Meet the Staff
President and Founder
I founded MODERN MEMOIRS, Inc. in 1994, following twenty years as a writer for and editor of award-winning print newsmedia and public radio commentary. My mother was my inspiration. I wanted to understand and document her personal history. In part, it was a way to honor her and those who came before her. In part, it was a way to ensure that future generations would know and remember her and those who came before her. In doing so, I found I'd hit a chord that reverberated for many other people as well. They wanted to gather and preserve their own or a loved one's personal history.
Since then, my small company has self-published over 160 memoirs and family histories for clients in the U.S., England, France, Israel, Colombia, and Spain. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve so many people in this profound way.
When I left the newspaper world to start this business, it was a new idea. I decided to bring together like-minded personal historians so that we could share cutting-edge theories and technologies concerning memoirs, the nature of memory, the best technologies, papers, contracts, and so on. I founded the Association of Personal Historians (1995), an international trade association. After the APH and my own business were established, I co-founded the American Tribute Center (2001), a non-profit that specialized in pro bono writing and private publishing of Tribute Books for bereaved families of 9/11.
Born and raised in West Hempstead, New York, I graduated from Smith College in 1971 with a major in religious studies and a minor in music. The next step in my personal journey was an exploration of the differences between needs and choices, going back-to-the-land without electricity or water for several years. At some point, my name morphed from Cathy Marsha Lebow to Kitty Axelson-Berry.
I became certified in conflict transformation by the Conflict Transformation Across Cultures (CONTACT) graduate program at the School for International Training, Brattleboro, Vermont (2013); this included solo travel in Rwanda, South Korea, and the Middle East to understand more about peace, truth, justice, reconciliation, and non-violent activism.
Photograph by Julie Moran, Eyestory Photography (2016)
Alison "Ali" de Groot
I have been with Modern Memoirs since 2003. I hold a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Tufts University, and a master’s in teaching from the School for International Training. For 15 years prior to discovering Modern Memoirs, I taught English, ESOL, and writing at the university level in the U.S. and abroad.
I have always felt passionate about writing and met Kitty Axelson-Berry in 1997 at a workshop she was leading on Bereavement Book writing. The first and most arduous project was a memoir of my late mother, entitled Learning to Speak (1999). Then I became hooked. Through Kitty and her American Tribute Center (ATC), I volunteered to co-write a tribute book for the bereaved family of a 9/11 victim. This book, entitled Sands of Pearl, was published by the ATC (2004) and given to the family as a gift. One thing led to the next, and it was clear to me that working at Modern Memoirs was a true calling.
To the job, I bring my cultural awareness, sense of compassion, and undivided attention to clients. I have a deep respect for the healing and transformative properties of writing as well as the value of memoirs and family histories.
To encourage others and to keep my own craft alive, I have hosted First Person! First Night!, a monthly public reading event for memoirists, held here at the Modern Memoirs office for over a decade. I recently published an anthology of these writers, entitled The Reader's Chair (2018). When not at work, I’m usually swimming, writing, or dancing—currently modern dance, Kazdance, jazz, Sevillanas, and improvisational movement.
Design and Publishing Associate
I graduated in May of 2014 from UMass Amherst and the Commonwealth Honors College with a bachelor's degree in English and a creative writing specialization. Upon graduating, I was eager to surround myself with writing, language, and stories. At the same time, Modern Memoirs was searching for an editor and designer. After a serendipitous communication at our favorite coffee shop, The Black Sheep, an employee linked our respective searches. We were introduced, we clicked, and we began working together immediately.
I have been a graphic designer, editor, social media manager, and de facto I.T. person for Modern Memoirs, Inc. since early 2015 and have loved every moment of it. Working closely with our clients and hearing their stories every day is a joy, and a reminder that there is beauty and humor and awe to be found in every human life. I am excited to continue working with Modern Memoirs while pursuing hobbies that include fiction writing, dancing, and guitar playing.
Freelancers and Subcontractors
Copy Editor and Proofreader
And in memoriam: Arthur McLean, proofreader extraordinaire, gentle soul, who once wrote:
“I want you know that I’ve never had a better job than Modern Memoirs and I’ll be at the front of the line of those ready to help it grow (and I offer much more than major-league proofreading experience at The Wall Street Journal, Modern Memoirs, and the Advocate newspapers). Mostly, though, I can’t think of a better place to be than at Modern Memoirs.”