Born in Clay County, Kentucky, during the Depression years, Flem was the first in his family to attend college. He worked as a community organizer throughout Appalachia in his twenties and thirties and later built a business as an insurance agent and financial advisor. Flem wanted to write his memoirs partly to preserve his story for his five children and nine grandchildren and partly to share his gratitude for the supportive community in which he was born and raised.

The process of producing Flem’s memoir was slightly different from the usual; when we started working together, he had already produced a 400-page manuscript, dictated to voice recognition software. I helped edit, condense and restructure the manuscript, then augmented it with personal interviews of Flem and his wife Tena and with scans of family and historical photographs. This variation on the usual personal history process can be a good option for someone who prefers to begin his or her memoir solo and then add to it later or for someone who has already written a full memoir but needs help polishing it for publication.

Flem has kindly allowed excerpts from his memoir to be featured here. The first two, “Early Childhood” and “The Hurricane Creek Mine Disaster,” were adapted from his dictated manuscript; the last, “Afterword,” was written by me from audiotaped interviews.

Early Childhood

The Hurricane Creek Mine Disaster