In a post on June 11, 2006, I discussed the pros and cons of using autobiography kits. My personal distaste for the idea of filling in someone else’s blanks and facing the likelihood of leaving many pages empty because the questions are meaningless for your specific life has not abated.
However, I’ve always acknowledged the value of “memory triggers” and include over two hundred of them in The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing. As time goes by, I’m becoming more keenly aware of the value an organized set of questions can have for helping people organize their memories.
Just a few days ago I discovered GreatLifestories.com, an amazing website that offers a couple of valuable services. It provides a set of thoughtfully organized questions divided into twelve topical chapters to help you work sift through your memories and get the stories written. The questions are general enough to apply to anyone, so you won’t be boxed in with questions (for example, about military service) that may be irrelevant to you. You can write as much or as little as you like about each question without concern about making things fit in a prescribed space. You can skip questions or whole chapters, and add material that isn’t covered. You can also upload one picture per chapter.
You write your stories on the site, editing them and saving them there. When you are happy with your results, you can download the finished story, neatly laid out, in pdf format for printing in your choice of four page sizes. Two of these sizes are suitable for uploading to Lulu for printing as a book.
Working online has several advantages. You don’t have to worry about losing your work if your hard drive crashes and you hadn’t backed things up. You can work on your story on any computer that’s connected to the Internet. You choose on a section-by-section basis whether to keep your work entirely private or share stories with family and friends (people you tell where to find them). You can also share them with the public. It’s your choice.
You may be wondering, like I did, what the catch is. What are they trying to sell? I wondered. The amazing thing is, there is nothing for sale! Right now, this is a free service. Will it always remain so? Who knows? Right now it’s a great deal. Right now it’s still in its infancy, and you may find a few glitches. The pdf may not export perfectly — it may repeat your story several times, and not have proper paragraph breaks. But these things will surely be fixed. In any event, you can always copy the contents of your story pages and paste them into a word processing program to format as you wish. You can also write by hand, or off-line, and paste stories into the web editor page.
It’s worth looking around this site, if only to see the questions. You’ll find a few on the story writing pages, and many more are located on the Inspirational Quotes, Helpful Questions and Practical Tips link on the Get Started tab on the top of each page. You’ll also find hundreds of stories that others have chosen to share. They’ll give you lots more ideas for stories of your own and ways to write them.
Write now: a story based on a question from GreatLifestories.com.
Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal