On the craft and business of personal history and life story writing
Some of my favorite personal history resources
The first book I bought on personal history. Jennifer Campbell walks you through each step of starting up your new personal history business. A must-have for anyone serious about making a go of this as a career.
Denis Ledoux's classic primer on writing your life story. This book is intended for people writing their own memoir, but it's rich with advice we can adapt for writing someone else's story. A thoughtful take on the process with examples drawn from his workshops.
Standard biographies are a different breed from what we write as personal historians, but Nigel Hamilton's book has some excellent insight on the history of life-writing, why we write biography, and why we read it.
No, this isn't about life story writing. But if you get sweaty palms talking about your business in front of groups or even one-on-one with strangers (which may be the very best way to find new clients!), get this book and read it. Chad Elliot taught himself how to overcome hurdles in communicating with others; he can teach you, too. A fun, creative, out-of-the-box approach to building our "talking" skills.
Jessica Abel goes deep on the art and craft of narrative storytelling for audio. If you think your audio life story projects can benefit from some of the techniques that make shows like This American Life and The Moth sparkle, take a look at Out on the Wire. Something that made this even more interesting for me was the graphic novel (graphic non-fiction?) format. A mashup of genres and media styles that makes you see/hear things in a different way.
Derek Lewis has written a definitive guide on writing a business book. Here's the interesting thing: He's a ghostwriter of business books. In other words, he's written a book about the kinds of books he ghostwrites. (Think on that for a minute!) Business books don't technically fit into the usual categories of legacy projects, but if you're ever asked to write the story of a family company—and how it has served its community—Derek's guide can help.
Tools I Use
When I started as a personal historian, I used Pages for Mac to write my books. Then I discovered Scrivener and never looked back. There are tons of reasons this word processor is a stand-out, but by far the most important for me is the two-pane layout, perfect for showing an interview transcript side-by-side with the manuscript.
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