Meet Kate McCarthy, life story writer and owner of Forget Me Not Life Stories.
Telling your story, or that of a loved one, is what Kate McCarthy and her team from Forget Me Not Life Stories, specialise in. A job handled with care, Kate and her fellow writers preserve your memoirs so they can be treasured for generations to come.
Kate reflects on what makes her business so unique and why, as Anzac Day approaches, she feels privileged to be telling the stories of your loved ones.
As Anzac Day draws close, do you get an influx of people reaching out for life stories and what do you enjoy most about creating these stories?
Anzac Day is a special time for me as I remember the amazing stories of heroism, survival, and courage that I’ve heard from my war veteran clients.
I do receive several calls around this time of year. Families’ feedback has been, “We had no idea Dad ever did that! He never spoke to us about it at all.”
Would you recommend people reach out to you around Anzac and have their life story created? If so, why?
I encourage anyone with a family member who has been through a theatre of war to get in touch. Often, this is something they will find easier to tell someone outside their immediate clan.
I feel most privileged to be at their service when it comes to interviewing war veterans. One of my highlights was compiling Memories of Gallipoli, a collection of autographs, poetry, and love letters from soldiers on the HMS Galecka – the hospital ship that took the wounded and dying off the beaches of Gallipoli to safety over a under years ago. Sir Jerry Mateparae wrote a foreword, and the book was endorsed by the RSA.
I’m personally very proud of this unique collection of World War One history. Lest we forget.
Tell us a bit about you - how has your career to date landed you where you are today?
My background in corporate communications, a passion for history and experience with the elderly all lead me to this work.
As a teenager I worked in a retirement village as my after-school job, looking after the elderly and sometimes just sitting down and listening to them, which they craved. My corporate communications career began in newspapers, initially as a cadet photographer and then as a journalist – before the internet. This taught me interview, writing and research skills and the power of good photography.
Working in public relations and corporate communications gave me a wide range of skills including, experience in managing publications, clients and stakeholders, pipelines and budgets, message management to name a few.
A motivating factor to make the career shift was a huge respect for the knowledge and wisdom our elders have and the value of preserving it; and how much it means to them when they start talking and are listened too properly. The light shines brighter behind their eyes as they retell their life experiences, and I laugh and cry with them as I record it all for perpetuity.
Why did you start your own business, Forget Me Not Life Stories?
Forget Me Not Life Stories was founded by Christine Norton in 2009. I joined as the Bay of Plenty Writing Partner in 2015 and bought the business from Christine on April 1, 2020.
Since you joined the business in 2015, what trends or changes have you noticed over this time?
The trend I’ve noticed most is when it comes to interviewing. We use online video platforms more today than before. The move to online is growing and I developed the web story to cater for demand from clients with family and friends overseas. It’s too early to say if it’s more popular than a book as it’s a relatively new product, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops.
Our biggest increase is in demand for our core service because without a good story written well – there’s nothing to start with. Many people become overwhelmed when they start themselves because it’s often a bigger project than they thought.
What makes your business unique?
Our range of services. We help people record and preserve family history and we do this for companies as well. We’re branching out and trying new ways to make this more affordable and accessible. It’s not just beautiful coffee table books anymore.
In your first year of business, what challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
I bought the company right when COVID-19 hit. Access to our key clientele was prohibited and it was a very uncertain time. I looked for opportunities the restrictions presented; what a great time to write your life story when you can’t go anywhere!
And now, looking back, what have been your biggest learnings?
Slow down. Slowing down enabled me to make better decisions. Thinking is a process and when it involves big decisions it’s important to allow the full process to occur to its conclusion.
Professionally, this is a new concept to me as I’m used to making snap decisions in a hurry and often to deadlines. Since deciding to take a bit more time, the pressure has come off. I’m not sure how that works but it has helped me feel more on top of things personally too!
What’s the one misconception people have about your industry or business?
That we’re limited to books and it’s costly. I’m constantly in product development mode as this is an exciting space to work in. During my first year I introduced four new products to make it easier and more accessible for people to record their life stories:
- Webstories: A private website containing a client’s life story which they can send to family and friends overseas without the costs of design, print and postage. This could be an existing life story that we create into a website or once a life story is complete, we can create a webstory rather than a book.
- An Ebook for those who want to do it themselves which is free and accessible from our website.
- The Succinct Story, a package for those highly organised.
- The Memory Collection, which allows someone to get started one question/memory at a time.
Vouchers for family members are available to buy as a gift, and we offer mentoring to those who want to write it themselves and need a little help.
What’s the one thing you want people to know about your business?
We can help people preserve their history - everyone has a story to tell. It’s never too early to start, but it can easily become too late!
What are your goals (personal and professional) for the next six to 12 months?
Professionally: It’s an exciting space to work in and I’d like to spread the word more widely that we offer our services. I’d also like to explore how tech could help.
Personally: I’m focused on better time management.
When you’re not at work, how do you like to spend your time?
Out creating memories, of course!
Anything else you would like to add about your business or yourself?
Be passionate about what you service is – it will carry you through the bumpy times. Our elderly are the last generation to live without technology like we know it today. Once they’re gone – so too is all their wisdom and knowledge.
New members can find it hard meeting people at events, so we want to take some of the pressure off that awkward small talk by shining a light on your business through our member profiles.
Our member profiles are a great way to give the business community a taste of who you are and what you do, so when they see your face at one of our events they won’t hesitate to make that all-important introduction.