imposter

I spent much of the holidays ghost-writing a memoir in a mad, mad rush to meet an unreasonable deadline. Three weeks was all I had to produce a book proposal with three finished chapters. It was totally crazy, but I did it. After the new year, we sent out queries (wrote those, too) and within a week, we had no fewer than nine literary agents request the book proposal. Four of those then requested the full manuscript. Days later, three were vying for exclusives.

One agent, in particular, lathered on the praise. Part of me couldn’t help but question not only the sincerity but the sustainability of her enthusiasm. But the praise wasn’t for me, of course. It was for the author because, don’t forget, I was only a ghost. The agent predicted cash advances far beyond the modest amounts other had told him to expect, and with a first-choice publisher. But—there was a catch—he had to get rid of me. No publisher was going to advance $100,000 to an unknown writer using an unknown and unproven ghostwriter. After months of promising he’d fight for me (this was as much for my career as it was for him, he said), in the end, all it took was someone talking sweet to him and offering shiny, pretty promises. He couldn’t even pretend to be burdened by the decision. It was his only choice! I mean, except for the other agents willing to give it a go with no strings attached.

It’s fucking eating at me. Not so much his lack of loyalty—I can’t be surprised by that, not really. Disappointed, angry, and betrayed, yes, but not surprised. When you write someone’s life story, you can see them far, far more clearly than you even see yourself. What kills me is that fifteen years ago, I had agents inviting me to lunches or coffee, sending me pretty little promises of my own, and for no particular project at all. My name was what they wanted. My audience. My voice. This Fish. I was the opposite of unknown and unproven.

And now I’m an imposter.

I want to scream until I am hoarse. The amount of time and emotion I invested in writing, mentoring, and managing (for the love of god, no, you cannot TEXT a literary agent) also came with a fulfillment absent from my duties as a stay-at-home parent. And now that’s gone, too. And its absence feels so heavy, I just want to crawl back into bed and stay there. But up I stay because there are noses, bottoms, and countertops to wipe. And that, I’m qualified to do.

8 comments to imposter

  • i’d preorder the fish book now if i could!

  • Mrs. P

    Do it! Write again! It’s what you’re meant to do! This was just practice for the real book. I would buy that book!!! Don’t let one little snot nosed agent ruin your dream (because OBVIOUSLY you are good enough!) Have you not read, “Girl, Wash Your Face” ? If not, you should

    • thisfish

      You can’t blame the agent – that’s her job. It’s ultimately his decision who ghost-writes his book.

      I haven’t read that but I keep seeing it in Target. I should pick up a copy!

  • Nicole

    I was sooo happy to see you had posted but now I am angry about your situation. They don’t understand what they are missing out on. You were always my favorite blog and I am 100% sure any book you write, as a ghost writer or not, would be an excellent read. Hopefully more opportunities will come your way soon to make up for this not so nice one.

  • Melissa

    Definitely seconding, thirding, eighteening the “I’d read your book” comments. What you experienced sounds so frustrating. But obviously from the numerous aforementioned comments, you do have an audience that doesn’t know you as the imposter, but the authentic voice we’ve all missed. Welcome back.

  • Sarah Beth

    Oh, this sounds so rough. I’m sorry. Sending hugs.

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