One day in 2004, I was in my office in Portland waiting for someone who’d called to say she had a new project for me. I was a freelance graphic designer, and I assumed she probably wanted help with a brochure or catalog. Shortly after noon, in walked a determined-looking woman carrying a shopping bag full of papers, photos, and notes. She set the bag down in front of me, took a seat, looked at me closely and asked, “Can you make a book out of this?”
I looked at her, looked at the bag of treasures, and couldn’t wait to get going. That was my first personal history project—and when it was finished, I knew I wanted to do more of this kind of work.
Professionally, I have a BFA in graphic design from the Maine College of Art and a BA in Art History from the University of Massachusetts. I’ve studied at the University of Illinois and at Salzburg College in Austria. I’m president of my town’s historical society and I have belonged to and worked for the Association of Personal Historians for fifteen years. I’ve trained as an instructor of Guided Autobiography through the Birren Center for Autobiographical Studies.
But beyond that, I’ve been an offset press operator, a cafeteria worker, a librarian, a factory machine operator, and a published author. I’ve collected postcards, built a house, married a wonderful guy, birthed a son and adopted a daughter, helped my parents downsize, biked across Maine, and coordinated Elderhostel adventures in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Personal history is about stopping, remembering, reflecting, recording. What I’ve written in shorthand about myself is a quick trip; expanding upon it is a greater journey—a longer, absorbing, and satisfying process. Would you like to go beyond your own shorthand life story? Drop me a line!
— Katie Murphy, Portland, Maine
Proud member since 2005.