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“Ghostwriter Tells All” with Lulu Torbet

By Sheridan Sansegundo

Though she is probably best known in San Miguel de Allende as a photographer and painter, Lulu Torbet has never quit her “day job” as a ghostwriter and developmental editor/consultant. She is the author, ghostwriter or editor of over 30 books. On Tuesday, February 26, at 6pm, she will give the closing lecture of the 2013 PEN Lecture Series at the Teatro Angela Peralta. I talked with Lulu about just what it is she does and what she plans to discuss in her presentation.

Sheridan Sansegundo: First of all, how does one become a ghostwriter?

Lulu Torbert: Well, it’s not as though one grows up dreaming of becoming a ghostwriter. In my case, as has been the pattern of my life, it was an accident. The short version, which I’ll expand on in my talk, is that I got picked up on 6th Avenue in Greenwich Village in 1969 as I was selling my hand-made jewelry by an editor who was looking for someone to write a book on macramé, which was becoming a big craze. I refused, she persisted, I caved. I wrote a few craft books, which led to my getting an agent, which led to my agent having a client who needed a book written. Which led to…. well, you get the picture.

SS: What kind of books do you write? Do you have a particular niche?

LT: That first client was Dr. George Bach, one of the pioneers of the self-help movement. I wrote two books with him. More books with therapists and relationship gurus and related practitioners followed, all nonfiction. I wrote a couple of memoirs. Since the collapse of the traditional publishing business, and especially since moving to San Miguel seven years ago, I’ve worked mostly with private clients, often on shorter pieces, often simply as a consultant and developmental editor, including short stories and the occasional novel. A number of these projects end up being self-published, which no longer carries the stigma of “vanity” publishing.

SS: What are you going to focus on in your talk?

LT: I’ll start by addressing basic issues about what a ghostwriter does, how they find clients (and how an author finds a ghostwriter), how they charge for their work, and whether and how they are credited. But I want to concentrate on three topics. The publishing climate has changed drastically in the past decade, for both author and ghostwriter/consultant, so I want to discuss how that affects their working process and arrangements. I want to talk about the slithery issue of “truth” in memoir and nonfiction. Finally, I want to address the rarely discussed complexity of the relationship that inevitably develops between the client and the ghostwriter over the course of a project, and about the varied and often subtle roles that are part of the job description of the ghostwriter. I’ve got lots of anecdotes and funny stories to illustrate my thesis. I’m just trying to figure out how to “tell all” without naming names.

Your ticket entitles you to a free glass of wine or other beverage if you dine at Vivoli Restaurant after the talk. For more information:

PEN presentation by Lulu Torbet
“Ghostwriter Tells All”
Tue, Jan 26, 6pm
Teatro Ángela Peralta
100 pesos

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