To Listen ~ A Magical Gift

Listening; Your Greatest Gift!

In a recent TEDTalkStoryCorps founder David Isay noted, “Every day, people come up to me and say, I wish I had interviewed my father or my grandmother or my brother. But I waited too long. Now no one has to wait anymore.” What Isay is referring to is the launch of StoryCorps’ Android and iOS app earlier this year, made possible by the 2015 one-million dollar TED Prize.

Similar in function to StoryCatcher®, The StoryCorps app allows users to do an oral history interview that can be shared as well as uploaded to the StoryCorps website and archived to the Library of Congress. The beauty of both apps is they give one the chance to seize the moment AND get the story using a device that is all too often right at their fingertips. No longer does one need to regret having “waited too long.” Isay has stated in interviews that, for him, “the soul is contained in the human voice.”

For some (myself included), the human soul, our true essence, resides within the eyes, or within witnessing that mysterious “thing” that animates a person, their mannerisms or way of being. For these folks, StoryCatcher® for iPhone, the app I developed in 2013 with my techie-wizard business partner Urs Brauchli, is their avenue for capturing and preserving family stories. While the StoryCorps app rests on the creation of audio interviews, StoryCatcher®’s function is recording sharable life stories on video.

What both of these apps provide is the invaluable framework for effectively capturing a meaningful family story.

Both apps give a step-by-step guide, including great questions to ask, so that an interviewee or an interviewer might easily capture and share a loved one’s story. Below this post are tips on how to get the most out of recording stories with your smartphone.

Imagine your child could meet their great-grandparents. Through stories they can. These days, with the growing presence of technology as part of our daily lives, there is a profusion of smart phone apps available to assist one in finding a solution to just about any problem. As such, one could postulate that it’s become easier than ever to record a loved one’s stories. Or has it?

One of the things most professional personal historians live for is the profound privilege of assisting others in authentically sharing their family stories and being the steward of this sacred rite.

What we do best is help and guide others in sharing themselves through stories. 

Over the last few years, a myriad of options have become available for recording audio or video, on the fly, with a smartphone. Just do a search on The Apple App Store for “record audio” or “record video,” and you’ll be provided with thousands of apps to choose from. What’s missing in most of these audio/video apps is the guidance on HOW to tell and capture a story. Just as a personal historian helps a narrator shape and tell their story in a compelling way, what’s been missing with these audio/video recording apps is exactly that kind of guidance. Now, with StoryCatcher® adn StoryCorps, that gap has been narrowed.

It would appear the time has surely arrived for us all to embrace the convenience and magic of modern technology in the realm of capturing loved ones personal history. No longer will one have the regret of waiting too long, losing the opportunity to preserve their family stories.

Today we have the ability to capture and share the priceless gifts these stories are, right in our pockets.

Tips For Recording With Your iPhone:

FIND A QUIET SPOT: Free of background noise and distractions with flattering light, if you’re recording a video.

SET YOUR INTERVIEWEE AT EASE: Make this time together playful and fun – you can always start over with a “Take 2” or “Take 3” if they have trouble finding the exact words they’d like to start with.

SET THEM UP: Have a little conversation prior to filming or recording to see what story they’re interested in sharing. I always pick one that they have a lot of energy around. You can use StoryCatcher’s “Interview Tips” for help. StoryCorps provides prompts as well. Remember, this time is about honoring them, refrain from the need to tell your own stories until after you’ve finished recording. Please DO share stories and consider taking turns recording each other.

LISTEN: It’s such a gift to be the space of listening for another. Remain present and fully engaged while the person relates their tale, giving positive visual cues along the way, such as nods, smiles or an emphatic facial expression.

GIVE THEM SPACE: Sometimes when people pause while speaking it’s because they are accessing an old memory. Don’t give in to the need to fill that space of silence with a question right away – give them the chance to share what might be there for them. Patience is also a gift. You might be surprised what comes out of that generous space.

Download StoryCatcher® On The Apple App Store

Easily create and share personal video stories. Your privacy is number one with us. Once you download the app, you have 100% control over your media and data!

My Life in Paragaphs Card Deck

My Life in Paragraphs Card Deck

Provocative Story Prompts

StoryCatcher® comes with great story prompts already loaded inside the app. Simply tap on “Interview Tips.” If you’re wanting to go deeper, our “My Life in Paragarphs” card deck is the perfect compliment.  Get your cards now.

Live & Online Retreats

Join April Bell in engaging retreat experiences to discover your legacy stories, one paragraph at a time. Learn More about My Life in Paragraphs.



Personal Historian | Video Producer

April Bell has been capturing people’s life stories in The San Francisco Bay Area and across the U.S. since 2008. Her work has been written about in WIRED,  The New York Times, USA Today, and elsewhere. She is proud co-creator of StoryCatcher® for iOS.

Learn more about her personal storytelling work at

“StoryCatcher® is a wonderful development in the evolution of how we record, structure, and save [video] histories.”

Liz Massey, Professional Oral Historian

"StoryCatcher® is more than a home movie and more than just a slide show. This app allows you to showcase small pieces of your ... life in high quality videos without having to know any of the skills of a video editor!"

Shannon Combs Bennet, The In-depth Genealogist

"Even iPhone apps are being used to create ethical wills. April Bell, who owns a video storytelling business called Tree of Life Legacies, codeveloped the ethical will app StoryCatcher® for iPhone use."

The New York Times, Story: Ethical Wills In The Tech Age