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Today in the first part of a two-part interview, SevenPonds speaks with Francine Brevetti of Legend Crafter from her home in San Francisco, California. Francine is a biographer, ghostwriter, book coach, journalist and author of two books: Fabulous Fior: Over 100 Years In an Italian Kitchen, The Fior D’Italia of San Francisco, America’s Oldest Italian Restaurant and Cat Naps And Doggie Snorts: The Joy of Sleeping With Critters. After a long and fruitful career in journalism, she left her job as a reporter and branded herself as Legend Crafter, turning her attention to helping people shape their life stories into books. She ghostwrites memoirs and biographies for some clients and acts as a book coach for others who want to write their own books.
Credit: Francine Brevetti
Ellary: What is Legend Crafter, and how did it get started?
Francine: I was a reporter for about 30 years covering business, and about seven years ago, I left the Oakland Tribune. I already had two clients who wanted me to help them write their memoirs just as I was leaving the Tribune. Legend Crafter is my brand name. So I kept on looking for people who wanted me to write their story – it could be a nonfiction story, could be their memoir, could be about their business. And I’ve had several clients over the years. And I wrote a book about 10 years ago that was published and sponsored by the oldest Italian restaurant in the United States, in San Francisco. They wanted me to write their history, so I did that for several years. Last year, I published my own book about people who sleep with their animals, and I’m working on another book about how to write a book about your business.
Ellary: Who were those initial two clients who wanted you to write their memoirs?
Francine: Well, you know, as a ghostwriter, I generally don’t talk about my clients. I can talk about one of them. She’s deceased and her father founded the Oakland Zoo. She wanted to share the story of her childhood at the zoo.
Ellary: What got you interested in helping people write their life stories?
Francine: I was a business writer and a business reporter, and my forte seemed to be in writing profiles of people rather than in talking about their stock prices. That’s just something I seem to do well. I interview people intensely and gently, but thoroughly, and help them open up about things that they had forgotten, or hadn’t wanted to talk about for a long time. I’m just good at that.
Ellary: It sounds like really fulfilling work
Francine: It is.
Ellary: And it sounds like you probably develop pretty close relationships to your clients.
Francine: Yes, I do get close to them, and I feel honored when they ask me to help them, because I know they’re sharing a very private part of themselves with me.
Ellary: What do you think it is that makes people want to turn their life into a memoir?
Francine: Well, people have lots of reasons for wanting to do that. Like the lady who grew up in the zoo, she wanted to share her experiences with her grandchildren. Other people want to take an accounting of their lives, they want to understand how they got where they are, or they want to have an outlet for sharing their point of view. Maybe you grew up in a family where everybody else’s opinion counted more than yours did. Some people feel that way. Some people just want to enjoy the experiences they had. Some people look at it as a sort of spiritual exercise, an examination of consciousness type of thing. A lot of them want to say something that they think will help someone.
Ellary: What are some of those triggers and blocks that arise when someone is undertaking the memoir writing journey with you and how do you help them with those?
Credit: Francine Brevetti
Francine: I try to be very alert about what is not being said. I try to lead them down the path. I try to help them articulate something they’re either unwilling or unable to articulate. Of course, all of this is done without any judgement on my part. They have to feel totally safe with me and have a trusting relationship.
Ellary: Do you build a relationship with your client before you start the memoir writing process?
Francine: Not necessarily, no. A year ago, a man called me up from another part of the country, found my name online, and he told me some difficult things about himself and we started working. In fact, he came to San Francisco to spend three days with me. And so that was that. Another woman I just started working with recently got my name through somebody else who knew me ever so briefly about a year ago. So business comes in all different ways.
Ellary: What do you think is the most powerful benefit of writing a memoir?
Francine: I think that people really need to feel heard and they need to feel their story is being treasured with some amount of honor and respect.
Ellary: It’s so important to feel heard.
Francine: I’ve had people tell me things they hadn’t told the rest of their family.
Ellary: And then those people are often going to share the book with their family members?
Francine: Not necessarily. Some of them do, but not all of them. Some of them just have to tell it to somebody, and since they’re paying for it, I don’t necessarily have to write everything they say, just everything they want to be read. I mean, if they want to expunge something, they can, but at some point they just have to say something and they tell me.
Come back next week for part two of our interview.