If You Don’t Actually Know All Your Facebook Friends, Try Meeting Them in Person Like Ty Morin and Mikel McLaughlin

Do you really KNOW all your Facebook friends? Would you recognize more than half of them if you walked by them on the street? Does your group of Facebook friends include some people that you have never even met personally, or at least have not seen in decades?

For many of us, assembling a large group of Facebook friends has become a social norm. And part of that norm is to beef up that list with people we don’t really, actually know. I recently came across articles about two Facebook regulars who have set out to change that. They took a vow to go out in the world in search of their Facebook friends, and to meet with them face-to-face, rather than laptop to laptop.

The first pioneer was Ty Morin, a photographer who announced that he would personally meet all 788 of his Facebook friends and then put together a documentary on those meetings and how it affected him:http://www.179pictures.com/about.html.

News of his project surfaced about a year and a half ago. Earlier this year, Mikel McLaughlin made a similar vow and has been blogging about his face-to-face meetings with Facebook friends: http://www.werefriendsright.com. Even if he used to know these “friends,” he is discovering that sitting down with them and just talking about their lives for an hour or longer instantly enables him to know that person much better than he had ever known them before.

Does this sound like an intriguing idea to you? You don’t have to go all-in to try this as an experiment. Maybe you want to take a smaller number of your Facebook friends, perhaps choosing 50 men and women whom you hardly know or have not seen in years. Then initiate direct contact with them, and see where it goes. The exercise could prove to be a valuable reminder that in today’s social environment, we often say we know a great many people but, in reality, we don’t. But we can change that, and be enriched in the process.

If you are writing your life story, this kind of exploration may be especially revealing, and fun, for you to embark on. So give it some thought. Your “friends” may be waiting for you.

- Kevin Quirk helps women and men of all ages and backgrounds tell the most important stories of their lives, including stories about friends they have known, in his role as autobiography ghostwriter and personal historian. He is the author of “Your Life Is a Book And It’s Time to Write It: An A-to-Z Guide to Help Anyone Write Their Life Story.”

Autobiography Ghostwriter Kevin Quirk Plans to Mark His 60th Birthday with a Revisit, Reminisce and Reconnect Tour

When I interview women and men in my role as personal historian and autobiography ghostwriter, I often invite them to share stories from memorable birthdays. Sometimes that invitation opens the door to birthdays in which that person goes back in time. That’s what I’m choosing to do for my extended 60th birthday.

The plan is shaping up for mid-August, about a month after my actual birthday. The idea is to return to places that have been important in my life though I seldom spend much time there anymore. I seek to reminisce, revisit, and perhaps rekindle…something…I’m not yet sure what.

First stop is the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York, the holistic educational center where I lived and worked for several years. It was my home base for sorting out new directions and new possibilities in my life. It’s also the place where my wife Krista and I met, 25 years ago this summer. Our jobs overlapped, with me serving as Director of Housing in charge of the cabins, dorms, and camp sites for attendees and Krista in charge of arrangements for the faculty. We enjoyed a few nice talks, walked the perimeter of the lake together a few times, and even went to a movie, “Field of Dreams,” which celebrated Krista’s home state of Iowa while paying homage to Boston’s Fenway Park, my backyard all through college. Of course, it would take us three more years of only occasional letter writing (pre-email) to finally see the potential of a relationship, but that’s another story!

Then it’s on to the coast of Maine, where my parents frequently took our family for summer vacations. Their goal, as we heard it often, was to retire somewhere along that coast. Maybe run a little motel near Boothbay Harbor. It never happened, but it makes for a poignant memory. I’ve only prowled the coast a couple of times in the last 45 years, so I’m looking forward to going back in time in that region. We’ll be based down south near York but I know I’ll make it at least as far north as Camden.

Then I will make a stop in my hometown: Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. My parents moved away from there when I left for college in 1972, and I have no family in Shrewsbury today. I have passed through every now and then, but haven’t really explored the town in decades. I’m going to do that now, spurred by joining the Facebook group “If you grew up in Shrewsbury you remember…” I do remember more, more than I thought I did, and somehow as I turn 60 it’s become not only more important but more meaningful. I especially remember growing up on Lake Quinsigamond, and I’m looking forward to getting back out on the water where I first would explore in our rowboat and then in the fastest canoe on the lake!

Then it’s on to Fenway Park, where I attended at least 150 games while living in Shrewsbury and then attending Boston University as an undergrad in the ’70s. I once selected an apartment on Park Drive, despite the ever-present roaches, because it was a six-minute walk to the Fenway bleachers – five minutes for Yankees games. I was in Fenway when Carlton Fisk won Game Six of the 1975 World Series with his foul pole home run. I was back, thanks to my friend John, for the ’78 playoff heartbreak with the Yankees. The last time I sat in Fenway was more than 20 years ago. It remains one of those places that remind us that while much has changed, some things are still pretty much the same.

