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vixey
06-27-2008, 01:54 AM
I've been approached by a friend/neighbor who wants to write a book about her adopted son. She is an upper middle class white woman raising an African American boy (12 now) who was born a crack baby and suffered sexual abuse. She feels compelled to tell her story about raising this beautiful child because she couldn't find any written material about parents who'd had the same experience or inclination.

Though I'm a fiction writier, I have a history degree and experience in research and writing theses. My plan is to have her tell me her story (with tape recorder, white board, and my laptop) so I can capture everything she wants to say. I also plan to do research, fact check, possibly do interviews, etc.

My question is: Has anyone experienced writing someone else's story before? Should I write this family's story as a memoir? If so, can a memoir be written with a specific purpose (i.e., she wants to tell her son's story to raise awareness about crack babies and abuse, as well as for the benefit of people who may want to adopt older children)?

Any and all advice is very much appreciated!

scope
06-27-2008, 03:45 AM
I've done some ghostwriting, but never a memoir. It seems to me that to write such a dramatic, incredibly personal memoir would be extremely difficult, at the very best. I really don't see how it could be pulled off effectively. However, as an involved, observant "third party" -- maybe.

I'm just guessing, but when such deep, personal feelings, experiences that are almost impossible to describe, heartfelt matters, and such are involved, it makes the writer's job more than just difficult. But as I say, that's just my initial, gut reaction.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

vixey
06-27-2008, 03:50 AM
I can't agree more that it's a monumental undertaking. Yet, I feel 'called' to help her.

Another question - Are there any books about writing memoirs or would anyone recommend a memoir to pattern this story after?

jerrywaxler
06-28-2008, 08:44 PM
Hi Vixey,

You are asking so many fruitful questions, and it sounds like such a terrific project, a labor of compassion, creativity, and sharing. Even though it is sure to be a lot of work, I'm sure you will find a commensurate amount of creative satisfaction.

There are lots of people who write other people's biographies, so as you go through this process, you will be potentially training yourself for a writing career niche.

One of your questions, is wondering if you could do it as an advocacy or education book. I have just finished reading a beautiful memoir that does something quite similar, Ashley Rhodes-Courter, "Three Little Words," by a girl who was in the foster-care system, and is now an advocate for foster kids.

Another relevant memoir is The book "Fear is no longer my reality," by Jamie Blyth and Jenna Glatzer. Jenna is I believe a founder of Absolute Write and still very active. The book focuses on overcoming social anxiety and includes lots of research and expert quotes.

As to exactly how to do it, I could probably think of ten ways you could do it. We need some good energy here on the Life Story section of Absolute Write, so if you want to bring all your questions and successes here, I'm sure you'll get some food for thought, and support.

And yes, there are lots of books about writing memoirs. I see new ones every week. If you're looking for a step by step guide, check out the one I wrote available from my website.

Sincerely,
Jerry Waxler

vixey
06-28-2008, 08:52 PM
Wow, Jerry! Thanks for the title suggestions. Your own book looks like it will be particularly helpful - I haven't checked the link yet, but I will when I get a minute.

This writing experience will definitely be a journey for my friend and I and we're both looking forward to it. As a fiction writer, I believe we could draw on a larger reading audience if we write this piece as a novel as opposed to a straight memoir. Admittedly I haven't read many memoirs, but I'm looking at some now. I'm turned off by the whiny tones in some that I've seen and the stilted, conversational writing style. But this is something my friend and I will have to figure out as we go.

Thanks, again. I'm sure I'll be posting here a lot!

Gillhoughly
06-28-2008, 09:31 PM
When you get something together you might send a proposal to this small press in regard to publication.

www.benbellabooks.com (http://www.benbellabooks.com)

They published a very popular book against bullying (http://66.84.52.211/cgi-bin/plugins/MivaEmpresas/miva?plugins/MivaMerchants/merchant.mvc+Screen=PROD&Store_Code=BB&Product_Code=PSLU&Category_Code=SFH) that has been taken to heart by schools and other venues.

It strikes me that a non-fiction on your friend's experiences might be of interest to them.

They do trade paperbacks, have an EXCELLENT editing team, and good marketing. I know the CEO personally, and he's a total pro.

And hands down, they are the ONLY publisher I EVER worked with whose royalty statements are clear and completely understandable!

Best of luck!

nccreative
06-29-2008, 01:28 AM
historical memoirs. I'm honored to be working with an 82-year-old WWII vet who served in both the Nazi Army and U.S. Army. Aside from the interesting facts and insights, his perspective is what I'm focusing on - his perspective regarding our current social, political and economic climate.

He was also very involved with sports via Hitler's Youth, winning multiple medals (which he still has), so I'm also interested in his take on the Olympics through the years. He's even been involved in the Senior Olympics program recently as well. Could be a good article to pave the way, tying in with current events of the upcoming Olympic games.

This is also my first memoir, so I'll hold hands with you in this thread, Vixey! :)

Granted, I'll do the required research of publishers open to this genre, but thought perhaps someone may read this and think of a potential match right away.

Many thanks in advance. Best of luck to you, Vixey!

Gillhoughly
06-29-2008, 01:48 AM
Bookstore.

