Writing your life story

Aaron Stuckel
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Charlie Kempthorne tells a story about his father as an example of a memory exercise while attendees write down stories from their past.

On Saturday afternoon, the Moose Jaw Public Library hosted a writing workshop by Charlie Kempthorne, author of For All Time: A Complete Guide to Writing Your Family History.

Kempthorne is touring North America promoting the idea of writing family histories and giving tips on how every day people might be able to write and publish their own stories.

“It’s always received well not so much because of me, but because the topic is really, really important,” said Kempthorne.

Roughly 13 people showed up to have Kempthorne teach them different exercises, narrative writing, and ways to help recall memories. He gave the story of one of his pupils who ended up with a million-dollar contract after he convinced her she had a history worth telling. For people who want to write, Kempthorne said the biggest challenge is often just getting started

“If I can get them over writer’s block, then really they’re home free,” he said. “The most important thing is writing authentically— just relaxing and just doing it.”

The 74-year-old ex-University of Wisconsin English professor has done over 400 workshops across North America and said the general demographic of people wanting to write family histories is normally the older generation.

“When you get about 50 or 60… you start thinking that you are part of the stream of human history or something down from Adam and it becomes much more important,” he said. “Guys of a young age don’t really care about this. They’re trying to find fun and are getting on in their careers.”

Kempthorne said he believes that keeping track of histories is important if people want to learn from the past.

For more on this story, read an upcoming edition of the Times-Herald.

Organizations: University of Wisconsin, Times-Herald

Geographic location: North America, Moose Jaw

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  • Dorothy
    August 13, 2012 - 12:24

    Sorry I missed this workshop. I am writing my story and hve about 200 pages written thus far. It includes lots of humorous learning experiences that I want to share. D