Why should I hire a personal historian when I can write my own memoir?

One reason people hire a personal historian is that it's easier and more fun to tell your story to an interested listener. Many people who come to me have tried to do it themselves, but find it too daunting or time-consuming. I will ensure your book is finished in a timely, professional manner.

Once I decide to go ahead, what happens?

We set up our first meeting and off we go! You don't really have to do anything prior to our first interview, but if you're eager to get started, you could ask family members if there are particular stories they want to be sure you talk about. You could also start gathering memorabilia like old diaries, letters, family trees, etc., or just make notes of people, places, events, etc. that were important in your life.

How long does it take to complete a personal history book?

It might take anywhere from four months to twenty-four months, depending on the frequency of the interviews, number of revisions, the size of the book, the number of photographs, etc.

How much does a personal history cost?

Every project is unique. The cost depends on many factors, including the number of interview hours, how much editing and research are needed, how many photos are included, and so on. After we discuss your project I’ll give you a quote.

Can I sell my book?

Yes. You’re the author and you own the copyright.

I've already started writing my memoirs. Can you use what I've written?

Absolutely. Your writings can usually be incorporated into the narrative. I will do some editing so everything fits together seamlessly.

I really don't remember much about my younger years. Is that a problem?

You'll be surprised at how much you remember once you start telling your story. But if you don't know much about your childhood or younger years, that’s okay. This is your personal history the way you remember it.

Can I make a book about someone who has passed away?

Yes, we can make a tribute book that could include memories and stories from family, friends, co-workers.

If I change my mind about something I talked about in our interviews, can I take it out of the manuscript?

You have complete control over what ends up in your manuscript. At the review stage, you can change or delete anything you want.

My family wants to have my grandfather's story told, but he lives in a different city. Do you do phone interviews?

I have done phone interviews, but it’s always best to meet face-to-face so I prefer to travel to the narrator’s residence. Once at least some of interviews are done and I return home, the rest of the project can be handled through phone and email.

Are you a genealogist?

No. A genealogist traces family ancestry through the deceased, while a personal historian helps the living tell their life stories. I always do some research into the family history and have discovered some great surprises for my clients, but I’m not an expert genealogist.

I'm afraid no one will read my memoir. My life isn’t all that interesting.

Yes, it is. Every life is interesting. You never know who will read your story and find inspiration, comfort, direction when they’re lost or confused, or simply be touched by your humanity. Your memoir is your own "take" on life, and you should tell your story, because every one of us has a unique perspective that contributes to nothing less than the history of the world. As Maya Angelou said, "A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer; it sings because it has a song." Sing your song. Someone in the future wants to hear it.
  • The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • The best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.
    Andy Rooney
  • If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.
    Rudyard Kipling
  • Do not pass through life without leaving something behind for others to learn from your experiences. You may discover a you you've never known.
    Antwone Fisher
  • The next thing most like living one's life over again seems to be a recollection of that life.
    Benjamin Franklin
  • I urge you to pursue preserving your personal history to allow your children and grandchildren to know who you were as a child...
    Oprah Winfrey
  • It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.
    Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
  • The only thing you take with you when you're gone is what you leave behind.
    John Allston