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Writing the family stories… I’ll probably be writing for the rest of my life. My mother is 98 years old; hopefully, that means I will be privileged to write many stories.

This winter I’m digging into a story that will eventually be published in the Iowa Genealogical Society’s Hawkeye Heritage. Genealogists know it is when you start writing you realize what research you still need to do. I tend to start writing with some completed research to get some “words on paper,” then I continue writing as I research. Contrary to what many writers advise, I spend considerable time on a section: writing, editing, rewriting, then, when I’m temporarily satisfied, I move on to the next section. With my current project, the story is complicated by the fact that I’m suspicious of the main character’s integrity: can I believe everything he said? His 318-page Civil War pension file has formed the core of the story… No doubt there is a reason for this many pages. As I search for answers, the time for completing this project is extending and the scope is expanding. Fortunately, no set deadline.

As a proofreader for the National Genealogical Society’s NGS Magazine I have the advantage of reading each issue literally cover-to-cover a few months before the general membership receives their copy. The October-December 2015 issue has an article, “Scrivener: An Organizational Tool for Genealogical Writers,” by Melissa A. Johnson. When I read the article I was immediately enthralled! I researched the software, tried it out for a few days, watched some YouTube videos, and was sold! The more I work with Scrivener, the more I appreciate its capabilities! Oh, how I wish I had known about this product when I was writing the “Guide for Iowa Research” for the National Genealogical Society’s Quarterly!

For now: challenging subject and exciting new software! Love it!

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For a few days last week during the latest winter weather, I tackled more of the boxes in my back storeroom. These are boxes of research notes and memorabilia from my mother, my grandmother, my mother-in-law, two great-aunts, and our own lives with children and grandchildren. At one time, boxes filled a spare bedroom, the storeroom, and the shelves in my office.

Good news: 11 four-drawer filing cabinets have some empty space.

Net result in this latest effort: nine boxes emptied, two overflowing boxes went to the recycle bin, one large garbage bag to the dumpster, a stack to our shred box and the remainder filed. And, I still have room in the filing cabinets for more!

While we continue to have items in the spare bedroom, the storeroom and on the shelves in my office, I see hope for getting the remaining items out of the spare bedroom soon. Also, the storeroom is beginning to see “the light of day”… pun intended; this room doesn’t have any windows!

Three years since my December retirement date; I continue to chug along like “The Little Engine that Could.”

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Over the past few weeks, besides organizing my library, I’ve been sorting through more boxes. In fact, I have emptied twenty boxes!

What did I find? What did I do with all of it?

Well… One box was filled with Jack and Jill magazines from the 1950s. I looked through some of the issues, then I checked the Internet and found that the magazine is still published and that old issues have very little value. In addition, the issues in my collection were filthy! They felt so grungy that I hated to touch them. I remember they were stored in my parents’ attic for years. Then, when they moved from the farm into town, Mom gave the magazines to me and I have had them in various storage places for more than 25 years. They went into our recycle bin.

Another couple boxes had my old workbooks from elementary school. They were just as dirty and yucky to touch as the magazines. Into the recycle bin they went.

The scrapbooks that I made in elementary school were in the similar condition. Nothing creative here, just mimeographed seasonal designs on construction paper that we cut out, perhaps colored or added some paper fasteners to in order to make moving arms/legs, or paper doilies for a lace effect. Our creations were displayed around the classroom for a week, then we pasted into the scrapbook. Recycle bin.

I had to make decisions, and I just could not keep something that no one would want to touch.

Some boxes included papers from a charter member of our local genealogy society; her daughter gave the items to me after her mother passed away. Where possible I incorporated these items into my collection. I was able to give a few things to the Iowa Genealogical Society. But, still other papers went into the recycle bin. I knew the daughter had given as much as possible to the local historical society before she gave things to me. Some genealogy reference items dating from the 1970s and 1980s were simply out-of-date. I also found a box of items from my great aunt, also a charter member. Those items were treated much the same as those from the other charter member.

The sorting, however, also had some bright sides. I found some family genealogy papers. Many of these papers were in good shape and I was able to file them. My work earlier this fall, to create hanging files, paid off! Now, I could just file papers where appropriate!

As I work through this sorting process, I’m finding it easier to sort through printed material and other papers than to sort through artifacts or photographs.

While twenty paper/file boxes might seem like a lot; this was just a drop-in-the-bucket. Remember, I’ve said before, this project is huge… overwhelming. I’ve been tackling it one piece at a time. I’m definitely making progress, wonder what I’ll work on next…

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On Writing

A couple days ago I received my long-anticipated copy of Natalie Goldberg’s latest book, The True Secret of Writing[1]. As I was reading the Introduction, the Nike slogan came to mind, “Just Do It.”

Putting the slogan into the context of writing:
–don’t just talk about the writing you want to do
–don’t just read about how to write
–don’t wait for just the right inspiration
–don’t procrastinate
sit down, put pen to notebook (or hands to keyboard) and begin!

———-

Reference

[1] Goldberg, Natalie, The True Secret of Writing, New York, NY: Atria Books, A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2013.

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This was not posted until well after it was written… actual write date was January 3, 2013: Well, the holidays, illness, moving Mom to a smaller apartment, and childcare all have intervened and slowed down the journey. Not only have I not done any more sorting, but with moving Mom to an even smaller apartment, we have inherited even more things to sort! Will I ever gain any control?

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I am two days into retirement and already wonder how I ever had time to work. I have walked over 9,000 steps today and I haven’t even gone for a walk!

The sorting of stuff in our multiple store rooms has begun. We filled our weekly trash tote in just one evening and I have eleven empty boxes sitting outside my office door.

Initially I have been dividing everything into three categories: trash, garage sale, keep.

Trash – Dave asked to see the trash before it goes out, primarily, for another set of eyes to verify that this should be discarded.

Garage Sales – I do not like to hold garage sales, so I generally donate my saleable items to either our church garage sale or the Iowa Genealogical Society (IGS) garage sale. Since our church is not having a sale in 2013, many of my items will be donated to IGS. First, however, I will give our three sons and their wives an opportunity to see everything before it is given away.

Keep – when practical I have been putting like things together, or if I know that something really should go somewhere else, I have been moving it to the better location. Efficiency experts would say that every item should only be touched one time. I know the rule; unfortunately, I just don’t always find it practical to enforce.

Photography – next step is to get my photographic light box set up for taking pictures of items that have some significance, but the items do not need to be saved, an image of the items will be sufficient.

More about that later.

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