By Karen Pierce Gonzalez

Summertime is the perfect season for family adventures. Vacations, family reunions, weddings, day trips, summer camps and more are filled with stories about certain people, places and things that are important to you. You want to remember these treasured memories because they have special meaning and because you often want to share them with others.

You don’t need to be a folklorist or a brilliant literary writer to capture these summer experiences and transform them into family folktales. You don’t even have to be an adult to preserve these personalized accounts of real life adventures and activities.

In fact, all you need is a basic understanding of what folktales are and some examples of ways to create them that can be tailored to any age group.  

Folktales are stories based upon real life experiences. Unlike historical documents they are not necessarily based upon fact; but rather grow out of your feelings and impressions about those experiences.  For example, a folktale about Uncle Bill’s deep sea fishing trip might focus upon how hard he fought to bring in a large fish or upon how funny it was to see him huff and puff as he reeled in his fishing line.

However you describe your summer stories, they can be categorized into various themes, also known as folktale motifs that everyone is familiar with. Using the example of Uncle Bill’s fishing trip, here are a few of the more common motifs:

The fish that got away
A brave fisherman
Fishing as a favorite sport

When you sit down to capture what you recall, remember that there are many easy-to-follow techniques you can use:

  • Make a list that you might later expand upon (for example: picnic near the lake, warm sunset, playing cards)
  • Write a few paragraphs or a short poem
  • Draw images, using colors that are expressive

Children in particular enjoy drawing pictures. Ask them to tell you their stories and write down what they say next to the drawing. Then plan an “exhibit” or “reading” at a later date so that they get to share their folktales.

If more than one person, or child, is creating a family folktale about the same person, place or event it is important to remember that not everyone in the family will have the same memories. Some may recall what is funny while others may recall what is sad about the same event or person. There may even be disagreement about what actually happened. That’s O.K. because folktales are personal interpretations.

For an unusual family folktale project, consider having everyone in the family write about different aspects of a vacation and then put them all together as a family folktale book. Emily can write about the bears at the zoo and Sean can write about the kangaroos. At a family reunion, consider having everyone write something they remember about other family reunions. 

No matter which summer adventures you choose to focus on, you can create family folktales that will last more than a lifetime.

Karen Pierce Gonzalez is the author of the newly released Family Folktales: Write Your Own Family Stories workbook. An award winning writer and member of the Western States Folklore Society, she has also written Family Folktales: What Are Yours? Visit her at from FolkHeart Press ( ) or .