Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => Family and Children => Topic started by: Thipu1 on May 21, 2013, 09:59:06 AM

Title: MIL's Memoir
Post by: Thipu1 on May 21, 2013, 09:59:06 AM
When we last visited MIL she was sad that, in their TY notes, no one in the family had thanked her for the memoir of her early life she had included with holiday gifts.

A memoir?  We never saw it.  We would certainly have thanked her if we received something as personal as that. 

It turned out that she had given a print-out to a visiting Grand Daughter in Law to pass along to the rest of the family.  Unfortunately, the GDIL in question is a bit of a ditz and never got around to having copies of the memoir made and sent to other family members. 

When we were last there, MIL still had the whole thing in her computer so we helped her print it out and took a copy home. It's very interesting because it covers her memories from early childhood until the time she came to the USA in 1937. 

We've talked to others in the family and no one else seems to  have a copy.  That gave us an idea.

Would it be a good idea to retype and format MIL's memoir into a nice, little booklet for distribution at the family gathering? We think so.  The thing is only 24 pages and we only need to get about a half dozen copies.  That's something a local copy shop could easily do for little money in a short time. Seeing her memoir distributed would be a lovely surprise for MIL.   

The problem is that there are things off with the text.   In places, the same incidents are repeated.
  There are also errors in grammar and spelling. This is only to be expected by a woman in her 90s writing about her childhood.

  It also reflects the way MIL speaks and writes.  We want to preserve MILs authentic voice but we don't want to make her a laughing stock to future generations. 

Does anyone here have any ideas about how we can edit MIL's memoir in a judicious and respectful manner? 
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: artk2002 on May 21, 2013, 10:01:18 AM
I don't have any advice, but I'll be looking on with interest. I have my dad's memoir that I still need to edit and distribute to the family.
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: Outdoor Girl on May 21, 2013, 10:07:07 AM
I would leave the authentic voice aspect alone.  But I would correct typos and obvious misspellings.  A word spelled the way MIL would say it, I'd leave alone.  (For example, if she always said 'sammich' rather than 'sandwich', I'd leave it.)  If the grammar isn't part of the authentic voice aspect, I'd correct it.  But if it was, I'd leave it alone.

My Mom was a homecare nurse.  A patient of hers gave her a serious of books the patient had written about her life.  They were bound but self published.  They were fascinating to read, despite the minor spelling and grammatical differences with modern speech.  So I think it is a great idea to have this done.  Make up a few extra booklets, just in case.  You never know who might be interested.
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: Hmmmmm on May 21, 2013, 10:14:02 AM
I'd leave as much of the original as possible but correct typos.

Add an intro to set the background on when the stories were written, something like this.

"This original text was written by MIL in 2013 when she was X age. These stories reflect her experiences and memories from her early childhood through immigration to the US. We hope you and future generations will enjoy reading these stories which reflect much of MIL's engaging personality and unique perspective."
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: Mamaduck43 on May 21, 2013, 10:15:01 AM
What a treasure to have and to share with the family...  Years ago, I gave my mother and MIL a hardcover book to fill in with memories,  photos and recollections of their lives...  My mother spent long hours and much effort on filling the pages, and even had to staple extra pages into sections that needed expanding...  It is written in a rainbow of inks and some pencil and gets repetitive in spots - - it is written in her voice and it is the one thing that I would grab if the storm sirens go off!!!!  On the first page is printed a caveat - - "This book is made up of my memories, and my thoughts...  I did not take the time to edit them and any errors or mistakes are totally mine, but they are MINE....  I write this with love and hope that it will be a vehicle for answering the questions about why and how I do things...  I hope that you and future generations will enjoy this rememberance and will do the same for the generations to come...."

Sadly, when we went through my MIL's home after she passed, we found an untouched volume, tucked away with other gifts that we had selected for her with much thought and love - - that she never used at all.....

