Perhaps you have always wanted to write your memoirs but have never been able to find the time or maybe you have suggested to a relative that you would love to hear all about their life. LifeBook makes capturing your memoirs easy and, most importantly, enjoyable.
With the help of one of our project managers and other members of the team we can make the process run smoothly and quickly. We start by finding the perfect interviewer, who meets with the author every one to two weeks. These interviews are recorded to enable the ascribed ghostwriter to then create the author’s LifeBook. One interviewer said of her experience, “What I love about LifeBook is that I get to listen to the most amazing and fascinating life stories, I feel incredibly privileged to be a part of the process of recording someone’s memories.”
The interviewer guides the author
Every interviewer is trained to not only support the author when it comes to remembering and relating their stories, but also to make the author feel at ease and comfortable with talking about their past. In this way, the interviewer guides the author from the very start of their LifeBook right through to the end.
We have a structured tried-and-tested process of creating our authors’ autobiographies that ensures every part of the project runs smoothly. The ghostwriter writes up the content from each recorded interview and this is professionally edited before being sent to the author on a regular basis for amendments and checking.
As with our interviewers, our ghostrwiters find the LifeBook experience interesting and rewarding. At the end of one project, the ghostwriter told us, “It’s been a total privilege to have been a part of the author’s life story and to have helped him bring his incredible tales to the written page.”
The manuscript has been completed
Once the author’s life story has been completed, the manuscript has one last edit, followed by typesetting and a proofread, after which the resulting final draft is sent to the author for their approval and consent. When this has been given, the typeset is sent to the printer and the author’s personal LifeBook is created, enabling them, their family and friends to cherish the stories and photos it contains for years to come.
Each LifeBook is bound by hand and made of the finest materials, from the paper we use inside to the linen hardback cover. To complete the professional appearance of the book, the author’s name and unique story title are embossed in either silver or gold on the front cover of their LifeBook.
One of our authors, who has completed their LifeBook, spoke to us about our services, “In the past I’ve enjoyed telling my children and grandchildren about my own childhood. Of course, it was so vastly different from their own that they were always amazed whenever I spoke about it. I was persuaded by my daughter to record my memories in written form using LifeBook. The process for completing my autobiography was very exciting and wonderfully managed by the team. In addition, it brought back many happy memories that I had almost forgotten. My whole family think the project was well worthwhile and it has given them a first-hand description of the lives of their predecessors. Well done LifeBook.
The Diary of Anne Frank, the Diary of a Nobody, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13½, The Diary of Samuel Pepys – just four of the hundreds of diaries, fact and fiction, that have fascinated and entertained – and sometimes educated – us. A diary can be a window to the soul or a record of events – or perhaps both. Why not start your diary today? To read more about diaries click here.
One of our LifeBook authors in her book tells the story about how, when she was a young girl in London during the Second World War, her father gave her a diary, with the words, “This is a very interesting time of your life, you must write it all down.” The author does as instructed but in due course, on her marriage, throws that diary away. Her sentiments years later? “Wasn’t I silly?” It was only when she came to write her autobiography, she realised that it was too late – that diary, which could have been so helpful to her, had gone. What had seemed unimportant to her when she was on the brink of a new phase in her life would have given an insight into a different world and a way of life that had disappeared for ever, not to mention one young girl’s first-hand experiences of war-torn London.
What is the origin of the diary?
The word diary comes from the word diarium, Latin for daily, because of course, writing a diary is usually something that is done every day, a routine that allows the writer to unload the thoughts and events that have occurred whether trivial or of significance. In essence, a diary is a representation of the minutiae of day-to-day life, the highs and lows of our existence. Most diarists write for their own personal consumption (no wonder diaries often have small padlocks attached) and generally diaries are private, not destined for the eyes of others. For the diarist, writing daily contributions can be an outlet for emotion, a record of the humdrum as well as the exciting, a way of expressing ideas, observations and opinions – and not least the provision of a form of self-imposed discipline through the act of sitting down and compiling the entries themselves.
Of course sometimes diaries are kept as a transient pastime, for example, detailing a holiday or other short-term event. They can be used to address a specific problem, such as a slimmer’s food diary, to record goals and progress over time, or they might even follow a third person, as in the case of baby’s first year. These types of diaries serve an identifiable purpose and can be the most rewarding to read in the future, bringing memories flooding back.
