My Dad’s Story
My Dad has been staying with me lately, and he has decided to write a book about his life. I am very encouraging of this plan, as you can imagine, and I told him I would help him to organise the material for him. He has had an interesting life, in Fiji and Australia, and has mixed with a lot of interesting people in both countries.
At first I think he thought that he had to sit down and write the whole thing from beginning to end, ready to be published. He got up one morning and said he had been thinking about how to start it. He wanted to start with the funeral of his late wife, my step-mother, which took place last November, and then go back to the beginning, a time-honoured structure which is none the worse for having been used before.
Write first, rearrange later
I suggested to him that he didn’t have to write it from beginning to end in one go, but should just write episodes as he thought of them. If he remembered something that happened when he was a boy he should write that bit down, and so on. I would then help him to put it all together afterwards; we could rearrange the bits into suitable chapters, and so on.
He seemed greatly relieved. Once the decision to write a book has been made many peopple think that the process is to sit down and write it all at once, from beginning to end. Perhaps fiction is written that way, but factual accounts need not be. A lot of editing and rearranging is usually done on the material before it is ready for publication. He went back to Fiji and no more was said.
Talking instead of writing
The other day he rang me and reminded me of our conversation in which he had said he would write a bit each day, every morning. I don’t remember him saying anything so detailed but I was pleased that he still wanted to go ahead and was committed to that extent.
His idea was that he would prefer to talk into a tape recorder. Every morning he could lie in bed and tape his memories, and then label and send me the tapes. I suggested that tape recorders might be rather thin on the ground these days, and he reminded me of his almost-total inability to deal with technology. I said I would look into something for him to record his stories, and send it to him.
Although this will mean more work for me I don’t mind. To have his voice recorded for posterity would be just as valuable as having his stories written down. I’m sure I can get help with the transcribing from other family members. Well, I hope I can.
So I need to find something that he can manage and that I can play back. He was imagining a little tape recorder like you see in old movies, with little cassette tapes.Even if I could find such a thing, I’d need two so I could play them back.
These days most options are digital, and there is no way that I can see him downloading files to his computer and emailing them to me. He only uses a computer to read the news on a couple of websites, and email is beyond him, despite some lessons from me and others. He just doesn’t want to learn, an attitude common to many, and the danger of files being deleted or overwritten is too great for me to seriously consider this option for him.
So I am deliberating buying two or three MP3 players with recording capability. Whatever I choose will need to be foolproof and let him know when it is full. When he’s finished one he can send it to me, or bring it over next time he’s in the country, and I can give him another one to go on with. Perhaps I can use voice-recognition software to do the transcribing!
If anyone has any recommendations for MP3 players or other such devices I’d be grateful for your comments.