Tag Archives: writing your autobiography

When You Are Writing Your Memoir or Autobiography, Remember That You Are Part of Your Audience

If you are writing a memoir or autobiography, at some point you will find yourself thinking about your intended audience. Who will read your book? Most likely, family, friends, and loved ones will be part of your readership. Perhaps it will extend to others in your community. You may be hoping to reach, encourage, or support others who have had a similar life experience as you. And maybe you have your eyes fixed on a wide audience, with your book going viral across mainstream and social media!

Getting clear about your audience will certainly help you establish your voice, tone, and direction for your memoir or autobiography. As I tell my students in my Writing Your Life Story classes, as well as those I assist as memoir or autobiography ghostwriter or book coach, sometimes it can help to imagine yourself sitting at your kitchen table telling your story to a friend over a cup of coffee. That’s how you bring your readership into focus and anticipate what will help them grasp and appreciate what you have to say.

However, as you zero in on that audience, make sure you don’t forget one very important target reader: YOU! That’s right, somehow or other you will need to be able to read your completed memoir or autobiography and feel engaged in the story and enriched by the experience of absorbing yourself in it. Ideally, you will find something new or unexpected in the story that you told, and how you wrote it. You may believe that you are writing your life story for the benefit of others, and that certainly is a vital part of your mission, but I have come to recognize that we as authors are also writing for the benefit of ourselves. Writing your life story is a special endeavor, and you will absolutely gain from the experience of doing it and then reading what you have created.

So when you ask yourself whether you are reaching your target audience, remember to include this question: “Will my audience, including ME, be engaged in this story, and if not, what adjustments do I need to make to change that?”

– Kevin Quirk helps women and men of all ages and backgrounds tell the most important stories of their life in his work as a personal historian and memoir and autobiography ghostwriter. He is co-author of “Brace for Impact: Miracle on the Hudson Survivors Share Their Stories of Near Death and Hope for New Life” and author of “Your Life Is a Book – And It’s Time to Write It!”

Autobiography Ghostwriter Kevin Quirk Soaks Up Past Memories by Going Back to Hometown

As a 5 year child, I remember riding in my parents’ Chevrolet station wagon while we rode up and down what seemed like crater-sized holes on Pinedale Road in my hometown of Shrewsbury, MA. Up, down. Up, down. It was just like a roller-coaster. Finally we would arrive at our house on this short dirt road, across the street from Maironis Park and the shores of Lake Quinsigamond. We moved from that house a year later, but we would return to visit my grandparents in my childhood home for many years thereafter. The crater holes never get filled in. Up, down. Up, down.

A few weeks ago I was planning my 60th birthday reminiscing tour. I had Googled my tiny road and in one search, Pinedale Road didn’t show up. That was not surprising. I had not been back there in 30 years and even then the area was being swallowed up by apartments and condos. So I was fully prepared to return to the scene of Pinedale Road and find…no Pinedale Road.

Instead, I found just what I had left. Pinedale Road was there. The crater holes remained, just as I remembered them back in 1959. In our new 2014 Camry we rode up, down, up, down. Our old house was still there, too, the hedges that I used to trim for my grandmother needing some attention. An image of my past had somehow been frozen, seemingly just for me. And as I focus more of my time and energy on writing my own life story, while I also assist clients from all over the country in writing their autobiography in my role as ghostwriter and personal historian, I embraced this moment as a valuable and inspirational gift.

I made several other reminiscing stops. Our swimming area on Lake Quinsigamond was no longer public, which didn’t stop form walking the path to the same location. The stone wall we would climb to lay our blanket for a lazy August afternoon remained. I can remember lingering there for hours, alternating quick dips in the chilly water with eating our bologna sandwiches and munching Stateline potato chips.

I returned to Calvin Coolidge Elementary School. It had been added on to, probably at least twice, but the original section appeared intact. I spotted my fourth grade classroom with the windows overlooking the playground. And the playground itself was still much as I remembered it. I had a vivid memory of the mean second grade teacher who pinched my chin while yelling at me for eating my mom’s banana bread where I apparently wasn’t supposed to.

When I approached my primary childhood home on Lake Street, I lucked out. The folks living in a neighbor’s house were having a yard sale. I spoke to the woman living there and apparently our house was still owned by the man who bought it from my parents in 1972. He had doubled the size but the long driveway was much as I remembered it, and so were the woods headed down to the lake shore. I would spend hours meandering in those woods with my dog Gus, and then I’d take out our canoe – the fastest canoe on the lake!.

A short drive up to Edgemere Park revealed the basketball court where I first played pick-up games as a 12 year old. I swear I once hit five long shots in a row on that court…

All in all, my reminisce-and-remember tour of my hometown fed my desire to go back…and to honor where I had lived, and what I had experienced there. If you are writing your life story today, and you moved away from your hometown long ago, have you gone back to sift through your memories, to hunt for clues, to usher yourself back into a time and place that will inspire your autobiographical writing? If not, consider scheduling a return trip soon. Whether things there are the same or very different, the memories are there waiting for you.

– Autobiography ghostwriter Kevin Quirk assists women and men of all ages and backgrounds, from hometowns from Maine to California, in writing their life story. 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.”

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.”

Think of Writing Your Life Story as a Way to Pass on Your Values, Advises Memoir Ghostwriter Kevin Quirk

“I want to pass along my values.”

That’s the motivation that I often hear in my Writing Your Life Story classes for seniors from 60-something to 90-something. They tell me that they don’t want to just chronicle what they did in their lives, they want to explain why they made the choices they made and what they learned while doing it.

These students are not seeking to bolster their ego, or toot their own horn. Not at all. They are usually quite humble about their accomplishments and achievements, whatever they happen to be. And they’re usually especially honest at pointing out their own mistakes, failures, or shortcomings.

“I just believe that someone might learn something from hearing what I learned and tried to practice,” they say. “Strong values always guided me.”

This focus on passing on values in a personal history, memoir, or autobiography is a growing trend:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324595904578116843265852654.html

As parents, and sometimes as grandparents, we do our best to communicate our values to those we love through our daily contact. We hope it might have a positive influence on how they shape their own values and go about their lives. But there’s something more powerful about writing a book that devotes greater time and attention to what our values are, and how they have specifically shaped us. Our family and others who may read our memoir or autobiography have a greater opporutnity to ponder what we’re pointing out and see how it may apply to them – or how it could apply.

Do you have clear and definite values that have shaped you? Do you yearn to put them in writing, in an engaging life story, so that those you care about may gain something from it? Make a list of those values now and beside each entry note “impact on my life.” See what your brainstorming may trigger in your process of writing your life story. And let me know if I can help!

– Kevin Quirk is a personal historian and memoir ghostwriter who has been teaching people of all ages and backgrounds how to write their life story for more than 15 years. He is the author of “Your Life Is a Book And It’s Time to Write It!”: www.yourlifeisabook.com

 

 

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.