Voices of Experience: Family Only - Your Secret Stash of Memories

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"I showed my book to a friend at FiftyForward Donelson Station. She wanted to buy a copy!" Marion Mingle was surprised, flattered and, instead of selling, loaned the copy of her own life story, "Growing Up in Glasgow: A Conversation Between Two Sisters." Marion is one of many authors who prefer to share their books with family and friends but not place them for sale. "Why would strangers want to hear about our childhood?" she says. "It was a personal, emotional experience then and again when writing about it with my sister. That makes it difficult for me to share."

Seventy-year-old Marion and her younger sister, Anne Strang, grew up in Glasgow, Scotland with their mother, and later, their stepfather. While in her teens, Marion searched for and found her biological father and got to know his family. Later, she moved to Nashville and Anne moved to Sydney, Australia. Family history was a mystery. Then Anne e-mailed to Marion: "What do you remember about our biological father?" The sisters began writing all they could remember about their childhood, e-mailing each other over a period of three weeks. Anne was first to realize they had the material for a book! It would be a private book for their children and grandchildren, who knew little about the family history or Glasgow. Enlisting my help as a personal historian and independent publisher, Marion and Anne each ended up with 12 beautiful hardback copies of "their" book, by Marion Mingle and Anne Strang, fully illustrated with precious photographs. They agreed that "Growing Up" will not be sold, instead treasured forever by the children and grandchildren who received them gladly as gifts.

While the "vanity press" for family history has long been around, self-publishing via online digital printing takes the capability to publish a few copies of your book to a very affordable level. Sites vary in being user-friendly: some provide their own software and others want files formatted professionally. Some are aimed at selling your book too but are willing to print them affordably and let you decide when, if ever, to choose sales outlets. Marion and Anne chose not to sell their book to the public.

As Marion read the e-mailed questions from her sister in faraway Australia, they brought buried memories to the surface. Now, along with walking her Chiweenie dog and advanced strength training, Marion is re-reading her book repeatedly. Each time, she says, "I'm remembering more things, dredging up more information that is triggered by reading what we wrote." She has become a family history sleuth and is planning to visit Scotland once again to search for more answers. "Growing Up in Glasgow: A Conversation Between Two Sisters" has become much more than a private project for the authors. It's a connection between families and their descendants that will never be broken. Would your family benefit from a private book?

Deborah Wilbrink is a personal historian, ghostwriter, speaker and author of "Time to Tell: Your Personal & Family History." Contact Deborah in Nashville with your story at 615-417-8424 or deb@perfectmemoirs.com.

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