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How to Write Your Biography: 5 Approaches to Structure your Life Story

There are many ways to structure your life story. There is no right or wrong way to do it – but it’s one of the biggest choices you will make about your book. Structure is crucial to the readability of your book. You might write beautifully – but without any kind of structure, your words will be scattered and disorganised.

So how do you structure your life story? We’ve outlined five of the best approaches to help you choose.

1. The chronological approach

One of the simplest ways to structure your life story and develop a narrative is chronologically – in the order that it happened. In this case, you’ll start at the beginning of your timeline and work your way through from birth to present day. Writing chronologically facilitates fluid and realistic character development, and as a result, allows events to mirror the way your book will be read.

Chronological Approach to structure your life story

A surprising example of a chronological structure: Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1991, Martin Amis’ book is written in reverse chronological order. It follows the story of a doctor getting younger and younger as time passes in reverse. This disorienting narrative makes for an unsettling and irrational read and emphasises the importance of deliberate structure within a book.

 

2. The Basic Three Act structure

The Basic Three Act structure splits the narrative into, unsurprisingly, three parts: the setup, confrontation and resolution. It is one of the easiest ways to structure your life story.

  • The setup introduces the characters, their relationships and the environment they live in. It also presents a strong hook – an exciting incident that provokes a change in the protagonist’s routine.
  • The second act – the confrontation – makes up the main bulk of your story. The stakes are raised throughout the act, until a major twist, usually a moment of crisis, initiates the start of act three – the resolution.
  • The resolution presents the final showdown and draws together and explains all the different strands of the plot.

If your timeline can be split into three clear sections along the lines of these themes, then this could be the structure for you. Often, a ‘Three Act’ book will be written chronologically – but it doesn’t have to be…

Basic Three Acts structure

A great example of the Basic Three Act structure: The Titanic by James Cameron

The setup introduces Rose, an unhappy woman engaged to a man she detests. Jack rescues her, following her attempt to commit suicide. The confrontation sees the stakes raised when Rose’s fiance begins to suspect their affair. In a moment of crisis, the famously unsinkable ship hits an iceberg. The resolution follows Rose and Jack as they try to escape the sinking Titanic, ultimately ending in Jack’s death and Rose’s survival. Rose recounts the series of events as an old woman as the story ends.

 

3. Freytag’s Pyramid

Freytag’s Pyramid is a more complex version of the Basic Three Act structure, with five parts rather than three. These are: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution.

  • The exposition, similarly to the Basic Three Acts’ setup, introduces the characters and backdrop of the story.
  • The rising action follows the series of events that occur straight after the exposition and leads up to the climax.
  • The climax is the turning point that changes the protagonist’s fate.
  • The falling action is the consequence of the climax, where the conflict between protagonist and antagonist unravels in a final moment of suspense.
  • The resolution is the same as in the Basic Three Acts, creating a sense of catharsis in conclusion to the story.

Freytag's Pyramid diagram

Compartmentalise the events from your timeline into these sections and you can start writing from any of the five starting points.

A great example of Freytag’s Pyramid: Little Red Riding Hood by Charles Perrault

The exposition introduces Little Red Riding Hood as she takes a basket of food to her grandmother’s house. Before she gets there, the wolf eats and takes on the identity of her grandmother. This is the rising action. The wolf convinces Little Red that he is her grandmother, and eats her in the climax. In the falling action, the wolf falls asleep. The huntsman finds the wolf and cuts open his stomach. The resolution sees Little Red and her grandmother freed, and the wolf killed.

 

4. In Media Res

Latin for ‘into the middle of things’, it’s unsurprising that this structure starts your book right in the middle of the story. This is usually in the midst of a crisis, or at a crucial point of action. This structure gives the reader a sense of what’s to come before reverting to the beginning of the story to find out how they got there. It’s also a great way to hook the reader from the first page.

If there’s a specific event in your life that was a turning point, shaping who you are today, this might be an interesting place for you to start.

In Media Res diagram

A great example of in media res: The Odyssey by Homer

The famous poem opens in media res, with most of Odysseus’ journey already finished. Flashbacks and storytelling describe the events and characters met along the way.

 

5. The Hero’s Journey

One of the most popular methods used to structure your life story is the Hero’s Journey. It was first conceptualised by Joseph Campbell in his book, The Hero With A Thousand Faces, and has since been adapted by Hollywood executive, Christopher Vogler. There are 12 stages to the Hero’s Journey.

The ordinary world introduces the hero, closely followed by the call to adventure – a challenge or problem. The hero, probably scared of dangers ahead, is reluctant to accept the adventure in the refusal of the call. Meeting a mentor gives the hero confidence to cross the threshold, committing wholeheartedly to the adventure of the special world.

The hero faces tests, allies and enemies as they draw closer to the “elixir” in the approach to the innermost cave. The ordeal sees the hero pushed to their limits in pursuit of reward, before the road back. Consequently, in the resurrection, the now-changed hero returns with the elixir, commonly knowledge, back to the ordinary world.

The Hero's Journey diagram

A great example of the Hero’s Journey structure: Star Wars directed by George Lucas

In the ordinary world, Luke Skywalker lives on moisture farm on Tatooine. R2:D2 gives Luke a message from Princess Leia, asking Obi-Wan Kenobi to help her as the call to adventure. Obi-Wan gives Luke his father’s lightsaber, but at first, Luke is reluctant to accept his offer in the refusal to call. In addition, Obi-Wan, the mentor, offers to train Luke to become a Jedi (this actually happens before the refusal to call in Star Wars). Crossing the first threshold, Luke finally agrees to go with Obi-Wan to Alderaan to deliver the plans for the Death Star to Leia’s father.

Han Solo and Chewbacca, their allies, agree to take Luke and Obi-Wan to Alderaan. In the approach to the innermost cave, the Death Star destroys Alderaan. They invade the Death Star and rescue Princess Leia, but Darth Vader kills Obi-Wan Kenobi in the ordeal. The reward sees Luke join the Rebels to destroy the Death Star, who also refuses Han Solo’s offer to leave. Luke chooses to help overcome the Galactic Empire in the road back.

Luke remembers Obi-Wan’s advice and destroys the Death Star using the Force in the resurrection, and wins a medal, finally taking his first steps towards becoming a Jedi in the return with the elixir.

At the end of the day, your story can be as structurally unpredictable as life itself. It’s your life and your story. We hope these methods have opened your minds to the vast possibilities and different forms your life story can take. But remember, there’s no right or wrong way to structure your life story: it’s up to you.

Creating a Timeline for a Book about your Life (Free PDF Template)

If you’re writing a book about your life, creating a timeline is an essential step. While your story is based on your own experiences, it’s easy to forget important moments — unless it is all laid out clearly in front of you. A timeline provides clarity and structure for your life story.

However, creating a timeline doesn’t mean you have to tell your story chronologically – in fact, it can make it easier to get creative with the structure of your book. What you’ll come away with is a complete overview – making it easier to identify themes. A timeline establishes your content, structure and theme in a clear and concise format, ready for you to start writing your book about your life.

To help, we’ve created a timeline template for you to fill in. Download it here – and then follow the steps below.

Send me the Timeline Template!


 

Step 1: Brainstorm

First of all, start by writing down all the important moments in your story. We recommend talking to your friends and family, which will give you a different perspective, and bring up memories you may have forgotten. Additionally, if you’re feeling stuck, have a browse through our handy memory prompts to get you started.

Step 2: Fill your timeline template with all the key events in your list

Secondly, filter through your gathered information, highlighting key events that you want to include in your life story. These memories can be your fondest, your funniest and most uplifting. Alternatively, they could be your most difficult, challenging or upsetting. Choose a start and end point and fill in everything in between. If you can remember exact dates, that’s great – but getting things roughly in the right order will still be useful.

Try splitting the timeline into sections. We suggest childhood, adolescence, adulthood and those golden years. You may find it easier to compartmentalise your memories this way, and pick out the ones that are most significant.

Step 3: Reflect on the results, and fill in the gaps

Now you have the ‘tent-poles’ of your timeline in place, it’s time to fill in the gaps and above all, think about what your results mean. To connect your key events, add in any other relevant or interesting details that you want to include.

All done? Congratulations, you’ve taken a big step towards telling your story. Your key events will help you to inform your decisions regarding chapters and structure, potentially becoming your chapter titles, with the details becoming your chapter content.

Want to take it to the next level? If so – ask yourself, how do you feel about what’s in front of you? Are any themes starting to emerge? Try labelling or highlighting your timeline to bring out the common threads.

Milestone Birthdays

Has someone you love got a big birthday coming up?

Are you struggling to think of ways to make it truly special?

We’ve pulled together some great ideas, that will surprise and delight even those who have lived three score and ten, and seen it all!

1. Family Love

Family Love

Contact family and friends near and far, and get them to take pictures of themselves holding a sign with a birthday wish on. Not only do you get the messages themselves – but a modern and up to-date photo of all your family members. Display these on a digital photo frame, and your loved one gets to experience the joy all the time.

