When loved ones pass, the most cherished memories are often stories told through simple conversations and moments captured in old photographs.
Even before those we love are gone, we hold dear items passed down through generations and letters written years before. We share these stories; they are a part of us.
Storyteller Olivia Savoie understands this firsthand and hopes to help families document their histories and stories while they still can.
Savoie is lifelong writer and has always had a penchant for asking questions.
When her grandfather passed away in 2014, she and her family discovered an item that would alter the course of Savoie life.
“When I was much younger, [12 years old], I asked my grandfather interview questions and documented his answers,” Savoie recalled. “After he passed away, it was so important to my dad and my aunts and uncles to have that.
“I kind of thought, ‘While the rest of my grandparents are alive, I need to get deeper into this.’”
She formulated 100 questions for each of her grandparents and interviewed each of her grandmothers in the summer of 2016.
With a bit of publishing experience already under her belt, she thought, “Why not bring their stories to life in a book?”
This moment has brought Savoie to where she is today, sitting and listening to stories of families in Cedar Grove and Hillsborough.
As the co-founder of Raconteur Story Writing Services, alongside her husband, Joshua Savoie, she collaborates with a team of editors and book designers to create theses cherished keepsakes.
Born in Lafayette, Louisiana, and a full-time traveler, Savoie has come to North Carolina, where her sister is living, to continue telling love stories, family stories, and writing memoirs of the South.
After interviewing her grandparents, she created a book, adding old photographs and letters.
“I saw all of my families’ reactions and my friends started saying their grandparents would be perfect for this,” Savoie recalled. Her friends asked her where they could find someone to produce something like this for them.
Savoie began researching people to refer to her friends, coming up empty-handed.
“I was like, ‘Wait, maybe this is what I’m meant to do.’”
Now on her 22nd book, Savoie doesn’t plan on looking back.
“I’m certain this is what I was made to do,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. It all started with my grandparents.”
It takes about one month to produce one of these books, which are written from the storyteller’s point of view. Savoie takes the time to get to know her interviewee and their voice.
“Stepping into their shoes, getting to know them and their her tone of voice,” Savoie explains, “and their way of explaining things, so when their families read the book, it sounds like their family member talking.”
So far in Orange County, she has written about an elderly man who was a CPA and who was also married to his wife for 60 years. His children contacted Savoie to write their story. She asked him about his career, special family stories, and about childhood memories that otherwise would be lost. He spoke about his memories with his grandfather as a child, as his grandfather passed when he was just 11 years old.
“There are sweet memories in childhood, it’s not all about the big accomplishments in life,” Savoie said of what she has discovered people most want to reflect upon. “It’s more about the small stuff, that’s what we document.”
She has also written the story of a couple married for many decades, interviewing them first separately. In writing the book, the narration hops back and forth between each spouse.
Savoie is currently working on a project in Hillsborough, and has plans set for other stories in the coming months.
“It’s a really weird feeling to know that I’ll be an expert on their life very soon, but I don’t know them yet,” she said.
Savoie writes stories of people still living, but does tribute books as well, telling the story of someone who has passed away.
“At Raconteur, we believe that every time a man dies, a library burns,” their website reads. “We strive to preserve as many libraries of stories as possible. Whether the storyteller is a stay at home mother, businessman, educator, farmer, or anything in-between, each individual story is invaluable to families today and tomorrow.”
Each book is 50-120 pages and can hold up to 75 photos. She writes the book right after the interviews, spending 2-4 weeks immersed in the writing phase.
“It’s their legacy, really,” Savoie said. “These books, we hope will be around in 80 years to inform their great-great-great-great grandchildren. It’s a very sacred process and I don’t take that honor lightly. I give it my best shot and I’m very thorough.”
For more information, visit https://www.raconteurwriting.com/about-us.