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What is the Cameo Method?

Deborah Hansen, founder of the Cameo Life Stories program, has created a simple but remarkably effective method for helping people complete their life stories. The Cameo Method is easy and makes writing a pleasure. It works well for autobiographers with widely varying writing skills and publishing goals. It is tried and true.

Whether you call it a life story, life review, memoir or autobiography, a written narrative of your life can be a daunting undertaking. The Cameo Method is a carefully crafted technique for ensuring that you reach your goal--a recorded personal history. It is also an enriching path to self-discovery and appreciation. For many, this process becomes a springboard for life design, decision-making about how to live the rest of your life.

The Cameo Method is based on Deborah’s extensive experience in writing, teaching, memoir, group process and women’s history. Because of Deborah’s commitment to making women’s history more complete and accurate, Cameo Life Stories is affiliated with Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. The Sophia Smith Collection at Smith is one of the most important women’s history archives in the world, serving as a major resource for original source documents for scholars.

What are the benefits of the Cameo Method?

The Cameo Method may seem simple, but it is designed to overcome a whole set of obstacles that most people face in trying to complete their recorded life story. The Cameo Method is your support system, your steady and experienced companion, in your life review process. It reliably helps you overcome obstacles.

  • Builds self-esteem and self-esteem

  • Helps us learn from our experience

  • Increases satisfaction with our lives

  • Helps us heal

  • Helps us realize we can positively shape the life story ahead

  • Increases our respect and compassion for others

  • Transmits values, knowledge and traditions

  • Strengthens ties to family, friends and community

  • Revives our gratitude to the people who have shaped us

  • Resolves guilt and conflict

  • Provides social contact

  • Exercises and maintains memory

  • Helps us make peace with death

  • Makes history more complete and accurate

  • Sends our greetings to the future

How do I learn the Cameo Method?

The best way to learn the Cameo Method of life story is through a workshop with Deborah herself or one of her carefully trained Cameo Coaches. Following that intensive introduction, you are then ready to complete your life story either alone or with a group. CLS can provide you with guidance on “Cameo Solo” and “Cameo Circles.”

If you can't make it to one of the Cameo workshops, there are still many ways you can learn and practice the Cameo Method with the following aids. Click on any one of the options below to see how!

Why archive your life story?


Reviewing your life story has utmost value to yourself. But sharing your story can be very valuable to others--to your spouse, your children, your family, your community--and to HISTORY. Historians are hungry for the truth about the individual lives that contribute to the larger forces of human history. In particular, women’s history scholars welcome narratives that shed light on how individuals and larger forces shape one another.


Cameo Life Stories encourages women, men, girls and boys to share their life stories with archives that will protect their documents and make them available for study. CLS affiliated in 2003 with the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College to provide a welcoming and safe repository for life stories. Completed, written life stories--whether in the form of narrative or as answers to a questionnaire--may be sent to the Sophia Smith Collection through Cameo Life Stories or directly to:


Sophia Smith Collection

Smith College

Northampton, MA 01063-0001



What is the history of the Cameo Life Stories Program?


Cameo Life Stories began in 1997 as the Everywoman’s Story Project, under the auspices of the Phoenix Chapter of League of Women Voters and a coalition of Arizona women’s organizations. With assistance from the Arizona Governor’s Division for Women, the Everywoman’s Story Questionnaire spread throughout the United States and into other countries. The name change to Cameo Life Stories occurred in 1999, and in 2003 the program affiliated with the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College in Massachusetts.


What is Deborah Hansen’s background?


Deborah was born in 1952 and raised in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She was graduated from Augustana College with a major in English and completed Master’s degree coursework at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. After a 15-year career in public relations, she served as executive director of the Arizona Center for the Book, an affiliate of the National Center for the Book at the Library of Congress.


Deborah is a nationally known leader of workshops on life story writing and author of a book on the topic. She has taught her Cameo Method of life review to thousands of individuals and organizations throughout the U.S. and directs the Cameo Life Stories program near Maiden Rock, Wisconsin. Deborah Hansen (formerly Linzer) is a keynote speaker and presenter at national, state and local conventions and conferences.

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