Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Pre- Family History Writing Challenge: Storyboarding, Outline & Timeline

Two resources yet to be found...
After work today, I started thinking about what might still be missing from my writing sources and came up with three:
  1. an email to my husband's siblings detailing the conversation between myself and Cousin Hattie (or the original notes...if they still exist),
  2. a portfolio of poetry I wrote for my final project in Advanced Composition: Poetry back in the early 1980s, and
  3. photos from this period.
After sorting through sixteen plastic file boxes, I found other bits of memorabilia that will assist me, but these remain the illusive pieces yet to be recovered. Only three more containers to go, and if they're not there, they could be amid the stacks of moving boxes. 
However, I am determined to locate them by the end of tomorrow to be ready for the start of the Family History Writing Challenge on February 1st!
W Storyboard Three Act Structure
5 Islands: 
I came across this video last year during the Challenge, and have decided to use it to help organize my writing. I found it very helpful in placing the major events of my memoir along the story line. Take a look and see if it might not help you as you begin planning your family history book.

Below is how I have initially structured my memoir.
You can see that it acts as a means of outlining the sequence of events.

Act I
1.Triggering Event
Setting up the Problem:
2. First Turning Point
Recovering from the Problem:
  • Hattie's call
  • The family reunion
  • Piney Grove
  • The promise
Act II 
3. Second Triggering Event
Back Story:
Deepening of the Problem:
4. Lowest Point in the Book: Worst case scenario
  • The prayer
  • The harbinger
  • Living with death
  • The anniversary
Solving the Problem (new light, understanding, change)

Act III 
5. Resolution or Epiphany Moment
  • Present, past and future sight
  • Learning from Job 
  • Slowly fading 
  • Branching out
Since the major events of the memoir take place between the years 1990-2009, a period of nineteen years, I have not yet generated a timeline of events. The detail over a shorter time period is astounding; and for that reason, I will work on it as I develop each Act. In that way, I will create three timelines more focused on each island I will be writing.

I hope you'll stop by each day and see the progress I am making, as I participate in The Family History Writing Challenge 2013!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Surname Saturday: A Solitary Surname

We Are Multicolored: USA, Angola, Wales
My first instinct was to write this piece on my online journal, but second thoughts often prevail. Why is that? Perhaps because my surname is solidly connected to this site. And, this site is connected to writing challenges, like the Family History Writing Challenge that I will be participating in this February.

Thinking of my own surname as a family historian would years from now might prove challenging. If anything, they will most likely wonder why I chose to hyphenate my name, while our children bore their father's surname.

In all honesty, it was out of vanity...the vanity of a writer who wanted name recognition from her school chums. Newton-Carter. But more than that, it established my own personal identity...something I had struggled with during my youth.

It is a melding of two families...with distinct and differing backgrounds...coming together as one.

My heritage is one of struggling immigrants: Russian Jewish refugees, Welsh coal miners, English farmers and religious dissidents; while, my husband's family was captured, sold at auction, emanating from a continent, not a nation in our minds, because their origin had been lost within the slave system. My family came to this nation with husband's family came with their hopes scattered upon the waters of the long voyage to an emerging nation called America.

And so, Newton-Carter is a solitary surname, lasting only one generation, held by only one woman. It is my duty to tell the stories to future generations so that our origins might be re-discovered in the telling. The challenge of this vanity is that future generations will have to search for my records among those for three surnames: Newton, Newton-Carter, and Carter.

I hope you will join me here during the month of February for the Family History Writing Challenge, where I will work on telling the tale of our most present generation and begin the journey to uncover the truth of those who came before.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Putting the Writer's Voice in Proper Perspective in the Instant

As I woke up this morning, bleary-eyed and stumbling as the alarm sounded at 5:30am, my first thoughts, other than coffee, were on what voice and perspective I should use to write my family history memoir.

Sipping from a cup that warm hazlenut-flavored liquid that at the same time warms my insides, centers my focus, and allows me to wrap myself in the world of ideas, I sat down at the computer to begin reading my Facebook updates.

After taking a moment to watch a poignant video of Dr. Cornell West, explaining why watching President Barack Obama taking the oath of office with his hand on the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's Bible makes his blood boil, I followed the link to a blog post from Life Story Writing: Tinted Memoir and Why You Should Do It.

Available at
The article was on target. Or should I say, at that moment I, too, was on target...writing my family history memoir through the lense of grief recovery. I followed the link to a book. I had heard of the title before, but did not realize how powerful the words were until I read the first few pages on and realized that I could not put it down.

The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion. I see now that this will be a memoir that I must read.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tuesday's Tip: Sorting through the evidence before the Challenge begins

You know how sometimes you can be so sure that all the information you need to do a project is carefully stored in one box, or on one shelf?

