Writing roots

I began writing as a child growing up in a small Texas town. My parents were teachers, and they made sure there were books in our home and we kids had well-worn library cards.

My favorite books were biographies of people who led compelling lives filled with adventure. Davy Crockett, Thomas Edison, Eli Whitney, and George Washington Carver are among the ones that linger in my memory. I wanted to have similar adventures and invent things and defend the Alamo and die honorably as a beloved hero. But I had to be home every evening in time for supper, so my adventures were limited to my imagination. When I discovered Nancy Drew, I read every copy in the library. I’m still hooked on mysteries.

I received my first byline at age 14 with an article I wrote for The Hornet Hive.  Mary Burton was my teacher, and she told me she believed I’d get many more bylines in my writing life. Nothing like encouraging a middle child thirsting for attention to feed her writing soul.

I became feature editor of the Hive and learned so much under the tutelage of newspaper adviser Karey Bresenhan. I still think my best writing shows through when I’m writing lifestyle features and personality profiles. Both teachers taught budding writers like me the art of headline writing, photo cropping, editing, and newspaper layout & design. Some papers were still being printed with “hot metal” Linotype machines, but the Hive was printed “offset.” It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what I’m talking about; newspapers use neither process these days.

My first job out of college was working at The Huntsville Item as a proofreader and general reporter. I wrote my first obituary when someone called in a death. I took the information to the editor Don Reid, and he told me he didn’t want notes – he wanted the story. That’s the way it was on small town papers. You did a bit of everything and learned what you didn’t know on the fly.

A former colleague, a man who used to work at the LA Times, has everything he ever wrote. Yes, that’s right. Everything. I think an entire bedroom in his home is stacked with files of his published clips and background notes. I wish I’d had that kind of ego when I was younger so I could go back through old stories and see where I’ve improved. But I didn’t. Copies of those articles ended up in the trash. Not all at once, but a little each time I moved.

And how I regret it. Nowadays everything can be scanned and kept easily in a “cloud.” Like this blog. It will make for interesting reading material when I’m in my eighties and wonder where all the time went.