Lifescapes Memoir Writing

Lifescapes is a memoir writing program designed to help aspiring writers think and write about their life experiences. It was inspired in 2007 by a senior's writing project out of the University of Nevada, and 2023 will mark the 16th year of Lifescapes at Brantford Public Library. 

Participation in Lifescapes

This season's program will feature the leadership of educator and writer Margo Karolyi. Through an engaging blend of informational presentations, creative hands-on activities, and lively discussion, participants will explore the power of memory and work towards creating a unique and memorable short piece for publication in the next annual anthology.

Scroll down for links to past anthologies, or visit the Brantford Public Library to read them in print.

Please contact Robin at for more information or to join Lifescapes.

2022-2023 Presentation and Workshop Schedule 

Note that topics may be subject to change (with notification) and/or the specific needs or requests of the group. Additional sessions may be held as needed.

Sep 27 -- Welcome (Back), Storytellers 

Learn about the history and goals of the Lifescapes program; discover your inner storyteller; uncover your unique voice; begin the process of probing your life experiences in order to awaken your memories. 

Oct 11 -- Envisioning You as Storyteller

Explore the human need to share our stories; engage in creative activities that focus on your individualized vision for writing about your life; delve deeper in your personal history. 

Oct 25 -- Unlocking Your Memory Storehouse

Investigate various methods of unleashing your memories, sparking stories ideas, and expanding on them; consider which of your stories you want to share, and why; initiate the pre-writing process.   

Nov 8 -- Key Elements of a Story: Character, Setting, and Plot (Part I)

Examine the three main elements of a story (character, setting, plot); gain knowledge of how to weave them together to create an effective narrative; practice writing realistic characters and evocative settings.

Nov 22 -- Key Elements of a Story: Character, Setting, and Plot (Part II)

Add to your story-writing skills by probing the elements of illustrative plotting (theme, conflict/ action, pacing); enhance your story-telling skills by implementing the techniques discussed.

Dec 6 -- It’s the Most Memorable Time of the Year

Discuss the importance of holidays and their associated traditions in memoir writing; engage in memory-sharing activities and story-telling around this special time of year; choose a special holiday memory to write about. 

Dec 20 -- Celebrating the Holidays

Share your special holiday memories with your fellow Lifescapers; partake in a seasonal celebration with festive food and drink; write the first draft of your anthology story.

NOTE: participants will be encouraged to make a decision regarding the memoir piece they have chosen for submission to the anthology, and to work on their first draft during the winter break. A full schedule of target dates for various phases of the writing process will be provided, and will be discussed further when the program resumes in January.

Jan 10 -- From First to Second Draft

Writing intriguing beginnings and satisfying endings; connecting them to create continuity in storytelling. 

Jan 24 -- Improving the Middle

Examining theme and throughline in memoir (what's the story about?); the importance of maintaining reader engagement.

Feb 7 -- Discovery

Research tools and resources available in the library (special presentation by Brantford Public Library staff).

Feb 21 -- Show, Don't Tell (Part I)

Dialogue: the function of dialogue in storytelling; how to add dialogue to your memoir; attributes vs. action beats. 

Mar 7 -- Show, Don't Tell (Part II)

Action: understanding how actions speak louder than words; exposition vs. narration; swapping "ly" adverbs for stronger verbs.

Mar 21 -- Strengthen Your Storytelling

Reflective vs. explicit/descriptive voice (often referred to as passive vs. active voice); using metaphors, similes, and clichés.

Apr 4 -- The Final Draft

Assessing readability and story length; tools for identifying and dealing with common revision issues; understanding the difference between revising and editing. 

Apr 18 -- Adding Imagery

Understanding the kinds of images that are appropriate in a memoir; a brief overview of copyright concerns; how to scan ephemera and existing photographs; taking and/or selecting photographs to include in your memoir; sizing, formatting, and compression of digital images; electronically transmitting images for submission. A guest presenter will join us for demonstrations and to answer technical questions.

May 2 -- Editing (Part I)

Structural editing: looking at your story from a 'big picture' perspective; seeking, receiving and implementing feedback.

May 16 -- Editing (Part II)

Copy and line editing: overview/review of the mechanics of writing (including spelling, punctuation, grammar, word choice); the importance of sentence structure, paragraphing, and continuity in readability; tools to turn to for assistance. 

Final drafts are due May 27 for final editing and compilation of anthology.


Resources for Participants

Here is where we’ll post helpful resources, writing exercises, and share past presentation materials (as available). Please check back periodically for new additions, and contact Robin at with suggestions for topics.

Lifescapes Workbook 

This booklet was created to help you reconnect with events from your life. As you fill it out, make note of any stories that come to mind.

What comes to mind might be a family legend, a childhood adventure, or something completely unrelated -- but if it was notable enough to remember, it might also be the basis for your next writing project! 

