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How to Write Your Grandmother's Biography

Grandmother Biography

Would you like to discover and preserve your grandmother's lifetime experiences? A great approach in honoring an extraordinary woman who impacted your life significantly is writing about her journey.

Here, we present a detailed guideline on creating an authentic biography of your grandmother, which can touch hearts for many ages. Let's begin!

Step 1: Gather Information and Memories

A tender depiction of your cherished grandma commences by piecing together all the anecdotes and information at hand about her life journey. Engage family members who knew her closely, asking them for any unique perspectives they have on what shaped her character over time. For a more personal touch, consider scheduling a conversation with grandma herself so that she can share firsthand accounts that only she could know.

Interview Your Grandmother

When crafting a heartfelt biography of your grandmother , initiating with an interview is vital. The inquiries you pose ought to be open-ended so that she feels comfortable sharing memories and stories from different phases of her existence; from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood. It's recommended that you jot down detailed notes or even record the conversation to guarantee that nothing important is overlooked.

For exemple :

  • Where were you born, and when?
  • Tell me about your youth. What are some of your best memories? And the worst?
  • Who has most influenced your life?
  • What was your job? Why did you choose it?
  • What was the happiest time in your life?
  • Were there moments when you weren't sure you could make it?
  • How did you meet Grandfather?
  • What were your passions when you were my age?

By focusing on different phases of her life, you'll be able to create a comprehensive biography that truly captures who she is as a person. Plus, spending time with your grandmother can be a wonderful way to bond while learning more about each other.


Ask Family Members for Input

To craft a truly comprehensive biography that authentically captures her essence, consider focusing on various phases of your grandmother's life . Spending time with her can also be an enriching opportunity to strengthen bonds while gaining a deeper understanding of each other.

Here are some specific questions you can ask them:

  • What was their favorite memory of her?
  • Did she have any hobbies or interests?
  • What were her proudest accomplishments?
  • Was there a particular quote or saying she often used?

By inquiring about these aspects and others, you will create a complete portrayal of your grandmother's personality and what made her exceptional to those in her surroundings. Keep in mind that the objective isn't solely to gather facts but also to pay tribute to the heritage she bestowed upon future generations within the family.

Collect Photos and Documents

If you strive to compose an earnest biography of your grandmother, then it's imperative to accumulate relevant photos and documents that reveal her tale convincingly. Given below are a few suggestions to help you source the appropriate materials:

  • Gather old photographs of your grandmother at different ages. These can show how she changed over time and provide insights into her personality.
  • “Scrapbook” relevant documents such as certificates, awards, and newspaper clippings into a notebook for easy reference. This can include anything from marriage licenses to articles about her community involvement.
  • Consider including mementos like handwritten letters or recipes. These personal touches can help bring your grandmother’s story to life.

By consolidating these heirlooms within a singular location, you amass a wealth of resources for drafting your grandmother's memoirs whilst preserving her legacy. This endeavor also enhances the convenience with which her story can be relayed to extended family members without direct means to all aforementioned memorabilia.

Step 2: Organize Your Information

Assembling relevant insights into your grandmother’s amazing journey through life requires careful planning from the onset of writing her memoirs. The best place to start is by developing a detailed timeline which chronicles key events throughout different stages of her lifespan.

To help streamline this description further organize these moments int groups highlighting distinct features such as family dynamics, academic progression or extracurricular activities accomplished throughout retirement years or honing new talents.

Taking these necessary steps ensures that when it comes time to recount memories in depth creating an insightful piece on life lived becomes easier while also acknowledging significant aspects across (name)'s incredible journey.

Create a Timeline

Start by assembling crucial dates and incidents that are representative of your grandmother's remarkable journey through life.

This encompasses aspects such as birthplace, educational background; marital status; as well as some noteworthy experiences she went through over time. After amassing all necessary information, sort them chronologically on a visually appealing timeline which would give an organized structure narrating the story of this amazing lady.

Crafting a timeline for your grandmother deserves careful consideration of the historical events that shaped her life. Incorporating these crucial moments adds texture and perspective to her unique story while highlighting how she experienced key points in history. Blending personal milestones with global happenings creates an engaging and insightful timeline - one that becomes a cherished memento of familial heritage.

Group Information into Themes

Crafting a touching and well-written biography of your grandmother includes identifying the themes or patterns that have defined her life. As such, it's suggested to group the details according to these patterns- family, career milestones, hobbies and achievements- which allows for an organized flow.

Adding stories or quotes from relatives who match up with each pattern will breathe life into the telling of her story.

If making sense of your grandmother's life experiences is the goal, then dividing them into specific categories can provide clarity for both you and your readers. By organizing similar events or moments under relevant themes, the overall narrative becomes more coherent and meaningful.

A prime example would be capturing all of grandma's academic achievements in one group- this helps paint an impressive picture of her intellectual growth throughout the years. Plus, revealing how she balanced work and family responsibilities amplifies her resilience and dedication- attribute which are sure to capture reader admiration.

Step 3: Write the Biography

Choose a narrative style.

Writing a biography about your cherished grandmother demands that you adopt an appropriate narrative style that speaks volumes about her personality and story. From early onset, establish the tone of the biography; whether solemn or jocular based on what most suits her essence.

Consider employing either a chronological or thematic approach depending on which specific areas of your grandmother's journey deserve highlighting. Moreover, weaving descriptive language across all aspects of narration infuses readers with a sense of stepping into her world where they become critical participants in unraveling every detail skillfully unveiled before them.

Include Quotes and Anecdotes

Fetching quotes and anecdotes from individuals who knew your grandma best (family members et al.) injects life into how she is portrayed while serving as secondary evidence backing up descriptions relaying core character attributes within an engaging storyline that showcases both strengths and quirkiness; revisions are crucial towards achieving streamlined flow devoid of any hiccups that would otherwise detract from reader immersion - this is critical if you seek to share with people who may not have directly encountered such an exceptional woman in their lives.

