Author standing in front of her grandparents' former gabled villa in Liberec in 2002

That’s me in front of my grandparents’ former house in Liberec, Czech Republic, August 2002

I’m happy to share that I’m featured on this week’s edition of the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast. It was a lot of fun talking to Lisa Louise Cooke about my book How to Write Compelling Stories from Family History.

Here’s a snippet of the interview with tips on how to get started writing a story from family history. And more importantly, how to make that story interesting:

I mention recipes as a great starting point to begin writing a family history story.

And so I wanted to share an example of using a recipe to capture a bit of family history, namely My Grandmother’s Original Recipe for Hazelut Torte Which Happens to be Kosher for Passover, published in Tablet Magazine.

This is the handwritten hazelnut torte recipe in the notebook my grandmother left for us grandchildren.

In the episode I also emphasize that writing in scenes makes stories more engaging.

Learning how to write scenes is its own challenge, which I discuss in detail in How to Write Compelling Stories from Family History. But as an example, in order to flesh out scenes, it helps a lot if you have visited locations that are important in your family history.

I wrote parts of Jumping Over Shadows from my grandfather’s point of view. Many details are based on my visits to Liberec, his hometown in the Czech Republic, where the story takes place. Fortunately, my grandparents’ former house is still there, and I was able to visit it.

grassy backyard with fruit trees and white house in the background with three people standing in the yard

That’s me in the red pants, on my first visit in 2002. I’m in the backyard of my grandparents’ former house with the owners at the time. From the building materials lying about you can see they were renovating. That’s why they weren’t comfortable showing us the inside. But my brother and I were content just to see the backyard. It still had the fruit trees our grandmother so often mentioned in her tales!

Two published stories grew out of that seminal first visit, way before I even conceived of writing my book Jumping Over Shadows:

Images Past and Present is the story of that first trip back to my grandparents’ homeland and all the complicated history that trip brought to life. It came out in the literary journal Under the Sun and was one of my very first publications.

Later, I was able to pay tribute to the importance of their house in ‘Thrown Out’ of the Family Home, published in the Wall Street Journal.

By the way, this illustrates one of the main points in my book How to Write Compelling Stories from Family History, which Lisa also asked me about at the very beginning of the podcast interview:

When you embark on writing stories from family history, focus one story. Just one short piece.

Once you have mastered one story, write another. Eventually, those stories might grow into a book. Like they did in my case.

Because the interview appears in the subscribers-only premium podcast, I can only share an excerpt. However, Lisa Louise is generously offering a unique 30% discount coupon code on a 1 year Genealogy Gems Premium Membership for my readers:

Here is the link to subscribe, and please use the code ANNETTEGENDLER for the discount.

I hope all this gets you excited to jump right into getting one family history story down on paper. And if the podcast brought you to my site, please note that you’re always welcome to submit further questions to my Advice Column. Or comment below! I am always happy to hear from readers.