Children Are Being Prostituted: What Is To Be Done?
Cardinal Law's ouster in Boston for turning a blind
eye to the sexual exploitation of children marks the latest chapter
in the on going saga of boys and girls being used for sex in America.
In the past year, dozens of priests have been identified as sexual
abusers of hundreds of children, internet pedophilia has flourished,
missing children fill our headlines, and in San Diego, 61-year-old
Judge Ronald C. Kline was charged with six counts of child pornography,
and child molestation. Against this backdrop, on December 13th and
14th, 2002, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
held the Protecting Our Children Summit, in Washington, DC. Among
the 175 participants were representatives from the US State Dept.,
Dept. of Justice, Dept. of Health & Human Services, Dept. of
Housing and Urban Development, Police Depts. from SF, San Jose,
NY, Dallas, and Seattle, academics from Johns Hopkins and Univ.
of Rhode Island, Atty. General offices of SF, NY, Santa Clara and
Chicago, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children,
the Center to End Adolescent Sexual Exploitation, and Standing Against
Global Exploitation, as well as survivors. All gathered to try and
figure out what is to be done about the epidemic of commercial sexual
exploitation of children in America.
It became clear early on in the summit that change, as it always
seems to, comes down to one person making a difference. Judge Nina
Hickson of Atlanta was one of the opening speakers. Several years
ago, she became aware of a network of pimps who were commercially
exploiting kids for sex. She was so outraged by the situation, and
by the inadequacies of the law, that she would not stop until new
legislation was enacted that enabled law enforcement officials to
arrest these pimps, and allowed her to put them away for a very
long time. Later in the conference Laura J. Ledener, Senior Advisor
on Trafficking Persons for the US State Department, told harrowing
stories of rescuing kids from hell.
Here are some stories from the survivor's panel. Barbara (name protected)
said: "I was raped, prostituted and used in pornography from
the time I was 2 years old, til I ran away when I was 14."
Cathy (name protected) said: "When I was 12,
my mom put some clothes in a brown paper bag, and told me she didnít
want me any more. So I started walking, and a guy picked me up in
his car. He was so nice. Pretty soon, he had me selling my body,
and he kept all the money." "When I was 17 I was raped
by a really nice man who lured me to his apartment with the promise
of a steak dinner. Within a week I was a prostitute. I went on to
be a drug and sex addict." That last story is mine. I was invited
to this conference because I wrote a book about my experiences called
Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent (ReganBooks,
Harper Collins, 2002). Over and over my heart was broken by these
shocking stories of abuse and triumph. By the way, Barbara is now
founder of a prostitution prevention group, a published writer,
getting her MFA. Cathy is a mom of three flourishing kids.
Me, I got married on July 5 to a beautiful woman,
and I live in a house with a white picket fence just like the one
I fantasized about when I was a young chicken.
But for every success story, there were too many tales of prosecutors
arresting abusers, only to have callous judges throw the cases out
because they wanted to punish "real criminals." Too many
care providers lamenting about how they canít get funding
to help kids who are in desperate need of physical and emotional
help. Too many academics saying they canít get money to conduct
the research that must be done. Too many police officers expressing
frustration that they have nowhere to place kids who've been exploited
so that they can wait safely to testify against the pimps and the
predators who buy and sell them. Too many agencies displayed a shocking
lack a coordination with each other. Too many social workers who
watch as kids escape from group homes and shelters to go back onto
the streets, or are returned to the families that abused them. Too
many horror stories of kids pummeled, beaten with baseball bats,
serially tortured, raped, sold and passed around from abuser to
abuser, while Americans like Cardinal Law turn a blind eye.
So what is to be done about the sexual commercial
exploitation of children? Suggestions were many.
1) Stop treating prostituted kids as criminals. When a youth is
arrested for prostitution, the question inevitably asked is, "Did
the child agree to the act?" This is the equivalent of asking
an assaulted child if they agreed to being beaten. Almost all of
these kids have been subjected to terrible trauma, and must be given
the psychological, emotional, and physical help they need, as well
as the skills required to move on.
