May 17, 2005

Collaboration and Celebrity

by Nick Montfort · , 2:44 pm

When I write cute little bios describing what I do as a writer, I usually mention that I collaborate, because, after all, I do. So I was a bit interested to see that the Spring 2005 Authors’s Guild Bulletin has a writeup of a symposium the Guild held. The piece is entitled “Strange Bedfellows: The Rewards and Pitfalls of Collaboration.”

When I finally started reading the piece, I saw that “collaboration” was being used in a different sense. The collaborators this article had written books with Paul Volcker, Jerry Springer, Thomas J. Watson of IBM, and General Norman Schwarzkopf. It turns out that in the writing business, “collaboration” refers to doing what might be called credited ghostwriting for celebrities. That’s nice and lucrative, but it isn’t really related to what I do, as famous as people like Scott and William Gillespie may imagine themselves to be.

Speaking of William and collaboration, I found a more relevant article, his “The Oulipo: Constraints and Collaboration.” I certainly find that well-defined schemes work well to allow equal contributions and participation from collaborators. Maybe Jerry Springer would like to write a book with me consisting entirely of four-letter words?