MOUNDRIDGE — If your family suddenly remembers they have a dentist appointment each time you mention genealogy, help is on the horizon.
The Moundridge Arts Council will host a Community Writing Workshop at 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 12 at the MAC building, 118 S. Randall in Moundridge.
Kim Stanley will teach a workshop, titled "Moment by Moment," which will give family historians ideas and tools to take their research and turn it into story form.
"She is delightful. I think she can get the group going and give some good ideas," said Rosemary Fisher, secretary of the Moundridge Arts Council.
In working with inmates at Hutchinson Correctional Facility, Stanley found only a small percentage could recall a time when their families passed on stories of their history. Stanley said that most inmates felt ungrounded because of their lack of knowledge about their family's past.
“I love helping people tell their stories,” Stanley said. “Writing is how we make sense of our world, and how we pass it on to others.”
Stanley teaches courses in beginning and advanced writing, poetry, English literature and world literature at McPherson College.
"I'm going to try to get them to use some of the techniques in fiction to make their genealogy more interesting," Stanley said.
Fisher said the idea for bringing the workshop to Moundridge came during a presentation she gave on preserving family heirlooms. Several attendees noted that they had either tried to write a family history or wanted to and did not know how to go about it.
"It seems to me that one of the most important things we can save are the stories about our families," Fisher said.
Stanley acknowledges it can take hours of painstaking research to develop a family tree.
"It's cool to have and you can look at it, but you're not going to sit and read it," Stanley said. "It just doesn't hold your attention."
When sharing family history, an endless list of dates and names can cause the reader's eyes to glaze over.
"That's really, really dull," Stanley said. "Put stories into your genealogy so that your family members might like to read it."
Instead, she advocates writing out anecdotes of well-known family stories and developing specific characters.
"We'll do some exercises in creating characters and identifying stories," Stanley said. "I think that's a good way for people to start. In every family, there are characters that everyone knows about."
Beyond the basics of genealogical research, Stanley encourages people to travel and learn about the settings of their family's history if possible to add context to the narrative of how a family fit into the place where they lived.
Family historians should not be overly concerned with whether a story that has been passed down is true or not.
"The story itself, the fact that people tell it, is important to the family," Stanley said.
The workshop will give attendees a time to write and a time to tell stories if they wish.
"I won't put anybody on the spot, but I'll give everyone a chance to share," Stanley said.
The program is made possible by the Kansas Humanities Council.
"We're very blessed to have that resource available," Fisher said.
The Community Writing Workshop is part of a statewide series of programs that celebrate 100 years of the Pulitzer Prizes and the life of William Allen White.
In 1922, the Emporia Gazette editor wrote “To An Anxious Friend,” an impassioned defense of freedom of speech during trying times. For his editorial, he became the first Kansan to be awarded the prestigious Pulitzer Prize.
Just as White defended free speech “by voice, by posted card, by letter, or by press,” Community Writing Workshop participants will be welcome to express themselves any way they choose — through essays, poems, letters, memoirs or fiction.
"We encourage everyone to bring their laptops and notebooks," Fisher said.
The Community Writing Workshop registration fee is $10 for Moundridge Arts Council members or $12 for nonmembers, Space is limited, so advance registration is advised. For more information or to register, contact Rosemary Fisher at 620-345-8979.