Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Working in the World of Words By Melanie Saxton

Melanie Saxton
I remember as a little girl how those brightly colored refrigerator magnets beckoned, tempting me to figure out the alphabet. Sure, I loved dolls and stuffed animals as well, but always seemed to set them up in a classroom to "teach" them how to read and write.

I didn't fully understand then that I'd become a writer, although I penned little crayon books about whales and dolphins and sold them, instead of lemonade, at a stand at my curb. I suppose that was a prelude to what would be coming, and God bless the neighbors who spent 10¢ on my little masterpieces. How kind of them, and they'll never know how that affected my journey to this very day.

And so I played with poetry, entering contests and going for scholarships. I simply loved writing and did it for free, putting together announcements, handling church newsletters . . . anything to write. People came to me for everything from term papers to eulogies. Honestly, it never occurred to me that I could earn a living from it, even after majoring in English. Being practical, I segued into corporate America, always seeming to gravitate toward positions that included a writing element. Still, writing independently and being published never really crossed my mind.

Magazine writing changed everything. I recall how my hands shook as my first payment came in the mail, the anticipation of opening that envelope making me giddy. Oh my word, I couldn't get to my sister's house fast enough to spill the wonderful news! I was in print! It was a defining moment and one I'll always cherish. Now, without a doubt, I was a writer. The weight of that responsibility registered deeply. It mattered how I wrote, how I pursued each article, and how I treated others in the publishing world. As the assignments came, so did other opportunities. I dipped my toe into it all, becoming a contributing editor, an online editor, a news reporter, and now, a book editor.

I still write for magazines and probably always will, although now I'm especially drawn to high profile and celebrity interviews. I've learned that apart from the glare of the limelight are people, just like you and me, who have their own hopes and fears. That they've achieved something spectacular with their lives is simply the icing on the cake, making them, well, fascinating. I've also become a certified English, Language Arts and Special Education teacher— something that was on my bucket list, tracing back to the dolls and stuffed animals I once tutored. I'm not sure I'll ever teach students full time in a classroom, though. When would I find the time? Perhaps the right school will find me one day, but until then I'm busy working in the world of words!

I've learned so much from my authors, all emerging and all with new and different missives. Editing their books has taken me across many genres and reminded me that I, too, have a novel or two percolating. Taking care of other people's manuscripts, juggling single motherhood, arranging interviews, meeting deadlines . . . well, these are challenges to my own writing. So for 2012 I finally have a resolution I must keep. No weight loss or exercise promises, no vows against fast food or determination to get more sleep. No!

Rather, for the new year I pledge to carve out time to write a novel— a really good novel, and then more. In tribute to those little crayon books from yesteryear, I really feel it's time to come full circle. I should be creating a manuscript and now, taking my cue from talented authors like Marie Patchen, I will.