Parrett Family History

The Parrett Migration: Their Story is America's Story

5 Generations...200 Years of American History...The Parretts were ordinary farmers, lost to the ages--until now...As it turns out, their story is America's story. Winner of the 2015 National Indie Excellence Award for historical biography.





June 25, 1-4 p.m., Orange FamilySearch Library, 674 S. Yorba Street, Orange, CA
3-hour tutorial and interactive critiquing session about writing a family history and memoir



About Breathe Life into Your Life Story

My husband and I collaborated on this book after I had been teaching life story writing for a number of years at a community college in Orange County, California. I intended my book to serve as a kind of manual that showcased the techniques I teach in my classes and seminars. My husband has always been as interested in personal and family histories as I am, and he contributed a number of important ideas to the content of the book and wrote several of the chapters. 

I see the book as an essential read for anyone who aspires to write a life story—but not just any your family and others will actually WANT to read. Too many people live interesting lives, but write bland life stories because they report what they did, but not who they were. Sometimes learning a few writing techniques can make all the difference between ho-hum and a page-turner. Our book discusses "showing" rather than "telling," creating interesting, believable characters and settings, writing at the gut level, alternating scene and narrative, beginning with a bang, and more. 

We illustrate these techniques with excerpts from memoirs written by such pros as Maya Angelou, Frank McCourt, Russell Baker, and many others. Dozens of “Learn by Doing” exercises help readers practice and acquire the skills necessary to breathe life into their own stories. The book has 244 pages and includes an array of original drawings from Amy Reeder Hadley. Signature Books in Salt Lake City, Utah, published Breathe Life in 2007. 


"This is a powerful book--and a kindly one. The authors know the pain of learning to write well and are right beside you through the struggle. The may shake you up a little with their concrete, practical recommendations, but if you stick with them they will make you a better writer. You will learn if only by paying attention to their own fluid style. They show as well as tell."--Richard Bushman, Gouverneur Morris Professor of History Emeritus, Columbia University; recipient of the Bancroft Prize

"From a distance, writing looks easy. I know from personal experience it is not. The Thurstons' fun and useful guide to writing a personal history is full of sensible help and upbeat advice. The quotes alone make entertaining reading; but even more, each chapter is loaded with essential guidelines and good ideas, supported by apt examples. The book helps you bring your life into focus to write an engaging story." --Barbara Renick, professional genealogist and nationally known lecturer, author of Genealogy 101: How to Trace Your Family's History and Heritage

"The authors push the aspiring writer to achieve a victory over fear and uncertainty. Breathe Life is a great introduction to writing that even experienced authors will find helpful. It is highly recommended."--Jeff Needle, AML Reviewer 

"The Thurstons are both experienced writers of family history. Dawn is a writing teacher and Morris a retired lawyer. As a result, this book is unusually creative in trying to teach readers how to write; they have some very good ideas." --Deseret News

"Writing teacher Dawn Thurston and award-winning ancestral biographer Morris Thurston present Breathe Life Into Your Life Story: How to Write a Story People Will Want to Read, a no-nonsense guide to crafting an engaging autobiography. memoir or personal history. Chapters cover how to write at the gut level and reveal one's feelings, what to do and not do when writing about specific places, connecting the events of one's life to history, using suspense and conflict to draw the reader further in, and much more. A wealth of "learn-by-doing" exercises round out this excellent self-improvement guide highly recommended for would-be biographers, and also packed with valuable tips, trips and techniques for aspiring writers of fields."--Midwest Book Review

Publisher:  Signature Books, Salt Lake City, Utah
Authors:  Dawn and Morris Thurston
Illustrator:  Amy Reeder
Paperback: 228 pages
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Foy history writers, it is a "how to" book on combining facts with well written scenes that invite you into the thoughts and dreams of these explorers. You might expect great historical or family photographs, but most people have not seen a contract for an indentured servant or a pay slip for a Revolutionary War soldier. How about the hyperbole of advertisements luring the brave into the uncharted regions of unexplored America? The broad wealth of intriguing information envelopes the characters so that the truth of their lives reads like a wonderful historical novel.