Friday, November 28, 2014

New Adventures - Memoir Writing

Two years ago I answered an ad on Craig's List that changed my life for the better. The ad was for a memoir writer. I'll admit I was a little apprehensive applying for a job on Craig's List, but I gave it a try anyway.

The position was being advertised by the son of a WW II vet. His father, Andy, was in an assisted living facility in Princeton. I met with him a few times and tried to parse out his story. John, his son, and I met a few times in local restaurants for updates, and to pass along information. John provided me with treasures, otherwise known as photo albums and the book his mother kept while "her soldier" was serving in Italy towards the end of the war to end all wars.

The challenge during this project as that Andy suffered from short term memory loss. Our visits would include him asking repeatedly "are you married? What does your husband do? Do you have any children? You're good looking." I'd get a couple of thoughts out of him from his past, before he would ask me again the same questions, as if he had not asked them only moments earlier.

Even with the interruptions, we were making progress. It helped to have a few photos to spur conversations. The son's biggest regret was that he did not start the project sooner, especially when his mother was still alive. We had plans to meet one of Andy's friends from the war once the weather turned nicer. Unfortunately, time was not on our side. Andy developed pneumonia only a few weeks into our project, and died in January 2013. 

As I was writing his memoir I thought this would make the perfect career for me. My mom often tells us we are a combination of our life experiences. No one can take that away from us. In this case, Andy's son was drawn to my resume over the other dozen or so he received because I had experience as a pre-school assistant teacher. He felt dad was very childlike as his short-term memory deteriorated, and it would take someone with a lot of patience to extract his story.

In addition to my pre-school teaching experience, I have an undergraduate degree in history, a graduate degree in library science, and a career as a freelance writer (i.e., interviewing and writing skills). My hobbies include blogging and photography. 

Here is where I put myself out on that proverbial ledge ... I'd like to start a professional memoir writing business. One of my biggest challenges has been deciding on a fair rate. I know, it is icky to talk about money, but if I want this to become a career and not a hobby, I need to charge for my services.

Open to negotiations, I'm charging $25 an hour for my services, plus expenses related to publishing the memoir. An hour is an hour is an hour. An hour is interviewing, writing, traveling (especially longer distances), transcribing, taking pictures, coordinating our schedules (unless this is super easy), and anything else related to writing a memoir. My research shows rates vary widely for this service, but this is a fair rate for someone starting out in the memoir business. 

Everyone has a story. Hire me to help preserve your story, or that of a loved one.

As for Andy and his story, we were reaching the end of what I could learn from him and his son could not find the letters his parents wrote to each other during the war. I met the entire family for a memorial luncheon at Jasna Polena where it was decided I would continue best as I could. I wrote what I could. He family made copies of it and distributed it at Andy's memorial service in South Carolina. It is something they treasure. 

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