Frequent Questions About Personal Histories

Below are some of the typical questions people ask when thinking about writing their life story. If you have a question that is not listed please send it via e-mail: carole @ caroleglass.com and I would be happy to reply.

  1. Clients ask, "What do I say? What do you want to know about me?"
  2. What if I tell you something that I don't want included in the book?
  3. How does personal history differ from genealogy?
  4. Why would anyone be interested in my life story?
  5. What about asking a family member to help record my story? Why should I hire someone?
  6. How long does it take?
  7. How much does it cost?
  8. What's the first step? How do we get started?
  9. "I love to read biographies. Mom's story would make a great book."

1. Clients ask, "What do I say? What do you want to know about me?"

Writing your life story with a personal historian is a collaborative process. The client is the narrator and the personal historian is the recorder and guide. Your story is your story, as you wish to tell it. If there is something that you prefer not to talk about that is your choice. I provide various memory joggers to help you dust off your thoughts and will provide questions to help draw out your stories.

2. What if I tell you something that I don't want included in the book?

After the interviews are completed, I prepare a draft of the transcripts edited into chapters for you to review. With today's computers adjustments are easily made. All deleted information is kept confidential.

3. How does personal history differ from genealogy?

Genealogy is the collection of names, dates and other facts about the lives of ancestors. Personal history is primarily the collection of life experiences of the living along with the facts. Think of these personal stories as the leaves that will fill out the family tree.

4. Why would anyone be interested in my life story?

Everyone's life is interesting especially to those close to you. Think of someone who was important to you but is no longer with us. If you could talk with that person just once more, what would you want to know? That is what others would appreciate hearing about you.

Remember what Mark Twain said: "There was never yet an uninteresting life. Such a thing is an impossibility. Inside the dullest exterior, there is a drama, a comedy and a tragedy."

Also in today's fast paced world families are often scattered across the country. Recording your life story is a way to preserve family traditions. Recipes, ethnic customs and sayings can be included with your life story.

5. What about asking a family member to help record my story? Why should I hire someone?

Typically when speaking with relatives people assume they know the background or different aspects of a certain event. So they don't go into detail. Someone unfamiliar with the family will ask more questions and thus get more in depth.

Most important, by working with a personal historian the stories are approached like a project. It gets done. Depending on someone to volunteer often results in delays. Remember, every day is a gift, not a guarantee. So don't put off your stories for another day.

6. How long does it take?

Generally the entire process of telling your life story from gathering family information and photos, to doing the interviews, reviewing the draft and getting the book designed, printed and bound can take eight months or more. Much depends on the amount of time the subject takes to collect and finalize the materials. Your project is scheduled to meet your requirements.

7. How much does it cost?

Cost is primarily driven by the number of interview hours, the amount of editing and number of changes made to the draft.

A life story can be covered in 8-10 hours of interviewing. Some people need more time to describe unique events. For example, war experiences, serious illnesses, careers, large families etc. Every effort is made to identify what needs to be included up front.

Editing includes verifying the correct spelling of foreign words, places and medical terms. Often some research is needed to provide additional background, to put the subject in historical context. Some styles of speech require more time to organize into text.

A draft is provided for the client to read but also to check dates and names. Minor additions or deletions can be made at this point. It is best to make changes only that are critical, rather than just wording changes.

Every project is unique. After an initial meeting, a customized plan is developed and an estimate is provided for the manuscript development. The life story of one person requires usually a minimum of 100 hours. When the draft is approved, a separate estimate is given for the book design, printing and binding. The price of your books depends on the number of pages, the number and condition of the photographs and the number of copies you order.

8. What's the first step? How do we get started?

The first step is to start collecting names and dates of your immediate family. This helps familiarize me with the people you will mention and gets the memories flowing. I also provide various tools to help us both uncover what your book will be about.

Then our first audio taping session is scheduled. You sit back and talk. I do all the work.

9. "I love to read biographies. Mom's story would make a great book."

While both commercial and privately published biographies are about the lives of individuals, they are written in very different styles.

Personal histories are in essence oral histories. The stories are told in your words and style of speech. To the reader it will seem like listening in on a conversation. Your favorite sayings are captured verbatim. This is important in order to reflect your personality.

Commercially written memoirs take a number of years to complete and are written with the help of several editors. They are also crafted to appeal to a broad market, to sell books. Often real events are exaggerated or changed for effect.

Your book is about you. It is the most unique, lasting legacy that you can have.

 

 

 

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