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Question
Hello, my name is Caroline. I am planning to write an autobiography/memoir. In my book, I will write about people in my life. It is not a tell all book, but I need to write about them because it explains how I came to be. Everything I will write about is true. Nothing will be made up or exaggerated. How do I make sure I don't get sued for libel, slander, or anything of that nature?

I will be changing the names of everyone in my book and putting a disclaimer that everything I write is true to the best of my knowledge. Also, I am planning on writing under a pen name. Does that safeguard me from lawsuits? What happens if I never reveal who I really am, but someone finds out that the pen name is mine, will I still get sued.

Thank You.

Answer
Thanks for your questions, Caroline.

I'm not an attorney, but I know this: Nothing will prevent you from being sued. Anyone can sue anyone over anything. Whether the suing party wins is another matter.

Generally, writers of memoirs do not include the kind of disclaimer you suggest. The basic idea of a memoir is your memories. When you say "Nothing will be made up or exaggerated" you are saying you are able to remember everything exactly as it occurred and that is not possible. Because these are your memories, you will recall them differently than others and you will present your own view of them and your own take on the results. That's just human nature.

Your best bet is to discuss your project with a lawyer who is familiar with legal issues in the publishing business. In the end, though, it will be your judgement on what to include.

Best wishes for every success.

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Wayne Groner

Expertise

I can answer questions on all aspects of writing memoirs, biographies, family histories, and corporate histories including handling sensitive issues, interviewing, editing, self-publishing, and setting up a business as a memoir writer.

Experience

I have more than twenty-five years of experience as a radio and television news reporter, author, freelance writer, and workshop presenter. I present classes to nonprofits and professional groups, "How to Write Your Memoir or Life Story." I'm author of four nonfiction books. My latest book is A Guide to Writing Your Memoir or Life Story: Tools, Tips, Methods and Examples, available in paperback and eBook at Amazon. I'm past president of Springfield Writers' Guild (Missouri). My articles and book reviews on a variety of topics have been published in national magazines and on the Web. I was a senior-level college administrator for twenty-seven years, including nine years as a vice president, during which I wrote newsletters, brochures, magazine articles, and published and edited an alumni magazine.

Organizations
Missouri Center for the Book, Springfield Writers' Guild, Greene County Historical Society, Christian County Historical Society.

Publications
Books: Witnesses of Hope, Faith, Love and Healing; Dumb Luck or Divine Guidance; The Pastor's Guide to Fund-raising Success; Levell-Drew Family History. National magazines including CASE Currents, Congregations, Ozarks Mountaineer, Your Community Hospice, Power and Light series of Sunday-school curriculum for adult learners.

Education/Credentials
Graceland College

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