2) Stop passing kids from agency to agency to hospital to foster
home, and allow kids to have a say in what happens to them when
theyíre rescued from sexual exploitation. And make sure they
have a safe place to go.
3) Prosecute pimps and johns who abuse kids with vigorous laws and
enforcement, and multiple charging (statutory rape, child endangerment,
and RICO statute) abusers.
4) Create a Child Protection Czar, who would coordinate and facilitate
organizations on a local and national level.
5) Spread public information for kids, parents and educators on
how to talk about this subject: not as sex education, but as violence
6) Get media attention to spread the word on this epidemic in a
way that doesnít trivialize or sensationalize.
7) Establish an 800 number that kids can call day or night that
will refer them to a local agency where they can get the help they
8) Find a celebrity spokesman who would speak to kids and parents
on this subject.
9) Form a group of survivors who can help set policy, and talk all
over the country in schools and churches and community centers.
10) Recognize that sexual predators aren't all pockmarked men in
stained raincoats. Sometimes theyíre gardeners, priests,
uncles, and yes, even judges.
The jaded cynic in me thinks that all this talk will
prove to be just a lot of hot air. But the wide-eyed optimist in
me believes that this summit will be a springboard for opening Americaís
eyes; for changing the terrible prejudice that exists in our culture
against kids who've been prostituted? The assumption that they "asked
for it", that they're spoiled, worthless and undeserving of
love and help, for finally ending the selling of our children once
and for all.
This is part of the speech I gave to close the conference.
I wasnít abused as a kid, I grew up in nice
neighborhoods, Santa slid down my chimney, my parents loved me.
And I had no idea what was waiting for me on the mean streets of
America. We have to make kids and families understand that the problem
of children being used for sex doesnít just happen in Bangkok,
or India, or Brazil. It's happening in our nice neighborhoods. To
girls and boys.
"Flying too fast down the Hollywood hills, my
trick's poison courses through my veins, there's a pain in the belly
of my dark heart, I'm all soiled and spoiled, rotten, rancid and
raging, a hurricane of hate and shame making my brain go insane."
This is from my book Chicken, and I read it to you now because I
want you to understand the depths of horror kids go through when
they're used for sex. Because I want you to leave here with empathy
in your heart. I was lucky. I was in the Life for less than a year,
and I went on to Reed College, where I was able to study and heal,
to re-integrate myself into society. But even for me, in the best
circumstances imaginable, I was unable to stop myself from becoming
a drug-addicted, sex-addicted abuser. The things we do, and that
are done to us, live inside us. Until we let them out. Hank Williams
wrote a great lyric: "My bucketís got a hole in it."
We must help kids whoíve been commercially exploited for
their sex, so that they can mend the hole in their bucket.
My publisher kept telling me they needed a happy ending
for my book. Finally I told them, "You don't understand, the
happy ending is that Iím not dead, that Iím alive,
that Iím here to tell my story." And with the diligent
help of all you good people, there will be lots more happy endings
for kids all over America.
tree, by andrew
you said let's
make love in a tree
i said yeah sure
we'll probably fall
out knowing us
but regardless we spent
that afternoon walking
in the damp forest
looking for our tree
when you saw it
you said this is the one
and started climbing
water fell from the leaves
i was hesitant and i
was slow but i followed
and you waited and when
i met up with you
you were soaked and you
were gleaming and i
almost said something about
that then but before i
could you kissed me
To a Beautiful Woman Reading, by
Some of us feel twice blessed
to also gleam the cleavage
of your opened "Madame Bovary"
spilling over your binder's
(to spy fingers stroke the
title's verbal vertebrate before
a passionate line by Rilke
talons your nails into the spine
of "Sonnets to Orpheus.")
Our fantasy: always that you're deep
into Hegel, Dante, or Dickens
and, before allowing any man's hands
to salmon all the way
to your sacred spawning grounds, in need
of four-course conversations
about dilectics, transubstantiation,
and the City of Chancery. Yes, see
when we confirm you're filleting
Frazier's five pound "Golden Bough"
or whitewatering the pages
of "The Complete History of Heaven."
