Mining Your History for Stories.

It’s been said that everyone has a story to tell. I’ll go one step further and say our ancestors have great stories to tell. Just because our grandparents and great grandparents are no longer with us, or weren’t famous, doesn’t mean their lives weren’t interesting. I’d be willing to bet that everyone’s family has a person, event or incident that could be the catalyst for a novel or short story.

While researching my own family tree, I discovered two interesting facts. The first was that my paternal great grandfather worked as a carriage maker in Washington DC at the turn of the Twentieth Century. He worked on carriages for prominent people in DC such as John Philip Sousa. The second fact was that his daughter – my grandmother – received an invitation to a reception at the White House and met Theodore Roosevelt. That invitation is in the family scrapbook.   invitation 1

Think about that. It’s not every day any of us gets to meet and socialize with a president. It wasn’t long after discovering these tidbits that I came up with this premise: What would happen if a girl – who adores her Papa’s carriage business and wants to become a blacksmith – sees the emergence of automobiles as threatening to that business. What lengths would she go to keep that business from closing down? Would she go all the way to the President?
With that premise, my middle grade historical novel WHEELS OF CHANGE was born.

Think of the places your ancestors grew up in or originated from. What is unique about those settings? What kind of occupations did they have? It is safe to say there are few carriage makers left today, just as there would be few telegraph operators, stagecoach drivers or telephone switchboard operators. But you can bet kids would find those occupations interesting and maybe even exciting. What did grandma eat as a kid? What games did grandpa play? All these bits and pieces of our ancestors’ lives have the potential to be a good story for today’s kids.

So, let the skeletons out of the closets. Dust off grandpa’s war diary; go through that ancient box of trinkets. Examine the old black and white photos and letters from your family’s past. Somewhere under the dust of time, is a gem – a gold nugget – waiting to become your next story.

Thank you, Grandma for saving that White House invitation. I wonder what grandma said to President Roosevelt at that reception.     emily 1

Maybe that’s another story.   Happy digging!