Writing the Autobiography- Step One: Create an Archive
Technically, I do not write memoirs. A memoir is a first-person account written from the point of view of the memoir subject.
I write autobiographies.
I create a third-person narrative of a life, based on interviews and research, as in the case of Helga Hofmeier Edmonds, pictured here at the age of nine, wearing a silk kimono and holding her new Japanese doll.
A friend recently asked me how his sister could write their mother’s memoirs when the mother is paralyzed. “We always meant to get them written,” he said. Now their mother cannot speak. It does beg the case for hiring a personal biographer. As I often say: If it were easy, you’d do it yourself.
But if you are trying to DIYS, make your first project to put out a call within the family to gather all collateral materials.
Does anyone have letters from or voice recordings of your loved one that have been saved, after all this time? If they can’t send the original, they can send you a copy.
Who has photographs of your beloved? Often a family member or friend has a photo that you’ve never seen, or thought was lost. You can tell a great deal about a person’s life by one photograph. If they are eating at the family reunion, what kind of table, tablecloth or lack of one, silver or stainless or plastic utensils? How many are there? Who is there? What are their connections?
Step two is to conduct interviews.