Make History: Keep A Diary

02 Apr
Photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash
Dear Teachers and Families,

Over the last weeks in my newsletters I’ve shared ways to use writing as a vehicle for self- expression reflection, and escape. Today we are going to talk about writing as a way of recording history. Yes, diary writing is an important primary source. It’s an original piece of information about a particular time in history. So start collecting your ideas, feelings, impressions, drawings, art. Collect it all. 

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Last week I dug out the box that lives under the stairs full of art and writing completed by our girls in their younger years. They are now 21 and 24 years old. 
We parented in a time before devices. We didn’t take daily photos or have videos of our girls as they grew up. I wasn’t one of those super organised parents that kept snippets of hair and my child’s first tooth but because I was always writing, I encouraged my children to do the same and now I’m so glad I did. When that box comes out, so do all the memories.

But yesterday when I was out in the garden, mulling over these strange times we find ourselves in, I realised that box of writing is more than memories. In fact, those pieces of writing are a very real account of life growing up in the 90’s and early 2000’s when we lived in an area where our girls played with the kids in our street, put on backyard concerts and spent more time outdoors. Even the fact that our kids had ‘A Grateful Book’ speaks volumes about the nineties. Gratefulness has always an important value, but it really came into its own in the nineties. Inspired by Oprah, many of us started keeping grateful lists. These snippets of childhood writing also provide e a snapshot of our family life. Our girls knew that poetry could get them out of trouble. If they had done the wrong thing, they wrote a poem and propped it up somewhere visible and waited for mum and dad to read it and eventually calm down.

The Corona Virus Pandemic will eventually pass. The sooner the better. It will become part of our history, both personally, nationally and across the world. As a writer, I always think I’ll remember all the details, but I never do. Our lives and our heads get full and the small details get squeezed out. Usually we’re left with impressions and feelings. When I was in secondary school, I remember writing a fictional diary of a family during the Great Depression in Australia. It was an eerie feeling watching the news last week and seeing the long lines of desperate and anxious people waiting outside Centrelink as a result of losing their jobs. History repeating itself.

A visual diary (unlined) or a lined exercise book is all you need.
Diaries need dates so record the time and date at the top of each entry. These two details are important.
Below I have some prompts to get writers started but you can also just keep a record of how you spent the day and how you felt. There is no right or wrong here.  
If your children are not writing independently, let them draw their responses. You can scribe their words on the page for them. 
You could do this as a family or independently.
Obviously, as a writing teacher, I’m going to encourage you to keep a written account of this time but if writing isn’t a medium that works for your children, keep a visual diary or a vlog or record an audio file. All of these provide first -hand, valuable accounts of living through this time in history. In years to come, these diary entries will provide us with a rich source of information – Life in The Time of Corona Virus. 

Keeping a diary could lead nicely into exploring a range of autobiographical books written for children. For children in Years 3+, I can recommend ‘Boy’ By Roald Dahl. I often read snippets of Dahl’s personal stories in my writing workshops. The Great Mouse Plot is one such story in this book that never fails to get a group of kids hanging on every word.
Ugly by Robert Hoge (children’s edition) is an inspirational read. Older readers might enjoy ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’. You will find a list of autobiographical books in Goodreads. Your local bookshop may still be working online so give them a call. If there is a kindle version of the book, request a free sample and read this first to see if the book is a good match for your child.

12 Writing Prompts To Inspire Diary Writing

What do you miss most about not being able to leave your house?

What do you like most about spending time at home with your family?

What’s scares you most?

What surprising thing have you learnt during this time?

What are you looking for to when this is over?

What are you grateful for?

What would you say to Corona Virus?

What would you do if you were one of the country’s leaders?

What laws would you make to keep people safe and happy?

How do you feel about home-schooling? 

What’s your favourite memory so far?

What’s you least favourite memory so far?

What’s the best advice you’ve heard so far?

What advice would you give someone who might face a pandemic in the future?

I am enjoying reading snippets of writing so feel free to send me an email or share on the Facebook page. (link below) I’d also love to hear from any parents who are writing alongside their kids. 
Happy Writing!

Beth Cregan 

Remember please email me if you have any questions at all or for special requests. I will also post links on my Instagram (write. away.with.me) and Write Away With Me’s Facebook Page. You’ll find social media links in the newsletter. Feel free to post ideas and inspiration so we can all help each other.  

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