Ghostly Writing—Why Do It?

claudette young

By Claudette Young

For many years I was a ghost. Yes, I was. I slipped in and out of the writing scene, leaving behind few traces of myself. And now, when others learn of this potentially lurid/sordid past, questions get fired my way.

It’s time to reveal how some ghosts begin and end writing careers by describing my own sortie into this profession.

A profession it is. Some ghost writers never write under their own name. They prefer anonymity. Hiding in the darkness, the mouse can be a lion—or a dragon. Fear of personal exposure keeps them tethered to contracts requiring them to never reveal what they’ve written or for whom.

Mine isn’t that tale, however. I wrote under my own name for many years. Academic, corporate project/press work, journalistic work, advertising, children’s literature, articles for writers, etc. I never kept to one form or interest. Then, one day, another writer came to me and asked a favor.

The writer needed help. She was overloaded with writing obligations and not enough time to fulfill them. She asked if I could write a coursework handbook for her if she gave me her notes. There was a time crunch involved, but she’d pay me for the haste.

Since she was one of my favorite people, I agreed. I didn’t have anything in contractual works right then and had the time. That handbook became my first ghost job. I still look back on it fondly. Other than the money, the best payment was when she told me she couldn’t tell my writing from her own. Still makes me smile.

It wasn’t long until the next job appeared—another writer. A mutual acquaintance of mine and the one I’d just worked for. Satisfaction comes in many guises and so do jobs. Writing in a new style, new syntax, was both a challenge and a pleasure. And there was the pitfall for me.

I’d worked as an ARC reviewer for a couple of specialized publishers for about a year when I was approached by one of them to take on another kind of project. I accepted that commission and went on to do others for them over the next  year or two before moving on to other types of writing.

I’d learned something critical about myself by that time. When I tried to go back to my own style, I couldn’t. It was no  longer there. It had been buried or obliterated by the overlays of so many other people’s styles through the years.

It’s cool to have my writing style compared to Andre Norton or Douglas Adams. Or even to have my poetry sound like Whitman. Unfortunately, the compliment falls far short after a while. I still don’t sound like me. I’ve lost a part of myself in other people’s voices.

When I recognized what had happened, I ceased all contracted ghosting. It was time to be myself and come out into the light again.

It’s taken me several years, much angst, many trials and false starts to get back a semblance of my true writing style. I still find myself slipping back into Douglas Adams occasionally. (His Universe is pervasive sometimes.)

As for perks of ghosting, there are some. But hassles arise too. Perks mean decent checks in the mail for work done. It means the possibility of never going without work, especially if you can hook up with a decent publisher.

The cons, though, can be many. Fighting deadlines, last-minute turn-around edits that should take days but are needed in hours, cranky editors, and lost sleep over insignificant details. All this and more comes with the territory. And never forget, your name does not appear as a by-line or on a cover.

Like I said, it’s taken years to come back to myself. I still do small projects, work on large ones, like novels and screenplays. I still publish, though I don’t market myself. I just don’t feel the need.

But, rebuilding the boldness and self-assuredness that were my hallmarks at the very beginning of my writing experience is more difficult than finding my true voice. That takes more work than anything else. 

I never wrote for fame or fortune. I wrote for me and any pleasure others gained from my words. I forgot how to do that along the way. Now, I must rediscover that path.

It’s my hope that any who choose to allow their words to paint pictures for others to explore can find and adhere to the writing path that best suits their needs. And, of course, enjoy each moment of their journey.

Sister’s 80th Birthday


My Sister Norma

My Sister’s Eightieth Birthday Party

by Marie F Martin

I received a call from my younger sister, Doris, that we should throw our oldest sister, Norma, a birthday party because we gave Mom one when she was eighty. Sounded reasonable to me. Then my younger brother came up with the idea of doing a video for her about things she pulled as our oldest sister when we were kids. The following story is one of my favorite memories.

By the time we were in the fourth and sixth grades Norma was a complete through and through tomboy and the controller of our small Montana country neighborhood.              Norma-nator should have been her name. I was always meek and shy which drove her out of her mind.

We didn’t lack for playmates. Next door in a long green stucco house lived the Grilley boys, across the highway were the Nelsons. They were old, but their granddaughter played with us when she visited. The three Horner girls lived on the other side and on top of Saurey Hill lived the Saureys. This bunch of kids were who we played with or fought with depending on Norma’s mood for the day.

I loved to swim and fish. Luckily, a creek was only a half mile away. We would follow a country road north until we came to a spot where the creek passed under the road, made a bend and went back under the road. This area was ours. We fished and swam, built forts and ate picnic lunches there.