2. A family road trip, to visit childhood homes

road trip milestone birthday

Ask your loved one to write down all the addresses they’ve ever lived at. Contact the current owners and occupiers – and plan a trip to visit them all. Take some special family members, make lots of stops of tea and cakes and take lots of pictures. It will be emotional for everyone! But what a day.

3. Learn something new

birthday learning

No one is ever too old to learn something new – how about a class in painting, pottery, or drawing – or if you loved one is more energetic what about yoga or classic dance. Or if it’s an experience how about a hot air balloon flight, or tea at The Ritz.

4. Get a personalised book written about their life

birthday autobiography present

They meet with an expert professional writer – who teases out the best stories and pulls it all together in a beautifully written book, which can be shared with the whole family. Immortalising their life on the page.

5. A party that’s right for them

milestone birthday present

Not everyone wants a big party or feels that a celebration is right for them – but find out what they love and involve as many family members as possible. It could be the world’s biggest Chinese takeout – with family crammed in and eating from their knees – or a glitzier affair at a local restaurant.

Tell Your Story

Have you always wanted the chance to tell your story?

Here are 3 ways to get started

1. Work with a professional

Professional Ghostwriter

Work with a professional author to get your life story down. They are experts at drawing out the most interesting parts, and telling the story in the most engaging way.

Your one on one discussions will ensure you get across all the detail you want. It can be difficult to construct your own narrative but their expert fresh eyes bring out the very best results.

2. Go it alone

Writing Autobiography

Learn how to write your own story. This can be a very rewarding experience. With all the advances in self-publishing it will also give you lots of opportunity to work on digital skills.

You can make the document as short or as long as you like – and make sure you include everything you want. It takes discipline to write every day so it is key to set aside regular time to write and edit.

3. Video

video autobiography

You can use video as a compelling way to tell your own story. Recording yourself talking on the subjects that are relevant to you, and creating your own YouTube channel to host the content.

This is an easy way to share your story but it can be difficult being in front of the camera if you aren’t used to it. The trick is to keep on trying – and watching lots of footage of yourself back.

Family History Ideas

Love Family History?

Here are 3 ways to take it to the next level

1. Capture the memories of your loved ones

Capture Memories

We have an amazing opportunity to listen to the older people in our lives and try to capture their memories, but it can be hard to get them to share what’s happened to them in their lives.

Often grandparents are more likely to share things with their grandchildren rather than their children, as they don’t want to burden them.

You can now get a professional writer to work with them to draw out the stories and pull them together into a beautiful book. That book then can be an amazing resource for future generations and a repository of that person’s life stories.

2. Bring together all the oldest people in your family, and all the old photos

Old Photos

Go through each photo and write on the back who each person is and as much information as they can remember.

Nothing is more frustrating than a box of old photos with no information on them or no way to identify them.

You can then scan all of the photos and create a shareable album on Facebook so the whole family can look through and add memories.

3. Video question and answer

Video Q&A

Pull together questions from the family – and have someone use a good quality phone camera to film real first-person history by getting older relatives to answer questions.

It can be nerve wracking being on camera and using questions and answers can make this an easier experience.

These videos can then be a great resource for future generations seeing and hearing their ancestors speak about their lives.

Case Study: Peter Kysel

Peter Kysel – Age of Storms from Story Terrace

“You are an enemy of the State”- this is how Peter Kysel’s story begins.

Peter enjoyed a family-centred childhood in Prague. But all this changed when he was a teenager, and the State turned against him. He was persecuted for his father’s former social class, banned from further education and publicly stigmatised. Ultimately, Peter was driven into exile. Despite discrimination, traumas, and self-doubt, Peter secured a place to study at Oxford University, where he found sanctuary.

Now Peter has written his first autobiography – ‘Age of Storms – The Making of a European’, with the help of Story Terrace. The book captures his earlier years, with a focus on his family history, the political situation in Czechoslovakia and finally his emigration to the UK.
Peter was prompted to record his life story and family history by the younger generation of his own family. He told us:
“I have always told family stories at social gatherings. Five years ago, my daughter Tamara asked me to write my family story for her newly born son, Max. I completed it in time for Christmas, as a present to her.”

At a certain stage, Peter realised he needed some professional help to turn his manuscript into a completed book. That’s when he found Story Terrace. We paired him with our writer, Duncan Barrett, who helped to edit Peter’s manuscript, and ghostwrote additional sections of the book.
‘Age of Storms’ is one of Story Terrace’s biggest projects – the finished volume runs to 428 pages. Peter was really happy with the finished result – so much so that we are working with him on a second volume, and also helping him to self-publish ‘Age of Storms’ on Amazon:

“The feedback from friends and family has been very positive…I am delighted with it and look forward to editing the second volume to cover transformation of my life from a political refugee into a British citizen.”

Story Terrace’s managing editor, Alice Nightingale, explains how interesting it was to work with Peter on his book:
“Peter has a fascinating story and has been a great pleasure to work with. We are really pleased that we were able to produce a beautiful package for him and I am looking forward to working on the next volume with him.”

The Memory Prompt Cheat Sheet: How to Write Your Biography, Life Story or Memoir

Wondering how to write your biography? Whether you are writing yourself, or working with a ghostwriter, it can be hard to know where to start and what to include. At Story Terrace, we often use memory prompts to kick-start the process – easy and fun questions designed to jog your memory and bring back moments you haven’t thought about for years. It’s the perfect first step, and something you can later assemble into a timeline or structure for your story. We’ve hand-picked 65 of our favourite memory prompts to share with you. You can check out 9 example prompts right here on the blog – but make sure to download the full list of 65, which we’ve assembled into a print-ready PDF for you.

Remember – the idea is not to answer every question. Just scan through the list, and think about which of these prompts speak to you the most. You’ll soon find you have more than enough to talk about

How to Write Your Biography: Childhood

  1. What is your earliest memory?
  2. Talk about your family’s heritage and history.
  3. What did your childhood home look like?

How to Write Your Biography: Adolescence

  1. How did your physical appearance change in your teenage years? What was that change like for you?
  2. How was your relationship with your parents?
  3. Who was your first crush?

How to Write Your Biography: Adulthood

  1. What did an ordinary day in your life look like?
  2. Name a big success story for you during this time
  3. Did you travel? What was your most memorable vacation?

Hopefully writing your biography just got a little easier and these prompts have got your brains in gear, recalling all sorts of different memories from your childhood all the way through to just yesterday! Remember to download the full list for all 65 questions to jog your memory.

Send Me The Full List of 65 Memory Prompts!


10 Mistakes To Avoid When Choosing a Ghostwriter!

In the age of the internet, it can seem easier than ever to find people to help with… almost anything! From laundry, to taxis, and even writing your life story, memoir or autobiography. Unfortunately, when it comes to choosing a ghostwriter for your book, it’s all too easy to make a costly mistake – especially if you are a relative newcomer.

When you’re investing in something as important as your own story, you don’t want to choose the wrong person: you could find you have to abandon the project halfway through and start again; or worse, that you get the finished product, and it bears no resemblance to what you were hoping for.

Story Terrace removes this worry by carefully vetting our pool of talented professional ghostwriters. We screen applications from writers every day – which means we’ve seen it all! Take it from us – these are 10 mistakes you should NEVER make when choosing a ghostwriter:

 

1. Not checking their published work

Is your writer published? Who by? A professional writer worth their salt should have some published work. If an editor won’t take a chance on them, why should you? The one exception may be a recent graduate from a prestigious literature, journalism or creative writing course – these writers may be highly talented despite a relative lack of published material.

2. Not asking for a reference, getting a trusted recommendation, or reading reviews!

So you’ve found a ‘writer’ online. But they could be anyone! You need to do your research or rely on a recommendation you can trust. Can they provide a reference from a previous client or employer? Have they been reviewed anywhere on the internet? Best of all – have they been recommended by an expert company (like Story Terrace!) that has worked with them in the past?

3. You’re not just choosing a writer – you’re choosing a ghostwriter

Ghostwriting a biography, memoir or life story is a specialised skill. Ideally, you’ll be choosing a ghostwriter who has ghostwritten before. If not, you need to make sure that they have some experience as an interviewer. You also need to make sure they can lay their ego at the door – this is your book, and it needs to be written the way you want it.

 

4. Not reading a relevant writing sample

Ask your writer for a relevant writing sample beforehand – something biographical or autobiographical. That way you can get a sense of his or her writing style when it comes to a project like your own.

 

5. No face to face interviews

Whether you’re talking to a company or an individual, you must make sure you have the option to be interviewed by your writer in person. First – this makes a huge difference to the quality of the interview experience, which will ultimately shape the content of your book. Second – you want to be sure the person you’re talking to is actually the person who will write the book. Some companies use cheap labour to perform the interviews or to write up the text. You don’t want your life story to be outsourced! After all, how can someone write your story if they’ve never met you?

Small hint: If your writer doesn’t have the time to meet you in person, you should hire someone else.

 

6. No editor or editing process

You might think a good writer is all you need to write a book. Not so: all journalists and authors rely on editors to get their work into shape. You would be surprised how many writers (especially old-school journalists) actually have appalling spelling and grammar! Writers also rely on editorial staff to enforce deadlines and organise all aspects of production from design to printing. Unless you want to do all of that yourself, you need an editor.