Note how we change seats
or pretend to go to the restroom
to ensure we're going to
borrow sweet n' low
from a woman who cares deeply
about Cather's lonely praries
or the scissors, bowls, and artichokes
enobled in Neruda's "Common Odes."
And as you press the flimsy
dust jocket across the chest
of Camus' "Stranger,"
know how few of us will dream of opening
you like a frail first edition
unless, during wine or the museum
reception, you reveal the unabridged version
of a mind trying to imbibe
all of Hawking's "Universe in a Nutshell"
or the secret of the Ballinese people
who have no word for art
because they take time
to do everything beautifully....
Go on beautiful woman with eyes
that stamen delight,
look up from your dogeared
and see just how beautifully I read.
WHY "POLITICAL CORRECTNESS"
MAY BE POLITICALLY INCORRECT
By Diane E. Dees
A few years ago, I went to the homecoming game of my undergraduate
university. I hadn't been there in years; some things had changed,
some had not. One thing that was the same was the team's mascot,
an Indian chief, decked out in full head dress, who rides onto the
field, spear in hand, on a large horse right before the start of
the game. Apparently, the news that this type of thing is offensive
to Native Americans had not yet reached my alma mater.
In the bleachers a few rows down from me was an African American
woman and her little girl. The little girl was swinging a tomahawk
and dancing to the music of the marching band. The image of her
chopping her "weapon" in the air and doing an Indian war
cry with her other hand is frozen in my mind's eye: It reflects
perfectly the deep complexity of cultural politics in America.
Imagine a football team whose mascot is a minstrel singer, and
imagine a little white girl dancing in blackface in the bleachers.
Even in my less than enlightened alma mater, such a scene is, of
course, unimaginable. Although racism toward African Americans
is alive and well in this country, it is at least now acknowledged
as a terrible thing, whereas racism toward native Americans is not
discussed. There is no native American defamation lobby that has
captured the attention of the news media, and there is relatively
little public outcry over attitudes toward native Americans. The
little girl innocently swinging her tomahawk in the bleachers had
no clue she was being offensive, and one can only imagine that her
mother had no idea of the perceived racism in her child's behavior.
If you add to the mix the cultural sensitivity requests of women,
Hispanic/Latino people, Asian Americans, Jewish Americans, disabled
people, and the homosexual/bisexual/transgendered population, what
you get is a lot of confusion and resentment over what is the correct
thing to do or say when referring to or interacting with each group.
It is this confusion-as well as the bigotry that created the problems
in the first place-that has given so-called "political correctness"
a bad name.
Now add another layer to the confusion: the changing trends within
each cultural group. During the 60's and 70's, we were asked to
call the African American population "black." Later, some
members of this group expressed a preference for "African American,"
and now, many of the African American population is again requesting
"black" as the preferred label. Not long ago, I heard
a white woman talk about "colored people." My shock that
she would use this utterly offensive 1950's term was matched only
by my realization that if she had said "people of color,"
she would have been irrefutably hip.
Another example is "queer." Pejorative for many years,
it is now au currant as the political-power identifier
for gays, when used by gays, yet still pejorative when used by non-gays.
I wore a "Don't Call Me Girl" button throughout most
of the 70's. In the 90's, supporters shouted "You Go, Girl!"
to Hillary Clinton, as she traveled across New York in her Senatorial
campaign. Does this mean it's all right to call us "girls"
No other recent event showcases the madness surrounding what is
called political correctness more than the 1999 "niggardly"
debacle in Washington. D.C. David Howard, the director of a municipal
agency, announced to his staff that budget cutbacks were forcing
him to be niggardly with funds, and there was such an uproar, he
was forced to resign. He did get his job back, but only after the
mayor acknowledged that he had been too quick to condemn Howard's
use of the word. However, there was no shortage of commentators
who-though acknowledging that the word "niggardly" has
nothing at all to do with race-criticized Howard for using it.
