The great thing about being an author and a ghostwriter is that I get to talk about both. One of the most rewarding parts of my job is imparting information to children (primary and secondary school level) and young adults studying English in university about different aspects of writing.
Over the years, I have come to find that for young people in particular, the fascination lies with ghostwriting rather than being ‘just an author’. One staff member of a secondary school recently told me that their author speakers didn’t raise as much interest as the ‘more unusual’ side of writing. She found that bloggers, poets and ghostwriters inspired more engagement than ‘plain old authors’. As an author and a ghostwriter, I have to admit that it’s more fun to give talks about ghostwriting, especially when the students are so enthusiastic!
The first question I always ask my audience is ‘what is a ghostwriter?’ The most common answers are, ‘someone who writes horror stories’ or ‘someone who writes books about ghosts.’
After we discuss what ghostwriting really means, the students do an interviewing exercise – one student takes the part of the ‘ghostwriter’, and the other takes the part of the ‘client’ who wishes to write a book. The client chooses the topic of the book based on his/her hobbies and passions. The ghostwriter then interviews the client and writes down the answers to the questions. After the interview has finished, the students swap. This gives everybody a chance to be a ghostwriter!
I find this to be a great exercise to teach children the basics of interviewing such as learning how to use open-ended questions, letting the other person talk without interruption, and avoiding the temptation to rush in to fill any silences. To date, I’ve taught children who want to write books on food, fashion, music, law, rugby and movies. In my experience, there is not one child who has shied away from this exercise.
Regardless of the ages of the audience, it never fails to surprise me how insightful children can be. Recently, I was invited to do a ghostwriting workshop for Year 9 students at a North London secondary school. I was surprised and pleased to find that a couple of the students had propelled themselves into the future so they could write books about their achievements to date.
For example, one 14-year-old student had imagined herself as a successful fashion designer in her twenties. Her ‘book’ was about her rise to success. It had never occurred to me that the exercise would inspire some students to think of the future in such a creative way.
It sounds like a cliché but seeing how these children’s minds work is nothing short of inspirational. There is nothing better than seeing a group of slightly suspicious teenagers or wide-eyed 11-year-old children throw themselves into role play before asking really interesting and sometimes comical questions – one of the funniest being, ‘How much do you earn?’ Money may be important but it can’t buy this level of reward!
Looking for a ghostwriter to give a talk or run a workshop at your primary/secondary school or university? Then get in touch. I would be delighted to hear from you!
Emma Murray is a bestselling author and ghostwriter, specialising in business, psychology and higher education. She also ghosts books, blogs, articles, case studies, and book proposals.