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Archive for July 19th, 2011

Nancy French: What It Was Like to Co-Write the Bristol Palin Memoir

Posted by Ron Devito on July 19, 2011

Today, US for Palin is pleased to feature Nancy French, the co-author of Bristol Palin’s Not Afraid of Life. In “What It Was Like to Co-Write the Bristol Palin Memoir,” Nancy gives her unique perspective on co-writing Bristol’s book during the month she spent with the Palins. Nancy also co-authored Home and Away: A Story of Family in a Time of War with her husband David. He was in Iraq on the front lines while she was home. Track Palin went to the same province in Iraq, just a few days after David left it. This circumstance may have been a factor in Bristol selecting Nancy as her co-author.

Nancy shared with me that during her stay in Wasilla, she frequented the Mocha Moose on West Parks Highway, which brews Governor Palin’s favorite coffee Good Morning Alaska. I routinely have 1-lb. bags of it shipped to my home and it is by far my favorite coffee as well along with its high-octane counterpart Whoa Nellie! The Mocha Moose proudly supports the Palins as evidenced by the “Dance Bristol Dance” sign on their building.

What It Was Like to Co-Write the Bristol Palin Memoir
by Nancy French
Reprinted in its entirety with permission

My friends and I huddled around my iPhone, as we listened to my agent’s voicemail.

“Nancy, Harper Collins wants you to submit your resume for an opportunity to write for a young Christian celebrity,” he said. “But I can’t tell you who it is.”

I never considered myself a “ghost writer,” since I’ve published my own memoir about being a southerner living in New York and a book about Iraq I co-authored with my husband about his deployment and it’s effect on our family. I was definitely interested, however, and the mystery only deepened my interest.

Immediately, my friends and I began guessing. Miley Cyrus? Taylor Swift?

Because I live near Nashville, Tennessee, I assumed they were interested in my geographic location as much as my writing ability. Surely, an up-and-coming country musician needed help with her book, and I was exactly the kind of local writer who could pop in and out with minimal inconvenience.

That’s why I was surprised to get a call from Harper Collins a few weeks later – after I’d figured I’d been passed over for a more typical ghost writer (excuse me, “collaborator”). “Can you be on a call with Bristol Palin in one hour?”

Immediately, I figured I wouldn’t get the job. Though I’d “collaborated” before, my efforts haven’t yet been published. Surely she’d want someone more experienced for a book that would be analyzed, dissected, critiqued, and attacked. Bristol was noncommittal in that first conversation, and ended it by saying “I just need to talk to my mom.”

I tried to imagine that conversation, Momma Grizzly herself having a discussion with her daughter about me – a writer who lives in the Mule Capital of the World, Columbia, Tennessee.

It seemed too surreal to be true. Within days, however, I was in Wasilla, Alaska.

“I can stay on your couch or wherever in your apartment,” I texted Bristol on the way. “I won’t be a nuisance.”

She sent me an address, and I was certainly surprised when I drove up Todd and Sarah Palin’s driveway. Ice cemented the ground under the snow, and Christmas lights decorated an iron gate. (White lights or colored? Guess in the comments section.)

“This is my parents’ house,” Bristol said as she came out to greet me. She looked great – young and fit in her yoga pants and North Face jacket. “You’ll be staying here.”

She led me to where I’d be living for the next month, in a detached building on the Palin’s property, where Gov. Palin films her Fox interviews. In fact, I frequently wrote perched high in her chair, with a frozen Lake Lucille outside the tall windows. Cars drove by slowly on the lake, no doubt taking photos of their house. Some did “donuts” and skidded around on the ice. A couple of guys were ice fishing. A moose slowly ambled across the frozen water and made his way to the Palin’s house.

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