Tag Archives: Association of Ghostwriters

Memoir Ghostwriter Kevin Quirk Debunks Myths About Who Writes and Memoirs and Why

As a memoir ghostwriter and personal historian with 15 years of experience, I often smile when I hear some common misconceptions about who chooses to write a memoir, and why. These myths usually fall into two categories:

1. The only people who feel the urge to write their life story are elders who wish to reflect back over their lifespan while in their 70s, 80s or 90s.

Yes, it’s true that writing a personal history, autobiography or memoir is a natural and healthy inclination for many seniors. Personally, I think anyone who has reached that stage of life can benefit from telling their life story. But my experience tells me that it’s often just as strong a motivation for people who may be quite a bit younger. I’ve assisted clients as young as 19, and I’ve worked with dozens of men and women in the broad midlife spectrum: 40s, 50s and 60s. Something has happened to them in their lives that calls them to write about it, and they see no need to wait until they’re “old enough” to be justified in pursuing their autobiography. Often their stories are especially compelling.

2. Anyone who really wants to spend the time, energy, and money to write their life story and publish it in a book must be driven by a big ego.

Totally untrue!! Most of my clients call upon me to ghostwrite their memoir or autobiography because they sincerely wish to preserve their story for their children, grandchildren and other loved ones. Often, family members have been pestering them to do it for years, and it has taken them a long time to summon the nerve to do it. My ghostwriting clients and Writing Your Life Story students often tell me they want to stay away from the splotlight. They don’t want to be seen as “tooting my own horn” or making more of their life experiences than their stories merit. Then, when they allow themselves to dive into their memories and write their life story, they see just how rich and wondours those stories are – and how much their loved ones appreciate hearing them. Men and women who write their memoirs often touch upon many stories and experiences they had never shared with their family before, so their loved ones are especially grateful that they have taken the time and effort to capture those precious memories.

Far from being driven by ego, many of my ghostwriting clients sincerely wish to be of service to others. Many believe that writing about the challenges they overcame, or the mistakes they learned from, or the lessons taught to them by special people in their life, will encourage and inspire young people and others who will benefit from what they share. When their life story is captured in a completed memoir or autobiography, they are touched by a sense of gratitude that they could help someone. It’s not an ego boost at all.

I’m lucky. People who come to me seeking help in writing their memoir, autobiography or personal history usually exhibit the best of the human spirit. And when I work with them, I get to share a glimpse into their unique life experience and perspective. It’s often quite a wondrous ride, which I recently wrote about in a guest blog with the Association of Ghostwriters, of which I am a member. I’ll share that with you here:

http://associationofghostwriters.org/ghostwriting-memoirs-opens-doors-to-wondrous-new-worlds/

Will you be the next person to take this life-affirming, gift-giving step of writing your life story?

– Kevin Quirk is an author, ghostwriter, book coach and autobiographical writing teacher who has been helping people write their life stories for more than 15 years. The author of “Life Is a Book And It’s Time to Write It,” he is a member of the Association of Personal Historians, the Association of Ghostwriters and the American Society of Journalists and Authors.

Memoir Ghostwriter Reminds Life Story Writers To Listen To the Book Idea They Feel Called to Write

I’ve been asked the question many times already by those who know me as an author, ghostwriter, editor and advisor who specliaizes in telling the most meaningful, life-changing experiences of our lives:

“When are you going to write your book about going around the world with Semester at Sea?”

I’ve offered varied responses: 1) Not yet, but maybe sometime after I get my feet firmly planted on land again; 2) Oh, I’ll probably start with some blogs (I’ve written one brief one) and see where I may go from there; 3) I’m not sure, but I’ll let you know when I do.

Now, still only a month after returning from 111 days at sea, I’m coming to a new answer: I might not be writing a book about sailing around the world at all, because it just may be that it’s not “my book” to write.

Oh, I’ve got stories I could tell: the cheetah thwarted by pesky birds in his attempt to hunt down some springbok on a South African safari; standing on dried and hardened human feces on a slave castle in Ghana; my mind swirling with Vietnam War images while listening to our boat engine supttering on the Mekong; Chinese men and women gathering spontaneously to sing patritic songs in a Shanghai public park that tourists seldom see; creating a walking routine on our cruise ship’s fifth deck with life boats shading out the glaring sun. But do I feel called to write a book about what I did and saw, how I felt about it, and how it might change me? When I ask that question to myself, the answer I hear is this: not this time.

I’ve heard the calling to write a memoir or life-story account at other times. When my wife Krista and I adopted our son Aibek in Kazakhstan ten years ago, I knew from the start of that experience that I would be writing a book about it all. When I was touched with awe and wonder by the first news accounts of the Miracle on the Hudson plane crash and rescue in 2009, I was sure that somehow I would write a book about the people who lived through it. And I have supported and encouraged hundreds of students and clients in honoring the call that they have heard to tell their entire life story or, as is often the case, the story of something dramatic and unforgettable that they experienced.

In my role as memoir ghostwriter, personal historian, and teacher of “Writing Your Life Story” classes, I assure them that the calling they may hear as only a whisper is quite real. When it comes, honor it. And don’t let anyone or anything get in the way. That’s what I tell them.

