September 13, 2019 § 9 Comments
By Ashley Stimpson
In a few weeks, my first book will be released. It has been a two-and-a-half-year journey to get here, though I could point to any paragraph in the manuscript and tell you when it was drafted and in which room of my house, so indelible was every moment along the way.
This book has changed my life. When people ask what I do for a living, this book has given me permission to say—at last and unequivocally—that I am a writer. This book has given me confidence to propose and take on projects that I would have previously dismissed as beyond my depth. This book has refined my skills as a storyteller and reaffirmed that I am one.
This book will not have my name on it.
My experience as a ghostwriter has been tremendously positive. The anonymity of the project eased my impostor syndrome (I was literally an impostor, so nothing to stress about there) assuaged my worry about its critics (who will never know I wrote it) and provided the financial safety net I needed to make the transition into a full-time freelance career. In fact, the only part of the entire process that filled me with ambivalence was learning the author had set out to work on her acknowledgements page. For the many months of our collaboration, my dominant feeling about the opportunity was one of gratitude—until it was time to say thanks.
I wanted my own acknowledgements page, dammit. Because while I agreed to be a ghost, to disappear into the ether once the writing was finished, the very real people who supported me during the process—the ones who are now pre-ordering on Amazon and sending sweet texts as reviews trickle in—shouldn’t also be relegated to the netherworld of contract’s-end. They should be celebrated and thanked and, well, acknowledged.
Without further ado: this ghostwriter’s acknowledgements page:
–To my ghostmother, who proofread the galley like my name was on it and will remain forever enraged that it is not. You’ve heard of pics-or-it-didn’t-happen? My mom has invented title-page-or-it-doesn’t-count.
–To all those ghostuberdrivers, ghostbartenders, and ghostneighbors who just nodded along politely as I sussed out how to explain what exactly I was working on. (I’m writing a book. Not my own book. I mean, a memoir. Not my memoir—it’s someone else’s memoir. Okay, it’s about this woman…)
–To my ghostpartner, who read draft after draft and came to care about this story as if it were his—er—my own. Want to find out if someone loves you, like love-loves you? Ask them to read the same pages for the third time this week.
–To the project’s ghostagent, who patiently answered all my tedious questions about the process as she was patiently answering identical questions from her actual client. I’ve learned that agents are bang-up editors, expert schedulers and killer PR reps all rolled up into one impossibly cheerful email.
–And, finally, to my ghostdogs, who were always up for a walk when I couldn’t face another blank page and who love me for the purest reason of all—my dexterity with the peanut butter jar.
–Of course, I would be remiss to not thank the author, who, when she could have killed them, instead adopted so many of my darlings, and who will now be responsible for them in perpetuity.
Mark Twain said “to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with.” I can vouch for that. My first book will never belong to just me, but my joy (and my gratitude) is exponential.
Ashley Stimpson is a freelance writer based in Baltimore, Maryland. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Longreads, Atlas Obscura, Johns Hopkins Magazine and a number of literary journals. Read some of it at www.ashleystimpson.com.