Leslie Albrecht Huber, the author of The Journey Takers, will be speaking at the New England Regional Genealogical Conference in April 2011. I recently had the chance to talk to her about her book.
The Writer Inside
Leslie has wanted to write a book since she was five years old. The desire for writing has been a constant in her life. When she was a twenty-one year old college student she traveled to Germany for an internship. During this trip she researched the lives of her Albrecht ancestors. The story of this family appears in the first four chapters of The Journey Takers. Right after she got home from Germany she started writing her book.
The book has been a work in progress for many years. Leslie re-wrote the book several times as she evolved as a writer. She had never intended The Journey Takers to be a family history. She wanted to write a book that everyone could relate to. She worked to create the story of the ordinary immigrant experience based on her own family.
During the process of writing the book, Leslie participated in a writing group. I was very curious about the impact of the writing group on her work. She joined a writing group while a graduate student in Madison, Wisconsin. The group met twice a month with the participants submitting their materials in advance for critique. Leslie said that one of the things a writing group teaches you is how to handle feedback. She explained, “It’s important for writers to get used to handling criticism. It helps you become a better writer." Participating in a writing group can also build a writer’s confidence.
Leslie cautions, however, that not all writing groups are the same. She recommends attending a few meetings of a writing group before officially joining to make sure there is a good fit. When you find the right group it can be a great support for your writing development.
Distant Relatives Come Knocking
After writing The Journey Takers, Leslie received many emails from distant relatives. She enjoyed hearing from people who shared her same ancestors. Publishing the book has strengthened her ties with living descendants and reminds her of all they have in common.
The people of Wayne County, Utah so strongly identify with parts of her book that to them it feels like their local history. This past summer Leslie drove across country with her children on a promotional tour and got to visit all the American ancestral locations in her book. Some of them she visited for the very first time.
One of things I like best about the book is the inclusion of social history as a tool to bring alive the stories of her ancestors. Leslie explained that when beginning a new genealogical research project she often starts with a general history book of her target geographical region. She feels this is important to put the records she is researching within context. When there is a lack of records, which happens quite often, social history can help us connect to our ancestors in a way that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.
Write Your Own Family History
When it comes to encouraging others to write their own family history, Leslie says, “Just do it! Leave the worry and hesitation behind." Your family history doesn’t need to be a book or even be very long. It just needs to matter to your family. Leslie also suggests not waiting until you have researched “the last piece” of information. Set a goal and a deadline and get started.
Leslie Albrecht Huber will be presenting “Journey Takers: An Inside Look at Immigration Research” on Thursday, April 7, 2011 at 12:15pm at the New England Regional Genealogical Conference (NERGC). NERGC is being held in Springfield, Massachusetts from April 6-10, 2011.