I don’t have any great expectations for this experience of remembering and honoring these past places that form part of the backdrop of my life. My plan is to show up and be present. Who knows? Maybe when I sit in some “Writing Your Life Story” class like the classes I teach today, I will be able to call up my memories, and the feelings and associations behind them, when I went back in time to mark my 60th birthday.

- Kevin Quirk helps women and men of all ages, backgrounds and places write their life stories as personal historian and autobiography ghostwriter. He is the author of “Your Life Is a Book And It’s Time to Write It,” and the place he now lives in is Crozet, Virginia.

Facebook “If you grew up in my town” Groups Are a Gold Mine of Stories for Anyone Writing Their Autobiography

I tend to be a bit slow to pick up on social media trends. Just a few weeks ago I caught on to the existence of a Facebook group, “If You Grew Up in Shrewsbury You Remember…” https://www.facebook.com/groups/160659847342279/
That’s my hometown: Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. I have not lived there since I went off to college at age 18, but the community still has a prominent place in my memory banks. And as soon as I began exploring the posts, I understood that this was going to be a major boon to my efforts in capturing my childhood as part of writing my life story.

I found that a story lie waiting for me to discover behind half the posts and the photos that went with them. I remember the amusement park at White City, and the black-and-white family photos of my older brother and sisters taking me there in my stroller. I remember the shopping center that took over that same space on the shores of Lake Quinsigamond in the early 1960s. My first bike got stolen outside the entrance to Bradlees department store there, and at the other end of the plaza I saw “Mary Poppins” when it opened the White City movie theater. A year later, when Marry Poppins finally flew out of town, I watched “The Sound of Music” there. As a child, I assumed that Julie Andrews was the only movie actress around.

A photo of Maironis Park triggered memories of how my Lithuanian grandmother was a member of the organization behind it, which enabled us to use the tiny swimming area behind the meeting space. A photo of the Edgemere Diner revealed a childhood friend’s mother and the reminder of how that diner served as my marker when riding my bike: I could finally turn off busy and loud Route 20, with all the trailer-trucks, onto the quiet neighborhood street that led to the park.

Looking at the Howard Johnson’s photo reminded me of what a treat it was for our family with five kids to go there for an ice cream or, as an even bigger splurge, a plate of fried clams. The photo of St. Anne’s church kindled memories of playing for the church basketball team. After missing a few easy layups the first game, a very tall priest fired 50 passes in a row to me under the basket to get it straight the next day at practice. For our Catholic confirmation, we practiced our solemn march into the church to the music of “Bolero.” I had to smile years later when “Bolero” was used in a very “different” context in the popular movie “10.”

Posts about my high school touched upon a memory that had just surfaced for me a few days earlier. During our junior class presentation of “Our Town,” the girl playing the female lead cracked her ribs running into the seats during the exit with her boyfriend/husband at the end of Act II. After several hushed and confusing moments, our director announced that although the actress did have an understudy, he wanted the injured girl to have a chance to play the final scene. Act III was performed about two months later.

Between jotting down notes for my next story to write, I did a quick check to see if this group was a unique entity on Facebook. Silly me! Of course there already had been dozens of “If you grew up…” groups.

Do you have one for your town? If not, do you feel called to launch one? If you are writing your life story in a memoir or autobiography, I bet you’re going to find a gold mine of stories within the posts and photos that pop up there. Happy hunting!

- Kevin Quirk helps women and men from any and all towns across the U.S. and beyond to write their life story in his role as autobiography ghostwriter, personal historian, book coach, and life-writing teacher. He is the author “Your Life Is a Book And It’s Time to Write It! An A-to-Z Guide to Help Anyone Write Their Life Story.”

A March Snowfall in Virginia Stirs Memories of a Blizzard and a Howling Dog Named Gus for Autobiography Ghostwriter Kevin Quirk

It’s snowing again in my home near Charlottesville, Virginia, and I can’t help feeling cheated. As a native New Englander, I have long since come to anticipate and rely on stealing a month or more of spring. Come March 1st, when my family and friends back in New England keep grumbling about the winter that will never go away, I’m changing into sweatshirts and light jackets and watching the trees and flowers come to life.

Not this year. Just a couple of weeks after this wild winter of 2014 had dumped 15 inches of snow on us, we’re getting another substantial snowfall. We might get 6 or 8 inches before it’s done with us tonight, and the temperatures are fast plummeting to zero.

Who stole my spring?