It happened again at the University of Wisconsin when a professor
used the new "'n' word" in a lecture on Chaucer, prompting
one of her students to demand that the university implement a speech
code to punish the professor. And then it happened yet again when
a fourth grade teacher in Wilmington, North Carolina used "niggardly"
in a vocabulary lesson, and a parent called on the school to fire
her. The teacher agreed not to use the word anymore, and that was
the end of the story.
An equally inane incident, but one which received considerably
less publicity, involved a woman who was reprimanded by her boss
because she kissed her husband in the company parking lot during
her lunch break. This behavior, she was told, violated the company's
sexual harassment rules, and was to be avoided by her in the future.
With things like this going on, is it any wonder that the suspiciously
named phenomenon of political correctness makes people uncomfortable,
at the least, and in some cases, enrages them. But that is because
of a double failure of society: the failure to understand the need
for cultural sensitivity, and the failure to understand context.
"It's just a word," a man I know says of the original
"n" word, the most offensive of all words hurled at black
Americans. "I grew up with it; we always used it." The
implication here is: I'm used to using this word. It's too much
to ask me to stop using it. What's the big deal?
The big deal is that it insults and hurts, and that is reason enough
to refrain from using it. All of the standard nicknames for ethnic
groups-whether Jewish, Italian-American, or Chicano-insult and humiliate.
That is what they were designed to do.
Native Americans don't want to be called Indians because they prefer
not to have their identity derived from a rather large error in
geography made by a hapless explorer. Who can blame them? The physically
disabled don't want to be called "crippled," women don't
want to be called "broads" and other body parts, or "girls,"
which implies that they are children.
This is where it gets tricky. If someone says "Indian"
or "girl" and an offended person requests to be called
otherwise, the response is often "Oh, I didn't mean anything
by it" or "I've always said that" or "I can't
keep up with all of this bad-word stuff." The implication is,
of course, that the offended party is once more to blame for causing
an inconvenience. The other implication is that language does not
matter, when, in reality, it matters more than almost anything.
Trickier still is the reality that not all members of a group are
offended when they are addressed in ways that their group finds
offensive. Women in particular tend to accept being addressed in
less than dignified terms, leaving some of the rest of us twisting
in the wind, wondering how American feminism could have failed in
such a basic way. The failure to understand the need for cultural
sensitivity, then, sometimes exists within the maligned cultural
The failure to understand context is part ignorance and part red
herring. By ignoring context, people on both sides of the conflict
can take the easy way out. Consider "niggardly" again:
There is nothing about the word that has anything at all to with
racial matters, but people with less than sterling vocabularies
jumped to conclusions and were offended by it. Others, who knew
its meaning, thought it was dangerous because it sounds
like an offensive word. Taking offense at a harmless word is not
politically correct--it is stupid. But because the offense was taken
under the guise of political correctness, such "correctness"
then becomes associated with stupidity.
Let's return to the woman who kissed her husband in the parking
lot. When the incident made the news, it provided prime ammunition
for people who were already upset by sexual harassment laws. But
a rule that forbids a woman from kissing her own husband isn't a
rule made by people who want to be sensitive to the needs of people
in the workplace; it is made by people who don't have a clue what
sexual harassment is, and who consequently make a mockery of the
need to not be sexually harassed.
Which brings us to the offense that some people take when they
hear stand-up comics or television shows that take shots at ethnic
groups and women. Is their offense justified? I don't think so,
as long as the comic or program is making fun of everyone. Lampooning
every group ("South Park" is a prime example of this),
by definition, does not single any one group out, thereby transcending
Why is context so hard for people to grasp? If someone says to
me "you go, girl!" or if I describe myself as a "rock
and roll girl," we are referring to a vernacular that celebrates
spiritual youth. It is not the same as having a man (or a woman,
for that matter) refer to me as "the girl who writes essays"
when that person would never dream of calling an adult male "the
boy who writes essays." In order to comprehend the contextual
differences among these uses of the word "girl," there
must first exist a comprehension of feminist sensibility, just as
there must exist an understanding of African American sensibility
in order to avoid calling members of the group "colored people."
