The day I learned to write, the course of my life was set.  I wrote on every scrap I could find, carving rough letters into a table-top with the mangled end of a fat learning pencil,  filling sheets of ruled paper, scribbling on the margins of newspapers, napkins, paper tablecloths– name it, and I wrote on it. The ideas for characters, plots, twists, betrayals, machines, circumstances, battles, animals, and what-ifs all came spilling out.  I would beg my parents for spiral notebooks to keep track of what was bubbling up inside me and a pen became my constant companion.  Whether in the car on a family road trip or sitting in my school classrooms, I wrote. Over the last twenty-five years, I have filled pages upon pages of text, and I still hold on to that pen and notebook, but the stakes are higher.  Writing is a central part of my life and with all this writing comes the task of editing, and the hope of one day becoming a published author.  While that ultimate goal is still in the works, there is no better place to be than in the industry that provided the avenue for the creations of many talented writers to be shared

In my literary nascence, I blazed through the learn-to-read books and quickly became the best reader in my class.  When I got to elementary school, we received a green-backed reader with a workbook, and I spent a weekend working ahead to the end of both. By the end of second or third grade, I was devouring more complex works like Heidi, The Giver, and the Redwall series.  Brian Jacques, writer of Redwall, passed away in 2011 so I will never get to thank him enough for helping to shape my imagination and implanting those beautiful, deep ideas of heroism, bravery, loyalty, friendship, and overcoming impossible odds.  I also have a great love for badgers, hares, and a well-crafted feasting scene replete with honey mead thanks to Mr. Jacques, may he rest in peace.  

It was in elementary school that I met my best friend, Margaret.  Despite having lived in different cities since we were about thirteen, we are still best friends, and keep in touch frequently, exchanging handwritten letters and cards.  During the beginnings of our fast friendship, Margaret and I passed a notebook back and forth in class that contained a joint work of our own creation about far-away places, magical heroes, and warrior queens. We talked about publishing our work even then, wondering who would read it, and how it would be received by our friends and family. She grew up, went away to school, and became an English professor at Notre Dame.  I grew up, went away to school, had a long battle with myself about majoring in English or Theology, ended up majoring in Theatre, became a wife and mother, and got a job at a cube farm. I have never done anything the easy way.  

During this first foray into the corporate world of recruiting, I spent the downtime between interviews making 15-minute entries on a creative writing blog– “flash fiction,” I called it. Just to keep my edge sharp, I told myself, because this cube job was not all there was going to be in my life; I was determined not to become a cube slave.  The brightest part of that position was volunteering to create content for the recruiting blog and being published on the company’s Facebook page for an article I wrote about Nurse’s Week.  Another article I wrote for that company was featured on a widely-read UK recruiting blog called “The Undercover Recruiter.”  I had readers from at least 15 different countries– a very great pleasure for me.

After the corporate job, I became a stay-at-home mom while my husband stepped into the sole breadwinner shoes for our family.  This worked much better for us, as childcare is expensive, and at that point we had a little boy and a baby girl.  This was also supposed to open up my time to write more, as I had been audibly lamenting my busy schedule that left me tired with no time for art.

My husband is a movie buff.  He excels at dialogue and has an incredible eye for cinematography, both of which power him forward in his own filmmaking dream.  His passion for his visual art is exceedingly contagious, and he encouraged me in both word and example to keep up the pursuit of my written art, and to not let my writer’s persona disappear into the survivalist-mom ‘thing’ that was my waking life– living on lattes, dry shampoo, and leggings.      I really owe him a great debt for the many pep talks, patient ears, and solid advice on what would read well in writing.  He reminded me that I am, after all, still part of the Long Patrol of Redwall, and I still have yarns to spin around the campfire every night with my mates.  

My husband and I have a mutual best friend, Tanner, who is about the best non-professional writer I know.  He has a way of bringing a world into focus and raising intricate characters right off a page with seemingly little effort.  He writes in his spare time, as I do, and if I had to pick any one of my friends to be first to the publishing line, it would be him.  Tanner introduced me to NaNoWriMo– National Novel Writing Month, which takes place in November every year. The goal of NaNo is to write 10,000 words inside the month using a variety of writing tactics–word sprints, all-nighters, write-in’s (similar to a sit-in), coffee shop invasions, etc.  Editing is discouraged during NaNo, participants are encouraged to just create.            Tanner actually finishes his NaNo novels and has a very jolly December going through and editing his work.  I am amazed at my dear, dear friend’s capacity for production, and strive to be like him in effort, dedication, and constancy.