Edit and Revise

Crafting an authentic biography dedicated to your grandmother requires devoted attention to the editing and revising process. A well-crafted final draft will pay tribute to her legacy while also being effortlessly readable. Here are some pointers for refining your work:

  • Take breaks between writing sessions for fresh perspective
  • Read aloud to catch errors in flow or sentence structure
  • Have someone else read it over for feedback

By following these simple steps, you can ensure that your grandmother's story is told accurately and beautifully. Don't be afraid to take the time necessary for editing - every word counts when crafting such an important piece!

Step 4: Share the Biography

Once you've completed your grandmother's biography, it's time to share it with others. You can choose to print a physical copy or share the digital version with family . Inviting loved ones to read about your grandmother's life will help strengthen connections and keep her memory alive.

If you're proud of the final product, consider publishing the biography for a wider audience. There are many options available today, from self-publishing platforms like Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing to traditional publishers who specialize in memoirs and biographies. Sharing your grandmother's story can inspire others to reflect on their own family histories and deepen their appreciation for those who came before them.

Conclusively, penning down an account shedding light on your grandma’s journey can prove to be an immensely satisfying project that holds tremendous significance in recognizing her life’s achievements.

By following these easy-to-follow guidelines, you have the ability to produce a commemoration that celebrates not only your grandmother but also ignites thoughtful introspection into appreciating your family's ancestry.

This is also an opportunity, don't forget, to spend precious time with your grandmother. Several hours to share, have fun, laugh, and together create a valuable gift for the entire family

🤩 You can also use life-story.ai to easily write your grandmother's biography. "

👉 try it for free, don't wait to preserve your family's memories.

Telling your story in a book has never been so quick and easy.

autobiography of my grandmother

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A Grandparent's Legacy: Your Life Story in Your Own Words

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Matthew Henry

A Grandparent's Legacy: Your Life Story in Your Own Words Spiral-bound – April 15, 2007

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  • Print length 191 pages
  • Language English
  • Publisher Thomas Nelson
  • Publication date April 15, 2007
  • Dimensions 5.5 x 0.75 x 8.25 inches
  • ISBN-10 1404113312
  • ISBN-13 978-1404113312
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A Legacy to Remember

Tell your story.

A Grandparent's Legacy is a memory journal that will become a cherished family keepsake. Journaling prompts ask fun questions such as:

-Describe the most fascinating place you have visited.

-What are the things you are most glad you tried during your life?

-What are some things from your childhood that you are thankful for?

-Describe a frightening or difficult experience from your childhood.

Grandchildren will love learning their grandparent's story and finding new ways to connect as a family over shared memories.

Makes a Great Gift for:

  • Grandparent's Day
  • Anniversary
  • Any Gift-Giving Holiday

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Thomas Nelson; Re-packaged Edition (April 15, 2007)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Spiral-bound ‏ : ‎ 191 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1404113312
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1404113312
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 13.8 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.5 x 0.75 x 8.25 inches
  • #222 in Grandparenting (Books)
  • #1,060 in Journal Writing Self-Help
  • #2,722 in Christian Self Help

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Building upon a stream of exact exegesis beginning with the Reformation, MATTHEW HENRY (1662–1714) achieved a standard of applied analysis that has long marked his work as superior. He is best known for his seven-volume commentary on the Bible, which C. H. Spurgeon declared was "rich in analogies . . . superabundant in reflections . . . suitable to everybody, instructive to all."

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376 - Moreau - Leff

My Grandmother’s Autobiography

According to my grandmother’s self-published autobiography, she and her fourth husband, Anthony, found jobs at the Montgomery Ward department store in Phoenix in the winter of 1941. Anthony was the window dresser; my grandmother, the store detective. They struggled to make ends meet while living in a motel room with two children, my mother and her brother.

My grandmother wasn’t store detective for long because she never recovered enough stolen merchandise to meet the store’s four-hundred-dollar-a-month quota. In her book she describes herself as “too compassionate” with shoplifters. She stopped poor Mexican children inside the store and whispered for them to drop the lifted goods and run home as fast as they could.

Although she stood at the door each evening and checked the salesladies’ pocketbooks before they left work, she failed to notice the store’s number-one shoplifter. As window dresser, Anthony pulled items from every department, theoretically to use for display. Instead he smuggled many of them out of the store under his clothing. My grandmother writes, “I thought he was just getting fat,” but nothing I know about my grandmother could make me believe that. She most likely kept whatever merchandise pleased her or fit the kids, then pawned the rest and got drunk for days. Who knows if Anthony was even her legal husband? Just the title of my grandmother’s autobiography, The Lady , is proof enough of her unreliability.

I’ve tried to talk to my mother about my grandmother’s autobiography, but the subject aggravates her. “That fucking book!” she says.

I can understand my mother’s revulsion. My grandmother writes of the time she left my mother and her brother in a boardinghouse for six weeks while she was in the hospital with an ectopic pregnancy. My mother was nine; her brother was five. The boardinghouse owner didn’t know what to do with the kids and called Ives, my grandmother’s lover, thinking he was their father. Ives’s wife answered the phone and learned of her husband’s infidelity. Furious, she went to my grandmother’s hospital bed with a gun. Seeing my grandmother already so close to death, she put the gun away and left her to die on her own. My grandmother writes about her miraculous recovery and coming home to find her children in the boardinghouse, dirty and hungry, with nothing to eat but cold, spoiled cabbage.

My mother told me about how my grandmother would often take her and her brother to bars to pick up a man to buy drinks for her and hamburgers for her kids. My mother also remembers long bus rides across the country, as my grandmother chased down some new man or rumors of a job. When my mother was fourteen, my grandmother gave her a one-way bus ticket to New York City and told her, “Go become a star!” My mother sent home a portion of her first paycheck as an elevator operator in the Empire State Building, and she continued to help support my grandmother for the next fifty years.

