Friday, November 09, 2012


By Karen Fisher-Alaniz

How to Create a Family Tradition of Story Sharing

My father didn’t begin telling his WWII stories until he was in his 80’s. At the time, I never could have imagined the secrets he’d held onto for so long.  That experience made me aware of all the stories that swirl around us, but remain untold. We can change that - one story at a time. I truly believe that everyone has a story worth telling and a story worth listening to.

Karen's dad in front of his home

Gathering family stories is something that most of us hope to do – someday. But we are busy with our lives. We’re raising kids, caring for our parents, and maintaining a job. We have the best of intentions, but sadly, for some, time will run out while waiting for the perfect moment.

With the holidays fast approaching, now is the time to create a tradition of story sharing that will live on for years to come.  With a little forethought, you can create a family tradition of story sharing that is as synonymous with the holidays as pumpkin pie served with coffee. Whether you have a small family or a large one, creating a tradition is as simple as one, two, three;

Karen and her dad at the Arizona memorial

 1. Create a tradition that fits your family dynamics: This will depend a lot on the ages of your family members. Many families choose to focus on stories of the older generation, such as grandparents. Getting everyone involved makes the tradition more fun, and less work. Perhaps you have teenagers around the holiday table. If so, set up a video camera in a quiet room, and give them a list of questions they can ask.  Maybe you want to give everyone in the family a chance to share. If so, choose a question and ask everyone to take turns answering the question. Young children can help you come up with the questions ahead of time.

 2. Choose a time that conversation naturally occurs: Your family may sit around a large table, enjoying a holiday meal together. Maybe they relax in the family room afterward. Or maybe you enjoy your holiday meal at a favorite restaurant. Carve out a sharing time that fits your family. Choose a time when people are relaxed and chatting naturally.

 3. Honor each story by recording it: Creating a time to share stories is great. But it’s even better if you record them in some way. It can be as simple as starting a tape recorder, taking notes, or using a video camera. The mode doesn’t matter as much as just making sure you do it. Someone can always write the stories up later. For now, just get them recorded in some way. If you need technical help, I highly recommend asking a teenager.

Here are a few questions to get you started;
·       What is your favorite holiday memory?
·       What was your favorite toy when you were little?
·       What games did you play as a child?
·       Who was your favorite teacher and why?

Here are the buy link's for Karen's book, BREAKING THE CODE:

Karen Fisher-Alaniz
After many years teaching special education, Karen Fisher-Alaniz began her career as a freelance writer. Her articles were published in regional and teen magazines. Her personal essays have appeared in CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE NURSES SOUL II, and VOICES OF MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS. But when her father gave her more than 400-pages of letters he wrote during WWII, a new journey unfolded. Over the next several years, he slowly revealed a part of him that Ms. Alaniz could never have imagined; one of intrigue, top secret code breaking, and the traumatic loss that triggered symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), more than 50-years after the war. She wrote about the unintended journey of a father and daughter, and eventually the book chronicling their journey was published. Her memoir, BREAKING THE CODE: A FATHER'S SECRET, A DAUGHTER'S JOURNEY, AND THE QUESTION THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING  was published by Sourcebooks on 11/1/11. Her father, now 91, often accompanies his daughter to book events. Ms. Alaniz lives in Walla Walla, Washington with her family. For more information, visit her website at .

Thanks for stopping by!


Karen Fisher-Alaniz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karen Fisher-Alaniz said...

Thank you for hosting me, Caroline. That first pic of my dad is really special. When I was writing the book, I decided I wanted to see my father's childhood home - where my grandmother, who I never knew, received all those letters he wrote during the war. So, we drove to the little town and found the house. It was a transformative moment in time - just seeing that mailbox brought tears to my eyes.

Anyway, I'd be happy to answer any questions your readers have.Thanks again! ~Karen

Caroline Clemmons said...

Karen, thanks for being my guest today. I know your family is very proud of the book you wrote and the way in which you honored your father.

katsrus said...

Love both the pictures of you and your father. I cannot imagine holding all that in for years. Those are great ideas for remembering traditions. Your book sounds wonderful.
Sue B

Karen Fisher-Alaniz said...

Caroline - You're welcome.

Katsrus - Thank you. It was such a different time. People of the Greatest Generation live up to the name! ~Karen