Monthly Archives: August 2012

Use "Bifocal Vision" When Writing about a Dramatic Life Experience, Advises Autobiography Ghostwriter Kevin Quirk

As a ghostwriter and book writing coach for autobiographies and memoirs, I work with many clients who seek to capture a dramatic life experience. It may be dealing with the sudden loss of a loved one. It could be surviving a tragic accident or severe illness or disease. Sometimes it’s about rising above a painful and destructive childhood. On the other end of the spectrum, some dramatic life experiences touch upon astounding good fortune or the opportunity for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

I enjoy assisting authors write these kinds of life stories, and I’ve made a discovery that may be helpful to anyone in the midst of writing about their own dramatic life experience: It helps to cultivate a certain kind of “bifocal vision.”

Here’s how the term applies in writing your auotbiography or memoir. You, or the writer working with you, will need to have a sharp and clear close-up view of what happened and how it impacted you. You will want to zoom that “camera” in tight to bring in all the physical details that make the experience vivid and real, and you will be called upon to openly and honestly reveal all the emotions that come with the territory, both while it was happening and today in the retelling of it.

That’s just one lens. The other lens, and just as important, is a more distant view. By that I mean that in one way or another you’ll want to try to rise above the scene of what you lived through and are writing about so that you can offer a perspective about it that will make sense to readers. You are putting yourself in your readers’ shoes and asking yourself questions like these: what else do they need to know to fully understand what happened to me and how I came through it? How can I add something to help them see, feel, and identify with my story? Where should I take them next in relating the story?

This second lens of the “bifocal vision” often takes some time and patience to develop. It’s not easy to stand above the fray of your dramatic life experience and tune into what someone else may want to hear about it. It’s all so personal, and often highly charged.

This is where a ghostwriter or book writing coach can be especially valuable. We are already witnessing your story from the perspective of a reader, so we can report what we are experiencing when we read your account. We can invite you to share this important view from outside the eye of the hurricane. And we can help you bring an added dimension to your story so you will be will better positioned to reach, touch, or inspire more people in an even more profound way.

So you may want to consider hiring a ghostwriter to write the story for you, so that you can just sit back and tell the story of what happened to you and watch it emerge in a memoir or autobiography. Or you may want to call upon a book writing coach to help you cultivate that second lens and keep on writing your story yourself. Another option is to seek out a trusted family member, friend, or ally who can look at how you are telling your life story and offer input into what a typical reader may need from you.

Whatever resources you choose to bring to your life story writing process, remember that what you are doing in writing about your dramatic life experience is inherently valuable. You may be offering support, encouragement, healing, inspiration, or understanding to many people, some of whom you already know and others who will find their way to your memoir or autobiography because it’s just what they need.

– Kevin Quirk, author of “Your Life Is a Book and It’s Time to Write It,” has been a book writing coach and ghostwriter of memoirs and autobiographies for 15 years.

World War One Memoir "The Great Promise" Shows Us That It's Never Too Late to Fulfill a Sacred Vow

They used to call World War One “The Great War,” and yet, as we approach the 100-year anniversary of this major world conflict, it often seems that WWI has become the “forgotten war.” While the last 10 to 20 years has seen a much-deserved heightened awareness of World War II history and personal stories of those who served in it, little attention has been paid to remembering the long and deadly war that came before it. Few stories of those who served have been told.

Will the tide turn once the 100 year anniversary of WWI arrives in 2014, so that those who served will be honored in the spirit their memories deserve? Many of their families hope so. Rick Coxen is among them, and he’s actively doing his part to help rally support around the cause.  A few years ago, Rick stumbled upon his grandfather’s detailed, engaging journal from World War One. His grandfather was a British soldier who found himself in several of the bloodiest and most renowned battles early in the war. Though several comrades all around him were killed, this soldier somehow survived. Rick has brought that journal to life in his recently released book, “The Great Promise: A Grandson’s Mission to Finish an Unfulfilled Promise.” Here’s a link to learn more about it:

The journal entries alone make “The Great Promise” a great read. Frederick Coxen was a bright, articulate, and thoughtful journaler, and he paints pictures through his writings that we can vividly see and feel. He literally walks us through a slice of history. But there’s much more to the story – a recent development that makes it even more alive and relevant. You see, Rick discovered a fascinating revelation in his grandfather’s journal. At the start of the war, his grandfather made a promise with three chums: whoever was fortunate enough to get out alive would find the families of the others and tell them stories of who they were and how they served with dignity and honor.

