Ghostwriter Mommy Blues

There aren't good matching photos for this post so here is a photo of the pizza I made last night. Can you see the line between the meat side and the non-meat side?

There aren’t good matching photos for this post so here is a photo of the pizza I made last night. Can you see the line between the meat side and the non-meat side?

Good news. A book I was hired to write has been nominated for a statewide award. The news came via a text message from the man whose childhood story needed telling. I congratulated him and he texted back that he had been invited to speak before a group about domestic violence.

The story was about that, but it was also about a redemptive weekend he spent with grandparents as a teenager that was crucial in helping him stabilize his life. When we met he’d been fretting for years how to write the story he felt he needed to get out of his heart and down on paper.

It was an extremely rainy spring morning as I gave a talk about writing grants to a nonprofit group. Grants were not my strongest topic and I was not thrilled with that day’s delivery so I was surprised

It was a rainy morning in Edinburgh, Scotland when I took this photo of a graveyard that was downtown.

It was a rainy morning in Edinburgh, Scotland when I took this photo of a graveyard that was downtown.

when he came up to me afterward to suggest we meet to talk about a writing project.

The timing was good for me to devote myself to something entirely off the grid of what I’d been doing to expand a resume. Without a contract we agreed on payment, a general outline of how it would be handled, and what would be included.

The story wasn’t mine but there are enough similarities in being human that I started to catch on and feel an affinity for this time in a young man’s life. A challenge I hadn’t experienced since writing copy for advertisers was keeping his voice, word choices, and cadence without my intrusion.

Billable time that didn’t include obsessing about it while driving, preparing meals, showering, sleeping, and meetings at Starbucks was over 200 hours. I was an outsider listening to a story from his and his mother’s views, discerning emotion and what was behind the words, constructing and parsing sentences that portrayed but did not glamorize, discount, or make human experience sappy. Then I edited and re-edited until it was time to give it up. Give it back to the one who had lived this now fictionalized life.

A Chiluly glass exhibit in a water setting at the Phoenix, Arizona Desert Botanical Garden.

A Chiluly glass exhibit in a water setting at the Phoenix, Arizona Desert Botanical Garden.

Oh boy, could I get corny with all the metaphors that at their best would never compare with really having or giving up a baby, but still… I’m going to push a few. When the manuscript was gone and no longer mine to fuss over, I was sad like a mom is sad sending the kid off to kindergarten. “Let me wipe a tear that Baby grew up so soon while I giggle in joy that I might now get a free hour to myself.”

When he called me weeks later thrilled he was getting nibbles from a publisher who represented an author friend of his, I was happy and envious. Months later when it became apparent that wouldn’t happen I didn’t know how to untangle a knot of disappointment and anger.

The anger was toward me. Why hadn’t I seriously started writing decades earlier? I did have some talent with it. I did. I did. I did. But time slipped through my fingers with other responsibilities. Phooey. What really slipped through my fingers was belief in myself. Time was the by-product.

Editorial changes by him and others have inevitably been included. Perhaps I wouldn’t recognize the end product though he told me the changes were minor. He said he’s sending me a copy.

A year has passed while the real dad has nurtured the manuscript and

There's time to enjoy a variety of things in life if we pay attention.

There’s time to enjoy a variety of things in life if we pay attention.

he deserves the accolades I hope he gets. The story has done what it needed to do for me, too.

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13 Responses to Ghostwriter Mommy Blues

  1. Congrats! I know it may seem a tad bit bittersweet perhaps since you can’t take credit for the award in public but I think it’s awesome that YOUR writing got nominated. It’s easy to beat yourself up about not getting into writing sooner but it also doesn’t do much good, unfortunately. What’s important is that you’re making the commitment now. You obviously have the talent and not everyone can say that about themselves. Good luck!

    • Well thank you very much! I appreciate what your wrote. It sounds like you’re a writer, too. I don’t think writers are especially unique in sometimes turning their creative work over to another. It happens in business every hour, but we can noisily document it! Thanks again.

      • Lol true about the noisily documenting it. But hey, once you decide to step out of ghostwriting and write something with your name on it, at least you’d be way ahead of us. 😉

  2. Congrats. Writing is writing… whether its ghost or otherwise. I can personally think of a number of good programs that were funded because of my grant writing. And there were numerous times when I wrote something for another person that helped move on a cause I believed in. Then there was the second grade reader I wrote as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia that the government determined was subversive. LOL My first book was banned! 🙂 Speaking of Liberia and Peace Corps, my present blog introduces several possible titles for my book. Please go on and give me your opinion, Rebecca. Thanks. –Curt

  3. Hi Curt, you’re exactly right. It’s another blog post to write about how often “credit” moves to another in business, arts, politics, and anything else you can name. It’s life. You are among a select few to have written a banned book. I know I’ve seen “I read banned books,” buttons. There should be one that reads, “I wrote a banned book!” I will stop by. Thanks again.

  4. Carrie Rubin says:

    Congratulations! It speaks volumes to your writing abilities to be asked by him to write his story not to mention have it be up for an award. I’m sure it’s difficult in a way, too though. But think of that as your warmup book. The next one will be yours to submit and market!

  5. Tom Merriman says:

    Congratulations from me too, Rebecca!
    That belief you mentioned is the thing that makes us… and the not believing holds us back.

  6. Wow, Rebecca. What an undertaking. Congratulations for not only getting the job done but for the recognition this WORK has gathered. This is Huge.To write a book for someone is hard enough, but to keep his voice, is another challenge altogether. As well, letting go of your ‘baby’ I most certainly understand. Now it’s your turn. Sit. Write. Smile.

  7. Tess, thanks for the encouragement. As a fiction writer I think you work to step into other people’s voices all the time. Keeping character is always a challenge.

  8. marymtf says:

    You gave that baby birth. Whatever the changes, whether or not you are acknowledged, I’m sure he will do you proud. 🙂

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