 

7. Drafts: Failing to find out if, when, and how often you can request changes

It’s your story, so you should be able to request changes at specified points in the process. Some kind of redrafting is usually taken for granted – but you’ll want to find out when in the process you can request changes.

 

8. Not setting important deadlines up front

Communication is key. Be clear about when you want your book to be finished from the beginning – and find out what will be required from you to stick to that schedule. If you need to give your input at a certain stage, make sure you put it in your diary so you don’t become the roadblock in the process! That way you can easily avoid it taking longer than initially discussed.

 

9. Not knowing the full cost of producing your book

You may have received a quote for writing your book. But do you know the full cost of your project, including editing, proofreading, design, printing, and delivery? It’s tempting to just look at the fee your writer is proposing, and just ignore what you will then need to do to actually produce a book you’re proud of – don’t do it! (Hint: with Story Terrace, this is all included in the price!).

 

10. False Promises: Don’t believe you’re going to get rich quick by publishing your book

If you want to share your story, that’s fantastic. But watch out for red flags: some writers or companies may try to show off by claiming they have ‘extensive contacts’ in big city publishing houses – or by showing amazing ‘case studies’ of previous customers who apparently have best sellers. The truth of the matter is that these contacts will not help writing your book; and for most people, the fantasy of making a lot of money from their story is just that – a fantasy. If you’re serious about recording your experiences, your ghostwriter’s experience and qualifications are more important. Don’t get distracted!

If these sound like problems you would rather avoid – just contact us, we will be able to recommend a ghostwriter you can trust.

By Büsra Nur Yürür

Writing Your Life Story? Our 7 Must Reads!

You’re writing your life story. So far so good – but writer’s block can get in the way of reaching your potential. In this article, we’re focusing on the creative solution to writer’s block: Inspiration. Therefore, we’ve rounded up 7 of the most inspirational blogs to help write your memoir, autobiography or life story. Check them out!

1. Positive Writer

Writing Your Life Story with Positive Writer

Positive Writer is a blog for writers and all creative people. Created by writer, Bryan Hutchinson, it provides tips on overcoming fear and doubt. So if you find yourself stuck in doubt or uncertain of your abilities, then this blog will truly get you inspired.

Quick tip: this article will certainly help you to get started with writing your life story.

2. Marion Roach Smith

Writing Your Life Story with Marion Roach Smith

Marion Smith believes everyone has a story to tell, so she created this website to provide useful tips to write yours. The website offers everything you could possibly need to write your life story, such as online classes, blog posts, books and much more!

3. Scan Your Entire Life

Writing Your Life Story with Scan Your Entire Life

Writing isn’t the only stumbling block when it comes to creating your autobiography. Digitising your photos can be difficult, too. Founded by Curtis Bisel, this website provides useful tips and articles: from organising your memories to restoring and scanning your photos.

4. Memory Writers Network

Writing Your Life Story with Memoir Revolution

Jerry Waxler founded the MWA with the idea that the act of writing about your life can be considered a tool of change to develop a more interesting future. On the website, you’ll find useful blog posts to inspire you to write your life story, autobiography or memoir.

5. Shirley Hershey Showalter

Writing Your Life Story with Memoir Magic

This blog started when Shirley Showalter wrote her first memoir about her childhood ‘Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World’. You can sign up for the weekly Magical Memoir Moments which include photos, writing prompts and the ‘Write a Memoir’ eBook for free!

6. Memories and Memoirs

Writing Your Life Story with Memoirs & Memories

Meet Linda Joy Myers, president and founder of the National Association of Memoir Writers and Memories and Memoirs. This blog will help you find all kinds of information about writing your life story. In addition, the site provides information on upcoming events and coaching classes such as ‘Write your Memoir in Six Months’!

7. Memoir Writer’s Journey

Writing Your Life Story with Memoir Writer's Journey

Founder of this website, Kathy Pooler, believes that we can all benefit from the stories that we share with each other. This is why she is currently working on her second memoir. On the website, you’ll find inspiring blogs that encourage conversation, writing tips, workshops, and events.

Feeling inspired yet? Make sure to read through these helpful blogs and start writing! You can also check out our article: “7 Amazing Apps that Will Help You to Write Your Autobiography”.

By Büsra Nur Yürür

Writing therapy: How writing your life story can benefit your health

Did you know that writing about yourself can benefit your physical and mental health?

It may sound strange – but multiple scientific studies have shown that the simple act of putting pen to paper reduces the risk of depression and other illnesses.

In the last two decades, research has demonstrated that writing about painful memories and traumas can be an effective form of therapy. More recently, scientists have found that writing about yourself in a positive sense is also linked to better health.

Either way, the claim is the same: writing about yourself is good for you! Let’s review the evidence.

How writing about trauma helps

According to Psychology Today, painful memories can have long-lasting effects on our mental health.

One reason for this is that such memories are fragmented. The events they record may lack explanation or seem senseless – for example, the sudden death of a loved one. Since the brain is not able to work through the fragments of memory, the same thoughts constantly resurface, making it even more difficult to gain a sense of closure.

It turns out that writing about your memories could be the answer.

Dr. James W. Pennebaker, a social psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin, is considered to be the pioneer of writing therapy.

Dr. James Pennebaker

In 1997, a study Pennebaker and his colleagues showed that writing about psychological trauma is an effective form of therapy. Participants were asked to spend three consecutive days writing about a traumatic event. They were compared to another group that wrote about unemotional topics, like management. Over time, the individuals who participated in this study reported fewer illnesses and suffered fewer symptoms of depression in the future.

Pennebaker’s basic paradigm for expressive writing experiments remains widely used today:

Pennebaker’s Typical writing instructions:

For the next 4 days, I would like you to write your very deepest thoughts and feelings about the most traumatic experience of your entire life or an extremely important emotional issue that has affected you and your life.
In your writing, I’d like you to really let go and explore your deepest emotions and thoughts. You might tie your topic to your relationships with others, including parents, lovers, friends or relatives; to your past, your present or your future; or to who you have been, who you would like to be or who you are now.
You may write about the same general issues or experiences on all days of writing or about different topics each day. All of your writing will be completely confidential.
Don’t worry about spelling, grammar or sentence structure. The only rule is that once you begin writing, you continue until the time is up.

The objective is not to write a story for someone else to read, but to create a coherent story for yourself, that can be linked to those memories. The act of constructing a story about a traumatic event helps to break free of endless mental cycling. It is safe to say that writing about traumas works as psychological closure. Pennebaker concludes:

“When people are given the opportunity to write about emotional upheavals, they often experience improved health. They go to the doctor less. They have changes in immune function. If they are first-year college students, their grades tend to go up.”

According to Susan Lutgendorf, PhD, of the University of Iowa, it’s even more beneficial if you can focus on the meaning behind a memory. She found that individuals who derived meaning from their writing reported better health than those who wrote about their experiences without focusing on meaning:

“You need focused thought as well as emotions. An individual needs to find meaning in a traumatic memory as well as to feel the related emotions to reap positive benefits from the writing exercise.”

Susan Lutgendorf, PhD

Writing about Personal Goals

If this all seems a bit too gloomy, don’t worry. If you would rather focus on the positive, it turns out that writing about yourself can still improve your health.

In 2001, the researcher Laura King took Pennebaker’s writing paradigm a step further. She began to assess the benefits of writing about positive life experiences and goals. In her study (The Health Benefits of Writing about Life Goals), 81 undergraduate students were randomly assigned to four different groups: one group that wrote about traumatic experiences, another group that wrote about their best possible future self, a third group which was asked to write about both and the last group which wrote about a non-emotional topic. Each group was asked to write for 20 minutes a day for four consecutive days.

The results of this study were equally interesting as the ones presented before. Three weeks after the assignment, it was noted that writing about a best possible future self was less upsetting than writing about traumatic events. When students were studied five months after writing, those students who wrote about a traumatic life event, those students who wrote about a best possible self, and those students who wrote about both—all of them experienced a decrease in illness. Only the students who wrote about a non-emotional topic showed no change.

King draws the following conclusion:

“The act of writing down our deepest thoughts and feelings is key to the benefits of writing. However, and importantly, the contents of our deepest thoughts and feelings need not be traumatic or negative. Quite the contrary, examining the most hopeful aspects of our lives through writing—our best imagined futures, our ‘most cherished self-wishes’—might also bestow on us the benefits of writing that have been long assumed to be tied only to our traumatic histories.”

It turns out that writing about yourself can help to deal with trauma, but it also makes us happier and healthier if we focus on the positive. The best approach is down to you – think about your personal history, and what you’re most comfortable with.

By Büsra Nur Yürür

References:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ulterior-motives/200910/trauma-and-the-benefits-writing-about-it: 21.06.2017 11:20

Pennebaker, J. W. (1997). Writing about emotional experiences as a therapeutic process. Psychological Science, 8, 162-166.

Ullrich, P.A. & Lutgendorf, S.L. Journaling about stressful events: Effects of cognitive processing and emotional expression. (2002). Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 24, 244-250.

