The many ways of writing a biography

This past month I had the great honour of attending the Association of Personal Historians annual conference held in Fort Worth, Texas. One of major takeaways I had was that there are so many ways to write a family history.

Probably the most familiar is the traditional ghost writing where a biographer collects all of the photos, interviews and diaries and writes in the first person. The book is completed chapter by chapter and the life story is drafted and reviewed by the subject. At the end of the process, it’s their name on the book, which they can give to friends, family and the public.

One area of great interest for myself is in an assisted biography where the biographer essentially coaches the subject to write up their own story. The skills of drawing out the stories, framing the chapters and fully supporting the subject to write their own story. As a life story coach you take on the role of strategist and editor, rather than front line writing.

The third methodology is family history written in groups, where a group of writers all meet weekly or monthly to cover different parts of their lives and work through the entire process. As of yet I’m not sure of any groups like this in Australia, but I’d love to join one in the future.


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