18 Oct 2018

Real people, real stories: a Wellington writer's bespoke book business

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:27 pm on 18 October 2018
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Photo: Books Bestowed

Three years ago, Helen O'Connor was working in a law firm in London – "wasn't lovin' my job" – when she first got the idea of writing a bespoke book.

Her beloved dad's birthday was coming up and she couldn't find a gift that was meaningful and special enough.

O'Connor started working on a whimsical story of his life – "sorry, law firm in London" – then hand wrote the words into a notebook and illustrated it.

Now she has a business called Books Bestowed creating special personalised books for occasions such as new babies, birthdays, weddings and anniversaries.

Books Bestowed is a bit of a family affair.

When the handwriting required got out of control, O'Connor created a design template for the books with her sister.

Her mum edits the books and her dad loves his so much that he carries it around in a ziplock bag to show people.

Writer Helen O'Connor

Writer Helen O'Connor Photo: Books Bestowed

A sample page from the book 'Augusta Rose' by Books Bestowed

A sample page from the book 'Augusta Rose' by Books Bestowed Photo: Books Bestowed

When O'Connor is writing a whole life story – which can make a book of up to 10,000 words – she spends a lot of time interviewing family members.

Sometimes she calls on the "family historian" to help her out with names, dates and events.

"I end up with about 25,000 words of notes that I have to turn into a story. It can be pretty hefty."

She sticks to the facts, but there is a little artistic license in the stories, she says.

"You have to let go of belief a little bit."

O'Connor loves creating the books and hopes to bring some other writers into the business within the next couple of years.

"It's a privilege to be a part of a family's world for a while."

Helen Oconnor's unpublished short story Drunk Girls was selected for the Short Story Live event at last year's LitCrawl Wellington.

You can read it here.

Until 28 October, you can submit your own short story for this year's Short Story Club Live event here.

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