Ghostwriting Case Study Hillary Clinton’s “It Takes a Village” with Ghostwriter Barbara Feinman Todd
Welcome to ghostwriting scandals 101.
Ghostwriting can give you an exhilarating peek into intriguing worlds you never thought you’d be privy to. The top ghosts work with athletes, politicians, actresses, pop stars, business tycoons, political prisoners, former CIA operatives… The options are endless.
Barbara Feinman Todd is one example of a ghost who’s had the opportunity to infiltrate intriguing worlds beyond her own — for better or worse. Todd is likely best known for ghosting Hillary Clinton’s memoirs, “It Takes a Village.” However, her career spans far more than that one book. She’s worked with Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, and Ben Bradlee — to name just a few.
She’s also an inspiring teacher. I know: I studied under her at Georgetown University, when I completed a professional writing summer program there many years ago (more than I care to admit). Todd taught me the importance of doing my research, asking smart questions, and — of course — finding just the right hook.
Since then, Todd has written her own book: “Pretend I’m Not Here: How I Worked with Three Newspaper Icons, One Powerful First Lady, and Still Managed to Dig Myself Out of the Washington Swamp.” I haven’t read it yet and am curious to gain my former professor’s perspectives on the dirty underbelly of D.C. — and the ghostwriting profession as a whole.
I have read Hillary Clinton’s “It Takes a Village,” before I knew it was ghostwritten (let alone by my professor). Todd wasn’t credited as a writer or collaborator (which is standard practice, but she did express dissatisfaction with).
In her memoir, Todd perfectly encapsulates why people often work with a ghost: “Like any first lady, Mrs. Clinton had an extremely hectic schedule and writing a book without assistance would have been logistically impossible.”
This is true for most people who work with a ghostwriter, at least in my experience. They’re busy. They have other jobs and obligations. And they know that writing a book takes valuable hours they don’t have. If that sounds like you: You know where to find me!
Thank you for reading! This is a space where I share personal thoughts — an opportunity for self-expression that has nothing to do with my professional writing. None of the thoughts or opinions expressed in this blog should be construed as anything but my own, nor should they be affiliated with any company or person I contract with or write for.
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