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My Service

Our internal worlds are rich, flooded with humour, personality and vibrancy, but the magic is translating this inner life onto the page. Such a process is intense and deeply rewarding. It should feel as meaningful as the end product itself: an elegant, professionally bound memoir of a life lived. A book to be cherished and handed down from one generation to the next.

Reminisce

The first step is to schedule a series of conversations where I listen to and then capture the memories and distinctive tone and timbre of the subject’s individual voice. It is this unique voice that transforms a memoir, bringing those priceless memories back to life. I am happy to travel to all meetings, whether it be a walk and talk or a fireside chat; a round of golf or sitting over a puzzle. Anywhere peaceful that is conducive to relaxing conversation. These meetings are a chance to revisit and linger in a life lived.

Create

After our series of chats, I will craft a narrative voice that brings the unique personality and essence of the subject alive through the stories it tells. What follows is a collaborative process, where changes can be made until a final copy is agreed. I will work with a professional family-run bookbinder to create a beautiful book: a portrait in prose and photographs to share with family and friends. These stories will provide a deeply personal commentary which weaves itself around the accompanying images.

I don't think you can improve Nick's service. I know, now, my dad wishes he had added some more stories after realising how it would turn out, but it was impossible to show him without ruining the surprise.

my story

When my father-in-law passed away unexpectedly, his stories slipped away with him. We are lucky: his music collection remains, as does a single shoebox jammed with letters written to his newlywed in an increasingly shaky hand as the Vietnam War dragged on.

What I wouldn’t give to have the opportunity to sit down with him now, nurturing a whisky, as he talks through his desert island discs. He was an enigmatic soul, my father-in-law: modest, unassuming, kind. His memories slipped under the radar. That is a great sadness to me and a great loss to many.

Perhaps that is what motivates me. I am a bibliophile. A collector. I struggle to throw things away. Stories, memories, experiences. None of these should be lost or discarded. We should cherish them, enjoy them and return to them. To do so, though, we must first record them.

I have written memoirs for an eclectic range of clients aged between 19 and 105, from the worlds of business, film, finance, health and nutrition, professional sport, and technology. My writing has appeared in a number of publications including: the Guardian, Times Literary Supplement and Harper's Bazaar. My first book, Henry Green: Class, Style, and the Everyday (Oxford University Press), was featured favourably in the New Yorker and the TLS.

I hold an honorary lectureship at University College London. I taught in UCL’s Department of English for 10 years and was a dissertation supervisor at Magdalen College, Oxford. I have an MA and PhD from UCL and a BA, MA (Oxon) from Keble College, University of Oxford.

I live in London with my wife and two daughters.

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To anyone who knows Richard I*** P*** well, they know not to call him Richard.

He is Dicky. To everyone.

Now this might seem trivial, but it’s not. This is important, because it offers us an insight into the man; it offers us our first taste of his modesty, his gentle self-effacing nature. For Dicky, I soon come to realise, the idea of being placed centre stage, of having something written with him as the main character is––quite possibly––his worst nightmare.

Despite these likely misgivings, Dicky welcomes me warmly. He suggests a selection of possible locations for our chat, offers me a coffee, a biscuit (or three), and proceeds to ask me all about how I am, about my family and my life in general. This is, of course, the wrong way around: I am here to talk about Dicky, not about me.

It does, however, give me a taste of his predicament. As soon as I try to lead the conversation away from me, it becomes clear that Dicky is less than comfortable talking about himself.

“I don’t particularly want to talk about myself, Nick. I’m not on an ego trip. No, I just want my family to remember me as a good chap.”

Let’s be clear here. Dicky did not ask me to come and interview him. Dicky did not ask me to write his memoir. This was his family’s idea. Of course, Dicky doesn’t say this. He is far too intent on making me feel comfortable.

“I’d rather them think of me as a decent bloke, and not blowing my trumpet. Not that I’ve got a trumpet to blow.”

I think carefully about my response.

This is not about egotism, I say. In fact, this is quite the opposite. There is a generosity at play here; a generosity attached to sharing your experiences. The idea is that through this process––tortuous as it might seem––through talking to me and recollecting stories from your life, more of you is able to live on. Something that goes beyond simply ‘the good chap’; something that brings to life what it means to be a good chap.

Dicky looks at me thoughtfully. There is a gentle nod, I think. An almost imperceptible acquiescence.

I go on, fortified.

As families, I say, we don’t often have the time, or at least we struggle to make the time, to listen carefully to the stories of our parents, or of those close to us. And when we do listen to these tales––during those rare moments when everything aligns, when our loved ones want to share and when we actually have the space to listen––we very rarely record those stories. Despite their great value, our histories are rarely passed down to the next generation in any tangible way. This is a chance to preserve some of your story.

Dicky looks at me. There is a captivating ambivalence deep within his eyes: he is both earnest and humorous. There’s a well-meaning glint: mischievous, you might say, but kind. Above all else, kind.

“I’ve never thought about it that way before. I often go back in my own mind what I’ve done. No, not what I’ve done exactly, what I’ve been through. And how the years have flown by.

“The grandchildren are still young; like all young people, they take everything for granted. Everybody does. Even older people. I think that to wake up every morning is a blessing. And to be well. To wake up pain free. Especially as you get older. I think I realised this from a youngster. When I was young, at school, playing sport. Seeing how fortunate I was.”

