May 2, 2019

When I was a child, my extended family would gather regularly to eat, kibbitz, play card games, and tell stories—well, mostly to listen to my maternal grandfather tell stories.

He was an uneducated man, and I never saw him read a book that was not a prayerbook. (Even then, it was not so much reading as ensuring that he was literally on the same page as everyone else.)

But he didn’t need books to be a master storyteller. Somehow, he always had the perfect anecdote for any situation at his fingertips. 

Savvy and deceptively strong, he worked...

January 31, 2019

I recently reread some of my parents' old letters, and in the process I rediscovered the value of handwritten correspondence. It can be tempting to use the phone to connect with someone directly, but doing so robs you of the chance to speak to someone in the future—someone curious about family, about memory, about historical events. Someone like me.

For example, my mother’s sixth-grade classmates in Cleveland were paired with English pen pals in the early 1940s, probably to distract them from the war. She and Beryl (what a very English na...

January 5, 2019

Michael Barrie was already an accomplished writer when he began researching some old family letters. His recently completed book, How We Got Here: The Barrie Family in America, spans centuries and continents to tell the complex story of his forebears. It’s by turns moving and hilarious, certainly one of the biggest and most exciting projects we’ve published. 

Here’s Mike’s take on that experience, with bonus advice for prospective family historians:


SS: Your book is a sprawling, multigenerational epic. How and when did you decide to...

October 5, 2018

Remarkable Life Memoirs celebrated a milestone birthday recently, with a spectacular banana cake from NYC’s Two Little Red Hens.  

(Sure, it was tiny, but that’s because we also had Susan’s stellar amaretto mocha pie. God forbid we should have only one dessert!)

The number 2 reflects a lot more than the duration of our partnership (and our dessert options, and the name of our favorite bakery). It also represents how Remarkable Life’s two founders joined forces to create something that’s much more than the sum of its parts. 

In short, w...

July 7, 2018

Not so long ago, inexperienced authors who struggled to get published might fall prey to a vanity press. These were book publishers whose business model was essentially a scam: They’d do little more than take your money, throw your unedited manuscript into a sad little binding, and “market” your work, which would, predictably, never achieve the promised bestseller status. Gosh, bad luck! 

So you can understand my chagrin when I described Remarkable Life Memoirs to a new acquaintance over cocktails only to hear: “Oh, so you’re like a vanit...

April 26, 2018

I don't really think of myself as having vandal tendencies, but there are times when sentiment causes me to tip in that direction.

When my first car, a black '88 Mercury Tracer, passed away with little warning on the Saw Mill River Parkway, what provided solace before climbing into the tow truck was slicing a section of the tan and beige upholstery from the back of the driver's side seat cushion. (It was destined for the junkyard. Really, who would miss it?) I found comfort in the idea that part of my wonderful car could live on as, say,...

February 28, 2018

He played Division I college football and had a real shot at the NFL. He entertains me, between sets in the weight room, with stories of hard hits, brushes with greatness, and off-the-field craziness. He analyzes the latest games with a mixture of passion and intelligence that goes way beyond the usual Monday-morning quarterbacking.

“You should write a memoir,” I say, and I mean it.

“I’m not ready to sum up my life yet,” he snorts in mock offense. (At least I hope it’s mock offense). “I’ve still got plenty of years left in me.”

Now, I’m not...

December 6, 2017

It seems like a lifetime ago, but the Commander-in-Chief Forum preceding the presidential election was supposed to be an opportunity for both candidates to discuss national security. Instead, moderator Matt Lauer turned it into a seminar in how not to conduct an interview.

In light of his dismissal from NBC’s Today for accusations of sexual abuse, why focus on Lauer’s journalistic wrongdoings? Apart from providing a damning sense of how he views women, it’s an opportunity to study how interviewing technique can bring out important tr...

September 5, 2017

Recently, we featured a blog post exploring how design lends meaning—or fails to lend meaning—to marriage licenses. Susan’s wry takeaway was that modern marriage licenses lack the beauty and solemnity of previous ages, which goes right along with our high divorce rate.

I don’t have a solution for marital woes, or bad design, but there is another side to this conversation. 

The ketubah is the name for the Jewish marriage contract (the plural is ketubot). Its use began about 2,000 years ago, so I’d say it has a pretty good track record. 

It’s...

August 14, 2017

I don’t root for any particular football team, and I have no opinion about National versus American League. But I’m a big fan of geekery, especially when the geeks are writers, editors, and word people. And now I’m a cheerleader for a hitherto little-known player on Team Language.

Kory Stamper is a lexicographer who works for Merriam-Webster. She’s known for her witty Twitter presence, her appearances on M-W’s video series “Ask the Editor,” and, most recently, her book Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries

It’s not every writer w...

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