Haiku Friday: Bubble

haiku pic 3Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of “Bubble”:

love banishes fear

a warm bubble floats gently

on a great salt sea

It’s Haiku Friday again.  For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose.  I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog.  Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those).  That’s it.

Holiday!

turkeyTomorrow is Thanksgiving so instead of a new blog post, I’m posting a rerun of an entry I wrote last year, about how thankful I am, and why. Here it is.

The Grateful Ghost

I love my job. I know how lucky this makes me, and in this season of thanksgiving I give thanks to my clients who let me into their hearts and minds, innermost dreams and desires, and tell me wonderful stories that entertain me and better still, always teach me something. I am so grateful to be a ghostwriter.

I’ve been a ghost for over fifteen years and in that time I’ve ghostwritten more than forty non-fiction books and memoirs – some of them short, some long, some for women, some for men, some for people in their 80s, some for folks as young as 25. My clients are from all over the US; from widely disparate occupations; from many ethnicities and cultures. I’m a middle-aged white American woman from Seattle, but because when you ghostwrite you move into someone else’s head, my heart and mind have grown and I am no longer just what I appear to be on the outside. I have walked that proverbial mile in my clients’ moccasins, and I have been stretched to fit their shoes. 

I have heard all sorts of stories and vicariously lived all sorts of adventures that I could never have had in “real life.” As a ghostwriter, I have many “real lives.” How wonderful is that?

I’ve ghostwritten business books on how to succeed, how to be a great leader, how to motivate employees, how to start a business from scratch, and learned from the adventures my clients went through while learning all these “hows.” I ghostwrote a financial book about how to plan for retirement, and another about how to invest responsibly. My own financial health has improved because of it.

I’ve ghostwritten books with medical themes, some inspirational that showed how my clients beat cancer, recovered from injury, or learned how to live with blindness. I ghostwrote a book about diarrhea and constipation and other intestinal challenges and how to live with them. (One of the most fun books I ever wrote – yes, really.) I even ghostwrote about male enhancement products and why not to use them. I am thankful that I did not have to suffer these conditions in order to understand them, and if I am confronted with these challenges in the future, I already know some techniques to help me heal.

I’ve ghostwritten a spiritual book on deepening your faith, a book on earth-based religions, another on dream interpretation, another on psychic hunches, another on astrological projections. Has my mind been stretched? You bet.

I’ve ghostwritten books on relationships of all sorts – like how to get your teenager to talk to you; the triumph and pain of coming out of the closet; how to love without judgment; the ingredients of a happy marriage; and stories from an Alzheimer’s care facility that gave me strength and comfort when my own mother developed that dread disease.

Some of my favorites have been the books I ghostwrote about animals, including one about psychic horses and dogs, written for an animal communicator. This led me to look at my own dog differently, and the result was Dog Park Diary, a book that I “ghostwrote” for my dog, Goody Beagle.

And oh, the memoirs I have helped birth into the world! Inspirational, funny, thought-provoking. One of my favorites centered around how to make killer raspberry jam – you can write a memoir about anything.

I’ve ghostwritten a few memoirs about the horror of child sexual abuse – and the triumph of recovery and remembrance. These have inspired me to keep on talking and writing about this subject, to get these stories out there, because abuse flourishes in the dark. I have been a small part of pouring light on this problem, which makes me proud. It has increased my compassion – and my fury – and my desire to protect the vulnerable. In short, these books made me a better woman.

I’ve ghostwritten about living with the racism in American society, from the viewpoint of a Korean-American man, a Japanese-American woman, an African-American man, a Latina woman. As a white person, how else but ghostwriting could have given me a better understanding of what America looks like from a minority perspective?

As an amateur historian as well as a ghostwriter, I’ve been privileged to ghostwrite books set in the past, and this led directly to teaching classes on how to see your own life as part of “big” history, which in turn led me to writing my book Making History: how to remember, record, interpret and share the events of your life.