Shy Brookies lived in that stream. We caught them on worms and Schnell hooks, size number six. We crept, hush-hush, along the bank, not making a sound and making sure our shadows didn’t reflect on the water, as we cast our baited hooks into the water. The current carried the wiggling worms downstream under overhanging bushes where fish hid.

Norma caught her share as we all did, but woe be to any of us who made noise.

One day, walking ahead of me, Norma shrieked and high-stepped quickly in the opposite direction.

“What’s the matter?” I asked in a loud whisper. “You’re scaring the fish.”

“I almost stepped on a damn snake,” she answered.

“Not afraid of a little snake, are you?” I asked, surprised at her forbidden word.

“Of course not! I just don’t like them.”

Norma is afraid of the small green water snakes, my mind said. This was an enormous discovery! I now had an equalizer! I bided my time. Sure enough a few days later I had finally found the perfect spot to cast my line into the water.

She said. “Move that’s my spot.”

“No, it’s my spot.”

She balled a fist and ordered, “Go.”

Mumbling to myself, I trudged downstream and plopped on the bank. Movement caught my eye. I reached into the weeds and pulled out a wiggling, hissing snake. It was only a small water snake, but when I held it by the back of the neck, it dangled down a good foot. Wiggling. Mouth open and forked tongue sticking out. Perfect. I quietly circled around behind Norma and stood at her squatting back, holding the snake above her, the wiggling tail almost touching the top of her head.

She glanced up and saw what I held. “Yukkkk,” she screamed. “Get away!”

I held it closer.

She kicked and screamed like death was nearby. “Wait till I tell Mom what you did!” She ran for home.

A little guilt should have nagged at my mind, but fishing was good that day.

Montana Women Write Blogs

my kingdom


By Janice McCaffrey

Authors of the Flathead will host their 30th annual Writers Conference September 2020. This group was established by local authors to support and encourage one another and anyone interested in writing. In 2013 a few women in the group wanted to learn more about self-publishing and promoting their work. Thus began Montana Women Writers.

The founders set up a website: with four pages. Home explaining the groups’ mission, The Women with member’s pictures and bios, The Words which highlights the author’s books with links to purchase them, and The View, a blog which promotes members’ work the first of every month through Book News and mww bloggers 4features individual members’ posts the other weeks of each month.mww bloggers 6

According to an online dictionary the word ‘blog’ can be a noun: a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, which is written in an informal or conversational style. Or a verb: to add new material to or regularly update a blog.

mww bloggersA description of blogs I discovered online says that some blogs are categorized by genres that focus on a particular subject—writing. It also says that collaborative or group blogs are written by more than one author and are usually based around a single uniting theme–Montana women who write.

I’ve looked over The View’s archives and see that originally each month had a theme. May was mothers, June, weddings, and each of the four seasons had a month to themselves. mww bloggers 5Also published were excerpts from member’s published books or works in progress, thoughts members had from their personal reading like a characters’ specific strengths and weaknesses, their circumstances, actions, emotions, or motivations and how each may have influenced readers. mww bloggers 7Other topics have included personal and/or writing goals or resolutions, life in Montana, lessons learned from the writing and promoting experience, inspiration, creativity, memories associated with holidays, seasons, family, and friendship.

With you I look forward to the original blogs that will be published in 2020. And I’ll watch for some flash backs that were posted over the years. And like you I’ll contemplate, learn from, and enjoy the thoughts my fellow Montana Women Writers share.

Let’s enjoy the adventure together.

Happy New Year, Siberia

Karen's author photo apr 2019

By Karen Wills

I spent four years teaching Inupiaq Eskimo children in Wales, Alaska. Wales is a subsistence village of 150 people located on the tip of the Seward Peninsula. On a clear day, my husband and I and the villagers could see Russia, some 56 miles away, specifically the low, somber mountains of Siberia where the infamous gulags once threatened political dissidents and others. 

          In between us lay the Diomede Islands, Little Diomede owned by the United States and home to Inupiaq relatives of those living in Wales. A couple miles from it is Big Diomede which has a Russian military base. Our villagers used to have relatives on Big Diomede, too, but they were relocated to Siberia when the base was established. Now there is no communication between these native families of our two nations.

            I’m amazed that any human beings survived the brutality of those prison labor camps. The weather alone could kill you. I viewed the forbidding lands across the Bering Strait and wondered about those living there now, dealing with a climate that’s both politically and meteorologically oppressive. 

We could do nothing for them, but every New Years Eve, we all went to a high point at the end of the village and set off spectacular fireworks. fireworks blog 1 6 2020We hoped that distant relatives in Siberia could see them. I felt the difference between us those nights. A little of the Fourth of July entered my heart. Our freedoms should be protected and celebrated at home as well as communicated to places where human rights are still a distant dream, seen from afar.


Previously published January 5, 2014

     Karen Wills Author