King, L. A. (2001). The health benefits of writing about life goals. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27(7), 798–807.

7 Amazing Apps & Sites to help you Write Your Autobiography

Old Manual Typewriter

Writing your life story can be difficult. Even if you think it through carefully, everything ends up looking different on paper. To give you a hand, we have gathered a list of useful websites and apps that will definitely help you write your autobiography! So, here are 7 of our favourites:

1. Organise your ideas with Evernote

Write your autobiography with Evernote app

Evernote helps you gather your thoughts and have them available on all your devices. With this app, you can easily create multiple notes, project to-do lists and archive what has been written as well as share your ideas with others.

 

2. Focus on your writing with Writer

 

Compared to other word processors, Writer offers a more ‘basic’ writing experience.

From taking notes to writing longer texts on your phone or tablet, Writer keeps it simple by leaving out unnecessary features that may disturb the writing process.

 

 Write your autobiography with Writer app

3. Find fellow autobiographers with Meetup

Meetup app

In case its name didn’t give it away, Meetup is an online social networking program used for organising and coordinating different meetups in various localities with people that have common interests. So if you want to exchange your thoughts on how to write your autobiography or get inspired by other people’s experiences, Meetup is a great platform to meet fellow writers near you!

 

4. Find interesting courses on Udemy

Udemy site

After finally having gathered your thoughts, getting into the creative flow of writing your memoirs can still be difficult. After all, writer’s block is not exclusive to professionals. Udemy is an online platform that offers a broad range of classes and courses for all kinds of topics. Just type in ‘memoir’ to find lots of courses to help you out.

 

5. Join The Memoir Writing Club

Memoir Writing Club site

In 2012, the Memoir Writing Club was founded by Irene Graham based on the idea that everybody has a story to tell. The MWC is a resource for writing courses – compared to Udemy, there may be less choice, but it provides a specialised service focused on memoirs and autobiographies.

 

6. Write your autobiography mistake-free with Grammarly

Write your autobiography with Grammarly ext

Let’s eat grandpa’ or rather ‘Let’s eat, grandpa’? We can all agree that the comma makes a huge difference here. To make sure that your writing is mistake-free and unambiguous, the app Grammarly helps by checking your writing – in addition, it even suggests changes to make things easier to read.

 

7. Scan your old photos with PhotoScan

PhotoScan app

PhotoScan is a new scanner app from Google Photos. The app makes it easy for you to save and scan old printed photos glare-free by only using your phone’s camera. Another feature is that it automatically crops, rotates and enhances your scans.

 

‘Writing is a process, a journey into memory and the soul.’

Isabel Alende

 

Are you ready to write? Let us know what you think on Facebook!

By Büsra Nur Yürür

 

Dear Dad: The Secret Story of Father’s Day

When thinking of your father, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Hard work providing for you when you were young? Tough love to make sure you did well in school? Or what about his old stories – past adventures that taught you so much about life? Every dad is different, but we can all agree that fathers can be true heroes: protectors, advisers, and even friends.

It’s Father’s Day this month, so today we’re looking at all things dad related:

The Mysterious History of Father’s Day

The first Father’s Day was celebrated in the state of Washington on June 19, 1910. Interestingly, there are two rival theories about the holiday’s origin.

The first story begins with a tragic mining disaster in West Virginia in 1907, considered the worst in American history, killing 362 mine workers. The story goes that in 1908, Grace Golden Clayton (one of the orphans affected) had the idea to honour all the fathers that had perished in this tragic accident. She persuaded local Methodist ministers to organise a church service, the nation’s first event to commemorate and honour those 362 men.

The other Father’s Day theory tells the story of Sonora Smart Dodd, the daughter of a civil war veteran from Arkansas, who wanted to honour her father. Her mother had died in childbirth when she was only 16, leaving her father to raise her and her five siblings by himself. In 1909, while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon, Dodd felt the urgent need for a special service celebrating fathers as well. Like Clayton, Dodd managed to convince Methodist leaders to dedicate a day in homage to fathers.

An Inspirational Grandfather

The idea of paying tribute to fathers is deep in Story Terrace’s DNA. Our founder, Rutger Bruining, had a very important person in mind when he started the company: his grandfather.

When Rutger was a boy, he loved listening to his grandpa’s stories. He would sit in a room filled with cigar smoke and listen to tale after tale while they played backgammon.

It was only years later that Rutger realised he had lost so much of those precious stories. The strong emotional impression remained, but try as he might he couldn’t recall the details.

Rutger was determined not to let this happen to his stories – or to anyone else – so he founded Story Terrace. You can read more about Rutger’s story here

Truly the ultimate gift – in time for Father’s Day

There is an old Yiddish proverb that goes, “When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry.
So how about crying tears of joy with your dad? Story Terrace gives you the ultimate Father’s Day idea: immortalising the most important man in your life in his own autobiography, to share with family.

Here is a simple three-point plan to follow (tears of joy guaranteed):

  1. Purchase a Story Terrace package today, and receive our beautiful Gift Package in time for father’s day – complete with a luxury pen and notebook, and a wax-sealed welcome letter!
  2. Present the gift to your dad as a surprise on Father’s Day. What better way to show your dad his story matters to your family?
  3. Your dad will enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime chance to reflect on his life with an attentive professional writer. As soon as 8-12 weeks later, you can present him with his very own ghostwritten autobiography, to share with family, friends and future generations.

Make this Father’s Day truly special with a gift that will last a lifetime! Now is the time to show love, especially on a day that has been celebrated for so long, and rightly so! This Father’s Day, don’t just write him a card, write him a book with Story Terrace.

How to Capture Your Parents’ Life Stories

How much do you really know about your parents’ lives? So many stories took place before you were born, or were old enough to understand. Your parents know your whole history – but chances are you only know a fraction of theirs.

As our parents get older, these stories start to become more important to us. We want to preserve our memories – we don’t want these irreplaceable memories to be lost. A Story Terrace biography is a great way to ensure your parents’ stories will last the generations.

However you want to record your parents’ life stories, the first step is to start talking. So today, we’re sharing four top tips.

Picture this…

A lot of our customers find those old photo albums are a great place to start with their parents. Take a day to bring out the old family albums with mom or dad. You will find that it jogs the memory, brings up stories you never even knew about, and it’s also a fantastic way to begin assembling material for a memoir or biography.

Parents memoriesIt’s also an opportunity to digitize old pictures, which we strongly recommend. Nowadays, we are overwhelmed with photos. But older photos, from our parents’ childhood days, are often few and far between. It’s very likely you have no ‘back up’ of these pictures – old film and prints are liable to get damaged and lost forever! For this very reason, these older photos are infinitely more precious.

Luckily, with advances in technology, it has become easier to preserve old photos. Pictures can be scanned and stored safely online so that precious memories are not lost. As an added bonus, they are then easy to reproduce in a memoir or photo book. You can do it yourself by downloading an app, using a nearby print shop, or purchasing your own scanner.

Read our quick tips on how to digitize old photos for more information!

Be your own family’s archaeologist

If you’re really serious, it’s time to have a look around the attic. Think of the film Titanic. A search for a precious necklace, missing in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean lead to the discovery of something priceless: a timeless love story. It’s not just Hollywood fiction – objects can tell stories!

There’s a reason historians spend time digging up old Roman pots – it says a lot about how people lived their lives. Material culture can be just as important for you as your family’s historian. Your mom or dad’s memory won’t be infallible – mementos from the past can be important in bringing those truly old tales back to the present.
‘Why do you always wear that necklace mom?’
‘Well, I was 13 and I was walking to school one day….’

By examining your parents’ old possessions, you may not only be able to jog their memory, but to make the story come alive for yourself!

Take note!

Now you’ve got your parents talking, you’ll want to keep a pen and paper handy.
The stories that parents and grandparents share can be important insights into the past. Stories dating to a time before you were born: ‘I had to be evacuated during WW2, I can still remember the sounds of the air raid sirens’. Realities that seem so contrary from modern life: ‘I got my first job at 11 and have worked ever since’.

Make sure to jot down these little bits of information. And don’t forget to ask questions! It is through these that life stories can truly come together.

Get professional help from Story Terrace!

We would all love to personally record our parents’ life stories. But it often isn’t that easy. It can be difficult to find the time to finish a project. It’s also hard to be an expert interviewer and writer on the first attempt. And then you will want to transform all of that work into a format you can share with your family – which involves editing the text, and designing and printing everything yourself.

Story Terrace is here to help you capture your parents’ life stories. Our professional ghostwriters have extensive experience interviewing our customers’ parents and structuring their memoirs and biographies. We have in-house editors who manage the process end-to-end, and we know how to beautifully present precious memories in a way that will last. If you’d like to inquire about our services, feel free to contact us.

How Story Terrace matches you with your perfect ghostwriter!

Congratulations! You’ve decided you want your very own beautifully bound Story Terrace book. Our professional ghostwriters will help you to make your life story the best it can be.

