The question I’m asked most often by genealogists is this:
“How do I write something interesting when I’ve found nothing but dry facts for my ancestor, when I have little more than names and dates?”
It’s a great question, a valid question. Because we’re unlikely to find much more than names, dates and places for most of our ancestors.
However, think about this. For every fact we find about our ancestors, we’ve also found a world of lived experiences. So we can tap into their lived experiences in a way that brings them to life for the reader.
This does NOT mean fictionalising our family histories. This does NOT mean “recreating” scenes or conversations involving long dead ancestors.
How can I state this with such certainty?
Because I don’t make things up in my “popular histories”. My genre is called “narrative nonfiction” – history told as a story – and I’ve worked out how to use the literary tools we all have at our disposal to turn dry facts into exciting narrative. Indeed, The Fabulous Flying Mrs Miller is being turned into a $10 million budget, internationally-produced TV series because it's such a great story written in a gripping way.
Zoom meetings now activated
Each month I'm hosting a Zoom meeting for Annual Members and course subscribers in which we discuss different writing topics. For further information, click on the Syllabus link below.
A Helpful Miscellany
This "course" includes lessons I've given at various genealogical conferences over the years. Most will be expanded into WFFH courses in the future. The lessons can be accessed by Annual Members only. For further information, click on the Syllabus link below.
The Publish or Perish course is now available.
The Writing Fabulous Family Histories website launched with the following two online courses.
You can pay for one course at a time, allowing you access to all of its lessons for three months.
Alternatively, you can purchase an Annual Membership, allowing you access to all of the courses for a year, along with new courses published within that membership year.
The Annual Membership has a special launch discount price until 30 June 2022.
View free webinar
I want to write ... something is the first lesson in the Words on the Page course. Follow the link below to watch the free webinar.
While writing a family history, I stumbled across the story of a political sex scandal in Sydney in 1829. I was up for a new challenge, so I decided to write the story as "popular history". But I’d never had any writing training and I hadn't studied history at university so I hadn’t been taught to write history in the usual dry academic way.
Astonishly, my unfinished manuscript was picked up in a matter of weeks by the first mainstream publisher I approached. Even more astonishly, they paid me a large advance for the rights to publish it
In 2006, An Irresistible Temptation: The true story of Jane New and a colonial scandal reached the bookshops. It sold thousands of copies and received critical acclaim, even from the academic history community.
The genealogical community asked me to help them write interesting family histories. And so began my journey as a professional writer and as a writing teacher.