The core of the personal history experience is a series of audiotaped interviews. During these sessions, I ask the client questions about his or her life so far. Subjects might include family traditions, childhood friends and games, school days, career choices, courtship and marriage, children and grandchildren, and historical events. The personal history process is tailored to help a client remember and describe events and feelings in ways he may not have done in the past, producing an insightful, in-depth account.
These storytelling sessions usually last two hours each and can be held in any quiet place where the client feels comfortable. Most clients prefer to meet in their own homes.
After five or six two-hour sessions, sometimes more depending on the scope of the project, I transcribe the interviews and use them as the basis of the memoir. I write the client’s story in the first person, shaping it into a narrative using his own unique “voice.” Along the way, I do historical research to flesh out details. I also digitally scan family photographs, letters, newspaper clippings, etc., restore them as needed, and incorporate them into the finished memoir.