Learn the basics of telling life histories at the Park City Library | ParkRecord.com

Learn the basics of telling life histories at the Park City Library

Paulette F. Stevens, the founder and director of The Life Story Library Foundation, will host a life story writing workshop at the Park City Library on Thursday. (Photo courtesy of Paulette Stevens)

For many people, telling their personal histories are tricky matters and writing them down can seem like an overwhelming experience.

That’s why Paulette F. Stevens founded the Life Story Library Foundation in 2008.

One of her goals is to help people get comfortable with telling and recording their memories.

Stevens will hold a free life-story writing workshop at the Park City Library, on Thursday, April 17, from 2 p.m. until 3 p.m.

The workshop is designed to give people the basics to start writing their own stories, Stevens told The Park Record.

"We like to begin by telling our own stories, because that’s the most comfortable way of introducing people to the idea," Stevens said. "It also gets the creative juices flowing and it inspires people to start people thinking of what they want to remember."

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Once participants get an idea in their heads, Stevens will help them build upon it and find ways to put other events together so the idea makes sense a more permanent fashion.

"Some of these memories can become a chapter in a book, or become a stand-alone story or a segment in a full personal history," she said. "After they get to that point, we will give pointers for the next steps that follow that will make the process joyful and not overwhelming as is may at first seem."

Throughout the years, Stevens has heard concerns and misconceptions from those who want to record their histories, but don’t know how.

"The first thing we always hear is that a person isn’t famous and hasn’t done anything special," she said. "When you look at a life history from the point of view of someone who has trusted and loved that person for all the years, then those simple stories become very precious and meaningful.

"We have found that the most simple of stories of the most simple of human experience actually provide tremendous guidelines for those who follow, love and trust these people," Stevens said.

She selected Park City because of its unique history.

"We have come other times to Park City and know there are wonderful stories here of people who have lived here all their lives or those who have come here from other places and those who are here seasonally," she said. "There is a mix here of people who come from lands far away, of people who have military experiences and others who have business ventures both successful and not successful."

Stevens also wants to introduce others to her organization.

"That way if someone feels a sense of urgency to get their life history out, they know there’s a place they can turn," she said. "The workshop is one of those opportunities where they can learn about the resources they have to create a legacy they can pass on."

The development of the Life Story Library Foundation blossomed from Stevens’ experience as a personal historian.

"I realized that ordinary people have extraordinary stories," she said. "When we don’t record them, and preserve them, they will get lost. Our efforts go into calling and saving and sharing these stories of people from wherever they are around the world with the goal of having people enjoy the fruits of their labors."

The foundation also gives people the opportunity to listen and learn from these stories.

"These days, we have found that many family members are separated and scattered," Stevens said. "We have to make a special effort to talk about things of value and meaning if we are going to pass what’s important to us in our generation to those we love in future generations."

If the workshop is successful, Stevens said she would work with the library to do another.

"We have been holding workshops with a group of personal historians in the Salt Lake County Library System since 2008," she said.

Telling a life story has the potential to change the lives of everyone involved, Stevens reiterated.

"Individuals who tell these stories discover or find they remember things they’ve forgotten about and find words for experiences and feelings they’ve never called up before," she said. "The people who hear the story can experience something they have never had the chance to in their own lives.

"Like when you read a good book, see a good movie or learn a powerful scripture, these experiences are instilled in your life," Stevens said.

The Park City Library, 1255 Park Ave., will host the Life Story Library Foundation’s workshop, "What’s Your Story? A Guide to Writing Life Story" on Thursday, April 17, from 2 p.m. until 3 p.m. The workshop will be facilitated by the foundation’s executive director, Paulette F. Stevens. For more information, call Jasmina Jusic at 435-615-5602.