I sat close to my Grandmother as she embroidered a bird on a fabric napkin. “Watch how I use a knot to make the bird’s eye,” she said. I studied her fingers as she pushed the needle through the material, lifting and turning and pushing again until an eye appeared on the bird. I looked at my grandmother and imagined her as a girl my age. “Grandma,” I asked, “tell me a story about when you were little.”
Grandma threaded the needle with a new color. “Well,” she began, “did you know I was a pea picker?” I shook my head. “I was 7 years old when we packed up and spent the summer on Mr. Western’s farm. The boys on the street called us the ‘Pea Pickers’.” As she spoke, her voice moved through my heart like a cool breeze in the old cottonwood trees. Although I was only 9, I knew her story was important and deserved a place in my memory.
30 years later, I asked my Grandmother to tell me the story again. I wrote down every word. I asked questions and clarified details. I kept the notes safe in my Writer’s Notebook until I was ready to use them. Now, I am writing a children’s book called “The Pea Pickers” to honor her.
Today, you are going to collect the family stories that deserve a place in your memory.
- Gather interview materials. You will need paper and a pencil. If you have a voice recorder on your phone, use it to record your interview.
- Determine which family members you wish to interview.
- Ask them to tell you a story from long ago.
- As they speak, take notes. Write down every detail you can.
- If you are confused about a detail, ask questions.
- Make sure you understand the full story- the who, what, where, when, and why of the story.
- Ask how he or she felt when it happened.
- You may interview as many family members as you like.
1. Choose one of the interviews to write about.
2. Determine the point of view you will use to write.
- 1st person point of view- Write in YOUR voice and tell the story. Example: “My grandmother was only 7 years old when she picked peas at Mr. Western’s farm.“
- 1st person point of view- Write in the voice of the person you interviewed, using the words “I” and “we“. Example: “I was 7 years old when I picked peas at Mr. Western’s farm.”
- 3d person point of view- Write as an outside observer of the story, using the words, “he” or “she“. Example: “Anna Maria was 7 years old when she picked peas at Mr. Western’s farm.”
3. Use your notes to construct the beginning, middle, and end to your story.
4. Add details to convey setting, mood, feelings, and personalities.
5. Illustrate your story when done.
6. Share your story with your family.
In the comment box below, write your first name, age, and a sentence or two about who you will interview and why you chose them.
Michelle Lynn Senters is the Founder and Director of KIDS ARE WRITERS. She spends her days working as a Reading Interventionist and spends her evenings writing books for children and adults. You can learn more about Michelle HERE and at www.michellelynnsenters.com.