Linden Gross, a two-time New York Times bestselling writer—as well as an editor of other bestsellers and a writing coach to bestselling writers—grew up wanting to be both a teacher and a writer. Clearly that had nothing to do with the fact that her mother was a teacher and her father an author as well as an editor for LOOK magazine. She would end up realizing her dream, just not in the way she expected.
After college, her literature/creative writing degree in hand, Linden postponed getting her teaching credential and scampered up to the High Sierra where she found work as a teaching assistant in a one-room schoolhouse. It only took her two years to understand why her mother had begged her not to consider teaching as a profession. The politics, even in a school of two dozen students, made the art of teaching all but impossible.
Managing a bar, the job that followed, didn’t exactly fit the bill either. Heartbreak helped speed along that epiphany, driving her out of bartending as well as her tiny ski resort. Six months later, her parents, fed up with their daughter trying to figure out what she wanted to do with her life, gave Linden a round-trip plane ticket to New York.
“Happy birthday,” they announced. “You’re staying with your friend, Liz, the first week. Figure out where you’re staying the second week. Now go line up some interviews.”
Linden didn’t exactly return home with a job offer, but one followed soon enough.
An informational interview had alerted her to a job opening for an associate editor at the Ladies’ Home Journal.
“You’re completely unqualified, but go for it anyway,” the person interviewing Linden told her.
So she did.
“You’re totally unqualified for this position,” the senior editor announced. “But we’re going to try to fill it in house. If that works, the Assistant Editor position will open up. And that one you’re qualified for.”
“I can start in two weeks,” Linden said when she was offered the editing position two months later. Not the smartest move, since she had to move across the country and would need to find an apartment in a city where people routinely read the obituaries to get leads on potential rentals. But she managed, thanks in large measure to an old college friend.
Over the next few years, Linden moved up to Associate Editor and eventually returned to the West Coast, taking a job as Special Features Editor at the Los Angeles Times Magazine, which was just launching. She had been promised an editing-writing hybrid position, but the writing part never materialized.
“I can hire writers,” her boss, who had been hired after her, announced. “I can’t hire editors. I need you to edit, not write.”
In hindsight, Linden should have bee-lined to the HR department with a grievance. Instead, she hopped on a plane to New York to check out her freelancing opportunities and quit upon her return. They call the L.A. Times the “velvet coffin” because it’s so comfortable you stay until you die. Her quitting prompted congratulatory emails from staffers she didn’t even know.
Her dad was appalled that his daughter had traded such a healthy salary for the financial uncertainty (the nicest possible term) of freelancing. Linden would figure out over the next ten years why he had been so dismayed. But she knew what she wanted to do and she’s never been one to follow convention. Along the way, prompted by two articles she had written for Cosmopolitan, she authored the first book ever published about the stalking of ordinary people.
When her mother got sick, Linden moved to San Francisco. Caretaking for eight hours a day does not leave room for the amount of unpaid work inherent in magazine freelancing. Then a book editor friend took her to lunch.
“How much would you charge me for a rewrite?” the editor asked.
“What’s the book?”
“Have you heard of Julia Butterfly?”
The editor introduced Linden to the story of the woman who had climbed a 200-foot redwood to prevent it from being cut down and at that point hadn’t yet come back down. Little did Linden know that despite a pronounced fear of heights she would wind up climbing the tree as well.
The book—The Legacy of Luna—which Linden wound up ghostwriting, would become a national bestseller.
That first ghostwriting gig would be followed by more than half-a-dozen other collaborations, some with famous people like Charles Schwab and his daughter, others who simply had fantastic stories to tell, like the elementary school teacher who ran for Congress on a dare from her students. In the process, Linden would become a New York Times bestselling ghostwriter for a second time.
Each collaborating and ghostwriting opportunity afforded her an inside view into a world she knew nothing about. For a girl who grew up living around the world because of her journalist father, this was just another form of travel.
Eventually, her love for writing and her love for teaching, which had never died, married when she became a writing coach. Linden didn’t go seeking that path. It found her when a literary agent needed help with a book proposal and later a book. She referred Linden to a colleague with a struggling author who became client #2. That person was part of a writing group. Before Linden knew it, she had her third client and a new arm to her career, one that would allow entrée into even more people’s worlds as she helped them realize their book dreams.
Whether she’s coaching people on their books—or blogs and websites—or doing the writing for them, Linden loves helping her clients tell their stories and/or share their messages. Either way, the objective is the same. In addition to translating their vision into the strongest content possible, Linden always wants their work to sound like them—only better.