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Innovation & Job News

Local entrepreneur captures family memories between the covers of a book

Sarah Kappus Peck

Sarah Kappus Peck is her family's personal historian, fulfilling a need to record her older loved one's stories before they're lost forever. She's transformed her love for protecting memories into a business, one designed to preserve the histories of families for generations to come.
 
Called Yourstory Catcher, Peck's boutique personal history publishing service captures the lifelong journeys of its clients the old fashioned way - in a book. She offers them in a variety of styles and sizes, with pages full of photographs and other significant memorabilia.
 
"I'll go through family photos, artwork and recipes, then scan those in and write a caption," says Peck, a University Heights resident and mother of three. "I tell people you can own a book like anything you'd see in a book store or library."
 
Yourstory Catcher's offerings are priced out to reflect, among other factors, time spent interviewing subjects and their family members. For example, high-end book packages cost $20,000 and include 25 hours of interviews and preparation of up to 100 photos.
 
Peck, a former social worker with experience in geriatric care management, says it usually takes a few sessions to find a storytelling rhythm with her mostly elderly "narrators."
 
"I build up a rapport and trust each time out to elicit the  memories and stories most important to them," Peck says. "As we get comfortable, the stories just sort of unfold."
 
Not every tale is pleasant, as interviewees share regrets or past decisions they wished they had handled differently. However, most stories Peck documents are uplifting. Her favorite is about man who came to America at age 14 from the former Czechoslovakia. He used a dictionary to teach himself English, put himself through pharmaceutical school, and eventually started his own business.
 
"It was the perfect American dream story," says Peck.
 
A first-time entrepreneur, Peck researches, transcribes and edits each interview. The books are created by a professional designer, or by Peck herself using an online publication platform.
 
Peck launched Yourstory Catcher in 2011, spurred by reminiscences she heard during her social work daysOver the last five years, she has printed about a dozen volumes, finishing smaller books in two or three months, and working upwards of a year on more detailed projects.
 
Though the cost may not fit everyone budget, Peck believes encapsulating a well-lived life between two covers can be a cherished keepsake for all involved.
 
"People are surprised when the journey is therapeutic," says Peck. "This (book) can be an important thing for people to do for themselves." 

Read more articles by Douglas J. Guth.

Douglas J. Guth is a Cleveland Heights-based freelance writer and journalist. In addition to Fresh Water, his work has been published by Midwest Energy News, Kaleidoscope Magazine and Think, the alumni publication of Case Western Reserve University. A die-hard Cleveland sports fan, he also writes for the cynically named (yet humorously written) blog Cleveland Sports Torture.   
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