Your diary could be a window on a world that has all but disappeared
While famous diaries might talk of historical and other important events, shining a light on people in power and their machinations, that is not to say that the diary of ‘the man on the Clapham omnibus’ should be denigrated. With the advent of modern technology, the life of the average person has been transformed over the past 100 years and who know where it will lead us? A diary can, in decades to come, become a window on a world that has all but disappeared – and, in fact, this is the case with many well-known diaries; in other words, the diarist never set out with that end in mind; rather, it all came about by a happy accident.
Are you considering writing your autobiography?
For anyone considering writing their autobiography, a diary is certain to be a useful aide memoire. Long-forgotten memories resurface and names and places can be quickly recalled. Queries about dates are easily resolved as are sequences of events. In this way, all these props make the construction of a life story a less daunting task. Having said that, a diary is not a prerequisite for an autobiography, it is merely a useful tool. For those without a diary to call upon, the physical act of writing down memories as they surface can trigger further ones in a snowball effect, particularly if the author has access to the support of others who also remember these times gone by and can help jog the memory.
With the advent of social media, is there a future for the diary? Now that everyone plays out their lives on the internet, will diary writing fall out of favour? Probably not, because therein lies the difference; social media is the public face of daily life – what we want people to know or the image we wish to portray – whereas a diary is the expression of our innermost thoughts and desires, which is a need that will never die – so long live the diary!
At LifeBook, my role as an editor is not typical nor entirely conventional when it comes to that kind of work. Yes, quality control is important, but, unlike conventional editing, it is not my place to decide what is included or left out of a LifeBook. That decision is down to the author.
Each LifeBook reflects the author’s life story as they see it and it is important that everything they wish to include is there. As a result, I will never remove any content from an autobiography without permission from the author. That is not to say I won’t highlight any issues that I spot—for example, if one particular story is included twice—but the ultimate say over what goes in lies with the author.
I maintain the unique voice of the author.
It is my job, as editor, to make sure that every LifeBook reads well while maintaining the unique voice of the author. Some authors like a formal tone, others may prefer a colloquial approach, but whatever their preference, I will edit within that remit.
In that way, our LifeBooks truly reflect each author’s idiosyncrasies (and we all have them) in terms of speech and personality. By using this approach, we can make every author’s LifeBook personal to them, rather than using a one-size-fits-all way of doing things.
Of course, we choose our ghostwriters very carefully, and part of my job is doing just that by screening them before they are given a live project. However, even the best writers need a ‘second pair of eyes’ and that is where I step in.
I read it as if I just picked up the book.
Think of me as the reader who has just picked up the book. Will I understand the story? Will I find it a pleasant and enjoyable read? Does everything make sense? Do the words flow? It is up to me to ensure that the answer to these questions is ‘yes’. If the answer is ‘no’, I will then do the work necessary to change that ‘no’ to a ‘yes’.
In addition, I will also do a spot of fact-checking along the way. Of course, I can’t check those things that are peculiar to the author, their family and associates, but I can make sure that general statements of fact are correct, such as the spelling of place names, dates of important events and so on.
It’s worth making this extra effort because it is the kind of thing that adds polish to a book to give a truly professional finish.
If you’ve ever wondered what an editor does, think of it as being a kind of quality control; in other words the type of job that makes sure that everything is how it should be. On the other hand, you might think you know what an editor does—surely they simply edit or remove extraneous, unwanted material, don’t they?
Editing is not proofreading.
Many people confuse editing with proofreading but these are two very different disciplines. While editing looks at the structure, content and meaning of the written word, proofreading looks primarily at the accuracy of spelling and punctuation.
This work forms another aspect of my job when each LifeBook nears completion. At this point, the book will be in the form of a draft typeset version; in other words, it will no longer be a simple manuscript but will have been laid out in a way to give it the appearance of the finished product.
This enables me, now as a proofreader, to spot any typographical errors, incorrect punctuation and inconsistencies within the text that may have been missed at the editing stage. It also allows me to spot any mistakes in the typesetting process itself, such as missing text, slipped images, wrong pagination or problems with the actual layout of pages.
So that is my job in a nutshell. Of course, I work closely with the project manager, ghostwriter, interviewer and typesetter of each book and as a team, we are able to ensure that, at the end of every project, our authors are delighted with that very special LifeBook—their own personal story—which they now hold in their hands.