My thoughts are to add a preface similar to the above and leave her words as she wrote them - - that is part of her that is irreplaceable....  Take care.....
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: padua on May 21, 2013, 10:34:38 AM
i did this for my father a few years ago and left the text alone as that was how he told his story. he loved it. i also included a caveat on the back that he was currently living volume II and the next addition will be out in a few years. i love these self-publishing websites.
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: ladyknight1 on May 21, 2013, 10:34:48 AM
That is such a very nice thing to have of someone. I am glad you found it, Thipu, and I am glad you are going to pass it on. I would love to have journals from a family member, but I have not yet found them.
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: TurtleDove on May 21, 2013, 10:39:46 AM
Oh, for crying out loud, I have something in my eye.   :'(How wonderful!  I agree - correct obvious mistakes but leave it as intact as possible and I love the introductions suggested by other posters.
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: Thipu1 on May 21, 2013, 10:57:57 AM
Thanks,, everyone.

You've given us plenty of good ideas. 

I'd like to share with you all MIL's memory of a photograph taken of her shortly before her High School graduation and her journey to the USA. 

'On that rock at the Western Mountain I was experiencing a magic moment of my own.  The world was all my own.  I was thinking of the Universe; looking at the sky; breathing the clean air; feeling the wind blowing my hair;and dreaming of what my future could be'.   
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: ladyknight1 on May 21, 2013, 11:14:41 AM
I also have something in my eye. What a way with words!
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: Calistoga on May 21, 2013, 11:23:13 AM
Add a little note at the beginning saying that the words are exactly as she wrote them because you felt it was important to capture her spirit. I might touch up misspellings or obvious typos(To avoid confusion), but leave grammar and colloquialisms be.
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: cicero on May 21, 2013, 12:06:50 PM
lovely idea! and if you can stick a few photos in here and there, so much the better.
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: BeagleMommy on May 21, 2013, 12:13:23 PM
I think that eye thing is contagious.  How lovely.  I agree with correcting obvious spelling/grammatical errors (i.e. there vs. their), but leave everything in her voice.
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: lady_disdain on May 21, 2013, 12:16:33 PM
I would correct the typos, at the most. I would certainly leave the repetitions - it is her story, as she told it. If she repeated things, then it shows how important that event was. If future generations will laugh at that, then shame on them.
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: NutellaNut on May 21, 2013, 12:17:03 PM
I did this with a collection of poems, songs, and stories that my grandmother wrote, and I corrected typos and certain grammatical errors, but left most of it as she had written, even if as an editor I thought it needed work.  I wanted it to represent my Nana's truest self.

But I had somewhat different considerations because we only found them when she passed away.  Everyone loved seeing it at her memorial.

Needless to say, I wish with all my heart that I'd been able to make that booklet for my Nana when she was still alive to see it and to hear how much her friends and family loved what she had written.  Please go ahead and do this for your MIL.
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: cwm on May 21, 2013, 12:17:29 PM
One of my most treasured memories I had growing up was a book of poems that my great-grandmother had written and self published. This was put out in the late 80s or early 90s, but she had made sure that each family unit had several (for future generations). There were plenty of grammar and spelling errors in with the poetry and stories behind them, but nobody would think of correcting them because that's how Grandma M was. I have very few memories of Grandma M in person, she died when I was still fairly young, but those books introduced me to the person she was and how she grew up, including not having grammar and punctuation that was up to date.

I'd say for the purpose of clarity (where parts are repeated several times) it would be okay to edit one telling of the story out, but leave everything else in, mistakes and all. It's much more personable that way, and you never know how many future children would really love reading those mistakes and connecting with your mother in law.
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: CocoCamm on May 21, 2013, 01:12:32 PM
Personally I wouldn't change a thing.
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: mime on May 21, 2013, 01:28:37 PM
I agree with correcting typos, but nothing more.

What a beautiful thing to share!
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: Hmmmmm on May 21, 2013, 01:30:41 PM
Thanks,, everyone.

You've given us plenty of good ideas. 