I’d like to say I listened to my mother’s stories with compassion, but I never liked hearing them. She usually told them to me when she was weeping about how she had failed me as a mother, like the time she left me home alone during my ninth-grade Christmas break while she went on a Caribbean cruise with my stepfather. “I didn’t learn how to be a normal mother,” she’d preface one of the tales from her Dickensian childhood. Her stories made me cringe; they sounded like excuses.

My mother is beautiful, and she married well, twice. She was reading in her Fifth Avenue living room when she received the call about the trailer: My grandmother wanted to buy a trailer in Palm Desert, California, but didn’t have the money. She pleaded, “Just buy me this one thing, and I’ll never bother you again.” My mother knew my grandmother would bother her again, but she sat uneasily upon her good fortune. She looked out her window at the art deco towers illuminated across Central Park and down at the diamond ring on her finger. The poor woman is only asking for a trailer , she thought. Having undergone Freudian psychoanalysis in the sixties only to become a therapist herself in the seventies, my mother diagnosed herself with survivor’s guilt and wrote a check.

Six months later, my grandmother sold the trailer at half its cost and used the money to publish her autobiography with a vanity press. She sent us a signed copy, which my mother threw across the room. The next day I picked it up and shelved it among other family heirlooms, next to my father’s volume of the Masonic Morals and Dogma and the antique opera glasses my bipolar uncle swore Ulysses S. Grant had been looking through when Lincoln was shot.

I remember little about my grandmother, because when I was eight years old my mother forbade her to visit us ever again. I do remember sitting at the beach with her one day when I was six, eating a cream-cheese-and-grape-jelly sandwich, staring at the purple varicose veins on her fleshy white legs. I remember how my grandmother and my mother screamed at one another in the foyer of our apartment after my father died. I can still taste the homemade fudge my grandmother sent us — salty, grainy, and too sweet even for a child. One Christmas, when she worked for the U.S. merchant marine, my grandmother sent me a basketful of black-faced, cotton rag dolls from Africa. She ended up losing that job when she was caught stealing tins of sardines from the ship to feed the street cats of Rome. Mostly I remember the moods that overcame my mother whenever news of my grandmother’s latest crisis reached our home. My stepfather would say in exasperation, “Just send her some money and forget about it.” He never met his mother-in-law.

Eventually my grandmother became too crippled by arthritis, obesity, and alcoholism to care for herself. One afternoon a motel manager in Desert Hot Springs found her naked and unconscious in her room, which was strewn with bottles, soiled clothing, and the urine and feces of eleven stray cats she’d taken in. My mother got on the phone with the local Department of Social Services and had my grandmother placed in a rest home. A few months later she was turned out for disorderly behavior. Over the years my grandmother must have been expelled from every nursing home in southern California, usually after she’d managed to bribe one of the attendants to buy her whiskey. From one retirement home, my grandmother called the local animal shelter, reporting that nurses were capturing stray cats and dogs, tying them to trees, and shooting them. As word spread, a small group of animal-rights activists protested outside the home. My mother flew out to California and transferred my grandmother to another facility, where security was high and the staff knew not to provide residents with alcohol.

A year later I moved to Los Angeles. Though I was aware that my grandmother lived there, I never asked my mother for her address. I recalled the screaming from my childhood and my mother’s tears. I was afraid.

“She’s a very self-destructive woman!” my mother often said. “And she’s not your problem.” That was my mother’s gift to my stepfather and me — shielding us from the biggest burden in her life.

376 - Anderson - Leff

When my grandmother died, my mother flew to LA. We drove to the nursing home, a dreary building in a rough section of town. Inside, I breathed through my mouth to avoid the stench of urine that pervaded the linoleum-floored hallways. In the office, my mother signed forms. There was a cardboard box of my grandmother’s personal possessions. “Please give them away,” my mother said to the middle-aged woman who directed the facility.

“She loved spicy food,” the director said, as if my grandmother had been a naughty child. “We couldn’t keep her off the Tabasco sauce. She used to take it from the dining room, squirrel it away in her bedclothes. The nurses said she drank it straight from the bottle. She burned a hole right through her esophagus.” My mother shook her head, as if to say, Incorrigible . I turned my face toward the window so my mother wouldn’t see the tears in my eyes.

We stopped by a funeral home to arrange for my grandmother’s cremation. Her ashes would be scattered at sea, and a plaque in her memory would be placed in the funeral home, on the same wall as Marilyn Monroe’s name. My grandmother would have liked that, my mother and I agreed.

Though my grandmother’s brother was too feeble to travel from Detroit, his wife called, saying she would fly to California the next day for the memorial service. My mother and I looked at each other. We hadn’t even thought about having a service. “Aunt Sharon’s flying in for a service?” my mother said, incredulous. “Where the hell was she when my brother and I were starving?” My mother’s brother had committed suicide ten years earlier. My mother shook her head and reserved a small room at the funeral home.

I asked my friend Connie, who facilitated women’s writing classes and sometimes led groups into Topanga Canyon for full-moon ceremonies, to lead the funeral. “A minister would be inappropriate. And I’m desperate,” I said.

“Oh, Jesus Christ!” Connie said. I was silent. “OK,” she relented. “I’ll read something from Rilke.”

The next day brought a torrential downpour. I’d begged a few other friends to come. We sat in a circle, stiff and polite, until Connie invited each of us to share our thoughts. Great-aunt Sharon said, “She was the worst sister-in-law anyone could ever have!”

Later that night at my house, my mother said, “Let’s go somewhere.” She booked rooms at a spa for the next day. “We’d like massages,” she told the reservationist. “No dieting. No exercise.”

It rained two more days while we stayed at the spa, dressed in white terry-cloth robes with towels on our heads. We detoxified our bodies by day, ate steak and French fries by night. When the weather cleared, we walked around the flooded golf course. I picked up a dead fish about a foot and a half long on the seventeenth green. My mother snapped a photo of me holding it by the tail like a trophy. Down near the ocean in La Jolla, we watched chipmunks scurrying over a sea wall. A silver-haired man walked up to us. “Those chipmunks dig the mortar out from between the rocks,” he said. “Ruin the wall. Someone ought to shoot them.” He strolled away.

