Testimonials

Mary did a remarkable job working with our mother to tell the story of her life. She began the process with a series of interviews that made Mom feel very comfortable telling Mary anything and everything about her life. The beauty of the finished product was in how well Mary organized sometimes disconnected stories into a series of chapters that captured the major aspects of our mother’s life and accomplishments. I learned things about my mother I had not known. My mother is very proud of the book. Her extended family, friends, and members of our community have loved reading it. I appreciate Mary’s wonderful writing, her attention to detail, and her commitment to keep the project on track so that my mother’s extraordinary life story got told. As I worked with Mary to revise and edit the book, while also adding pictures with important captions, Mary was a complete professional—a delight to work with at every step. I highly recommend Mary’s work!”

– Laura L. Bush, Ph.D

“At the age of seventy-three, with some physical weaknesses and mental limitations due to a stroke, I wanted to write about my life to leave a bit of myself for my grandchildren, who are very young and live far away. I had not written much for others to read and my mind was slipping. Until I spoke with Mary, I was not sure I could record my life story. She explained how we could do it. Across a couple of months she would interview me on the phone. (We live a couple thousand miles apart so meeting in person wasn’t possible.) After transcribing the interviews, she would weave together my stories. Then it would be my turn to make the changes I wanted. Despite my challenges with focus and memory, I’ve been able to tell my story with Mary as my writing partner and mentor. I  never could have done it without her.”

– Blanche Johnston, Retired law librarian, Salt Lake City, Utah

“Mary has helped me with a variety of family history writing projects. After my husband was diagnosed with a terminal illness, she recorded conversations with him and wrote his memoirs based on these interviews. Later she organized and edited his letters and talks. Mary works well from transcription to finished text, keeping the authenticity of the speaker’s voice and organizing material in a cohesive fashion.

Mary also organized and edited two volumes of family letters, bringing order to material that family members valued but did not have the time and/or skills to complete. She is helping us preserve voices from my family’s past.”

– Charlotte Cannon, Chicago, IL, Retired reading teacher, mother of four and grandmother of fifteen

“Without Mary’s help and encouragement I would have never started writing my autobiography. Being foreign born and not trusting my English language skills, I needed her expertise. She took on the challenge of pulling together my story and giving it the direction it needed. She also helped me recall and write long forgotten incidents. I am almost finished with my life story and look forward, with Mary’s help, to seeing it published.”

– Margit Benton, Charleston, SC, Hotel Manager

“I’m writing my autobiography. When Mary received my book, the story was disjointed and unorganized. She helped me fill in gaps in my timeline and expound on parts that were not fully explained. Thanks to Mary’s expertise, my book is now close to being completed. If I had found her earlier, perhaps it would not have taken me five years to write my story.”

– Val Johnson, Charleston, SC, IT specialist

” Without the expertise and guidance of Mary, my memoir, Eva ‘n Me, would still be a rough draft. She is the consummate editor and writing coach.  Struggling to shape my book, which is now in the publishing stage, I called on Mary to do three things.

First, to examine my manuscript with a fresh eye for detailed editing.  In the process, she hammered my ubiquitous clichés and dashes, and polished both punctuation and language usage—all things difficult to spot in your own writing, even if you’ve taught English for over thirty years as I have!

Second, to help with clarity of purpose and continuity throughout my fifteen chapters. Peppering me with pertinent questions, she forced me to rethink specific passages as well as the overall message I wanted to convey.  Together we reorganized chapters, decided where to put scenes, and what to delete. (She’s ruthless on the latter!)

Third, to hold my feet to the fire. I’m a procrastinator. In addition, I have trouble with closure, so I’d still be tweaking the text on my deathbed were it not for Mary’s insistence that we keep to a writing schedule.

No athlete has enjoyed a more rigorous coach or one with more encouraging words.  She believed in my story, and it showed in all of the energy she put into our sessions. Mary met all of my expectations of a writing coach with candor, caring, and supreme professionalism.”

– Angela Williams, Charleston, SC, Life Coach, Writing Teacher and Author

Mary was easy to work with and thoughtful about how to best achieve our end goal (i.e., facilitating my dad writing his autobiography). Mary did a great job of not only structuring and editing his writing but also adding meaningful elements like timelines, newspaper articles, quotes, as well as interviews with his kids and others that made the autobiography very accessible and easy to read. The interviews that Mary conducted were great! (I was one of several that she interviewed.) Mary was easy to talk to and share my experiences with. She was always punctual and efficient; she knew what information she needed and made it easy for us to be a part of it. I know my dad really enjoyed the entire process and trusted her input. She did a great job of making my dad’s history interesting, engaging, and a true representation of his life.

–Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, Chicago, Illinois, Marriage therapist

After listening to a World War II documentary, my wife, Linda, and I decided to create a book with my father’s 200-plus letters to my mom, written while he was stationed in Europe in 1945 and ’46. We also had his diary, numerous photographs, Army uniforms, mementos, newspaper articles he’d sent home, and books about the 82nd Airborne to which he had belonged. We knew we needed help to organize all of this material. Mary, recommended by a close friend who had worked with her on a memoir, came to our house to assess the project. When she saw the mess of stuff on the dining room table, she said, “We can do this.”  We hired her on the spot! 

The first thing we worked on was computer communication. Mary was very patient with us old folks as she introduced us to Google sheets to organize and edit the written documents and Freedcamp to organize and caption the photos. Mary read all of the letters, suggested which to include, and places where material could be deleted. With her help, we selected various items mentioned in the letters that needed further explanation. I wrote footnotes for some and textboxes for others. 

Next we selected newspaper articles. Someone on Mary’s team redesigned these to fit the dimensions of the book. Mary also helped us create the introduction and epilogue. When the text and photos were ready, the book designer, Nicole, submitted design samples. Mary, Linda and I discussed what worked best, and Nicole took it from there, differentiating between Dad’s letters, text boxes, V-mails, diary remarks, and the text that I wrote with unique fonts and design treatments.

We couldn’t be happier with the final product. It is a story of love between my parents and our family and friends. It also shows the love of our country which has unfortunately been forgotten by many of our citizens and leaders. We commend Mary and her team for their organization, team work, and work ethic. 

We have had nothing but positive comments from people who have read the book. Bill Mulligan, the son of my dad’s best friend wrote us this comment: “Mary Johnston’s introduction was brilliant. In plain language, she sets your book apart from so many “typical” books of that era. The whole thing is a blockbuster. (I’ve written a number of history booklets and want you to know I especially appreciate that you not only accomplished it, but with excellence-and then some.)”

–John and Linda Common

 

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