And then, when you pull it all out to take account of it all, you discover important pieces of information or artifacts are missing?

To top it all just moved within the past few months and it could be somewhere, packed away, in boxes...upon boxes...upon boxes...

Tip of the day: 
Before starting any large genealogy writing project, make sure you have everything you need before you sit down to write.

I am SO glad that I just checked the contents of my sources for the Armchair Genealogist's 2013 Family History Writing Challenge! If not, I'd have been scurrying around in the midst of trying to write, and that would not work out very well!

So, now I know what's missing:

  • the composition notebook used when interviewing our elder members of the family after our last reunion in 2009;
  • the funeral book and newspaper clippings (the clippings have already been transcribed, but they need to be scanned & archived);
  • photos taken on our last trip to North Harlowe, NC.
With only 9 days left...and a very hectic time in the month it is for me at work...I will have to muster up the energy and determination to pull down boxes from the seven foot stacks (with a little help from my husband), and begin the BIG SEARCH.

Who knows what I'll find in the process!

Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

First Steps in Organizing for the 2013 Challenge

At this stage in my life, I have built up and purged my personal library several times over; and, now I carefully contemplate the books I read based on my research and writing goals. Many of the books I select are not new releases. And for that reason, I have been fortunate to collect them, in their original hardcover editions, from or affiliated bookstores. Because of their age, perhaps seven to ten years since their release, I have been fortunate to gain them at a significant discount from their original price. This is the library that I will leave to my children, if they want it.

The titles may be found among African-American history, fiction and history and inspirational books...historical fiction, published genealogies, and local histories. 

In addition to these books, are the volumes of binders containing my genealogical research, plastic file boxes of loose papers I gathered, and genealogical files I inherited. 

Somewhere among the boxes are parents' musical wedding album...the letters, post cards and photos my father sent my mother when he was in the Air Force and they were newlyweds...items my cousin gave me that had belonged to my grandmother...boxes of loose photos, envelopes of negatives, boxes and binders of slides my father took to inspire his painting.

All these things must be labeled, preserved, and archived. I have read about family historians who never received their legacy because of some family member's misplaced value upon photos or other cherished items that could potentially give us more clues to our family's past. And for this reason, I want to prepare them so they are available to inspire my writing when I need them, and store them, indexed, so they are easily found when the need arises. But more importantly, so that when they are in the hands of our children when they receive their legacy, they will have a greater understanding and appreciation for these artifacts because of the careful archival treatment they received during my lifetime.

Available at Barnes and Noble
So, today I ordered through Barnes and Noble, How to Archive Family Keepsakes, by Denise May Levenick. As a member, I saved substantially (32%) by placing my order online, and received FREE Member Express Shipping. All together, the total came to $18.00. Not only will my preparation for the Family History Writing Challenge be enhanced, but my bargain-shopper mentality was greatly satisfied. 

Denise is known as The Family Curator. I've been following her blog for a couple years now, but her latest book seems to assemble all the different aspects of caring for various types of family archival collections that she has shared with us over the years. 

I've been following her Blog Book Tour, and you can too! 

My copy is scheduled to ship tomorrow (Monday) and I should have it in hand by Thursday! I can hardly wait! 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gearing Up to Meet the Challenge for 2013

Only two weeks left to prepare for this year's Family History Writing Challenge, sponsored by The Armchair Genealogist. Click on the badge to the right to find out more about the challenge and to sign up.

Since moving to a larger apartment this past November, I have shelved most of my surname binders, along with some of the histories, published family genealogies, historical novels and memoirs that I've read within the past year. But until this afternoon, the plastic file box containing most of the journals, newspaper clippings, books and momentoes related to this year's topic sat amid several stacks, pushed into the back corner of my office.

Fortunately, the box needed was found third from the top of the stack closest to my desk! Unfortunately, when I opened the box, I discovered that these items did not escape the mildew problem we had at the old apartment. That means I will need to digitize EVERYTHING pertaining to this year's challenge.

Last year I began working on the family history memoir related to my husband's great grandfather, Sergeant Isaac Carter, who was a Free Person of Color, serving in the 14th Regiment USCT Heavy Artillery, stationed at Fort Macon, North Carolina. This has been a vast undertaking, and you can follow my progress on transcribing his Civil War Pension File on the main blog. I've also been journaling about collateral reading.

This year's project stems from a promise I had made my husband's Cousin Hattie the last time we visited in 2009, just months before her death. It's a story that a dear friend had told me I should write many years ago. I have started several times, but never got very far...mainly because it involves a traumatic event that changed my family's lives forever.

I hope you'll stop by from time-to-time during the month of February and follow my progress on this year's challenge. And feel free to comment on posts...especially as the intensity picks up!