Sunday, February 28, 2016

“PR” Girl in “Corporate Communications”

Recently – I interacted with a girl who said that she works in “Corporate Communications”.

After talking to her for some time – I realized that, basically, she was a “Ghostwriter” – and – I remembered this story...

GHOSTWRITER
A Story
By
VIKRAM KARVE


Unforgettable tête-à-tête at the Literary Festival

“Is it you…?” I asked.

“Of course – it is ‘Me’…” she said.

“It is so nice to meet you after so many years…” I said.

“Yes – it’s great to meet you too after so many years – it’s been 15 years – isn’t it…?” she said.

15 years ago – in the year 2000 – we had met at a Creative Writers’ Workshop in Mumbai.

In the workshop – at 45 – I must have been the “oldest” participant – and – she – barely 20 – still a college student – was surely the youngest.

During the workshop we were asked to read out our creative writing – the fiction short stories we had written – and – I remembered her the most among all participants – because she had a unique ‘peppy’ writing style – she wrote a lot of ‘dialogue’ – in fact – some of her stories were entirely in dialogue – and this made her writing very lively and a joy to read.

Once – when we were asked to form ‘pairs’ – to evaluate each others writing – she chose me as her ‘partner’.

“Why did you choose an ‘old fogey’ like me…?” I said to her, surprised.

“Well – you seem genuinely interested in my writing – the others seem to be more interested in me than my writing…” she said, pithily.

As it happens most of the time – after the workshop – all of us participants promised to keep in touch with each other – but – soon – we got busy in our day-to-day affairs and we lost contact with each other.

But – I always remembered my young ‘partner’ – especially her lively writing style – and – in fact – I tried to emulate her sprightly storytelling style in my own writing – and I wrote plenty of ‘dialogue’ in my stories.

Now – 15 years later – it was a pleasant surprise to run into her at a Literary Festival in Pune.

“I am really delighted to see you…” I said.

“Me too…” she said.

I looked at her and said: “I don’t know whether it is a coincidence – or serendipity – but just last week – I was browsing in a bookstore in Mumbai – and there was a book-launch – a celebrity ‘autobiography’…”

“Celebrity ‘autobiography’…?” she interrupted.

“Yes – a book authored by ‘XXX’ – I am sure you have heard of her…” I said.

“Of course I have heard of ‘XXX’ – who doesn’t know her…?” she said.

“Yes – it was the book-launch of the autobiography written by ‘XXX’  and – I don’t know why – but they gave away free copies of the book to all of us who attended the book-launch…” I said.

“Really…? That is quite generous of them. Maybe the book isn’t selling…” she commented.

“Not at all – the book is selling very well. In fact – this book has become a highly successful ‘bestseller’…” I said.

“Wow – but what was the ‘coincidence’ you were talking about…?” she asked.

“Oh yes – about the ‘coincidence’. Well – I read the book on the Deccan Queen that evening on the way back to Pune. And while reading it – do you know what I discovered…?” I said.

“What…?” she asked me.

“Her writing style is exactly like your unique style – ‘XXX’ – the ‘celebrity’ – she writes exactly like you used to write – plenty of ‘dialogue’ – just imagine – it is an ‘autobiography’ – but instead of ‘description’ – the ‘celebrity’ has written plenty of ‘dialogue’ – just like you used to write – and this makes his life-story so ‘lively’ – just like your writing…” I said.

“Really…? Are you trying to say that this ‘celebrity author’ is trying to imitate me…?” she asked with a naughty smile.

“Come – I will show you – the book is for sale at the bookshop they have set up in the literary festival near the entrance to the main hall…” I said.

I took her to the bookshop display – and I pointed out the book to her.

“Oh – that book …” she said, with a wry smile.

“Yes – the way it is written – it is so much like your distinctive style – when I read it – I almost thought that you have written the book…” I said.

“I have written that book…” she said, nonchalantly.

“What…” I asked, bewildered.

“Yes – I have written the book…” she repeated, coolly.

“You have written the book…? How is that possible…? It is the ‘autobiography’ of a ‘celebrity’…” I said, puzzled.

“I have ‘ghostwritten’ the book…” she said.

“Ghostwritten…?” I said, perplexed.

“Yes – the entire book was written by me – and the ‘celebrity’ ‘XXX’ is credited as the author…” she said.

“Really…? Well – the ‘celebrity’ has expressed her gratitude to so many persons – but I did not see your name anywhere – she hasn’t even bothered to mention your name in the acknowledgements…” I said.

“Why should she take the risk mentioning my name anywhere in the book…? Surely – she doesn’t want to let the cat out of the bag – if the truth gets known – she will be exposed as a ‘fake’ author. Just imagine – if people come to know that her ‘autobiography’ has been ‘ghostwritten’ – what will happen to her carefully cultivated image as an ‘accomplished author’…?”

“But you can always tell the world that it is you who wrote the book. Why don’t you tell everyone that you are the actual author of the book – and not ‘XXX – why should she take credit for your work…?” I asked her.

“I have signed a nondisclosure contract that legally forbids me to mention my role in the writing project…” she said.

“A contract…? For writing a book in someone else’s name…?” I asked.

“Yes – there is a ‘confidentiality clause’ in the contract that obligates me to remain ‘anonymous’. Well – the ‘XXX’ is the ‘credited author’ and I have signed off all my rights to her – this is what all ghostwriters have to do – a ‘ghostwriter’ has to give away all her rights and copyrights to the ‘credited author’…” she said.

“But – don’t you feel bad about it – someone else taking credit for your creative work…” I asked.

“I need the money…” she said.

“Money…” I asked her.

“Do you how much money “XXX” paid me for ghostwriting her ‘autobiography’…?” she said.

“How much…?” I asked her.

