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Book: Writing Your Life Story


Bob Harvey, 71, a retired accountant, is eager to write his life story because he wants his three sons to have a record of who their father was. "My father just wasn't knowable," he said.

He is not alone. As the population ages, more and more people are interested in leaving a record of their lives for future generations. But how does one get started?

Richard Campbell and Cheryl Svensson have released Writing Your Legacy: The Step-by-Step Guide to Crafting Your Life Story. The authors are experienced teachers. Campbell is a freelance writer and runs his own Life Story Writing business. And Dr. Cheryl Svensson is an expert in the field of aging and director of the Birren Center for Autobiographical Studies.

According to Campbell and Svensson, writing your life story can grant you insight and clarity and lead to emotional growth.

The new guide has three sections.

In Part One, the authors present the basics of life writing in 12 concise chapters. Topics covered include:

  • ways to share your story
  • overcoming your writing fears, and
  • discovering your voice.

Part Two presents 10 core legacy themes to help you organize your life story into manageable chunks. They include:

  • forks in the road
  • cultural heritage, and
  • life values.

Each theme focuses on one aspect of your life. Campbell and Svensson suggest writing two-to three pages on each theme. They provide probing questions and targeted prompts to help you explore milestones, relationships, career paths and major choices. The authors anchor their suggestions with excerpts from their favourite writers and anecdotes from former students.

Chapter 23, entitled "Adding Rooms" offers more themes to help you add colour, context and flavour to your life story. You can strengthen the themes, for example, by adding the context of the times in which they were experienced. The book contains a handy world events timeline (1900 to 2015) starting on page 234.

In Part Three, the authors discuss:

  • the editing process
  • ways to enhance your book with images or video
  • how to choose a book title, and
  • preparing your story for publication.

Writing Your Legacy ends with an excellent resource section.

If you're interested in capturing the spirit of your life story, this is an inspiring and practical guide.