Course Overview

  • 1

    Welcome to Sensitive Subjects - Writing about the hard stuff

    • Why tell stories about the hard stuff?

    • Walk through the course interface

    • Dying was the easy part - Rob's story

    • Some of our best suggestions - right off the bat

    • Download the previous lesson as a PDF

    • You will need a journaling method

    • Getting support along the way

    • Notes about the class format

  • 2

    What could possibly go wrong? Spotting the danger zones

    • Meet Rob...

    • The cost of getting it wrong

    • Discovering difficult family history and DNA surprises

    • Introduction to mindsets we will cover in this course

    • Common questions students ask

    • Assignment - journal any concerns weighing on you right now

  • 3

    Practical wisdom for telling the truth and navigating the hard stuff

  • 4

    Mindset shifts to navigate sensitive subjects

    • Mindset #1 - the value of grappling

    • Mindset #2 - allow space for other versions of the truth

    • Mindset #3 - embracing vulnerability

  • 5

    Examples and case studies - family sensitivities

    • Seeking wisdom and inspiration

    • Lessons from "Crucial Conversations"

    • Handling unflattering details - context is everything

    • Handling secrets of the deceased

    • Up next - DNAngels share how they support people who have experienced a DNA surprise

    • Getting support - DNAngels

    • Empathy in times of grief or stress

    • Review and quick tips about handling family sensitivities:

  • 6

    Methods for writing the hard stuff

    • Narrative therapy

    • Introduction to storyboarding.

    • Storyboarding your "darkest hour" moments

    • A process for editing, getting feedback, and negotiating final wording

  • 7

    Emotional skills for professionals

    • Overview of this chapter - considerations for professionals

    • Introduction to emotional skills for professionals

    • Ethical tenets for professional interviewers

    • Review text of ethical tenets for professional interviewers

    • Confidentiality

    • Working with vulnerable populations

    • Emotional skills = know thyself

    • Emotional self-test

    • Completing the self-test

    • Reflections on the self test

    • Emotional skills and strategies

    • Additional strategies such as writing a disclaimer

    • Conclusion for this chapter

  • 8

    Getting support - a summary

    • The role of therapy

    • Talk it through with a trusted friend

    • Get a writing group

    • Coaching and editing

    • Get legal advice

    • Post in the Facebook group

    • RootsTech recorded session- Healing and the Emotional Side of DNA

  • 9

    In closing...

    • Final thoughts


  • How long will this class take me?

    You can watch all the videos within about two hours, with exercises to complete at various stages throughout.

  • Is this self-paced?

    Yes. You can start or stop whenever you like and work on a schedule that is comfortable for you. The lessons are organized in short, bite-sized chunks to make it easy to start and stop.

  • How much of this course is video?

    Nearly all the lessons are short videos (mostly 3-7 minutes). Some are formatted like it's you and me together one-on-one, some are from an in-person class. The other lessons consist of exercises and additional reading. You can preview lessons above to get an idea.

Teaching and Presenting Experience

Speaker RootsTech - February 26-29, Salt Lake City, Utah. Register at
National Genealogical Society - National Conference Speaker
Weber State University Center for Continuing Education
Long View of History - 67th Annual Utah State Historical Society Conference, 2018
Snow College keynote speaker
Southern California Genealogical Society Speaker
Ogden-Weber Technical College
Women in Business speaker


I now feel inspired


“I have loved your classes. They have changed my life. I now feel inspired to share with others.”

“I thoroughly enjoyed your 'Life Story' class.”


“I thoroughly enjoyed the 'Life Story' class at Weber State. The storyboard info was marvelous and extremely helpful...”

A delightful learning experience


“Your class was a delightful learning experience. It was nice to realize that a few well-told stories of the most impactful lessons of your life are enough to pass on to posterity. Thanks again for your inspiration.”

You are a fabulous teacher


“I never realized how important writing is to me...I feel blessed to have found your class! Thank you for giving me the tools, and now the confidence, to take the words from my head and place them on paper. You are a fabulous teacher."

Encouragement I need to finish my book


“Thank you for teaching this class. It is making my life better and giving me the encouragement I need to finish my book.”

Thank you!


"Thank you! Best class I attended at RootsTech."

It provided a necessary means of accountability


“I have had a terrific time in your class. It has provided a necessary means of accountability. I felt inclined to write some life stories but just wasn't applying the chair glue to do it.”

So many inspiring ideas!


"So many inspiring ideas! Great job!"

Very interesting!


"I really enjoyed your class and feel like I was set to go on a journey. I have to confess that I was not sold on the storyboard idea at the beginning of the class, but as I have studied it and learned a bit more, I can see and recognize it not only in books and movies but in real life. Very interesting!"