On Ghostwriting

How does one write a ghost story about a ghost? Something without a skeleton or sinew or skin. In other words, if you’re writing about a person who doesn’t have a past, has forgotten it or doesn’t want to remember (anything other than the wonderful smell of berbere sauce and buhe bread), then you are in story hell. No need to answer the first question.

This ghost has plenty of heart and spirit, however. I’ve been asked to ghostwrite for a businesswoman, philanthropist and now my friend. Dr. Menbere Aklilu is a bubbly, unreserved Ethiopian (she wasn’t the kind of child who fit in anywhere much less Ethiopia. Had her mother known about Ritalin, this might be a different story. As it is right now it’s just a story about getting a story.) She’s a beautiful wide-smiling, nutmeg-colored woman, just shy of flamboyant, yet she is dramatic and she tears up at the drop of a garbanzo bean. She screams before she laughs and her hands flutter and flap like a hummingbird when she’s happy or agitated (something she says she learned while living in Italy; that and making a killer pizza). Menbe is quite a character.

Tune in to see how I finally get this tenacious hummingbird to open up and release the nectar she’s been holding in for too many years. This is the story people want to hear; the story the media wants to write about and put on the news; the story universities want to listen to during their commencements speeches.  I Am Menbe is not just a Cinderella story or a rags to riches story. While it may be another tale about Coming To America, it’s also a success story full of grit and passion, tears and laughter. I just need to wake up the ghost. (Hmmm. Ghosts and Hummingbirds. I know I have a couple of mixed metaphors here, but that’s the advantage of writing in this forum.)

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