I’ve found a partial solution to how to blog while experiencing a COVID-19 pandemic-related form of writers’ block: I’m sharing resources offered by friends/colleagues who are finding their own ways to help “ordinary” people cope in such an extraordinary time.
The COVID-19 pandemic spurred Dawn Roode of Modern Heirloom Books to create several free and low-cost resources, available through her website. “People are valuing the connection more, when we’re disconnected from the world. Hopefully that will be a lasting impact from this experience.”
Particularly useful in these pandemic days might be The Kid Kit: All you need to interview your grandparents, a downloadable PDF booklet that Dawn created with the help of her 10-year-old. Designed for kids 8 years old and up, it offers activity suggestions ranging from cooking with grandparents to a photo scavenger hunt. “There’s something for every mood, from light to deep,” said Dawn. Conversations between generations might be just what’s needed to create some silver linings in these days of shelter-in-place and home-schooling.
Dawn was a lifestyle magazine editor for twenty+ years before discovering personal history work. She was inspired to explore saving family stories when her mother passed away unexpectedly. Dawn’s son was just three months old. “Being a storyteller was what I turned to, to help me cope,” Dawn said. “I wrote about my memories of her, going through photos, and over time, I made a book in her honor.”
Dawn realized how healing that process was. Friends expressed interest, and soon she began using her professional skill set in a new way. “My ideas evolved from primarily doing tribute books about people who had passed away to helping people to capture their stories before it was too late,” she said. “I was able to make it a much more personal process.”
Now, through her business Modern Heirloom Books, she produces coffee-table books that set her apart from competitors through a strong visual approach. “They’re meant to be opened to any page, rather than a chronological telling of someone’s life,” said Dawn.
Dawn frequently uses photographs to prompt her clients to tell stories. “It creates a living heirloom, something that becomes a tool for continued storytelling among the family,” she said. “Once those first few stories are told, often the storyteller is surprised how much they have to say, and by how well received those stories are. Curiosity is sparked. People want to hear even more. That gives me great joy.”
Find these free resources on Dawn’s website:
The Kid Kit – Everything You Need to Interview Your Grandparents
56 Essential Questions to Ask Your Parents to Capture Their Personal History
More Free Resources, including additional lists of interview questions, memoir writing prompts, and one of Dawn’s favorites, How to Use Photographs as Prompts for Writing Life Stories, can be found in this toolkit on Dawn’s website.
© 2020 Sarah White and Dawn Roode
Thanks for featuring these offerings, Sarah! This time of social distancing has proven challenging for everyone physically separated from loved ones. As I mentioned in our chat, I do hope one thing that remains when Covid-19 has gone is the urge to purposefully connect with those people we care most deeply about. It’s so easy to get caught up in our busy day-to-day lives and take our loved ones for granted (I am as guilty as anyone of that!). As the saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder—and we’re all more aware of that than ever these days.