While working as a journalist, Caron Kemp was used to hearing people’s life stories, with many proving to be fascinating tales of courage, loss and hope. But the nature of her job meant she often had to cut their tales short to fit the space allocated.
“People like to talk. They like to share their histories, to recount both happy and sad memories, to look back at their own varied past,”
Kemp explains. “Many people I have interviewed for features or news stories told me they wished we could have had more time together.
“All this led me to the belief that I could provide them with a service, whereby I listen with no time constraint, help them to uncover even buried memories with no pressure or agenda, and work with them to produce a legacy that would last beyond their lifetime.”
And so, 18 months ago, The Story Capsule was born. Kemp, 32, has other reasons for starting the business, which she runs from home, visiting clients when conducting the interviews.
“Setting up The Story Capsule is against the backdrop of my own personal ancestry,” Kemp admits. “Having lost all four of my grandparents before I was five, I truly wish I knew more about their lives and my family history.
“It makes me see how important it can be for future generations to have the stories of previous generations documented.
“Once the moments in time pass, The Story Capsule can help to preserve the memories, like a time capsule, for generations to come. These are not stories for publishing but rather private, personal tales for families to cherish.”
Kemp spends about four months visiting clients in their own homes once a week for around an hour at a time, talking through their life stories, with the clients setting the pace.
She then spends a further three months or so writing each life story in the first person, so it reads as if the client wrote it. Then Kemp and her client edit the story together to ensure they are happy with the content before enlisting the help of Kemp’s designer to format the layout, including photographic enhancements. The result is then professionally hand-bound and presented to the client to give to nearest and dearest.
The most recent book Kemp worked on documented the “full and varied life of an 89-year-old gentleman who had served in the Navy during the war before embarking on a working life that included time spent modelling, in architecture, as a salesman and a hypnotherapist”.
Kemp continues: “All these ups and downs were held together by the personal stories of education, marriage, deaths, births, grandchildren and thoughts about the future.
“The book was extremely well received by both the client and the family and has been the catalyst for conversations between them that hadn’t previously occurred.”
Kemp, who studied philosophy at Nottingham University and worked as a journalist and editor for regional titles and as a publicist for charities, says The Story Capsule has a dual purpose.
“For the family, the end product — the book — is a beautiful keepsake they will treasure for generations to come and a lasting legacy of their personal family history. “But for the client, the subject, the process of talking and remembering and all the emotions that come with it, having someone sit with them on a weekly basis solely for them, is a gift that money can’t buy.”
By the end of the process, Kemp has often forged a genuine rapport with her clients and they trust her and ultimately take enormous enjoyment from the process. This, no doubt is reflected in the fact that Kemp, who runs the business while taking care of her three children, takes her time over the entire process and there are no hidden extra charges.
“The cost incurred by the client allows for as long as it takes to interview and as many words as it takes to write the story with due care and attention,” explains the Pinner United Synagogue member.
“I don’t want my clients to feel like I am clock-watching when I visit them, as some meetings will naturally take longer. I want them to feel at ease and confident that I am working with them to get the best end result, however long that takes and however many words that includes.”
While there are, of course, other companies out there who will also print people’s stories, Kemp believes she offers a bespoke and professional product.
“I pride myself on being personable, approachable and a good listener and this allows me to cultivate the finest of rapports with my clients, where there is trust, sincerity, and humour,” she says.
“In turn, this means I am able to write the story fully, accurately and with their personality shining through. I also use top designers and bookbinders and together we create a book that is of the highest quality and a true piece of art.
“As a professional writer, writing a book is always a moment of great personal pride and at the end of a Story Capsule book I do quietly take a moment to enjoy the achievement. That said, I also take pride in the gift a Story Capsule book gives to the clients; the friendship, the time afforded to them and the listening ears.”