I’ve ghostwritten war memoirs that tell the truth about its cost, from Vietnam vets and a Korean War vet, even a World War II vet. This is helpful for me because I am currently writing my own parents’ love story set during World War II when he was a soldier fighting in the South Pacific jungles, and she was a Woman Marine stationed in the War Dept in Philadelphia. It is based on their letters written between 1941 and 1945, which my brothers and I found in a box in their closet after they died.

Finally, I’ve ghostwritten some books that center around the theme of identity – adoption stories. All writing is an attempt to answer that age-old question “Who am I?”, but adoptees have a special interest in this topic. Ghostwriting these books has helped me immeasurably in writing my own memoir which is about my own identity story. Is it a coincidence that I attract clients with these kinds of stories? Probably not.

As a child I knew I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. Actually I didn’t wait until I grew up; I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. But it wasn’t until almost twenty years ago that I started writing for others – because my then 90-year-old grandmother asked me to write down some of her stories. Thank you, Grandma, for pointing me in this direction. I didn’t know that being a ghost could reward me with such an interesting life. Can I say it again? I love my job!

Compost: History or Compost?

notebooksI have twenty years’ worth of “Morning Pages” cheapo notebooks stacked in my spare bedroom closet. I started doing morning pages, as suggested by Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, in early 1993. Morning pages changed my life, and I am not indulging in hyperbole. I wrote (and continue to write) three pages in longhand per day of what I came to call my “compost.” I’d estimate that out of those 7300 days (365 times 20) I’ve missed maybe 30 at the most. One notebook includes about two to three months’ worth of entries, depending on the size of the notebooks. (I like variety in my notebooks, so they come in all sizes, wide ruled, narrow ruled, number of pages, etc.) Twenty years is 240 months, so at two months per notebook, I have about 120 notebooks. My closet is stuffed.

Wow. Now what do I do with these notebooks, currently stacked in that closet in the room I fondly call my library, because it’s where I keep all my books, except for my growing collection of ebooks, which take up no room but often don’t feel real. My Morning Pages notebooks are more than real. They are full of unimportant trivia and deep insights, often nestled together on the pages. Frustrations, anger and joy – and memos to myself to do the laundry, and what food I had for dinner the night before. Ideas for new books, stories, and poems. Writer’s block blown up and creativity unleashed – right next to complaints and bitchiness. Forgiveness and grace, pettiness and guilt. Spilling some secrets that I’ve never told anyone, and even had problems writing them down because it was the first and only time I could admit them to myself.

I should throw these notebooks away, right? Or burn them? The historian in me rebels at that. Save them for my kids to decide to throw them away after I’m dead? But – they might read them and perhaps some of my unedited ramblings will hurt or upset them. Equally bad – they won’t read them because they don’t care, and all my brilliant thoughts will be lost.

And if I save them, then what about when I’m 90 and living in one room in a home for “seniors,” that euphemism for Old that fools no one. By that time there will be even more notebooks and they will take over, I’ll be eaten by my past.

I don’t know what to do with them, so for right now I’ll just continue to write in them and stuff them in the closet. And my life will continue to be saved.

Haiku Friday: Running Away

haiku pic 1Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of “running away”

when your dreams appear

full-fleshed, staring eye to eye

please don’t run away

It’s Haiku Friday again.  For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose.  I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog.  Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those).  That’s it.

Sharing History: Remember to Not Forget

1367007044Galeano-Children_of_webI love history. But it is sometimes difficult if not impossible to live with. So much cruelty, so many stupidities, so much greed, such indifference to suffering. The big stories that everyone knows, and the small stories that have been forgotten; equally important and equally discounted as “over.” Are they ever over? What can we do about the past today? How can we, who were not involved in the evils of the past, make sense of it, or make amends? Should we? Can we? Perhaps all we can do is remember.

This is why I love the books of Eduardo Galeano. If you have not yet read his latest book Children of the Days: a Calendar of Human History you are missing something magical, infuriating, inspiring, and activating.

Each day he gives us the truth of a story that was buried by the powers that were and that now the world has forgotten, but which should be remembered. Yesterday’s (November 19th) entry is about Joe Hill, the songwriter and agitator for workers’ rights, who was executed by firing squad this day in 1915 in Salt Lake City.