About a year ago, my mother-in-law and I were conversing about her decision to pursue her Master’s degree in Psychology. She had just come away from her Bachelor’s degree and I was amazed at her tenacity and will to obtain higher education.  She looked me square in the eye and said, “Have you ever considered going to grad school?”  I said that I had given it some passing thought but was not sure it was the right time.  She said, “You know, University of Houston-Victoria offers a Master’s degree in Publishing.  You would be really good at that.”       I filed the information away for another time.  How serious could this be?  But the idea did not leave me. I went about my daily affairs for the next six months, the thought of grad school becoming less absurd in my mind.  At last, I could hold out no longer and I threw my hat into the ring to attend UHV starting in Spring 2017, taking online classes for a Master’s degree.  This is where I am now, and from here, I look forward to a future of hopes and dreams.  

In true Redwall fashion, I dream of being a heroic savior, particularly of saving the world from drippy, badly written supernatural stalker “romances” that eventually infect the film sphere with equally terrible movies.  I dream of being Heimdal to the Publishing world– all-seeing sword-bearer and exceedingly protective.  I dream of being Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada— an industry leader, ruthless and respected.  I also still dream of being published myself, becoming wildly successful, and retiring to an estate in rural England. But to paraphrase a particular Hobbit: I want to make a difference, but I do not know the way.

I chose the graduate program at University of Houston-Victoria as my gateway to the Publishing realm in part because it is fairly local to me, but mostly because it is renowned as being among the best in the nation.  I applied not only to satisfy my intellectual curiosities but because a degree from a program ranked third in the country will increase my likelihood of being noticed in the real-world industry.  I hope to develop some interpersonal connections with fellow authors and editors. After all, writing and editing can be solo projects, but the very best authors never work alone.

While I incubate, immersed in the “tutorial section” of this industry, I’m still writing.    My husband and I meet weekly with a group of our friends to play Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Mutants & Masterminds, and other tabletop role playing games. Story after story springs from my pen, inspired by these games, sometimes a retelling of what happened, sometimes a retelling with a better ending than the one we created while at play.  A few weeks ago, we decided to start a fiction writing and read-aloud event where two of our members generate a fantasy-related prompt (for example, “pirates and tombs”), spend a week free-writing, and then read our stories to one another on Friday evenings. This has been a wonderful experience for me, getting to hear other people’s stories and getting to read mine aloud to a receptive and supportive group.  

Publishing, viewed from the outside, is one of the “glamour” industries– seemingly full of glitter and parties, high-profile acquisitions, and schmoozy conversations. There may be some of that, but at the heart of everything, publishing is about unstinting devotion to a profession that is vital to our development as human beings through the dissemination of ideas.                 Human creativity and accomplishment in the West really began to get off the ground with the invention of the printing press in 1400. Before Gutenberg, printing was limited to the work of scribes and monks, literacy was practically nonexistent, and many worthy thoughts and ideas perished with their originators.  After books became more readily available, literacy soared, and ideas began to spread all around Europe.  We humans have not looked back but have churned ever forward.  Publishing today, while still important to our continued development, is rife with long hours, notoriously low pay, and fresh uncertainty with the rise of ebooks and plentiful self-publishing mechanisms. I suffer no illusions of grandeur.  I am doing my part to preserve civilization, and entering this industry is to me, a most worthy endeavor.

In answer to this call, in the next five years, I see myself working from a home office.  My ultimate goal is to become an acquisitions editor somewhere, but still have the flexibility to work from home. I look forward to working with literary agents, developing relationships with writers and editors alike, and having the opportunity to read some great, and perhaps some not-so-great, manuscripts. I think my strengths in the publishing world come from my patience, honed by motherhood and polished by the UHV graduate program, and my eye for retailoring a work that needs a nudge in the right direction to become something truly special.  I look forward to letting my Miranda Priestly out, just a little, not to shatter and belittle those with whom I am working, but to be that force for good, protecting my publishing house from weak writing.            I look forward to being a sword-bearing Heimdal, or an ever-vigilant hare on the Long Patrol, ensuring that the part of human literacy and civilization left in my care is well-preserved, allowing no weeds or wounds to appear.

When I learned to write all those years ago, I was not fully aware of how far this basic skill would take me.  I did not see myself as a protector of human literacy as a profession, but now that I am settling into the publishing world, I feel more and more like I’ve come home.        I am grateful for the opportunity presented here and now, and I look forward to the day I can well and truly call myself a Publisher.

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