F A Beedie | Memoirist

“When I initially contacted Helen and sent in a couple of chapters of Dad’s book, the feedback was so positive, it felt right. It felt like SilverWood would be supportive through the whole project.”

Daughter helps father keep naval stories alive in a moving memoir

Customer testimonial

"When I initially contacted Helen and sent in a couple of chapters of Dad’s book, the feedback was so positive, it felt right. It felt like SilverWood would be supportive through the whole project."
F A Beedie | Memoirist

Author profile

Frederick Albert Beedie was born in 1925 in Portsmouth, Hampshire, where he lived with his parents and siblings. As World War Two escalated, Fred left school and moved to Dorset with his family. Then aged just seventeen, he joined the Royal Navy and began serving for his country. After his years in the Royal Navy, Fred joined the Mercantile Marine (more commonly known as the Merchant Navy) before taking a job as an aircraft fitter at Hurn Airport, near Bournemouth, then working in engineering jobs as his career progressed.
Fred has always been a keen historian, with a particular interest in World War Two. He loved to share his stories of that time with his wife, Joy, and his children as they were growing up. It was Joy who encouraged him to start writing his stories down, and much later in life, when Fred joined Joy in a care home, Fred decided he would bring his stories together in a memoir.
Acting Able Seaman - Hostilities Only relates Fred’s experiences of life during the Blitz, his preparations for joining the Royal Navy, his training, his work in protecting shipping lines from pirates, facts about the time along with personal tales of friends and fellow seamen, and his account of a storm without which D-Day preparations could have been chaotic.

Impressively, Fred wrote his 93,000 word memoir by hand. What started as a series of handwritten notes to keep his stories alive for his family became a fully typed and edited manuscript, thanks to Fred’s daughter Jackie Ahern. Fred had asked her to help him when the idea of a memoir first arose; although she realised it would be a significant undertaking, having previously written and published a children’s book of her own.

Turning handwritten notes into polished prose with the help of his daughter

"Dad hand wrote everything," said Jackie, "and it was my job to bring the stories together and add the paragraphs, punctuation and so on. Dad used to spend a couple of hours writing his notes every day and I would visit twice a week. Every Thursday, I would pick up his notes, go over anything that wasn’t clear, and then my husband, brother and I would do any bits of research that needed to be done. On Sunday afternoons I would spend a few hours typing it up and getting it in order. Then I would print it off, take it to him to read on the Monday visit and then make any changes he wanted. We kept going until we had a document that we felt was good enough to put out there."

As well as taking charge of the editing process, Jackie took the initiative in finding a way to publish the book. She knew she wanted something different to her previous experience of publishing, and in particular, to get more support with marketing.

"I wanted someone I could trust to deliver a good quality finished item that my Dad and the family could be proud of. I felt that these stories are important and they need to be recorded. There has to be a chance for people to read them. I wanted a company that was going to show a bit of passion towards it and help us get it out there."

It was a contact she had made through signing up to a local course in Bridport who pointed her in the direction of SilverWood.

Working with SilverWood to achieve the desired standard and cover design

"From the time I sent SilverWood the two chapters, they came across as being positive about the book - they were genuinely interested," Jackie reports. With the confidence that SilverWood would create a good quality book and have the capabilities to help promote it, Jackie signed up to the Silver Plus package in June 2019. This included proofreading, professional editing, help with the layout, front and back cover design, and three months of social media broadcast.

The process all went smoothly and, with a desire to get the book out before Christmas, Jackie was motivated to get the final inside look completed promptly. "That was the toughest bit," she recalls. "I needed to go through the whole thing line by line to make sure it was as good as it was going to get. That was quite a challenge."

Like many authors, Jackie and Fred had ideas about the elements they wanted on the cover of the book but needed help with the design. "We knew that the photo of Dad as a young man was the front image. And I had a vision for a photo of him as he is now for the back. When we handed the pictures over to SilverWood, they came back with an amazing cover. Dad loves it. It’s fabulous."

Author outcome

Acting Able Seaman - Hostilities Only was published in December 2019, and both Fred and Jackie are delighted with the finished product.

"We were elated when we finished it. We’ve told the stories of the events of that time and what it was like to live as a family when they were being bombed. Like seeing your best friend blown up in front of you... when Dad was training, Collingwood was blown up. These kids were being told to march on the parade ground and carry on as if nothing had happened. It was a brutal existence, and that comes through as well."

Fred’s memoir took two years to write and publish, and the experience brought Jackie a lot of satisfaction. "What makes it worth it is the feedback. People have commented on Dad’s fantastic memory; he’s sharp as a knife. It was great working with him. It brought us closer together. All the family are getting a chance to read and learn about him, and it’s inspired other family members to write their own stories."

The process of writing had a positive impact on Fred’s wellbeing, too. "It really helped him through a tough time when he was losing his independence. Having that focus and having the book now gives him a sense of achievement."

Fred’s book has been stocked by an independent bookshop in Bridport and Fred was over the moon to see a photo of it on the shelf. Jackie is now working to get it stocked in other bookshops nearby, having generated interest with an appearance by the Mayor at the book launch in Fred’s care home and a feature in the local newspaper.

Acknowledging that she’s not a fan of social media, Jackie has welcomed SilverWood’s support with setting up a Facebook page and sharing posts and photos about the book online.

Asked if she would recommend SilverWood to other authors, Jackie replied, "Oh yes, they’re very approachable, always emailed back promptly and sent me everything I needed. They’re high-quality publishers."

With family in Bermuda, Fred’s book has also found readers further afield, and Jackie will be looking for further relevant stockists for the book as we approach the VE Day celebrations.

Work with SilverWood:

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