Monthly Archives: January 2013

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:

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!”:



Jill Kraft Thompson's Inspiring Story Fits the Mold of Hoda Kotb's "Ten Years Later"

The book title caught my eye right away: “Ten Years Later: Six People Who Faced Adversity and Transformed Their Lives.” It’s a new book by Today Show  host Hoda Kotb, and as the title suggests it chronicles the stories of people who encountered some dramatic tragedy or loss in their lives, or some other significant change, but have somehow risen to meet the challenge and created a positive, meaningful life…ten years later.

That’s exactly the story of Jill Kraft Thompson, a client of mine and author of the recently released memoir, “Finding Jill: How I Rebuilt My Life After Losing the Five People I Loved Most.”

Jill writes movingly from the perspective of looking back over her last ten years after surviving her personal tragedy. On March 25, 2002, she was riding with her family in a minivan in Italy. It was a joyous time of showing her mother, sister, and niece the cities of Venice and Florence and many other attractive places in the country she had adopted as a temporary home.  Her husband had taken a two-year job stint there and he and Jill and their two young sons had grown to love the people, the beauty, and the history of Italy.

Until the semi crossed the median and struck their minivan head-on. Jill’s husband, two boys, mother and niece perished in the crash, and she and her sister barely survived. In a previous post, I mentioned how Jill’s story openly unveils the depth of her grief, while also taking readers to what began to emerge on the other side of grief: a husband, a young son, a life that while still honoring her lost loved ones and dealing with the ripples of pain that do not go away has also made room for the joy of living, and loving, again.

And it’s all covered in that ten-year frame.  Like the characters in “Ten Years After,” Jill shows us that over time, we too can recover from that which seems beyond our resources to hold in our arms and endure. We can go on. We can find a new way. We can persevere, with courage and faith and love from others.

It’s not surprising that “Ten Years After” is selling so well because this is a message that we need to hear and can learn so much from. In our culture we may soon be hearing other ten-years-later accounts from those who had some part in the public tragedies we see in the media seemingly every day – mass shootings, cruise ship accidents, fires and storms, etc. Already we have witnessed Columbine survivors reaching out to families of those who lost loved ones at Sandy Hook.

People whose tragedies or major loss that have been far less public also have much to teach us. They have been to places few of us can even imagine. And they have continued their journey. Stronger. As a memoir ghostwriter, personal historian, and teacher of Writing Your Life Story classes, I have been privilegd to hear many such stories from my clients and students. Each one has touched me, moved me, and taught me.

Do YOU have a ten-year-after inspirational story to share? If you do, I would welcome hearing from you!

– Kevin Quirk, author of “LYour Life Is a Book And It’s Time to Write It,” has been helping people of all ages and backgrounds tell the most meaningful stories of their lives in his role as memoir ghsotwriter and personal historian.

Four-Year Anniversary of Miracle on the Hudson Reminds Brace for Impact Author That Crisis Creates Community

Crisis creates community.

I’ve long believed in the basic truth of this simple three-word phrase. To me, it’s a statement that reflects how difficult times bring us closer together, often summoning  the  best of the human spirit. In grief, or shock, or trauma, people connect. Feelings spill out. Closeness emerges. There’s a melting, and an overwhelming sense of unity. We have seen it in the aftermath of dramatic tragedies such as the school and movie theater shootings. We see it every day in the faces of loved ones coming to grips with cancer or accidents or other major loss and struggle. And we see it in moments when what could have been a tragedy turned into something very different.

That’s what happened four years ago today with the Miracle on the Hudson, the splashdown landing of US Airways Flight 1549 masterminded by Captain Sully Sullenberger. That potentially horrific crisis moment created instant community among the flight crew and 150 passengers, who acted just as wisely and courageously after that plane plunged into the frigid Hudson as Sully did to give them a chance at life. Those passengers bonded that day to help save each other’s lives, and they remain closely bonded today. More than 50 of them got together a couple of days ago to re-enter the salvaged plane of their life-transforming day on exhibit in Charlotte.

Sully’s heroic feat has created ripples of community all over the world, among those who watched what happened in awe. Katie Couric featured many members of the Sully-spurred community today on “Katie” in her focus on the four-year anniversary of the Miracle on the Hudson:

Guests included one woman whose father died piloting a plane that crashed. Sully’s descriptions of his thoughts and actions in the cockpit gave her a sense of peace that ended years of torment and wonder about what her father must have been experiencing in his final moments alive.

A convoy truck driver shared how he wrote “Sully” on the gloves he wore on combat missions in Iraq. He believes that his connection to what Sully did helped to deliver him home safely.

Katie also introduced five young children born to passengers of Flight 1549 in the last four years, births that would not have happened if everyone had not made it out alive. I was especially touched to see passenger Don Norton hand over his two-year-old son to Sully to hold. When Don and his wife celebrated the birth of their child two years ago, on the anniversary date of the Miracle on the Hudson, they knew only one name for the boy would fit: Hudson.

Don’s story of his experience on that day in the Hudson River, and in the first six months therefater, is featured in the book that I co-authored: “Brace for Impact: Miracle on the Hudson Survivors Share Their Stories of Near Death and Hope for New Life.”

The anniversary for me is a vivid reminder of the community of 25 passengers and first responders that co-author Dorothy Firman and I presented through the personal accounts in our book. All the while I was working on that gratifying project, I kept hearing those words over and over in my head:

Crisis creates community.

– Kevin Quirk, co-author of “Brace for Impact,” is a memoir and autobiography ghostwriter who helps people of all ages and backgrounds tell the most meaningful stories of their lives.

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:

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.