A lot of my business is still what I think of as whole-life memoirs, starting with the subject’s recollections of his or her parents or grandparents and ending in the present day. But as inquiries grow, so do requests for less traditional structures. And that’s been a good challenge for me lately, thinking about how I can accommodate other types of projects besides the soup-to-nuts life stories. Here are a few new projects under consideration that don’t follow quite so traditional a memoir structure:
- A prospective client has developed significant expertise in a particular niche of human resources that involves identifying and galvanizing mentor/protégé relationships. She asked if I could help her write a book that blends her own experiences in the workplace as both a mentor and protégé with some of her conclusions and insights about the process. Though she could go through a more commercial form of publishing, she likes the quick turnaround time I can provide her and wants a supply of books at the ready to hand out to participants at her workshops or to companies that contact her about consulting.
- Through years of volunteer work, a client has come to realize she has a special talent for hospice care. She has witnessed numerous end-of-life cycles and has worked closely with a wide range of patients and their families. She wants to talk through some of what she has learned through her diversity of hospice experience.
- A young man dealt with a difficult time in his personal life by training for and competing in an Ironman competition. He has asked me to help him recount the story of that one year of training as well as the event itself.
- An elderly woman whose husband has developed fairly extensive memory loss regrets that he didn’t write more about his life while he still could, especially the rags-to-riches story of how he built his business. Since interviewing him would be difficult for me due to his memory loss, she has been sending me the newsletters he wrote over the course of decades for his employees and has asked me to try to reconstruct the account of his company from the newsletters and various speeches he’s given over the years.
- A middle-aged couple have both been blogging over the past two years since the husband received a discouraging medical diagnosis. They enlisted me to cull their blog entries and help them turn these materials, written by them, into a book.
- Earlier today, I was asked whether I could write the life story of someone who is no longer living – not based on research, like a biography, but based on other people’s accounts of him. I’d like to try. I can imagine it being sort of a memorial book, rather than a memoir.
Recounting the story of your life as a narrative is just one way to honor who you are. Writing about specific time periods or events you’ve gone through, sharing your insights or expertise on a particular topic, or even gathering existing information and reworking it into a textual narrative are all other ways. Each person has a different story, and there may in fact be just as many different ways to tell these stories.