Nancy Shohet West ’84 has been telling people’s stories for years, notably as a feature contributor for The Boston Globe, an alumnae/i profile writer for Concord Academy magazine, and most recently, a producer of memoirs for clients interested in preserving family stories for future generations. Many of West’s memoir clients are senior citizens whose children have reached out to her to help their parents immortalize precious memories. West also writes adoption stories for parents wishing to capture their experience with the adoption process as it is happening, and family cookbooks for people choosing to depict their familial bonds through shared recipes.
“Everyone knows someone who should write a memoir,” said West, whose thriving business has grown largely through word of mouth and through her frequent speaking engagements. On Sunday, May 15, she will be the featured speaker at the annual meeting of the Friends of the Council on Aging in Carlisle, Mass., where she lives with her husband, Richard West, and their two teenage children, Tim and Holly.
West wrote a memoir of her own in 2010, about a year when she and her son — then 9 — pledged to run at least 1 mile together every day for a year. “The book is really about parenting and running,” said West. “At that point, Tim and I didn’t have a lot in common. I was looking for something we could enjoy together that would bring us closer. Tim thought this project could be interesting, so we set out to do it, and we ended up continuing for a second year.” Since the day she stepped off with Tim in 2007, West has maintained a daily running streak that often extends to 10 miles on weekends.
Turning her personal writing into a memoir business was a gradual process, and West said she received valuable guidance from fellow CA grad Peter Blacklow ’87. “I give Peter a lot of credit for helping me make some early decisions that helped the business get on its feet,” she said.
West has been willing to travel to interview her memoir clients and has produced books for residents of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, New York, Colorado, and Florida. “I connect with people in person or by phone as many times as we think are needed in order to tell the story well and fully, “ she said. “Essentially, my role is to listen closely and understand the subject’s personality, style, and hopes for the memoir.” She illustrates the books with photos contributed by family members, who are involved in every phase of the project. The final product is a full-color book in either soft or hard cover. On receiving their copies, clients regularly let West know that the entire process brought their families together in new and sometimes unexpected ways.
West hails from a deeply rooted CA family. Her father, Dick Shohet, was a CA English teacher and department head in the 1970s, older sister Lauren ’82, is a professor of English literature at Villanova University, and younger sister Sarah ’87, is an administrator at Georgetown University. All are featured in a cookbook memoir West produced in 2014 with her mother, Carolyn Shohet — a master cook and author of Carolyn’s Kitchen, originally published in 1989, with illustrations by the late Ronald Richardson, a CA teacher emeritus. The family cookbook, entitled Recipes from Mill Iron Farm, pays tribute to the parental homestead in Carlisle, where Dick and Carolyn raise organic beef, and includes favorite recipes from “three generations of cooks and eaters.” It is filled with luscious recipes for any family and is available for purchase on Amazon.
For more information about Nancy Shohet West Editorial Consulting & Memoir Services, visit nancyshohetwest.com. West also welcomes personal email from the CA community at firstname.lastname@example.org.