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A Pioneer on the Island of Catalina in 1900

Writing can be such a cathartic experience when looking back on your own life – or in the case of Susan Keys, remembering the life of her grandmother, Julia Vera Keys, an early pioneer on the island of Santa Catalina.

When my close friend, Susan Keys, mentioned that her grandmother was born on Catalina Island in 1900, the journalist and news writer in me instantly came out. I knew this was a story I needed to work on and create – and that’s what I did.

Susan’s grandmother, Julia, was one of four children born to Alma and Julius Splittsoesser from 1900 – 1910 when Julius was the foreman of the rock quarry operating on Catalina Island, 20 miles off the coast of Southern California. At that time, there were no other children or families living on the northeast end of the island and no schools, hospitals or stores. In fact, few people lived on the island at all during that time period. The Splittsoesser children were, most likely, born at home then homeschooled, living an isolated, subsistence lifestyle with few toys or treats and only each other for company.

As Susan recounted her early memories of her grandmother, I began asking her further questions about her family and more memories came forward. With her stories and additional research I was able to do, with the help of the Catalina Island Museum, I created a short, ten page story that led from one generation to another with a common theme throughout them all.

Everyone has a story to tell – it’s just a question of which stories you want to recall and memorialize about yourself and others who have had a profound effect on your life. While many people have interesting stories, it’s always sad when they pass on without having shared them with others.

Writing one’s memoirs doesn’t have to be a long process – it can be done over a few week’s time. It also doesn’t have to be tedious. When I write stories for others, I ask the questions and they just need to provide me with responses. They can tell me as much or as little as they want. Sometimes, what they don’t say is as important as what they do say.

Memoir writing is beneficial to the person whose telling the story as it allows them to reflect on their life and to see how rich a life they’ve led, even if they haven’t achieved all of their goals and dreams. And even if someone is writing their memoir for themselves, and not for a wider audience – it provides time for them to reflect on their accomplishments and to relive happy, loving memories. In Susan’s case, we were able to bring not only Julia to life, but Julia’s parents, sisters and children through these stories.

As for me, I was pleased to be able to write about the life of this wonderful, young woman, and recognize her as one of the early pioneers on Santa Catalina Island at the turn of the century. There weren’t many stories written about women from that time – not like we have today. Stories are ageless and so beneficial to learning where our values come from and who we are, as a result of those who came before us and many are waiting to be told.

For more information, please visit: www.writerpatkramer.com.

Writing Family Memoirs: MEMOIRS CAPTURE SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENTS IN FAMILY HISTORIES

One of the most interesting aspects of my work is in writing family memoirs by interviewing the eldest member of the family and capturing the significant moments of their lives. I am honored to provide this service to people all over the world through telephonic interviews as well as Skype interviews, and sometimes in person. By doing these interviews, I am able to record stories from senior family members whose legacies then live on to benefit future generations.

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a variety of interesting people, such as:

  • Lawrence, a wealth advisor and investment broker who wanted his family’s ethics and values to be preserved for future generations
  • Vito, an Italian-American banking official whose very colorful memories of growing up on Long Island may someday become a comedic screen play
  • Gloria, a psychotherapist in Burbank, whose traumatic journey to her present career began with her parents sending her from Iraq to America, all alone, at the age of six to attend boarding school
  • Israel, a Chicago-born Hasidic Jew who defied his family by choosing a career path other than that of a rabbi, breaking their centuries-old lineage of high – ranking religious leaders

Everyone has a story to tell, whether of family members who fought in the war, grew up during the depression, or survived difficult circumstances that they wish to impart to others.

For my own family history, I chose to blaze paths in all four directions through my mother’s and father’s parents’ lineages, and in doing so, I learned who my ancestors were and what their struggles entailed in coming to America from Russia, Germany and Austria. Like most kids of the Baby Boomer age, I always tried to blend in and not be different, but now as I get older, it’s important to me to know more about the past.

My family histories were interesting and painful, joyous and sad, but most of all, they were enlightening. I got to interview more than 35 surviving members of one branch of my family and about two dozen for the remaining 3 branches. I learned of family feuds that kept going until death, of commonalities in the causes of death of my ancestors, and I learned of tragic losses that people bore and survived. It was fulfilling to produce these stories and it brought the surviving relatives all closer together.

Memories are important – and that’s why I love to write people’s memoirs. Once I capture stories on paper they live on after a person’s life ends. Story telling is an art and involves the ability to compassionately listen to the telling of stories, along with the ability to document and retell it in living color. It is the type of writing I enjoy doing most and the one that gives me the greatest satisfaction in doing what I do as Writer For Hire.

If you are interested in capturing the memories of a loved one, don’t wait too long. Memories can fade as one ages and waiting too long can make a big difference in the accuracy of a story. Most of all, once a person passes, there is often a big gap in information that no one else can fill.

How does it work? The process is relatively easy:

A family member serves as my point of contact with the loved one who I speak with by phone or sometimes in person. I then document their memories and turn it into a story. The process can be as short as one afternoon or it can evolve into a series of conversations that are told in the form of an essay. If more than one person wants to interact with me, I can involve them in the conversation or speak with them privately. For more information on Writing Memoirs, please email: pat@writerpatkramer.com or call me: (818) 353-5699.