November 28, 2011

The Governor’s Academy History: A Debriefing

Two days before Thanksgiving, I submitted a 70,000-word manuscript on the history of The Governor’s Academy in Byfield, Massachusetts—complete with 200 photos and captions. The submission is now being reviewed by Governor’s headmaster Peter Quimby and others on the book committee.

Founded in 1763, before the American Revolution, the former Governor Dummer Academy is the oldest boarding school in New England. The school seal, shown here, was created in the workshop of Paul Revere.

I had eight months to research and write the 250-year history. That’s just one month of work for each 30 years, a challenge! There was little choice, however. The Academy needs books by mid-August 2012, in time for a series of anniversary celebrations. After internal review, the edit-design-proofread-index-print process typically takes about eight months.

The book committee recently accepted my suggestion that I write a short “debriefing” document on my experience, while everything’s fresh in my mind. Here is the story I am submitting for the Academy’s use:

November 11, 2011

Memories of Dad on Veterans’ Day

Most of my memoir clients seem to prefer talking about their parents and grandparents than to talking about their own accomplishments. This desire to remember those who went before us—instead of bragging about our own stories—is especially keen on days like today, Veterans’ Day in the USA.

My father, David F. Bull, died in 2008, but I still remember him telling about serving during World War II. Dad was attached to an anti-tank company in the US Army during the push through France and into Germany in late 1944 and 1945. Born in 1925, Dad was just old enough to be drafted before war’s end.

October 13, 2011

How We Remember Others

I originally posted this at my other blog, “Witness,” but I think it makes good reading here too.

In my work as a ghostwriter of memoirs, I am frequently impressed by the way healthy older people remember mostly the best about others. I think this is a conscious choice on their part—or the result of many, many tiny choices made through long lives. My clients, average age 80, seldom have bad things to say about others, especially those closest to them, and I have come to see this as the marker of a life well lived.

September 24, 2011

MGH Bicentennial Gala

On Friday, September 16, my wife and I were invited guests at a gala celebration of the 200th anniversary of Massachusetts General Hospital (left). I was asked to participate as co-author of Something in the Ether: A Bicentennial History of Massachusetts General Hospital, 1811–2011.

My co-author and daughter, Martha Bull, is now studying for an advanced degree at Columbia University and could not be with us for the event.

June 1, 2011

The Oldest Boarding School in New England

Since March, I have been researching and writing the history of The Governor’s Academy in Byfield, Massachusetts. Founded in 1763—and known as Dummer Charity School, Dummer Academy, and Governor Dummer Academy—this coeducational boarding school will celebrate its 250th anniversary in 2012-2013. My charge is to deliver books in time for the opening of school in September 2012.

May 11, 2011

WBUR Radio Interview and Other Coverage

The MGH history, Something in the Ether, co-authored by my daughter Martha Bull and me, has been receiving some media coverage since its release in late March. Today, I spoke with WBUR “Radio Boston” co-host Meghna Chakrabarti. Here is the 10-minute clip that resulted.

Meanwhile, other buzz includes the Boston Globe blog “White Coat Notes,” which featured Something with the Ether with a recent history of MGH nursing. That link is here.

“News from Harvard Medical School” included the book in its May Bookshelf. That link is here.

MGH has been providing coverage of the book, too. A nice story and co-author photograph (!) are here.

March 23, 2011

The MGH Book Is In!

Something in the Ether, the bicentennial history of Massachusetts General Hospital written by my daughter Martha Bull and me, is ready for shipping. You can order it here from Amazon.

Yesterday, I spent five hours signing books outside the General Store (gift shop) at MGH. The photo shows the line of people that was there pretty much the whole time. What impressed me was the devotion of MGH employees to the hospital—not just doctors, but nurses, administrators, technicians, janitors, you name it. They all wanted a copy of the book.

Early reviews will be posted soon. Stay tuned.

December 14, 2010

All Is Not Vanity

I am often asked if Memoirs Unlimited offers vanity publishing. My unequivocal answer is, No we do not.

It is true that our clients pay for the writing and publication of their books. We do not pay royalties like so-called trade publishers. But the term vanity publishing definitely does not apply to our clients.

December 2, 2010

What’s Your Story?

I have just completed a three-year project and, after a few weeks to catch my breath, I am looking for some new and interesting projects to work on.

With my daughter, Martha Bull, I researched and wrote the bicentennial history of Massachusetts General Hospital, due to be published in April 2011. The project was commissioned by MGH, the third oldest general hospital in the United States and the first and most prestigious of the Harvard teaching hospitals.

July 28, 2010

Is There a Method to Our Memoirs?

A good friend asked me yesterday whether I use a method, a formula, or a stock set of questions when working with a memoir client. The short answer is no.

The longer answer is, I used to think I needed such a method. When I started out in the mid-1980s, with a minor flair for writing and a love of people, I assumed there must be a science to creating memoirs—interviewing a client and then editing the interviews into the narrative that they would write if they were writers.

Then I worked with my first dozen clients and realized that there is no method and can be none, or not what anyone would call a method. If I had to define my non-existent method, it would be: Turn on the tape recorder, shut up, and listen. Here's why.