The Stories of Our Lives

On December 12, 2014, in Uncategorized, by Patricia

What to give for the holidays? Errgh. There’s an absolutely appalling ad running on television just now, in which Charles Dickens’ iconic character of Scrooge is suddenly accosted by some young fellow from a gadget shop acting nominally as a ‘ghost.’ But all he appears for is to indulge Scrooge’s tech greed. Have you seen it? The tagline is: “I want that.” Yeah, it kind of misses Dickens’ point.
One thing my husband and I have been doing for the last year or two is devising a way for people to honour one another’s stories and memories, rather than accumulate stuff. We founded Bellwoods Press, ( to produce privately-commissioned books as gifts.
Last year, for instance, a woman retained me to do a magazine-length profile of her partner, exploring what made the partner so extraordinary at her work as if I were reporting for Vanity Fair. I interviewed a wide array of people behind this woman’s back, wrote the profile, and Ambrose-my-husband designed a gorgeous, leather-bound book.
When she received it, she was so surprised by what her colleagues said that she wept.
It’s an incredible pleasure for me to do these books. I particularly like interviewing elderly people who haven’t had a chance, really, to see the trajectory of their lives through the eyes of a writer, and who sometimes haven’t been questioned with sensitive curiosity in a very long time. In that case, we don’t do it behind their backs as a surprise, but with their full collaboration.
It’s not as quick and flashy as the headphones that Scrooge is positioned as coveting. Families take time to decide if this is something they want to commission. Sometimes, they already have a manuscript (or collection of recipes) and just work exclusively with Ambrose on the design and publishing.
But, I put it out there for your consideration over the coming holidays and new year.


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