ZINSSER: One of the saddest sentences I know is, “I wish I had asked my mother about that. I wish I had asked my father about that.” Writers are the custodians of memory so it’s extremely important to get to people, interview your parents, your grandparents. Don’t worry what anybody else thinks. The important thing is to be a recorder of the past. But it’s very important work, I think, writing family history, whether anyone ever sees it or not.
William Zinsser, author of the classic “On Writing Well,” died this past week. NPR ran a tribute to Zinsser, re-airing a 2006 interview with him. He had updated his book to include a chapter on writing memoirs, and he spoke about the need to know the stories of our loved ones before it was too late. I agree with Zinsser – it breaks my heart to meet people who say, “oh, I wish I had known about your services last year, before I lost my dad…” Here’s to William Zinsser’s legacy as a great writer and as an advocate for recording your stories.