The further development of such sensibilities is dubious. Though
"cultural diversity" is a popular concept among conservatives
and liberals alike, it is just that-a concept. Yes, it is good that
children study the customs of cultures other than their own, just
as it is good that we are repeatedly reminded that Islamic Americans
are not our enemies. But when cultural diversity dares to become
more than a concept-when men are sued for sexual harassment and
institutions are challenged for banning gay people-then the concept
isn't so pretty anymore.
As long as cultural sensitivity is a gift given by the non-oppressed
to the oppressed, then we embrace it. But when we have to change
our laws, examine our language, and conduct our lives differently,
then the gift turns into "political correctness"--an ugly
derivative of our own fears of the dreaded "other."
Love + Chance
“'Instead of God chance.' This means nature insofar as it
occurs, though not as occurring once and for all but as surpassing
itself in infinite occurrences, excluding any possible limits. In
this infinite representation (a representation that quite likely
is the boldest and most deranged ever tried out by humankind) the
idea of God explodes like a bombshell - divine impoverishment and
impotence clashing with human chance!”
Getting a grip? Easy! Though…I myself in control of myself
could scare me. Exasperation. Depression. Excitement. My life, or
the lack of one is my state of mind. Less and less do I question
to know. That’s something that pretty much leaves me indifferent.
And I live. And I question in order to live. I live out this search,
enduring relatively harsh ordeals - harsh because of the jangled
state of my nerves. I see no escape at this point. I’m alone
with myself, lacking any previous means of escape - pleasure, excitement.
I have to get a grip. If I don’t is there any alternative?
Endlessly, we annihilate ourselves - thought and life falling into
the void where they dissipate. To call this void divine - this void
at which I have aimed, at which my thought aims…
In the prison-cell of the body what can we do, other than provoke
glimpses of something beginning beyond the walls?
Get ready for the night, the rumours on waking, a gradual feeling
of learning and remembering ////
My life, strange and exhausting, tonight weighted down by grief.
Spent hours waiting, suspecting the worst. Then finally - chance
I reasoned like this. My life is a leap, an impulse, whose strength
is chance. And now - at the level at which I presently gamble my
life - if I lose chance, I collapse.
Meet me at the crossroads, meet me at the edge of town. Outskirts
of the city.
Borderline dreams. New Mexico, sleep - death’s friend, death’s
sister. An abandoned motel, flowers and dirt on its walls. Darkening,
swift shadows lean on the meat your body to allow breathing. We
lie here stolen in the cold night. Strangled by doubt I relax in
your secret wilderness, your teeming emptiness.
You spoke to me. You took my hand and led me past silence into
cool whispered bliss.
Anguish, anxiety, preoccupy me and gnaw at me. Anguish is present
and hovering over possible depths…I raise myself up to the
limit and see the ground of things opening up. Like an unwelcome
knock on the door, anguish is present. Which is a sign of risk and
chance. In its demented voice - chance urging me. I “rise
up” out of myself, flames growing right in front of me. Bitter
scent of smoke, fire-night //////
What I loved in you, I loved to the point of wanting to die from
this love. Not some individuated existence but the universal aspect
of you. Although this aspect is what risks itself, risks me.
I can’t take risks without this anguish of feeling suspended.
But to take risks means to overcome anguish.
With your eyes, wary, gleaming. Warm creature of silence. The rustling
sex against skin. The wind withdraws all sound. In bed that night,
blackness burned. Savage destiny gone mad with fever.
Dance naked on broken bottles, feet bleeding and stained. Shards
cut stripes across your mind. Dust, knives, screams. Nightmares
along the divine corridor.
How can you know chance unless you’re filled with a secret
love for it?
An insane love creates it, hurling itself at your face in silence.