I'd like to share with you all MIL's memory of a photograph taken of her shortly before her High School graduation and her journey to the USA. 

'On that rock at the Western Mountain I was experiencing a magic moment of my own.  The world was all my own.  I was thinking of the Universe; looking at the sky; breathing the clean air; feeling the wind blowing my hair;and dreaming of what my future could be'.

Oh, wow. Her writing is so poetic. I'm sure your family will always treasure these stories.
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: cicero on May 21, 2013, 01:33:42 PM
i wanted to add: I have someplace a little photo album with photos of my late grandma baking her famous yeast cake. my cousin took the pictures and wrote down the recipe, all "a pinch of this", "as much flour as it takes", and "little pats of butter"... I love that booklet!
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: Outdoor Girl on May 21, 2013, 01:43:36 PM
When my Mom was dying, I spent a lot of time in her hospital room, going over a lot of the family recipes and making notes.  After she died, I wrote them up into a cookbook, complete with stories and little quotes, a la Erma Bombeck.  We had a lot of them printed and sold them to raise money for a charitable cause of my Mom's, as well as giving a lot of them away to family and friends.

One of the nurses my Mom had worked with bought one of the books.  I ran into her about 6 months later and asked if she'd made anything out of it.  'No,' she replied, 'but I've read it four times.'

That meant a lot to me and I think your MIL will be tickled for everyone to read her musings.
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: Miss Unleaded on May 21, 2013, 01:47:42 PM
My grandfather died recently.  He used to tell me lots of funny stories about my dad when they were all growing up on the farm.  I always wished I had written them down or got him to write them down, but I could never remember the details.  And then he left us :(

I really wish I had had something like this from him.  I agree with the others, correct obvious spelling mistakes but leave everything else at it is.  You will treasure it forever.
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: MommyPenguin on May 21, 2013, 02:48:24 PM
I agree with the others, correct spelling mistakes and obvious typos/grammatical mistakes and leave the rest alone.  And if you can, include as many photos as possible.  That would make it a real, wonderful keepsake.

I used to participate in a writing forum, and we had two kinds of editors.  There was one sort of personal editor who would help you work with your story in the early stages.  They would point out things like repetition, poor grammar, bad characterization, contradictions in the plot, deux ex machina, the works.  They'd really work with you on getting your story to where it needed to be.  Not everybody used one of these personal editors.  Then, when you were ready to submit your work to the forum, you were *required* to send it to a general editor.  The general editor *only* edited for spelling mistakes, grammatical mistakes, and typos.  Anything else, even if they noticed it, they were to leave alone.  This made sure that the finished works on the forum were at least readable, but it allowed people to have their own voices and not feel like their story was being taken over by somebody else.

In this case, I think you basically need to be the general editor.  You're fixing up only those things that really stand out and are pretty much objective rules of writing.  You aren't rearranging the story, editing out parts that are repetitious, shortening stories that are too long, adding detail to a story that lacks it, or anything like that.  You're just making it readable, but leaving the original voice intact.  I think that's the goal that you want to aim for.  Plus pictures.  :)
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: sleepy59 on May 21, 2013, 02:53:18 PM
I agree with all the posters who say to correct the spelling and grammar but leave the rest in her voice.

My great grandad wrote a memoir of his childhood that my mum has typed up for people.  I have a copy and my dad has the original which was written in a school notebook.  It makes fascinating reading, all about life in the East End of London in the late 1800's!
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: LizC on May 21, 2013, 03:32:36 PM
Here's what I'd do:

Keep her own words, but organize the stories fairly chronologically. Correct major mis-uses, but don't eliminate her own voice.

Add photographs (if they're scanned at 300dpi or higher, you'll get great photo reproduction in the print version). Add a family tree, and a list of people mentioned (with a note on who/how they're related.) Add a few maps.

You may find it becomes larger than a small booklet, but you can still have them printed very economically! You could even look at doing special hard-bound books through a service like LULU, where individuals can buy their own print-on-demand copy.

