Tag Archives: Association of Personal Historians

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.”

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.   

For a Special Father's Day Card, Write About Your Most Poignant Memories Together

Do you ever struggle with picking out the right Father’s Day card for your Dad? Do they all sound too syrupy? Too impersonal? Too over-the-top gushy?

As a personal historian and ghostwriter who helps people write their life stories and a teacher of Autobiographical Writing classes, I’ve got an idea for something a little bit different. Make your own personal Father’s Day greeting by writing simple reflections of some of your most memorable moments you and your dad have shared together.

Don’t worry about sounding poetic. Just be yourself. Pick five stories, or three, or even just one. It doesn’t matter how long ago it was. Doesn’t matter how dramatic the story was. Ordinary will work just fine.  What counts is your willingness to be yourself and recount a story that you know he will appreciate because he remembers it too.

But you’re not a writer, you say? Just set a timer for 10 minutes. Sit down with a pen and a piece of paper (doesn’t matter how pretty it looks) and write these words: “I remember one time with Dad when…” Then, for the next 10 minutes, fill in the blanks with whatever words come next. Don’t try to think it out ahead of time. Just let your memory bank spill out. The story is there. You’ve told it before, or if you’ve thought about it many times.

Then, if you feel as if you’re just getting warmed up, set the timer for 10 more minutes ( or five) and write, “I also remember…” And tell another story that shows something about your dad. You don’t have to wrap it up with a fancy “bow” of an ending.  All endings are arbitrary, and sometimes what’s left unsaid can be more impactful than what you try to force.

I remember… That’s all it takes to get you going, to capture snippets of time when your dad was just…being your dad. When he reads it, he will appreciate the gift of being known.

Now, if you happen to enjoy drawing or coloring, you may also want to create your own cover for this different kind of Father’s Day card. But if that’s going too far on your creativity meter, go to your computer and look for pictures or images that somehow or other speak to who your dad is and how he looks at life. Again, you’ll know it when you see it. Or just download one of your own photos of Dad.

Put this all together and present it to your dad on Father’s Day. Take a moment to appreciate how you, in your own way, without plopping down five bucks on a Hallmark ready-made production, have found just the right kind of card for Father’s Day.

– Kevin Quirk, Personal Historian and Ghostwriter with Life Is a Book, Member of the Association of Personal Historians, 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”

My New Book Is Officially Launched: "Your Life Is a Book – And It's Time to Write It: An A-to-Z Guide to Help Anyone Write Their Life Story"

Here’s something that I tell all my clients who commit to the process of writing a book to capture their life story, or one memorable life experience: when the book is finally published, make sure you have an official book launch and tell everyone you know! So it’s time for me to follow my own advice. My new book has just been published: “Your Life Is a Book – And It’s Time to Write It: An A-to-Z Guide to Help Anyone Write Their Life Story.” It is now available on Amazon.com: www.yourlifeisabook.com.

I’m excited to have the book out in the world because it brings together everything I have been teaching in my Writing Your Life Story and Autobiographical Writing classes for years. I’m pasionate about helping anyone, of any age, to gain the confidence and the tools to set about preserving the most meaningful stories of their life. While there are many other books that guide people in the life-writing endeavor (my favorite is Natalie Goldberg’s “Old Friend from Far Away”), I tried to take a different approach. I wrote the book in a style similar to self-help books, which fit for me since I am the author of a self-help book “Not Now, Honey, I’m Watching the Game: What to Do When Sports Come Between You & Your Mate.” My goal is to stand with those who read the book as a trusted ally, steering them through the journey and offering plenty of encouragement along the way. I also tried to make it lively and fun.

So now “Your Life Is a Book – And It’s Time to Write It” is out there, and the best part is hearing from those who pick it up and find it useful. So if you check out my new life-writing guidebook, feel free to send me an email to tell me anything you’d like to share about what you find.

And remember – if you write your life story, make your own proud announcement when it’s published!

– Kevin Quirk, Ghostwriter and personal historian with of Life Is a Book, a life-writing service based in Charlottesville, Virginia, and a member of the Association of Personal Historians