Life History Books is doing something truly different: when it was founded in 2009, it was the first memoir service with personal historians all around the world, set package prices, and such elaborate, high-quality page design. The company has grown steadily and carefully, bringing on fantastic personal historians scattered around the globe.
Life History Books has a team of thorough, friendly, efficient personal historians based all around the world. In some cases, personal historians may travel to complete a package, and interviews can always be conducted over the phone. Books must be printed in English, but interviews may be conducted in other languages if a translator can be provided.
Life History Books' team of personal historians is organized, tech-savvy, creative and can work around family sensitivities with tact and discretion. The entire process is enjoyable, from the very first step until the last.
Life History Books can work with very tight schedules, or far more relaxed ones. Smaller projects typically take about one month to complete,
larger projects take about two months to complete, though if timing is an issue they can be completed more rapidly.
During the first phone call we will get a sense of who is involved in the project and you can specify a timeline. Our team of personal historians spans across the world. Contact us to see if you live near a personal historian; if so, we can conduct the interviews in person or you may opt for phone interviews. If you live in another area and would like a face-to-face interview, it may be possible if a personal historian is able to travel. Otherwise, interviews may be conducted over the phone for an excellent result.
The introductory call is followed by a Welcome Packet sent via e-mail or mail (based on client preference) that includes a gift certificate or certificate of purchase, and a project plan. The Welcome Packet shows our customization options and also has a list of questions to help jog the memory, though interviews are tailored to each client's needs. As soon as possible, we’ll schedule the first interview.
During the interviews we will cover as much ground as possible. After interviews are complete, we will transcribe the client's words, carefully edit them, and reorganize the polished text into a cohesive order with a story arc.
Next, you will receive the text draft via e-mail or mail, and you can edit the interview as you see fit and return it.
As early as possible, please gather pictures or other mementos (ie: recipes, newspaper clippings or birth certificates). If the interview is being done in person, pass them over during the first interview and we will return them during the second interview. If the interview is being done over the phone, you can mail them (and they will be returned safely) or you can scan them and e-mail them to us. Alternately, simply go to an Office Max, Kinkos, or any number of other chains where they can e-mail me the files. We can find a local shop for you, if you’d like.
You may decide on a color scheme, fonts and a cover, chosen from the Welcome Packet. Alternately, we have lovely default design choices.
Then, the magic happens: the interview is laid into the book, interspersed with pictures and mementos.
You will see a PDF draft of the book, exactly as it will appear in print, and have one last chance to make changes to the file before it is published.
You will receive your book within one month of approving the PDF.
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A hand-written recipe. A doodle. A voice.
All such things bring a flood of memories and a slice of joy when families reminisce about a loved one.
Corina Kellam found a way to package those memories into something that can be held, heard and read. Her company, Life History Books, produces family memoirs that capture the fundamental nature of a person or family.
The process starts with personal historians who interview individuals or multiple family members. Life History Books then produces a memoir based on those conversations.
The finished product can include not only a written history, but also audio and video clips and family artifacts.
"Each book is custom and has a different flavor and personality," Kellam says.
Life History Books produces both memoirs for living people and tribute books for family members no longer living that uncover personality traits, quirky stories, and the things that a family or person value most.
"It's pretty rare that a family gets together to reminisce and answer the really big questions," comments Kellam. Personal historians interview family members either in person or by phone and ask about those topics that routinely get lost in the day-to-day shuffle.
Questions, both big and small, address everything from the benchmark events in people's adult life, who their role models and mentors were, what they found surprising or difficult about marriage, along with what they'd change if they could, as well as wisdom they'd like to impart to the next generation.
Lighter fare is part of the process too. Interviews explore funny family incidents, how nicknames and holiday tradition emerged and what people's favorite toys and food were during childhood. In doing the books, Kellam routinely uncovers interesting family lore.
One woman, for example, talked about tossing a pillow out a hotel window at a cute boy she saw walking by. That's the way a grandmother described meeting her husband. Others reveal what it meant to them to be a father, struggles they faced while growing up, and what informs their political and religious values.
Clients can review and edit the content, choose the book's overall aesthetic, colors and fonts, and provide family treasures, such as photos and recipes, letters and postcards, family trees, artwork, marriage licenses, and so forth, to scan and incorporate.
