In past years, I created lovely memoir booklets (48 pages, single fold, jacket with photo) about my grandparents that I gave to my children, my siblings and their children. It was a great success. The generation after mine (my kids, nephews and nieces) knew very little about their greatgrandparents and many appreciated this booklet. When I approached my mother about doing her life, she said there really wasn’t anything to write about. She did not seem very enthused. Perhaps another year, I thought.
As they say, none of us are getting any younger and, this year, I (and each of my siblings) have seemed to help my mother take care of more things. At 89, she still lives alone but that is made possible by the support she receives. So, I realized that it was not too early to get going on this memoir project.
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I wrote what I knew about her life and, the next time I was at her house, I turned my laptop on and began to read to her what I had written.
“Why did you do that?” she asked.
“Your family needs to know what went on before them,” I said. “Is what I have written the way it was?”
“Well, you forgot to say a few things.”
And with that, she began to share.
I was amazed how this technique of starting her story myself without her input and then sharing the results with her made it possible for her to envision the product, a memoir of her life. Otherwise it was all amorphous, all too big. And, even though I had told her I would do the writing and she knows this is what I do for a living, I think she still expected to have to be responsible for the piece herself. It was just too much without the sample pages I did on my own.
I send her an installment in the mail and then we review it over the phone. We do three pages a call. The woman who couldn’t remember anything is now adding details every time we speak. It’s even probable that I might have to end the booklet before her marriage to my father as I do want to make it a short book that can be a single-fold.
I told her I would put the thirty or so booklets we will need for our family into a basket with a handle and she can go around the Christmas gathering handing out the booklet to the various subfamilies.
“That’s your Christmas gift from me and it’s your gift to the rest of the family.”
She seemed to like the idea.
The next installment will be for her birthday in the summer.