Your Life Story is a Multimedia Anthology
If you are thinking about writing your life story, think of it as a multimedia anthology. Many people make the mistake of publishing their life story as a single book. Even if the book is the size of an old-fashioned encyclopedia with tiny print and little pictures, it will not come close to capturing and expressing the amazing journey that has been your life. And since your life’s journey is still a work in progress, a book will quickly become outdated.
What is a Life Story Anthology?
In the broadest sense of the definition, an anthology is a collection of works chosen by the compiler. It can be a collection of stories, poems, pictures, songs, audio and video recordings, essays, social media posts, and other forms of expression. A good anthology has a unifying theme.
In a life story anthology, YOU are the theme. The anthology is comprised of works that tell your life story. These works can be written or recorded by you, about you and your experiences, and works contributed by others who know you and shared parts of your life’s journey. Your life story anthology is comprised of works of non-fiction.
Your life story anthology can include pieces compiled by others about you, such as photo albums and scrap books made by your parents when you were a child. It can include seminal documents like your birth certificate, graduation diploma, military service records, marriage certificate, and a copy of the deed to your first house. It can include love letters, letters to the editor, and other non-fiction epistles and musings you may have authored during different periods of your life.
A great life story anthology does not just tell the who, what, where, and when of the subject. It tells the why and the how of a person’s lived experiences. It expresses the trials and tribulations; the struggles, sacrifices, and lessons learned. Heaven forbid future generations try to understand the essence of who you were and the life you lived by only reading your social media posts!
Who is the Audience for Your Life Story Anthology?
Most people write about their lives for their families. They especially write and tell stories for their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren… and eventually their children, and so forth down the line. Your stories can help your descendants understand where they came from and who they are.
Most people feel a strong connection to the tribe they belong to and want to know more about their ancestors. Genealogy can show them the branches in their family tree, but only you can show them the leaves – the stories of the people from whom they are descended. Only you can put color on your family tree and bring the stories to life.
It may not be readily apparent to you now, at the beginning of this process of compiling your life story anthology, but you may well find it as rewarding for yourself as much as anyone else. Writing your life stories and compiling them with related material into an anthology, can be a cathartic experience. It can be therapeutic. It can help you come to terms with the painful parts of your past. It can help you put your life into perspective.
In addition to your immediate family, your descendants, and yourself, your life story anthology can be a gift to future generations of people not related to you in any way. Autobiographies and biographies are a timeless art form. They have provided the world with a wealth of knowledge, inspiration, insight, and entertainment. Your life story anthology can provide people everywhere with perspectives on life in general and help them realize how important and rewarding their own lives can be.
What is the Format and Length of Your Life Story Anthology?
There is no magic format or length for your life story anthology. Typically, the works in an anthology are compiled into a volume for publication. Your life story anthology could be one volume. Your spouse’s life story anthology another volume.
There is no reason your life story anthology could not be comprised of several volumes. It depends on how much writing and recording you eventually do about your life. It also depends on the type and length of contributions made by others, and the ancillary works you have compiled, such as your birth certificate, marriage certificate, and other seminal documents.
A volume (or volumes) may be comprised of a collection of just printed and bound books. These printed works can contain photos. An expansive volume will also include audio recordings and/or video recordings. Stories and reflections will often have more impact on your viewers if they can see and hear you tell them. These works can be in the form of MP4 files, MP3 files, and in other easily accessible A/V formats.
See the sections below on organizing and publishing your life story anthology for more tips.
How Do You Write and/or Record Your Life Story Anthology?
First, approach the project as a marathon, not a sprint. There is no deadline. Decide to do a little each day, or a little each week. You will find that when you write or record just one little story, it becomes easier and easier to write or record more stories and recollections.
Second, get in the groove. Sit down with your old photo albums. Look through your high school yearbook. Read your diary or journal. Dig up those old records and keepsakes. Jot down topics or story ideas. Think: “What are the big events, milestones, and experiences I most want to share with my progeny?” The Leaves Summary Biography application is also a helpful starting point because it will transport you back in time and help jog your memories.
Third, announce the project to your family and friends. Ask them to contribute. Ask them, “What’s your most memorable experience we shared together?” Check out the Leaves application for collaboration tools.
Writing vs. Recording
If you are a person who likes to write, fire up your word processor and get to it! Better yet, start with the Leaves Virtual Biographer. It comes complete with a powerful storytelling engine.
If you are a person who finds it easier to record stories, or even just your most vivid memories, use the recorder on your phone or use the Leaves Virtual Biographer application.
The best life story anthologies will have both written works and recorded works.
Where to Start
Many people simply start from the beginning. They recount the most memorable stories from their childhood. They then move on to their teen years, then their early adulthood, mid adulthood, and their senior years to the present. This is called a Life Story Arc.
If this approach feels doable to you, see our piece on Life Story Arc. It suggests topics to write about at various stages of your life. It also provides a wonderful reason to reach out to those you grew up with, starting with your parents, your siblings, and your best friends. Ask them to contribute their most vivid memories.
Some people like to start with the stories their kids and grandkids wants to hear. Simple ask them or share your Leaves Summary Biography with them. Leaves will prompt them to submit the stories they want to hear from you.
If the Life Story Arc, or stories requested by family members are not right for you, start with one of the most popular life stories. See our upcoming piece on Most Popular Life Stores. The Leaves Virtual Biographer will interview you about these topics.
The most interesting stories people like to see are the ones involving your biggest decisions. The decisions you made that had big stakes. Your turning points. Your defining moments. The events that changed the trajectory of your life. What was learned? How were you changed?