I'm doing something similar with my husband's grandmother's poetry. It's so much fun!
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: LifeOnPluto on May 22, 2013, 06:29:01 AM
Memoirs are great! Both my grandmother and great-aunt wrote memoirs when they were in their seventies, and I'm so glad we have their stories recorded.

But I will add a word of warning.

My grandmother's memoirs were well structured. Her recollections were set out in a logical order. Her prose wasn't perfect, but it flowed well.

By contrast, my great-aunt's memoirs were scattered and rambling, almost to the point of incoherence. Her stories jumped around. Her writing style was very convoluted. (Note, my great aunt had no issues with senility when she wrote her memoirs; she is simply not a very good writer).

As a result, guess whose memoirs get read more often, and discussed the most, in my family?

I think it would have been a kindness if someone had sat down with my great-aunt, and encouraged her to structure her memoirs a bit better, and write in a plainer style. Because she had some great and funny stories. But sadly, because they were poorly written, the impact was lost. If I were you, I'd consider doing the same thing for your MIL. Offer her your services. Tell her you love her memoirs, and that you'd love to sit down with her to "tidy things up" and make sure her little book is able to clearly reach out to future generations.
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: Thipu1 on May 22, 2013, 09:24:26 AM
Thanks to everyone for the wonderful input. 

While she was writing this, MIL was involved in a memoir workshop so the basic story is well-structured and coherent.  Aside from obvious typos, the only thing that we need to do is reformat  the text.

We have no photographs from the period but there's a distant cousin on the west coast who has taken on the job of family historian.  I'm sure he'll send us photos and additional information if we ask. 

There are later stories that are independent.  They're a little rougher in style but can be added as addenda to the main memoir with minimal changes.  Unfortunately, MIL is not the best of typists. 
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: 2littlemonkeys on May 22, 2013, 12:40:59 PM
One of my cousins sat down with my now late grandmother and asked her to tell Cousin about her life while Cousin recorded it.  Cousin later wrote it all out in a book format and it's one of my dearest treasures.   My mom is the youngest of many and I always saw my grandma as a very prim and proper woman.  I was surprised at some of the stories, LOL.  Turns out she had a few adventures.
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: KenveeB on May 22, 2013, 12:59:15 PM
I would remove the obvious typos but otherwise leave it intact to best preserve your MIL's voice. I love the PP's suggestion of adding in a few family pictures and a family tree if you have time, but anything would be wonderfully treasured!

A few years back, after reading "The Greatest Generation", my dad did interviews with the folks from that generation in our family. (People like my grandparents, my great-aunt, the elderly family friend, etc.) He bound them all together and gave them out to the rest of us. It was really interesting reading who did what during WWII, like the family friend who was a Rosie the Riveter or my great-uncle's experiences in Japan. That's definitely something I treasure, and will even moreso as those family members pass away so their stories aren't available anywhere else.
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: amylouky on May 22, 2013, 01:31:49 PM
Just a thought, it sounds like MIL is still with it, so can you just ask her if she'd like for you to proofread it?
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: Thipu1 on May 22, 2013, 02:23:37 PM
That's a good idea but this is intended to be a surprise for MIL.

We're all getting together for a family gathering in June.  This was MIL's idea.  She wants us to make a video of all her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to be shown at her Memorial  Service after she dies.

I recently found out that MIL's Memoir material was sent to Ditzy over a year ago to be edited and sent to family members.  The material was sent but Ditzy never did anything with it.    She might get her nose a bit out of joint when we present the booklet at the gathering but frankly, I don't care.

Nothing in the material is the least embarrassing to MIL and the stories are too good to keep in a folder.       
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: amylouky on May 22, 2013, 02:34:35 PM
Oh, sorry, I somehow missed that it is to be a surprise in your op. I thought since she thought they had already been distributed (at the holidays) that she knew you were going to fix Ditzy's mistake by distributing them.
In that case, then, I wouldn't change anything other than typos. Even misspellings and grammatical mistakes, because they are MIL's words too. :)
That sounds beautiful, I have no grandparents left and I really wish that I had something like this from them. Good luck!
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: Thipu1 on May 23, 2013, 09:01:14 AM
Why do these  things always spiral out of control? 