The next step is to find your writer. With the largest pool of specialist ghostwriters in the world, part of what makes Story Terrace unique is our ability to pair you with your perfect biographer.

As our Managing Editor Alice Nightingale says, “we pride ourselves on matching our clients with their ghostwriters carefully.”  That means you can rest assured that you will work with a writer who can capture your story, find your voice, and make the process relaxed and enjoyable.

This happens through Story Terrace’s tried and tested method of ghostwriter selection. So, how does it work?

4-2

Step 1. Getting to know you

After you’ve decided to write your life story with Story Terrace, you’ll have a brief consultation with your editor. We try to gather as much information as possible to ensure the perfect fit.

“Everyone I spoke with at Story Terrace were absolutely lovely and listened to all I had to say,” Isabella Matthews, Story Terrace customer.

We want to know about your personality!  For instance, matching you with someone who shares your sense of humour can help to build a rapport between you and your ghostwriter, making the writing process much more enjoyable.

At this stage, learning about your background is also extremely useful. It’s important that your writer understands you. When it comes to forging a mutual bond and finding your voice, a shared background or a common experience can make all the difference.

We also use this stage to ask about your preferences. We can accommodate most requests – whether it’s something small – ‘I don’t want to work with someone that supports my rival football team’, or something more personal: ‘I would feel more comfortable sharing my experiences with someone of my own age’. Our goal is for customers and writers to feel comfortable, and create an atmosphere conducive to writing.

Step 2. Writer Search

Story Terrace works with hundreds of professional journalists and authors – the largest pool of specialist ghostwriters in the world. That said – we know our writers like the back of our hands. Using the information from your consultation, your editor will propose ghostwriters who are a good fit for the project. Click here to have a look at some of our writers’ online profiles.

Alongside your background, personality and preferences, we also consider your location. Interviews with your writer form the backbone of your story. We are almost always able to match customers with writers who are close enough to conduct the interviews in person, face-to-face. We think this makes the process more enjoyable, helping to develop a relationship between customer and ghostwriter, and making the end result more personal.

Step 3. Consult the ghostwriter                            

Next, we contact the top candidates for the job, and tell them about you and your project! It’s important for you to like your ghostwriter, and also for them to like you. If a mutual relationship flows, the final outcome becomes of a labour of love.

It sounds obvious, but we also make sure that the writer is available for the duration of the project! You can read about the packages Story Terrace offers here. For example, if you’ve purchased a Compact book package, your ghostwriter must be available for 2-3 hours of interviews and able to produce 5,500 words of your story. If you’ve paid for a Novella, the ghostwriter must carry out 8-10 hours of interviews and produce 20,000 words.

Whichever package you choose, the writer will be committed to the project from beginning to end, ensuring you have the time together to tease out your life story!

“Sara really took the time to help me find the structure in the story of my life!” Teresa Samuels, Story Terrace customer.

Step 4. Getting in contact

Hurrah, we’ve found your match! Now it’s time to put the two of you in contact.

You will have an initial phone call with your writer, and make sure you’re happy with each other. This is an important opportunity to really discuss what you want to the book to be about. Even at this stage, if you aren’t happy – you can choose a different writer. Writing your life story is with Story Terrace is, from beginning to end a collaborative effort.

“Initially, we chatted on the phone and Lisa made it clear from the outset that if we didn’t ‘hit it off’ she would bow out gracefully and I could choose another writer”. David Taylor, Story Terrace customer

So there it is, how we find your perfect ghostwriter! Still want some more information? You might find the following articles helpful:

If you’re ready to get started, contact us to begin your Story Terrace experience today!

The most sentimental gift for your parents

With mother’s day approaching fast, we’re thinking about gifts to give our parents.

Every year a plethora of occasions – birthdays, Christmases, anniversaries – call for a new and different gift.

Just buying something expensive isn’t enough to show you care – it’s the thought behind the present that counts. So here is a unique idea – what gift could be more loving than capturing your parents’ life stories in a memoir or biography?

At Story Terrace, we bring together family stories to create beautiful books. Our specialist writers can tease out your parents’ memories, and carefully craft a coherent and lasting record of their experiences.

Read how we do this here.

Here are three great reasons to gift your parents a book about their lives.

1. Give your parents the opportunity to reminisce and reflect

The older we get, the more we have to be nostalgic about. Cries of “I remember when”, “back in my day” and the ever-familiar “the good old days” reverberate through conversations with Grandma and Grandpa.

A Story Terrace biography is as much an experience for your parents as it is a beautiful product. Many of our customers tell us their favourite part was the process of making the book.

Making this book has given me the time to reflect on what I chose to do with my life and the people who have helped me along the way” Teresa Samuels, Story Terrace customer.

They get the opportunity to regale a keenly interested ghostwriter with their experiences, and document their stories. Here, they get to reflect on the adventures they have had and the decisions they made. They are able to propel themselves backwards and delve into their past, in what can be an equally therapeutic and entertaining experience.

I found the whole process to be relaxed and enjoyable” David Taylor, Story Terrace customer.

After the book is finished, it can be shared with beloved family members and friends – to be taken out at family gatherings time and time again. It truly is the gift that keeps on giving!

2. Recognise your parents’ achievements and accomplishments

As young children, we tend to think of ourselves as the prime accomplishment of our parents lives. Often, we take for granted the hard work and struggle that supported us in our early years.

By helping your parents to write their memoirs, you are showing them that their story matters to you, and that (finally) you recognise the value of everything they’ve done for you.damians-70-year-odyssey

They can open their book and think “Yes, I did that”. More than that, they can say their daughter or son sees what they have done. Giving your parents the gift of their life story is like giving them a trophy at the end of a marathon.

The Damianos children had this in mind. As a tribute to their father for his 70th Birthday, they collected stories and photographs from those that knew him. Together with Story Terrace, they created Damian’s 70 year Odyssey, a book that celebrated his many accomplishments as a businessman and a father.

3. Discover a deeper connection with your parents

For most of us, our parents lived their lives for 20+ years before we entered the scene. We only see them as the figure they represent: they are simply ‘Mum’, ‘Dad’, ‘Grandma’ and ‘Grandpa’.

How Well Do You Know Your Parents?

Your parents are individuals in their own right – but it’s likely you don’t know much about their formative years. Even after you were born, there will be much you weren’t aware of, or didn’t fully understand.

From time to time, you may hear the odd story – but these little snippets don’t give you the full picture. Taking the time to record your parents’ life story can be a unique bonding experience. They can share a part of themselves with you, and you may be surprised by what you learn.

The Damianos children saw their book as reviving the ancient role of ‘the storyteller’:

The role of the storyteller was to connect the past and the future and carry lessons across generational lines, and it formed the ties and held families together through time.

Giving your parents the gift of a Story Terrace biography can make them ‘the storyteller’ for your family. Their stories can be passed down through generations and become their legacy. What present could better?

 

How to capture your parents’ life stories

How much do you really know about your parents’ lives? So many stories took place before you were born, or were old enough to understand. Your parents know your whole history – but chances are you only know a fraction of theirs.

As our parents get older, these stories start to become more important to us. A lot of us turn our minds to making a record – we don’t want these irreplaceable memories to be lost. A Story Terrace biography is a great way to ensure your parents stories will last the generations.

However you want to record your parents’ life stories, the first step is to start talking. So today, we’re sharing four top tips.

Picture this…

A lot of our customers find that old photo albums are a great place to start with their parents. Take a day to bring out the old family albums with mum or dad. You will find that it jogs the memory, brings up stories you never even knew about, and it’s also a fantastic way to begin assembling material for a memoir or biParents memories ography.

It’s also an opportunity to digitise old pictures, which we strongly recommend. Nowadays, we are overwhelmed with photos. But older photos, from our parents’ childhood days, are often few and far between. It’s very likely you have no ‘back up’ of these pictures – old film and prints are liable to get damaged and lost forever! For this very reason, these older photos are infinitely more precious.

Luckily, with advances in technology, it has become easier to preserve old photos. Pictures can be scanned and stored safely online so that precious memories are not lost. As an added bonus, they are then easy to reproduce in a memoir or photo book. You can do it yourself by downloading an app, using a nearby print shop, or purchasing your own scanner.

Read our quick tips on how to digitise old photos for more information!

 Be your own family’s archaeologist

If you’re really serious, it’s time to have a root around the attic. Think of the film Titanic. A search for a precious necklace, missing in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean lead to the discovery of something priceless: a timeless love story. It’s not just Hollywood fiction – objects can tell stories!

There’s a reason historians spend time digging up old Roman pots – it says a lot about how people lived their lives.  Material culture can be just as important for you as your family’s historian. Your mum or dad’s memory won’t be infallible – mementos from the past can be important in bringing those truly old tales back to the present.

‘Why do you always wear that necklace mum?’

‘Well, I was 13 and I was walking to school one day….’

By examining your parents’ old possessions, you may not only be able to jog their memory, but to make the story come alive for yourself!

Take note!

Now you’ve got your parents talking, you’ll want to keep a pen and paper handy.

