Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A deaf ghostwriter

Last week, a friend and I got to talking about the ghostwriting gig I landed not too long ago. For anyone who doesn’t know, a ghostwriter is someone who writes something (a blog post, article, book) and someone else, usually the one whose story it is or who came up with the idea, gets the author credit. Sometimes, the ghostwriter will be named on the cover with a "With" or "As Told To" byline. In some cases, a ghostwriter who has already been hired for a project may outsource the work to another writer, paying a smaller amount than he/she earns as the original ghostwriter. Well, as I was talking about this, I once again felt so grateful that I finally managed to make my dream of becoming a ghostwriter for books a reality. In the past, I ghostwrote blog posts and articles. I wanted to ghostwrite books. I finally made that happen and I am very happy about it.

But I thought of something else, too. Something that reminded me of how, being a deaf person, I once thought twice on whether or not I could ever be a ghostwriter at all.

Some time ago, when I was reading about the experiences of other ghostwriters, one common element I saw was how the ghostwriter often spent A LOT of time with their client. This was especially true if the client was a celebrity and the ghostwriter was writing his/her memoir. There was a lot of in-person talking involved, as well as phone calls.

And, being completely deaf, without a hearing aid, I started to wonder if this was going to be a problem in my attempts to become a ghostwriter too. The way I saw it, this was the only way a ghostwriter could even write the book, by spending all of their time with the client and communicating verbally. (Side note: I can talk, just not hear.)

But then I looked at how I felt the same way when I wanted to become a journalist. I wanted to write for a newspaper. That was my big goal. Sure, I wrote for the college paper and I did some unpaid articles for the local paper, but I wanted to BELONG to a newspaper as one of their staff writers. I wanted to be a newspaper reporter.

With my experiences working as a reporter for the college paper, I got a taste of what that was like. At that time, I was able to wear a hearing aid, so I used a tape recorder for the interviews. I interviewed A LOT of people in person for the articles and wrote a lot of things down in my notebook. I was also able to use the phone, though my ability to hear people on the phone even with the hearing aid was not perfect.

But then, later on, I lost what little hearing I had left and the hearing aid was useless to me. It didn’t help that it hurt to wear a hearing aid (after many years of wearing one!). When that happened, I pretty much thought I’d never be able to write for a real newspaper. I knew what the job of a reporter involved. There had to be phone calls, in-person interviews and quick Q&As at press conferences. So when I could no longer use the phone or rely on a tape recorder, I figured I wouldn’t be able to do the job of a newspaper reporter for a real paper. Well, I consoled myself, at least I got to write for the college paper! And I had some articles in the local paper, too. Sure, it was freelance, but I had those clips all the same.

Then something changed all that: The Internet. In my networking with other deaf writers, I was contacted by one who was involved in starting up a newspaper for the deaf. He asked me if I was interested in joining the writing team for this newspaper. Oh, was I! Of course I said yes and I was thrilled to become a newspaper reporter for a real newspaper – a national newspaper, at that. I finally made it happen. I still had to make phone calls, but using the relay service helped in that capacity. I used email to interview people and that worked out okay, too. I was still able to interview people for my articles without having to meet them in person.

So I thought about that when I was interested in becoming a ghostwriter. A deaf ghostwriter. Would I be able to pull it off even though I make phone calls a little bit differently than most folks and can’t talk with my client in person? (Well, unless the client knew sign language.) There just had to be another way. I worked as a journalist using unconventional methods. I could do the same as a ghostwriter, right?

Well, obviously, I have managed to do the same as a ghostwriter. Because I am officially a ghostwriter now. Last week, I finished writing the second book for my client and I got it all done without one single phone call with him. In fact, we’ve only communicated through email. It helps that he already has the kind of book he wants in mind and also that they are not personal stories like a memoir. He just gives me a list of books to write, I select one and after it’s all set up, I start writing. I don’t email him again until after I am done.

That’s it. That’s all there is to it. I do all my research on the Internet, without any interviews or phone calls, and find all the information that I need right there. Then, when I finish, I use a file sharing site to upload everything and email my client to let him know I completed the project. And payment is sent through the job site I landed this job from.

So, yes, it IS possible to be a deaf ghostwriter. It can be done. I’m doing it. If a deaf writer out there has Internet access, email and knows how to use Internet relay, then that writer can do this kind of work, too.

It IS possible!

If I could go back to my old self who was wondering whether or not a deaf writer could be a deaf ghostwriter, I’d take her by the shoulders and tell her a resonant, “YES.” Yes, a deaf writer CAN be a deaf ghostwriter. The process of doing the work is a little bit different than the way most hearing ghostwriters do the job, but it’s doable. It works. It CAN be done. So don’t give up!

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