Monthly Archives: October 2012

Life Story Writers Reflect on the First Presidential Election They Remember

Last week I had the opportunity to hear stories from one of my favorite October assignments in my “Writing Your Life Story” class through OLLI at UVA in Charlottesville, Virginia. I invited students to write the first thoughts that came to mind in response to this Story Spark:

“The first presidential election that I paid much attention to was…”

After the ten minutes were up, students read their accounts, and we were suddenly diving back into American political history, from a personal lens:

One student recalled how his family pretended to be Republicans in 1956 because everyone else around them were, though they secretly suppoted Adlai Stevenson in his election bid against Ike Eisenhower. Another student nodded when she heard that name Stevenson. She had written about being a little girl in ’56 and listening to her parents educate her about Eisenhower and his celebrated background in World War II, but she just could not remember who ran against him!

Another student’s first election memory was watching the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debates on black-and-white TV. And for one student born in another country, the memory triggered was having a crush on Eugene McCarthy during his challenge to President Johnson in the 1968 Democratic primaries.

A native Southerner, whose memories go waaay back, transported us to 1932 and the Depression when FDR was first elected president by defeating incumbent president Herbert Hoover. His father informed him that there in eastern Kentucky he was born two things: a Democrat and a Methodist. For years he believed you could only be a part of one group if you also belonged to the other.

I always enjoy this assignment not only for the memories and historical markers that come with them but because I witness life story writers in their 60s, 70s, 80s and even their 90s connecting with vivid life experiences that make them smile – and prompt them to keep diving into the pool of memories.

So, whatever age you happen to be, and how many or how few elections you have tuned into, try this exercise now in your own exploration of writing your life story:

“The first presidential election that I paid much attention to was…”

– Kevin Quirk is the author of “Your Life Is a Book And It’s Time to Write It” and an autobiography ghostwriter who helps people of all ages and backgrounds tell the most important stories of their lives.

The Memoir "Finding Jill" Will Make Your Jaw Drop and Your Heart Open to Possibilities of Healing After A Devastating Loss

Imagine the unimaginable. You are living a great adventure in the beautiful country of Italy with your husband and two young children. Your mother, sister and niece fly out for an extended visit, and you excitedly map out the grand tour, showing them exotic and historic places and eating delicious Italian food. And then as you’re driving from Venice to Florence, a semi crosses the median and strikes your minivan head-on…and when you wake up in the hospital, barely alive, you are told that the five people you loved most are gone.

That’s what happened to Jill Kraft Thompson ten years ago in Italy. At first, she didn’t see any possible way that she could live without her husband, her two “angels” that were her sons, her mother and her niece. Once she even attempted suicide so she could go be with her loved ones in heaven. Then, aided by an Italian Sister, a grief specialist counselor, devoted friends and family, and her own deep soul-searching, she found her will to live. She discovered that while she will never forget her loved ones who have passed on, she could renew her faith and find room in her heart to live, and even to love again. “Finding Jill” is the memoir that tells her story:

Jill recently hosted a book launch and signing and was interviewed by a Boise TV station. She shares how she keeps a vital presence of her love for those who have passed away. Remarried with a 4-year-old son today, her wedding ring has the birthstones of her husband and two sons who died ten years ago:

If you or anyone you know has suffered an unbearable loss and seeks encouragement and support from someone who has been there, this book can help. If you are writing your own life story, and it happens to include how you faced the challenge of going on when the storm clouds from a major loss or life challenge were darkest, this book will offer you ideas on how to give voice to the pain…and the joy.

Jill Kraft Thompson of Boise, Idaho has courageously written an account of her dramatic experience in an honest, heart-felt, and real way. She knows the grief recovery journey and is dedicated to helping others navigate their own. If you’re ready to have your own heart opened, you are invited to share her journey.

– Kevin Quirk, author of “Your Life Is a Book And It’s Time To Write It,” is a memoir and autobiography ghostwriter, as well as a book coach and teacher of Writing Your Life Story classes in Charlottesville, Virginia.