Local author to speak on the value of writing memoirs and family histories

Local author, historian and newspaper columnist T.W. Paterson will speak on “Legacy: the Gift That Keeps On Giving,” at the Duncan branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library, 2 p.m., April 3. The title of the presentation is Paterson’s definition for one’s life story or family history written for the family archives.

“As an author, historian and publisher, I take great exception to that put-down of anyone who self publishes, as indulging in ‘vanity press’. For most of the writers I’ve had the privilege of working with over the past 40 years, it’s no such thing,” Paterson said.

“Usually, they had something they wanted to say – something that was not only important to them but that they believed worth sharing with the world. Where’s the vanity in that?”

Experience has taught him that one doesn’t have to be a professional to write well: “If you believe in something strongly enough, and you know your subject well enough, the eloquence can come naturally with, perhaps, some editing assistance. I helped a man, in his 70s, with a Grade 3 education, publish his book about a family tragedy. Everyone I know who’s read it was favourably impressed. And he’s no exception.”

Genealogy has become immensely popular but a family tree goes only so far.

“No amount of research can fill in all the gaps. That’s why I urge people to record their own life story for future generations of their family if not for the world at large,” says Paterson.

“Almost weekly, I’m asked to interview some elderly person with a great story to tell. But I can’t give them the time that would be involved.

“So we’re losing them and we’re losing their life’s experiences that should have been recorded. With today’s technology, there’s simply no excuse for this happening. I want to show people how easily it can be done, and how vitally important it is that it is done.”