Tag Archives: personal historian Kevin Quirk

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 Plans to Mark His 60th Birthday with a Revisit, Reminisce and Reconnect Tour

When I interview women and men in my role as personal historian and autobiography ghostwriter, I often invite them to share stories from memorable birthdays. Sometimes that invitation opens the door to birthdays in which that person goes back in time. That’s what I’m choosing to do for my extended 60th birthday.

The plan is shaping up for mid-August, about a month after my actual birthday. The idea is to return to places that have been important in my life though I seldom spend much time there anymore. I seek to reminisce, revisit, and perhaps rekindle…something…I’m not yet sure what.

First stop is the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York, the holistic educational center where I lived and worked for several years. It was my home base for sorting out new directions and new possibilities in my life. It’s also the place where my wife Krista and I met, 25 years ago this summer. Our jobs overlapped, with me serving as Director of Housing in charge of the cabins, dorms, and camp sites for attendees and Krista in charge of arrangements for the faculty. We enjoyed a few nice talks, walked the perimeter of the lake together a few times, and even went to a movie, “Field of Dreams,” which celebrated Krista’s home state of Iowa while paying homage to Boston’s Fenway Park, my backyard all through college. Of course, it would take us three more years of only occasional letter writing (pre-email) to finally see the potential of a relationship, but that’s another story!

Then it’s on to the coast of Maine, where my parents frequently took our family for summer vacations. Their goal, as we heard it often, was to retire somewhere along that coast. Maybe run a little motel near Boothbay Harbor. It never happened, but it makes for a poignant memory. I’ve only prowled the coast a couple of times in the last 45 years, so I’m looking forward to going back in time in that region. We’ll be based down south near York but I know I’ll make it at least as far north as Camden.

Then I will make a stop in my hometown: Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. My parents moved away from there when I left for college in 1972, and I have no family in Shrewsbury today. I have passed through every now and then, but haven’t really explored the town in decades. I’m going to do that now, spurred by joining the Facebook group “If you grew up in Shrewsbury you remember…” I do remember more, more than I thought I did, and somehow as I turn 60 it’s become not only more important but more meaningful. I especially remember growing up on Lake Quinsigamond, and I’m looking forward to getting back out on the water where I first would explore in our rowboat and then in the fastest canoe on the lake!

Then it’s on to Fenway Park, where I attended at least 150 games while living in Shrewsbury and then attending Boston University as an undergrad in the ’70s. I once selected an apartment on Park Drive, despite the ever-present roaches, because it was a six-minute walk to the Fenway bleachers – five minutes for Yankees games. I was in Fenway when Carlton Fisk won Game Six of the 1975 World Series with his foul pole home run. I was back, thanks to my friend John, for the ’78 playoff heartbreak with the Yankees. The last time I sat in Fenway was more than 20 years ago. It remains one of those places that remind us that while much has changed, some things are still pretty much the same.

I don’t have any great expectations for this experience of remembering and honoring these past places that form part of the backdrop of my life. My plan is to show up and be present. Who knows? Maybe when I sit in some “Writing Your Life Story” class like the classes I teach today, I will be able to call up my memories, and the feelings and associations behind them, when I went back in time to mark my 60th birthday.

– Kevin Quirk helps women and men of all ages, backgrounds and places write their life stories as personal historian and autobiography ghostwriter. He is the author of “Your Life Is a Book And It’s Time to Write It,” and the place he now lives in is Crozet, Virginia.

Study Reveals That Children and Adolescents Benefit from Hearing the Life Stories of Their Older Relatives

As a personal historian and ghostwriter of memoirs and autobiographies for 18 years, I have consistently noticed the joy and appreciation of family members who read and hear the life stories of their parent or grandparent. Now, an Emory University study confirms that there are indeed emotional and psychological benefits for children and adolescents who are able to learn about how their older relatives have lived:


The study concluded that teens who knew more stories about their extended family exhibited a greater degree of emotional well-being and had a stronger sense of self-identity. I believe these same kinds of benefits extend to the adult children of men and women who take the time and effort to sit down and chronicle their life stories with the help of a personal historian or autobiography ghostwriter. Often these family members are simply surprised to uncover so much of what they never knew.

I recall a 93 year old client whose five adult children, most in their 60s, told me how much they had learned about their mom from the autobiography that I wrote for her. Oh, they knew about the parts of her life that included them in the picture, but there were details about her childhood that were surprising, revealing, and affirming of just how far their mother had come in her life.

The 50-something son of a current client similarly mentioned to me that when he read his father’s life story that I have been working on with him since last summer, he found out things about his father that had never been shared before. And he was enjoying the discovery.

Sharing stories about their past for children and grandchildren is often the primary motivation for clients who come to me to interview them and write their life story in a memoir or autobiography. It’s also what frequently drives the students who attend my classes on “Writing Your Life Story.” They tell me that their family has been after them for years to sit down and write their stories, both those that are already well know within the family ranks and those that have not made it to the dinner table. Knowing that their younger family members are waiting to hear something meaningful, and personal, pushes many seniors in a positive way to dig deeper into their memory banks and bring forward the engaging stories that others are waiting to hear and read.