Sometimes, though, we have some life experience that we might think we should write a book about, or at least tell it in a detailed story as part of a memoir or autobiography. Often we hear the urging of others who say, “You’ve got to write a book about that!” But for whatever reason, we don’t share the same sense of urgency. It’s not a calling for us. And as I tell my life-writing clients and students, it’s okay to listen to that message too. It’s perfectly natural to sometimes know we could write about something but choose not to. Reasons will vary: timing, discomfort, a general disinterest. It doesn’t matter. It’s usually far more important, and useful, to notice what story you are called to write about and follow that trail. That’s the life story book theme, angle, or focus that will get you motivated to start your memoir or autobiography and provide you the foundation, or mission, to see it through. Let the other life story possibilities go, knowing that once you do heed the call to pursue what you most need to write, you may someday come back to that other idea with a different perspective.

With my Semester at Sea journey, my sense is that this expeience is someone else’s book – maybe many other people. Perhaps it’s the student from India who proudly led a “field trip” for students back to his home and family. Or the energized scholarship student conducting video interviews with people living in most or all of the countries we visited, asking them to share something meaningful that had happened to them. Or the countless students who would tell stories in our post-port reflections about the impact of witnessing poverty they had never imagined, or their gratitude for those who opened their hearts to these strangers traveling from afar. I know these students have had many a blog in them – I bet one or more has a full-fledged book brewing as well. I support them in going for it.

Similarly, I wonder if there might be a book floating around for an adminsitrator who had sailed around the world many times before but discovered something new and vital this time. Or the faculty member who embraced this first-time experience so whole-heartedly that she immediately decided to do it again. In my own household, I wonder if my wife may someday feel the pull to write a memoir about the contrast of sailing around the world as a student in 1979 and again now, a good bit later, as a staff member. And who knows what stories my ten-year-old son may feel called to tell someday, especially since he has already decided that he will sail around the world three more times at least!

If the calling to write a memoir stirs any or all of these Semester at Sea Spring 2012 voyagers I’m thinking about, or others, I sincerely hope they do indeed listen. And I will be eager to see what emerges in their life story accounts.

For me, I’ll keep listening. I’m heading to Cleveland later this week, and while others might suggest that the Clevelands of our daily life don’t carry the same potential for exotic aventure and life-stirring moments as Capetown, Beijing, or Ho Chi Minh City, I would say this: you never know. The calling to tell a compelling life experience in a memoir or autobiography can beckon us when we least expect it.

– Kevin Quirk, memoir ghostwriter, personal historian, teacher of writing your life story classes, and 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.”  Kevin is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), the Association of Ghostwriters, and the Association of Personal Historians.   

Back to School Time Stirs Our Memories of New Beginnings in Our Lives

My son Aibek went back to school last week, and like many kids preparing for this annual new beginning he wasn’t exactly embracing it. In fact, on the cusp of third grade he came up with a very clear plan for how the world should run. “We should have nine months of summer vacation and three months of school!” he proclaimed.

There’s something about this back-to-school time of year that just naturally stirs not only creative innovations but lots of mixed feelings: excitement, curiosity, sadness, anxiety, disorientation. Gowing up in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts in the ’60s, I remember having all of those feelings – sometimes all at once. They would most churn up on Labor Day because we always started school the Wednesday after the holiday. So on Labor Day especially I understood that in one way or another, I was plunging into the unknown.

Sometimes that new beginning can be especially dramatic. My son and I spent the week before back-to-school on board the Semester at Sea ship as it sailed from Norfolk, Virginia to Halifax, Nova Scotia.  My wife Krista was part of the staff training and orientation preparing for the arrival of 650 students about to sail around the world for their Fall 2010 Semester program. “Your life is about to change” was the mantra that students soon would hear.

Isn’t that true to one degree or another for all of us swept up in the back-to-school spirit? Whether we are a student, a parent, a teacher, or just an observer of this late-summer ritual, we feel that sense of sailing off into the unknown. And whether the new beginning ultimately turns out to be fun or scary, or just a small change from what we had known before, we recognize that a new year has truly begun.

That’s why for years after my own school days, and before my son came along, I sitll carried that sense of late August or early Sepetmber as the real passage to the new year. The calendar could try to tell us that January 1 was New Year’s Day, but I was never fooled. The new year began when school started. That’s when the barometer would measure who I was, how I fit (or didn’t), and what I would be undertaking. That’s when we all would measure how one another had changed, whether it be the boy who grew six inches, the girl (or boy!) who sported a drastic new hair style, or the family that had moved out of town. So many of my prominent memories are wrapped around that time of year.

Is it that way for you? Does Labor Day and this back-to-school climate stir your memories of your own new beginnings tied to the school calendar? If you are writing your life story, or telling your life story to someone who is helping you to  preserve your memories in a memoir or autobiography,  you might find that focusing on back-to-school will just naturally bring poignant stories to the forefront. Quick, get them down before the New Year slips away!

– Kevin Quirk, Life Is a Book, Member of the Association of Personal Historitans and the Association of Ghostwriters