Rick’s grandfather was the only one of the four who survived. And though he lived for decades after the war, building a successful business and raising a family in the U.S., he never fulfilled that promise. He acknowledged his regret over that in a journal entry many years after WWI.

This discovery saddened Rick, but it also stirred his thinking: maybe he could pick up the baton and seek to fulfill his grandfather’s promise now! And that’s exactly what’s he’s trying to do. After all, it’s never too late to find a way to address an unfufilled promise, even if it wasn’t yours to begin with. So Rick hopes that through the publication of this book, he might hear from the families of his grandfather’s three chums. If he does, he knows they will have much to talk about.

– Kevin Quirk, memoir ghostwriter, teacher of Writing Your Life Story classes, and author of “Your Life Is a Book – And it’s Time to Write It!”

Ruth Silver's Memoir "Invisible" Illustrates How We Can Inspire Others to Face Major Life Challenges by Writing Our Life Story

I just came across an article about Ruth Silver, author of the new memoir “Invisible: My Journey through Vision Hearing and Loss.” Here is the link:

Ruth is 81 years old, blind and mostly deaf. She is the founder of the Center for Deaf-Blind Persons. She begins her story at the moment when she learns as a 16 year old that she would go blind.

This memoir is certainly an inspirational story. Ruth says that she seeks to help people see her and others with disabilities as they are: “full, three-dimensional human beings who laugh and cry and get angry.”  In that regard, those with disabilities and their loved ones have a strong voice in Ruth Silver’s life experience.

As a ghostwriter and book coach for memoirs and autobiographies, and a teacher of Writing Your Life Story classes, I believe there is a further value in this kind of life story. We all can be reminded of our fullness as human beings. And when we set out to write our life story, we can keep our eyes and heart open to how we can portray the full spectrum of what it means to be a man or woman living at our time, with our challenges, with our achievements, setbacks, challenges and breakthroughs.

Ruth Silver reveals that she felt compelled to write her story, both to make sense of her life and to give encouragement to others who struggle. Perhaps, in one way or another, any of us who may choose to write our life story can offer the same gift?

–  Kevin Quirk teaches women and men of all ages to capture their most important life experiences in his role as a ghostwriter and book writing coach for memoirs and autobiographies. He is the 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” (

Autobiography Ghostwriter Views Celebration of Life Memorials As Another Way of Honoring Our Life Stories

I was recently in the midst of a long drive from Virginia to Massachusetts for a family wedding when I caught part of an NPR interview in which the subject of memorial services came up. The point was made that in the last few decades we have seen a growing trend toward memorial services oriented more toward a celebration of life of the person who has just passed away, and that the family and often the deceased themselves play an active role in planning it.

I thought about that. Regardless of your religious affiliation or spiritual leanings, have you also noticed this shift toward more personal and celebratory memorial services? Fifty years ago, you didn’t often come upon memorial services that made room for vibrant music, or family and friends sharing both the humorous as well as the profound memories of the person they had gathered to pay tribute to. You didn’t see many references to popular songs, or the deceased’s favorite poems or sayings about life. You didn’t hear a whole lot of stories that would begin, “And I’ll never forget that time when she was 8 years old and she…”

From my perspective as a memoir ghostwriter and teacher of “Autobiographical Writing” classes, the trend toward more personal and sometimes more colorful end-of-life celebrations is another way our culture has found to preserve and share our life stories. It appears to fit our need to capture our memories, and to honor our lives, no matter how ordinary or extraordinary they may be.

And this shift in the format and approach to memorial services today leaves me with this question: do we really need to wait until a loved one has died to organize and present a moving and meaningful celebration of their life?

–  Kevin Quirk is a ghostwriter and book writing coach for memoirs and autobiographies through his service Life Is a Book. He is the 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 (