Keys to creating a loving memoir
How many times have you thought a birthday, special family event, or a day like Father’s Day would be a great time to capture your dad’s memories? Or maybe that’s the time to gather not only Dad’s memories but also those of other male family members?
Or maybe you’re the dad…would you like this for a present?! (Beats a tie, right?)
Whoever you are, or whoever is on your list of special men whose memories you want to gather together, don’t wait!
Instead, put a few key actions into play:
- Prepare questions— In the hopes of gleaning as much feedback as possible, a good memoir developer researches then organizes their questions ahead of time. Use old photos or a journal or objects that are special to the men in the family, letting those items help you lead the conversation. This way, if you get extra interview time, you’ll have ways to evoke more memories.
- Choose a gathering tool—Always record your interview sessions instead of relying on your notes. Small and unobtrusive technology is less intimidating during interviews where emotions may be high and people could feel vulnerable, so decide if you want the recording on your phone or a small digital recorder.
- Gather memories outside of specific events—Besides asking about questions that relate to a special event like Father’s Day, Christmas, or graduation, ask loved ones about Dad or Uncle Jack, or Grandpa. If he likes to cook, what are/were his best recipes? Anyone learn any driving tips from him? Any great stories he wrote, dancing you saw, or brilliant home remodeling—especially on a budget?
As you get responses, ask follow-up questions like: Was this [recipe] something he brought from the old country? How’d he learn remodeling?
- Start small—Family and friends could get intimidated when you suddenly announce, “I want to capture our family history!” Thinking about—let alone remembering—the whole history seems daunting to most people (especially with no warning!). Collect many insights and you’ll find you have a revealing compendium.
Instead start by suggesting smaller and more specific ideas in an email or phone call before the event. Explain what you’d like to do, ask if they want to be included, and if they have photos, etc. to share. For example:
“I’ve been wanting to capture loving/funny/important memories about Dad (or Grandpa, or Uncle Jack) for a long time, and I think this event gives us a great time to start. Would you be willing to share your favorite story when we meet?” Or “I’d love to hear your favorite memory about [a special day or event]. When would you like to talk about it?”
- Decide on individuals or groups—Now that travel has opened again (to some degree), are you seeing a loved one or several at a special event? If more than one, can you handle it if after each question folks chime in together, talking over each other and interrupting so you only get snippets of real information?
Or would one-on-one interviews give you more? Try breaking the group up by finding a quiet spot for individual interviews.
When those are finished, go back to the full gathering and let everyone listen to each other’s comments. Get ready for a lively conversation! That’s when others are likely to yell things like, “No, that’s not the whole story!” or “Yeah, I remember that. I saw it happen, too!” and you can add their insights.
- Be friendly—This isn’t investigative journalism, so don’t push. Watch for signs of fatigue, especially with older family members. When stories arouse buried emotions, ask interviewees if they need water, a bathroom break, or anything else—including a hug.
- Will you limit memory gathering to just one day?—It’s unlikely you’ll gather enough memories from one event. It could be even harder in 2021 when everyone’s delighted to finally be together again. It’s been a year since loved ones have seen each other and there could be the kind of excitement—even frenzy—that could make calm memory-gathering challenging.
To learn more, wait for other holidays and events, like Fourth of July and noteworthy birthdays. Set up phone calls and/or Zoom meetings to keep the project going. Or just ask family members to email their memories—you can even create a specific email address to collect them.
For more ideas on how to interview, check out websites like Geneology.com and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. For even more help, learn how to ghostwrite memoirs and other materials by taking Claudia Suzanne’s Ghostwriting Professional Designation Program (GPDP) and becoming a Certified Ghostwriter.
Find out more from the Wambtac team through our website, where you can also find a Certified Ghostwriter who specializes in making memoirs not only a wondrous family remembrance but a marketable literary property.