Monday, November 17, 2014

Who Knew? or Seven Things I Learned by Ghostwriting

One of the reasons I love my job as a ghostwriter is that I get to learn so many unexpected things. Although there are times I wish I hadn’t learned them, because some stories are painful. Yet those are the ones which make me feel grateful – and lucky. Other stories are hilarious and make me laugh out loud, and they too engender gratitude. All stories – yes all of them – will teach me something. Stories are like that.

Here are just seven of the many interesting tidbits I’ve learned from my clients. Since I only ghostwrite non-fiction, they must be true, right?  

1.  Did you know that it is important to teach your child to always close the lid before they flush the toilet, because billions of small water drops full of nasty bacteria are released into the air with each flush? These water drops are capable of aerolizing twenty feet from the center of the flush, if they are not stopped by the toilet lid. So close that lid. Or at least rinse your toothbrush in peroxide before you brush.  

2.  Did you know that if you catch a snake you can put him in your freezer and he will not die? Instead he goes into hibernation, and his venom loses its potency as well. In the summer you can take him out of the freezer and put him outside, and the heat will wake him up and you can watch him twitch into life.

3.  Did you know that it’s called “breaking luck” when a prostitute takes her first trick of the night? Or that when she is “turned out” this means she finally realizes that her pimp owns her and she is no longer free?  

4.  Did you know that fish eyeballs have a terrible smell, especially when fresh and raw? So when you bite into them don’t spit the juice out because it will make the people around you angry.

5. Did you know that until the 1920s adopted children were considered by U.S. law to be indentured servants of their adoptive parents? Adoptions had been granted by the courts by issuing orders of indenture.

6. Did you know that redheaded people comprise only two percent of the world’s population? Yet they are found all over the world, from Jamaica to Vietnam, Australia to Scotland. In many cultures redheads have been considered to be servants of the devil. Although both Mark Twain (a redhead himself) and Shakespeare wrote kindly of them.

7. Did you know that in ancient China they had a special suitcase called a pillow box? If you were going on a trip, you packed your special things, the things that meant the most to you, in a wooden box with a curve in it. The curve was where you laid your head when you slept.

Toilets, frozen snakes, prostitute lingo, fish eyeballs, outdated adoption laws, redheads, and ancient Chinese pillow boxes. Those are just a tiny smattering of the interesting things I’ve learned in my fifteen years of ghostwriting. With my job, I never know what I’m going to learn next. But I do know it will be interesting.

Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of professional and compelling books and articles. She has authored 8 books of her own, and ghostwritten more than 40 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit


  1. Seems this is a fascinating -- albeit it unorthodox -- way to get a rounded education. Methinks that one who is writing (via a ghost) an autobiography might share a lot more reality than one who is simply being interviewed by for another's work. Interesting post, Kim. :-)

  2. debby turner harrisNovember 17, 2014 at 4:45 AM

    I am a self-confessed pack-rat for oddball trivia. Here's one for fellow-collectors: the phrase "to lick something into shape" derives from the ancient belief - documented by the Roman polymath Pliny- that a new-born bear cub is nothing but a gelatinous lump which has to be "licked into shape" by the mother bear.
    (I love it!)

    1. And I thought "licking into shape" only applied to ice-cream cones. LOL

  3. That was so interesting. I never knew the flushing toilet thing. Terrible about adoption in the bad old days.

  4. Public toilets without lids just got grosser.

  5. What fun and interesting bits of trivia. Thanks, Kim.

  6. All I can say, Kim, is that I'm glad I read this post AFTER breakfast.

  7. I hope I learn enough when writing my own books to get it right. Not nearly so fascinating but I learned that Highlander SUVs don't come with manual transmissions, which saved me from making one of those errors readers love to point out.

  8. Like many of the writers here, I too love to find little-known facts and bits of trivia. My ghostwriting career has enabled me to indulge myself, another reason to love what I do.

  9. I didn't know any of those things! I'm glad I keep my toothbrush in the medicine cabinet!

  10. Really interesting post. I love trivia. I will never prove nor disprove the smell of fish eyeballs. Never because they will never find a place on my plate. Also, myth has it that King David was "ruddy," interpreted that he was a redhead. I knew about the toilet flushing and keep my toothbrush in a drawer in the sink console. I collect a lot of old Chinese antiques, and though I don't own a pillow box, I've seen them. Don't think I'll try the snake thing. Some things are better off being trivia.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice.