Melbourne Conference: Writing Ancestral Stories

Following Ambassador Yuval Rotem’s family history journey, Australian author Arnold Zable discussed techniques involved in writing family stories.

His own family is from Bialystok; his books and stories reflect those roots.

At the heart of good writing, he said, is imagination. He clarified this by focusing on the meaning of “image,” and the process of creating and seeing the image – of a place.

“If you can ‘see’ it, you can write it,” he said. Walking the streets of that place, talking to people who came from there – all adds to the “image.” Newspapers of the time provide more material and photographs. “If I can’t ‘see’ it,” he said, “I know more research is needed.”

He described a Melbourne place called Cafe Scheherezade, named for the woman who told 1,001 stories. Zable said the place was once – it no longer exists – filled by people, each of whom could tell their own stories – just as many and just as well.

He discussed the scenes that Ambassador Rotem used in his own family history journey, describing vignettes and memoirs, all of which provide missing links in an ancestral chain, and help to explain the mystery of those missing links.

Zable advised researchers to look for their ancestry, to find where they come from and to share their stories.

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