The stories that parents and grandparents share can be important insights into the past. Stories dating to a time before you were born: ‘I had to be evacuated during WW2, I can still remember the sounds of the air raid sirens’. Realities that seem so contrary from modern life:  ‘I got my first job at 11 and have worked ever since’.

Make sure to jot down these tidbits of information. And don’t forget to ask questions! It is through these that life stories can truly come together.

Get professional help from Story Terrace!

We would all love to personally record our parents’ life stories. But it often isn’t that easy. It can be difficult to find the time to finish a project. It’s also hard to be an expert interviewer and writer on the first attempt. And then you will want to transform all of that work into a format you can share with your family – which involves editing the text, and designing and printing everything yourself.

Story Terrace is here to help you capture your parents life stories. Our professional ghostwriters have extensive experience interviewing our customers parents’ and structuring their memoirs and biographies. We have in-house editors who manage the process end-to-end, and we know how to beautifully present precious memories in a way that will last. If you’d like to inquire about our services, feel free to contact us.

“Writing my life story” An interview with a Story Terrace customer!

In this blog article, we’re interviewing Story Terrace customer David Taylor to find out how he found the process of writing his life story, ‘A legitimate life’ and how he found working with ghostwriter Lisa Chilvers!

Confused about what a ghostwriter is? Click here for more information.

Why did you decide to write your life story?

Having been born in 1939, as my life has progressed into my late 70s, along the way, I’d often thought about writing my life story down. This was spurred on by the fact that my forbears have left no ‘footprints’ of their lives, so all that I have to go on is their birth, marriage and death certificates – little about their lives, their trials and tribulations, their achievements, setbacks and relationships. For example, my mother died when I was aged just five, and as I was illegitimate, I know nothing of my father’s background and little about my mother.

Had it not been for my elder son & his wife, who were keen that our three teenage granddaughters should learn a little more about my journey through life, the book would never have been written. It was they who commissioned the book as a very thoughtful surprise present on my 77th Birthday.

Did you have any concerns or reservations about writing it?

I had an unpromising start in life at the onset of WW2 – my mother was unmarried, became pregnant at age 36 and was turned out by her family as was the norm back then. There was no sympathy for those in that predicament from family or from society in general. It’s a matter of great comfort to me that she chose to keep me, though she died of T.B. just after my fifth birthday.

Given this bleak start in life and with WW2 raging, my overriding concern was that I didn’t want my story to come across as a ‘misery memoir’ or to have an air of ‘ain’t it awful?’ about it. I had a carefree childhood and have had a wonderful and eventful life. My other concern was that I didn’t want my achievements in life to seem boastful, immodest or conceited, nor for it to sound as though I had any ‘chips on my shoulders’ or had had a raw deal in the lottery of life.

I knew right away that her writing style had a close fit to my own take on things

How did you deal with these reservations? 

It was important to me that the chosen ghost-writer would be sensitive to these concerns, and that as closely as possible would reflect my own personality. I hoped the end result would be a book which others would find interesting to read and which would be a ‘page-turner’.

Why did you choose your ghostwriter?

I chose Lisa Chilvers to be my ghost-writer as someone who I felt could best ‘empathise’ with me and who would have a writing style which would have a close fit with my outlook on life. Initially, we chatted on the phone and Lisa made it clear from the outset that if we didn’t ‘hit it off’ she would bow out gracefully and I could choose another writer.

Describe the process of working with Lisa

Lisa visited me for a three-hour discussion as a starting point.

Though structured, the discussion was free-ranging and I was able to recount early events in my life which I’d long since forgotten. From those initial discussions, Lisa prepared a draft of the first chapter or so, and I knew right away that her writing style had a close fit to my own take on things. I couldn’t think of a title for the book, and given that I’d been born illegitimate, Lisa suggested why not ‘A Legitimate Life’? In all the circumstances, that seemed an apt and creative title, and so it was.

Lisa interviewed me a second time for several hours and we had a good rapport.  As the interviews were conducted in my own home I felt more at ease than would have been the case had we met at some other venue. As the book progressed, Lisa was in touch by telephone and e-mail to receive feedback and amendments to the draft texts. The end result was a joint effort.

I found the whole process to be relaxed and enjoyable

Were you pleased with the final product?

As to the book itself, I was impressed with the quality of the binding, the choice of chapter titles, the layout of the text and photographs and the front cover. I’m pleased to say that my son and his wife, and our three grandchildren – to whom the book is dedicated – have read it from cover to cover. They have been able to contrast my early years three-quarters of a century ago, with theirs today – a contrast which couldn’t be more different.

How did you find the overall process of writing your life story?

All in all, I found the whole process to be relaxed and enjoyable and the finished book – both in terms of content and overall quality – has been excellent. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Story Terrace and the use of a ghost-writer. What a thoughtful birthday present from my son and his wife this has turned out to be!

Want to write your life story? Contact us here

Interview with Row Smith about her experience writing The Earth Moved

People write their memoirs for many reasons: some want to record family stories for future generations; some want to reflect on their experiences; and some people – like Row Smith –  decide to share their story to make a difference in the world.

As a survivor of the 2015 Nepal Earthquake, she has used her story to raise thousands of pounds for victims of the disaster. Read on to discover Row’s incredible story, and her experience of creating her charity memoir, ‘The Earth Moved’.

In April 2015, Row and her husband Tom embarked on the adventure of a life time: trekking through Nepal’s beautiful Langtang Valley.

On the 25th April, just as they began their descent from the highest peak Tsergo Ri, disaster struck.

“The earth was literally moving beneath me, dropping away and then coming back in waves, tossing me into the air. My mind couldn’t process it – the ground was supposed to be an ever-present solid entity beneath your feet and the end of that could only mean that the world was literally falling apart”.

Nepal had been hit by a devastating earthquake, measuring a crippling 7.8 on the Richter scale. The final death toll reached over 8,000. 22,000 were injured and 3.5 million people became homeless.

When they returned home, though Row and Tom both suffered from PTSD, they were determined to help the Nepalese people they’d left behind. They set up a Just Giving page, raising £7000 for the charity Community Action Nepal (CAN).

Then Row had the idea of using her story to raise awareness and funds. With the help of Story Terrace and ghostwriter Emma Donnan, she wrote The Earth moved. Her book alone has raised hundreds for CAN and amazingly, one generous donor upped their donation to CAN by £1000 purely because of reading her story.

You can buy a copy and read her incredible story for yourself here.              

Recently, we caught up with Row to ask her about her experiences of creating the book.

How did you come up with the idea of writing The Earth moved?

When I returned from Nepal I decided to write down all of my experiences as a way of trying to offload what had happened. I was so traumatised and I felt it was a way of trying to get it out of my head so I could make sense of it all. Soon, I realised it didn’t help as I was suffering from PTSD. Then I came up with the idea of using what I had written to turn it into a book to raise money.                                

Why did you decide to write this book?

When I returned I helped a lot of people from Nepal financially, using most of our savings. I could no longer afford to do this out of my own pocket and wanted to find a sustainable way of helping the Nepalese people. Also, I wanted to raise awareness for Nepal and what it is like to suffer from PTSD after such trauma.

How did you find the process of writing the book?

Working with Story Terrace and Emma (my ghostwriter) was amazing. Emma turned my traumatic (very long story) into a good read for people to get my point across in a shorter version.

To Story Terrace:

All of you were and have been brilliant and made this project possible. Knowing you all did it to help such a great cause without making any profit was amazing. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I couldn’t have done it without you.

After writing the book I felt so proud of my achievements. I felt a lot of my guilt had gone, as I could say to the Nepalese people I can now help through sales of my book (rather than not being able to help them personally).

Were you happy with the final product?                                               

I would have liked the book to be longer as there was a lot more that happened whilst experiencing the trauma, however we couldn’t raise enough funding to do this. However I was so happy with the content that we did cover and the finished book.

After writing the book I felt so proud of my achievements. I felt a lot of my guilt had gone, as I could say to the Nepalese people I can now help through sales of my book (rather than not being able to help them personally).

What impact did the book have on a larger scale?  

Row and Tom in front of Langtang before the Earthquake

Row and Tom in front of Langtang before the Earthquake

It’s raised awareness for some of the awful events that we experienced but more importantly raised awareness for the Nepalese people. Many people have since been able to approach me to ask further questions.

I think it’s so important to talk about PTSD as it raises awareness. I’ve also helped many people to consider therapy. I desperately wanted people to relate to us so they could see how much worse it was for the local people. It would then encourage people to donate money or tell people to buy the book.

What impact did the book have on you personally?

The biggest thing for me has been the amount of people that have contacted me privately about the book. Many survivors from Langtang have come forward to tell me their stories relating to what happened and how they also suffered from PTSD. My book made them feel normal as they realised someone else had also suffered from it.

I also found I had some pieces of the jigsaw answered. For instance, survivors contacted me telling me the about the deceased woman I climbed over on the avalanche. One man helped rescue her husband and child, and they have remained friends since. They also told me that the two women with broken backs had been rescued and were taken to hospital. There were many parts of my survival story about certain individuals that were left unanswered, so it was nice to have some clarity.

I desperately wanted people to relate to us so they could see how much worse it was for the local people.

