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  • Clémence R. Scouten

What's it like working with a memoir writer?

Updated: Oct 20, 2021

Today I read a terrific article in the New York Times about a woman, Michelle Buford, who partners with celebrities to write their memoirs. I always say that you don't have to be famous or have invented sliced bread to have a story to tell. Everyone has a story and your kids and grandkids will cherish having a written record of yours simply because your are their family.

However, the process that Michelle discusses in the article is one of the best descriptions I've seen of what it means to work with a professional to write your memoirs. I've never worked with celebrities but the process she details about the relationship between the writer and the subject is the same.

The goal is for the writer to be able to deeply understand the speaker's voice and story. The memoir writer develops incredibly deep knowledge of what you say, how you say it, how you feel, what you think, what you care about, and so on. In a sense the story is secondary because if the memoir doesn't sound like you, and it's not told well, then what's the point?

Successful collaboration is dependent on trust and openness between both parties--and much of that is on the writer to achieve. But when it happens that's where the magic comes in. It's very hard to describe, but a good "memoirist" (some people like the term ghostwriter) is part therapist, part interviewer, part writer, part story-teller, part friend, and more.

I love listening to my clients' stories. I always feel flattered and lucky that I've been trusted to create that "magic" where people feel they can trust me to tell their story in a compelling way that preserves their voice.

If any part of you has wanted to write your memoirs, I hope this article has made you see why working with the right person is so important. Don't hesitate to reach out (215-645-7766 / clemence @ if you want to discuss this. Talking about memoirs and family history projects is my passion and I'd love to hear from you.

On the other hand, if you want to give it a try on your own, check out the tips I provide in this article and worksheet about writing your memoirs yourself.

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