WW2 area.

Check for books in your genre. Copy author names, publishers, look for websites so you can ask writers for their agents' names.

Ditto for Amazon. Bookstores can't stock everything that's out there.

Make sure the publisher has no red warning labels next to the name in Preditors & Editors. (http://anotherealm.com/prededitors/)

nccreative
06-29-2008, 02:24 AM
:)

Thanks much. I see much of this genre is self-published.

Have a good one! :hi:

scope
06-29-2008, 06:10 AM
I'll take your word that "...much of this genre is self-published." However, an enormous number of books dealing with the genre of historical memoirs, especially with the background being WWII, have been standard for traditional publishers. By no means should you dismiss them or make them second banana, unless you truly want to self-publish.

jerrywaxler
06-29-2008, 03:10 PM
It's fun to hear about memoirs becoming a genre. I see that happening more and more. As I browse the book shelves, the "Biography and Memoir" section is becoming more memoir and less biography. Clearly there are many successful published memoir writers.

By the way, co-writing someone else's memoir drifts over into the realm of biography, a perfectly respectable and exciting variation on memoir. It turns out as an author you may have a richer choice here than first meets the eye.

I heard an interview last year with an author who wanted to write a biography of the family he lost in the holocaust. He went back to Poland, to the town where they lived, and gradually realized that a more intimate story would be to write about his own search for their memories. By switching the point of view from them to him, he changed it from biography to memoir. The book is "The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million" by Daniel Mendelsohn.

Jerry

vixey
06-29-2008, 03:28 PM
A wealth of information, everyone. Thanks for all the help. I begin interviewing/listening tomorrow to my friend's stories. Honestly, I think hearing her tell stories about her adopted son's abuse and foster home situations will be the most difficult part. (Though, I can't imagine reliving the Holocaust either.)

I'll keep you posted.

vixey
06-29-2008, 03:32 PM
When you get something together you might send a proposal to this small press in regard to publication.

www.benbellabooks.com (http://www.benbellabooks.com)

They published a very popular book against bullying (http://66.84.52.211/cgi-bin/plugins/MivaEmpresas/miva?plugins/MivaMerchants/merchant.mvc+Screen=PROD&Store_Code=BB&Product_Code=PSLU&Category_Code=SFH) that has been taken to heart by schools and other venues.

It strikes me that a non-fiction on your friend's experiences might be of interest to them.

They do trade paperbacks, have an EXCELLENT editing team, and good marketing. I know the CEO personally, and he's a total pro.

And hands down, they are the ONLY publisher I EVER worked with whose royalty statements are clear and completely understandable!

Best of luck!

I'll hang onto this info when I'm ready to write a proposal (another task I'll need help with!). Thanks, Gillhoughly

jerrywaxler
06-29-2008, 04:00 PM
I'm reading a book called "Three Cups of Tea" about Greg Mortenson's struggle to build schools for the Pakistanis. It's actually written by David Relin, as a sort of partner in the story. It's a great book, and a great example of how a co-author can breathe real life into a book that contains the intimacy of a memoir.

Jerry

nccreative
06-29-2008, 06:23 PM
Scope said
I'll take your word that "...much of this genre is self-published." However, an enormous number of books dealing with the genre of historical memoirs, especially with the background being WWII, have been standard for traditional publishers. By no means should you dismiss them or make them second banana, unless you truly want to self-publish.



That was the case with the initial pages of the Amazon search, not surprisingly, I suppose. I realize the bookstore will be a different story. :) No, self-publishing isn't the goal but is indeed something we'll keep in mind.

vixey
06-29-2008, 06:52 PM
Jerry,

I clicked on your link "120 Essays About Memoir Reading and Writing." Your blog is very informative and has many more resources for my research, etc. A question: Are the 120 Essays compiled into a publication? Or are the essays your blog posts? I couldn't find a reference or link to the Essays. Sounds very interesting . . .

vixey
06-29-2008, 07:11 PM
Jerry,

After further exploration of your website, I've figured out the Essays. Thanks for the resource!

DL Hegel
07-01-2008, 03:38 AM
I've been approached by a friend/neighbor who wants to write a book about her adopted son. She is an upper middle class white woman raising an African American boy (12 now) who was born a crack baby and suffered sexual abuse. She feels compelled to tell her story about raising this beautiful child because she couldn't find any written material about parents who'd had the same experience or inclination.

Though I'm a fiction writier, I have a history degree and experience in research and writing theses. My plan is to have her tell me her story (with tape recorder, white board, and my laptop) so I can capture everything she wants to say. I also plan to do research, fact check, possibly do interviews, etc.

My question is: Has anyone experienced writing someone else's story before? Should I write this family's story as a memoir? If so, can a memoir be written with a specific purpose (i.e., she wants to tell her son's story to raise awareness about crack babies and abuse, as well as for the benefit of people who may want to adopt older children)?

Any and all advice is very much appreciated!No-no ghost writing-but i have done tons of interviews. Always bring a list questions that can not be answered yes or no. And have the questions follow the aspects of the story you want to bring out--- they help you keep the person your interviewing on point. Tape recorders are great--but take notes on the high lights. They are good for back up or organizing. I wish you goodluck.