Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Personal Historian?
A personal historian is someone who helps people to gather their life stories and family stories as a book, audio piece, or video. Here is a great video about what a personal historian does.
How do I begin a project?
There’s no homework required, but if you are eager to jump in before our first meeting you could look through old photographs, listen to favorite tunes from the past, ask other family members about their memories, dig out memorabilia such as journals, letters, family trees, etc. You could also take notes about the important topics and events of your life that you’d like to cover in your book.
Once I decide to go ahead, what happens?
We’ll talk about the scope of the project and how many interviews. You’ll sign the contract and make a deposit toward the fee. Then we’ll make a date for our first interview and head down memory lane.
How long does it take to complete a personal history?
A typical project can take anywhere from 3 to 18 months depending on the number of interviews and photographs.
What if I can’t remember?
Once you start telling your stories, you may be surprised at how many memories come back to you. There are lots of things you can do to get going down memory lane – such as going through old photographs, talking with friends and family about times past, listening to the music you used to listen to, cooking mom’s favorite recipes, and even visiting your old haunts. Don’t worry as much about remembering dates and names. We can enlist the help of others for that. Your stories and memories are the parts of your book or audio memoir that will be the most appreciated by your family and future generations.
What if I don’t have anything interesting to say?
We've all had ups and downs in life, heartaches and triumphs. Each of us has lived through interesting times and can share our personal experience of those times. We've learned a bit of wisdom along the way. These are the kinds of things families and future generations deeply appreciate.
I don’t think of myself as a writer. How can you help me to write my memoir?
Guess what? You don’t have to write a thing! Writing a memoir or family history book is as easy as having a conversation. I can record our conversations about your stories, transcribe, edit it all into a great book, and you still get the credit as the author.
How many interviews does it take to write a memoir or family history?
It depends on the scope, length, and depth you want in your personal history book or recording. For a short memoir about a specific period of time in your life, it may only take a single interview. For example, you might tell about the summers you used to spend at your grandparents’ farm, or your time in service during a war. A full life story typically takes five to eight interview sessions. The number of interviews needed for a family history vary based on how many people are interviewed and the scope of the project.
How much does it cost?
Prices vary based on the method used, the scope of the project, your needs and budget. Here's a few starter prices to give you an idea: Memoir coaching services begin at $120. Oral Histories begin at $300. Audio memoirs start at $900. Basic personal history book manuscript starts at $1,500. Full-length custom-designed books usually require hundreds of hours and range from $5,000 to $30,000+. If you have already written a manuscript or have a collection of letters and need help turning it into a book, production services begin at $1,000.
Where do the interviews take place?
Wherever you are most comfortable, usually this is at home. It should be somewhere quiet, where we won’t be easily interrupted.
Can interviews be conducted remotely?
Yes. Interviews for book projects can be done over the phone, Skype, and email. I prefer to conduct audio interviews in person.
How long does an interview session last?
From my arrival in your home to departure, one session usually lasts two hours.
Will I get a chance to make changes to my book or audio memoir?
At the review stage you can change or delete anything you want.
Can you do a personal history about someone that has passed away?
I can interview family and friends to tell the story of someone who has passed away. Tape recordings, journals, and letters can also be incorporated into the project.
What if my family members and I don’t agree on how things happened in the past?
Different people can have very different memories of the same event. Even the same person may tell a very different story about the same event a day later; such is the nature of storytelling. Each time you tell a story you tell a version of the truth as you want to remember it at the time of telling it.
Can you conduct interviews with people in other states?
Travel to other locations can be arranged, or we can conduct an interview over the phone, Skype, or email.
What are some things I can do to prepare for a personal history?
You could revisit memories by looking through old photographs, listening to favorite tunes from the past, asking other family members about their memories, digging out memorabilia such as journals, letters, family trees, etc. You could also take notes about the people, places, dates, and events you’d like to cover in your book.
I have already written down some of my stories. Can you help me make them into a book?
Yes. We can provide an assessment of your manuscript to help you take the next step in the process of turning your stories into a book. If you have a few stories written, but need help to keep going, I also provide coaching and editing services.
What are your qualifications?
Meghan Vigeant has been collecting personal histories since 2005. She attended the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in 2006. She is a winner of the 2008 International Third Coast Radio Festival’s Short Docs. Vigeant directed the Swan’s Island Memory Project, 2009-2011, and is the author of Guts, Feathers and All, a collection of stories about Swan’s Islanders. She started her personal history business in 2013.
Meghan is also a 2003 theater graduate from Siena Heights University with a minor in creative writing. She worked professionally as an actress, stage manager, and theater producer until she discovered truth really is stranger than fiction.