Don’t worry if you end up with blank spaces. Just do your best to answer the prompts carefully and honestly. (And if there is something you can't answer, ask yourself if there isn't a story in the explanation why.) 

Download the PDF booklet, or download a Word version that you can fill out using Microsoft Word. 

 Getting Started
Watch a Getting Started video, or read this Getting Started document, created for the 2020 group. Don’t forget to download the worksheet first.
 Developing Writing Ideas

Facing that dreaded blank page? Try these writing exercises to help transform your ideas into a story!  

The writing exercises are downloadable as a PDF document or as a fillable Microsoft Word file

 Using Narrative Language

We use narrative language to tell a story in a way that flows well and keeps your reader’s attention.

Watch an introductory video on narrative language created for the 2020 group and download a PDF version of the slides.

 Descriptive Language

We use descriptive language to portray people, places, and things in such a way that readers can visualize and immerse themselves in the writer’s experience.

Watch an introductory video on descriptive language created for the 2020 group and download a PDF version of the slides.

 Ethics in Memoir Writing

Memoirs are all about you … except they’re also about other people.

Created for the 2020 writing group, first is a downloadable PDF document developed to highlight some important considerations for writing ethically and without sacrificing your integrity (or someone else's peace of mind).

Added April 2021, here is another downloadable PDF document on the subject of Ethics in Memoir Writing as presented by guest presenter Mark Leslie Lefevbre.

Techniques for Self-Editing and Revision
Are you nervous about preparing your work for others to read? Download this PDF presentation by Mark Leslie Lefebvre on understanding what to look for when editing your work, and some tools that may help you create your best work possible. For quick reference, download a PDF summary of the main points. 
Genealogy and Local History Resources
Genealogy Research and Reference Tools

Download a PDF version of a presentation on Genealogy Reference Tools, featuring an overview of key terms, calculators, relationship charts, forms, maps, etc.

New to genealogy? Download this Word version of Doing Genealogy Research at the Brantford Public Library (updated May 8, 2020) for places to start, including Vital Statistics, Cemetery Records, local Census and City Directories, our Birth/Marriage/Death Index for the Brantford Expositor, and more!   

 Canadian Archives
Download a PDF version of our introductory presentation on the Canadian Archives, including tips on researching ancestors at Library and Archives Canada, Archives of Ontario, and Archives Canada. 
 Canadian Census Facts

Census records are useful in tracking down an ancestor’s location at a specific time, listing information such as name, age, occupation, place of birth, and religion.

Check out this PDF version of a presentation on Canadian Census Facts document for our favourite tips, suggestions, and little known facts about the Canadian Census.  

 City Directories
This PDF version of an introductory presentation about City Directories shows how city directories can be invaluable when researching past generations. The presentation includes some suggested starting points and helpful hints for understanding the information provided.  
 Finding Death Information
No story of an ancestor's life is complete without knowing when (and sometimes how or where) they died. Our introductory PDF presentation on Finding Death Information highlights some useful sources for determining the particulars of an ancestor’s death, including vital statistics, newspaper notices, cemetery tombstones, and church records. 
 Your History - Online library resources
The Your History section of the Brantford Public Library website can assist you in your local history and genealogy research. Resources include links to Genealogy Websites, the Birth, Marriage, Death Index (Brantford Expositor), Historical Maps, War Memorial Search, and the library’s own Digital Archives.
 Digitizing Your Personal Historical Items at the Library
Introductory Instructional Guides
The Brantford Public Library offers various technologies to help you digitize your photos, videos, and fragile text documents. Note: in ordinary circumstances these technologies are available on a drop-in basis or by appointment. Please call the library to confirm whether the technology you want to use is currently available for access to the public.

In the meantime, familiarize yourself with these resources by downloading these instructional materials:

Introduction to Digital Archiving

How to Scan Your Photos

Using the Café Scanner

Using the Wolverine Slide Converter

Converting Your VHS Tapes to DVD 

Video Excerpts
Selections from 2020 Lifescapes anthology, A Sentimental Journey

Filmed by Jeff Sterne for the Brantford Public Library. Copyright 2020.

Margo (Excerpt from The Night the Sky Turned Orange)

Brenda (Excerpt from A Remembrance Day Poem)

Brian (Excerpt from How the Fresh Start Effect Saved My Life)

Wayne (Excerpt from Vignettes: Glimpses of My Life)

Past Collections

New! 2022 Cherished Memories
2021 Memories In Time 
2020 A Sentimental Journey 
2019 Living Legacies 
2018 Shared Memories
2017 The Moments That Shaped Us
2016 Keepsakes of Our Past
2015 Like Sands Through the Hourglass
2014 Remember When
2013 Footprints in Time
2012 Memorable Times
2011 Roads We've Travelled
2010 A Walk Down Memory Lane
2009 Shades of the Past
2008 The Recollection Collection