University, but I learned more at this 2-hour workshop than any class I’ve attended. Thank you.”

I was so touched by her comment that I had to control the mistiness in my eyes. In the three years that I’ve taught this class, I’ve had two professors attend and tell me how much they enjoyed it. To me, this was a great compliment.

One comment that really touched my heart was from a woman at the Idaho State Historical Society Library in Boise. She said to my daughter who assists me: “I felt as if I had handcuffs on my wrists and your mother has just unlocked them.”

linda weaver clarkeAbout the author:
Linda Weaver Clarke was raised on a farm surrounded by the rolling hills of southern Idaho and has made her home in southern Utah among the beautiful red mountains. She travels throughout the United States, teaching a “Family Legacy Workshop” at libraries, encouraging others to turn their family history and autobiography into stories. Clarke is the author of the historical fiction series, “A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho,” which includes the following novels: Melinda and the Wild West - a semi-finalist for the “Reviewers Choice Award 2007,” Edith and the Mysterious Stranger, Jenny’s Dream, David and the Bear Lake Monster, and Elena, Woman of Courage.


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