Lastly, if none of the above starting points work for you, arrange to be interviewed about your life. There are family historians and life story biographers you can hire. Drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org to get a list of recommended writers, videographers, and life story editors. You can also have a trusted friend or loved one interview you. For tips on this approach, see our series on Interviewing Your Parents About Their Lives.
How Do You Organize Your Life Story Anthology?
The best way to organize your life story anthology is by having multiple points of entry. A physical volume has a table of contents and an index. The reader can jump right to the chapter or story s/he wants to read. A video has segment markers that allow the viewer to jump right to a specific segment.
A life story anthology can and should reside in the cloud, with a good table of contents and robust index. A cloud-hosted life story anthology is also searchable. The reader can start at the beginning, or quickly find a topic you wrote about. Applications like Leaves can automatically create the Table of Contents and Index based on the content you create or upload.
Your life story anthology Table of Contents might look something like this:
Life Arc (see our article on topics to cover in each of these chapters)
Childhood (ages 1-12)
Teen Years (ages 13-18)
Early Adulthood (ages 19-40)
Mid Adulthood (ages 41-64)
Senior Years (ages 65+)
Family (see our tips on writing about these topics)
Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Nieces, and Nephews
Special Friends and Acquaintances (see our tips on writing about these topics)
Playmates and Teammates
Co-workers and Buddies
Teachers and Mentors
Meeting a Famous Person
Firsts (see our tips on writing about these topics)
First Day of School
First Trip on an Airplane
Faith and Purpose (see our tips on writing about these topics)
Beliefs and Changing Beliefs
Sense of Self
Milestones and Turning Points (see our tips on writing about these topics)
High School Graduation
Deciding on Profession, Career and Jobs
Dealing with Tragedy/Loss/Grief
Recreation, Hobbies and Vacations (see our tips on writing about these topics)
Holidays and Celebrations (see our tips on writing about these topics)
Most Memorable Holiday Experience
Milestone Birthdays (16th, 21st, 30th, 40th, 50th, 65th, 70th, more)
Travels and Adventures (see our tips on writing about these topics)
Causes and Volunteer Works (see our tips on writing about these topics)
The Times (see our tips on writing about these topics)
Events that Partly Shaped Me and My Outlook
- National and World Events
- Politicians and Personalities
- Economic Times
- Inventions and Technological Advancements
- Social Issues and Movements
- Cultural Influences (music, fashion, fads)
- Spiritual Influences (religion, gospels, prophets, places of worship)
Where I Was and How I Heard
- The Day the Japanese Bombed Pearl Harbor
- The Day the Atom Bomb was Dropped
- The Assassinations of….. (Kennedy, MLK, others)
Reflections (see our tips on writing about these topics)
Values & Principles
Philosophies & Beliefs
Viewpoints and Musings
Leaves to Loves Ones, Future Generations, and the World-at-Large (see our tips on writing about these topics)
Hopes and Wishes
Family Records (see our tips on writing about these topics)
- Mom’s Birth Certificate
- Dad’s Birth Certificate
- My Birth Certificate
- My Children’s Birth Certificate
Diplomas and Certifications
- Mom’s High School Graduation Diploma
- Dad’s High School Graduation Diploma
- My High School Graduation Diploma
- College Diplomas
- Trade School and Professional Certifications
- Discharge Papers
Honors and Awards
Religious Rituals and Rites of Passage Records
How Do You Edit and Publish Your Life Story Anthology?
In the good old days, most people would write about the highlights of their life, print it, bind it, and distribute multiple copies to loved ones. In recent years, more people have started recording video biographies. Unfortunately, in some of these cases, the books were lost to fire, storm, rot, or neglect. Videos were distributed on outdated formats like CD-ROM that today’s generation cannot play because they do not have a CD-ROM player!
In today’s world, with cloud technologies, speech-to-text, text-to-speech, interactive life mapping, interactive timelines, multimedia auto-editing, and artificial intelligence (Ai), life stories are becoming a whole new art form. And they can never be lost to the ages.
These technologies also offer expert editing capabilities with the click of a mouse. No more misspellings and bad grammar. No more ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’. Ai can even suggest complete sentences that are in harmony with your voice and style. These technologies also enable the people you invite to add to the stories and suggest edits and additions.
You can publish your life story anthology, or just pieces of it, as a series of printed books. You can publish pieces as an MP4 video. You can also publish your life story anthology online as a website or clickable eBook. With today’s technologies, you can write once and publish anywhere.
Today, everyone’s life story can be as good as those professionally produced and aired on The Biography Channel, NPR, and Lifetime Television.
How Do You Share and Preserve Your Life Story Anthology?
Once published, the best way to share your life story anthology, or just pieces of it, is to enable distribution in media formats that your audience is accustomed to consuming. Allow them to print it as a book, download it as a video, and port it to their online archiving service. Provide them with a link that allows them to search it, browse it, and consume it using their personal computer, tablet, or smart phone.
Just remember that today’s formats may quickly become obsolete (like VHS tape and CD-ROM). Choose a life story anthology archiving service like Leaves.us that will evolve with the times. The more ways in which people can consume it, and the more physical and digital places that it is stored, the less chance it will be lost or destroyed. Your leaves should last forever.
Who Can View, Download and Save Your Life Story Anthology?
Today’s cloud technologies allow for multilevel permissions. You can give certain people access to all the pieces in your life story anthology. You can give other people access to just specific pieces in your life story anthology. You can even schedule pieces to be released to specific people on specific dates in the future. They are your stories, your memories, and your precious family records. You should decide in whose care you entrust them.
What’s a Rich Text element?
The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.
Static and dynamic content editing
A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!
- lsit one
- list two
How to customize formatting for each rich text
Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.
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