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Preserving history...one lifestory at at time

The Timeline


The important thing to keep in mind is that you will never get your memoir written unless you start! Start anywhere but START!


I find it easiest when teaching writing classes to begin with lists, progress to sentences then paragraphs, and finally put it all together.  I suggest that you do the same. Make list after list after list – this way you will never have a reason to cry Writer’s Block because your list of writing ideas is right on hand.


We will begin with the…TIMELINE


The backbone of your lifestories is your Timeline. This is an extended chart of the relationships and events that have shaped your life. These are the people and events that have made you the person you are today.


EVENTS IN YOUR LIFE: Here are a few to get you started: • an illness or a death in the family • the arrival of a sibling • the ethnic group you grew up in • the religious group you grew up in • a certain relationship with a peer • a failure or success at school • a decision you made to do or not do something • an external event such as a fire, flood, tornado, auto accident • marriage • children • career choices • spiritual experiences • divorce


This is but a few of the major events that turn a person’s life to one direction or the other. The list you make may be many pages long or relatively short. This depends on the individual. You may add to this list as you remember things. Include everything you can think of that had any impact on your life.

ASSIGNMENT: Make a timeline of your life.


childhood...teen years...young adult...middle age...senior years






Mark pivotal points on the timeline as reference points in your writing.


Find your BEFORE/AFTER moment. What is the point – that dividing line – when something so pivotal happened that it changed you forever? You may have more than one of them.

It is easier to begin than you think! Start with one story at a time.

 Make a schedule to write at least one page every day and stick to it!

 Remember to include your feelings about the event! Many men forget to do this!

 If you only write one page per day, you will have 365 pages in one year!

 Use vivid detail and, for now, ignore spelling and grammar.

 If you worry about getting every sentence perfect, you will never finish your writing! You can check facts later.

 Don’t worry if you forgot someone’s name or a particular date - just get the story written!!! You can go back later!

 If you don’t feel up to the task of writing your own memoirs, you can hire a professional to do it for you. A personal historian will come to your home and interview you on several occasions, using a tape recorder. They have specific questions to spark your memory. Then he/she will prepare the written manuscript for you, using your own words!

 Personal historians, also called memorists, charge anywhere from $100 to $20,000, depending on how extensive your memoirs are. Whichever way you decide to go, be sure to get started right away!

 Check out The Association of Personal Historians for a memorist near you. www.personalhistorians.org


Remember, "...books do not age as you and I do. They will speak still when we are gone, to generations we will never see." The Hiding Place.


Karen Silvestri is a freelance writer and teacher residing in Florida. If you would like more information about writing your lifetales or attending a workshop, you may contact her at khsilvestri@live.com

click here to download BLANK TIMELINE CHART

Updated June 6, 2008
St. Pauls, NC