Why do you think it was so important to tell your story?

I wanted to tell people about our experience, not out of sympathy for us but to make people aware of the sufferings in Nepal.

So many people lost EVERYTHING — their entire families, limbs, friends (anyone they ever knew), their homes, and their jobs. Simply everything. It is so hard to imagine but everything was completely wiped out and we saw it with our own eyes. The government did not help them and still hasn’t, they are solely relying on charities or individuals to help. I’m hoping my book will continue to be a huge success and will slowly start to rebuild Nepal. The devastation was so huge I don’t think in my lifetime it will ever return to the way it was but knowing I’m trying my best to help people is good enough.

True love stories: Issy and Steve

In the run-up to Valentine’s day, we’re blogging about some of the amazing true love stories our customers have shared with us.

One of our favourites is from Isabella Matthews memoir, ‘Being Issy’.

“Maybe it’s not about the length of time you’ve known someone; maybe it’s about instant recognition. On an unconscious level, our souls knew each other”.

It was later in life when Isabella and Steve met on a holiday to Benidorm. Their meeting seemed 15almost an act of fate; Issy should have already gone back home, but her friend had accidentally booked a few more days, and Steve had been dragged on an impromptu Bachelor party. The connection between them in the club was instantaneous. Steve tapped Issy, who was solo dancing to Gladys Knight on the shoulder and instantly asked for her number. They agreed to meet when they were both back in the UK.

From the beginning they knew that they were supposed to be together. Steve turned up to her first date with flowers and less than a week after their return from Benidorm – they were already going on a weekend away!

 “He made- and still makes- my heart flutter, my stomach churn (in a good way), and my head spin”.

A life of fun and dancing

At the age of 65 Issy has found love with Steve. A passion for each other and a zest for life keeps them young. They spend their time dancing and partying in Spain and taking long romantic strolls along beautiful beaches. At home in Bristol, the party doesn’t stop as they groove the night away to their favourite motown tunes! Issy calls Steve her Wild Child.

 “We have fun and relish each other’s company. We are soul mates down to every last word, every wild bone in our bodies”.

One Valentines Day, Isabella received a mysterious card in the post from Steve. Inside was a message, asking her to marry him. She said yes, of course.

True love stories: Stanley and Anneliese

This Valentine’s day, we’re blogging about an amazing true love story our customer has shared with us.

‘Stanley and Anneliese’ was commissioned by Jenn Clark for her husband Dominic. It charts the lifelong romance of Dominic’s grandparents, who met in the aftermath of World War II.

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The bank of the River Bode

Our story begins in 1945 when Stanley, an English corporal, and Anneliese, a young German woman, met by chance on the banks of the River Bode. Annoyed at the presence of British soldiers, who had occupied her home and seized her possessions after Germanys defeat in WW2, Anneliese marched up and told him to leave. That moment then changed their lives completely:

Then something odd happened. I found I was gazing not at his face but into it. And with the tousled fair hair, high forehead and wide-set smiley eyes, I thought it was a wonderful face. And I didn’t want to stop looking. Nor did he’.

Their love blossomed from that point onwards.

Post war struggles

The couple encountered many struggles in the early years of their relationship. Anneliese’s mother was not pleased she was dating an English corporal. Not only that, fraternising with the Germans was a custodial offence in the British army. But neither Stanley nor Anneliese were deterred.

The apartment in Bonn

The apartment in Bonn

A blow struck in July 1945, when soviet forces took over the occupation of Eastern Germany, and the lovers were forced to separate. This proved intolerable – with Stanley’s help, Anneliese fled East Germany to be with him. She lived a vagabond existence for a time, following him to different villages, until Stanley took up a more permanent position as the public safety officer for Bonn. Here they had many contented months, despite Anneliese missing her family.

In 1946 Stanley made the decision to leave the military and return to England with Anneliese. In June, they made a plan to marry – but marriages between German and English citizens were banned. So Stanley went back to England alone. For three months they were separated, while Stanley doggedly fought his way through bureaucratic obstacles, until Anneliese could join him. Finally, in December 1946, she boarded a boat and set sail for Stanley.

 A New life in England

Anneliese was nervous about her new life in England, but she was warmly welcomed by Stanley’s parents. Excited to start their new lives together, they married the very same month, and purchased a flat in Lewisham.

Celebrating their golden wedding anniversary

Celebrating their golden wedding anniversary

Now life could finally begin. Stanley became a manufacturers’ agent, while Anneliese worked as a shipping clerk and translator. For years, they commuted to London together, he to Regent Street and she to Mayfair.  In 1947 and 1949, Stanley and Anneliese became parents to two daughters. The family moved to Kent, to a beautiful house surrounded by Birch trees which they affectionately named Birkenhaus. Here they lived a happy life, surrounded by children and grandchildren and celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary in 2006.

Anneliese said of their love story:

I would say that for Stanley and me, becoming grandparents and now great-grandparents has crowned a long, happy and adventurous partnership. It’s been an exciting life, frightening at times, but a very happy one’.

True love stories: Simon and Becky

In the run-up to Valentine’s day, we’re blogging about some of the amazing true love stories our customers have shared with us.

One of our favourites is in Simon Wilkinson’s memoir, ‘A Lifelong Springtime of the Heart’:

(You can read an extract of Simon’s book here.)

In 1970 Simon was a young Police Constable, yet to realise his destiny was to become a priest. One day, he and a friend stumbled into the local nurses’ residences, to ask if anyone wanted to come out. He wasn’t expecting anyone to say yes – but fate intervened. Becky, who had just come off shift, was happy to oblige. From that day onwards their lives changed for the better.

“She is, quite simply, the star of the show, without whom I would have diminished in all that I have done”

Soon they began to spend all their time together, bonding over their mutual love of corn-on-the-cob,the church, and spending time with friends. Though they had their ups and downs, Simon writes in his book that the thought of not being with Becky was from the start, ‘unthinkable’.

University and marriage

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In 1971 Simon decided that he wanted to become a priest, so he quit the police and applied to university. It looked like everything was about to change between he and Becky:

As the day of my departure for university approached, Becky became more and more upset. One day, when she was crying and saying that she knew that she would never see me again, I responded with: If you dont stop crying, I won’t marry you! Wonderful proposal!”

When Simon left for Nottingham University in September 1971, neither he nor Becky had a phone. So, for the next few months they wrote each other letters. Making the best out of a bad situation, Simon wrote to her in Greek both to practise his own and to teach Becky at the same time.

They married in  April 1972, and went on honeymoon to Tunisia. When they got back, they moved into the house in Beeston that Simon had lovingly spent months renovating. They could now begin their married life.

Married life

In December 1973, Simon and Becky had their first child, a boy. In 1974 Simon graduated from university, and over the next few years, their son was joined by another boy and two girls. Their familphoto-1_2015-5-14y was now complete.

Taking the cloth meant Simon had to relocate every six years. Together as a family, they travelled around England from Surrey to Yorkshire to Wiltshire. Becky and Simon’s lives were centred on the church: they held Shrove Tuesday pancake competitions in the community, organised fetes and fayres for the villages and in 1978 Becky started a career making vestments. As a family, they had many ups and downs, struggling through various family illnesses and ailments. Throughout it all Becky and Simon’s love remained strong.

Simon, in his book, says of Becky:

“She is, quite simply, the star of the show, without whom I would have diminished in all that I have done”

The power of true life stories

Stories have the power to captivate a reader – dazzle them into anger, or happiness or bewilderment.  They grip the imagination, and can transport you into a different world.

Stories are important, the monster said. They can be more important than anything. If they carry the truth.” Patrick Ness,  A Monster Calls

Still, we all have that one friend who won’t read a book or watch a film if it isn’t based in reality.

Why? Why does it matter if these stories are true or not? This blog article explores this very question.

True life stories are relatable

Reading a fantasy novel about a heroic knight, brandishing his sword and embarking on quests to save x,y or z can be thrilling escapism and enjoyable to read. But it doesn’t have much relevance to modern life.

True life stories on the other hand, give people something to relate to, no matter how extraordinary the story is:

‘This actually happened to someone, you know. This could happen to you or me’.

Take Penguin Lessons, a true story published in 2015, in which an adventurous young teacher befriends a penguin he rescues from an oil slick in Uruguay. After naming him Juan Salvador, he transports him to an Argentinian boarding school. A series of improbable encounters (such as a Penguin becoming a swimming coach) take place, as the bond between man and bird deepens.

Penguin Books (who are, fittingly, the publishers), tell us,

‘The Penguin Lessons is a unique and moving true story which has captured imaginations around the globe – for all those who dreamed as a child they might one day talk to the animals’.

As a book, it appeals because although far-fetched and incredible, it actually happened. It gives you hope that something out of the ordinary could happen to you.

They inspire empathy

Sometimes it can be hard to put ourselves in other people’s shoes. We weren’t there – how can we know what they went through? How can we live through their struggles with them or share their joy?

‘Can you imagine what that would have felt like?’

By reading true life stories it becomes possible. Ideas and events remote from our everyday lives are brought close to home.  We can trace the steps of that person’s journey right along with them.

