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Saving people's stories, one book at a time

Words by Smiley Team

Most people have a story to tell – a grandfather who grew up in the civil rights era, an aunt who taught you about her experiences in Alaska, or a personal story about being deployed to Afghanistan.

These are hypotheticals, but those stories are everywhere, and not everyone has the resources, time, or know-how to tell them.

Rutger Bruining had a similar story. He was enthralled by the stories his grandfather told him as a child. But after his grandfather passed, the memory of those stories faded quickly.

Rutger wanted to create something so everyone could tell a story if they had a story to tell – so nothing would be lost to time. In 2015, he started StoryTerrace, a memoir writing service.

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“My grandfather was a great storyteller,” Rutger tells Smiley News. “So I’d play backgammon with him, and he would be talking about the Second World War where he set up a small resistance group, how he moved to the Caribbean with my grandmother to set up a doctor's practice, or how he played sports.

"He told all these stories with a lot of color, but after he passed away, the stories faded much quicker than I expected. I regretted not recording them.”

The stories come out as memoirs, usually around 100 pages, about anything and everything a person wants to be published. The service has a vetting process that connects clients with writers to provide a match in style and tone. 

“We work with around 700 writers now,” Rutger says. “We look at people's professional backgrounds in terms of our clients, their cultural backgrounds, their personality, and of course, if it's in person or location to make that match.”

The process starts with a cursory interview, and then a meeting with an editor to see what the person wants to achieve with the memoir. Once that’s done the client fills out an in-depth questionnaire about all things they want to cover in the book. Then there are more interviews with the writer, which may be up to 10 hours. Finally, a sample chapter and then the book. 

StoryTerrace has written thousands of books for people at this point and has over 1,000 planned just for the rest of this year.

Inspired to act?

FIND OUT MORE: In the same way that StoryTerrace wants to protect people’s stories, the Internet Archive saves information from the web and the history stored up in it. Check it out

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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