Olivia Savoie, co-founder of Raconteur Story Writing Services, has built a successful enterprise preserving lives and legacies through the written word.
In this Discover Lafayette podcast with host Jan Swift, Olivia shared her lifelong love of writing and the joy she has always felt when in the company of older people. She has incorporated these passions into a business built upon gathering information and photos which result in heirloom stories and tribute books.
A high school teacher encouraged Olivia to be a biographer so she could do the things she loved and utilize her talents to the best and highest use. She took that sound advice and recounted that on the same day she graduated from UL – Lafayette in 2016, she “walked out of her last final exam and into her first client’s home to do a life story interview.” Raconteur means “storyteller” and Olivia selected this French name for her business as it seemed a good fit for her business as well as a loving memory of her grandmother who spoke French.
Joshua Savoie, husband and co-founder of Raconteur, “does everything but write the life histories”, handling the scheduling, helping with the photographs, and working with the families. He also brought banking experience to the upstart business. The two met at church, and Joshua is a 2015 graduate of UL – Lafayette.
Raconteur produces four types of books: (1)”Life” storybooks which capture the life events and memories of a living person; (2) “Tribute” books which honor a person who has passed away; (3)”Couple’s” Life Story which captures the stories of an elderly couple, starting with tales of each of them as a youth, moving onto to their love story, and then the path their lives took together; and (4) Corporate Histories which document a company’s rise to prominence and details of its longevity.
Olivia conducts in-home interviews to gather information, and will typically spend three hours per day over a four to five day period of time. She asks between 200 to 300 customized questions, depending on the type of book being prepared, and provides a custom photo list to guide the client on the type of photos they should gather in preparation for the book. A scanner is used to copy the photos while in the client’s home, and Olivia emphasized that she never takes precious pictures off-premises. Once the information is gathered, the Raconteur team works for a few weeks to compile the story into book form.
“It is important to keep the voice of the person, their quips, their way of communicating as their story is told,” Olivia Savoie of Raconteur Story Writing Services says. The books are between 50 to 200 pages long, depending on the type of work commissioned. She has gotten to know Louisiana’s unique culture well and hears recurring stories such as people who got in trouble for speaking French or the “hog killings.” Photo by Romero and Romero.
Most of Olivia’s clients are in their 70s, 80s, and 90s. A few have always wanted to write a book and her assistance provides just the right amount of help to get the job done. Most, however, are just interested in documenting their story to hand down to their descendants and Olivia and her team will write the whole book based upon the information provided through the oral interviews. “It is important to keep the voice of the person, their quips, their way of communicating as their story is told,” Olivia says. The books are between 50 to 200 pages long, depending on the type of work commissioned.
Raconteur’s business has grown and Olivia travels across the Southeast to meet with clients personally. About 2/3 of her work is done in Louisiana, throughout the state.
A favorite quote is by George Meredith: “Memoirs are the back stairs of history.” Olivia says that many of her clients built early Lafayette and she loves hearing about the visions that they put in place. Iconic businessman Maurice Heymann pops up often in the stories and tales of old streets such as “College Avenue” (now University Avenue) or memories of how it used to take two hours to travel to Opelousas are stark reminders of how times have changed.
When Olivia asks her clients what is most important to them, the common denominator is that people always talk about how grateful they are for their spouse, their children and grandchildren, and their faith. She shares, “It brings me into the present and reminds me of what’s important over and over again.”
Common advice shared by the elderly: “Don’t go to bed angry.” “Do what you love.” “Once you raise them, you have to let them raise their own children without your input.”
While some people know they have interesting stories to share, others may feel that they have been forgotten in their old age and left behind. Olivia remembered a 106-year-old woman who thought she didn’t have much of a story to tell. As she began to reminisce, however, she realized that she had lived an interesting life. One fellow, when asked the 60 questions about his childhood, ended up sharing information that his wife had never heard; Olivia smiled as she remembered the hours they spent laughing at all the wonderful memories.
Olivia Savoie is delightful and exudes an obvious love for her avocation of writing biographies. Her books are beautiful tributes to beautiful lives. To learn more about her services, please visit https://www.raconteurwriting.com/