Jessica Reeder, a local writer, published a new book last month. I Lived This: A Workbook for Writing Your Life Story is on amazon.com.
I read that you’re an editor and ghostwriter. How did you become interested in helping people tell their own stories?
It was actually a little bit of a circuitous route. I have been freelance writing for a long time, and I’ve always done non-fiction, but I mostly was doing arts writing and some environment, and I fell in with Christine Whitmarsh, who is the owner of the Ink Agency here in Reno. And I started working with her, and she specializes in ghostwriting and biography, and so I started taking on some of these projects and realized how amazing it was. So I just kept on doing it.
Any idea how many things you’ve ghostwritten now? Or is that none of my business?
Well, I don’t talk about it too much. But I have done quite a lot, and I have a ghostwriting project that I am currently in process on.
So the book is formatted like a workbook, right?
Yeah. It is a journal-style workbook. So, there are prompts and then a lot of empty lines that you can fill in with your answers. And we tried to make it more flexible, so there are pages where you have a list of questions, and you can choose the questions you want to answer—and then there are several blank pages you can fill in. But, ultimately, it is designed to guide you through a couple of different thought processes, causing you to look at your memories from a historical perspective or even a sensory perspective. My hope is that this will spark some creative urges in people that will help them to tell their stories in more than just a factual way.
Talk to me about Christina Atkins’ artwork in the book.
Oh my gosh, isn’t it incredible? Christina Atkins and I have been friends for years, and I never knew what an amazing illustrator she was until this project. The things that she came up with are gorgeous. They just have so much character. She did it all by hand—some of them from reference—but it’s all from her imagination. … So it was really fun to work together as old friends and previous collaborators because we were doing something new and exciting. But she really drove so much of what makes this book special. It would be nothing without her illustrations.
What do you want people to get out of the book?
I kind of created this with my parents in mind. When I was a kid, my parents gave my grandparents these books to fill out. They’re similar to this. And my grandparents wrote the stories of their lives in these books, and I still have those books on my bookshelf, and I look at them all the time. And I’m going to look at them for the rest of my life. So I wanted to go through the same process with my own parents, but when I looked back at the workbooks that my grandparents had done, they are just old-fashioned. They’re from another time. And so I wanted to make something that would appeal more to the Boomer generation. So my hope is that this is something that other people want to do with their parents as well.
Anything you want to add?
One thing I think I want to add is that I was a little surprised by how many people in their 30s, 40s maybe even 50s were really interested in using this book. … So we’re thinking about some new ways that we can make this accessible. We might do like a digital version. We might do something that is more targeted toward younger people.