Tag Archives: Write Your Life Story

Jerry Sandusky Guilty Verdict Stirs Our Memories of When Justice Has Prevailed and When It Hasn't, Memoir Ghostwriter Notes

While the jury in the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse trial was spending all those hours deliberating, I was getting very anxious. I read the judge’s comments in providing the jurors their instructions, and it almost seemed like an invitation to render a not guilty decision. I kept thinking that many of the jurors had direct ties to Penn State, and they sprang from the Happy Valley community that first reacted to the breaking scandal by ralling around Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lion football program. As a former sportswriter in Pennsylvania who once covered Penn State football games during the height of Sandusky’s tenure as top assistant coach to Paterno in the late 1970s, I carried vivid images of just how deep those passionate loyalties ran. Perhaps, I feared, it would require too much courage and clear-mindedness for those 12 jurors to recognize the obvious and slam the guilty gavel down.

But then those Sandusky trial jurors stood up and acted with boldness and clarity. They believed those young men who told of Sandusky’s horrible acts against them as boys. They transformed what could have been another stunning example of injustice where a prominent and powerful person escaped punishment (O.J. Simpson?) into what has been accurately called a landmark day: http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/06/22/12365711-landmark-day-reaction-to-guilty-verdict-in-sandusky-child-sex-abuse-trial?lite 

It’s so gratifying to hear the victims being saluted as heroes mustering deep wells of strength and conviction. I know from contact with another recent sexual abuse victim how difficult it is to bring the abuser to justice. And yet, it can be done. Let’s hope the willingness of these victims, and the jurors, to take a stand for what is right will open the door for other abuse survivors to seek out justice in their lives. And let’s hope that this guilty verdict will serve as a wake-up call for schools, athletic teams, and other institutions that turn a blind eye to such acts.

Have you found yourself having your own feelings stirred by what happened in the Jerry Sandusky trial? Does it prompt memories from your own life, or something that you witnessed, where justice was served…or when it was not? Or maybe the Sandusky trial prompted you to feel a deeper pang about the need to protect our children, and how vulnerable they can at times be.

As a memoir ghostwriter and personal historian who helps ordinary people write their life stories, I consistently urge my life-writing clients and students to pay attention to our emotional reactions to the news of the day, and where those emotions take us. There are stories that may be waiting to be told. Maybe it’s time to sit down and write them, either yourself or with the help of a life story writer. Tell your own story about children, about justice, about the courage to speak up and take a stand. And tell it with conviction and passion.

– Kevin Quirk 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.” He is a ghostwriter for memoirs and autobiographies who lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The Maid Aibileen's Words from the Movie "The Help" Remind Us Why Telling Our Life Story Can Empower and Uplift Us

“No one ever asked me what it felt like to be me.”

Those are the words of Aibileen, one of the maids who agree to tell their compelling personal stories for the eye-opening, courageous book that emerges within the plot of the new movie “The Help.” I have not read the novel yet, but I saw the movie last night. It’s a compelling slice of life capturing the emerging Civil Rights spirit of the early 1960s. I thoroughly enjoyed and was moved by the movie in that regard. As a personal historian and memoir ghostwriter at Life Is a Book who interviews women and men from all walks of life to write their life story, I also came away from seeing “The Help” with a reminder of how empowering and uplifting it is for anyone to have the opportunity to share their stories with someone who really wants to know.

Often it feels as if the greatest gift I offer my life-story clients is simply to show up and, like Skeeter in “The Help,” demonstrate a curiosity and a healthy respect for what the other person has lived through, how it has shaped them, and what they really have to tell others about it all. Sometimes that life experience is dramatic, both personally and within the context of a major historical event such as a war. Sometimes it has the rawness, pain, or vulnerability conveyed by those maids. But the impact of having a witness to a part of their life story is evident even when my clients are telling me something not so headline-grabbing dramatic: a decision to leave home at 18; where they went on their first date with their spouse; what they learned the first time they got in trouble, etc. Often they inform me after our interview that a story they just recounted in great detail to me was something they hadn’t thought about for years because “no one ever asked me about it.” And now that I asked, they discovered they had a great deal to tell! Through the telling, they uncovered thoughts, feelings, and insights that made them feel somehow better about themselves. More complete. More understanding. More alive.

So if you have already seen “The Help” or plan to do so soon, I invite you to consider this as one of many valuable take-aways. Are you yearning to tell your story? Is it time to call upon a personal historian or memoir ghostwriter to ask you those questions about what it’s like to be you? Or is there someone in your family, or someone else you care about, who may be uplifted and empowered by you sitting down with them to ask them to share the stories of their lives? The rewards of being in the seat of Aibileen or Skeeter in the life-story interview process can be equally as rich and rewarding.

