Increasing numbers of people want to leave their life story as a legacy for feature generations of their family. Mike Hill reports
It is said everyone has a story to tell and writing a book remains one of the most widely held ambitions and yet few ever get round to putting pen to paper.
But increasingly people are finding other ways to record their life stories to share with future generations as the Internet has fuelled an explosion in interest in family history.
The popularity of television programmes like Who Do You Think You Are? has lead more and more people to think about how future generations will look back at their lives.
In recent years some hospices have started to provide the chance for residents to record their trecollections on tape while one enterprising song writer even offers to put people’s memories to music.
Now a new enterprising business in Lancashire is offering to ghost write and publish autobiographies for individuals with a story to tell.
Untold Tales is the brainchild of Lancashire journalist Sam Bruce who wanted to utilise her background in writing to help people achieve their dream of publishing a book.
Prior to becoming a write the mother-of-two worked as a counsellor for Cruse Bereavement Care, a skill she believes is crucial for her work as people often seek to reflect on their lives and those of their loved ones at times of family loss.
She takes care of the professional interviewing, writing and editing to capture the story in a client’s own voice and to help to ensure their story is recorded for posterity. Then her firm organises the design and printing to produce the finished book.
These are intended to be private projects and the author decides who reads their book and what goes in it.
But they are created to the standards expected of books on sale in the market.
Sam explains: “ Essentially, a life story affirms the writer’s identity. Their mind remembers some experiences more than others, because they are important to them for some reason.
“While writing a life story, the author’s personality shines through when they describe dilemmas they faced, personal battles won or lost, and the people, places and events that were so significant in moulding their personality.”
Sam believes understanding the life of a grandparent or parent gives the next generation context to their own life.
This is especially relevant as society finds itself changing as never before thanks to online technology, an increasingly diverse population and the trend towards a more secular society.
Sam says: “Hyper- connected young adults are challenging the idea of community and social integration. The enormity and speed of this change is unprecedented. People need to understand their past to make sense of the present.
“Men and women in their 80s and 90s have lived through tremendous social change and their personal accounts and wisdom are in danger of being lost, which is both sad for them and a loss for new generations. So many children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren wished they knew more about an elderly relative’s experience during the Second World War.
“They wonder how it was for them as a Land Girl, or about the arrival of American GIs, or the evacuees who joined their family, or how they coped with rationing, or how they danced to swing bands in the old dance halls.”
This sense of family history is driving the new trend for people to produce so-called memory books or memory tapes.
Sam says: “At a funeral, the death of the loved-one is accompanied with an awareness, like a shadow, of the passing of a first-hand account of history. If only they’d written that book!”
Sam finds that in writing their life story, many authors become more aware of the significance of their memories and helps them to appreciate their life and review what’s important to them.
It can even direct their mind to do what is important for them next in life.
Other authors who are facing retirement find that writing their life story is a rewarding way to pull everything together, reflect on their working life, and share their hard-won lessons with others. Sam explains: “Being true to themselves when creating a life story can reveal parts of their personality that was never previously known.
“While gathering material for their life story, authors check out facts and ask questions of friends and family. This can be a powerful way to strengthen bonds.
“Writing a life story can help the author to let go of brooding resentments which were preventing them from moving on and making the most of their future.”
But the act of putting an individual in the spotlight is also a novel and rewarding experience for those telling their story.
Sam says: “Writing a life story is an adventure, a journey of discovery, you cannot predict what will emerge. I help many would-be authors who find it too difficult to transform their insights and memories into a good read.
“In their mind, their memory is clear, but their reader needs to be given more information to understand their experience.
“Otherwise, the connection between author and reader is lost. Life stories are about reflection and connection. I ask questions that bring memories alive, and weave the key themes and the author’s voice into the text during the editing stage.
“I make sure that the author decides what to put in, and what to leave out.
“The designer and book printer then create a unique and beautiful book to hold and to treasure for posterity.”