My mother faced me, furious. “You know what my mother would have told him? She would have said, ‘Someone should shoot you, mister!’ ”

We drove back to LA, and the next morning, my mother left for New York.

A few weeks later I was riding through Hollywood with a friend. I asked him to take a quick detour by the nursing home. “My grandmother lived in there for five years,” I said. “She was an alcoholic, but she couldn’t get any liquor. She drank herself to death on Tabasco sauce.

“I never went to see her,” I continued. “She was my grandmother, but I know very little about her.”

That night, after dinner, I came home and found my grandmother’s autobiography. I thought about how much effort it takes to write a book, no matter how awful the story is, or how badly written. I sat down on my couch and wrapped a blanket around my shoulders. I opened the book and started to read.

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Helping get your ideas to the world., writing my grandmother’s biography.

I just finished writing a biography of my grandmother, a little over a year after she passed away. A link to the book, in PDF form, is here:  The Life of Hazel Arlene Eby

I am grateful for the gift of her life and the chance to tell her story to others. It’s a quiet story, not filled with action and danger, but filled with peace and love and home.

I am also grateful for the many people without whom this never would have happened: Joanna Levy, my third grade teacher; Helen Eby, my mom; Daniel Eby, my brother; Lawrence Eby, my great-uncle; and Ann Disher, my sister-in-law and final editor.

Joanna Levy:  When I was just eight years old, my class wrote biographies of people in a local nursing home. I, Kyla, and Kjell were assigned a woman named Pat, who loved reading books and going to the beach. We titled her biography “The Library First,” and our teacher, Joanna Levy, printed off copies for each of us, the subjects of our biographies, and their loved ones.

Helen Eby:  The following summer, when we went to visit my grandmother on the other side of the country, I took a tape recorder and the list of questions my teacher had used. I interviewed my grandmother with them, and she finished up the questions after we left to go back home. After we got the tape in the mail, my mom, Helen Eby, transcribed the interview and I forgot about it for about six years.

Eventually, with much encouragement from my mother, I wrote up a biography from the interview. I gave it to my grandmother for Mother’s Day, and she sent copies to each of my cousins.

Helen, Daniel, and Lawrence Eby:  As my grandmother neared the end of her life, I looked at the biography again. It was missing a good chunk of her life, and it was not up to my standards for good writing anymore, but I wanted to make it better.

I wanted to add the intervening years, revise the format and general writing quality, and make it available to people who visited and cared for my grandmother. This was particularly helpful as she had mostly lost the ability to communicate, and her visitors had few opportunities to learn a little more about what lay under the surface of her quiet demeanor. They also needed something to do when they visited, and reading her story was the perfect solution.

My mother and brother, Helen and Daniel Eby, helped a lot with the editing at this stage.

My great-uncle Lawrence Eby helped flesh out an appendix about my grandfather, who had died young and few of us had met, so we could preserve his story as well.

Ann Disher:  The version here is the final version. I did one last stage of revisions and asked my sister-in-law Ann Disher (an English teacher) to do the last touch-up. I hope that it can spread the blessings even farther and bring joy to the world.

I feel blessed to be able to share my grandmother’s story with the world. It is wonderful to see how this short book has touched my cousins, my immediate family, my grandmother’s many friends, and the nurses and volunteers who cared for my grandmother near the end, and myself.

This has been a labor of love, and I hope I can work on more biographies in the future for my own family and for others.

Forever Young Autobiographies

Learn how to create life stories so unique memories live on for future generations

Case study: Secrets to writing my 100yo grandmother’s autobiography

Case study: Secrets to writing my 100yo grandmother's autobiography. Bonnie as a young flower girl, her autobiography Bonnie, and on her 100th birthday.

Part 3: What every aspiring life-story writer ought to know about telling family stories

“It’s beautiful” my grandmother Bonnie, 99, said through tears as she took the first look at her printed autobiography book.

“We did it together,” she said hugging me. 

My family and I were visiting Bonnie earlier this year in a nursing home and were excited to finally give her a reader’s copy of her life story . 

She was soon flipping to a photo of her younger self with long plaits to show my daughter, 7, as her doctor and a nurse popped by.

“Isn’t that amazing! I’m so glad you did this,” Bonnie’s long-time doctor said shaking his head incrediously.

It had taken my grandmother and me four years of planning, writing, polishing and publishing to get to this point.

There had been some serious ups and downs along the way but the writing had been worth it.

This is the third and final article about Bonnie’s life-story project (see articles part one and part two here !).

So keep reading to find out how we went from final draft to finished autobiography book in time for her 100th birthday this month during a global pandemic. 

Related article – How to start writing: The ultimate guide about planning to write life stories

Related article – Writing tips: The ultimate guide of life-story tips for new writers

Quick autobiography recap

This time last year I presented Bonnie with the final draft of her autobiography manuscript, which had been written after months of phone interviews and transcribing.

I had formatted about 44,000 words into a Book Design Templates  A5 Inspire template (US$39) with nine chapters, an introduction, epilogue and a centrespread of 25 photos.

Bonnie was eager to get her hands on the large stack of pages, which I’d printed out furiously on my home printer, and tied with red ribbon as a combined Mother’s Day and birthday present.

Before my family and I had left her home she had divided up the chapters on the antique dining table and was getting settled in her favourite chair to start editing.

At 99 there was no stopping her or her correcting pen.

About a week later Bonnie rang to say she had read the entire manuscript and made edits.

I’d seen speedy sub-editors during my career as a print editor  but this was fast!

Right, I thought, when the hunk of papers landed in my letterbox, I better keep this momentum going. 

Related article – Case study: Part 1 – Helping my grandmother, 98, write her autobiography

Related article –  Case study: Part 2 – Helping to write the story of grandmother Bonnie, 99

Editing Grandma’s autobiography

The next few months I set aside a couple of hours two days a week to go through the autobiography edits.

