Friday, February 22, 2013

Disco, Tear Gas, and Song – Ghostriding down Memory Lane

By Deborah Wilbrink

My heart beat faster as I flounced into Memory Lane. It was the only singles bar in Columbus, Georgia. A disco ball rotated above the dance floor, casting its mirrored light onto the strutting hopefuls of 1984. On Saturday night at ten o’clock, the country music stopped, the deejay started, and two women threw themselves down onto the floor, rolling and grinding like Pentecostals in a snake bed. Shocked at the evolution of graceful freestyle dance, I made a fast “exit, stage right.” That ended my first journey to Memory Lane.

So I get a secret smile whenever I hear my newly written and recorded theme song, “Memory Lane,” with its title suggested by my co-writer Femke Weidema. (See the Poetry and Prose Corner of this newsletter.) The song tells of tracing one’s family history; the singer convinces herself to write a book about it. Femke’s voice is memorable and the song is recorded with piano, something I could never do. Femke is also signed with a publishing company, so there’s a chance that you will hear our song on a movie soundtrack. Posting a song on your website is just one way to drive traffic there, and get people started thinking about what you want to communicate. It was easy to get permission in this case. All of this just goes to show the glory and fun in collaboration!

Ghostwriting is collaboration. With a ghostwriter, you can submit a rudimentary manuscript, or you can simply tell your ideas, and your writing gets finished. Some of my clients never touch a pen! I learned from interviews with people like Grammy winner Emmylou Harris and guru of macrobiotics Michio Kushi, how to elicit passions and ideas from a subject. Then I, the ghostwriter, convey what’s important in an attractive, meaningful way to readers. The fun comes in preserving the author’s style!
Right now, I’m ghostwriting with author Mary Moore Hoover. She witnessed the forced integration of Ole Miss in 1962 – from within a shower! Her perspective is novel; I hope to place a copy of her memoir in the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. But Mary Moore isn’t writing, she’s telling! I’m prompting. I’m doing the writing, but it’s her book, her story:

Tear gas poured through the windows. We raced to the bathroom and turned on all the showers. Clouds of steam kept the stinging tear gas away. We had no lights. In the dark you could hear guns go off; there was screaming. It was like living in a war zone. Soldiers were bivouacked all around the sorority houses. They had tents, and they had tanks. We were trapped for two days in there, without any food. But somebody’s mother had made a strawberry sheet cake. I haven’t eaten strawberry cake since then . . .

Mary Moore candidly admits to being a naïve teen at the time, over fifty years ago. As her story progresses, she matures to the background of the Civil Rights and Women’s Lib movements. These historic moments become personal, a personal history of what they meant to an individual’s life. Through the experiences of thousands of individuals, these stories become history for us, today. And Mary Moore’s son and grandchildren will now know her story; in fact, it was her son’s suggestion that she save it.

If you’re thinking of writing your story and you're not sure where to start, consider a ghostwriter: a pair of sympathetic ears, attached to a heart, feeding a mind, stirring a soul, and moving a typist’s sure fingers.

Deborah Wilbrink is a WITS ghostwriter and editor specializing in memoir. Find out more about Deborah and hear her song at

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