Friday, November 13, 2009

family histories

It is a failing that we all possess, that we wait until it is too late - too late, we belatedly say, to ask our parents, grandparents and other family members about our family histories.

Your task - write and publish your family history.

First, write your family history. The internet is a great resource to learn about family histories. Kimberly Powell from has written an excellent article on how to write a family history. In her article, Kimberly notes that a family history can take different forms including: a descriptive narrative, an album, or even a cookbook. You may have other ideas such as a family heirloom - a quilt, war medal, or anything else that is significant to your family. Whatever you choose, be creative and weave a story around the item that you choose.

Kimberly suggests, "Thinking of your ancestors as characters in your family history story, what problems and obstacles did your ancestors face?" Organize your story of your family around a significant event in history. The selection of historical events is broad, but it includes immigration, up from slavery, education, farm life, and war.

Do your research and ask questions of family members. Don't be surprised if family members don't want to talk. Most people are shy when it comes to talking about the past. A good way of getting around this natural shyness is to prepare ahead of time. Do some research. Know a little about the subject that you are talking about and interest your family member in what you are discussing. Be patient.

Second, publish your family history. If you have a computer and an email, you can publish your family history. You can sign up for a free blog with Google's blogger or any other free blog publisher. Once you have signed up for an account, you can begin publishing your family history. Again, has great tips on how to publish your family history.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

tips for an interesting composition

Techniques to make your writing come alive for your readers:
  • Give vivid and specific details about a character's personality, interests, characteristics, and so on.
  • Include some direct quotes.
  • Place the most interesting points at the beginning or end of a sentence, where they stand out.
Here is a short story from Myths and Legends of California , by Katharine Berry Judson. Read the story for enjoyment. Then, read the story to see what details Katherine Berry gives about the origins of the Apache people. What points does she make in this short story?

Why the Apaches are Fierce

Pima (Arizona)

Elder Brother, Coyote, and Earth Doctor, after the flood vanished, began to create people and animals. Coyote made all the animals, Elder Brother made the people, and Earth Doctor made queer creatures which had only one leg, or immense ears, or many fingers, and some having flames of fire in their knees.

Elder Brother divided his figures of people into four groups. One of the Apaches came to life first. He shivered and said, "Oh, it's very cold," and began to sway back and forth. Then Elder Brother said, "I didn't think you would be the first to awake," and he took all the Apaches up in his hand and threw them over the mountains. That made them angry, and that is why they have always been so fierce.

Myths and Legends of California, by Katharine Berry Judson can be read online. The story can also be accessed through Rick Walton's Online Library. Rick Walton has many stories that can read online. He also provides links to other resources for further online reading.


Read your first draft for organization and flow. It is best if you and a classmate check each others' work. Check your final draft for spelling, punctuation, and grammar, especially your use of verbs. Examine your draft for logical flow. Is the sequence of time logical and correct? Then examine the descriptive elements of your composition. Can the reader form an image of the character? Is the image colorful and interesting?


What other authors can you think of who possess powerful skills at descriptive writing? In the field of science fiction, Stephen King immediately comes to mind. Another example from an earlier age is Mark Twain. Good descriptive writing is personal and immediate. Read for example The Diary of Anne Frank. Other examples of personal writing are found in the works of Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, and Richard Wright.

Can you give other examples of descriptive authors and their works? Can you broaden the list of authors by nationality, gender, age, and subject? What gives their work meaning and impact? How do these authors and their stories relate to your life? What stories do you have to tell?