Gusimbura

Gusimbura

As a personal historian for more than eighteen years, I helped people remember their pasts. Sometimes their pasts held painful memories that my subjects did not wish to share. I respected their wishes, thinking about my own past and some of the pain therein. (more…)

How ‘The Spirit of Villarosa’ led to ‘What Lies Within’

How ‘The Spirit of Villarosa’ led to ‘What Lies Within’

In 2003 I began writing The Spirit of Villarosa as a ghostwriter for another personal historian. The manuscript I created was based on interviews with my current co-author, Marc Ashton, whose story forms the basis of the book, and transcripts his father, Horace Dade Ashton, left behind. After I began writing this father-son story, my employer asked me to add a third narrative about the son’s kidnapping. The assignment to weave three different narratives into a single story became the most challenging I’d encountered in my years as a writer. I did my best, but the completed book did not meet the son’s expectations. (more…)

Why Write a Memoir?

Why Write a Memoir?

Many times during my nearly two-decade career as a personal historian, people have approached me and said that they should write a book.

“Why?”  I’ve always asked.

Their responses have varied, but they included life lessons and values they wished to share, helping and honoring others, surviving insurmountable odds, finding careers about which they were passionate, demonstrating the importance of service, hoping to put their lives in order after being diagnosed with serious illnesses, and sharing their successes.

Some of the stories I agreed to write pro bono. I could not refuse the woman who was nearly 100 years old and had lived in two centuries, experiencing many changes, or the young wife and mother suffering from metastatic cancer.

I was paid well for other tales, but I often think I learned more and earned more than money from my work. I found common themes that touched all lives, and I discovered that most families have issues, some more than others. By helping other people tell their stories, I found a way to make sense of my own life and decided that my story might help others. That’s why I began writing my own series of memoirs, beginning with What Lies Within.

Recently I discovered a book of essays by memoirists that included Annie La Mott and Cheryl Strayed, titled Why We Write About Ourselves. The book’s contributors wrote about different themes and events, but all seemed to agree that one reason they wrote about themselves was to help others.

I hope that my tales will do the same.