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As a child in Wilmette, Illinois, I was a bookworm and a budding writer. To get some practice, I interviewed the folks on our block and published the Neighborhood News (with invaluable help from Mom). At age 11, I was a personal historian — of sorts.


From there, I went on to:

  • write for and edit my high school and college newspapers

  • record an oral history of my grandmother in 1977

  • earn a B.A. from Grinnell College in American Studies

  • walk across the United States, a 3,500-mile adventure, in 1981

  • work as a writer, interviewer, and counselor for nonprofits

  • assist best-selling author Fritjof Capra for 24 years

  • start First Person Narratives in 1998

  • volunteer on a variety of community history projects

  • take leadership roles in the Association of Personal Historians

It's a joy and privilege to bring my skills and interests to the field of personal history. The more people I meet, the more I am convinced of Mark Twain’s assertion:


There was never yet an uninteresting life.
Such a thing is an impossibility.
Inside of the dullest exterior
There is a drama, a comedy, and a tragedy.







Trena Cleland


Essays, excerpts, and articles by

and about Trena:


"A Family for Homeless Seniors"


"Sand Hills Murder Mystery"


The Monthly

St. Mary's Center

Personal History

Community Outreach



Trena Cleland

My Talented  Team
Izumi Motai - Book Designer
Izumi  holds a master's degree in Fine Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute and a degree in Advertising Design from Parsons School of Design in New York City. His work in the manufacturing, advertising and publishing industries has built his expertise in multiple design genres, including  packaging, graphic, and book design.
Carla Koop - Writer and Editor
Carla is a versatile and accomplished writer. Her varied projects over the last two decades include oral histories, community history projects, and individual profiles published through her work with public agencies. Carla is an essayist and poet, and has worked as a professional editor. She holds degrees from Johns Hopkins and UC Berkeley. 
Susan M. Davis - Book Designer
Susan, an accomplished artist, book designer, and photographer,  attended the San Francisco Art Institute. She has worked for Determined Productions, KGO-TV, Lucasfilm and Industrial Light & Magic. Throughout her career she has also run her own business, Paintbox Productions, and is an  avid genealogist.

Trena interviews her father

about his life, 1992. 

Trena (left) with her parents and

five brothers, 1966. 

A pensive moment at age 21.

Trena and designers Izumi (above) and Susan (below) congratulate clients on publication of their books.

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