Narratives of Your Life

24 Jul 2007

A North Carolina Storyblogging Project

In my experience as the blogger mistersugar, blogging and podcasting are liberating tools that are quite effective for sharing one’s life – present, past and future (that’s right, future: I’ve even posted my 1-, 5- and 10-year goals). I started my own blog as a way to connect my farflung family and to honor the storytelling tradition of my dying grandfather.

Over the last few years, I’ve helped spread the excitement of blogging among my peers, and managed a family website that is the online gathering space for my relatives. As I’ve done this, I’ve yearned to find ways to help other groups and generations use these online communication tools to share their lives. I’ve wanted to honor the wisdom of other community elders by empowering them. I think I’ve found one way to get the voices of our senior citizens onto the Internet.

The following is a proposed outline for a series of events to combine storytelling, blogging, oral history and the lives of North Carolina’s older individuals. This outline reflects community-building ideas that have arisen from the recent blogging events in Chapel Hill, Durham and Greensboro, each of which encouraged online personal expression, as well as the ongoing national dialogue about online citizen journalism.

I hope that the Narratives of Your Life events will chart new ways to record the memories of our state’s citizens, and spark the words of new bloggers and podcasters.

Target date: April/May 2006

—Anton Zuiker

The following outline is a proposal – follow the progress of the planning for this project here and at And please share your ideas by posting comments here.

Tell Me About Your Life: a workshop 17 Nov 2005

This will be a two-day workshop for 25-40 bloggers, podcasters and other online communicators, with additional public events around writing and storytelling.

Day One
  1. A morning session with writing legend William Zinsser, author of the classic On Writing Well and the new Writing About Your Life.
  2. Blogging exercise: an hour for participants to post blog entries about their lives (using lessons suggested by Zinsser). Then a group discussion with Zinsser about those entries.
  3. Lunch
  4. Afternoon sessions on aging and the elderly, oral history, Southern history and genealogy.
  5. Podcasting exercise: Working in pairs, participants will take oral histories from each other and upload them to a group podcast page. Then a group discussion about those interviews.
  6. BBQ dinner for workshop participants.
  7. Zinsser to give afternoon or evening public reading at a local bookstore (Macintyre’s at Fearrington Village, Regulator in Durham, Quail Ridge in Raleigh or another)
Day Two
  1. Oral history exercise: working alone or in pairs, Day One workshop participants will go to local retirement communities and hospitals to take oral histories from senior citizens (consenting seniors will be selected beforehand). Goal is to record the memories, wisdom and experiences of North Carolina’s older citizens. In conjunction, citizens across the state will be encouraged to spend Saturday morning with their older relatives, and if they can, to write about what they learn on their blogs (we may create a central site for citizens to post their entries).
  2. Workshop participants return after lunch to workshop location computer lab to post blog entries and podcasts from the oral histories they took in the morning. (Pictures can be posted to Flickr.) Group discussion about what each person learned.
  3. Dinner: a fundraiser event with tickets (workshop participants comped); workshop participants to present the oral history results of the morning’s exercise; keynote storytelling by Kevin Kling, NPR commentator. Funds raised by the dinner to support an existing aging program or to pay for a pilot North Carolina Stories Podcast project (perhaps on WUNC, which would commit to airing stories from this project once a week for a year).

Possible sponsors 25 Nov 2005 activity 25 Nov 2005 could sponsor a book product from the blog entries that arise from the oral history exercise of Day Two or the stories from the pilot podcasting project. Along with a state or statewide sponsor, Lulu could facilitate the publishing of one or more memoirs from key community leaders, who would team up with bloggers to write their narratives.

Other activities and events 30 Nov 2005

“Start slow, start small,” said Johnny Bruce, my Ni-Vanuatu counterpart on the island of Paama during my Peace Corps service. We’ll start with the ideas above, but there’s no reason not to include other events and activities. I’d love to see this event go statewide, so that we can read and listen to stories from all corners of North Carolina.

So, what else should we attempt? Leave your suggestions here.