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Frequently Asked Questions

Why a personal memoir?

Memoir writing presents an opportunity for focusing your attention on what you have experienced and done during your lifetime. It is a way of reminiscing and assessing the roads you chose, how you lived, and what was important to you, then leaving a written legacy encapsulating your life story. 5 The well-known author Antwone Fisher, speaking at a commencement service at Cleveland State University, said, "You can make yourself live forever through writing. Do not pass through life without leaving something behind for others to learn from your experiences - even if no one but your children read it. Write of your dreams. Write alone and in a quiet place. Be honest. You may discover a you you've never known." Anyone who has done a family history is well aware of the dearth of material on the lives of most people from past generations. I'm of the opinion that everyone should leave some record of what they did with their life. Twenty pages of typescript detailing the more significant turning points in one's life plus a discussion of the most important lessons one learned and the values that one would like to convey to one's grandchildren and subsequent generations should be a minimum. A few hours of audio or video recording is a perfectly acceptable alternative. A full-length book is a more challenging option. A personal historian can help make it manageable and provide the expertise needed to produce a well composed final product. Back to top

How do you proceed?

Fifteen or more hours of recorded interviews are required for gathering sufficient materials needed to fashion a full-length book. Five to six hours will cover the essentials for a short book. These interviews can be spread out over two to six weeks, 5with meetings of two to three hours each. The interviewing is generally conducted in the client's home, though any other mutually agreed on venue is acceptable. My questioning will help prod your memory and I will advise you on aspects of life to consider, while at the same time, I let you tell your own story in your own unique manner. Towards the end of the interviewing attention is given to your mature reflections on your life experience. These interviews will be transcribed and from those transcripts I will work to fashion a life story that is more than just a chronological listing of life events and rambling memories. Keeping the narrative in your own words, I edit the material into a compelling, readable drama of your personal history and the meaning you have experienced in life. You will review a first draft at your leisure and more interviewing may follow in preparing for revisions and additions. A second draft will then be prepared, followed by final revisions made in preparation for printing. Altogether, if drafts are returned to me in a timely manner, a project takes six to nine months to complete. You can see what the finished product looks like and read passages from some of the memoirs I've helped others complete by following this link.

Self-publishing a finished manuscript is the most commonly chosen path. Here I can assist in designing the layout for your book and preparing additional materials (e.g., photos and documents) for inclusion. I also provide digital printing and binding options for limited runs and can arrange for off-set printing of larger print runs. Back to top

The Cost of a Personal History Project:

You pay for what fits your budget, with a writing project progressing from interviewing and transcription services, to editing work, to the careful organizing and rewriting needed to produce a well crafted memoir. This will give you the opportunity to get your story digitally recorded and then decide which way you want to proceed. There is no obligation to proceed beyond each stage in the process.

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What if I can't afford a full-length book project?

The important thing is to get your story recorded. Option one above is a good way to go. Five or six hours of recorded and transcribed interviews will preserve the critical part of your life story. Not everyone needs 200 pages to tell about their adventures. You can pack a lot into a 75-100 page book focusing on a compelling storyline and convey to others much about who you are and what has made life meaningful for you.

Additionally, there are a variety of ways to finance a memoir writing project. Frequently, the adult children in a family share the costs of contracting a personal historian to assist their parents in writing their memoirs. Church congregations sometimes give as a gift the assistance of a personal historian to a retiring pastor. The sale of a memoir in local bookstores can help defray costs. Back to top

How long does it take?

The interviewing is generally spread out over two to six weeks. Thereafter, with a lengthy project, I need six to eight weeks to organize the material and edit it into a grammatically correct and readable storyline. Much depends on how long a client takes to review the drafts and decide on changes and additions. If these drafts are reviewed and returned in a timely manner, a completed manuscript can be finished in four months or less.
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How far will you travel to do interviews?

If you knew about my passion for traveling and how much of the world I've seen, you wouldn't be asking. As long as you are willing to pay my expenses, I'll be there. We'll try to do most of the interviewing in a day or two and follow-up with some telephone interviews afterward.

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