A longtime organizational client approached me with an interesting creative project: He had an unfinished draft of his great-grandmother’s memoir, as well as a shoebox overflowing with her handwritten recipe cards, and stacks of her photos and postcards spanning several wars, decades, languages, and continents. His goal was to put everything together in such a fashion that his family would be able to access these materials in a meaningful way. After much brainstorming and discussion, I suggested that we build a hybrid memoir-cookbook, formatting it in such a way that the recipes could be understood in their context (with appropriate text and photographs surrounding) and actually used to create the delicious foods the matriarch herself had used to feed previous generations of her family! I worked on this project with multiple family members over the course of approximately 18 months.
I edited the draft (twenty single-spaced pages!) very carefully, reviewing even seemingly minor changes (such as punctuation) with our client, as it was crucial not to alter the voice of the author – but I did want to make everything accessible to children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. What an incredible story of travel, children, war, love – and all of it actual family history! Once my client approved the final text, we were able to move forward. I used PowerPoint to prepare the manuscript so the family could also experience the “texture” of the cards at the surprise Christmas reunion reveal that my client had planned. Overall the family was thrilled to have so much of its history cataloged so beautifully.