Capturing Quake Stories – Where to start?

Like many folk in Christchurch, I tend to stay in my neighbourhood these days, taking solace from the small signs of recovery I see – a wall fixed here, a pile of rubble cleared away, the tradesman’s van outside number 35A that indicates repairs are taking place inside. When I walked past the battered Arts Centre today, earthquake memories came flooding back. The question is what to do about these memories.

Freelance journalist Amanda Cropp has some suggestions. Her workshop ‘Capturing Quake Stories’ gave attendees some techniques for getting these memories down on paper. She believes it is important to do this for two main reasons. Firstly, the quakes are important historial event for our city and if you have younger children they may not remember much about them. Recording earthquake stories will help children understand what they’ve been through. Secondly, it informs people who haven’t lived with Old Bucky since September 2012 what it’s been like for us. Our stories are often not the stuff of headlines. They are the stories of ordinary people living through extraordinary times.

After the quake, Amanda Cropp’s editor at The Australian Women’s Weekly asked her to keep a diary. Some of the stories in it were published in the magazine and received positive feedback from readers who appreciated hearing the human side of the event. Amanda kept writing and went on to publish Shaken, Not Stirred: Family Survival in a Quake Zone.

It doesn’t matter if you haven’t kept your own diary. The author gave us some exercises to start capturing our stories now. She suggested writing about what we ate for dinner on the evening of 22 February and use our senses to record our experience. We brainstormed about what it was like to lose electricity. We wrote about one precious thing that was lost or saved in the quakes. We described a place that had been important to us that had changed. People read their paragraphs, often with shaky voices, but as we kept writing the stories became fluent and fascinating.

It was very apparent that we all experienced the quakes differently and that each person’s story is valid. We’re living in history and our experiences are important.

Once you’ve written your quake stories, you can self-publish your work for your family and friends.

If you’d like to share your story, why not donate your earthquake story to Christchurch City Librarie. Use this form or add your material to the Canterbury Earthquake Kete..

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