Austin senior citizens learning to write their life stories

Ralph and Ellie Erchinger read the book of family memories they've written. KXAN Photo/ Alyssa Goard.
Ralph and Ellie Erchinger read the book of family memories they've written. (KXAN Photo/Alyssa Goard)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Residents of the Buckner Villas senior living community in north Austin packed into a workshop Wednesday on how to become the authors of their own stories. The workshop gave attendees tools to get started chronicling their life memories.

The Buckner Villas residents are preparing to write stories about their parents for an entire issue of the community’s magazine, the Green Ridge Gazette. Many of the attendees said they had tried to write memoirs or records of family history, but got overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start.

Jack Brandon, 87, said that he and his wife Jayne have wanted to write their stories for a while, but had trouble beginning the process.

“I have some ideas I’ve written some things, but it’s not organized,” Jack Brandon said. He explained that he’d like to share stories about snake hunting with his dad living in a time when radio was the main form of home entertainment.

“I like to write, I need to take time to write,” said Jayne Brandon. “It was helpful the way [the instructor] talked about starting off with something interesting that makes people want to read it.”

Some of the people at the workshop already know the power of preserving memories in writing.

Ralph and Ellie Erchinger took several years to compile their own book, full of over a hundred pages of memories.

“I hope that our children grandchildren and future generations will benefit from these times happenings and people,” Ellie read aloud from the book. The Erchinger’s book contains memories of their international travels, time spent as an Air Force family and stories of their four children.

“It’s important for us to just write stories, anything that maybe was a little bit exciting in our lives, it might be a little exciting for those after us,” Ralph Erchinger said.

The Erchingers book even included appendices which referenced files and photo albums. But Fran Erickson who ran Thursday’s workshop explained that you don’t have to go to that level of detail.

She recommends starting with one specific, personal memory or the most recent memory you can recall. The key, she says, is to dive into writing without feeling intimidated. That’s why she also recommends writing in the same way you talk, and not worrying about spelling, grammar and punctuation.

“Two hundred years from now when your story is being read, no one is going to pay any attention to that, they want to know what’s in your heart.” Their stories will be included in the community’s October magazine for family history month.

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