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Ghostwriter Loren Stephens and Writing Your Story

Since 2008, Stephens, the founder of Write Wisdom and Bright Star Memoirs, has collaborated with authors to complete more than 40 books.
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March 1, 2024
Photo by Daniel Reichert Photography

Ghostwriter Loren Stephens has been fortunate enough to find her calling twice. First, as director of development for the Anti-Defamation League, where she raised $4 million dollars annually to support the critical work of the organization; she was there for 15 years. Now, she’s a go-to “collaborator” for those who need help writing their stories.

“If we look at our history [as Jews] and look at being driven out of where we lived, and being part of the Diaspora,” Stephens told the Journal. “What can we take with us that is intangible, but [stories] tell people who we are.”

Since 2008, Stephens, the founder of Write Wisdom and Bright Star Memoirs, has collaborated with authors to complete more than 40 books. Her latest collaboration is, “We’re Live in Five: My Extraordinary Life in Television” by Emmy-winning TV producer/director Jeff Margolis. Not all of her clients are Jewish and not even all her projects are nonfiction, though she started out that way.

“In the beginning it was all memoir, whether it was how a CEO starts his company [or a client] living through the Holocaust,” she said. “But I have now written two novels based on true stories, and I’m starting on a third one. If you had asked me back in the day, would you ever be writing a novel for your clients, I couldn’t have imagined it.”

Stephens is also the author of the historical novel, “All Sorrows Can Be Borne.” Inspired by true events, the book tells the story of her husband’s Japanese birth parents and their sacrifice to give him a better life. The novel, she said, is “based on my Japanese husband’s family history, which is fascinating and horrifying and sad.”:

Our stories and those of our ancestors are the most valuable part of who we are, she believes. She gives the example of Henry Louis Gates, Jr., host of “Finding Your Roots.” “He turns on the faucet every time someone comes on his show, because he tells them where they came from, who they were [and] who their family was,” Stephens said.

Guests are in awe of their family history: the good and bad. “We don’t necessarily think it’s wonderful … to hear about what it was like to live in Russia and have the Cossacks come and destroy a town, but we can think to ourselves, ‘There, but for the grace of God [go I],’” Stephens said.

“And the other thing is,” she said, “How brave [were] these people that they were able to escape and find their way to America, so that today you and I can sit here and talk and be happy and grateful for their journey.”

For those interested in writing their own history, Stephens shared some recommendations. “Take a notebook with you wherever you go,” she said. “Write things down that come into your head: you don’t know if they’ll end up in the book, [but] something will spark an idea.” Also, write down your chronology from the time you were born until today. Create a roadmap and circle the parts that are most meaningful. “A memoir, unlike an autobiography, isn’t every little thing about your life, it’s the moments that stand out for you that … have high emotional charge to them,” she said. “They may be turning points in your life where you went left instead of right; it’s the road taken or the road not taken.”

Another way to trigger your memories is to go through photo albums. “Land on those photographs that really speak to you, where your eyes well up or you smile or you think, ‘Oh, God, I remember that day so clearly, I don’t even have to look at the picture,’” she said.

Above everything else, Stephens says to remember: everyone has a story to tell. Don’t listen to naysayers. Don’t let life constantly get in the way. “Give yourself permission to write the book that you’ve always wanted to write,” she said.

One more thing: “Write the book as if you’re writing it for one person, not a universe of people,” Stephen said. “Pick somebody, who you feel is an attentive listener, who really wants to know who you are and what you’ve been through in your life and what you have to share.”

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