Memoir FAQs

Memoir is fast becoming one of the most popular forms of life writing used by individuals from every walk of life because of its' flexibility. If you search memoir on Amazon.ca you could end up 80m000 hits depending on your search terms.

 

Memoir has become everyman's’ genre because it is not bound by the same restrictions as autobiography or even biography. You can tailor your memoir to focus on any period or aspect of your life. For example, memoirs have been written that limit their focus to growing up, occupations, relationships, specific experiences or spiritual beliefs.

 

Memoir is also not limited to a chronological structure and makes use of many of the same devices utilized by fiction writers to develop a story, characters, scenes and dialogue.

 

Want to know more? Go to this New York Times magazine article: https://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/30/books/review/Genzlinger-t.html

What if I'm not rich and famous?

What do a call girl, an ecstasy addict, a Calgary businessman and Canadian crown prosecutor have in common?  That’s right they all wrote memoirs. Yet none of them are statesmen, military commanders, famous actors, singers, sports figures or politicians.

 

Memoirs are no longer just for the prominent and famous. More and more people are discovering how satisfying it can be to record their lives and pass it on to subsequent generations.  Says retiree Robert Finertie--in a New York Times article about the trend, “It has been a healing journey that has helped me reach so many things in my past. My wife says I have never been happier.”[1]

Others want to draw their family together from disparate parts of the world by writing the family story.  Denis Ledoux, an author from Lisbon Falls who teaches memoir, argues in a Time Magazine article[2] that a sense of continuity—either geographically or emotionally--has been lost between generations, oftentimes due to the demise of the oral storytelling tradition.

 

Hospices are putting the genre to work helping the dying and their caregivers write themselves through various journal and memoir type programs to relieve stress and the existential angst often associated with the dying. These legacy programs help relieve suffering by looking at the patient’s accomplishments and contributions made to society in general. People want to feel there is value in what they’ve done with their lives.

 

​For whatever reason, when most everyday memoirists plunge into the past they inevitably end up having some sort of therapeutic experience.  Dr. Paul Wilson, a retired California psychiatrist who appeared in the same New York Times article, said “It stirred up stuff that was quite different from lying on the couch and babbling at the ceiling while I was being analyzed.”

 

In my practice I have ghostwritten memoirs for a member of the Canadian Navy, a Calgary businessman who wanted to record his family’s dynasty and contribution to his industry, a prominent Canadian crown prosecutor and about a family which escaped from communist Bulgaria. These were all self-published for distribution to family members. There were no author tours or fancy press conferences. Others have approached me about their family’s involvement in the American Civil War, to write about an immigration or prisoner of war camp experience, or just to pull together a story that would tell children and grandchildren where they came from, and in so doing, help the younger family members shed light on their future life paths.

 

People of all ages have approached me. Though many retirees are interested, the average age of the memoir writer is trending down. Cases in point are Koren Zailckas, the author of Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood was in her early 20s when she penned her manuscript. Melissa Panarello, the author of the erotic memoir One Hundred Strokes of the Brush Before Bed, was a mere teenager when she wrote her book.

 

Many are inspired by memoirs penned by ordinary people such as teacher Frank McCourt who wrote the 1996 best seller Angela’s Ashes or Cheryl Strayed’s portrayal of her life on a gruelling Pacific Northwest trail entitled Wild.  The New York Times’ Mr. Finertie was so moved by Strayed’s book he enrolled in online courses with a writing coach, another growing trend.

"The most common comments I hear when memoir comes up are, “I haven’t done anything exciting enough to write about...”

 

Why hire a writer to prepare my memoir?

​There are many people out there who just don’t have the skills required or the time to write their own memoirs. Others simply don’t want to do it themselves. Hiring a professional memoir writer is the best way to make the most of memoir’s unique characteristics.

Are there other options to a written memoir?

Absolutely. If you Google life writing you will find many fine writers and editors out there who can offer you a variety of services to record your personal history including those who offer interviewing, transcriptions, ghostwriting, video and audio productions. Want to know more about personal historians? Have a look at the website of Dan Curtis: Professional Personal Historian at http://dancurtis.ca/

Can I write my own memoir?

Good idea. There are books, workshops and online programs available to help you craft your own life story. On the other hand you may find it easier and more fun to have someone else gather the necessary information and fashion it into a compelling story that will be read by your family members for generations to come.

If you are still interested in writing your own memoir you may find the following books helpful:

Your Life as Story by Tristine Rainer

Writing the Memoir by Judith Barrington

Living to Tell the Tale by Vivian Gornick

Writing About Your Life by William Zinsser

What if I have problems remembering?

​Don’t worry if you can’t remember the details. Through the use of old photographs, videos, notes and diaries we can work together to recreate past experiences. Sometimes it is only by letting go of your fear of not being able to remember that you can remember the details you need to make your story come alive.

How does your ghostwriting service work?

​At our first meeting we’ll talk about your hopes for the memoir–what you would like to achieve by having it written. We’ll discuss the scope of your project, area of focus, preferences regarding narrator voice and style, confidentiality concerns, research sources and intended readers. Based on this discussion a proposal will be developed that identifies the project’s goal, scope and target audience and outlines time and cost considerations.

Research methods vary with each project. Most require a series of interviews with the memoir subject, possibly combined with a document search, photograph review and visits to geographical locations relative to the narrative. Depending on the nature of the memoir it may also require historical research to place your story in a world, national or local history. I can gather information via in-person or telephone interviews, Zoom, emails, historical documentation and your existing notes. Travel and expenses are extra.

 

However we work together I will remain in close contact with you throughout the research and writing processes, ensuring that I remain true to your vision of the project from start to finish.

 

How much will it cost?

Like any other project the cost depends on the scope of the book, hours of research required and number of revisions. For example, a 100 page memoir based on only a few interviews with one set of minor revisions may cost about $5,000. Another 200 page project requiring extensive historical and personal research and 12 sets of revisions may cost about $20,000.

 

Will you write my memoir in exchange for a percentage of royalties?

No. It’s better for everyone concerned to maintain a clear cut professional relationship that ends when the book is complete. I will write your book based on a project estimate or work on an hourly basis. Unless an alternate arrangement is agreed upon you keep all royalties proceeding from the sale of your memoir, as well as sole ownership of copyright.

Can I hire you to write someone else’s memoir?

Yes. Oftentimes clients purchase the service as a gift for their parents or relatives.

Can you have the memoir made into a book?

Yes. A graphic artist will prepare the book design at an additional cost. Arrangements are then made to secure cost estimates from appropriate printers. You can also publish online.

Can you guarantee that my book will be a best-seller?

Sorry. I cannot offer that kind of guarantee. For the usual hourly fee I can help you prepare a proposal for a publisher.