Everyone has a story to tell and, yes, yours is every bit as interesting as anything you’ll find on the shelf in your nearest bookshop.
Your life story is shaped by your experiences, your memories and your own stamp on social history. Look at any historical event; people witness these together and retell the story from their point of view. This is the fascinating truth.
Think how many millions of people would recount the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II differently. Alternative versions of the story would be told by a person who was there amongst the crowds, by the family who rushed out to purchase a TV set just for the occasion or even by the Canadian citizen watching the film that had been flown over the Atlantic by the RAF (a story in itself!).
Your life story means something to someone
Your life story, those hard learnt lessons and experiences that sculpted the person you are today, all of which describe your legacy, is important. You might be thinking “Who would be interested in my life?” You may think no-one or perhaps only you would want to read about it, but have you ever told a story and observed all the while your audience hanging onto every word? Have they ever laughed when you laughed or cried when you cried? There is always an audience for your story, the audience who will hear, read and feel your words, transfixed by them.
There are so many stories about our lives that our families have never heard, and those little details that can surprise and stupefy. I once learnt that my great-grandmother effectively rendered my grandma an orphan by giving her up as an infant, only for Grandma to later be found and raised by the family’s matriarchal Great-aunt Olive instead. How did my grandma comment when I asked her about this? “I wasn’t too fussed, Mother did have a terrible habit of entering people’s marriages and running off with their husbands, anyway.” Thanks, Great-grandma!
The fact of it is, these stories are lost in time if nobody undertakes the task of committing them to a tangible/written life story. I simply can’t have a conversation with Grandma any more about how she has always been a little bit psychic over a muddy tea and slightly off-brand biscuits from her enigmatic biscuit tin. Honestly, I miss listening to her stories and I stupidly never thought to write any of them down.
Perhaps the most important benefit of retelling your own life story is the genuine chance to just look back at everything and see what you made of it all. Your life story when realised is never the end, it’s your story so far and it’s a brilliant one to boot.
To be a successful LifeBook writer, it’s essential to have the ability to capture and maintain the storyteller’s ‘voice’ throughout the book. If that sounds confusing, consider the difference between a biography and an autobiography.
In a biography, there’s considerable distance between the writer and the subject. I could write the biography of someone who is still alive … or someone who lived centuries ago. Either way, I would write from a third-person perspective.
“Every evening at dusk, Greta snuck out to the the bakery. Years later, she told her children that she survived the war by hoarding stale bread.”
With a biography, it’s possible that I might never have a conversation with the person I’m writing about. The story would consist of facts based on extensive research from a variety of sources, along with my own interpretations of those facts.
An autobiography is up close and personal.
The tone is that of a journal or diary, so first-person is the way to go. “The day my sister and I set out to walk the Appalachian Trail, Mom insisted we pack a loaf of my grandma’s secret-recipe banana bread. Little did we know the animals it would attract!”
if you’re writing your own autobiography, you’re telling a mostly one-sided story from your own perspective. You might relate your interactions with other people, but the perceptions and interpretations would be your own.
So, the voice of a biography is distanced and the voice of an autobiography is personal.
What if you’re writing someone else’s autobiography? They’re telling you the story and you’re putting it on paper.
This is where it can get tricky, because when re-telling a story, we instinctively add our own spin. Our speech patterns, opinions about the subject matter, and natural colloquialisms all exert influence on the anecdotes we’re hearing and the words we’re writing.
When uncontrolled, the storyteller’s words become our own on the page and the original voice gets lost. The story begins to sound like us.
Here are some examples.
When writing the memoirs of a World War II fighter pilot, I was faced with a lot of aircraft and flying terminology, in addition to some jargon. Take this passage in which he describes nearly getting shot down in France the day after D-Day:
“I sent 12 birds home for refueling in case of another mission, and kept my flight of four going after the tanks. We knocked out two or three, an APC, and a staff car. Hopping over the hedgerow at about 300 miles per hour, at 10:00 I saw a big gun having at us. I honked the bird up to may be a 100 feet or so, went directly into him, and got him. He’s out of business completely. Almost simultaneously he got me. Snap-rolled my Jug right towards the ground like a leaf in a windstorm.”