This can cause a lot of emotion, in strangers touched by these true stories or from friends or family. By sharing these stories, it can give an insight into someone else’s life.

This reaction has been found in response to Story Terrace customers true life stories.

I’ve only let one friend read it so far…she could not speak to me, she emailed to say she was too emotional’. Trish Arundel, Story Terrace Customer.

They teach you about real things:

True life stories can teach you about things you know nothing about. This could be about a person’s experiences that you didn’t know they’d had, a place ‘I didn’t know that had happened there’, or an era that you weren’t a part of.

Take one of our customers – Teresa Samuels, whose testimonial you can read on our website here.

Her book, Into the Light, details the sudden change she experienced from a happy if somewhat impoverished childhood, to be cast adrift in the midst of the Sudanese Civil War. Her book is set against a backdrop of political unrest, and while it is her story, it is also the story of her country at this time.

Whilst Into the Light teaches you about Teresa’s life, it also gives insight into a wider area. True life stories have this power to teach us about people, places, the present and the past.

True life stories are important and it’s important that you tell yours!

Why write my biography? Because your story matters

‘Biographies are for celebrities’.

Bookshop shelves heave under the weight of the latest celebrity autobiographies. In 2016, the stories of Bruce Springsteen, Phil Collins, Alan Bennett and many more made the best-seller lists.

Celebrity stories are a global obsession – but here’s something different: Story Terrace aims to be everyone’s personal biographer.  It’s a somewhat novel concept: we really believe everyone’s stories matter.

So in this post, we’re giving you three reasons to write your memoirs.

1. You should share your experiences with your family

I wanted to give my grandchildren an insight into my life’- Isabella Matthews, Story Terrace customer

Our life stories are important to our loved ones.

Everyone leaves a legacy of some kind to their children. Some leave behind money, possessions, recipes, or even morals.

What better gift to give than your memories?

Story Terrace was founded on the belief that parents and grandparents should record their stories. You can share so much insight into your life, and the era you grew up in, if you take the time. In return, you will add a whole new dimension to your relationship with your children or grandchildren.

Read this article on how well do you really know your grandparents for more information.

Your story is also your children’s story. It is the story of where they come from, it is their heritage. It’s so important that this rich family history is passed down and not forgotten.

2. Your stories can inspire your loved ones and your community

‘I am hoping that my life story will inspire young people to achieve their dreams’- Yash Gupta, Story Terrace customer

You don’t have to be on the Hollywood walk of fame and have a million followers on twitter to make a difference. In fact, your biography may be much more relatable. Sharing how you have overcome obstacles in your life could have a huge influence on someone you know. Celebrity stories may entertain the masses – but your story has huge power to inspire your friends, family and community. It’s just as important.

Don’t believe us? Read Three women, Three powerful stories  

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3. It’s important to reflect on your experiences

‘From my adventures I have learnt a lot about myself, my heritage and the wider world we live in. All these formed and shaped me’– Icko Gombodorj, Story Terrace customer.

Life is full of adventures and struggles. We’re all busy, but it’s worth taking some time to reflect. We all deserve the opportunity to appreciate our personal history — and writing your memoirs is the ultimate way to do that.

It’s a chance to answer the big questions for yourself. What were the major periods in your life so far? What lessons have you learned? Who really influenced the person you are today?

If you’ve been through difficult times, writing down your memories can also help to overcome past traumas, or rethink choices you have made. Examining the past can be important for the future.

We’re all trying to live a life worth writing about, so why not write about it and see what you find?

No one says it better than Doctor Who:

We’re all stories in the end’.

Behind the cover? Ghostwriting for success

What is ghostwriting?

The term ‘ghostwriting’ might conjure imagery of some dark ethereal being haunting the living by wielding a pen. But in reality, a text is ‘ghostwritten’ when someone besides the named author wrote it. It could be a novel, an autobiography, lyrics, a script or just about anything else you can put down on paper or in pixels. Simple!

Read What is Ghostwriting? for more information.

As a process, it can be more complicated. At Story Terrace, ghostwriters are meticulously matched with customers to create life stories. Story Terrace Managing Editor Alice Nightingale says, ‘We pride ourselves on creating a great fit between ghostwriter and storyteller, so a rapport is forged and the writer can produce the life story the storyteller has always wanted.’

Why use a ghostwriter to write a life story?

Having someone else write your life story might seem an alien concept. If the story is yours, why not write it down yourself? Put simply, this kind of collaboration can help you to get the most out of your memories, and make writing your own life story easier than you think:

First, ghostwriters help to organise thoughts. Attempting to collate your life into one comprehensive book can be a tricky task. Life is full of stories and moments, and working with a ghostwriter can help to sift through them all so that the finished product is the story you want to tell.

Teresa Samuels, a Story Terrace customer, said of her ghostwriter:

‘Sara really took the time to help me find the structure in the story of my life’.

Moreover, having an outsider’s perspective can help you to gain new insight into your life, and tease out the themes underlying your experiences. It is always much harder to create a good end product if you are too close to the story. As the American philosopher and poet Henry David Thoreau once remarked, “It takes two to speak the truth – one to speak and another to hear”.

Most importantly, even if you are a good writer, writing a book is a huge challenge, writing a biography even more so. From putting together all the facts, to knowing how to edit, design and get a book printed, you may want to avoid struggling through the task of attempting to write your own life story if you lack the right experience. There is the risk that beginners’ mistakes will hamper a project of great personal importance. Leaving it to the professionals can result in a more enjoyable process as well as the best possible product.

Successful ghostwriting in popular culture

Ghostwriting is much more common than people think and is used frequently by both those in and out of the public domain to achieve the best result possible. Here are some examples of best-selling works by ghost-writers:

  • Crime novelist James Patterson has put his name to well over 100 books. This is seemingly far more than it is humanly possible to write each year. His secret? He employs a team of 23 ‘co-authors’, who are generally responsible for the word-by-word writing of his novels. Patterson considers himself a ‘big picture man’. He creates the main plot and makes the major decisions but leaves the rest to his ‘best-seller factory’ – his ghostwriters.
  • When Enid Blyton passed away, some of her series were still unfinished. It fell to Pamela Cox to continue her Malory Towers and St Clare’s series, resulting in success for the ghostwriter herself.
  • Katie Price, AKA Jordan, has accumulated quite a fortune from her collection of 14 novels and her autobiographies. To achieve these successes, she (and her publisher) employed ghostwriter Rebecca Farnworth, to write them.
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X, a seminal book in regards to the American Civil Rights movements, was in fact written by Alex Haley. This book is still considered important to date.

LIVING A LIFE WORTH WRITING ABOUT

Living life to the fullest

Everyone is the author of their own unique life story. Therefore, it is not surprising that at some point in our lives most of us ask the question: am I living my life to the fullest?

It’s easy to get stuck in a routine where you continuously repeat the same day over and over again, and yet expect something amazing to occur. Albert Einstein famously defined insanity as the process of “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

It falls to you to take your destiny into our own hands. If you want a beautiful story, pick up a pen and start writing.

Robert, what do you consider to be a life worth writing about?

The answer to what is considered a well-lived life differs between different people. However, most people would agree that great life experiences add to your life story. In line with this, we asked Story Terrace CTO, Robert Desmond, who has a vast pool of life experiences, to explain to us what he considers to be a life worth writing about.

This was Robert’s answer.

“‘Life is short’ is a massive cliché, but talk to the older members of your family and they will all confirm that time does indeed go faster when you’re older.

There are so many opportunities in life that come our way. No matter who you are, your age or what you have, there are always things to do that are exciting and life defining.

Life is about experiences, and if you don’t take on new experiences then you aren’t living. It could be meeting a new group of people, travelling to a new place, backpacking across a country or returning to somewhere you already know to experience it again with fresh eyes.

It’s difficult to feel as though we’re ever doing something new; we often live vicariously through other people’s social media updates. Real life adventures are captured on Snapchat to share with our close – and not-so-close – friends, but we need to break free from this to see how the world really is. It isn’t perfect the whole time; people make mistakes, things don’t go to plan and we sometimes get lost in life – and that’s alright. If anything, that is what life is about and we seem to have forgotten this.

We need to try new things, make mistakes, learn and experience in order to really grow as people. The only real mistake we can make is not actually making a decision to try something new.

My life has been turned upside down through far too many coincidences and chance encounters. I’ve moved countries, climbed mountains, started relationships – all because I was lucky enough to be open to the new idea at the time. It’s a lesson I need to remind myself of, especially as we get further into this dark and cold winter.

So the next time you get a call from a friend inviting you to go somewhere new or exciting – for a weekend break, a party or even to meet for a coffee somewhere local – say yes.”

As Robert said, “Life is about experiences”. People often make the mistake of thinking that to have an amazing life story, they must have grand experiences. However, this is not the case; even small events, such as watching a sunset, are great experiences that can be looked back on with joy. So take the time and the opportunity to grasp the experiences that life brings your way, and as you do so you will continue – or begin – to live a life worth writing about.

Thinking about writing your life story? Have a look at this insightful article on ‘How to write my life story’