Legacy memoirs


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      A legacy memoir shares stories that may help those who haven’t lived them. Along with financial assets, photos, and other things left in a will or trust, a legacy memoir is a gift, on the part of an elder, to younger generations and perhaps to friends.

      One form is an autobiography that relates the story of a life. Another is a set of teaching stories that stand out as especially telling.

      Some of these stories may have been transmitted, at least in part, in the form of family legends. Others may need amplification or further context. A few may not have been mentioned up until now, but need to be conveyed.

      The audience can be one person, an immediate family, an extended family, or also friends and even strangers. The audience is the choice of the story-teller. A legacy memoir can be shared now or later, with a small audience or with the larger audience that a book can reach.

      The work is totally confidential, except for what you choose to share.

      A writing coach can help you to get over the hard parts, can help speed you through the learning curve. Craig Comstock taught expository prose at Harvard College and has been coaching writers, along with work as director of a foundation, since the early 1970s.

      With a coach, many people who have seldom written more than a letter can put together a valuable legacy memoir.

      Comstock is not only a writing coach and former foundation director, but has a current TV program on “people and activities that arouse awe or admiration.” A legacy memoir can take the form of writing, or edited TV or audio interviews, or both.

      Work together begins with a discussion for which there is no fee and no obligation. If both of us feel the project will be a success, we then reach an agreement.

      There is no proper age for composing a legacy memoir. Max Beerbohm, the English writer, published an autobiography right after finishing university. The new President wrote one before entering politics (Dreams From My Father). However, most people who write a legacy memoir at all do so when becoming an elder.

      An elder is not a fancy name for an old person. The name refers to a crucial social role to be understood and accepted. An elder may care for his community, with courage and compassion, and he or she shares what a life has taught.

      Eric Erikson, author of Childhood and Society, identified the challenge of the last stage of life as “integrity vs. despair.” One way to find the integrity of one’s own life, and pass it along, is the legacy memoir.

      In a long career, Comstock has worked with clients who have never written, or who are seeking a new audience, or are dealing with a kind of material different than they have used.

      For an initial consultation, with no fee and no obligation, write to me at ckc@mind.net.