The Hippo


May 28, 2020








Family Stories: How and Why to Remember to Tell Them

Where: Amherst Town Library, 14 Main St., Amherst
When: Tuesday, March 24, at 7 p.m.
Cost: Free, but registration is required
Telling Your Family Story
Where: Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications, 749 E. Industrial Park Drive, Manchester
When: Saturday, March 21, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Cost: $50

What’s your story?
Two workshops teach how to tell your family story

By Angie Sykeny

Every family has a story, but between the photo albums, home videos and reminiscing at the dinner table, putting it all together can be a challenge. Learn how from some of New Hampshire’s best storytellers at Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications’ 10th annual “Telling Your Family Story” workshop on Saturday, March 21, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“This workshop is to help people either uncover or obtain and then learn how to present and preserve the stories of their families and communities,” said David Tirrell-Wysocki, executive director of the school. “These stories help build the fabric of your family, for now and also for the future. The idea is to make sure that they don’t die off.”
Presenters include Fritz Wetherbee of WMUR’s New Hampshire Chronicle, journalist-authors John Clayton and Meg Heckman, library archivist Lori Fisher and John Gfroerer of the production company Accompany.
Wetherbee will be speaking on how to get started telling your family story, from asking the right questions to organizing your notes and turning them into a comprehensible story.
“We have an obligation, especially in this day and age where it’s as simple as writing something up on your computer and someone else can print it out years later,” said Wetherbee. “A couple hundred years go by and [your family] is so happy to have it.”
John Clayton, who was a reporter for the Union Leader for 25 years, will offer tips for getting reluctant family members to open up about their stories. 
“Use things like old family photographs,” said Clayton. “Ask ‘Who’s in this picture? What was the occasion?’ I also use music and get people to talk about the days of that music. These things are evocative and make them focus more on the props than the fact that they are telling a story.”
Meg Heckman, former reporter for the Concord Monitor, will be speaking about her process as a journalist and co-author of We Went to War: New Hampshire Remembers. Lori Fisher, archivist at Bow’s Baker Free Library, will talk about how to preserve your family photos and documents. John Gfroerer of Concord-based video production company Accompany will share techniques for telling and preserving your family story on video.
“We’ve all had a mother or father or grandmother or grandfather telling the same old story, and your eyes glaze over and you say, ‘Stop, I’ve heard it so many times,’” said Wetherbee. “But when they’ve passed, you think, ‘I’d love to hear that story again.’ Those are the stories you should be writing down.”
If you’re interested in keeping your family story alive through oral tradition, head to the Amherst Town Library on Tuesday, March 24, at 7 p.m. for “Family Stories: How and Why to Remember to Tell Them,” part of New Hampshire Humanities Council’s “It’s All About Words” series.
Presenter Jo Radner is a freelance storyteller and oral historian. She spent 31 years teaching literature, folklore, women’s studies, American and Celtic studies and storytelling at American University and is a former president of the American Folklore Society and the National Storytelling Network.
“The most important way people can tell their family stories is through voice,” said Radner. “That isn’t to say it isn’t good to write them and make videos and recordings. Those are good ways to preserve them beyond the moment. But ... to tell someone else a story is a tremendous gift because there’s a special connection between the teller and the audience.”
In this workshop, Radner will lead participants in exercises to help them rediscover memories they thought were lost and give tips on how to interview family members. Then she will demonstrate how to transform those memories into stories they can tell.
“By the end of the evening, everyone will be remembering stories they haven’t told in a long time,” she said. 
Radner will also be discussing the value of family storytelling. Children in families that habitually reminisce and know about their family history, she said, have stronger senses of self -esteem and have fewer developmental and behavioral problems as teenagers.
“When you tell a story, you aren’t just giving an account,” she said. “You’re evaluating your past and keeping its meaning alive. This helps families build a sense of identity because they know the events and values that have shaped them into who they are.”
At the end of the workshop, everyone will have a chance to practice telling stories.  

“We are all creative storytellers. Every one of us,” Radner said.

As seen in the March 19, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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