Welcome to Anatomy of a Personal History Book – a new installment of Book Stories, where we explore the process of creating an 11stories Life Story or Love Story book. From our conversations to record your stories to the end result of you holding a beautiful custom book in your hands, how does it all happen? Let’s find out!
Each 11stories book starts with a conversation. This is what personal historians call “the interview,” and it’s what makes each 11stories book unique. Your book is based on your interview – your story, your adventures, your lessons learned, all in your own words.
Before we get to that conversation, we will discuss your goals for the project, and I will make sure to answer all of your questions and address any concerns. I will then ask you for some preliminary information, like important names and dates in your story and any key events or themes you want to highlight.
On the day of your interview, I will either come to your home or meet with you on Skype. Interview sessions are typically two hours, but it feels like twenty minutes. You don’t need to do anything to prepare, just set aside two glorious hours without interruptions.
I am often asked whether I use a “protocol,” or a specific set of questions in my interviews. The answer is both “yes” and “no.” Yes, you will see that I come to all my interviews with an outline of topics and prompts, tailored to your story, that I have developed from my years of interviewing. And no, I don’t really use them. Trust me, that is a good thing. You are hiring me to not use a protocol, to not rely on a set of questions downloaded off the internet, to not use the same set of questions for each client.
You are hiring me to be your “guide” through this conversation. I strongly believe that a successful personal history interview is based on active listening and a collaborative process of storytelling. This does not mean that I show up unprepared. I do ask direct questions that lead you through your story. And I have enough experience to know how and when to use those prompts. But more importantly, I listen closely and I ask follow-up questions that invite you to provide the details that bring a richness to your stories, that allow you to share who you are and how you became that person, and that give you an opportunity to reflect.
Clients are sometimes curious about how I record the interview. It’s very simple – I use a digital voice recorder that is about half the size of your cell phone. And I always use a backup recording device, like my iPad, because I want to make sure we don’t lose a moment of your story. If we are using Skype, then I have a custom program that works with Skype to record our conversation.
Once we finish our interview, I will listen to those recordings and carefully transcribe your stories, word for word, to preserve your unique voice. Then it’s on to The Story, so stay tuned!