Tag Archives: Book writing

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!”: www.yourlifeisabook.com



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.

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:


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.

George Vaughan's Memoir "Once Told Tales" Vividly Illustrates How To Capture a Childhood in a Small Town

Did you grow up in a small town? Do you have memories that when brought fully to life can paint a colorful picture of that certain place and time?

George Vaughan sure did. He grew up in the small mill town of Fries, Virginia, on the banks of the New River. George attended one of my Autobiographical Writing classes at the University of Virginia School of Continuing and Professional Studies, and he was just bursting with stories from his small-town life experiences as a child in the 1930s and ’40s. George had been a highly accomplished professional; he served as president of two Virginia community colleges and published scores of academic-oriented books and articles. But writing personal stories about his life was an entirely different kind of animal, he observed. He was enjoying the process and was inspired to teach others what it was like to live the way he did back then. He had visions of writing a book about it all. Could he really stick with the process well enough to build an entire memoir around his childhood in Fries?

George found his answer, and he has recently released his memoir: “Once-Told Tales: A Boy’s Life on the Crooked Road, Fries, Virginia, A Mill Town.”


He gave voice to it all: camping out in the backyard in his Army surplus tent; surviving an attack of leeches by burning them off with matches; becoming a big-time “gambler” by flicking coins; killing a bird with a BB gun and deciding he would never kill again; making it through school with Cs and Ds; spending five days a week after school and all day Saturday playing basketball and ping-pong at the Y; eating dinners of fried potatoes, green onions from the garden, mustard greens and cornbread; burning his bottom while drying too close to the stove after his Saturday night bath; getting a jar of pickled peaches as a Christmas present while pondering the question: if Santa could come every Christmas, why couldn’t Jesus? He made sure to weave in a good bit of the town’s history, informing readers at the outset that Fries was pronounced “freeze” not like what you ate with your hamburger. He didn’t surgar-coat his depiction of the town and its people, including himself. He just let the stories do his talking, and in so doing left readers with a real and deep appreciation of his small-town life while beckoning us to dive into our own memories of our childhoods in towns small or large.

If you are embarking on writing your life story, and you happened to have grown up in a small town, maybe you’ve got your own once-told tales to bring to life. Perhaps, instead of seeking to write a full-fledged autobiography that covers your entire life, you too may want to consider writing a slice-of-life memoir. Would you like to tell us all about what it was like to grow up in your small town?

– Kevin Quirk, author of “Your Life Is a Book And It’s Time To Write It,” teaches classes on Writing Your Life Story and serves as a ghostwriter for memoirs and autobiographies.