An array of packages and prices are available and range from $950 to $3,200. A one-person memoir, for example, starts at $950 and a tribute package, featuring audio interviews with up to 12 subjects, sits at the top of the range.
The concept dovetails well with societal changes, some of which have been brought on by the recession, believes Kellam. "People are drawing into their families, thinking about what's important, respecting older people, and getting their traditions down," Kellam observes. "I do think there's been a shift in values and that the family is being valued more highly than it was before."
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"I contacted Corina and her team at Life History Books in June of 2010 to capture the story of my grandmother, who was slowly losing a long battle with breast cancer. Given how ill she was, we opted to handle the interviews over the phone rather than in person, which Corina was happy to accommodate to allow my grandmother the freedom of starting and ending conversations when she was feeling her best. When we began the project I explained that there was some sense of urgency to complete the book given my grandmother’s health. Corina understood and immediately put the wheels in motion. I was amazed at how quickly she established a rapport and made my grandmother feel at ease, especially considering she was a woman who shared very little about her private life, even with her family. Throughout the project Corina was remarkably flexible and patient, gently pushing my grandmother to complete the interviews while showing her the utmost kindness and respect by rescheduling on days she wasn’t well enough to speak. There were many days that Corina scheduled with her that had to be canceled and rescheduled, only to be canceled again. Never once in this process did Corina express frustration, but instead only compassion, understanding, and a shared sense of urgency for completing the project. When it was apparent to Corina that my grandmother may be in a confused state and mixing up individuals or time periods, Corina worked diligently to fact check with both my grandmother and the family. I cannot say enough about the degree to which she communicated with us during this process. She kept us informed of the project’s progress every step of the way; we felt like we were partners in the process.
Corina is a perfectionist to her core, and when it came time to put the book together, complete with the interview, photos, and artifacts, she left no detail to spare. She happily accommodated us as we added photos at the last minute, changed captions, and moved text. The result was a book that is truly stunning and unique.
Most importantly, we learned more about my grandmother and our family history than I ever envisioned when we started this project. In addition to the end result, the process actually brought us all closer. It is because of Corina and her team that my grandmother’s life and stories are documented in a way that will carry her memory through generations. The book is more precious to our family than I can put into words. In fact, we were so pleased with the product that we have gone on to purchase two additional packages for other members of our family. Unfortunately, my grandmother passed before we could show her the end result of all her hard work in interviews. I surprised the family with copies of the book at Christmas time, just a month after she passed. Documenting her life story was the greatest gift or heirloom my grandmother could have ever left behind, and it was captured beautifully, thanks to Corina and Life History Books."
From Marie D., Brighton, U.K.:
"I love my book. I know it's an incredibly self-obsessed thing to say, but I really love my book. I must admit, I really didn't want to do the project at all. My daughter bought it for me so I just went along with it at first, but when Corina asked me the last question on Day 2, I was sorry the experience was over. My book is the most beautiful custom-made thing I own. She did magic to some of the pictures and everything just looks so professional, I can't believe it's all about me!"
From Joe B., Miami, Florida:
"My new wife insisted that we have a book made up through you describing our two families. I wasn't really sold on the idea. How wrong I was! I know the wealth of information in the book brought our families together really fast. I had no idea how exotic a background my wife really had. My mom looks at my new wife in a whole different way now.
I've got to say that you really broke the ice, Corina. Thanks again for your patience in piecing it all together. I recommend all newlyweds try getting to know their new families through something like this."
From Tanya K., Ventura, California:
"I had books done for my parents and my husband's parents and I couldn’t be happier with the results. Our families love the books - going through them has been sentimental for the older generations and a great way for the younger ones to hear some of the real life stories (some funny, some moving) from generations ago up to the present. There were so many stories that were getting fuzzier over the years, but I didn’t realize how many I had never even heard! And I hadn't realized what an amazing experience it would be for our parents. It reminded them of family traditions and history and helped them share those memories with the rest of the family and family friends.
I know so much more about my family and my husband's family now. I found out my great-grandmother met my great-grandfather by throwing a pillow out of a hotel door - I had NO IDEA that happened!
We got copies for ourselves too and I’m so thankful we have them. Whenever we’re around other family and close friends for holidays or a special occasion the books come out and everyone enjoys them."