9 episodes

Everybody's got a story to tell. Sometimes they need a little bit of help. Veteran ghostwriter Daniel Paisner talks shop with his fellow collaborators and shines a light on what it means to pursue a writing life on the back of someone else’s story.

As Told To Daniel Paisner

    • Arts
    • 5.0 • 7 Ratings

Everybody's got a story to tell. Sometimes they need a little bit of help. Veteran ghostwriter Daniel Paisner talks shop with his fellow collaborators and shines a light on what it means to pursue a writing life on the back of someone else’s story.

    Episode 8: William Novak

    Episode 8: William Novak

    "William Novak had the career I hadn't even known I wanted," host Daniel Paisner says of this episode's guest, who for a time seemed to have his have his hand in every major celebrity autobiography on bookstore shelves.
    Starting with the publication of the genre-defining best-seller Iacocca, by Lee Iacocca—the best-selling book of 1984 and 1985—Novak embarked on a string of collaborations on some of the biggest books of the next decade, including Earvin "Magic" Johnson's My Life, Nancy Reagan's My Turn, Lt. Colonel Oliver North's Under Fire, and Tip O'Neil's Man of the House. In fact, Novak was so busy during this period that he actually turned down the opportunity to work with Ronald Reagan and Nelson Mandela—an astonishing turn for a writer who candidly admits he was a little out of his element when he got the Iacocca assignment, as he struggled to realize that his job was not to write about Iacocca, as a journalist might, but to help the former Chrysler chairman "write the book about himself, based on how he sees himself." 
    Join us on this episode of As Told To: The Ghostwriting Podcast as we visit with the writer who helped to bring the work of the ghostwriter out of the shadows and into the light. 
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    • 1 hr 13 min
    Episode 7: Joni Rodgers

    Episode 7: Joni Rodgers

    Joni Rodgers is known to readers and publishers as a novelist, ghostwriter and essayist with an eye for detail, an ear for language and a heart to match her subjects. She’s collaborated on best-selling books with Don Lemon (This is the Fire), Kristin Chenoweth (A Little Bit Wicked), Swoosie Kurtz (Part Swan, Part Goose), Elizabeth Smart (Where There’s Hope), Justin Bieber (First Step 2 Forever), Rue McClanahan (My First Five Husbands…and the Ones Who Got Away), and Ndaba Mandela, the grandson of Nelson Mandela (Going to the Mountain), among others. 
    In January, 2022, she plans to reissue six books of her own, including the critically-acclaimed novels Crazy for Trying and Sugarland and the deeply personal (and, deeply funny) memoir about surviving cancer as a young mom, following a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 32—the best-selling Bald in the Land of Big Hair.
    Joni’s always known how to hold an audience: she grew up on stage, performing in a family bluegrass band called The Dakota Ramblers, and after studying theater in college she thought she’d make her way in the world as a performer—acting, playing music, and doing voice-over work. The cancer changed that—and so, she started writing. 
    “Ghostwriting combines the craft skills I’ve gained as a writer with the collaborative spirit of my theater roots,” she writes on her website. “I use my Stanislavski training to capture the unique voice of my clients, structure compelling stories, and focus powerful messaging.” 
    Together with her husband, the multi-media artist Gary Rodgers, she runs the Westport Lighthouse Writers Retreat, on the Pacific Coast, adjacent to Washington’s Westport Light State Park. 
    Connect with Joni Rodgers:
    Official website Westport Lighthouse Writers Retreat Facebook Instagram

    • 1 hr 15 min
    Episode 6: D. Watkins

    Episode 6: D. Watkins

    “Don’t make it out, make it better.”
    That’s a line from podcast guest D. Watkins, offered in the book trailer for his book of essays We Speak for Ourselves: A Word from Forgotten Black America, in which he gives voice to the voiceless and shines meaningful light on what it means to come of age in East Baltimore, in one of America’s poorest black neighborhoods. 
    It’s a line you might hear as well from D.’s NBA legend Carmelo Anthony, himself a product of an uncertain, unforgiving environment–the housing projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn, and Baltimore.
    In the future Hall-of-Famer’s just-published memoir, Where Tomorrows Aren’t Promised: A Memoir of Survival and Hope, an immediate New York Times best-seller, D. helps his celebrated co-author share his story of finding a way out of no way at all, sounding the call for social justice and offering a guidepost for readers looking to pull success from struggle. 
    More than any other athlete’s memoir in recent memory, the book offers a perfect pairing of author and subject, as D. brings his own perspective to Anthony’s hard-won experience. 
    An editor-at-large for Salon, D.’s work has been featured in The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, and Rolling Stone, among other publications. He is the author of the New York Times best-sellers The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir and The Beast Side: Living and Dying While Black in America.
    Connect with D. Watkins: 
    Facebook Twitter Instagram Website

