Ep77: The Simple Scrapbooking Podcast – What Is Oral History? An Interview with Novelist Earlene Fowler

by Lain Ehmann on May 29, 2013


ep77 Simple Scrapbooking podcast - Lain Ehmann interviews novelist Earlene Fowler on the topic of memory and oral history. A must-listen for all everyday scrapbookers!What’s oral history?

If you are an everyday scrapbooker…

A “Project Life-r…”

A your story matters type…

then you are documenting your oral history. I was first acquainted with the concept by one of my favorite mystery writers, Earlene Fowler. Earlene writes a captivating series about her protagonists, Benni Harper, who is a curator of a folk art museum on the California central coast. Yes, she solves mysteries — but she also works to provide others with the opportunities and the encouragement to document their stories, whether it be through quilting, woodworking, or other handiwork.

When I was re-reading one of my favorites in the series, Sunshine and Shadow, I realized that Earlene had the soul of a scrapbooker – so I reached out to see if she might be interested in an interview. To my surprise, she’s a scrapbooker! (I shouldn’t have been surprised… she has all the characteristics including a love of personal history and a great sense of humor!).

In this in-depth interview, we talk about:

  • The definition of oral history, and how we are all charged with the responsibility to capture our own pieces of history
  • How Earlene’s books serve as a scrapbook of sorts of her own life
  • What quilting and scrapbooking have in common
  • How Facebook just might be giving the world the wrong idea of what life is like in the 21st Century…
  • …and more!

Resources and Links from this Episode:


Earlene’s Blog

The first Benni Harper Book, Fool’s Puzzle

Sunshine and Shadow

boston strong

Boston Strong stamp Only $8 and Hero Arts is producing this stamp at no cost — THANK YOU!

Lain’s Facebook page

Thanks for listening!


P.S. What book first got you thinking about the importance of history and documenting your story? I have to agree with Earlene – The “Little House” books had me at the Big Woods. :)


  • Heather Dubarry

    On a purely academic wonk note, oral history is a frequent resource when doing cultural anthropology.

    More interestingly, I became interested in family story long before I actually started scrapbooking. The stories my family would tell, and our genealogy and family origin was fascinating to me as a kid. When I started scrapbooking, the third page I made included a part of our family tree that led to the person who inspired my son’s middle name.

    So, my love of scrapbooking is based on the family stories I heard as a kid, and the love of photography I learned from my maternal grandfather and father.

  • LainEhmann

    You may be the only one I know who knew what “oral history” was! :)

  • Heather Dubarry

    Comes of having three (yes three) different majors in college. ;)

  • Danielle Taylor

    What a fabulous podcast this was. I’m a huge proponent of documenting the everyday, not the what I ate for breakfast though I do document food quite often, but I feel it is really important to document the good things as well as the not so good things and I have tackled some heavy topics on my pages like my infertility, my husband getting fired and the loss of loved ones. It is therapeutic to do so and someday someone will be interested to see how these events shaped me. At least that is my hope.

  • Kelli Panique

    I love what she said about the dual history our projects take on. One of the things that makes me smile when looking at my scrapbooks is remembering where I was or what was going on while I was creating the page. It is true how to your current life seeps in to the stories you are currently telling. Thank you for a fascinating interview.

  • Sheri Elmont

    I enjoyed this interview and look forward to reading her books. I have an album going for “current events” type pages. I have layouts of 911 with journaling from my journal, Terri Schiavo, and other big events that I have thoughts on. My scrapbooking has certainly changed over the years as I think more about the stories I want remembered, not just the events.

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