Tag Archives: memoir and autobiography

Memoir Ghostwriter Kevin Quirk Argues That You're Never Too Young To Write Your Life Story

As a memoir ghostwriter, personal historian, and teacher of autobiographical writing classes, I often tell my students and clients of all ages, “You’re never too young to write your life story!” So naturally this recent headline caught my eye on the HLN website: “Too young to write your memoir? Not these celebs!” The story focuses on the recent release of Olympic gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas’s memoir “Grace, Gold & Glory.”  It stirred a lively online discussion, which I had to join in:

http://www.hlntv.com/slideshow/2012/11/29/gabby-douglas-young-stars-memoirs

As I read the article and comments, I immediately thought of Ben Rubenstein. Ben came to me seeking support to tell his story of overcoming two major battles with cancer. His resulting memoir is “Twice: How I became a Cancer-Slaying Superman Before I Turned 21.” Try telling Ben he was too young to write about his life!

Those who would argue that you must have reached a certain arbitrary age to be “eligible” to write something about your life in a book may be confused about the difference between a memoir and an autobiography. The two terms are often used interchangeably, and for the most part the definitions really don’t matter much these days anyway. But it can help to think of a memoir as telling a “slice of life” or an account of one dramatic life experience, whereas an autobiography attempts to give voice to your entire life. I would still argue that even if you set out to write your auobiography, you should not have to pass an age test. If you want to reflect upon your life and your age happens to fall far below the senior discount line, more power to you. But with a memoir especially, age is far less important than what you have to say.

This is something I discuss in my book, “Your Life Is a Book And It’s Time To Write It: An A-to-Z Guide To Help Anyone Write Their Life Story.” I explain how in my work as memoir ghostwriter and teacher of Writing Your Life Story classes, I’ve had the privilege to assist students and clients from 19 to 94. My message is this: the time to write your life story is when that voice inside you tells you that you have something important to share, something that may reach and even inspire others.  Have you overcome an illness or disease or some other crisis? Did you achieve a dream or something greater that you could ever have imagined to be possible? Did you have an adventure that will forever change who you are and how you look at life?

Then you have the right to write about it in a memoir, or whatever you want to call your account of your life experience. You are not too young. And if you get the urge to write another memoir 30, 40, or 50 years down the road, you won’t be too old to write it!

– Kevin Quirk is a memoir ghostwriter, personal historian and teacher of Writing Your Life Story classes who assists clients of all ages in writing the most meaningful stories of their lives.

"Sondheim on Sondheim" Shows You Can Tell Your Life Story by Focusing on Your Life's Work, Memoir Ghostwriter Says

In my guide, “Your Life Is a Book And It’s Time To Write It,” I reassure anyone who wants to write their life story that there are countless approaches they can take in shaping their memoir or autobiography. One example that fits for many women and men is to tell the story of your life’s work as the primary focus of your book.

I was recently reminded of this pathway to writing a life story while watching the play “Sondheim on Sondheim” in Cleveland. If you haven’t heard of this play from its Broadway run, it’s an engaging reflection of Sondheim’s creative work in writing the musical scores or lyrics for dozens of Broadway hits: “West Side Story,” “Sweeney Todd,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “Follies,” “Sunday in the Park with George.” The format features interview clips with Sondheim sharing what he did, how he did it, and how he felt about it. As his voice fades out after each interview segment, a cast performs a collection of his popular and less-prominent songs.  Sondheim, then, is the first-person narrator of his professional life, with others helping to illustrate and flesh out his accounts. With the big screen looming high above the stage to project Sondheim’s physical presence in the interview segments, it makes for a different kind of theatrical presentation. Somehow, though, it all blends beautifully.

Of course, even though this is primarily about Sondheim and his music, we also learn a good bit about Sondheim and his personal life: his anger and resentment toward his parents; his struggles with intimacy in close relationships, his void of not having children,  his deep appreciation for his mentor and ally, his life optimism.  As with a written memoir, the ability to zero in on one specific aspect of a life story just naturally opens the door to seeing and knowing a great deal about the person’s full spectrum of life.

Is there a helpful message there for you? If you are writing your life story, or yearn to do so yourself or with the help of a personal historian or ghostwriter, do you have one compelling role or life experience that can form the foundation for your memoir? Is it your life’s work, either your career or in building a successful business or enterprise? Did you accomplish what can often be the most daunting and rewarding life’s work: raising a family with your full heart and soul? Did your persevere through a major challenge or hardship? Did you serve in a war? Did you have an unforgettable experience?

Tell that one story, and tell it with passion and conviction, and trust that you are really presenting the essence of your full life story. From my experience helping dozens of clients and students focus on one life venture or experience, I can assure you that not only will others discover and appreciate a whole lot about you, you will discover something valuable about yourself along the way.

You don’t have to be a famous figure like Stephen Sondheim to narrate your story of what you did and how you did it. After all, when you write your memoir or autobiography, you’re already the star of the show.

– Kevin Quirk, ghostwriter for memoirs and autobiographies, personal historian, and teacher of “Writing Your Life Story” classes in Charlottesville, Virginia. 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.”