…and throughout the year
You keep thinking you’d love to gather your mom’s memories, so why not use Mother’s Day as a great time to start? How about gathering insights or tender memories not just from Mom, but from other loving family members?
Or maybe you’re the mom (or Grandma or Auntie who plays the mom role) and you’ve decided it’s time you started gathering remembrances!
Whoever you are, Mother’s Day is a great time to begin collecting stories, either about or from Mom. Just keep a few key actions from Wambtac’s Ghostwriting Professional Designation Program (GPDP) in mind:
1. Start small—Family and friends could get intimidated when you suddenly announce on Mother’s Day, “I want to capture our family history!” Thinking about—let alone remembering—the whole history seems daunting to most people (especially with no warning!), so start with something smaller and more specific.
Tell your loved one(s) something like, “I’ve been wanting to capture loving memories about Mom (Grandma or Auntie) for a long time, and I think Mother’s Day is a great day to start. Would you be willing to share your favorite story today?” Or “I’d love to hear your favorite Mother’s Day (or family) memory.”
Collect more than just Mom’s (or Grandma’s) insights and you’ll find you have a really nice compendium.
2. Determine your gathering tool—Choose recording on your phone or a small digital recorder. Small and unobtrusive technology is less intimidating during interviews where emotions may be high, and people could feel vulnerable.
3. Prepare questions—A good memoir developer—like all ghostwriters—researches and organizes questions ahead of time, in the hopes of gleaning as much feedback as possible. Look to old photos or a journal or objects mom collected to help you devise and organize your questions. This way, if you get extra interview time, you’ll have ways to evoke more memories.
4. Decide on individuals or groups—Now that travel has opened again (at least to some degree), are you seeing a loved one or several at a special event? If more than one, can you handle it when folks chime in together after each question, or do you believe that one-on-one interviews might glean more?
If you have a group, try this: First, find a quiet spot for individual interviews. When they’re completed, go back to the full gathering and let everyone listen to each other’s comments. That’s when others are likely to yell things like, “No, that’s not the whole story!” or “Yeah, I remember that. I saw it happen, too!” and you can add their insights.
5. Be friendly—This isn’t investigative journalism, so don’t push. Watch for signs of fatigue, especially with older family members. Ask interviewees if they need water, a bathroom break, or anything else—including a hug when stories arouse buried emotions.
6. Gather memories outside of specific events—Besides asking about Mother’s Day (or Christmas, graduation day, etc.) pass around index cards and ask loved ones to write down other types of knowledge about the person you’re focusing on. What were her best recipes? Anyone learn any great cleaning tips from her? Any great stories she told you, songs sung, or brilliant home decorating—especially on a budget?
While they’re writing, ask questions like: Was this [recipe] something she brought from the old country? Where did she get it from back there? Was it created in America? Why?
7. Will you limit memory gathering to this day?—It’s unlikely you’ll gather enough memories from just one event, like Mother’s Day. It could be even harder in 2021 when everyone’s delighted to finally be together again. Since it’s been a year since loved ones have seen each other, there could be the kind of excitement, even frenzy, that could make calm memory-gathering very challenging.
So what can you do to learn more? Wait for other holidays and events, like Fourth of July and noteworthy birthdays? Set up phone calls and/or Zoom meetings to keep the project going? Or just ask family members to email their memories—you can even create a specific email address to collect them.
For more ideas on how to interview, check out websites like Geneology.com and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Learn how to make a living writing memoirs by taking Claudia Suzanne’s Intro to Ghostwriting to become a Certified Ghostwriter.