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Writers Whose Life Story Inspired Others

written by Eve Pearce - © January, 2013, all rights preserved

(Editor's note: Our lives are our stories and thankfully throughout history there have been many writers whose life story inspired others. A guest post by Eve Pearce gives us insight into some of these writers, including Thomas DeBaggio, Dave Pelzer and Anne Frank.)

Whatever your views on the afterlife, everyone wants to think they'll be remembered, and writing their life story is often the way they can pass memories, advice, or words of comfort to their loved ones. For some people it's a way of connecting with their family, but some people find that their life story has a greater impact on the world. Here are some famous stories that have truly stood the test of time.

Thomas DeBaggio

When former journalist and herb grower Thomas DeBaggio found out that he had early onset Alzheimer's disease, the thing that scared him most was losing his memories. He was only 57 when diagnosed, and determined to keep a record of his life, as well as educating others about the disease. While going through the process of seeing specialists and choosing an Alzheimer's medication, he penned Losing My Mind, which described feeling his brain 'self-destruct' from the disease. The book became popular thanks to its brutally honest account of how the illness manifested, combined with detailed memories of DeBaggio's life that he captured in the book so he wouldn't forget them. He later became a famous Alzheimer's advocate, appearing in many articles about the disease, and when he died in 2011, several newspapers ran obituaries for him. The popularity of DeBaggio's book showed that even the average person has a story to tell, and it continues to inspire people fighting the disease to this day.

Dave Pelzer

In the 1990s, it seemed like everyone had a copy of Pelzer's autobiography A Child Called It. The book described Pelzer's childhood abuse at the hands of his alcoholic, mentally disturbed mother. As well as inspiring many books in the misery memoir genre, Pelzer opened up the debate about child abuse, helping others come to terms with their past. Although there was much debate about the authenticity of the book, there's no denying that it made an impact in the literary world. Pelzer still works as an advocate and motivational speaker, using his past to help others.

Katherine Tarbox

It's hard to believe that in 2001, many people were unaware of the dangers of using internet chatrooms. Katherine Tarbox's autobiography changed that, raising awareness of the predators lurking online. Her book tells the story of how, at the age of 13, she went to meet a man she'd be chatting online with. She believed him to be a kind-hearted 23 year old who had comforted her when she felt lonely. However, the man turned out to be a paedophile who sexually assaulted Tarbox. Her story shocked the world, and led to many parents putting tougher restrictions on the sites their children could access. It also led to her attacker receiving one of the first convictions for child abuse related to the internet. As an adult, Tarbox has used her story to head a campaign, stopping young people from meeting their online friends in real life.

Anne Frank

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank is perhaps one of the most famous memoirs of the Holocaust, and is still taught in schools around the world. It was edited together from Frank's Diary and notes, and first published just a few years after her death. It captured the public's imagination, showing the horrors of the holocaust through the eyes of an ordinary young girl, and instantly became a commercial and critical success. In 1957, the Anne Frank Foundation was formed, turning the house where her family hid in Amsterdam into a museum. There have also been trusts set up in her name around the world, with the Anne Frank trust in the UK educating schoolchildren and prisoners about the holocaust.

One thing that all these people have in common is that they weren't planning to become professional writers. They were simply ordinary people, and when something extraordinary happened to them, they coped with it by telling their story. Many famous memoirs don't even start out as something for the public to read, they are just personal notes and thoughts that can then be brought together by a professional writer and editor. Next time you're going through a challenging phase, use some of the above writers as inspiration, using your skills as a coping device. You never know where this exercise might lead, and it could become the basis of your life story. 


Everybody has a story to tell!
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