An article in the December 9 issue of the Washington Post explored the growing trend of seniors hearing the call to document their stories, and how they often call upon personal historians and autobiography ghostwriters like us. These seniors understand the benefits they can extend to their family, and the gift that endures much longer than a typical physical possession. Those of us whoo offer our services through the Association of Personal Historians, know the joys and rewards that come from this sacred act as well. That’s a major reason why we do what we do.

– Kevin Quirk has been helping women and men of all ages and backgrounds tell their most meaningful stories in his role as personal historian and ghostwriter of memoirs and autobiographies. 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.”

Watching Your Fifth-Grade Son Compete in the Olympics Will Leave Lasting Memories for Personal Historian and Autobiography Ghostwriter Kevin Quirk

As parents of children attending school, we know that all school performances are not created equal. Some we are apt to remember for awhile, while others will blur with the passing years, and still others we’d like to forget as soon as we leave the scene. Then, every once in awhile, a school program comes along that we just know is going to stick.

I enjoyed one of those more memorable school events this week with my son Aibek, a fifth grader at Charlottesville Waldorf School. His class went to the Olympics! Well, the Waldorf version of the Olympics anyway. The fifth graders had been studying ancient Greek history and culture, and to complement the classroom learning, the school partnered with three other Waldorf fifth grade classes to put together a taste of Olympic competition in the true Greek tradition. So we loaded up the kids in a caravan of parents’ cars and vans and trekked to a summer camp in the woods near Williamsburg. For two days, these young Olympians displayed great effort, athletic prowess, and sportsmanship while trying the long jump, javelin, discus, wrestling, the 40 yard dash, and the relays that climaxed the competition.

True to Greek heritage, the fifth grade classes were not aligned by schools, which meant no “my school is better than your school” pressure and boasting. Instead, students from all four schools were blended into city states: Athens, Corinth, Thebes, and Sparta. After an opening day of warm-ups and practice, the children performed Greek-themed plays and music in the evening. The events also included reciting “The Ode to Zeus” and singing “Glorious Apollo,” not to mention receiving an authentic laurel wreath to wear on their head.

I served as one of the many judges who volunteered from the parent pool. We recorded the top two finishers within each city state at each event, and then selected the students we believed merited the top two places in a separate category of “grace and beauty.” No, we did not judge our own kids. After the competition, we spoke of the achievements of each child.

That’s the rundown of the basic information of these fifth grade Olympics, and I’ll probably remember some of that as my son advances through middle school, and then high school and beyond. But I’m a parent here, so mostly what will leave its mark on my memory banks will be images of my son. First, he had told me before we left that his biggest wish was to be selected for Sparta because he so strongly identified with the Spartans’ way of life. When his name was the first called for Sparta, he screamed in excitement and leaped from his seat. And then the images from the Olympic Games: the perfect form in which he held his javelin, his intense look as he landed in the long jump pit; and especially his initial burst of speed and energy as he launched his leg of the relay, which of course “our” team Sparta won!

When I teach my next “Writing Your Life Story” class to the vibrant senior learning program OLLI at UVA, I suspect I’ll find a way to mention my 2013 Olympic experience. And to my students, and to all of you who may be working on your memoir or autobiography, or simply enjoy writing snippets of your life story, I will offer this suggestion: what is the one school program or event that any of your children performed in that you most vividly recall? As soon as you think of it, write it down!

– Charlottesville, Virginia-based ghostwriter and personal historian Kevin Quirk has been helping men and women of all ages and backgrounds write the most meaningful stories of their lives in memoirs and autobiographies for more than 15 years. 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.”

For A Different Kind of Mother’s Day Gift, Write a Story About Your Mom and Give It to Her

Looking for a different kind of Mother’s Day gift this year? I’ve got an idea, which may be especially fitting if you happen to be writing your autobiography, memoir, or life story but can be fun and useful for anyone. I have used this exercise often in my classes on Writing Your Life Story and with my clients as personal historian and ghostwriter of autobiographies and memoirs.

Write for ten minutes in response to this Story Spark:

“You would know everything you need to know about my mother if you were around when…”

Try to resist over-thinking about what you will write. Just allow it to flow spontaneously. Don’t worry if it seems too serious, too silly, too maudlin, or too judgmental. Just follow it.

Or, if you would prefer a different angle, write about that one story about your mother that you have found yourself most often repeating both to others who know her and those who do not. You know what that story is. So write about that for ten minutes.

The stories that emerge from these Story Sparks may not capture your mother perfectly and completely – or maybe they will! But even if they don’t get right to the essence of your mother they most likely will get you going, freeing you up to remember and to chronicle countless other reflections and observations that are just waiting for you to record. It doesn’t matter if your mother is still a part of your life or if she passed away years or decades ago.

And if you write something in the next week that you believe your mother might enjoy hearing and she is still with us, perhaps you’ve got yourself that different kind of Mother’s Day gift?

– Kevin Quirk is a personal historian who writes memoirs and autobiographies for women and men of all ages and backgrounds. He is the author of “Your Life Is a Book – And it’s to Write It!”