Gift from the Heart

StorybookGiftAre you among the growing number of people searching for ideas for more personal, low-budget gift ideas for people on your Christmas or Hannukah  list this year? Many are motivated by the sagging economy, others by a desire to cut down on frivolous consumption and a general shift toward sustainability.

One gift you can give, in place of or in addition to others, is the gift of story. If you already have a pile of life stories and you’ve been thinking about pulling them together into a volume, you have plenty of time to pull it together and place your order by Thanksgiving or shortly after to ensure delivery before Christmas.

If you don’t yet have a pile of stories, you still have time to write several. You could write a personal story for each recipient, recalling a favorite memory of that person and why they are special to you. You might write humorous or poignant stories about your own life or perhaps shared ancestors.You can include essays about your beliefs and values. The list is endless.

Many years ago Thelly Rheam, the original Story Lady from California’s Cardiff on the Sea, began writing short vignette stories documenting her life and lessons she learned, planning to distribute stories she’d written through the year to family members each Christmas. The year she began, she gave each child and grandchild a binder with labeled dividers for each decade in her life and an assortment of stories already filed. In subsequent years, they received envelopes with additional stories and instructions on where to file them in the binder. She has set aside funds and made arrangements for the collection to be printed in bound volumes upon her demise.

Writing a memoir, a rewarding though complex undertaking, is one way to organize your stories, and but it’s far from the only way, and no single memoir can encompass all the stories that come to mind.

In The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing you’ll find oodles of ideas for organizing collections I refer to as story albums. These can range from a random assemblage of miscellaneous memories to an compilation of family recipes including the story of each, or a composite of photos and the stories surrounding them. This khelpful book covers all the basics from inception of the idea to writing tips and prompts and layout tips for self-publishing.

Publishing options abound. High-end photobook publishers produce gorgeous full-color volumes, but options for accomanying text are limited, and price soars as page count rises. No-setup fee Print-On-Demand services like CreateSpace or Lulu,  are economical alternatives for commercially printed and bound volumes if black-and-white print is adequate. They can also handle color printing, though at a much higher cost. For special projects, you can print pages at home or a copy shop and put them in binders or similar alternatives.

Thinking outside the box, they don’t have to be printed at all. You could make your own eBook in pdf format, using one of  the free pdf “printers” such as PDF24. Smashwords is a free service that coverts print documents to Kindle and other eBook reader formats.  Or you could use the free Audacity software to digitally recording  yourself reading your stories for an audiobook. Going one step further, you could use the free Windows Live Movie Maker to  combine those recordings with photos and turn them into a movie. Similar applications are available for Macs.

Due to limited space in this post, I can’t expand on individual options. If you have questions about specific ones, please leave a comment and I’ll cover them in a future posts.

However you go about it, give your family the gift of story, for  their reading pleasure and to preserve a legacy of your life.

Write Now:  write a story to share with  at least one person as a gift this holiday season.


Anonymous said...

Most of the people I exchange gifts with don't need more "stuff." They would rather have a special memory. Thanks for the idea.

Linda Austin said...

I'm pretty sure if you choose CreateSpace your book will automatically be listed on Amazon. If you want only a private family book, LuLu will let you choose that option.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Kathy, indeed stories are perfect for people who neither need nor want more STUFF. I don't even want edible stuff, because it's usually so exotic it only appeals to a few and I'm usually not one of them.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Thanks for the observation about Amazon status. That's one thing I'll be looking into shortly. I'm just finishing up the formatting on a document with the transcribed diaries of a great aunt, and I'll handle the uploading and account management for the elderly cousin who did most of the work. Lulu gives the option of a free eBook download. Last year you had to use a custom cover if you wanted to list on Amazon because there was no way to add the free ISBN to a template cover. These little details can be confusing.