By Stacy Walenter
The stories we tell about our lives are often how we make sense of where we have been and where we are going. Stories become family heirlooms, a thread woven from the past to the present, tying together ancestors and descendants. These tales give us a sense of a different time and a common bond. They give us a sense of ourselves.
However, in the bustle of modern life, when we seem to be endlessly running out of time every day, this exchange of stories can fall by the wayside.
Maybe you’re too busy to listen to grandma right now. Maybe you feel an almost inadvertent eye roll as grandpa recounts a story you’ve heard a hundred times before.
Maybe you’re also unaware of the expiration date of those stories until, one day, it’s too late.
“I believe it’s important that people preserve their memories,” said Megan Sutherland, Libby native, local author, and founder of Life Writer. “When people pass on, it’s done. A lot of people have a lot of regrets about never gathering these stories.”
Life Writer is Sutherland’s antidote to the forgotten memory, to the moment that has passed without being captured.
Life Writer is a new business created by Sutherland, a graduate of Libby High School. Life Writer allows people to tell their story and have it documented in a physical form that can be given to family members, safeguarding the past in a tangible book that can be shared for generations.
Sutherland has loved storytelling since she was a girl. When she was young, she would visit Treasure Manor and do puzzles with the elderly, who would tell her the stories of their lives, physically linking the connected pieces while mentally reconstructing the fragments of the past.
The influence of narrative was lasting for Sutherland, who has already independently published her debut novel, Of Hearts and Brains, a zombie romance released in July 2017.
Along with the pursuit of story, Sutherland also enjoys people. She is eager to hear the stories of others. While many could simply use text-to-speech software to recount their lives, Sutherland believes that Life Writer is different because it invites the human element.
Many in older generations struggle to use computers, meaning Sutherland brings not only a passion for the craft of writing, but the technological aptitude necessary to take a story from words to file to manuscript.
Additionally, and most importantly, she offers an ear. Sometimes, what one desires in life is an audience, someone with whom to experience, or re-experience, one’s life.
The effect of bearing witness is perceptible.
Speaking of the connection between herself and her current client, Sutherland said, “It can be life-changing to have a friend for a season. It’s touching to have someone interested in your life and share it. It’s a special thing.”
Sutherland offers a free initial consultation to explore the client’s interest. From there, customers can choose to either write a biography, a chronological account from birth to the present, or a memoir, which would focus on a more specific aspect or time of one’s life.
Sutherland and the client then meet on a weekly basis until the client’s story is told. From start to finish, the process can take three to six months.
Once completed, the clients decide whether they simply want a manuscript of their story, or if they want to publish an actual book. Sutherland is there to guide them through the independent publishing process, having already successfully navigated it herself.
Sutherland believes the process is cathartic and connective.
“This process makes an impact on me, on the clients, and on their families. It’s connecting at a deeper level.”
If you’d like to preserve your own memories, Sutherland and Life Writer can be reached at 334-3614 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Sutherland also maintains a social media presence on Facebook and Instagram.
Of Hearts and Brains can be found locally for purchase at Libby Art Store, for borrowing at Lincoln County Libraries, or online at Amazon.com.