This was on my days off work when one child was at school and the other was having quiet time.

Grandma had written notes in the manuscript margins and also on little scraps of paper she had inserted in between pages.

Some parts she had crossed out and others she had decided to keep.

There were also extra facts to add and typos to fix.

Bonnie’s handwriting was mostly clear but on days her hands had been stiff it was harder to read.

Luckily there were only some parts like this that I needed to crosscheck.

At last I sent this edited autobiography version off to a sub-editor friend for a final read.

This was just as I found out Bonnie had had a fall at home.

She had broken her hip and was in hospital awaiting surgery. 

Related article – Ask Nicola Q&A: Your most burning book questions about types of editors

Related article –  Penmanship: Handwriting your autobiography and how to improve your handwriting

Selecting a printer for family stories

Now more than ever I felt a real urgency to get this autobiography finished.

The sooner the better. 

Thankfully Bonnie was recovering and confident that after months of rehabilitation she would be back home before Christmas.

But at age 99 you can’t assume or predict anything.

I wanted Grandma to hold her book as soon as she could. 

The race was on to find a printer.

Sure there were lots of printers locally and online but I had criteria.

We wanted a hardcover book, a small print run, an affordable price point, and made available only to readers who were family and friends.

I started researching options online and going 10 Google search pages deep.

I emailed several companies to ask questions but many were too expensive for a small number of books or automatically made the book public online at publication.

Finally I heard back from a friendly customer support team worker at IngramSpark .

They said I could choose private publication only and print on demand for about AUS$17 per book (plus postage and handling).

I was even given a discount code to waive the US$49 book setup cost. Winning!

Related article –  How to get your own book printed without going crazy!

Your Family Stories System. Father and girl on his shoulders with arms spread wide at the beach. Click here to learn how to write a loved one's autobiography.

Print setup for a grandma book

Bonnie gradually got back on her feet over many weeks.

And as her strength improved plans were made for her to transition home.

While she was learning to walk again I was learning about IngramSpark’s book setup process.

Basically it included writing some descriptive info about the autobiography book, selecting print options plus uploading two PDFs: one being the book cover and the second the final manuscript.

Again I had to do some research, especially to double-check my print options.

However, IngramSpark did provide helpful getting-started resource links, a PDF file checklist and a file-creation guide.

In the end we went with: A5 trim size, hardback (case laminate) binding, 260 pages, standard colour interior colour and paper, and a matte cover finish.

IngramSpark also had a free online  cover template generator .

I used this once I had my final page count to create the exact dimensions for the front and back covers plus book spine. 

Bonnie had picked her favourite cover design from a variety of options I’d made using Canva templates.

However, incorporating this cover design into my IngramSpark cover template file using Adobe Photoshop got the better of me.

So I found an experienced book design freelancer on Upwork  who took 1.5 hours to do this task for about US$30.

She was a lifesaver because I didn’t want to stuff up the cover and was anxious not to waste more time, especially as Bonnie was back in hospital. 

She had had another fall, breaking the other hip, and was due for emergency surgery.

Related article – How to write a book title: Catchy headlines and good book titles

Related article – Book covers: How to create a memorable cover design

Autobiography print pressure heats up

This was a hectic time for our family and, as we would find out, our country.

I joined my dad, uncle and brother at the hospital to see Grandma before her risky op.

She was upbeat and talking to the cleaner from her bed about fishing trips past.

When she was due in theatre we went out to grab some lunch downtown.

But the sky looked wrong: Armageddon orange.

Strong winds had picked up and smoke blocked out the sun.

This was the beginning of a catastrophic Australian summer fire season and I hoped it wasn’t a bad omen.

Related article – Your Family Stories system: Family stories + family history + much more!

New Year miracles

Miraculously Bonnie recovered from her operation and started rehab again. 

And more good news, in the new year, I received a reader’s copy of her autobiography book in the mail.

I was ecstatic and in awe of IngramSpark’s fabulous book quality.

It was beautiful and professional.

Bonnie and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the result.

Again she got out her correcting pen, this time from her new room in a nursing home, to give the reader’s copy a proofread.

The plan was, once I’d made her minor corrections, we would do a small print run for family in time for her 100th birthday party in May.

But this book journey involves a final chapter of drama: COVID-19.

Related article – 3 tips for celebrating family stories + family history

Century celebrations with COVID-19

As I’ve written about here , the global coronavirus pandemic has thrown all our lives into chaos.

This was blatantly obvious the other weekend when Bonnie turned 100.

My family and I showed up to her nursing home room window clutching gifts, balloons and handmade posters.

What was supposed to be a family party back at her house on the river became a chat from a side street through a wire fence.

Nevertheless we made the most of it and spoilt her rotten as best we could.

Thankfully I had had a flu shot a month earlier.

And therefore, together with my aunt and uncle, we were allowed into the home.

On entry we were required to show immunisation documentation and have our temperatures checked.

Against all odds, and while maintaining social distance, we finally handed Bonnie her box of books: happy 100th birthday Grandma!

Related article – Life-writing example: When coronavirus serves up a new normal

Final say: Bonnie’s autobiography

Starting this life-story book project had seemed a doable, short-term project.

I’d thought: I’ll just send Bonnie questions in the mail then use my journalist skills to bang her responses together and be done in a couple of months. Too easy!

In reality it took years of consistent work, determination, pivoting and patience against a backdrop of maternity leave, work, interstate moves, multiple surgeries, a national emergency and a global pandemic.

Along the way I’ve learnt more about life-story writing and book publishing.

But most importantly I’ve learnt so much about my beautiful and strong grandmother, our family plus how to handle what life throws at you.

Hers is an autobiography book of memories that in turn ended up making some of its own.

And I know it will prompt many more as signed copies are now distributed to family.

This includes a new great-grandchild, who arrived days after Bonnie turned 100.

I’m so happy her story is there for him to read in the future.

