Ghostwriting Helps Grandparents Write Their Life Stories As Books

Cape Verdean woman typing on keyboard
Cape Verdean woman typing on keyboard

When to Jump, an independent media partner of The Huffington Post, is a curated community featuring the ideas and stories of people who have made the decision to leave something comfortable and chase a passion.

Death never touched me until it took my Grandpa Jack. At 75, he was relatively young, but he'd smoked and drank heavily all his life. When he died, I was left with a profound well of rage and relief. He was gone too early. I felt he'd good as killed himself through his lifestyle choices. I still had questions that I wanted to ask him, especially about financial preparedness (Jack had been a master investor). And yet, I felt relief that by the time he'd died, I had asked most of the questions that really mattered. We'd written a whole book together about his life.

As a child, Mr. Jackie L. Schrader (1938-2013) got the nickname "Corkie" because he chewed on a cork when he was teething. He was engaged twice: the first woman he proposed to sent his ring back while Jack was at sea with the Navy. Disgusted, he threw the ring and her letter overboard. The woman he eventually married became my grandmother, Jane. They were married for 54 years and had 3 kids. Post-Navy, Jack joined the fire department. He worked his way up through the ranks until he became the chief arson investigator for the city of Wichita. His job was both thrilling and dangerous. The time that his investigative skills led to the conviction of a Mafia member, his kids (my mother among them) were put under Secret Service surveillance, in case revenge by the organization was imminent.

Jack and I started writing his life story in 2012. I was living in Hawaii at the time completing my MFA, and he was still at home with Jane. I would send Jack lists of questions about his life. He would sit in the bedroom and speak into a cassette recorder, alternately answering my questions and rambling as he reminisced. These tapes he sent to me in Hawaii, where I transcribed them on the beach and started to build his book. We added in old photos and news articles about his family and his job promotions. I had the final manuscript printed and bound and sent to Emporia.

Jane read the book to Jack in the evenings before bed. She says it gave him a lot of peace, knowing his story was set down and he would not be forgotten. Jack passed away later that month. I gave copies of the book to his many friends and family at his funeral. Even now, re-reading his story makes it feel like Jack is still with us.

Two years later (2014), I moved to Austin, Texas, where I launched Cider Spoon Stories, "Austin's premier ghostwriting company." Founded on the premise that "Legacy shouldn't be a luxury -- everyone has a story to share," the company helps grandpas and grandmas write their life stories as books. Cider Spoon began as an experiment. I had no idea whether the market for legacy ghostwriting was strong. I figured I'd give it a couple months, and if I didn't make any money, then I'd get a 'real' job.

Two more years later, Cider Spoon Stories has ghostwritten and published over a dozen individual's stories. I am still the principal researcher and writer. My 'staff' now includes a graphic designer and book printer, as well as a paid intern. We want to keep the company small because our personalized service is what sets us apart from the competition. Your book should be as unique as your life: handcrafted. Well-loved. The type of family heirloom you can feel proud to leave behind.

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