Meet the Staff

Kitty (left) and Ali (right) toast Modern Memoirs’ new owners, Megan and Sean St. Marie.

Kitty (left) and Ali (right) toast Modern Memoirs’ new owners, Megan and Sean St. Marie.


Megan st. Marie

President and Co-owner

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I am a seventh-generation Vermonter, but I’ve lived in Massachusetts for most of my adult life, ever since I enrolled as an undergraduate at Smith College. I earned my MA in Children’s Literature at Simmons University, where I’ve held adjunct and contract faculty appointments since 2003. Under my maiden name, Megan Dowd Lambert, I am a published children’s book author and scholar, and my work in that field is rooted in a passion for helping others share and respond to stories. In fact, much of my career in Children’s Literature revolves around the interactive Whole Book Approach storytime model I developed in association with The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

My investment in actively listening to children respond to stories through the Whole Book Approach now translates into my commitment to carefully listen to Modern Memoirs clients as they tell their own stories through personal history work. In many ways, this new career path is leading me to follow in my parents’ footsteps. My mother, Linda Dowd Lambert, provides me with a model of respecting and valuing the stories and wisdom of older generations through her decades-long career as a nurse, hospice provider, and elder caregiver. In his retirement from public school administration, my father, Raymond Alfred Lambert, has immersed himself in genealogy research, tracing our Lambert family history back to 16th century France, and to 60 of the roughly 800 Filles du Roi (King’s Daughters) who emigrated from France to Québec in the 17th century, as well as many 18th-century Acadians impacted by Le Grand Dérangement (the Great Expulsion). The website he maintains with his research is a treasure trove of stories, photographs, documents, and inspiration.

While both my parents provide support and encouragement in this new career venture, it was the experience of editing my uncle Hank Lambert’s self-published memoir about growing up as one of thirteen children born to a French-Canadian family in a northern Vermont border-town that first drew me to the personal historian field. This work not only taught me a great deal about our family, it affirmed the value of life-review writing and intergenerational storytelling as means of self-discovery and deepening familial connections. Inspired by my uncle’s writing and my father’s genealogy research, I devoted a 2018 sabbatical to a variety of writing projects rooted in family history, which illuminated the value of noncommercial publishing options for preservation and personal purposes, as opposed to saleable texts.

Now I am eager to support Modern Memoirs’ ongoing work of Commissioned and Assisted Memoirs while also expanding the company’s services to offer smaller-scale projects to a wider range of clients. In particular, the honor of providing comfort to family through the writing of obituaries, while paying tribute to the legacies of those who’ve passed away, has inspired me to offer commissioned or assisted writing of the following: Obituaries requested by family after a loved one has died; Advance Obituaries for clients wishing to plan ahead; Eulogies for delivery at memorial services; and Ethical Wills or Legacy Letters to help clients articulate their intangible legacies of values, dreams, and hopes for loved ones. Clients may also explore options for packaging these brief writings into small Tribute Books to share at memorial services or at other times. And, because personal and family histories are made up of many special moments that might benefit from writing and editorial assistance, I hope clients will also call on Modern Memoirs for Milestone Editing and Writing Services for remarks to be delivered at weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, retirements, and other occasions. These writings can also be compiled into keepsake Celebration Books and Festschrifts.  

I embark on this new career path with great hopes for how it will enable me and my husband, Sean St. Marie, to model lives of purpose and partnership to the seven children in our blended family, aged 1 through 22. They fill our lives with stories, and we regard this new venture as a dream-come-true chapter in our lives together.


Sean St. Marie

Director of Operations & Archival Projects and Co-owner

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I was a forty-something, never-wed bachelor with no kids when my wife, Megan, and I met in 2013. We married the next year, and I became stepfather to her five children, then aged 8-17, four of whom are adoptees. We’ve since welcomed two more sons into the world, bringing our brood to four sons and three daughters, aged 1-22 at the time of our July 2019 purchase of Modern Memoirs. This moment marked the bittersweet end of my three-year stint as a stay-at-home dad, a role I can honestly describe as the most rewarding and demanding one I’ve ever played.

I’m a book-lover like Megan, which led me to complete a minor in English Literature along with my BS in Business Management from Westfield State University. More recently, I earned an MS in Library and Information Science with an Archives Management concentration from Simmons University. My professional background in community banking provides me with the skills and experience necessary to oversee the general operations of the business, while my archivist training positions me to support clients’ research needs, particularly in the area of Genealogical Research and Family History Preservation. I can also tackle Personal Archives Management tasks for clients, having completed archival organization and exhibition projects for family collections at Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst Libraries and the Jones Library Special Collections in Amherst, Massachusetts. Perhaps you’re preparing a donation, or you need to downsize, or maybe you’re managing the affairs of a loved one. No matter what circumstances provoke your interest in these services, I will provide confidential review, preservation, organization, and digitization of the documents and other materials in your possession. If clients would like specific archival projects turned into books, I can work with you to compile collections of recipes, photos, documents, family trees, letters, etc. as Family Wisdom Books.

This sort of work takes on special meaning for me at this point in my life since my mother, Ann Sheridan St. Marie, recently passed away. She was a consummate storyteller and the beloved matriarch of our extended family, and our family’s greatest comfort in the wake of her loss arises from the surety we have in her lasting impact on our lives. She and my father, Terry St. Marie, a U.S. Navy veteran with passions for photography and history that he passed on to me, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2018, and we all treasure our memories of my mother and are determined to preserve them and pass them on to the next generations. Because I know how important this is to me and my family, I am eager to help others research and preserve their own personal and family histories.


Alison "Ali" de Groot

Director of Publishing

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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.

 

 

Kitty Axelson-Berry

Founder and Consultant

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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)


 

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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.”