Because as the book’s anonymous introductory quote reads:

“Love is like a rose. When pressed between two lifetimes, it will last forever.” 

Happy writing!

Do you want to do what I did and help a loved one record their life story? I’ve created a step-by-step guide on how to do this called the Your Family Stories System . Sign up  to get the first few sections for free!

Who’s life story would you like to write and why? I always love hearing from different people. Drop me an email  or leave a reply in the comments section at the end of this article.

Get in touch

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*Please be aware I am an affiliate for some of the sites listed and will receive a small fee if you sign up using the links above.

Writing Beginner

How To Write an Autobiography 2024 (Tips, Templates, & Guide)

Your life story has value, merit, and significance. You want to share it with the world, but maybe you don’t know how .

Here’s how to write an autobiography:

Write an autobiography by creating a list of the most important moments, people, and places in your life. Gather photos, videos, letters, and notes about these experiences. Then, use an outline, templates, sentence starters, and questions to help you write your autobiography .

In this article, you are going to learn the fastest method for writing your autobiography.

We are going to cover everything you need to know with examples and a free, downloadable, done-for-you template.

What Is an Autobiography?

Typewriter, lightbulb, and crumpled paper - How To Write an Autobiography

Table of Contents

Before you can write an autobiography, you must first know the definition.

An autobiography is the story of your life, written by you. It covers the full span of your life (at least, up until now), hitting on the most significant moments, people and events.

When you write your autobiography, you write an intimate account of your life.

What Should I Include In an Autobiography?

If you are scratching your head, baffled about what to include in your autobiography, you are not alone.

After all, a big part of how to write an autobiography is knowing what to put in and what to leave out of your life story. Do you focus on every detail?

Every person? Won’t your autobiography be too long?

A good way to think about how to write an autobiography is to use the Movie Trailer Method.

What do movie trailers include?

  • High emotional moments
  • The big events
  • The most important characters

When you plan, organize, and write your autobiography, keep the Movie Trailer Method in mind. You can even watch a bunch of free movie trailers on YouTube for examples of how to write an autobiography using the Movie Trailer Method.

When wondering what to include in your autobiography, focus on what would make the cut for a movie trailer of your life:

  • Most important people (like family, friends, mentors, coaches, etc.)
  • Significant events (like your origin story, vacations, graduations, life turning points, life lessons)
  • Emotional moments (When you were homeless, when you battled a life-threatening condition, or when you fell in love)
  • Drama or suspense (Did you make it into Harvard? Did your first surgery go well? Did your baby survive?)

Autobiography Structure Secrets

Like any compelling story, a well-structured autobiography often follows a pattern that creates a logical flow and captures readers’ attention.

Traditionally, autobiographies begin with early memories, detailing the writer’s childhood, family background, and the events or people that shaped their formative years.

From here, the narrative typically progresses chronologically, covering major life events like schooling, friendships, challenges, achievements, career milestones, and personal relationships.

It’s essential to weave these events with introspective insights.

This allows readers to understand not just the what, but also the why behind the author’s choices and experiences.

Towards the end, an effective autobiography often includes reflections on lessons learned, changes in perspective over time, and the wisdom acquired along life’s journey.

Example of the Structure:

  • Introduction: A gripping event or anecdote that gives readers a hint of what to expect. It could be a pivotal moment or challenge that defines the essence of the story.
  • Childhood and Early Memories: Recounting family dynamics, birthplace, cultural background, and memorable incidents from early years.
  • Adolescence and Discovering Identity: Experiences during teenage years, challenges faced, friendships formed, and personal evolutions.
  • Pursuits and Passions: Describing education, early career choices, or any particular hobby or skill that played a significant role in the author’s life.
  • Major Life Events and Challenges: Chronicles of marriage, parenthood, career shifts, or any significant setbacks and how they were overcome.
  • Achievements and Milestones: Celebrating major accomplishments and recounting the journey to achieving them.
  • Reflections and Wisdom: Sharing life lessons, changes in beliefs or values over time, and offering insights gained from lived experiences.
  • Conclusion: Summarizing the journey, contemplating on the present state, and sharing hopes or aspirations for the future.

How To Write an Autobiography Quickly: Strategies & Templates

Want the quickest way to organize and write your autobiography in record time? You can literally write your autobiography in 7 days or less with this method.

The secret is to use done-for-you templates.

I have personally designed and collected a series of templates to take you from a blank page to a fully complete Autobiography. I call this the How to Write an Autobiography Blueprint.

And it’s completely free to download right from this article. 🙂

In the How to Write an Autobiography Blueprint, you get:

  • The Autobiography Questions Template
  • The Autobiography Brainstorm Templates
  • The Autobiography Outline Template

Here is an image of it so that you know exactly what you get when you download it:

Autobiography Blueprint

How To Write an Autobiography: Step-by-Step

When you sit down to write an autobiography, it’s helpful to have a step-by-step blueprint to follow.

You already have the done-for-you templates that you can use to organize and write an autobiography faster than ever before. Now here’s a complete step-by-step guide on how to maximize your template.

  • Brainstorm Ideas
  • Order your sections (from medium to high interest)
  • Order the ideas in each section (from medium to high interest)
  • Write three questions to answer in each section
  • Choose a starter sentence
  • Complete a title template
  • Write each section of your by completing the starter sentence and answering all three questions

Brainstorm Your Autobiography

The first step in writing your autobiography is to brainstorm.

Give yourself time and space to write down the most significant people, events, lessons, and experiences in your life. The templates in the How to Write an Autobiography Blueprint provide sections for you to write down your brainstormed ideas.

How to Brainstorm Your Autobiography

This will help you organize your ideas into what will become the major sections of your book.

These will be:

  • Y our most significant events and experiences.
  • The people who impacted you the most.
  • The challenges you have overcome.
  • Your achievements and successes.
  • The lessons you have learned.

The “other” sections on the second page of the Brainstorm template is for creating your own sections or to give you more space for the sections I provided in case you run out of space.

