Posts Tagged ‘family history’

History and Your Story

July 8, 2019

We are all connected by history, whether or not those connections show up in our family stories. While reading The Great Influenza (by John M. Barry), my husband realized that his grandfather (pictured above) brought the family from Canada through New York in late 1918, when thousands of people in that region were dying every day from the flu. My husband wondered what his grandparents might have known about the epidemic, since wartime censorship and bureaucratic panic kept some newspapers from reporting the full extent of the crisis. If they knew, how worried were they about bringing their young children into the area? Could this also be the reason why all records of that crossing disappeared – perhaps the clerk who processed them died before he had a chance to file the paperwork?

When you are creating the world your characters inhabit, consider the way history will affect their lives. Even if you aren’t writing a historical novel, the past has a way of intruding on the present. If nothing else, a random connection with some great historical event could explain an odd behavior in a parent or grandparent that shapes your character’s choices.

Luck and wisdom!

Thrift and Character Development

July 23, 2018

Noah Longshore, my dad’s father, supported a wife and four sons as a coal miner during the Depression. What he didn’t know about thrift from being the youngest of twelve children, he learned in the ’30s, and the lesson stuck. He journaled throughout his life, but would be mindful of the paper.

Lani Longshore Noah's diary

Noah’s diary

This page contains entries from four different years. Noah would use the same journal until most of the pages were full. Reading his diary was a completely new experience for me, since I am used to seeing only one year at a time. I wondered how much of what he wrote on any given day was shaped by what he had written the year before, or the year before that.

Then I wondered if this might not be a fabulous technique for character development. What does it tell you about your character if he saves paper as if it were a treasure (which, of course, it is)? What does it tell you about your character that he can review his life in chunks if he so chooses? What questions would it answer about your character if you put together three (or more) events spaced over several years on one page? Let me know if you find the idea intriguing.

Rescuing The Past

February 19, 2014

Sometimes, the universe responds more quickly than you might expect. Last week I announced that I would look at other art forms to explore. This week, I had a chance to do that while rescuing an artifact from my family history.


Lani Longshore red glass


These are the remains of a small red glass that my grandmother – so the story is told – brought back with her from Germany in the 1920s. She was there as part of a delegation of Doukhobors seeking to restore a connection with their co-religionists in Russia who remained when the community was given an opportunity to escape to Canada in the late 1800s. The Bolsheviks would not let them into the country – Germany was as far east as they could go. The glass went to my mother after my grandmother died. My mother sent it to me, but it broke in transit.


I decided to see if I could put it back together. My first stop was Art Glass Studio in Livermore. The owner is a wonderful resource, and generous with her knowledge.  We decided on a solution and a back-up. I would try to glue the pieces together, but with glitter around the edges. The cracks were going to show anyway, so why not add a bit of sparkle to make a statement?


Celebrate your cracks - they make you unique

Celebrate your cracks – they make you unique


She gave me good instructions on which glue to use, and reminded me to hold the pieces together with painter’s tape while they dried.


Lani Longshore glass drying


It worked.


A new family treasure

A new family treasure


The inside

The inside

The back-up solution was to crunch the glass a little more and make a mosaic out of it. I don’t need to do that with this piece, but I’m thinking I would like to learn how to make glass mosaics anyway. Another trip to the Art Glass Studio – this time to sign up for a class – is in my future.