Start Writing Your Cookbook Memoir talk May 7, Willy St. Coop East

Published on April 14, 2012, by in Uncategorized.

Memories made around the table are some of our finest. Whether you want to share your own recipes and stories or pass on your family’s food traditions, this class will help you get started. Sarah White will share readings from food authors, suggest themes, and familiarize you with the steps required and the resources available to help you complete a one-of-a-kind record of your place at life’s table.

If you enjoy this free “taste” of writing a cookbook-memoir, you’ll want to consider joining a 5-week workshop to begin in September 2012.

6:00pm – 8:00pm May 7, Willy St. Coop East Community Room

This session is free for Owners and $5 for all others. Payment is required at registeration; please register by stopping at the Willy East Customer Service desk or by calling 251-6776.


Odyssey Project Graduates produced the Meals & Memories cookbook-memoir in Summer 2009 in a workshop led by Sarah White and Traci Nathans-Kelly. It is available for sale here. Proceeds benefit the Odyssey Project.



“Start Writing Your Memoir” talk April 17, Chapel Valley Apartments

The stories of our lives connect generations and communities. That’s a priceless gift, one anyone can create, with guidance.

This free talk will explore various approaches to writing your personal history, including do-it-yourself workbooks, one-to-one coaching, and small group support. The talk covers why writing about our lives is important,  and how to get started and stay motivated.

About the Presenter: Sarah White has helped dozens of people write about their lives, either individually or in small-group workshops. A published author and professional freelance writer, she serves as the president of the Association of Personal Historians.


Personal Publishing: Blurring the Line?

Published on April 2, 2012, by in Commentary.

Two articles in Sunday’s New York Times caught my attention by the juxtaposition of values they convey.

The first, a front-pager titled “Young Writers Dazzle Publisher: Thanks, Mom and Dad!” questions the value of parents helping their children to self-publish their writing. This is apparently a growing segment of the self-publishing market, one that in the opinion of Times author Elissa Gootman “raises as many questions about parenting as publishing.” Does this blurring of the line between publishing and self-publishing represent “a lost opportunity to teach children about adversity and perseverance,” presumably by robbing them of the experience of rejection those seeking traditional publishers go through? Or does it, as one parent suggests, deliver a shot of self esteem, not such a bad thing for most young people?

The article deftly defines the self-publishing options on the market, checking in with Lulu, Author Solutions, and KidPub Press, which specializes in young authors. Perhaps the most important takeaway, for me, is a quote from publishing-industry veteran Alan Rinzler who suggests that parents hire a professional editor to work with their children, to expose them to the realities of publishing as well as the satisfactions.


Flip to the Obituaries section and an interesting counterpoint appears: “Patience Abbe, Chronicler of Her Childhood Travels, Dies at 87.” 

By age 12 Patience Abbe had co-authored Around the World in Eleven Years, a view of her wandering life with a celebrity photojournalist father among friends like Fred Astaire and Ernest Hemingway. Abbe dictated the book to her mother, with sections by her younger brothers as well. Two subsequent books soon followed, Of All Places in 1937 and No Place Like Home in 1940. When published in 1936 Abbe’s book was praised as “uncannily shrewd” and “exceedingly funny” and was translated into half a dozen languages.

What’s the difference between articulate and observant Patience encouraged by her mother to publish at 11, and the young people taken to task in the other article for daring to bypass the gatekeeping system that traditionally keeps individuals from calling themselves “published authors”? The high-octane connections required to bypass those gatekeepers 80 years ago, apparently.

I tend to agree that a young person–or any person, for that matter, who wants to publish–should undertake to produce a good book that meets professional publishing standards. That means paying attention to the finer points of structure, language, and subject matter that grab and hold readers’ attention, as well as the technical processes, like copy-editing and layout, that the publishing industry typically provides. Sweeping away the gatekeepers shouldn’t mean dispensing with the standards they existed to uphold.

That said, I do think everyone, young and old, deserves encouragement should they set their sights on publishing.

Patience Abbe did not publish another book in her lifetime–but she did finish writing her memoir three weeks before she died. Her family hopes to have it published.



Dr. Gene Cohen: Five Activities You Need to Boost Your Brain Power

I’ve just finished reading Dr. Gene Cohen’s The Mature Mind: The Positive Power of the Aging Brain. Talk about positive food for thought!

In Dr. Cohen’s book, published in 2005, he tells us that “Research has identified five categories of activity that, if practiced regularly, can significantly boost the power, clarity, and subtlety of the brain and mind.” These include mental exercise, aerobic physical exercise, challenging leisure activities, strong social networks, and “mastery”–the sense of control that comes from learning a skill, for example.

Music to my ears, of course, because writing your memoir addresses at least three of Cohen’s categories.

In my view, writing memoir provides…

  • Mental exercise as you recall memories and find the right words to express them creatively;
  • A challenging leisure activity, as your writing hobby brings opportunities for family history research, reviewing your photo collection, and other related tasks; and
  • An opportunity to work toward mastery as you practice the craft of nonfiction writing.

I could also make the case for strong social networks as a gift of writing memoir. Many people write in small support groups or with writing partners, strengthening their social ties even while pursuing something as intensely introspective as writing memoir.

It’s a stretch but I could even argue that aerobic exercise is useful in recalling and writing about your life. I produce my best work when I retreat with my writing hobby to somewhere in the woods. Interspersing hiking with time spent with a legal pad in my lap, I recover lost memories, gain new insights, and get it all down on paper.

I’ll share more food for thought from Cohen’s book in future posts. In the meantime, join me in the five activities that boost our brains and minds!

-Sarah White



Good Books by Good People

You can publish a book. The advent of POD (Print On Demand) technology makes it easy and affordable–if you have pages ready in PDF format. But how to get there?  You need to write a manuscript, get it edited, develop a cover and interior page design, and lay out your book. Then somebody must proof and correct until every last error is fixed.

I’ve created First Person Productions to help you get your ideas into print. My services include coaching to help you write your book, (including a write-by-conversation approach that works for those who find a blank sheet of paper worse than a dentist’s chair), editing, book design and production, publishing, and book-launch marketing support.

My primary focus is on personal histories (memoirs, biographies, and autobiographies) but my door is open to content of all kinds. The most important part is the chemistry between author and publisher. If you’re a good person with a good book in you, I’m here to help you get it out.

To paraphrase Anthony Bourdain, “I write, I consult, and I’m hungry for more.”

How might I help you?

-Sarah White

© First Person Productions