Excerpts

Misgivings

To anyone who knows Benjamin I*** P*** well, they know not to call him Benjamin.

He is Benny. To everyone.

Now this might seem trivial, but it’s not. This is important, because it offers us an insight into the man; it offers us our first taste of his modesty, his gentle self-effacing nature. For Benny, I soon come to realise, the idea of being placed centre stage, of having something written with him as the main character is––quite possibly––his worst nightmare.

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The Looks that people give

I’m in my 20th year; I got through mainstream school, with three A levels in hand; I’m preparing for my first year of university, and yet … I have never done this before.

This is the very first time that I have left the house, on my own, to go shopping. I have been building up to this moment for a very, very long time. You see, I rarely leave the house alone. It’s not that I can’t open the front door or that I can’t walk down the street or cross the road or go to a café. I’ve done all of these things. Happily. But rarely alone. I am able to cross the road, physically. The question of whether I can do it safely, though. That’s less certain. I just don’t see things. It’s my peripheral vision. Or lack of it. Suddenly, with no warning, there they are, slap bang in front of me. And if that’s a car, moving at speed, then that’s a problem, isn’t it?

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grandad's cauliflower Cheese

We were always quite a political family. Rather unusually so, I would imagine, now I think about it. Sunday lunch discussions often centred around current affairs. Dad would be in charge of lunch, but the conversations and debates were much more multi-vocal. You could say what you wanted to say. Ask a direct question and you’d get a direct answer back. I try to be the same with you boys. We were all analytical about things. In this way, we were very similar to each other. We’d all sit around the dining table trying to find out how things work together: the politics behind it all. It’s important to understand the world that you’re stepping out into. To see motive. To understand why the world is the way it is. Without this knowledge it’s very hard to change anything. Everyone, to some extent, is self-interested. If you can fathom what someone’s interest is, then it suddenly becomes a whole lot easier to act effectively.

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Gap-Toothed little boy

This memoir is a testament to you. It is the story of you depicted in moments: as a son and a brother, as a toddler, and a wide-smiling, eyes-glistening, gap-toothed little boy; as a young man: sporty and ripped, sun-kissed and confident, falling in love; as a gentle man, trusted and true, charmed and cheeky; as a newly-wed, faithful and hard-working and fun: a partner, a companion, a husband and friend. And three sons yet to be born. Consider that. Take a breath. And their wives. Then five grandchildren more.

It is an inadequate testament, I’m afraid. You are so much more than even this great wealth of moments can encapsulate. This book is nothing, truly nothing, when matched up against the man I am most proud to call my father. Dad. But it is something, at least, that we can all do for you. A tangible reminder of what you mean, to so many. Never forget, though, that behind each tangible moment, there sit a thousand intangible ways in which you are loved; ways you will never know, ways that you could never have anticipated. And this is how it should be.

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Image Credit: Vanessa Berberian

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Pricing

1.

the Short Story Collection

From £1500

The short story option would favour a specific focus on individual periods, moments or events in someone’s life. Its short form allows for a potentially swift delivery in under 4 weeks.

It includes:

  • a minimum 4 hours of conversation;
  • up to 20 photographs;
  • circa 25 pages or 2,500 words;
  • hardback, buckram cloth edition.

11.

The Novella

poa

The novella can offer an extended highlights reel of a life lived or a deep dive into one specific decade. It affords breadth alongside moments of depth.

It includes:

  • a minimum 8 hours of conversation;
  • up to 40 photographs;
  • circa 70 pages or 10,000 words;
  • hardback, buckram cloth or leather edition.

111.

The Epic

POA

The epic package is for those interested in a longer, more detailed account of someone’s life. The scale of these projects varies enormously, so please contact me directly to discuss.

Contact me for a free consultation.

ContacT

Testimonials

Besides being such a talented author, Nick really made my parents feel so comfortable, which is so important if you want them to talk from the heart.

Nick captured him perfectly! To us our father is, as you say in Yiddish, a true mensch and a legend in our eyes. Nick brought that out so beautifully.

To begin with I was rather apprehensive but Nick was so gentle and empathetic in each interview and somehow managed to draw out so many memories. We would most definitely recommend to others that they go through this experience and own this incredible memory!

Thank you for doing this for our family!!! We are truly so thrilled and lucky to hold this book in our hands!

We gave the book to my parents on their anniversary. It was the first time we had all been together in over a year, so it was an incredibly emotional moment and a huge surprise.

My grandfather suffered from Alzheimer’s, and apart from one lucid moment—when he recounted a tale of the middle name that I share—he barely spoke. I feared that like my Grandfather, by the time my children or grandchildren became interested in my life, I may be in no position to share. For that reason, I asked Nick to help write a memoir of my memories growing up. He did a fantastic job, teasing out the interesting parts, but still managing to keep my voice.

You can’t put a price on your family history and memories. There are stories that I never knew, stories that can now get passed on. It gives our children a greater insight to their Papa. I know how much Ariel loved reading it for the first time! It was very special.

Each draft was, for me, very emotional.

My sister was as excited to read it as anyone, having heard so much about it. We also made copies for each grandchild, so they can each have their own to enjoy for years to come.

The bookbinders were wonderful to work with and were so happy to offer advice. They also went out of their way to get the book printed in time for which I was so grateful.

Contact

Contact

Nick Shepley
+44 7929 152137
nick.shepley@gmail.com

Image Credit: Vanessa Berberian