– Kevin Quirk, personal historian, memoir ghostwriter and author of “Life Is a Book – And it’s Time to Write It! An A-to-Z Guide to Help Anyone Write Their Life Story” (www.yourlifeisabook.com)

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

AARP Magazine Notes Surge in Interest in Ordinary People Writing Their Life Story

“Tell Your Story!” reads the main headline in an article in the “What’s New” section of the latest issue of AARP The Magazine. The story explains the fast-growing trend of ordinary people like us writing and publishing our life stories and notes that, unlike the small number of authors who have memoirs released by the traditional commercial publishers, we’re sure not doing it for the money. The article concludes by urging people to “write for fun, not for your finances.”

That’s part of the story. But there’s more to this picture than money, or the absence of it, in the process of undertaking to write about our life stories. Tomorrow night I will begin my next Autobiographical Writing class at the University of Virginia School of Continuing and Professional Studies, and as I always do I will ask students why they want to write about their lives. Many do indicate that they are writing for enjoyment or pleasure, but the motivation and goals run much wider and deeper than that. Many students want to write their life story as a gift to loved ones. Others want to inspire anyone who may benefit from what they share about a major challenge they have overcome. They write their life story for personal discovery and enrichment. They write for healing and growth, or spiritual fulfilment, or to connect with others, or to find a greater sense of meaning in their unique life journey.

Sometimes the real reason students are writing their life story only emerges when they are well down the road of writing it. I’ve had students start out by saying they wanted to make people laugh with their funny stories and wind up writing a series of sad and poignant vignettes. I’ve had young moms declare they want to capture the joys (and more) of first-time motherhood and then find themselves writing mostly about their own childhood. And while some students admit to fantasies of Oprah calling, few if any ever speak of writing for profit.

The trend that AARP The Magazine recognizes, then, is really about people understanding the intrinsic life benefits of telling our stories. And it’s interesting to note that the magazine has acknowledged this trend before, with a recent article offering basic but valuable tips for writing your life story:

http://www.aarp.org/personal-growth/life-stories/info-06-2010/write-your-life-story-expert-tips.html

My forthcoming book “Your Life Is a Book – And It’s Time to Write It!”, further explores what draws us to sit down and capture the stories of our lives, what sometimes gets in the way, and what we can do to stay on track. Maybe one helpful reminder offered by the attention of AARP The Magazine is this: if you feel the urge to write your life story, you most definitely are not alone!

– Kevin Quirk, Founder of Life Is a Book, Member of the Association of Personal Historians, and author of the new 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”

In Writing Your Life Story, Try New Ideas to Capture the Most Important People in Your Life

As a ghostwriter and personal historian who writes the life stories of ordinary people, and a teacher of Writing Your Life Story classes, I’m always looking for new ways to help men and women capture meaningful stories about the most important people in their lives. Recently I’ve been introducing new Story Sparks to help evoke feelings and images that can open the door to richer and more compelling stories about those key people. Story Sparks, by the way, are simply open-ended phrases that you can use as a prompt to begin writing for five or ten minutes in a spontaneous response.

Let’s say you’re planning to write more about your mother. You have certain stories that you know you are going to include in your life story, but then once you get those down you’re left with a sense that there is something more you want to bring forward and you’re not sure how to do it. Try this Story Spark:

“She is/was the kind of mother who would…”

Was she the kind of mother who would always know just what you were up to? Or the kind of mother who would sacrifice her needs for the family? Or the kind of mother who would keep you on your toes? Or the kind of mother who would always be there when you stumbled or fell? 

Notice how just describing your mother this way instantly leads you to recall stories that illustrate and highlight her manner. Plunge right into those stories while they are fresh.

Then see what different associations and stories might be stirred when you add a twist to that Story Spark:

“She is/was the kind of mother who would never…”   

Is she the kind mother who would never say anything to hurt someone’s feelings? Or the kind of mother who would never admit that she was wrong? Or the kind of mother who would never say no when you asked to stop for ice cream? Or the kind of mother who would never let your leave the table before you finished everything on your plate?

Again, watch for those stories that will spill out once you have tapped this feeling tone related to a certain perspective of your mother.

You can experiment with many different approaches to pin down lively and informative descriptions of your mother’s personality and style of parenting. Here are a few other possibilities:

“She is/was the kind of mother who would say things that would make you…”

“She is/was the kind of mother who would wake up every morning and…”

“She is/was the kind of mother who would look at the family budget and…”

You can certainly apply the same kinds of Story Spark prompts to writing about your father, or your grandparents, or any other important person in your life. And if you are a mother or father, you can have fun in writing your life story by flipping the same statements around and applying them to yourself:

“I am the kind of mother who will always (or will never)…”

These are just a few ideas for zeroing in on the kinds of stories that will most make your life story come alive. Feel free to play around with new ideas of your own – and let me know if youc ome up with any that I might add to my list!

– Kevin Quirk, founder of Life Is a Book (formerly Memoirs for life), member of the Association of Personal Historians, and author of the new 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”