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Memories Served: Mary Johnston helps others document their stories

Memories Served: Mary Johnston helps others document their stories
December 2023

Mary Johnston has helped more than 30 people write their memoirs.

“I’m not a therapist, I’m a story midwife,” laughs Mary Johnston, owner of Tell Your Stories, a local business that creates heirloom books and helps people complete their memoirs.

Having spent 14 years teaching high school English and another 14 as an editor and personal historian, Johnston co-created her first memoir after learning of her father’s stage-four colon cancer diagnosis. “My daughter was just a year-and-a-half at that time, and I thought, ‘She won’t know my father.’ Right there on that call I said, ‘Dad, let’s write your memoir together,’” she explains. “It was so profound and helped me understand him better. And I think it gave him perspective about his life, as well as closure and meaning.” 

Inspired by the experience, Johnston founded Tell Your Stories in 2009, working with others to help them expand or polish preexisting work and connecting them with freelance transcribers, copy editors, and book designers. In addition to seeing the completion of more than 30 memoirs, Johnston has also hired genealogists to construct family trees and worked with clients to create collections of letters. 

Johnston says while clients often initially want to tell their stories to leave lessons for posterity, many end up discovering a lot about themselves during the process. “The act of speaking and being listened to truly has healing power,” she says. “I love the fact that I can produce something that people can hold, turn the pages of, and keep on their bookshelf.”