Monday, November 18, 2013

Write your life story: How to organise and record your memories for family and friends to enjoy

By Michael Oke

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

When I first looked at the Contents of this book, I quickly realized that the process Oke discusses is precisely the structure that I intend to follow when I write my own memoir (no date is set, but it is certainly an item on my agenda). There are 16 chapters in this 212-page book (194 pages of content in 15 chapters means an average of about 15 pages per chapter), and Oke begins with, "Why Write Your Life Story?" — an excellent place to begin. (Although the book contains 16 chapters, the 16th contains "Advice from Others...." — about 18 pages of advice.)

"Thinking Things Through" is the title of Oke’s second chapter, and that one is followed by: "Getting Organised," "Planning the Structure," "Considering Alternative Structures," "Preparing to Tell Your Story," "Some Tips and Techniques," "Inspirational Extracts," "Doing Your Research," "Being Ready to Write," "Tackling Difficult Areas,""Revising the Manuscript," "Presentation," "Production," "Publishing," and "Advice from Others Who Have Written."

The advice in this book is specific, practical, and realistic. I liked the way sections were divided up, the many examples, the numerous case studies used to illustrate the text material, as well as the checklists and assignments. There is so much in this book, including a glossary, useful addresses, further reading, and an index.

There is one weakness with the book that Americans need to understand. Look at the title and note the word "organise." That is the British spelling of the word. Oke is a British writer, and the book is published by a British publishing company (), and you see it not only in the spelling of certain words, but I thought the "Further Reading" section was most interesting. 1) Of the 8 books recommended for further reading, half of them were published by How to Books. 2) Of the 11 magazines recommended (although all have websites), they are all British publications.

Here is an example of some of the British oriented text material: "Another source worthy of consideration for the more enthusiastic researcher is the National Newspaper Library in Colindale, London N11. Here you can read through local and national newspapers from decades ago. It is a fascinating place, but worth booking first" (p. 122). (There is no website offered for this source.)

This is a useful source for those thinking about, about to begin, or engaged in writing a memoir (or life story). Why? Because it really covers the essential ideas, offers many different suggestions, and provides additional possibilities that many writers may not think about or may find valuable. It trips synapses that may make you stop and think or may help make your memoir better or more complete. It is a worthwhile assistant — like having a trusted mentor offering hints, recommendations, and counsel that you may not get from any other source.

One overall impression with which I am left is captured in this sentence: "Writing your autobiography is immense fun. . . ." (p. 8). Oke is an enthusiastic advocate of the process, and it is almost as if he is a cheerleader for readers’ ability and their success. If I heard that people were planning to write their life story, this is the kind of book I could and would happily recommend. It is not just a good starting place, it offers the guidance, direction, and information that will help them move from their appropriate starting place to the end of their work.

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