I do deep-dive storytelling for singular individuals with tales that need to be told.
My projects usually start with a client’s certainty that there is an important story to tell, but only a vague grasp of the exact details or of how everything fits together. The stories usually date back decades, and reconstructing events requires digging around in all sorts of places.
Each client has his or her reason for putting my pen to good use. For some, it is to preserve a legacy. For others, it is to record significant moments for the history books. All want their truth to be told, even when they themselves are unsure of the whole story, or the details have slipped from memory.
The stories I have worked on speak for themselves. The historic first direct meetings between Israel and the PLO. A rabbi’s serial molestation of yeshiva students. A run at political office after a childhood of heartbreaking hardship. A trailblazing post-motherhood legal career. Institutional skulduggery in the world of big-check philanthropy.
Some of the work ends up published. Just as often, my clients prefer to limit their audience to a select few.
The investigative ghostwriting I do often leaves me little to take credit for. But for those who hire my shovel and pen... the value of the work is priceless.
A little while back, I worked on the memoir of a man not much older than me. He had already seen a lot.
Dirt poor growing up in West Africa. Violent racism when he tried to find his way as a young adult in the West. Systemic oppression, from bottom to top. Obstacle after obstacle, all before he was old enough for a midlife crisis.
He had overcome it all, though. By any reasonable definition, he had made it. Professional success. A growing family. Life in America.
He wanted to put his story into print, to save others from having to endure what he had. There was an urgency to telling his tale, as he made clear when I began working on the manuscript.
“Each day that I kept these notes without putting them together in book form,” he wrote, “I feared my communities of interest might lose something of value one day if I was unable to share these stories.”
I ended up finishing his manuscript on my birthday. A month later, on a Monday afternoon, I sent him one final piece of business, a revised version of the introduction to his book. I returned the file to him at 3:59 pm, about an hour before the close of business.
Three hours and 18 minutes later, after a freak accident while lifting weights at the gym, he was pronounced dead.
He was 45.
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