    • 57 min
    Episode 5: Laura Zigman

    Episode 5: Laura Zigman

    Laura Zigman is one of our leading voices in contemporary fiction. She’s the author of five novels, including her genre-defining debut, Animal Husbandry, which enjoyed a second life on the screen as the Hugh Jackman/Ashley Judd starrer “Someone Like You,” as well as her most recent novel, Separation Anxiety, which is currently being developed as a limited television series featuring the actress Julianne Nicholson.
    Laura’s novels are known for their wit and insight, as she shines compelling light on women and families on the edge, but many of her most faithful readers are probably unaware of her work as a collaborator—most notably with the comedian Eddie Izzard, Texas state senator Wendy Davis, and matchmaker Patti Novak.
    Over the years, she’s leaned on her ghostwriting assignments as a way to fill the spaces between novels—and, to sharpen her instincts as a writer as she seeks ideas and inspiration for her fiction. In this episode of As Told To, she tells host Daniel Paisner that she sees herself as storyteller, whether she’s helping to craft someone else’s story or working in service of her own.
    “It’s a very delicate dance,” she says of the tug-and-pull that often surfaces between collaborator and subject. “You have to learn how to handle people. You have to give it back to them sometimes. You have to find that balance between being in service to them and their story and pushing back a little.”
    Here’s where you can find Laura online:
    Facebook Twitter Instagram Website

    • 1 hr 14 min
    Episode 4: Lisa Dickey

    Episode 4: Lisa Dickey

    “Each author is different, and each book a puzzle we figure out together,” Lisa Dickey writes, of her work as a collaborator.
    In the course of her career as one of publishing’s most sought-after ghostwriters, Lisa has put together over 20 such puzzles, alongside a rich and varied list of high-profile clients, including first lady Jill Biden (Where the Light Enters); Illinois senator and Iraqi war veteran Tammy Duckworth (Every Day is a Gift); Cissy Houston (Remembering Whitney); and Patrick Swayze and Lisa Niemi (The Time of My Life).  
    She has also written books with California Governor Gavin Newsom; legendary jazz pianist Herbie Hancock; and former Hearst Magazines president Cathie Black, among others. 
    “I’m a storyteller at heart,” Lisa writes, “and I feel incredibly lucky to have helped some of the most intriguing, accomplished and eminent people in the world tell their stories.” 
    She’s not kidding about the “storyteller at heart” piece of the puzzle, because in addition to her collaborative work Lisa is also a “brilliant, real and readable” writer in her own right—at least according to no less an authority on such matters as former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, weighing in on Lisa’s Bears in the Streets: Three Journeys Across a Changing Russia, a look at the lives and beliefs of contemporary Russians, based on interviews she conducted with the same subjects over the span of 20 years.
    Here’s Lisa on how learning to speak Russian has informed her work as a writer: “When you start thinking about how [you are] going to express yourself in this other language, you start to really understand how language is put together… and how the native language that you speak affects the way that you think and the way that you express yourself.”
    Lisa’s feel for language finds its way into her collaborative work as well, as she translates the innermost thoughts of her subjects onto the page in such a way that their stories ring true. 
    Check her out on stage at the Moth Grand Slam.
    Facebook: @lisadickeyauthor
    Twitter: @lisawritesbooks
    Website: http://lisadickey.com/ 

    • 1 hr 10 min
    Episode 3: Steve Kettmann

    Episode 3: Steve Kettmann

    Sportswriter, collaborator, editor, publisher…Steve Kettmann has just about covered the publishing waterfront. Perhaps his biggest success on the ghostwriting front was his 2005 collaboration with outsized baseball slugger Jose Canseco, Juiced, which made headlines immediately upon publication for its revelations on the widespread use of anabolic steroids in our national pastime and became a #1 New York Times best-seller.
    After nearly a decade as a sportswriter for the San Francisco Chronicle, highlighted by several years as a beat writer covering the Oakland A’s, it seems only natural that many of Kettmann’s books have centered in and around baseball—including an uncredited collaboration with another of the game’s most controversial figures, Pete Rose (Play Hungry), as well as his own One Day at Fenway, chronicling a single game between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, and Baseball Maverick, an examination of the life and career of the noted front-office visionary Sandy Alderson.
    Kettmann has also written extensively about politics, including collaborations with former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (What A Party!) and the late Robert Byrd, long-time U.S. Senator from West Virginia (Letter to a New President), among others.
    In recent years, Kettmann has turned his talents to editing, compiling a headline-making collection of essays on the aftermath of the Trump presidency (Now What?: The Voters Have Spoken – Essays on Life After Trump); and, a heart-breaking and heart-lifting compilation of reminiscences inspired by the sudden death of his great friend Pedro Gomez, the ESPN reporter and one of the game’s greatest ambassadors (Remember Who You Are: What Pedro Gomez Showed Us About Baseball and Life). Both books were published by Wellstone Books, the small, independent publishing arm of the Wellstone Center in the Redwoods, a writer’s retreat in northern California founded by Kettmann and Sarah Ringler in 2012.  
    Over the course of his long and varied career, Kettmann has reported from twenty countries on five continents, for publications including the New York Times, New York Newsday, the Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, the Washington Monthly, GQ, and Wired.com.
    “I have a lot of passion for telling stories through collaborative writing,” Kettmann says—and in this episode of “As Told To” that passion comes through loud and clear, as he joins us to discuss what it means to capture the juice and essence of a celebrated subject and a life purposefully (and, in some cases, scandalously) lived.   
    Steve Kettmann: Twitter | Instagram
    This episode is sponsored by Libro.fm and Writer's Bone.

    • 1 hr 2 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
7 Ratings

7 Ratings

lisablin ,

The inside scoop!

Dan and his guests know all the inside dope on how celebrity books get made. Such a interesting topic, and Dan is a fun and engaging interviewer. Learn something and be entertained, all at once!

mikelglass ,

Peek behind the curtain…we’ll, the book jacket.

Interesting expose of the writer’s mind.

jasman2100 ,

Fun and insightful

This podcast takes you behind the scenes of so many best sellers. Great stories about both the writers and their subjects. Fascinating!

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