My April 7 column described a program at Bellingham Vet Center that helps veterans write about their time in the military, and included advice from Bellingham author Marcus Brotherton.
After that article came out, I was asked about programs that help non-veterans preserve their life stories, too.
Of course, there are hundreds, likely thousands, of articles and books that offer guidance for people who want to preserve their personal and family stories. But for those people who quiver at the idea of sitting down to write, and for people who prefer some structure and guidance when putting pen to paper, so to speak, here some local options to consider.
- Hire someone to help. Personal historians are member of a young profession who, for pay, work with people to preserve their stories. Personal historians focus on interviewing and recording clients' stories and helping to put them into readable shape. Some also provide audio and video products.
"It's a pleasurable process," said Sara Geballe, who started her Memoir Crafters business in Bellingham two years ago. "It's a deeply profound experience for many people."
Prices vary considerably, depending on whether you want help with a short legacy letter, a mini-memoir, a full-length book or a multimedia package.
Geballe is offering a three-hour workshop May 7 that explains her services and includes advice for people who want to work on their memoir on their own. The workshop fee is $28.
"Every story is worth preserving," Geballe said. "You don't have to be famous to leave a legacy."
- Attend a free class. Bellingham Senior Activity Center offers two free classes for members who want to write. A Tuesday morning session is for people who want to write poetry, whimsy or other types of prose. A Wednesday morning class is for people to write and polish their life stories.
Both classes are run on a drop-in basis, where people discuss writing and share their work.
"It's a group process," said Christy Bell, the center's manager. "If someone is just starting to write, it gives them some access to people who do have good writing skills, so they can get some feedback."
To be a member of the senior center, people must be 50 or older and pay $36 a year.
- Pay for classes at WWU: I've heard several people rave about the "Memory to Memoir" courses taught by Laura Kalpakian at Western Washington University. Each school year, she teaches a series of evening classes, one per quarter, for people serious about working on their memoirs.
The class is open to the public and to people with all levels of experience writing. The only requirement is serious intent and some spare cash.
This year, each class cost $475, with preference given to people who take all three classes in order. Registration for the next set of classes should start in July.
Memoir Crafters: memoircrafters.com, 360-650-0060 or 206-354-4707.
Association of Personal Historians: personalhistorians.org.
Bellingham Senior Activity Center: 315 Halleck St., 360-733-4030.
"Memory to Memoir" classes at WWU: 360-650-3308, or go to wwu.edu and search for "Memoir to Memory".
- Bellingham Vet Center: 3800 Byron Ave., Suite 124, or 360-733-9226.
Reach Dean Kahn at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2291.