She told me the amount.

I was stunned when I heard the figure.

It was a staggering amount of money – well beyond my imagination – she was paid more money for ghostwriting the book than I earned in an entire year.

“I know what you are thinking…” she said.

“What…?” I asked.

She looked at me and said: “You are wondering why I am selling my soul for easy money…”

“You must be feeling terrible, isn’t it – someone else taking full credit for your creative efforts…” I said.

“Of course it feels bad – after all – creative recognition has its own intrinsic value…” she said, “but then – I told you that I need the money…”

I looked at her – confused – wondering whether I should despise her for her unethical conduct – or admire her for her pragmatic attitude.

For sometime – we sat in silence.

Then – suddenly – she said: “Hey – when is your session…?”

“Session…” I asked.

“Have you become absent minded or what…” she said, “It is already 3 o’clock and you are supposed to conduct a workshop on ‘Blogging’ at 3:30…”

She opened the program schedule – and pointed it out to me: “Here it is – ‘Workshop on Blogging’ – by you – at 3:30 – in Hall No. 3…”

“Oh yes…” I said, “in fact – I have come to the literary festival mainly for that…”

“Even I have come to the literary festival today mainly for your ‘Blogging Workshop’…” she said.

“Really – I can’t believe it – I am no great writer…” I said.

“Well – you are a top ‘Blogger’ – you are so prolific – you write on so many topics – fiction – ‘non-fiction’ – technology – management – food – book reviews – self-help – philosophy – education – so many varied genres – and you post a blog every day – do you even know the huge number of ‘page-views’ your blog gets every day…?” she asked.

“No – I just blog and forget about it…” I said.

She looked at her watch and said: “Hey – let’s go – you don’t want to be late for your session – do you…?”

After the workshop – we went to the café for a cup of tea.

“Well – you landing up at the book-launch of my ‘ghostwritten’ book may have been serendipity – but my meeting you here is no coincidence – as I told you – I came here to the Literary Festival specifically to meet you…” she said.

“Really…” I asked.

She pulled out a business card from her purse – and she gave it to me.

“Wow – you are the ‘Director’ of a ‘PR Consultancy Firm’…” I said.

“Well – I can’t call it a ‘Ghostwriting Consultancy’ – can I…?” she said, “…PR is a ‘catch-all’ euphemism for everything – ‘ethical’ and ‘not so ethical’…”

I looked at the business card and said: “So – you do all types of ‘ghostwriting’ – even ‘professional articles’, ‘research papers’, ‘dissertations’ and ‘thesis’…”

“You name it – and we ‘ghostwrite’ it – well – I look after the ‘creative writing’ assignments – for other more specialized technical ‘projects’ we commission appropriately qualified ‘ghostwriters’ – or – ‘researchers’ – as we call them. Let me tell you that there are many persons in the corporate sector and industry who want to masquerade as “experts” – but they do not have the requisite professional knowledge  nor do they possess good writing skills – so they come to us to do ‘research’ and ‘ghostwrite’ – for articles and books  which are published under their names to build up their professional credibility – and – of course – there are the “rich and famous” celebrities who want to build a façade of a “literary image” and wish “show off” their “literary achievements” as “successful authors” by “writing” bestseller books which are hailed as “literary classics...” she said.

I listened awestruck – and then I said to her: “Hey – you didn’t tell me why you wanted to meet me…?”

“I have been following your blog for quite some time now – and I really admire the way you blog so passionately – and now – after I saw the way you conducted the ‘Blogging Workshop’ – I am really impressed…” she said.

“Thanks…” I said. 

Then – she looked at me – directly into my eyes – and she said to me: “Well – if you want to ‘sell your soul’ – do give me a call…”

“Sell my soul…?” I asked, puzzled.

“We need a ‘Blog Ghostwriter’ – and who better to ‘ghostwrite’ blogs than you…?” she said.

“But…” I stammered.

“Think about it…” she interrupted, “you can earn a substantial amount of money if you ‘encash’ your talent…”

“...‘encash’ my talent…” I mumbled, incoherently. 

She looked at her watch – and said: “Hey – it is already 5:30 – time for me to go…”

She typed out an SMS on her jazzy ‘Smartphone’ – and sent it.

“Come…” she said, “I have called my car...

We walked to the foyer.

A chauffeur driven SUV car appeared at the foyer – and stopped before us.

Before I could react – the smartly dressed chauffeur got out and opened the door for her.

Before she got into her luxury car – she said to me: “I will wait for your call. There is a tremendous market for ‘Blog Ghostwriting” – and – with your talent – the sky’s the limit – you cannot even imagine the amount of money you will be able to earn – your life will change…”

After she drove off in style – I trudged towards the bus stop.

I stood in the queue waiting for a bus – and I thought about the eventful day at the literary festival – especially the unforgettable tête-à-tête with the ‘Ghostwriter’.


EPILOGUE

At night – I sat in front of my laptop – to write a blog post about my day at the literary festival.

I took out the business card my ‘Ghostwriter’ friend had given me – and I looked at it.

I asked myself – what did I want in life…?

What was more important for me – ‘intrinsic satisfaction’ and ‘creative recognition’ by writing under my own name – or – ‘extrinsic reward’ by ‘selling my soul’ and ‘ghostwriting’ in anonymity…

My ‘inner voice’ spoke to me – clearly and distinctly.

I tore up the business card – and I threw it in the dustbin.

Then – I started writing this blog post – under my very own name.

VIKRAM KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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Disclaimer:
This story is a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in this story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Copyright Notice:
No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.

Copyright © Vikram Karve (all rights reserved)

Repost of my Story GHOST WRITER posted online by me Vikram Karve around 3 months ago at url: http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2015/12/ghost-writer.html
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