I subscribe to a freelancer listserv and every week there's a request for a writer to ghost or "polish" a memoir or a novel about pioneer ancestors or dad's World War II experiences. I reviewed dozens of these manuscripts at my first editing job and by the tenth or maybe the twentieth it was apparent that the stories were all interesting, but much more interesting to the family than to a potential audience of readers.
We had a stack in the slush pile that were carefully typewritten and bound with a nice title page -- "The Johnson-Inglemoor Family History". Maybe it is fascinating to the family to know how great-grandpa and grandma got to Canada or the USA; met, married, had trials and tribulations, and ultimately prospered. Cue the three-generations family reunion photo, newest baby in great-grandma's lap.
But it’s BORING to the rest of us: we've got our own family stories. How is yours different?
The "Als" (see blog post from May 28, 2012) used to call these manuscripts R2R (rags-to-riches), or 40AM (forty-acres-and-a-mule), or IMG (immigrant makes good).
There was only one manuscript among the dozens of R2R, 40AM and IMG manscripts that intrigued the "Als". In Chapter Two the author wrote, "There was a rumor that great-grandpa had a whole 'nother family back in Kentucky..."