After more than thirty years in the business as an editor, freelance writer, researcher, communications consultant, and illustrator, I have a broad skill set that includes an award-winning ability to write compelling narrative prose accessible to a general audience, a disciplined approach to managing projects, a high level of scholarly achievement, original analysis, an ability to read French sources, and considerable experience in many different forms of research, ranging from first-person interviews to archival research to understanding financial records to genealogical sleuthing.
What’s a “ghost”? And do I need one?
A “ghost writer” is someone who helps you tell your story and takes no author credit, although sometimes they accept an “as told to” or “with” cover credit. I have been “ghosting” for years, working with business figures and individuals to craft everything from speeches to magazine articles to books, including memoirs, corporate histories, and “idea” books. As a ghost, it’s my job to help clients communicate, to say what they want to say, not to make them say things they never would. It’s an art to capture someone’s voice and to make the points or craft the narrative they have in mind. The worst sort of ghost is someone who just records the client and turns their words into paragraphs with proper punctuation. You get what you pay for, and unfortunately many people are not well served by their contracted ghosts. A ghosting job often involves a fair bit of research by me, to support and flesh out the desired narrative, and to save the client from embarrassing errors, and that is a skill set I have honed over many years of research and writing.
I’m mainly known for writing books and magazine articles under my own byline, but I also help other people tell their stories, whether that’s at book or magazine-article length, and can craft speeches that capture the client’s voice and deliver an effective message.
In academic publishing, I am committed to producing work that is of a high scholarly standard yet readable. I am a strong advocate of the “total book,” one that is meant to be read rather than structured primarily to be gutted or broken. I know how to structure academic books so that they are both an engaging and important read as well as “breakable” for academic audiences that need to grasp quickly the essential contents and arguments. I am a big believer in the use where possible of narrative and microbiography. These elements tend to be misunderstood as superfluous to, or distinct from, scholarship. As I have argued (and shown), they bring academic works to life and can even improve the quality of research and analysis.
I evaluate proposals for publishers and not only advise on whether they should be accepted, but how they can be improved. I am available to work with writers at the proposal or early manuscript stage, and with presses that recognize the value of guidance for authors that is distinct from the blind peer review of completed drafts, where too often academics with few skills in the tradecraft of writing make recommendations (above and beyond scholarly issues) that are poorly articulated and even counterproductive to a well-written end product. Academic books deserve to be readable as well as significant in a scholarly way, and readable books have crossover potential with a discerning and curious general audience.
In trade (consumer) publishing, I have worked as a collaborator, contract writer, and/or “ghost.” Details for some of these specific projects can be requested from my agent, Hilary McMahon at WCA. These services can extend to reshaping/editing manuscripts for other authors, on their behalf or at a publisher’s request. Two of my recent projects were an unusual corporate history and a memoir of one of Canada’s most prominent citizens. I served as the contract writer and image researcher for Canada’s Coca-Cola: Refreshing the Nation for 120 Years, an illustrated recollection of the iconic beverage company’s long history in Canada, published in 2017 by McClelland and Stewart to coincide with Canada’s 150th birthday. (A French edition was published by La Presse.) I worked with Fredrik S. Eaton to bring to life his remarkable memoir, Between Stone and Stars, published by Barlow Books in 2018. This wide-ranging recollection spanned his public and private lives, including his time with his family’s namesake department-store chain, his years as Canada’s high commissioner in London, and his leading roles in oversight of major hospitals, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Museum of Civilization (now Canada’s Museum of History). As well as helping him shape his recollections, I provided corroborative research for events, both public and personal, that reached back to the Second World War.
I have also provided consulting to museums on the content of exhibitions, and have archival and reportage skills indispensable to Indigenous land claims research.
In graphic design and illustration, I packaged three of my own books (A Breed Apart, Champions, and Yacht Design Explained), and designed Allen Smutylo’s award winning Wild Places Wild Hearts. I can take an entire illustrated book from start to finish: writing, illustration, design, image research, and on through pre-press and into the final printed form. I’m particularly known for my maps, which have appeared in many of my own books as well as those by other authors at leading publishing houses. See the Illustrations page for more.
Are you available for public speaking?
Yes. Generally, I request an honorarium to defray costs of preparation and attendance, but specifics are negotiable, depending on the subject, the audience, and the location.
How do I hire you?
I am happy to discuss any prospective assignment, without a meter running. Email me to start the conversation. On book-related projects, I am represented by Hilary McMahon at WCA.