Before you get upset, I’m not talking about Edward Snowden type secrets though some might complain they’re just as bad; I’m talking about family secrets in the form of short Family History/Legacy books to be used as heirlooms and passed on to younger generations.
A few years back, I was having a phone conversation with my mother and she started reminiscing about family members that passed on when she was a young teenager. The way she spoke of them made me feel kind of left out for never having met them.
Later that evening, I was lying in bed playing out a conversation in my head with my future grandchildren and them wanting to know about my parents and my fondest memories and then the idea hit me. I needed to document as much as I could the lives of my parents while there was still time so that my future generations wouldn’t have to rely solely on my recollection.
I wanted to create an heirloom-type book, one for each of my parents, and since my parents divorced when I was young and live in two different parts of the country, I had to devise a plan that made gathering information easy so I developed a questionnaire.
My plan was to document their lives in stages, or rather chapters of their lives. I then crafted 20 questions for each stage for them to complete and for me to fluff up/edit as best I could. The stages consisted of:
· Beginnings and Childhood
· Early Adult Years
· Being a Parent
· Middle Adult years
· Being a Grandparent
· Later Adult Years
In-between each chapter I would add photos and family recipes, poems they had written, and even their favorite sayings. When completed, the Family History books were each 75 pages long and available from a Print on Demand publisher .
My parents were thrilled when I presented them each with a copy of their very own biography, and so were my siblings and their children now that they have something providing them with a deeper knowledge of their grandparents.
I had no idea that, when I crafted these family heirloom books, I would soon be earning a decent return for my time and a stream of cash flow for doing something I love to do anyway. It all started when my mom shared her new biography with her neighbor in Florida.
Soon after, the neighbor contacted me and we discussed me writing a family history for her to share as her heirloom. I let her know my terms, which at the time were $50/written page and a minimum page count of 75 and the caveat that she would share it with at least 5 of her friends. She jumped at it without hesitation and a new stream of income for my freelance writing was born.
While the majority of my clients come from word of mouth referrals, I have, on occasion, set up booths at local craft fairs and always walked away with at least one client and some interested prospects. I also set up a reasonable fee schedule so that my clients could pay over a period of time instead of a big lump sum. The payment plan is a huge benefit, especially for elderly clients living on a tight budget and it is always a good idea to get a non-refundable deposit to cover the occasional dropout.
For anyone who wants to give this a try, I would recommend starting with your own parents or family members just to get a feel for the type of writing that is necessary and to hone up on your interviewing skills. Though remember, most of the interviewing will come in the form of a questionnaire, which is very simple.
HOW TO REMEMBER, WRITE AND PUBLISH YOUR LIFE STORY by Angela Hoy
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Rich Bivins is a freelance spec writer living near ‘The Holy City’ in South Carolina. He is a former Army combat medic and holds a BA in History. Rich is currently working on two paranormal mystery novels for adult and middle grade readers. He is often on Twitter sharing the tweets of fellow writers of all genres. You can follow him at https://twitter.com/BIVRIC
Look at the huge list of “Memory Triggers” in the book below for ideas. 🙂
HOW TO REMEMBER, WRITE AND PUBLISH YOUR LIFE STORY – Using Angela’s MEMORY TRIGGERS, recall memories that have been dormant for years
I loved this piece. I’ve been working with my mom trying to document her life using a book of questions that just seems to go on forever. Like Chris Walker, I’d be interested in those questions, too.
I like this idea very much, would you be willing to elaborate on the twenty questions you ask for each section? Is there a way to purchase or download the questionaire?
Thanks so much for this article.
Hi Rich, Great article! I do have a question for you though… do you write the heirloom books as autobiographies (“When I was a kid…” or as biographies (“When Sally was a kid…”)?