Recently, we stumbled on an article about StoryCorps, a nonprofit organization that records personal stories, airs some of them on NPR, and archives them at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. It’s a way to preserve personal histories as well as histories of the time, and of cultures. We imagined using it to document and preserve the memories of our ancient friends in Helvetia, a unique Swiss settlement in the West Virginia Appalachians. Although we DID record the memories of some of the folks there, we were somehow never able to get StoryCorps involved.
That got us thinking about many elderly family members and friends whose stories could easily pass by the wayside…like the 92-year-old woman we know who lived through the Great Depression, worked for Oscar Hammerstein, and had an uncle who ran the Tunnel of Love in Coney Island. When the great comic actor Zero Mostel danced with her once, he swooned and said “You smell like a newly sharpened pencil”. How could we let those memories slip away?
Why not go-ahead and create our own story-telling sessions, we wondered, either using a microphone or video recorder…
…to capture lives lived with their endless miraculous improvisations?
All it takes is carving out some time, grabbing a recording device — an iPhone will do — asking some questions to get things going, then LISTENING…
The trick is to start somewhere, record 5 minutes worth, then another 5 or 10 another time, until you’ve compiled…a life story, or the gist…
One of our favorite places to hear people’s personal stories is at The Moth; the are REAL, spoken live, full of revelations. We’re waiting for our friend Anthony Giglio‘s brought-down-the-house appearance a few months ago to become available. Stay-tuned.
With thanks to Dese’Rae L. Stage
Related posts: maira kalman on life, death, work, love…
‘ordinary people, extraordinary lives’
our lives, in brief (secrets, 6-word memoirs, even obits)
before i die I want to___________
j.k. rowling on the fringe benefits of failure
the art of listening, the importance of story-telling