And chance fell on me from heaven’s heights, and chance was
who I am //////
To gamble or to question “self”…
Chance, endlessly contested, endlessly gambled. If you had decided
to embody chance right down to the last molecule, you couldn’t
have done better. Every flowery exhalation of you, the hectic flush
of your cheek touches it. Appearing - although through anguish…Then
disappearing so suddenly that anguish…As if night alone could
precede you, as if only night would follow you. But each time without
intending it. Appropriately (if you are chance).
Insanely loving chance, you gamble everything…even reason
Finally chance is purified. It’s freed from all minor objects
and reduced to its own inner nature. Chance is no longer a solitary
lucky response to the simple fact of risk. In the end the response
is chance itself - gambling endlessly, putting questions, wagering
Summer sadness, the highways of this cancerous town. Ghosts in
cars. Electric shadows.
The ‘Ghost’ of Big Things
Edward Wilson is inarguably one of the world’s greatest living
biologists. His novel premise into a synthesis of all ways of knowing,
expounded in his classy book, Consilience, has a powerful base.
It is a plea that calls for the fundamental unity of all knowledge,
and the need to search for ‘consilience’ - the proof
that everything in our world is organised in terms of a small number
of fundamental natural laws. Of due processes that surround, or
include, particles underlying every branch of learning, or intellectual
convention - and, not just a much-hyped assemblage - which has its
roots in the ancient Greek concept of orderliness.
Wilson’s monumental idea, albeit controversial, is a revelation
by itself. It’s something that may not only be used with special
reference, but also emphasis vis-à-vis the common equation/s
between writers and ghost-writers. For example: the ability to write
with flourish - an indispensable part of either vocation. Or, better
still, the magical power and grace of words - or, the way you control
both your mind and the muse to effecting a great copy. It sets the
‘tone’ for this piece - but, it means no offence.
“Paperback writer…,” is a lovely Beatles number,
a song that more than brings home the essentialities of ‘softback’
writers - a competitive breed that’s only too willing to cater
to public taste, and every publisher’s fancy. That’s
not all. The sweetly tuned lyric was - and, is - nothing short of
a laudatory songlike poem for every vocational wordsmith, worth
his/her salt. More so, because “nobody but a blockhead,”
as Dr Samuel Johnson said, “ever wrote, except for money.”
That the good, old Johnson could have, perforce, included ghost-writers
in that position, no less - if only he had fancied them - is passé.
Realistically speaking, it’d have been fair too, in an equation
with such an unmistakable dimension, unless someone as great-a-writer-can-be
could have sent ghost-writers to permanent obscurity. Like the genii.
Somebody like Sir Walter Scott, for one, who wrote to rescue himself
from his creditors after star-crossed investments.
Interestingly, our world of today, notwithstanding high technological
advance and scientific supremacy, no longer produces such writers.
Shakespeare, for example, never used a computer. He lived in a different
epoch - not the age of Bill Gates. He was a blessed soul - too comfortably
ensconced in a world of his own - far away from media-orchestrated
glare. It’s an age not buoyed by the demands of the modern
period, where fuzzy logic now enables us to write in a style a la
Hemingway, but not like Hemingway himself. Of less substance. Of
more bestselling writers. Of tons of cash in advance - even before
you’ve written a word.
The inference is obvious. There’s now opportunity in abundance
for ghost-writers: much more than anytime before. That they are
so much in demand does not have an antique parallel. It is all part
of the whole, and sum of its parts. Because, even ghost-writing
is nothing short of a performance art. Somewhere down the line a
public waits - if not in the mind of the ghost-writer, at least
in the eye of the publisher who wants to ‘cash-in’ on
the commercial prospects - the bigger the celebrity, the better
the moolah. Which only explains why most ‘ghosties’
don’t even have the time to write their own stories, scripts,
essays, books etc., Yet, one thing is certain: nobody ever wants
a ghost-writer to win the Booker/Nobel Prize, much less read him/her.
There hangs a tale - quite sublime.
