Telling Your Story: Preserve Your History Through Storytelling

Jerry Apps 


Jerry Apps, renowned author and veteran storyteller, believes that storytelling is the key to maintaining our humanity, fostering connection, and preserving our common history. In Telling Your Story, he offers tips for people who are interested in telling their own stories. Readers will learn how to choose stories from their memories, how to journal, and find tips for writing and oral storytelling as well as Jerry's seasoned tips on speaking to a live radio or TV audience. Telling Your Story reveals how Jerry weaves together his stories and teaches how to transform experiences into cherished tales. Along the way, readers will learn about the value of storytelling and how this skill ties generations together, preserves local history, and much more.


Reader Activities 

Interviews Become Stories

"I've given my memoirs far more thought than any of my marriages. You can't divorce a book." —Gloria Swanson

In Chapter 5, "Research and How to Do It", Apps talks about the importance of interviews and how to conduct them. 

Ask a member of your family or community to interview them. With their permission, record the interview, then transcribe it. Write a story from their point of view. Don't just copy their interview answers. Rather, try to recreate the tone and feeling of their story in your own style. 

Writing Your Own Story

Apps talks about the necessary components of a story in Chapter 8, "What Every Story Needs". 

The elements Apps deems necessary are:

  • A beginning, middle, and end
  • Characters
  • Dialogue
  • Conflict
  • Suspense
  • Emotion
  • Details
  • Scenes
  • Time and Place
  • Context
  • Shows vs Tells
  • Layers
  • Theme

While Apps believes that all good stories contain all of these pieces, he also believes personal voice and style are what make a story great. 

Watch this short video analysis of Kevin Hart's storytelling style. Use the tips in this video or emulate another storyteller or comedian you like to strengthen your style and voice. 

Tip—Charisma on Demand's other videos are a great place to start.


Sharing Your Story

Now that you've written two different stories, it's time to share and edit one of them. Follow Apps' guidelines for being effective editing buddies on pages 116-118. Check each other's work for the important parts of a story. In a courteous and helpful manner, give your partners or members of your group tips on how they could improve their story and what they did well in their writing. Make notes of parts that made you laugh or smile, and passages that struck you as powerful, funny, or sad. Note passages that felt out of place, boring, fantastical, or unnecessary. Remember to be kind and constructive!

Supplemental Videos and Materials 

Looking back to his childhood growing up on a small dairy farm, Jerry Apps recalls a party at a neighbor's house on a cold winter night.
The portrait of a farm boy's childhood in Waushara County, Wisconsin is told through his personal memories and photos from the community. Apps evokes memories of a time when almost as many Americans lived on farms as in cities, and examines day-to-day rural life.