I founded MODERN MEMOIRS in 1994, following 20 years of creative work in award-winning journalism, publishing, editing, and public radio commentary. It was when I realized that I owed it to my own mother to respectfully listen to and pass along her life story that I started the company. Since then, Modern Memoirs has privately published memoirs, family histories, and other books for a wide variety of clients in the U.S. and elsewhere. We are grateful for the opportunity to serve them and their families in such a profound way.
In order to have a community of professionals to pool knowledge, especially about new technologies, theories, and practices, I founded the Association of Personal Historians, an international trade association that now has hundreds of active members. In 2002, with two former clients I co-founded The American Tribute Center, which provided personal Tribute Books to a handful of bereaved families of 9/11, modeled on Modern Memoirs’ Tribute Books. We closed it down several years ago.
Memoir Writing - Editing your Manuscript
Personal history publisher Kitty Axelson-Berry discusses how to edit your own stories.
Kitty Axelson-Berry: Hi, I am Kitty Axelson-Berry with Modern Memoirs and White Poppy Press. I'm talking about how to write and publish your Memoir. And now I'm going to discuss how to edit your own stories. Editing is the process of reading and changing words or images, so that they serve your purpose.
Your stories should be accurate, understandable, and easy to read. Every sentence, paragraph, page, and chapter in your memoir has to make sense, unless part of the purpose of your story is to show you are illogic. You would not want to say without explanation that you went to China to learn Arabic, for instance.
Go through every word of your memoir and fix those places that are unclear or inconsistent. Next, you will want to observe and perhaps change the tone of some of your statements. When you wrote a story about your pet rabbit, Cream Puff, who died, because your dad was certain it couldn't survive in its cage in a blizzard.
Maybe you sounded more bitter than you wanted to be. Now is the time to fix it, and put in a loving word about dad's tragic mistake. Watch what you say about others and take an extremely conservative respectful approach to writing about anyone other than yourself. When in doubt, take it out.
This is also the time to fix unwarranted repetition, for instance. You might have ended up telling the same story several times. Make sure you just tell it once. Punctuation and spelling are fixed in that too. You don't have to stick with the rules of grammar; you could choose to have an idiosyncratic set of grammatical rules, so that your memoir really provides your own voice.
Rules of grammar change from generation to generation and you might want to keep your own style of writing. Now read the text out loud to a group of acquaintances, preferably other writers, you'll find more items to fix. Reading your manuscript in the presence of others makes you aware of the effect of your writing on people and of its implications.
Do they understand what you're saying? Do they feel what you wanted them to feel? Finally, give it to a professional for review. This is extremely important if you want to have a book that reads well, even after you and even after your friends have gone through your manuscript, a professional will find dozens of simple, but important questions and problems to fix.
Expect the editor to go through every word of your text several times, and to charge by the hour or by the word. So those are some tips for editing your writing.