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Memoir Writing As A Home Business

By Teri Friedman

In my previous life (read: pre-marriage and kids), I was an extremely career-oriented person. I spent years getting my doctorate in psychology and working full-time. I lived in New York City and loved the urban lifestyle. Then I fell in love. We were both so busy, it took us a couple of years to get around to getting married. Pregnancy was a different issue however - that happened right away. We both realized we did not want to raise kids in the city, and moved to the suburbs. I continued to work on a slightly reduced schedule until our second child came. Then I just rebelled: I couldn't do it. I had waited so long to have kids that I could not bear to leave them with someone else all day. I spent all day missing them. I could not concentrate on work. My husband finally agreed with me that it was right to leave my job. Not financially - we were taking a major hit without my income, and life would become much more of a struggle. His argument was simply that I was becoming too miserable - sad and guilty and angry - a person to live with. Not the role model of my dreams! And certainly no kind of companion. I maintained a part-time private psychology practice (which I always loved) and otherwise became a stay-at-home mom in the suburbs.

Over the next couple of years, I was much happier and more fulfilled as a mother - I never regretted being there for my children. But the lack of intellectual stimulation, and the suburban lifestyle of minivans and luncheons and personal trainers and nannies felt alien and uncomfortable to me. As my daughter entered kindergarten and I began to envision a couple of years in which my son would too, I began to wonder what I was going to do with the rest of my life. Returning to hospital work felt like such a letdown. So in a sort of melancholy and nostalgic funk, I began to write a personal memory book. Taking stock of my life, my past, thinking about my future. Reminiscing about the romantic days of first love. Recalling highlights of raising children. Whatever made me smile. Whatever I thought my children would like to know. Coincidentally, I met a woman at a crafts' fair who sells beautiful book covers that I could bind easily. I bought one. I put this book together and put it on a shelf, feeling good but with no further aspirations. Some old friends came over and, just for fun, I showed them the book. The response was overwhelming. They each said, "I would pay you to do this!" Amazed, I said, "Would you really?" A business idea was born.

I must add, it did not come from nothing. I have always loved writing. My psychology dissertation was a study of the experience of female police officers in the NYPD. I interviewed them and went on patrol for 3 years. I transcribed over 1000 pages of oral history. Studs Terkel is my hero.

I spent the next few months creating a portfolio - designing front pages (with help from my artistic sister and some local craft workshops), writing samples, calligraphy choices (all done on computer fonts), and other relevant features. I decided my initial target market would be grandparents who would like to preserve their heritage for their grandchildren. I interviewed my parents for their 50th anniversary and created a book for them (which they keep on their coffee table, with my business cards!). I produced my book in several designs, colors, etc. to use for samples. I sent flyers and business cards (enclosing a personal note with each) to all my parents' friends. I asked the president of a very active local women's group if I could enclose flyers with their next mailing and she said great - and 350 were sent out! I have begun teaching memoir writing workshops at local Adult Education schools. I have begun to write articles on the Internet and want to adapt them for regular magazines. I have befriended a person who organizes bridal shows (parents of the bride being another target market) and he has been taking me to exhibitions to teach me how to effectively display my work. I am also doing a bereavement memory book for a friend as a gift, which not only makes me feel that I am doing something good for her, but it gives me experience and exposure. I also talk, talk, talk to everyone I know. So far, and from what I hear this is frequently the case, much of my business has come from generating "buzz." The mothers of my children's friends are a great resource. They want their parents (the "grandparents") interviewed but often the grandparents do not have the financial resources or do not feel they are "special" enough. To resolve this dilemma, I created a "gift certificate" that my friends give to the grandparents, and the grandparents are then delighted to tell their stories. I have also joined a national organization, the Association for Personal Historians, which has a very active internet life, and is a major source of information and support. The bottom line is I am trying to market myself without outrageous spending. I've spent a lot on materials, a fax machine, a new printer, and other tools of the trade. It is beginning to pay for itself.

I work a lot on weekends and late evenings. My husband, thank goodness, is extremely supportive and takes this venture very seriously. I have only two hours during weekday mornings in which I am in a "child-free zone" and those are my prime work hours (no social phone calls). But it's very difficult, and clearly I could accomplish much more with more free time. But adamant as I am about not hiring more childcare (I already have that for when I'm at my private practice), I am willing to put the time and energy into all the crazy hours to do my best to build a home business and raise my children. My story is far from finished, but I am optimistic.

Teri Friedman, President
Specializing in Personal, Family, and Organizational and Special Occasion Memoirs
phone/fax: 914-937-1972

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