We've just found manuscripts of children's books that MIL wants published. Should I include those? 

  There are very few family photographs of MIL from the period because, as the third child of five, she was pretty much ignored.  Because of extended families, the family tree would have to be about the size of an living room rug to get everybody in. 

Thank again to all.  We're trying to keep this as simple as possible while including as much as we can. The suggestions are all good and we need to figure out what fits and what doesn't.  It will work.  It just takes a little time and thought.   

 

Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: KenveeB on May 23, 2013, 01:14:11 PM
I wouldn't include the children's books as part of the memoir. Let that be separate, then maybe you can print out the children's books someday too. But I think it's just distinct from the memoir, which is about MIL's memories and experiences.
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: LizC on May 24, 2013, 12:21:50 AM
I'd do the memoirs now, and keep the children's stories separate. In fact, do them all in one volume, and see about Print-on-demand (such as done through LULU.com), but do all your own layout, art, etc (any artists among the grandkids? Custom goodies!) Don't get sucked into the vanity press market; you can do some nice homegrown book design with desktop publishing. If it were for a wide audience, that's different, but these are lovely hardcopies of sentimental things. Print-on-demand is fantastic for that. You don't need an ISBN, etc... just the basic "upload PDFs, choose book features, print and bind X copies, please."
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: Thipu1 on May 24, 2013, 09:04:17 AM
MIL did her own illustrations.  She isn't a great artist but the drawings might have a certain charm for the family. 

The stories aren't really anything that would be appealing to modern children. One is a story about how the evergreen trees became evergreens and the other is about a Saint Bernard who was a noted moocher in the town where the family lived. 

We'll think about those for the Holiday season.

Again, everybody, thanks for the great stories and excellent suggestions.     
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: Lynn2000 on May 24, 2013, 10:43:45 AM
It sounds like a lovely idea to professionally reproduce and distribute MIL's writings, recollections, and art. Personally, I balk at the surprise aspect; but I know that's part of your point, so you are the best judge of whether MIL would really like that or not. If I were the writer I would want to know what was being done with my work and how it was going to be distributed. If she already gave it to Ditzy, expecting it to be copied and distributed, she should have no qualms about you doing that job instead, but why keep it a secret? She's apparently hurt to think it already went out and no one cared, so maybe if you say, "Actually, there was a mix-up with Ditzy, and no one got copies. But, we thought we'd do XYZ, and distribute copies at the family reunion this summer! Would you like that?" Then you could ask her if she wanted to do any additional editing, or have you do any, before you print it.

Also, I would suggest making "a lot" of copies, especially if it's just a small booklet. They might get lost or damaged over the years, and you might find that in ten years, someone you wouldn't have even considered interested in it really wants one. Having recently started doing some serious genealogical work for my family, I would treasure something like this even for a somewhat distant relative I never knew, and would want to distribute it further, like by putting it on a personal homepage or a site like Ancestry.com. So perhaps think about future uses like that, and ask MIL if she would be okay with that--you could put a note at the front saying she gives permission to distribute it freely among family and other interested parties, or something.

Also I would make sure you have an electronic copy (like a PDF) that you pass around to basically anyone who has a computer, and back it up several places.
Title: Re: MIL's Memoir
Post by: MorgnsGrl on May 24, 2013, 10:49:16 AM
I would leave the authentic voice aspect alone.  But I would correct typos and obvious misspellings.  A word spelled the way MIL would say it, I'd leave alone.  (For example, if she always said 'sammich' rather than 'sandwich', I'd leave it.)  If the grammar isn't part of the authentic voice aspect, I'd correct it.  But if it was, I'd leave it alone.

I agree with this!