Don’t forget to remember the truth, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Galeano shows us why this is important.

Ghostwriting for a Dog: Thank You, Mary Oliver

Dog SongsAlex Terrgi here. My human is reading a new book with a picture of a fat beagle on the cover. It is called “Dog Songs” by a human named Mary Oliver, who must be a really nice human because my human read the songs inside the book to me – she said they were poems and not songs, but then why isn’t the book called “Dog Poems”? I like “Dog Songs” better. Anyway, Mary Oliver must be really nice because she knows why dogs are the way we are. The songs made me happy and sad and excited and peaceful and just glad to be a dog. And the picture of the fat beagle made me remember my dead sister Goody Beagle, which also made me happy and sad at the same time, and I wish Goody was here so she could listen to these songs too.

I would like to meet Mary Oliver so I could sit beside her and lick her fingers. Then she would know that I am grateful she wrote these beautiful songs about dogs.

Haiku Friday: Autumn

haiku pic 2Here’s my haiku for today, on the topic of “autumn”

behold the autumn

under the cinnamon sun

your last chance is here

It’s Haiku Friday again.  For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose.  I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog.  Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those).  That’s it.

Writing Tip: The Synopsis

background with penI hate writing a synopsis of my own book. Just hate it. One to two paragraphs to encompass a whole book, are you kidding?

Nevertheless, I have to write one. So I sat down at my desk, gritted my teeth, and scribbled this down without pausing:

Long ago, or maybe only yesterday, two adult granddaughters of a storyteller/maskmaker pack up Grandma’s studio after her death, and while there they re-tell her stories and wear her masks, learning new things about themselves. Grandma’s Masks is about the elusive nature of truth and the illusion of safety. It’s about the search for identity, and finding a place where you belong.

That’s as far as I got. It’s not enough. So I’ll go back to the desk and scribble some more. Yippee. Do you feel sorry for me? Probably not.

And so it ends, or maybe it is just beginning.

Sharing History: Making History in the 90s

Making history trimmedI’m still working on my sequel to Making History by adding the 1990s, a busy decade. I’m looking for stories, so I hope you will share yours. This week I was writing about the changes in food during the 90s – yes, food changes over time. In the 90s the food business put a lot of emphasis into “healthy” products aimed at capturing a more health-conscious public. For one thing, that enormous generation of baby-boomers were now in their forties and fifties and had discovered that their health was not guaranteed to last forever. (There is a difference between knowing this in your head and experiencing it in your body – I’m speaking from personal experience.) So here are some of the new products introduced during the 1990s that were advertised as “healthy.” Do you remember any of these? Did you eat them, or feed them to your children?

  • Campbells introduces Cream of Broccoli soup
  • McDonald’s introduces McLean Deluxe, a low-fat burger (this was a flop)
  • Crisco offers Crisco Sticks (so you wouldn’t use too much?)
  • Life Savers starts marketing the holes (because they’re smaller therefore less sugar?)
  • Snackwell introduces low-fat cookies
  • Louis Rich offers Turkey Bacon
  • Lay’s advertises baked potato chips (not fried)
  • Dunkin’ Donuts begins making bagels
  • Pringles offers fat-free Pringles
  • Frito-Lay offers potato chips with Olean
  • and don’t forget Tofurkey, born in 1995

Everyone has stories about food, what’s yours?

Haiku Friday: Feet

zen gardenHere’s my haiku for today, on the topic of “feet”:

your feet may be still

even so, the dance goes on

with or without you

It’s Haiku Friday again.  For the past twenty years or so, it has been my practice to write one haiku every day. Every Friday I share a haiku here, about whatever topic I happen to choose.  I invite you to write a haiku on this topic too, and share it with me and the readers of this blog.  Just write it in the Comments below. The only rules are: 1) your haiku must be about the named topic; 2) you must follow the 5-7-5 syllable format; 3) no obscenities or hate (I will delete those).  That’s it.