“You should write a book!” How many times have people told you that? They hear stories about your family and know what you’ve been through, the challenges you’ve faced, the marvelous things you have accomplished. Whether you decide to write a book or just a few stories to tell your grandchildren, I applaud your adventure. Few gifts are as meaningful as sharing your story. These eight tips are condense from what I learned by helping others write their stories, and writing my own. Given a month, I’d probably come up with 108 tips, but none would be more worthy than these. 1. Use plain language. The harder you try to wax eloquent, the flatter it falls. In an essay that appeared in Ms. Magazine, Alice Walker describes her mother as a woman “with a look that could make you sit down.” Nine simple words, that’s all, and you not only see Walker’s mother, you hear yourself saying, “Yes, ma’am.” 2. Focus on specific incidents. You can pretty much skip the part about where you were born or what you had for breakfast. Instead, recall a specific incident – the car crash, the birth of your son, a night under enemy fire. Remember the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and share that with your reader. You can write one incident or string a bunch of them together, either way, you’ll have a story. 3. Write to an adoring reader. This could be an imaginary character, a friend or grandchild. My reader is a stuffed gorilla named Alfred who loves everything I write and never corrects my grammar. I can correct the grammar later, if I want to. What I need is someone who lets me be me so I can write without getting all stogied-up about it. 4. Forget about “what really happened.” If you and five people were present at an event, you’d have six stories about it and none of you would be able to convince the others that yours is the true one. So just write it the way you remember it. Later, in the cool light of day, you can decide whether you want to edit, share, or save it for awhile. 5. Ditch the agendas. You can’t deliberately teach, save or scold anyone with your writing. When you try, the veil of story thins and the reader sees through it. What you can do is share your story – the things you did, without the message – and let the readers reach their own conclusions. 6. Write the story you want to write. Everyone has at least one story that scratches at them, saying “Write me! Write me!” For me, it’s my relationship with my father, and the incident that shows it is the day I ran my brand new three-wheeler down the hill, into a car. I can still smell the warm engine and feel my dad’s hands on my ankles, pulling me out from under the car. And I still have the scar. 7. Keep your writing to yourself until you’re finished. You can get feedback from your writing group, but not from family and close friends. This is one type of writing that’s best done in isolation. 8. Think of a nice way to package it. You might end up with a blockbuster novel, but just in case that doesn’t happen immediately, give your story a nice cover or put it in a binder or pay to have it printed. The author of Writing About Your Life, William Zinsser, said his father sent copies of his memoir to everyone in the family, including the babies too little to read. What a gift! Your writing is a gift only you can give. Judy Bridges is an author, writing coach and founder of Redbird Studio writing center in Milwuakee. Her writing guide, Shut Up & Write!, is filled with practical advice about writing and the writers’ life. It is available at bookstores, on-line book sellers, local libraries and Judy’s website redbirdstudio.com.