It would have been easy to insert my own language here. ‘Birds’ are aircraft. His ‘Jug’ is a P-47. “A big gun having at us” is the enemy’s tank taking aim, and rather than he “honked the bird up,” he increased altitude.
In this case, the voice in the narrative is recognizable as that of the storyteller by anyone who knows him. His word choices reflect the way he talks.
For another project, the client had both a medical and military background and he used language that was formal, proper, and heavy on passive voice constructions. As a result, the book took on a more dignified or official tone. Medical terminology aside, I had to avoid simplifying anecdotes in favor of more common verbiage. For example, I might have referred to “excessive ethanol consumption” as heavy drinking.
In my experience, to appreciate and reproduce a storyteller’s voice, it has been valuable to interview and record the storyteller myself, or as with LifeBook, listen carefully to the audio recording of someone else conducting the interview. Either way, as I write, I pay close attention to things like:
- Words or phrases used repeatedly
- Sentence structure and patterns
- Jargon or slang
- Specialized terms or expressions
Above all, I must be sensitive to the tone and content being shared by the storyteller. The nature of a LifeBook project is a storyteller sharing personal anecdotes. No matter what emotions the stories evoke, you, as the writer, are responsible for making sure the reader of your narrative hears the author’s voice loud and clear through your words.
A comment I hear so often when among friends and relatives is: “I know so little about my grandparents and even my own parents’ lives. What made them the people they became and what choices did they make in their lives that brought them to the present?”
My mother is now 90 and though frail is still strong and capable. I was lucky; my mother decided to have her LifeBook written about four years ago. She heard about the amazing service from a friend who had completed her own book. Her friend shared her book with my mother and described the whole experience to her. As a result, my mother decided to embark on her own project with LifeBook and her own personal interviewer began capturing and recording her story. Her project manager coached her and was on hand throughout to ensure her LifeBook team understood what she wanted in her project. At the time she did explain to me how the LifeBook team would set about capturing her story. It sounded excellent.
It triggered a deeper interest in her life.
I could not however have imagined the effect reading her LifeBook would have on me. Suddenly it triggered a deeper interest in her life. The insights I gained from reading her life story were astonishing. For me there were many ‘ah ha!’ moments. Suddenly there were situations I remembered from my own childhood which now as an adult I was able to understand.
One such event springs to mind. When I was at school I was naughty and indeed recall one school report described me as a ‘disruptive influence’. Then came the dreaded parents evening. My mother went along. I can recall sitting in the lounge watching Top of the Pops on the television waiting for her return with some trepidation. I heard her key in the door and the door flew open. My fears were met. All I recall was the fury and the explosion as she slammed the front door and entered the room. Her words were “Don’t you ever do that to me again”. Until I read her LifeBook, I had never really understood where that depth of fury came from. I was bad, yes I admitted that, but to me it was not that serious. I was doing very well at school, so what was the problem?
When I read her LifeBook as an adult I now appreciated where the root of her anger stemmed from. She describes how she had been exceptionally bright and loved school, maths in particular. She was top of the class in everything and was excited to go to school every day. Sadly her father had died during the war and the family were very poor. At 14 she was expected to leave school, get a job and earn money for the family to live on. She had no option; she went to work in the clothing trade in the East End of London.
Following the parents’ evening at my school.
Her LifeBook goes on to describe how throughout her life she felt she really lacked a complete education and sometimes felt inferior as a result. She became a successful businesswoman but still suffered from an inferiority complex due to her lack of education. So that particular evening her disappointment following the parents evening at my school and her subsequent fury had at last been explained. This was something I could relate to once I had read her LifeBook. Her own daughter was being offered the most fantastic opportunity at an exceptionally good school and was throwing away a chance she would have loved to have. Indeed in her view I was wasting a privilege. Now I understood the depth of feeling she must have had when she attended the school parents evening and learned of my poor, disruptive behaviour.
She valued education very highly and felt that everyone should have the opportunity to learn. It was something she felt was essential to help us all participate in life. Education, she said, opens doors. The more we know the more we can appreciate opportunities and make the right choices for ourselves without relying on others. Education was something she felt was particularly important for girls so they could be independent and have fulfilled working lives as well as home lives too. In her day it was rare for her peers to run their own business in the way she did and she felt a better education would have helped her. She has told me that in those days you could get away with it; now there is no hiding place and you must be educated to get on.