Every ghost-writer who knows the job well does the contrivance
of tales best - stories that never happened in fact… in a
manner intriguing to the reader. Alternatively, the good ghost-writer,
who understands the ephemeral subtleties of his trade, is also more
than adept at balancing the subject’s psychological shadowland
where two worlds collide: fact and fable. S/he also endorses what
scholar James Hillman construes, in his fascinating book, The Soul’s
Code, as an indubitable plan of action vis-à-vis his/her
subject - but in a different context:
“I am not your facts. I will not let what is strange in me,
about me, my mystery, be put in a world of fact. I must invent a
world that presents a truer illusion of who I am [rather] than the
social, environmental, ‘realities.’ Besides, I do not
lie or invent. Confabulations occur spontaneously. I cannot be accused
of lying, for the stories that come out of me about myself are not
quite me speaking.”
You cannot, of course, ask a ‘ghostie’ a straight question:
whether s/he is a ghost-writer. Worse still, you do not know them.
Ghost-writers don’t carry their identity cards on their countenance.
But, you do know something about them because the best of celebrities,
sportspersons, including some famous authors use their talents,
day-in and day-out. Even at the eleventh hour: to meeting a deadline.
Impossible, at times; but, always possible, thanks to the ‘ghost’
- not a mere ghost, but your very own ‘user-friendly’
alter ego… You may, as a luminary, also sometimes not like
it. Because, when your ghost-written work does the rounds, your
readers are convinced that you wrote it nevertheless - all on your
own. Which brings us to one, inevitable or inescapable, conclusion:
why should a ghost always yield, or prostrate?
The logic is, again, simple. To cull a paradigm. A major launch.
A notable personage’s autobiography. The star rises to make
a speech. S/he thanks all those who may have helped with the book’s
great success: publisher/s, editor/s, distributor/s, agent/s, publicist/s,
the ad agency, the copywriter, and so on. But, what about the ghost-writer?
S/he isn’t just there, albeit you’d always ‘spot’
him/her. Unthanked, s/he is left staring at a placard, or sadly
looking at oneself in one’s own mirror. In one’s own
mind, or out of it, so to say.
And, that’s the way it is - at the stakes. But, there’s
nothing you could do except beat a primal grouse. Which is also
one reason why ghosts are not so fastidious about getting the credits.
They simply can’t. Because, nobody is ever going to lap up
a book written by a ghost. Yet, there are a few choicer commissions
for the jobbing ghost-writer. S/he’s at it whole-heartedly,
because of the coziness associated with his/her expertise. More
so, when the subject is both rich and famous, not to speak of being
bold and beautiful.
It goes without saying that all ghost-writers often try to do one
thing best: reproduce the very voice, the inner voice, of their
subject. They also get to somehow hold on to that illusion, or maya.
For the simple reason that a ‘ghostie’ is one who is
creating a ‘writing’ voice for his/her subject’s
‘talking’ voice. If you are a ‘ghostie,’
forget about the fact as to who is telling the story. Move on, and
take the rough with the smooth, and vice versa. Because, your relationship
is delicate - even stressful. Also remember: breakdowns are commonplace.
Be careful, even extra careful, always. Never talk to anybody, especially
a newsperson, VJ, DJ, or someone remotely connected with the media,
about your technique, current or recent projects. It’s dangerous,
because once people get to know that a book has been ghosted, the
work, in spite of all the gloss, and enormous media buzz, may not
And - remember. As a ‘ghostie,’ you’ve got to
just wait. You also have got to keep an eye on the bestseller lists,
your bank account. Because, by the time the book appears in print,
subjects are pretty convinced that they wrote it anyway. The rest
is easy: selling the work, with the usual ingredients of publicity
campaigns, author-signing sessions, Press Meet/s, interviews, and
so on. And, if you want something more than good to happen, ask
the publishers to resort to clichés. To draw just one example:
“This book will change your life.” Next, get the quotes:
from celebrity writers, or some famous guru, in New-Age writing,
Last, but not the least. Tell your readers, through your subject,
that life is a consciousness game, and offer them a ‘fuzzy,’
scratch-card remedy to sadness. What’s more - make it simple,
and complicated. You’ll do well.
Rajgopal Nidamboor is a Bombay-based writer-editor. Visit him at