Ah, but there’s a good side to being force-fed this reminder of “real” winter. It’s brought back many enduring memories of snowstorms of the past. The one I am reminded of today must have delivered at least two feet of snow on our home area of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, about 40 miles west of Boston. Usually life goes marching on when it snows in Massachusetts, but this storm had brought the march to a screeching halt. No one was going anywhere for a couple of days, and our long dirt driveway must have ranked low on the list of our regular snow plow man. We were not dug out for days, and the snow bankings from the previous storm and resultant plow just got higher and higher.

It was the snow bank closest to my bedroom window that became the sight of the image frozen in my mind. Our dog Gus, part beagle and part cocker spaniel, was a rugged outdoor pet that huddled in his doghouse on the porch in bad weather – but only for a few hours. Then he’d take off – in those days before leash laws – and we know where he would most often be heading. He had a doggie girlfriend, a part German shepherd lass, more than a mile away. We would often see them frolicking on her front yard, and yes, we did notice some pups who looked a fair bit like Gus around there as well.

In the aftermath of this blast of snow, with our driveway unplowed, even Gus was snowbound. He was yearning to be with his love, but living in the reality of being a dog beholding to the elements. To show his displeasure, he climbed to the top of that snow bank and just began howling. Like a wolf, he completely emptied his lungs, over and over again, pausing only to gaze down the unplowed driveway hoping to see it miraculously cleared, or raise his nose to pick up the scent of the arriving snowplow. And it went on and on for hours, well into the night.

Poor Gus.

Since I’m working on writing my memoirs these days, I’m going to be sure to find a place for this story. Are you caught in the tight grip of this nasty winter? Has it stirred some memories of winters past for you? If you are committed to writing your life story, write them down now, while you can still hear the howling reminders of yesterday.

- Kevin Quirk has been helping ordinary women and men write their life stories for almost 20 years in his role as autobiography ghostwriter, book coach, editor, and writing teacher. He is the author of “Life Is a Book – And It’s Time to Write It! An A-to-Z Guide to Help Anyone Write Their Life Stories.”

Study Reveals That Children and Adolescents Benefit from Hearing the Life Stories of Their Older Relatives

As a personal historian and ghostwriter of memoirs and autobiographies for 18 years, I have consistently noticed the joy and appreciation of family members who read and hear the life stories of their parent or grandparent. Now, an Emory University study confirms that there are indeed emotional and psychological benefits for children and adolescents who are able to learn about how their older relatives have lived:

http://shared.web.emory.edu/emory/news/releases/2010/03/children-benefit-if-they-know-about-their-relatives-study-finds.html#.UqcsvvRDs3c

The study concluded that teens who knew more stories about their extended family exhibited a greater degree of emotional well-being and had a stronger sense of self-identity. I believe these same kinds of benefits extend to the adult children of men and women who take the time and effort to sit down and chronicle their life stories with the help of a personal historian or autobiography ghostwriter. Often these family members are simply surprised to uncover so much of what they never knew.

I recall a 93 year old client whose five adult children, most in their 60s, told me how much they had learned about their mom from the autobiography that I wrote for her. Oh, they knew about the parts of her life that included them in the picture, but there were details about her childhood that were surprising, revealing, and affirming of just how far their mother had come in her life.

The 50-something son of a current client similarly mentioned to me that when he read his father’s life story that I have been working on with him since last summer, he found out things about his father that had never been shared before. And he was enjoying the discovery.

Sharing stories about their past for children and grandchildren is often the primary motivation for clients who come to me to interview them and write their life story in a memoir or autobiography. It’s also what frequently drives the students who attend my classes on “Writing Your Life Story.” They tell me that their family has been after them for years to sit down and write their stories, both those that are already well know within the family ranks and those that have not made it to the dinner table. Knowing that their younger family members are waiting to hear something meaningful, and personal, pushes many seniors in a positive way to dig deeper into their memory banks and bring forward the engaging stories that others are waiting to hear and read.

An article in the December 9 issue of the Washington Post explored the growing trend of seniors hearing the call to document their stories, and how they often call upon personal historians and autobiography ghostwriters like us. These seniors understand the benefits they can extend to their family, and the gift that endures much longer than a typical physical possession. Those of us whoo offer our services through the Association of Personal Historians, know the joys and rewards that come from this sacred act as well. That’s a major reason why we do what we do.

- Kevin Quirk has been helping women and men of all ages and backgrounds tell their most meaningful stories in his role as personal historian and ghostwriter of memoirs and autobiographies. He is the author of “Your Life Is a Book – And It’s Time to Write It! An A-to-Z Guide to Help Anyone Write Their Life Story.”