As I brainstorm, I find asking myself specific questions really activates my imagination.

So I have compiled a list of compelling questions to help you get ideas down on paper or on your screen.

How to Write an Autobiography: Top 10 Questions

Order Your Sections (From Medium to High Interest)

The next step is to order your main sections.

The main sections are the five (or more) sections from your Brainstorm templates (Significant events, significant people, life lessons, challenges, successes, other, etc). This order will become the outline and chapters for your book.

How do you decide what comes first, second or third?

I recommend placing the sections in order of interest. Ask yourself, “What’s the most fascinating part of my life?”

If it’s a person, then write the name of that section (Significant People) on the last line in the How to Write an Autobiography Outline Template. If it’s an experience, place the name of that section (Significant Events) on the last line.

For example, if you met the Pope, you might want to end with that nugget from your life. If you spent three weeks lost at sea and survived on a desert island by spearfishing, that is your ending point.

Then complete the Outline by placing the remaining sections in order of interest. You can work your way backward from high interest to medium interest.

If you are wondering why I say “medium to high interest” instead of “low to high interest” it is because there should be no “low interest” parts of your autobiography.

But wait, what if you met the Pope AND spent three weeks lost at sea? How do you choose which one comes first or last?

First of all, I want to read this book! Second, when in doubt, default to chronological order. Whatever event happened first, start there.

Here is an example of how it might look:

Autobiography Example

Order The Ideas in Each Section (From Medium To High Interest)

Now, organize the ideas inside of each section. Again, order the ideas from medium to high interest).

Within your “Significant People” section, decide who you want to talk about first, second, third, etc. You can organize by chronological order (who you met first) but I recommend building to the most interesting or most significant person.

This creates a more compelling read.

Keep in mind that the most significant person might not be the most well-known, most famous, or most popular. The most significant person might be your family member, friend, partner, or child.

It comes down to who shaped your life the most.

So, if your “significant people list” includes your dad, a famous social media influencer, and Mike Tyson, your dad might come last because he had the biggest significance in your life.

Write Three Questions to Answer in Each Section

Ok, you’ve done the heavy lifting already. You have the major sections organized and outlined.

Next on your autobiography to-do list is to choose and write down three questions you are going to answer in each section. You can write your questions down in the provided “boxes” for each section on the template outline (or on another piece of paper.

This is easier than it might seem.

Simply choose one of the sample autobiography questions below or create your own:

  • Why did I choose this person/event?
  • What does this person/event mean to me?
  • How did I meet this person?
  • Where did it happen?
  • When did it happen?
  • Why did it happen?
  • How did it happen?
  • What is the most interesting part?
  • How did I feel about this person or event?
  • How do I feel now?
  • Why does this person or event matters to me?
  • How did this person or event change my life?
  • What is the most challenging part?
  • How did I fail?
  • How did I succeed?
  • What did I learn?

Questions are the perfect way to write quickly and clearly. I LOVE writing to questions. It’s how I write these blog posts and articles.

Choose a Starter Sentence

Sometimes the hardest part of any project is knowing how to start.

Even though we know we can always go back and edit our beginnings, so many of us become paralyzed with indecision at the starting gate.

That’s why I provided sample starter sentences in your How to Write an Autobiography Blueprint.

Here are the story starters:

  • I began writing this book when…
  • Of all the experiences in my life, this one was the most…
  • I’ve been a…
  • My name is…
  • Growing up in…
  • It wasn’t even a…
  • It all started when…
  • I first…
  • I was born…

Keep in mind that you do not need to begin your book with one of these story starters. I provide them simply to get you going.

The key is to not get bogged down in this, or any, part of writing your autobiography. Get organized and then get writing.

Complete a Title Template

At the top of the How to Write an Autobiography Outline is a place for you to write your book title.

Some authors struggle forever with a title. And that’s ok. What’s not ok is getting stuck. What’s not ok is if coming up with your title prevents you from finishing your book.

So, I provided a few title templates to help juice your creativity.

Just like the story starters, you do not need to use these title templates, but you certainly can. All you need to do is fill in the title templates below and then write your favorite one (for now) at the top of your outline. Presto! You have your working title.

You can always go back and change it later.

How to Write an Autobiography Title templates:

  • [Your Name]: [Phrase or Tag Line]
  • The [Your Last Name] Files
  • Born [Activity]: A [Career]’s Life
  • The Perfect [Noun]: The Remarkable Life of [Your Name]

Examples using the Templates:

  • Christopher Kokoski: Blog Until You Drop
  • The Kokoski Files
  • Born Writing: A Blogger’s Life
  • The Perfect Freelancer: The Remarkable Life of Christopher Kokoski

Write Your Autobiography

You have your outline. You have your title, templates, and sentence starters. All that is left to do is write your autobiography.

However, you can use tools like Jasper AI and a few other cool tricks to craft the most riveting book possible.

This is the easy way to remarkable writing.

Check out this short video that goes over the basics of how to write an autobiography:

How To Write an Autobiography (All the Best Tips)

Now that you are poised and ready to dash out your first draft, keep the following pro tips in mind:

  • Be vulnerable. The best autobiographies share flaws, faults, foibles, and faux pas. Let readers in on the real you.
  • Skip the boring parts. There is no need to detail every meal, car ride, or a gripping trip to the grocery store. Unless you ran into the Russian Mafia near the vegetables or the grocery store is perched on the side of a mountain above the jungles of Brazil.
  • Keep your autobiography character-driven . This is the story of YOU!
  • Be kind to others (or don’t). When writing about others in your story, keep in mind that there may be fallout or backlash from your book.
  • Consider a theme: Many autobiographies are organized by theme. A perfect example is Becoming . Each section of the book includes “becoming” in the title. Themes connect and elevate each part of the autobiography.
  • Write your story in vignettes (or scenes). Each vignette is a mini-story with a beginning, middle, and end. Each vignette builds. Each vignette should be described in rich sensory language that shows the reader the experience instead of telling the reader about the experience. Each vignette is immersive, immediate, and intimate.
  • Include snippets of dialogue. Use quotation marks just like in fiction. Show the dialogue in brief back-and-forth tennis matches of conversation. Remember to leave the boring parts out!
  • Choose a consistent tone. Some autobiographies are funny like Bossy Pants by Tina Fey. Others are serious such as Open by Andre Agassi. Your story (like most stories) will likely include a mix of emotions but choose an overall tone and stick with it.
  • Don’t chronicle, captivate . Always think about how to make each section, each chapter, each page, each paragraph, and each sentence more compelling. You want to tell the truth, but HOW you tell the truth is up to you. Create suspense, conflict, and mystery. Let drama linger until it becomes uncomfortable. Don’t solve problems quickly or take away tension right away.

