As a sex worker with a history of addiction, David Wichman wanted to tell his story for many years. Feeling that it lacked direction, he kept tabling the project until he realized his story needed the help of someone special: an open-minded writer who could appreciate and understand its complexities.
Finding the perfect collaborator for my project’s needs
When I decided to buckle down and share my story, the biggest challenge was getting it just right. I didn’t want it to come across as defensive and I definitely didn’t want it to be just about me. It needed to be a truly authentic story that would lift others up — a story of spirituality and growth, despite the heaviness and darkness. But the prospect of telling my story seemed like such a monumental task that I was simply overwhelmed. I knew so little about writing a book, and learning the craft never entered my mind.
Deep down I always knew I needed some help. When I first came upon Reedsy, I searched for ghostwriters using terms like “LGBTQ”, “sex worker”, “gay”. I needed a co-author who would be open-minded and could meet me where I was. At the risk of sounding a bit woo-woo, I saw Heather Ebert’s profile picture and immediately felt a connection. I knew right away I wanted to work with her so I went with my gut and hired her. We spent some time hashing out the details — working with a ghostwriter is a significant financial undertaking, but I was determined to go through with the project this time
A memoir ghostwriter really gets to know you and your story
At the beginning of our collaboration, I was so unaware of the process I thought I was supposed to tell Heather my version of events and she’d make sure all the I’s were dotted and T’s were crossed. Even though she warned me about the emotional intensity of working on a memoir, I was in for a rude awakening when this story archaeologist and investigative journalist started digging up my grave of memories.
Two to three times a week for the next two months, Heather would interview me on the phone for hours on end. After we’d hang up, I was sometimes left full of energy and enthusiasm, but often I would go outside and sit under a palm tree, sobbing. It was a complete rollercoaster ride.
After I have the gist of a person’s life story, I craft an extensive outline to define the narrative arc and organize chapter content. I craft memoirs to read like novels by applying the principles of universal story structure, essential turning points and pacing, character development, and other elements that make for a compelling page-turner. The outline is always a work in progress, but it helps us agree on the story before the writing starts and then provides a general map to follow along the way.
— Heather Ebert, Ghostwriter
Heather became such a significant part of my world. We worked on this project for a total of 18 months, and at times, it was brutal. I grew so tired of telling the stories and reading the manuscript. If a story detail or sequence didn’t add up or make sense, she kept coming back to it, asking me to clarify. So much of my time on meth remains hazy so I ended up reaching out to old friends to help me remember what happened.
But I had to trust Heather. We grew closer and began sharing our lives with one another. That was important. On many occasions, she reminded me, “David, at some point you’re going to have to own your story.” She encouraged me to speak my truth without fear of what my family would say or how any reader might judge me. If I lost sight of the project’s purpose, Heather kept me on track, empowering me to share this story with full confidence.
#1 in my target Amazon category
I’ve never felt as proud as I did of the finished book. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. Heather shepherded this project from beginning to end, bringing order into the chaos and working tirelessly to make sure that it was done right. She created the framework for the story and made it flow. Without her, my book would have been an emotional spider web of disconnected stories.
On launch day, Every Grain of Sand hit Amazon’s top ten in LGBTQ new releases, and the Kindle version even hit #1 in that category. We’ve since received critical recognition as a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Awards, as well as for the First Horizon award and Montaigne Medal. It all came as a complete shock.
What has been most phenomenal is the feedback from readers. I receive emails, Facebook messages, and reviews from all sorts of people — demographics I never imagined would be interested in reading my book. I have people call me in tears and write me letters from all over the world. It’s been very empowering, as well as eye-opening, as to how much work still needs to be done to evolve and heal and find real acceptance as a society.
To other aspiring writers, I would say: follow your instincts. There are many incredible collaborators out there who want to help you deliver your story and your message to the world. They are the helpers, they are the heroes. They’re the ones in the background who make all the magic happen. I hope with all my heart that you find your Heather Ebert.