How Do I Format an Autobiography?

Most autobiographies are written in the first person (using the pronouns I, me, we, and us).

Your autobiography is written about you so write as yourself instead of pretending to be writing about someone else.

Most autobiographies are also written in chronological order, from birth right up to your current age, with all the boring parts left out. That doesn’t mean you can’t play around with the timeline.

Sometimes it’s more interesting to start at a high moment, backtrack to the beginning and show how you got to that high moment.

Whatever format you choose, be intentional, and make the choice based on making the most compelling experience possible for your readers.

How Long Should an Autobiography Be?

There are no rules to how long an autobiography should be but a rough guideline is to aim for between 200 and 400 pages.

This will keep your book in line with what most readers expect for books in general, and will help get your book traditionally published or help with marketing your self-published book.

How To Write a Short Autobiography

You write a short autobiography the same way that you write a long autobiography.

You simply leave more out of the story.

You cut everything down to the bones. Or you choose a slice of your life as you do in a memoir. This often means limiting the people in your book, reducing the events and experiences, and shrinking your story to a few pivotal moments in your life.

How To Start an Autobiography

The truth is that you can start your autobiography in any number of ways.

Here are four common ways to begin an autobiography.

  • Start at the beginning (of your life, career or relationship, etc.)
  • Start at a high moment of drama or interest.
  • Start at the end of the story and work backward
  • Start with why you wrote the book.

Good Autobiography Titles

If you are still stuck on titling your autobiography, consider going to Amazon to browse published works. You can even just Google “autobiographies.”

When you read the titles of 10, 20, or 50 other autobiographies, you will start to see patterns or get ideas for your own titles. (HINT: the title templates in the Autobiography Blueprint were reverse-engineered from popular published books.

Also, check out the titles of the full autobiography examples below that I have included right here in this article.

Types of Autobiographies

There are several different kinds of autobiographies.

Each one requires a similar but slightly nuanced approach to write effectively. The lessons in this article will serve as a great starting point.

Autobiography Types:

  • Autobiography for School
  • Autobiography Novel
  • Autobiography for a Job
  • Short Autobiography
  • Autobiography for Kids

Therefore, there is actually not just one way to write an autobiography.

Memoir vs. Autobiography: Are They The Same?

It’s common to feel confused about a memoir and an autobiography. I used to think they were the same thing.

But, nope, they’re not.

They are pretty similar, which is the reason for all the confusion. A memoir is the story of one part of your life. An autobiography is the story of your full life (up until now).

What Is the Difference Between an Autobiography and a Biography?

An autobiography is when you write about your own life. A biography, on the other hand, is when you write the story of someone else’s life.

So, if I write a book about the life of the President, that’s a biography.

If the President writes a story about his or her own life, that’s an autobiography.

What Not To Include In an Autobiography

Autobiographies are meant to be a snapshot of our lives that we can share with others, but there are some things that are best left out.

Here are three things you should avoid including in your autobiography:

1) Anything That Readers Will Skip

Your life may not be filled with non-stop excitement, but that doesn’t mean you need to include every mundane detail in your autobiography.

Stick to the highlights and leave out the low points.

2) Character Attacks on Others

It’s okay to discuss conflicts you’ve had with others, but don’t use your autobiography as a platform to attack someone’s character.

Keep it civil and focus on your own experiences and how they’ve affected you.

3) Skipping Highlights

Just because something embarrassing or painful happened to you doesn’t mean you should gloss over it in your autobiography.

These are the moments that shape us and make us who we are today, so don’t skip past them just because they’re uncomfortable.

By following these simple tips, you can ensure that your autobiography is interesting, honest, and engaging.

How To Write an Autobiography: Autobiography Examples

I have always found examples to be extremely instructive. Especially complete examples of finished products. In this case, books.

Below you will find examples of published autobiographies for adults and for kids. These examples will guide you, motivate you and inspire you to complete your own life story.

They are listed here as examples, not as endorsements, although I think they are all very good.

The point is that you don’t have to agree with anything written in the books to learn from them.

Autobiography Examples for Adults

  • A Promised Land (Autobiography of Barack Obama)
  • If You Ask Me: (And of Course You Won’t) (Betty White)
  • It’s a Long Story: My Life (Willie Nelson)
  • Stories I Only Tell My Friends: An Autobiography (Rob Lowe)
  • Becoming (Michelle Obama)

Autobiography Examples for Kids

  • This Kid Can Fly: It’s About Ability (NOT Disability) (Aaron Philips)
  • Bee Fearless: Dream Like a Kid (Mikaila Ulmer)

Tools to Write Your Autobiography

Here are some recommended tools to help you write your autobiography:

Final Thoughts: How To Write An Autobiography

Thank you for reading my article on How to Write an Autobiography.

Now that you know all of the secrets to write your book, you may want to get it published, market it, and continue to upskill yourself as an author.

In that case, read these posts next:

  • Can Anyone Write A Book And Get It Published?
  • The Best Writing Books For Beginners 2022 (My 10 Favorites)
  • Why Do Writers Hate Adverbs? (The Final Answer)
  • How To Write a Manifesto: 20 Ultimate Game-Changing Tips

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